May 12, 2024

Jesus and a Mother are a Gift from God

mother holding her baby's hand

Worship Service on Sunday, May 2, 2024

On Mother’s Day, a four-year-old and a six-year-old presented their mother with a house plant. They had used their own money to buy it and she was thrilled. The older of the two children told their mother, there was a big bouquet at the florist shop that we really wanted to give you, but it was just too expensive. It was really pretty and it had a ribbon on it that said, rest in peace. We thought it would be perfect because you were always asking for a little piece so that you could rest. I know that kids think on that level. Today I’m going to bring you two messages, one pertaining to Ascension and the other pertaining to Mother’s Day. 

The Feast of Ascension

The Feast of Ascension is celebrated on the sixth Thursday after Easter. Even though Ascension is important to our Christian faith, only Louke and Acts contain direct accounts of the Ascension. Matthew, Mark, and John only alLoude to the Ascension. Christians celebrate Ascension Day to mark Jesus for victory over death and his salvation of all those who believe in him. It marks the end of the Easter celebration. And it was this Thursday, not on Sunday. So what do you think Jesus was up to during those 40 days before ascension? As we read in Acts 1:1-3, he was basically giving the disciples a crash course to prepare them for when he was gone from earth. I’m sure the disciples seeing Jesus departing from them were filled with anxiety and doubt. We might feel that we have it difficult today to spread the gospel, but I think it was much harder on the disciples not having their mentor with them who they relied on every day to answer the questions they had. They were afraid, they were scared. But as they became filled with the Holy Spirit, they learned to rely upon God’s grace and to trust in God’s power and to surround themselves with God’s all-encompassing love. Paul had a very elegant way in describing the ascension in Colossians 3:1-4,”Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you will be revealed with him in glory. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him even though what is promised has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.” 

So we have that heavenly part of God but we haven’t gone there yet. We’re still here on earth. He also eloquently explains to us through his resurrection and ascension, Christ is here with us on earth by his divinity and we are in heaven with him by his love. No one ascended into heaven except Christ. Of course Elijah went up in a ball of fire. Because he is the son of man by his union with us, and we are by our union with him, the sons of God. Or daughters or whatever. His union with us and we are by our union with him, sons of God. Ephesians 1:20-23, “which he brought about in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named and not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things in subjection under his feet and gave him his head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Christ is the head of everything, everything of course except for God. In this verse Paul points out that the resurrection of our Lord was elevated above all possible rivals, far above all rules and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come. Paul had joy in mind when he began to pray for the church. It was a prayer of celebration. It was also a prayer that the lessons learned may continue to influence our lives and our behavior as well. There is a tremendous joy in the final outcome, a joy we can remember whenever we face anxiety or doubts or fears in the future. The joy of God’s grace, the gift of the Holy Spirit that fills us with hope. Ascension in love, a little noticed aspect in the New Testament theology of the Ascension, is the emphasis placed on Jesus ascending for us, his people. This love manifests itself in the sending of his spirit and act depending upon Jesus’ ascension. John 14:3, Jesus tells his disciples, “I go and prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am you are there, you there may be also.”

Jesus ascending on our behalf further connects the ascension with Jesus atoning work, implying that far from being self-oriented, power seeking act, the ascension is to be viewed as flowing from the same self-sacrificial love Jesus demonstrated for his people in his crucifixion. 

Mother’s Day

And speaking of love, to further our message today, that leads us right into Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day started as a way to celebrate Ray, the mother of the Greek mythological gods. In the 17th century, the idea transferred to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus. Over time, the celebration included all mothers, celebrating the undying love and the unselfish commitment of mothers. Being a mom is the toughest, most rewarding thing I have ever done or ever will do in my life and I am thankful that I’ve got to have the experience to become a mom. It’s hard to understand how sacrifice can be a choice that brings joy to the person making it. There are many people that fit in these categories, this category, but of course today mothers come to mind. For mothers, the sacrifice never seems too many or too hard. 

Lou Xiaoying

Even more amazing are those mothers who raise other people’s unwanted children and love them as their own. One such woman is Lou, and I’m not going to say her name right, is Lou Xiaoying. She was a woman from China who chose to rescue what others had abandoned. Lou and her husband Lin Xiaoying had always made a living from recycling garbage and life was never easy for them. From dawn to dusk, they scoured the streets of a rural area in eastern China looking for garbage to sell. In 1972, Lou found something in the dumpster that certainly didn’t belong there. A little girl. She found her sitting on top of the garbage, abandoned. Lou couldn’t just let her die so she took her home. It wasn’t easy for her to raise her, but the joy outweighed the difficulties. She loved taking care of children, and because she loved them, she didn’t want to stop with just one. 

In 1979, the Chinese state passed a law that affected millions of Chinese. The law was to limit population growth. The state banned families from having more than one child. Over the years, the law had many exceptions, such as allowing a second child if the first was a girl, as was the case in almost half of Chinese families. They wanted males because they wanted them to be able to work the farms and that kind of thing. The impact was devastating. It had been estimated that more than 400 million births had been prevented as a result of the policy while the number of children killed or abandoned is still unreported. 

Lou also found other children in the garbage. Because she loved these children so much, it was hard for her to understand how anybody could do such a thing. But being the kind person she was, she chose not to judge. She took these abandoned children home and raised them as best she could despite her poverty. Most of the children were of course girls, abandoned by their parents for a chance of an heir. In the meantime, Lou had a daughter of her own and the house was too small.

