Sunday, May 10, 2020

Moms Know

Since becoming a mother, some stories from the Bible have changed for me. Maybe you’ve experienced this, too? And one came alive for me in a new way this Easter season. While reflecting on the passion story from the John, I read this passage (John 19:25-27):

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

I imagine a completely broken and exhausted mother, leaning on an equally broken and exhausted friend, united in their grief.
“Woman, here is your son. And here is your mother.”

What a powerful act of love and community. It took my breath away, because I understand a little better now what it means to mother—whether my own kids or otherwise—through my years of parenting, teaching, and pastor’s spouse-ing. Moms know.

We are all connected to one another, we belong to one another, and the well-being of one affects us all. Jesus knew this, and even as he suffered and died, he set a powerful example for his followers to take care of one another through difficult times.

In the weeks we’ve been sheltering in place, this has become real in a new way for me, and maybe for you, too. Staying home is something that’s strange and uncomfortable and even hard for me to make sure my community—not just my own family—is healthy.

It also means I’ve also had a little more free time than usual…so, I did a little research about Mother’s Day as I prepared for this message. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. These clubs later became a unifying force in a region still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” where mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. In 1870 abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to promote world peace, and campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.
And Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist also connected to the underground railroad, inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. I just had to add this in here, as my husband and I attended Albion College and often passed by the placard placed outside her family’s home in her honor.

So Mother’s Day has at its core education, reconciliation, community, and peacemaking. Because mothers know that we belong to each other and that it takes a village to raise a child.

But like most holidays, it has strayed far from its original purpose. Ann Reeves Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity. By 1920 Jarvis had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies. She launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Mother’s Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

We do this a lot as humans—take a good thing and make it not so good. We forget the heart of what we are called to do: loving one another as God has loved us, just like our mamas and Jesus taught us. So what does that love look like, and how could we honor Mother’s Day today?
Well, by doing what our mamas taught us.

Clean up your own mess.
How often do you recycle? Do you even know how or where to dispose of recyclable materials in your area? And do you know how long recyclable materials hang around in landfills, contributing emissions that dirty our air and water?

Be fair.
Did you know that in Illinois, most coal fired power plants and transportation hubs are located in communities of color? That means our energy consumption and consumer demand harms our brothers and sisters living in those areas in the form of asthma and other respiratory issues. Black children are 10 times more likely to die of asthma-related causes than white children. 

Don’t waste.
Did you know 30-40% of food in the United States is wasted? Think of all the people that are hungry and could really use that food. Think of all the energy and time that it took to produce, transport, and prepare that food—all wasted.

And a cousin of “don’t waste”: turn off the lights when you leave the room!
If you’re still using the old 60-watt incandescent lightbulbs in your house, you should know that it wastes up to 90% of its energy as heat – only 10% of its energy is spent actually producing light. If that huge waste of energy isn’t enough to convince you to switch to LED bulbs, then here’s another reason: Leaving your lights on an extra 8 hours a day adds up to a waste of $900 a year! I can think of a lot of things I’d rather spend $900 on. Leaving your LED lights on all day isn’t quite as costly, but it’ll still cause a significant dent in your annual energy bill. 45 LED lights left on while you’re at work will cost you an extra $180 a year. If you flip those switches off, you could save enough for an annual gym membership. And let’s not forget, when we put demand on the grid to power things that we’re not even using, we’re harming those that live in the path of coal-fired power plants.

Look after your brother or sister when I’m not around.
We’re all we have. And this is the only planet we have. We need to find ways to leave this planet a little better than we found it—another lesson from Mom—and perhaps we can use this time of social distancing to form some new habits and consume less.

Jesus knew. Moms know. We belong to one another, and when we take care of the earth, we’re caring for our brothers and sisters around the world, in space and in time.
Happy Mother’s Day.