Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

Sunday after the Ascension, 2013
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

Let us Pray: Send, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in all our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.

 

Today, as listed in our calendar and bulletin – and our church calendars - we observe the Sunday after Ascension Day. It is clearly marked. We can't miss it. It is a clear sign and points precisely where we are in our church year. We know that next Sunday we will observe Whitsunday. The week following that, we will observe Trinity Sunday. For those of us who live within the rhythm of the church year, we know where we are. By following the directions given to us in the calendar, we can navigate through the life of the church – as well as our own lives – by knowing where we are, both physically and spiritually.

 

The secular calendar also provides us with guidance. And on this particular day, we observe Mothers Day. In the secular world, we are all made very aware that cards should be bought, dinners arranged, reservations made and, above all, that we should express love for the mothers who have given life to us. We may not need these reminders, because deep in our hearts, we know of the gratitude that can never be fully and completely expressed. But we do our best. And our best is truly good enough. Mothers know that better than anyone. And we all know that the love we wish to share on this day can never be expressed in words, in hallmark cards or lavish dinners at Chinese restaurants.

 

But Mothers Day has profound theological meaning as well. And I find it remarkable that on Ascensiontide, the Ascension of Our Lord is celebrated at the same time we observe Mothers Day. It shouldn't come as so much of a surprise to us. This is God's world, after all, and accidents are as much a part of God's plan as anything else. But when we look at all the similarities, it can't help but be surprising.

 

Last Thursday, the church observed Ascension Day. Jesus ascended to the Father, completing His earthly ministry among us. Jesus, God who came among us in human form, had a very human mother. On this day when we celebrate our own mothers, we remember the mother of Jesus as well. Mary was always a human being. We must never forget that. She had all the same hopes, fears, successes and failures as the rest of us. Her life was unremarkable. Except for the fact that she gave birth to a son. Called by the name Jesus. Jesus no doubt had a typical upbringing and Mary shared the typical joys and worries of every mother who has ever lived. In His maturity, Jesus would certainly recognize what had been given to Him. And He would celebrate Mothers Day along with the rest of us. This past week, as I looked over the wide variety of Mothers Day cards, I wondered what card Jesus might give to Mary. What kind of card would God send to His mother? What words would He use? I don't know for sure, but I suspect they would say much the same things we have said in the cards we have sent. And I believe Scripture will bear me out on that.

 

Jesus has now ascended to His Father in heaven. But before He left his earthly ministry, He said something that likely puzzled his listeners. He referred to the Comforter. No doubt He meant that to reassure them, but it is about as comforting as a teacher telling a young child: “remember this grammatical structure; it will be very important to you some day.” The response, probably not spoken by the child would likely be: “yeah, right.” But Jesus had never, during all His earthly ministry, given His followers the wrong advice or the wrong information. He could be trusted. And some day, they knew – in their heart of hearts – that they would understand. They would understand what Jesus told them in the short time before He left His earthly ministry.

 

Christianity is unlike any other religion. There is a reason for that. And we all know it. The Christian faith is closest to us, because God is closest to us. Jesus leaves this human life, but He is with us still. Christianity is an intensely human religion; God is very close to us because of His intimate relationship with us. Jesus carried His mother's DNA with Him all his life. Two thousand years before the DNA formula was actually discovered by human scientists, Jesus carried this very human form of identification. We carry the DNA given to us by our parents. Like Jesus, we carry the DNA given to us by our own mothers. We always will. It is impossible for us to remove it; that unique name is imprinted on every cell in our bodies. Even when our mothers are absent, this connection can never be broken. The intimate bonds of love and physical connection will remain with us for all time.

 

It is this truth that Jesus leaves with His followers on that particular day. It is a message of love and hope that come from the mouth of God, a promise of salvation for all who have known and loved God.

 

On this very unique and special day, when we remember our mothers, as well as the Ascension of Jesus, we gather around little texts of Scripture and little bits of poetry that are given and received on little bits of colored cardboard. The texts of scripture and Mothers Day cards are scattered widely. But the one thing they have in common is this: they can never say all that needs to be said; it is simply not possible. The depth of love for those both present and absent can never be communicated in this time and place.

 

But, as we learn from Jesus: some day it will.

 

Let us Pray: O God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit; Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.