After rescuing her fourth child, Lou realized she no longer could raise all the children she would find. So she went through the community, found people like her who wouldn’t treat these children like garbage and would take them in. As time went on the number of children found in the garbage grew But Lou never considered leaving them there. She said, I realize if we had strength enough to collect garbage, how could we not recycle something as important as human lives? With that in mind, it helped her save more than 30 children over 40, over 4 decades. Nobody knew about Lou’s story until 2012, when one of her adopted daughters wrote to the newspaper asking for financial help to pay for her mother’s hospitalization. Lou was 88. Her kidneys and heart were failing and treatment was far too expensive for her limited income. The journalists found Lou in her hospital bed helped by her daughters and grandchildren. Among them was a seven-year-old boy, the last one Lou had managed to save. She was 82 when she found him also in the garbage because at 82 she was still recycling to survive. Her husband had died 10 years earlier and she was struggling to survive herself. But Lou did not leave the little big boy there. She said, he looks so sweet and so needy, I had to take him home with me. She gave him a name that means rare and precious in Chinese. I can’t say it, so I’m not gonna even try. Even from her hospital bed, her thoughts were taking care of her little adopted son. She was trying to raise money to send him to school. She hadn’t been able to give her first 3 daughters that chance, but she had worked hard to keep the last two in high school. Lou’s dying wish was for her adopted son to go to school too. She said, I don’t have many days left, but I want to see most of all for him to go to school. That way, after I’m gone, there will be no regrets in my life.” 

Lou’s story touched many Chinese people. In fact, it went around the world and her wish was granted by people who donated for her adopted son’s education and her hospital bills. Her example inspired others to carry on her life’s work in modern China. As she used to say, these children need love and care. They are all precious human lives. What a wonderful example of a loving and caring mother. 

At one time, my aunt was in the home where my mom was, where she spent the rest of her life. Across the street was a lady, and she became friends with this lady. This lady had gone to China, and this was back probably in the early 2000s or so. This lady had gone back to China and she had two little girls that she had adopted. So at that time it was still going on. They were still getting rid of the children. So she went and got them and they were both from two different families. So this story just pertained to her. So I thought that it was pretty neat that she went and did that. 

Motherhood

Motherhood is considered an important event. Jesus came into the world as a helpless baby, depending on Mary, his mother, for nourishment and care. Although the Bible does not command Christians to honor their mothers on a specific day, nor condemns it, Christians follow the “honor your father and mother” commandment for celebrating this occasion. Exodus 20:12. You all know this. “Honor your father and mother that it may be well with you, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Leviticus 19:3 –  “Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father and you shall keep my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.”

The Love of a Mother and the Love of God

Mother’s Day is a reminder to be grateful for our mothers for what they did to bring us into the world. We often forget that all of us, including our mothers and fathers and the generation who perceived to see them, are here because of our true parent, our God. A mother’s nurturing nature reminds us of God who gave us life in the first place and nurtures us as we learn, develop, and grow in the Christian life. Another way mothers can represent God is through providing refuge. Mothers are a refuge for their children as well as for their husbands. And as we know, God is our refuge. In Luke 13:34, Jesus says this about mothers, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her. How often I want you to gather your children together just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you will not have it.” Jesus is referring to the hens as moms and moms are the forefront of teaching kids about the word of God and modeling Christian ways of living in their own homes to their children. A mother’s love is unconditional as God’s love for us. God created mothers to care for us even before we were born. Psalm 139:13. “For you formed my inward parts, you wove me in my mother’s womb”. And verse 14 goes on to say, “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it well.” A mother is a selfless, loving human who must sacrifice many of their wants and their needs for the wants and the needs of their children. A mother works hard to make sure their child is equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to make it as a competent human being. What is God’s view of mothers? God is placed within the heart of a mother a willingness to do whatever her child needs. And a godly mother faces life’s demands without fussing, nagging, groaning, or comparing her situation with other circumstances. Oh, I don’t know about that. I know I did a lot of fussing, nagging, groaning, and complaining when I was a mother. Still am. She’s determined to be the person God wants her to be. A godly mother is a servant. Mothers are a beautiful expression of God’s love. We see this reflection in the lives of our mothers. A mother’s love for a child begins at conception. She carries that little one for 9 months, then she cares for that child 24/7 for 18 years. The love of a mother is there, the love of God, and the love of God no matter what. Moms who love their children will understand, this is a tough one, that children are a gift of God regardless of their behavior in the moment. Whoo! Those teenagers! Holy cow! They’re a gift of God. You have to keep telling yourself they’re a gift of God.

Isaiah 66:13-14 describes how God’s love is like a mother’s love. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you, and you will be comforted in Jerusalem. Then you will see this and your heart will be glad and your bones will flourish like the new grass and the hand of the Lord will be made known to a servant but he will be indignant towards the enemy.” Just as God protects, so do mothers. God has built that into their DNA. And As we all know, a mother’s love never stops, no matter how old her children get, just as God’s love and grace never stop, no matter how old we get. And afterwards, of course, just as God gave us a gift of mothers asking about the present and future we must remember as God Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at God’s right hand the gift of his son the sacrificial lamb that God gave us. Amen. 

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