Great News For Mothers
Martin Luther said that one ought to praise women for they have need of it. He didn't say this in a condescending or patronizing way. He said it in a lecture on the Book of Genesis in a section where he speaks about how men mistreat women. The Bible has a lot of good things to say about women. Even feminist have recognized this. Feminist poet Alice Cary died a miserable death in 1871. Her biographer says that only when hearing those portions of the Gospels which tell of Christ's love for women was she happy in her suffering. Life is tough for women. You've heard the 19th century proverb, Texas is "a heaven for men and dogs, but a hell for women and oxen." An old woman in Texas first said that. Although women live much longer than then they did in the 19th century, life is still hard on them. There are 23 medical specialities that apply only to women; men have only 7. Women are more likely to be depressed, underpaid, and undervalued. As singer Ann Murray says, I think they sure could use a little good news today.
Well I have great news today for women in general and mom's in particular. God the Father calls you His child. Now today is actually Good Shepherd Sunday, and it is comforting to think of being the Lord's sheep, but it's even more special to be called His child. Ask yourself ladies, What painting of Jesus the Good Shepherd comes to mind? Several ladies have told me what comes to their minds is the one where Jesus is carrying a lamb in His arms and the momma sheep is looking up at Jesus. They like the thought that Jesus has their little lambs in His arms. Well moms I have great news. You're a child too in the arms of the Good Shepherd.
John doesn't want you to pass quickly by this. Contrary to the insert, John doesn't start with the words, "How great is the love..." No, He starts with, "Behold, how great is the love..." Why the NIV drops the word "Behold," I don't know, but this robs John of his wonder, awe, marvel at the fact that the Father calls us "children." How great, how unexpected, how wonderful that God should call people like us children. Mom's it's not wonderful, great or even an indication of your love when you're child is getting an award and you say to the person next to you, "That's my daughter." Your love is shown to be great and wonderful when the principal calls about the trouble your child has gotten in and you say, "Yes, that's my son."
That's how it works for you too. This passage isn't good news on those days when you're feeling like a child of God, when you can find beauty, love and joy in all that is around you. This passage is good news for those days when you are certain you don't deserve to be called a child, when you're ashamed of your unbelief, misbelief, or other great shame or vice. This passage is for those days when the devil is your principal and he has you in his office having caught you red handed breaking one of God's laws. You are guilty. You are a sinner. You're out of excuses. You're just sure your heavenly Father is going to show up and say, "No, that's not my child." But God doesn't do that.
God shows up as your Father saying, "Come to Me My child." God can call you child despite the fact you have broken His laws, because God the Son has kept those laws in your place. You couldn't punish a child for not cleaning his room if his sister cleaned it in his place, could you? And you could hardly spank the child for not cleaning his room if by some miracle his brother suffered the spanking for him. That's what God the Son has done for you. He came into this world as your Brother. God handed Him a list of all the laws mothers must keep, and Jesus kept them one after another. Then God took all the sins of all people, mothers included, and placed them all on the back of Jesus. Jesus went to the cross bearing those sins, and rose without them because He finished paying for them all.
"But, but, but," moms say as they see and feel their sinfulness, " I can't really be a child of the holy God." John, however, says God the Father calls you "child" because that is what you are. Moms you've been through this many times if you've raised teenagers. A child of yours will not be acting like a child at all but like a brat. The child says, "You're not my mother!" and storms out of the room. If you weren't too mad, you probably smiled. Why? Because what makes a child yours is not what she says or thinks but what you say and think, and since you call the little brat who just stormed off to her room, "child" that's what she is. Likewise, what do you do with the child who feels so ashamed of how they let you down? Would you ever want them to think their shame could be greater than your love?
So it works for you before God. In your Baptism God continually labels you "child." Think of an indelible watermark on paper. It's always there behind the scenes constantly testifying that you have been sealed by the Holy Ghost in Baptism, and therefore, you belong to God. "Child" is what God calls you as you come to His Son's Dinner Table and He bodies and bloods you to Him once more testifying that you are a sibling of Christ and therefore a child of the Father.
I have great news mothers. God calls you "child," and that is what you are. Right now in the midst of your sinful failings and faults, in the midst of your feeling worthless and cast out, God insists you're His child. However, and this is important, that is not how things look. The devil, the world around us and even our own sinful flesh continually push our faces in the fact that we don't look like children. These three enemies of our's treat us like neighborhood bullies treat an orphan being raised by his grandparents.
