6th Sunday of Easter Proper 6C
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
May 9, 2010
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
150 "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"
----- "Thank God For Christan Mothers" (text following sermon)
556 "Rise Ye Children Of Salvation"
560 "Onward Christian Soldiers"
A MOTHER AND HER HOUSEHOLD
TEXT (vs. 13-15): "13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate [of Philippi] to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. 'If you consider me a believer in the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my house.' And she persuaded us."
Every florist, every restaurant manager or employee, every greeting card store, and even the folks at Russell-Stover can tell you that today is Mothers' Day. This is probably the most widely celebrated holiday that exists, because a mother is something that is part of every person's life. It has no ties to any particular religious persuasion, so the ACLU can't run around and throw wet blankets on its celebration, because even members of the ACLU have mothers too. Mothers' Day is a holiday that everybody can celebrate, irrespective of who or what they are.
Every mother has stories to tell as well. So I thought I'd begin this morning with a rather cute and humorous story. It's been around for awhile, and many of you have perhaps heard it. Whatever the case, it's still good for a chuckle.
This is entitled, "Baking a Cake With Your Child's Help." Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Check to be certain that there are no rubber balls or plastic soldiers on the oven shelves. Remove blocks and toy cars from the kitchen table. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 inch pan. Crack enough nuts to fill 1 cup. Measure 2 cups of flour; remove Johnny's hands from the flour; wash the flour off of him. Re-measure the flour. Crack more nuts to replace those that Johnny ate. Put flour, baking powder and salt in sifter. Get the broom and dustpan and sweep up the pieces of the bowl Johnny knocked on the floor. Get another bowl. Answer the doorbell. Return to the kitchen. Remove Johnny's hands from the bowl. Wash Johnny. Answer the telephone. Return to the kitchen. Remove 1/4 inch of salt from the greased pan and wash it. Look for Johnny. Re-grease and flour the pan. Answer telephone again. Return to the kitchen and find Johnny. Remove his hands from the bowl. Remove a generous layer of nut shells from the greased and floured pan. Head for Johnny who runs away from you, but not before knocking the bowl off of the table. Mop the kitchen floor, and wash off the table and walls. Load the dishes into the dishwasher. Call the bakery and order a cake. Take two aspirin and lie down, hoping the throbbing pain in your head will soon subside.
What makes this story so humorous is the amount of truth it contains. I think that every mother has had their share of frustrating experiences with their children. It might involve an incident in the kitchen, or in the garage, or in the car, or in a restaurant. As you think of instances you know about, it might have been your own children who have caused you frustration, or it might have been you that caused your mother frustration. The truth be known however, I think we all have been the offenders. I think we have all caused our parents grief in our lives. Today, I think we all owe our mothers a huge "thank you" for not only putting up with us, but for everything they have done for us, just because they love us.
Our text for today is the first lesson appointed for today, which is the sixth Sunday of Easter. It's here where we are introduced to a woman by the name of Lydia. Not a whole lot is said about her in the Bible. We do know however that she had a home and family. Lydia was a mother. And like all mothers of today, I know that her family would have been an awesome responsibility for her. So let's get acquainted with Lydia, and the faith this woman had.
The story begins with the Apostle Paul who was on a missionary journey with three traveling companions: Silas, Timothy (who was Paul's understudy), and Luke, the evangelist and author of the book of Acts. These men were going about the work of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world who did not know him. They had started out without a clear itinerary in mind. They kept encountering various roadblocks as God was directing their journey. It wasn't until they got to the city of Troas that God provided Paul with a definite destination. They were to head to Macedonia.
So they set sail for Philippi, which was quite a distance from Troas. Philippi was a city so large that the Bible refers to it as a Roman province. There would be a lot of work for these men to do there. Philippi would also be the place where those who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be jailed and persecuted as criminals. But that part comes later on.
Paul and his companions had been working there for several days, and it was now time for the Sabbath. It had been their practice in the past to go to the temple on the Sabbath, however they decided to do something different. They headed down to the seashore for some quiet time of prayer and meditation. It was here that they encounter a whole group of women who had also gathered there.
It's at this point that we need to know a little bit about the way Paul was operating. He was plowing some new and dangerous ground, at least as far as the Jews were concerned. For example, he was converting Gentiles without requiring them to be circumcised. Another thing he did was to treat women as actual people, and not as second-class citizens or a non-entity. In fact, Paul mentions various women in different locations who were key figures in doing mission work. In Galatians chapter 3 verses 26-29 Paul explains this very well: "26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
So Paul proclaims the Gospel to this group of women, something completely unheard of in Jewish culture. Instead of being shoved off to the side and dismissed, Paul knew that they had very real individual souls who needed to know their Saviour. And this was the message that he preached.
