Mother's Day 2012
Rev. Joe Cherry
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A liberal religious voice in the Central Valley since 1953.
Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.
When you close your eyes and think about the imagery of Mother's Day, what comes to mind?
Do you see children clumsily making a breakfast, to be served to their Mom in bed, and do you see a woman graciously eating it, no matter the actual edibility of the meal?
Do you see a family, in their Sunday best, piling into a big, shiny, chrome laden car, heading off to church, girls in Mary Janes, boys in clip-on ties, and Mom with matching hat, gloves and bag?
Are there a lot of flowers and flowery cards in your image?
Do you hear the poem by Sojourner Truth, the one entitled "Ain't I A Woman?"
What did you expect when you woke this morning?
Like many holidays, Mother's Day is heavy with expectation and emotion.
As hinted at in this month's newsletter, Mother's Day didn't start off being about breakfast in bed, flowers, and pretty cards.
It started out as a call to action. 19th Century Unitarian Woman, Julie Ward Howe, writer of the poem "Battle Hymn of the Republic" wrote her "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870. Even as we listen to her words this morning, knowing that peace and peaceful resolution of conflict is preferable to war, we remember and acknowledge with open hearts that even today, many mothers have children in military service.
Arise then ... women of this day!
It's a far different tone from the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written in 1862, when the country was in the early Civil War, Howe, an abolitionist, trying to inspire troops to carry on as the war was not going well for the North.
Shocked by the carnage, the loss of a generation, she wrote her declaration five years after the conclusion of that war.
Also shocked by the arrival of war on her doorstep, Clara Barton, 19th century Universalist, became a nurse, following closely Florence Nightingale, British Unitarian who established the world's first non-religious nursing school.
Credited by Abraham Lincoln as "the little lady who started this great big war," Harriet Beecher Stowe was both the daughter and wife of Unitarian ministers. As an abolitionist in her own right, in 1852 she authored "Uncle Tom's Cabin", in serial form, for a paper called "The National Era."
A less dire, but no less influential, book was written by domestic scientist, Fannie Merritt Farmer. In her revolutionary cookbook, Farmer introduced the United States to standardized measurements and a more scientific approach to cooking and baking. If you doubt her influence, just try to find a recipe that uses phrases like "a pinch."
Lest you think that influential Universalist, Unitarian and UU women went out of fashion with the Gibson Girl hairstyle, Sophia Lyons Fahs, who lived from 1876 to 1978 - yes, 102 years - was a religious educator who changed the way we treat our children for over a century. Sylvia Plath and May Sarton are two very influential poets in the 20th century, and Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley was a vital part of starting the conversations about healing around race and class issues within our own faith.
Marjorie wrote our Litany of Restoration. Please open your hymnals to reading #576, and read with me:
If, recognizing the interdependence of all life, we strive to build community, the strength we gather will be our salvation. If you are black and I am white,
From these famous women we turn to the countless number of women whose names will never be recorded in books, the presidents of congregations, the Sunday School teachers, the treasurers, the tenders of our gardens.
Who mothered your own spirit? What aunts / grandmothers / personal heroes / mentors / teachers do you have? Please share their names with the congregation now.
[Pause, while the congregation said names aloud.]
So, to paraphrase Julia Ward Howe:
Arise, as you are able, you women of today!
Arise and be recognized for the work you do in the world that makes the world a better place!
Arise and be celebrated for the work you do in this very Fellowship that keeps it running as smoothly as it does, even today!
Arise and recognize the Sisterhood of women that goes back to the mythical Eve and Lilith!
As there is joy in womanhood, there is also sorrow.
See these candles burning to my right? They are candles burning bright with the hope of healing. Earlier this morning we held a service from which it is hoped that healing may be encouraged. [note 1]
For many, Mother's Day isn't just a day to celebrate the women who gave them birth, or the children they themselves have born.
For some it can be a bitter-sweet day.
For this part in each of us, let us pause now for a moment, and gaze upon the candles of hoped for healing.
It is good for us to remember both the sorrow and the joy in life. For together they represent the fullness of our time here together on this planet.
Often we loose track of what brings us happiness. In the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day lives, it's easy to forget things. Like how absolutely amazing it was the first time you looked into the eyes of someone you loved. Or the wonder you first felt when you held a new baby, especially if that former baby is now working very hard to push the envelope, or your patience, on a regular basis.
Think back for a moment to the story that Denis told. The old man in the story had to be reminded that he had a good life. It took a cacophony of animals to get him to re-appreciate the gentle sounds of his partner, happily knitting beside him. [note 2]
These are our challenges:
to not wait until a holiday to have a good look around and appreciate that which we have;
to allow ourselves to mourn and feel sorrow as our spirit calls us to;
to realize that everyday can be made special in some way, if we engage in the spiritual practice of being aware, or mindfulness.
Be inspired by our Universalist, Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist fore-mothers. Be inspired by those who have mothered your own soul, and nurture the souls around you to the best of your ability.
And when imperfection happens, and it will, be gentle with yourself.
May 13, 2012
Copyright by Rev. Joe Cherry. If you liked it or want to use parts of it, please contact him:
This is from a collection of sermons by Rev. Joe Cherry.
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