Monday, May 11, 2015

“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.” -- Mexican Proverb


I don't normally post the manuscripts of my sermons; the audio ultimately gets posted to the All Souls website-- and it's more accurate, with all my witty asides-- but I felt it was important for this sermon to reach a broader audience than might think to check the website to listen to a sermon, so, here it is. I apologize for any stream of thought writing or lack of punctuation but hey-- this is how I write a sermon. :) Watch the above video first; it was the "sacred text" for my sermon.

Mother's Day Sermon
May 10, 2015
My social media has been awash
This weekend
With people scorning Mother’s Day.
Anne Lamott,
An author whom I love deeply,
Wrote an essay saying
it’s the holiday she hates the most.
A couple of my esteemed colleagues
Have written blogs
On why they’re not preaching about
Mothers
Today.
And last night,
At a dinner with three of my nieces
And one of their friends
The friend said her husband wanted
To go to church
And she did not
Because it’s Mother’s Day
And she hated how the service
Would be all about mothers.
And I understand these sentiments;
I do.
Mother’s Day
Can seem like a cruel celebration
To those who have not been able
To have a child
Either by adoption or birth
Or to those who have lost a child
Or have lost a mother.
For some struggling with their children
Or with their moms
Where the Leave it to Beaver family mold
Was not available
This day may not be
A favorite holiday.
Even though we will spend 14.7 billion dollars on it
this is the holiday—
(that’s $127 per mom!)
With the biggest card sales
And second only to valentine’s day
For flowers,
Yet still
Hallmark has NOT come up
With cards that fit all families.
How can there be rows upon rows
Of Mother’s Day cards at the store
And there still isn’t one for all?
Where is the card that says
Thanks Mom
for not harming me more than you did?
And what about those
who have chosen not to have children
At all?
Ironically, Margaret Wise Brown
The author of the Runaway Bunny story
Laurie read for the Story for All Ages—
And author of countless beloved children’s books—
Was a lesbian who never had children.
For women who are married today
Who choose not to have children,
They still constantly face a barrage of questions
About why?
With implications of how selfish that is
To want a child-free adult life.
They might get a little tired of Mother’s Day
Platitudes.
Frankly, I think we SHOULD have a day
That honors those who choose to not have children.
We need their energy.
However
Regardless of whether you’re a mom
Or a dad
Or a dad who used to be mom
Or a mom who used to be dad
I think it’s important
That we celebrate Mother’s Day
It’s important to remember
Why we have Mother’s Day.
See, we’ve gotten Mothers Day wrong.
Mothers Day was begun in 1870
after a lot of lobbying
by women
(who, by the way,
didn’t have the right to vote yet
but they still made their political presence
felt).
And it wasn’t created because mothers
felt overwhelmed
with the task of raising children,
running the household
and still finding time to
foment rebellion.
It wasn’t begun as an
economic stimulus program
in hopes that all those flowers
and candy boxes
and presents
would boost retail sales.
It was created by mothers
so tired of having their sons
(at the time)
sent home in boxes
from one war zone or another
that they gathered today
women from every socio-economic status
some women who weren’t mothers at all
and they gathered together to say enough!
We are tired of losing our children to war!