Amongst this group of women was Lydia. She was what we would call a career woman, and she operated a very successful business, most likely with quite a number of people who worked for her. She was a dealer, or a type of wholesaler of purple cloth. So what's so unique and special about that?
Purple cloth was very expensive. The reason it was so costly was that it was difficult to make. The dye for the cloth came from a shellfish. The juice was white while it was in the veins of the fish, but when it was exposed to the sun, the liquid changed into bright purple and red colors. It took a lot of work to catch enough shellfish to dye even one garment. This beautiful cloth was mainly used by members of the royal families and Roman senators who were required to have a purple band around the edge of their togas, or robes.
Lydia would not have been the typical Jewish house-frau. From what we can determine, she was a single parent with a variety of young children at home. So she not only would have had her business to attend to, but she had a home and family to maintain as well. And in those days, it would have been much more difficult for her to be successful at all those things. You can just about imagine how frustrated she would have been at times, especially when her children decided to try her patience!
But that morning Lydia was there by the sea. She hears Paul's message, and the Holy Spirit worked in her heart. She became a Christian; Jesus came into her life in a very big way.
Her faith became the most important thing in her life. This was something that was important for her family too, and so she takes the responsibility for baptizing them, and bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
None of this would have been an easy task for her either. The youngest children in her family probably had no idea why somebody was splashing them with water and saying words they couldn't understand. The older ones might have understood a little bit about what was going on, but would have been a bit fuzzy about the details.
Thankfully the Holy Spirit can work faith in a person's heart without the benefit of human comprehension and reason. Lydia took Jesus' command to "make disciples by baptizing and teaching" to heart, so she made sure that not only she, but her entire household from the youngest to the oldest received the blessings God gives through Baptism.
Mothers of today are probably in more broad and diverse circumstances than ever before. Because of our economy and finances, a two-income family is almost a necessity. Single parent families have an even tougher time of it. Mothers of today are in situations that their grandmothers probably never even dreamed about. But with all of that, there are still the responsibilities of motherhood that are just as acute today as they have been for the preceding generations. And with those responsibilities come frustrations.
Perfect children and perfect parents are a myth. The "Leave It To Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" family models just don't exist. They never have. Every generation has had to deal with sin and the problems it brings.
Mothers are sinful people. Fathers are sinful people too. So are Grandparents. So are children. That's why Paul's words spoke to Lydia's heart. Paul jumped across the forbidden lines of society, and brought the love of Jesus directly to her. That's how the Holy Spirit came into her life.
Through Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit has come into our lives as well. We have come to recognize ourselves as sinners, and that our only hope for forgiveness hangs on Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. And we have the promise of Jesus in John chapter 6 verse 37: "...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Therefore mothers (and fathers too) have the responsibility to make disciples of their own households, by baptizing and by teaching them the love of God through Jesus Christ their Saviour. God says in Proverbs chapter 22 verse 6: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Lydia was serious about this, and so should we.
As frustrating as motherhood can be at times, there are also many rewards. Mothers will forever remember their children; and as the years pass, the joys will be remembered and the frustrations will slowly fade away. The love of a Christian mother will, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, "keep no record of wrongs, but rejoice in the right."
I'm going to close this morning with a prayer written by a Christian mother:
Dear Jesus, it's such a hectic day
With little time to stop and pray;
For life's been anything but calm,
Since you called on me to be a mom.
Running errands, matching socks,
Building dreams with wooden blocks.
Cooking, cleaning, and finding shoes,
And other things that children lose;
Fitting lids on bottled bugs,
Wiping tears and giving hugs.
A stack of last weeks mail to read,
So where's the quiet time I need?
Yet when I find a minute, Lord
Just at the sink or ironing board,
To ask the blessings of your grace
I see then, in my small one's face
That you have blessed me all the while
And I stop to kiss that precious smile.
MOTHERíS DAY HYMN
Tune: Munich 76,76. D. (O Word Of God Incarnate)
1. A Christian wife and mother
Godís gift from heavín above.
To members of her family
A source of constant love.
An help-meet for her husband
In good and evil days;
A blessing to her children
In eíer so many ways.
2. She always well remembers
Her marriage vows with love;
To live in sacred honor
With help from heavín above.
With him whom she has taken
As partner in her life;
According to Godís ordínance
A truly faithful wife.
3. She looks with love and favor
Upon her children fair;
As precious gifts from heaven
God gave into her care.
With Christian admonition
And nurture in the Lord;
She rears them well and wisely
With Scriptureís full accord.
4. Thank God for Christian mothers
Remember them today;
And call upon your Saviour
To bless their earthly stay.
They are a nationís blessing
A stronghold in the home;
We honor and salute them
Now and in life to come. Amen.
- - John Mueller