"Where's your dad?" the devil says as he pushes our face into our sickness, our sorrow, or sadness. "Where's your rich Daddy now?" the world says as it pushes our face into the things we don't have that others around us do have. "Where's my Dad?" our flesh says as it pushes tears from our eyes because everything is so hard and nothing works the way we want it too.
Can you see dear moms and friends that is the same thing that happened to Christ our Brother as He hung on the cross? "Let God deliver Him if He really delights in Him as He claims." "If you are God's Son come down from that cross." Was Jesus the Son of God as He hung helplessly and painfully on that bloody cross? Of course He was. But here is the catch. God the Father did forsake Him on that cross. God the Father did turn away from His only beloved, holy Son. God the Father did that then so that He would never, ever have to turn away from you now.
So as we hang on the cross of suffering, the cross of family troubles, the cross of fear, trembling, worry, sorrow, we don't hang to pay or to make up for our sins, we hang looking so defeated, so lost, so abandoned, simply and solely because Christ our Brother did so hang. "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him." By Baptism, by Absolution, by Communion we are so completely joined to Christ that we are made one body with one Head, and therefore, we go where our Head goes. For this reason, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, Hebrews, Acts, and many Psalms tell us, "Don't think is strange when you suffer. Don't think it bad when you look in a mirror and see someone who looks like a sister or brother of a crucified Jesus rather than a daughter or son of a glorious God."
The mirror is the wrong place to look. The world is the wrong place to look. Your conscience, your feelings, your opinions are the wrong place to look for assurance that you are indeed a child of God. The only place to look is to Christ: what He says, what He does, what He sees. John promises that "when Jesus appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is." Think about that for a moment. How does the world see Jesus right now? Many secular history books will admit that a person called Jesus of Nazareth lived on the earth. News magazines treat Jesus as a very real person. They treat His life as factual, but they all end with Jesus' death. The world sees Jesus exactly as He is portrayed on our crucifixes. Most historians who admit Jesus lived will also admit that He was crucified. They will debate whether He was ever buried but not that He was crucified.
Here we have a rather strange intersection of things. Both the world and the Church can gaze on the crucifix and say, "That's Jesus," but the Church sees more than that. The Church knows He's on the cross for their sins, and the Church knows the crucified Jesus testifies to them that as He went so they would go not just to the cross but all the way to heaven. Yes, Jesus was crucified but He went on to rise victorious and to reign over all things. The world sees the cross as only saying one thing about Jesus. He died.
When Christ returns we shall see Him like He is right now. Jesus is our Savior, our Lord, our Good Shepherd now; that's how we'll see Jesus, and so we'll run to embrace Him. The world will not see Him like we do. The world will see Jesus as Judge, Tyrant, and Hireling so they'll run and hide from Him. John says seeing ourselves as the children of God means we see Jesus as Savior, Lord, and Shepherd. This is no minor miracle. Only the Holy Spirit could cause us to look at Christ crucified and see a reigning, ruling Savior, Lord and Good Shepherd. Because you do see Christ Crucified as He really is, St. John goes on to say that you shall be like Him. So mothers, women, men, boys and girls, children of God through Jesus your Brother, look to Jesus to see what you're really like.
There is only sadness, sorrow, despair if we look in the mirror or the world to see what we are. We will see no indication there that we are beloved children of God. We will only see our sins and shortcomings. Instead look at what Jesus sees. Jesus sees reality. He looks at Baptism and sees not simple water only but a gracious water of life. He looks at Absolution and sees not powerless words but words powerful enough to open or close heaven and hell. He looks at Communion and sees not just Bread and Wine but His Body and Blood. And what do you think He sees when He looks at you mothers?
Since He's your Savior, He sees you as saved. Since He's your Lord, He sees you as subjects. Since He's your Shepherd, He sees you as sheep. Since He's your Brother, He sees you as having the same heavenly Father as He does. Since He see your Forgiveness, He sees you as forgiven. Since He's your Physician, He sees you not as sick or old but as healthy and young. When Jesus returns for us, what Jesus sees now in reality and what we see only by faith, will be seen by us with our eyes.
Moms how many times have you wanted to be able to show a troubled, struggling child how you see things? They were hopeless, about to give up, sure that they had made such a mess out of things that nothing would ever be right again. How badly you wanted them to see what you see because your eyes are wiser, more loving, more realistic! So the Good Shepherd. How badly He wants you to look through His eyes. He sees great news for mothers, for women, for sinners, for children of the heavenly Father. Amen
Rev. Paul R Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Easter IV (5-11-03), I John 3: 1-2