Julia Ward Howe
a Unitarian rabble-rouser
and leader of the movement
to create Mothers Day
wrote in her Mothers Day Proclamation
in 1870:
“As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel
.Let them meet first,
as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other
as to the means
Whereby the great human family
can live in peace...
Each bearing after our own time the sacred impress,
not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity,
I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women
without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace
deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.”
So, according to Julia
this was never meant to be a day to honor mothers
it was a day to honor our children.
And to recognize the inherent worth and dignity
Of all mother’s children
And to seek peace.
Perhaps Julia Ward Howe
got the idea for this from
Ann Reeves Jarvis
who instituted
Mother’s Work Day
in her West Virginia town
as a rallying cry to improve sanitation.
Again,
who better than a mother
concerned with the health and safety
of children
to establish this?
After the Civil War ended
Ann Reeves Jarvis
used this day as a means of reconciliation
between the two sides
and it was her daughter
Anna Jarvis who spent nearly 10 years
seeking to have Mother’s Day
officially recognized.
But even in her lifetime
the sentiment had changed.
People sought to soften the holiday
and turn it into what we know it as today.
A time for sending cards and flowers
and letting our moms know
they were appreciated.
By the time Mother’s Day
was officially enacted
it had already lost the meaning
for which Anna Jarvis and her mother
and Julia Ward Howe
sought to have it recognized.
But today
THAT
Is the Mother’s Day
I want us to celebrate.
Today
I want to honor women
And girls
Who have made a difference
I want to say Happy Mother’s Day
To Malala Yousafzi
The young Pakistani woman
who was shot in the head
because she dared to continue
to seek an education
in a Taliban ruled country
that forbids girls to learn.
Not because she is a mother
But because already
In her young life
she understands the importance
of Mother’s Day.
Already
In her young life
She Is changing the world.
Winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Price,
Then 17 years old,
She said
“Pens and books
are the weapons that defeat terrorism.”
Even though she nearly lost her life
She has never stopped fighting
The ignorance of terrorism
With the wisdom of education.
Another Pakistani woman
And human rights activist
40 year old Sabeen Mahmud
Was not so lucky
On April 24th this year-
Just a couple of weeks ago--
she had just held a meeting
about the”silenced” activists and students
in Baluchistan,
Pakistan’s most neglected and separatist province;
Hundreds of activists and students had been abducted,
probably killed.
And she held a meeting in a café she had created
For just that purpose
In 2006.
For years, progressives in Pakistan
Would meet there
To discuss issues of the day.
And this was no different
Though it was risky.
“There would probably be blowback”,
she told a friend; “I just don’t know what that blowback entails.”
That blow back was being shot to death
I want to wish her a posthumous Mother’s Day
Even though she was not a mother.
And I want to wish A Happy Mother’s Day
To her own mom
Who was with her and was also shot twice.
She is expected to recover.
These women
Won’t be getting a card today
Or breakfast in bed
But they heard Julia Ward Howe’s call
Through the ages
And they answered.
Today I want to call out the names
Of the 234 Nigerian girls
Kidnapped while they studied
For a chemistry exam
April 14, 2014.
Finally rescued
From Boko Haram terrorists
After a year in captivity.
234 girls finally returned to their villages,
214 of whom are pregnant
As a result of rape.
I wish I could hear and learn
Each of their names
I wish I could tell them
They will not
Or at least should not
Be known as the mother
Of the rape baby
The victim of terrorists
That they are wonderful girls
And young women,
That their life has meaning.
I want to learn the names
Of all women
Who have been erased
By whatever patriarchal society
In which they live.
To say you are more
Than somebody’s mother
Or daughter or sister
To say you have a name
Even here in our own nation
I want to say Happy Mother’s Day
To those whose presence
Is being erased by laws;
To the women in Wisconsin
Where there’s a new bill
Wending its way through legislature
That would give in-laws
The right to stop their daughter-in-law
From getting an abortion.
Here in our own state
And in many states
There is a constant push
To render invisible
The rights of women
Seeking to make decisions
About their bodies.
I want to say
Happy Mother’s Day
To the members of group
Moms Demand Action
For Gun Sense in America
-a group that was definitely founded
In the spirit of Julia Ward Howe’s
Mother’s Day proclamation
Founded in the aftermath of the Sandyhook shootings
To say Enough!
A group of which I’m a proud member.
A group who was the target
Of a TV ad
By a Florida Gun instructor,
Who shot six carefully placed bullets
In a target that we then see
Is one of the posters
For Moms Demand Action.
He ends this ad
By turning to the camera
And then saying
“Not a bad grouping.
Happy Mother’s Day.”
I want to say Happy Mother’s Day
To all the activists
Mothers or no
Women and men
Who day by day
Have it in their heart to work for peace.
Rather than declaim Mother’s Day
As a exclusive party for those who change diapers
We need to reclaim Mother’s Day
As a day
Where we meet first,
as women AND men,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.
And then to
solemnly take counsel with each other
as to the means
Whereby the great human family
can live in peace...
Maybe
if we who are mothers
can receive our cards and flowers
with joy and gratitude
and
also determine
to take back the original sense
of Mother’s Day
the desire to end injustice
and if we are joined by
the fathers and uncles and aunts
and brothers and sisters
and lovers
we can create a movement
of justice
we can reclaim Julia Ward Howes’
and Anna Jarvis’ vision.
We can realize it’s not just about
keeping our sons and daughters
safe from the perils of war
or providing clean water for our families
but about making sure our sons and daughters
live full and healthy lives
and that mothers everywhere
have the opportunity
to live long enough
to see their grandchildren
not just in our families
in our country
but globally.
You know,
tragically
Julia Ward Howe felt her voice
was not heard,
but maybe
just maybe
we can show her that it was.
May it be so.


1 comment:

pallas said...

Beautiful! I love the prescription. Let's meet first as people and mourn. Then we ca take counsel regarding the great questions.