Mother’s Day message

Scriptures: Deuteronomy 6:1-9; John 2:1-12

Once again, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you that have been mothers, to all of you that have had mothers. It’s good that we celebrate these days. I have to admit, that I don’t normally do it during worship. I think this is the third time in my twenty years in ministry that I’ve actually preached a sermon on Mother’s Day about mothers and their relationship with their children.

This reason for this is Because frequently, like today, it also is Ascension Sunday, and the ascension of Jesus into heaven generally plays a little greater theological role in the life of the church. And just so you know I’m fair, I don’t preach about fathers on Father’s Day any more often.

I want to explore the Gospel passage today, because I think it tells us some very interesting things about the relationship between Mary and Jesus, and how we, too, can relate both to our parents and to God.

But before I do that, I need to give some history behind this event. This wedding was in Cana, and it was a little Cana that was fairly close to Nazareth. There was a big Cana that was much further away. Kind of like, if you say, “I come from Buffalo,” most people think Buffalo, New York, not Buffalo, Iowa. Same kind of town, same kind of common misinterpretation.

Also, most scholars believe that, whoever it was that was getting married, it was either one of Mary’s daughters, or a kinsman of some sort. Why would they think that? Because she cared. She cared about the wine that was being offered, and that the party went smoothly.

You have to understand, the Jews had an interesting way of getting married. They would have a parade first for the bride, then they would have the ceremony, then they would parade with the bride and groom, and everyone could offer their congratulations. Then the party would start. And it could last as long as six days.

I do want to say, this was not some kind of drunken orgy, like we hear about in stories of Roman society. The Jews did not drink strong spirits most of the time, or even wine without cutting it with water. It was a standard practice that was in the Mishna, that drinking wine straight was something that was to be frowned upon.

And even if they had drunk it straight, the maximum fermentation that they would have gotten would only have put it at about 8% alcohol. And Jeff could not doubt tell you, wines today have about 13% alcohol. And of course we have much stronger stuff too, that they didn’t have access to, because they didn’t have distilling.

So even though the party had been going for several days, and some people were no doubt drunk, I tend to think of it more like a Polish wedding, where everybody’s dancing and everybody’s eating and everybody’s drinking, and everybody’s just partying and having a good time. And they have run out of drink. And even if you’re not drunk by that time, you get a little dulled in the senses. So I just want to set all that up.

Why is it important to Mary? Because as the host, or kinsman of the host, it’s insulting to those who were invited, even family, and Jesus and the disciples, to have run out before the end of the party. It speaks of poor preparation. Or maybe they were just too poor, period. We don’t know. But we do know that culturally, it’s a big faux pas. It was a big problem, to have to cut the party short, because they ran out of wine, and possibly food.

Jesus, we know, is at least thirty years old. He had already started his ministry, because he had his disciples. They were invited with him. Now he hadn’t done any miracles yet, but he was already preaching, “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand,” and drawing disciples in.

This means he had left the house of Mary and Joseph. Among the Jews, if there is no father – and the assumption is that Joseph had died at some point – the oldest son has to stay in the family, taking care of the family business, until he either finds a wife, or he reaches the age of thirty and becomes sort of a confirmed bachelor. Then he can do what it is that he chooses.

We see signs of that, and of the impact of that, actually, a little later on in another Gospel. Once they’re in Capernaum, and Jesus is teaching in a house, and the house is overflowing, and his mother and his brothers come to take him home. They basically say, “Come home, quit being an idiot.” I’m paraphrasing, but they do imply that he is mad, because of what he is doing.

So Jesus is on his own. And Mary, finding out about this issue about the wine, goes to Jesus and basically says, “Fix this.” Now this answers a question for me that I’d actually wondered for a long time, and I never saw in this passage before.

And that is, did Mary remember who Christ was? Because when you see the stories of them asking him to come home, implying that he’s kind of insane, and his brothers didn’t believe in him (James didn’t believe in him until after he was resurrected), you wonder, did Mary even remember how Jesus was conceived? Or did she have blinders on, like so many of the Jews of that day?

I think, based on this story, that she did remember who Christ was, that he was the Son of God. But she was also his mother. And mothers have the right to demand certain things of their children. So she says, “Fix it.” And like any young man who has now gone off on his own, Jesus responds, and he says, “Woman” – not “Mother” – “Woman, it’s not my time yet.”

This doesn’t mean that he didn’t love her. The Message actually translates it a little more interestingly, and it says, “Don’t push me.” I like that translation. “Don’t push me.”

Every once in a while, moms have problems letting go, or they make assumptions that, perhaps, they no longer should do. I know my mom had problems letting go. I was twenty-five years old, I had my own apartment, I had my own job, and I was engaged to be married, before she finally let go.

My mom and dad were on their way from New York to Arizona, and they stopped over at to my apartment to meet Pauline. I made a rice and chicken casserole, and I was making roast corn. I got it out and started wrapping it up in tin foil, after having made sure that Mom and Dad were situated with Pauline, with drinks and stuff.

My mom comes into the kitchen to help me. Now you have to understand, she was not a small woman either, and this was one of those efficiency 6 x 9 kitchens, and there were two of us in there. And she says, “Can I help?” I said, “I suppose so. I’m wrapping the corn for roasting.”

So she takes some tin foil and starts wrapping the corn. Then she says, “You know, Jon, getting rid of the husk and the silk after it’s been cooked is really a lot harder. And boiled corn doesn’t really taste any different from roasted corn. I’d be more than happy to husk this for you. Do you have a pot somewhere so I could do this?”

