First Presbyterian Church

of Hemet
May 13, 2018 
Launching: A Motherly Prayer 
Acts 1:15-17; John 17:6-19 
Rev. Tom Rennard 
 
It’s hard for me to be objective when talking about mothers. My mom was neither flashy or charismatic. But she was consistent, she was loving, she loved us through her illnesses, and she was faithful to my dad. She guided by example and a soft word. She trusted deeply in her God.
  
My mom gave birth to me when she was 30 years old. My twin sister came along, at the same time, of course, and joined two brothers who were 3 years and 17 months older. I can’t imagine what sleep and diaper washing were like in those first few years. My mother was an introvert. She enjoyed her time alone, but got strength from a few good friends, my father and her church. I don’t remember her complaining about her health or her responsibilities in all my years growing up.

She died just before her 70th birthday of cancer of the uterus. From diagnosis to death it was 6 months. I was on the phone in New Jersey with my wife in California when the nurse from the hospital cut into the phone call. My father was on the line to tell me that she had passed. My mother and I had a very pleasant conversation just 12 hours before.
 
When I read Jesus’ words from the 17th chapter of John I thought of my mom. Because, like Jesus in this prayer, my mom had a deep faith, and she wished all of her children well in her closing days. In the prayer that we heard, Jesus is about to leave this world. He is aware of what must be certain death and he imparts a few wishes before he goes to be with his Father.
 
His first wish is that his closest followers be aware of what God was like. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of this world.” While Jesus loved all he had a special concern for the twelve who followed him to the end. (That’s why the story of the selection of Matthias as the twelfth apostle begins the story of the Acts of the Apostles.) No one needs to say that there’s a special bond we have with our moms and our families that is not duplicated by our friends. We share a history. Many but not all of us share DNA. In many instances we share a common set of values with our moms and our families of origin.
 
That’s the way it is with Jesus. He has given you an imprint—blessed to be a blessing. Beloved. With you I am well pleased. These are things that were said over you at your baptism and (for some of us) at our confirmation. You are special beyond all measure because of the love with which you were created by a good God. That’s your permanent endowment—beloved—because God has declared you so at your birth. 
But then Jesus asks for another thing after telling us what God is like: “protect them by the power of your name, so that they may be one as we are one.” Providence is the big name we give for this aspect of God. We used to talk more about providence. The founding fathers of this nation did. But providence is the capacity of being provided for by a good and loving God.
 
Many of us struggle with how much providing we should do for those we love. Now, high schoolers and college students, you may not be able to relate to this but those of us who have grown children wonder a lot about how to cut the apron strings. If we do too little, sometimes they cannot stand on their two feet. If we do too little, our grown children cannot pay for healthcare, or car insurance or cell phone coverage. (Those are the three things we currently foot the bill for our young adult daughter.) Providence continues to our dying day, because, of course, much of what our parents give or gave us are intangibles, like a work ethic or our sense of boundaries, or our vision for the good life.
  
God provides for us for our joy. Jesus prays “that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” This is what every mother, and father wants—that our child would be healthy, that they would be happy, that they would be full of joy. This includes a freedom from addiction, or worry, or stress in our relationships. It sometimes takes decades for our children to find this place in their lives. But neither God or the good parent ever gives up.
 
Jesus gave us a view of his Father, he gives us provision but also Jesus gives us something we don’t hear much about any more. He says, “sanctify them by the truth” and he tells us “I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. “Sanctified” is a big word for set apart, to be separated from the rest. We get our faces and our bodies from our birth parents. But we get our spirits and our personalities by all the influences that come our way through our teachers, our directors and our mentors. How can we be set apart in a world that cries out for you and I to be fully engaged, as much a part of this world as our time and energy allow?
 
This Mother’s Day we are to remember whose we are, and the lessons that have been taught us from the beginning. As we sang in our hymn of praise, “who from our mother’s arms/ has blessed us on our way/ with countless gifts of love/and still is ours today.”  
 
I believe what we have in this prayer is the blueprint for how we are to treat each other—we are to be sure of whose we are, we are to keep protecting people until we are no longer with them, and we are to wish that they are set apart from the influences that will pull them down.
 
I call it launching. When I was in my early 30’s we were listening to a therapist in our local church. We were watching a kind of You Tube video of him. I believe his name was Paul Bradshaw. It was in the era when we talked a lot about co-dependency, the tendency to overhelp people we love. And the therapist made an important point. He said, “remember, healthy families break up!” By which he meant, we establish our own homes. We bond with new people, through marriage or friendship. It’s absolutely essential that we give ourselves to new communities or the ones we have get old and stale.
 
