Sermon May 14, 2017 Mother’s Day
Acts 7: 55-60 Stoning of Stephen
1 Peter 2: 2-10 Living Stones
John 14: 1-14
I want to begin with a little hymnal information this morning. Turn please to p. 34 in the front of your hymnbook. There you see what we call the three year lectionary. If you ever want to know what the lessons are for the coming week you can find it here. Sometimes people use these readings for a devotion time. We are currently in Cycle A. Over three years we read from Matthew, Mark, and Luke and periodically John. There is usually an Old Testament reading, a New Testament, and the gospel. Sometimes we wonder if there is a connection. Sometimes we wonder why that lesson. Often here we read only one or two. Today I’m going for all three and we’ll see how I can tie them together…along with Mother’s Day!
The first reading is from Acts. Stephen is recognized as the first martyr of the church. But before he gets this recognition it seems he was a waiter. Who would have thought being a waiter could be so dangerous? Rude customers, bad tips, long hours, that’s to be expected. But what happened to Stephen? No.
A little background. In Acts 6 Stephen has been chosen as one to “wait on tables.” He helped serve food to people, especially the widows who seem to have been neglected. This was what the disciples had been doing and now they determined that they needed help so that they could do more preaching. And praying. Stephen must have been quite a man. He’s described as having a face of an angel and being filled with grace and power. But it seems that Stephen did more than just wait on tables. He preached as well. And for what he did and how he spoke, Stephen was stoned to death.
The stones in this story are used for a terrible purpose. I’m guessing many of you have a painful stone story. Did you ever drop a rock on a toe or your foot? Have you pinched your finger between two stones? We laugh now, but when I was a boy my brother once threw a rock intended for my sister. Instead it hit my youngest brother in the head. He described it to me again the other day. “I had a bit of a temper in those days, and I was aiming for our sister. But the rock kind of curved, and hit our youngest brother in the head!” To this day my youngest brother says it’s one of the two dents he has in his head. Looking back we laugh but at the time it was extremely serious. Young people. Do not throw stones at people. Skipping stones in a lake is one thing but don’t throw at people!
Stephen, even at his death looked to heaven and instead of condemning those who were throwing stones, he cried out, similar to Jesus, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” How could he do that? Stephen became what I would call a “Living Stone.” A model of faith.
And that’s the segway to the second lesson. This idea of Living Stones. In the second lesson Peter refers to those who have rejected Jesus, the “Cornerstone.” He commends those who have embraced Jesus as the cornerstone, and he seems to be referring to the new Gentile Christians. Those who at one time would have been the outsiders. He says they are a “Chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God’s own people.” He writes, “Come to him and like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house with Jesus as your cornerstone.”
And this is where Mother and Fathers come in, but particularly today Mothers. You are, “Living Stones.” This is a day that we can all celebrate because we all have or have had a mother. Thank you Mothers for the rock or the “Living Stone” that you are in your families foundation. Thank you for the disciples that you are and the faith that you foster. I encourage you to keep Jesus as the cornerstone of your family’s foundation. Today we celebrate with you and rejoice with you and thank you. [Yet we also recognize that foundations crumble, rocks of faith are themselves broken or crushed.] We have a beautiful litany today where we recognized and honor not only mothers, but women in all stages of life.
Today we think about the excitement of new mothers and first time mothers but we also remember that this is a day of pain for many. Mothers who have lost a child, Mother’s in nursing homes, Mothers wracked by disease or disability, Mothers who can’t respond to the love we want to give. I think of children who for the first time are without a mother, or the husband without his wife and partner.
I think of women who have not and perhaps will not ever be Mothers. Sometimes it’s a choice, sometimes not…and it’s true that they can celebrate the gift of their own Mothers, but is there a pain in knowing they will never receive the cards and flowers? For many today this is a day of pain in the midst of the joy. We recognize that reality, and yet it is a day of celebration, a day of love and rejoicing a day of hope and thanks. It is a day of honoring and gratitude. Thank you Mothers and Fathers for being Living Stones of faith formation for your children.
And so it is time to move to the Gospel lesson for the day. The third stone story. It doesn’t specifically talk about stones, but it does talk about a building project.
The situation was this. The disciples were gathered together with Jesus in the upper room on their last night together. Jesus was talking about his death. He said to them, “Believe in God. Believe in me. Trust in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, many living places. I’m going to prepare a place for you. When the time is right, I will come again and take you to myself. If this were not so, I would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”
And Thomas still kind of confused says, “Um Jesus, we really don’t know where you’re going and we don’t know how to get there. How would we know?” And Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the way to my Father’s house, the way to my Father’s living spaces, the way to Eternal life.
This passage is often used at funerals. We like to imagine a loved one in this beautiful mansion. In my small mind and imagination I find that image comforting. But I think heaven is beyond our imagining. Still, if we need something concrete to wrap our minds around, this is pretty good. Rev. Ed Marquart notes that Jesus seems to be giving two promises. 1. Trust me. I’m going to prepare a place for you. Stone by stone a place is being prepared. The foundation is being laid because,…promise 2. When the time is right, I will come and take you to this place.
But here’s the challenge. We have the promise of being with God, but until that time, we are here on this place we call earth, Hastings, home. The challenge is to carry on the mission of Jesus here and now. Stone by stone we work in this earthly kingdom. We lay foundations, we build relationships, we strengthen and support each other. We go about our work in God’s kingdom until when the time is right we join in the heavenly kingdom.
Until that time, thank you for the Living Stones that you are. Be given comfort and courage for each day in this earthly kingdom, knowing the promises Jesus has in store for you in God’s heavenly kingdom.