I looked at her, and I said, “Mom, get out of my kitchen. This is my home. You are my guest. Go sit at the table, meet my fiancée, and be guested.” Well, she looked at me with one of those “mom looks” – you know, that’s worse than puppy dog eyes. Then she looked at my dad, and thanks be to my father, till eternity, he looked back at her and said, “You know, Donna, he’s right.”

And it was at that point that my mom finally backed off, and recognized the fact that I was truly on my own and a full adult. It doesn’t mean that she didn’t have times where she asked me to do things, any more than Mary did here. But I had to assert myself. And I think that Jesus was asserting himself a little here too.

But he also understood the stakes. Because if they were Mary’s kinsmen, then they were his kinsmen. So after he warned her, if you will, “Don’t push me,” she ignores that – moms are good at that sometimes. She turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he says.”

I love that. She had total confidence in her son. Total confidence that whatever he does is going to be right, whatever he says is going to be right. He’s going to take care of the situation. Why? Because she asked for it. She’s his mom. And a Jewish mom to boot.

I love that confidence. It’s something that sometimes we parents, I will include dads as well as moms, have difficulty remembering and doing. I have an 18-year-old and a 26-year-old, and there are still times when I’ve asked them to do something, where then I start to follow them around or I check up on them continuously. It might be sometimes because they’re not doing it as fast as I would like. [One of them says something.] They have reasons, as he just said. And I need to trust. My sons are both fine young men.

Mary trusted her son. He was going to take care of it. And Jesus, fulfilling the Scriptures perfectly, and always being the man of God, then follows one of the commandments. It’s the first commandment with a promise. Anybody remember what it is? [Someone responds.] Yes, “Honor your father and mother.” That is correct. And you will be blessed and live long and prosper in this land.”

His mother asked him to do something. It’s not unreasonable, or outrageous – for him. So he honors her and does it. Then he does something amazing, that really shows how God relates to us, if we relate to Him, if we honor Him the way Jesus was honoring his mother, if we trust in Him the way Mary was trusting in Jesus.

He takes six urns, twenty to thirty gallons, lets say thirty gallons apiece. They probably stood about this tall [indicates a few feet off the ground], and he tells them to fill them to the brim. Then when the servants do that, and they ladle some out, it has turned into wine.

The problem had been they were short of wine. Now they had enough wine. A hundred eighty gallons of wine is going to go a long way, even at a party. But that wasn’t all. He gave, not just what was needed, but overabundantly, and when they took it to the steward, the master of the party – not the groom, but the guy who was actually running everything – he tasted it, and he called the groom over.

He says, “What’s this?! This is the best wine I’ve tasted. You know, it’s normally the practice to give people the good wine while they can still tell what it is. Yet you kept this for last.”

So Jesus doesn’t just give them an overabundance. Jesus gives them the best. And his disciples saw this, and believed in him. Jesus loved his mother, and obeyed his mother’s request. But he fulfilled it, not as a man, but as the Son of God would.

God is our parent too. I know that we refer to Him as Father, and He is our Father and He is our provider, and I prefer to think of Him in the masculine that way. But we have to understand that God is Spirit, and God loves us with the same kind of nurturing, caring love that a mother has. Not that men can’t nurture and care, and we do, but women have been especially gifted in that way.

God loves you that way as well. God loves you and wants the best for you. And God will give to you over and above what you can imagine, and He will give you the best that you can get. He showed that on the cross. From the wine at Cana to the blood on the cross, God showed the kind of abundance He wants to give to His children.

And we’re not just kinsmen to Jesus. We’re brothers and sisters. We are the actual children of God, bought by Christ’s blood, given new birth by the Spirit, with God as our parent. That kind of abundance is available for us, but we need to respect God as well. We need to honor God as well. We need to honor God like kids tend to honor their mothers on Mother’s Day. And why do I say that?

Bill Cosby said it best in one of his routines. He said, “When Mother’s Day comes, you take a couple of weeks to make something, you paint it and make it look good, you sign it, and then you come to Mom and give it to her and you say, ‘Here, Mom.’ She says, ‘Oh, this is so beautiful, I can’t believe it, thank you so much.” And she gives you a big hug. Then when Father’s Day comes, you say, ‘Hey, Dad, loan me twenty bucks and I’ll buy you a pack of cigarettes,’ and then you keep the change.”

We want that same kind of relationship with God that we have with our mom, where we make things, we give our best, that special thing. We want to make Mom happy. We want to make God happy.

We should be wanting to make God weep. Not with sorrow, but with joy, because we have shown Him the kind of love that He has shown to us. Then we need to display that kind of love to our children, and grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, that they might come to understand what that means, that they might respect and honor God.

The challenge is, we need to do that every day. Because God blesses us in that way every day. And while we respect our mothers and fathers and honor them every day, we don’t usually make a special point of it and give them cards and flowers or whatever it might be – make breakfast in bed, try not to burn the eggs.

But we need to offer that kind of praise to God, in our prayers, in our songs, in our actions. Then every Sunday, we come together to worship. And just like on Mother’s Day we have special recognition to mothers, we can give special recognition to God for the wondrous things that God has done in our lives, starting with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and moving on from there.

You know, even if your relationship with your mother was strained in any way, it doesn’t need to be with God. Just as on Father’s Day, so many times people say if you had an abusive father or a bad father, God is your Father and will never do that to you, it’s the same with mothers. God will love you and nurture you better than even your human mother can.

I pray that for you, that you feel God’s love enough, that you love God enough, that every day is Mother’s Day. Every day is a day to respect and honor God, a day to give God praise. Give it to your moms too. They deserve it. But even as we encourage you to recognize your mothers today, to recognize those bonds of family and those ties that we have with one another, remember also God, and give Him praise and glory, for the wondrous things He has done in protecting, nurturing, and caring for you.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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