Tuesday, May 15, 2012
MOTHERS AND PROPHETS Oxnard United Church of Christ, 13 May 2012 Every time a child is conceived, God begins creating two miracles. Two: a new life and a mother. Almost all our favorite characters in the Bible are prophets: from Miriam, to Moses; from Elijah to John the Baptist; from Huldah to Anna. God gave us these prophets. God gave us their mothers. I am here this morning to talk about two of these mothers… Let’s start with Hannah. Most of us here probably remember her story. She was loved but she was barren and in a society where barrenness was considered a curse, she cried and prayed and pleaded to Yahweh to remember her and Yahweh did. She gave birth to a son and named him Samuel, which meant, “I have asked him of Yahweh.” And in her prayer in Chapter 2, comparable to the power and the passion of Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1. 46-55, we encounter a mother’s faith, a faith I’m sure she taught her son, a faith that continues to challenge us today… Let me read some of her prayer’s most powerful affirmations… The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength, God kills and brings to life, God brings down to Sheol and raises up, God raises up the poor from the dust, God lifts the needy from the ash heap However you read Hannah’s Prayer the message is clear—God will make things right. And most important, God is on the side of the poor, of the oppressed, of the hungry, of those whose only hope is God. This was the faith of Hannah, the same faith her prophet son, Samuel, had. Most of us here probably remember the son more than his mother. The message has not changed. Hannah and Samuel’s faith remain. We worship and serve a God who actually takes sides. If we read our Bibles and pray everyday, which I hope everyone in Oxnard does, then we will grow, grow, grow in the knowledge that the God we serve and worship has always been on the side of the poor. From Genesis to Revelation, we read about our covenant relationship with Yahweh that requires us to take care of the widows, orphans, strangers and foreigners, yes, illegal immigrants, among us. From Genesis to Revelation, we are enjoined to feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, welcome the sick and the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and the imprisoned. We know whose side God is on but are we on the right side? Those of us who take pride in calling ourselves Christian, are we on God’s side? Do we let poor widows give everything they have, even the little money left to buy food, so that we can build our temples and our buildings as monuments to our messianic complexes? Mary of Nazareth believed in a God who brings down rulers from their thrones but lifts up the humble. She believed in a God who fills the hungry with good things but sends the rich away empty. And this faith, I know she taught her Son, the One we call Lord and Savior. Hannah and Mary knew what God required of us. It is not burnt offerings or ten thousand rivers of oil or mighty buildings. Then and now, God requires of us to do justice and to love kindness and to take sides…And the message will never, ever, change. We worship and serve a God who takes sides. A God who takes the preferential option for the poor. A God who brings down kings and kingdoms. A God who weeps with those who weep and who cries with those who cry. We worship and serve a God who, in the fullness of time, in the life and ministry of one Jesus, son of Mary from Nazareth, did the greatest act of taking sides—God became one of us. God left heaven to be with us. And God continues to take sides—as we encounter God among the least of the least, among the hungry and the thirsty, among the prisoners, the strangers, and the sick, among the homeless and the naked, among those devastated by nature’s wrath and by humanity’s greed, among those whose only hope is God. Let me share with you a story told by John Dominic Crossan, probably the most read Historical Jesus researcher today: He imagines a conversation with Jesus. He asks Jesus what he can say about Crossan’s research. Jesus says he has done great work, his research is excellent, and his reconstruction of Jesus is the closest to the real person. Crossan is ecstatic about Jesus’ praise, until Jesus adds: “One thing you lack.” And Crossan, asks: “What is it, Lord?” And the reply: “Sell everything you have, including all the royalties you’ve received from the books you’ve written about me; give the proceeds to the poor, and follow me.” Crossan says, “I cannot, Lord.” Yes, my dear sisters and brothers, the final test. Those of us who take pride in calling ourselves Christian, worship and serve a God who takes sides; but most importantly, the Christ we worship and serve wants us to sell everything we have, give all the proceeds to the poor and follow him. Hannah and Mary gave the very best they could offer to God: their children. And their children did so, as well. They offered the very best. They gave their lives for others. Are we ready to do so? Did our mothers teach us to do so? For most of us, our mothers taught us how to care and how to share. They showed us how to live in love, how to pray. Our mothers taught us how to live through life’s pains. They showed us how to give our lives for our friends. Our mothers taught us how not to be afraid. Their love showed us that, whatever happens, we will never, ever, be alone. For many people, IMMANUEL, God-with-us, is actually spelled M O T H E R. Again, I ask: are we ready to offer our very best? Did our mothers teach us to do so? I believe they did. I know they did. Amen.