There’s a lesson for that in the church. If we are only about ourselves, that group gets old and dies. But if we find the sweet spot, between genuinely caring for the widow, the orphan, the sojourner in our midst and keeping the focus on those who are not part of us yet, that family has the potential for new life and health. 
This is what Jesus is doing: launching us into the world by reminding us of who he is, what his intent is, and that you and I have been set apart for speaking the truth.
 
I hope you and I will be launched into service for others. I think of those who have recently left us for their vacation homes in the White Mountains, or Seattle or elsewhere. Wherever you go, or even if you stay right here, you and I have an opportunity to bless others with our presence. It’s about checking in on your neighbors. It’s about learning people’s stories and aspirations. It’s about staying in touch enough to give people their privacy but let them know that you are genuinely interested in them thriving.
  
I have a friend named Larry who is about 80 years old. His wife struggles with Parkinson’s and his grown daughter is a retired school teacher who has moved back to live in the home. Larry wouldn’t call it a ministry but Larry has a very active life checking in with me and about 4 other guys via early morning emails and breakfast at his favorite place in Yucaipa. He sings in his church’s choir. He is a retired probation officer. Larry is alive with care for those who live in his area.
 
And I hope you and I will be launched into this kind of fellowship. Fellowship is a word that gets overused, and can descend into meaning just getting together. But there’s a kind of fellowship which the New Testament commends that is about bearing each other’s burdens. “Bear one another’s burdens, and in that way fulfill the law of Christ” the apostle tells one of his most troubled churches. We have to re-discover what fellowship means when the Presbyterian Women don’t have their monthly circles or luncheon or when the same people come to breakfast or Bible Study. Fellowship is the life-blood of any church, after mission. “See, how they loved one another.” We’ll need to be creative to figure out how to fellowship in the hot summer months which are about to descend.
 
And I hope we’ll be launched into mission. Remember, mission is from the Latin for sending. I think a lot about How does a congregation of older adults who is past the age of going on mission trips do mission? We have one local mission project that I know a few of you are engaged in, the Community Pantry which is now housed in the former preschool building at Trinity Lutheran. That’s an excellent way to help the least of these in our community. But what are we being sent to as a church? One thought is through our mission co-workers, Esther and Noah who are teaching in Cairo, Egypt, this church gets to extend its reach around the world. But is it enough to send money to people who do the sending for us? Perhaps that’s our calling in this season of our life together. Jesus has set us apart in the truth. God’s word is truth. We are looking for ways to share that truth with those who have never heard it or are bored by it.
 
But finally, a word for parents of adult children. Some of our children have made bad choices, or are caught in lives that we would not chose for them. Remember we worship a forgiving, persistent, and accepting God. Addiction and living on the streets is not a crime. People do make u-turns, and when they don’t, it’s not our fault. We did the best we could with what we knew at the time. Free will, and the diseases of the mind and body are powerful, and can lead people astray. But we have a Friend who has asked that we be protected by the power of the name, and that is a protection that sticks. Let us live free lives that trust in the protection of one who is like a loving mother, a faithful friend, Jesus the one who prays and died like a great mom.
 
Come, Spirit, come. Your Son has ascended to you, we believe he is the King of glory, and now we wait for the coming of your Spirit upon all flesh. Guide us as we remember moms, we thank you for them, and we wait for the coming of your Holy Spirit. 
 
Our prayers are for the world you have made. We are so thankful that our President is seeing a nuclear armed nation, and we pray for the behind the scenes talk in the lead up to that event. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Israel and the Golan Heights as we hear of Israel and Iranian backed rebels fighting in the borderlands areas. We pray for the peace and prosperity of our land. Many of us have adult children and mothers and fathers who need meaningful work. Guide them, help us to be patient with them and provide for them in their need.
 
We pray for the people you have given us to love. We pay for Patrick who has had a setback in his recovery from valve replacement surgery. We pray a similar prayer for our brother Hal Clark, and our sister Juanita Mattson. Give all of their caregivers patience and acceptance. Thank you for the web that is caring Christians, our Deacons and people who reach out in cards, calls and emails. 
Our prayers are for us in this season of discernment. Thank you that we could get together in group discernment as we consider what kind of church you want us to be. Thank you for Saw’s service to us as a congregation, and we thank you for bringing Mary Ellen into our midst. Guide her, the choir and all those with musical gifts in their praise of you

We pray for the Deacons who will be meeting this week. Guide them as they seek to spend money that’s been entrusted in them to help members and friends in the practical needs of life. Remind them and us of anyone who we haven’t seen in a while, and give us the words and attitudes to reach out to them. Lead us to “the place just right, the valley of love and delight,” for it’s in your Son’s name we pray: