Mother’s Day, one of the busiest days for restaurants and all kinds of eateries; or if eating at home, to make it a day someone else does the cooking, serving, and cleaning up, someone other than the women in the family.
Mother’s Day when a dinner promises to be “interesting” (and I enclose the word interesting in quotes to imply its mixed meaning).
There is the joy of being together as family;
there is the heartbreak of seeing who is absent –
serving in the military or taking finals at school,
not able to get off from work,
not able to afford the cost of travel,
or too ill to come or that empty place that is a memorial to the loved one who has died.
There is the tension caused by a fight which has someone refusing to sit with the family,
or political differences that raise a wall each side refuses to try to break down,
or someone’s waywardness or rebelliousness that has disgraced the family’s name,
making that person unwelcome at the family’s table.
Mother’s Day can make for an “interesting” dinner with the family, which is all the more reason to claim Biblical traditions, which, when practiced,
increase the joy,
reduce the tensions,
and practice acceptance.
I remember those family dinners at the now leveled homestead at the bend of the road on Route 113 in Creamery. Tables set end-to-end ran from the living room, though the dining room, and on into an addition built for my grandmother’s mother-on-law, which after her death years, was a storage space for dried goods and clothing to be sold in the store. A neighboring relative cooked and served the meal and the daughters-in law helped to clean up, so Nana Bean could be the honored guest.
Later, it became a family dinner in a restaurant which I am sure tested the wait staff’s patience, wondering if we’d ever leave. We, without realizing it, when eating at the homestead or in a restaurant, reclaimed the Old Testament tradition of sitting and talking for several hours, with us children taking in every word – to be cherished years later as very special memories of –
the widowed aunt everyone else served,
the uncle who drilled a well and installed a pump to sell water to all the neighbors, including the relatives,
the sad story of Nana Bean seeing her young brother drown in a small pond,
not knowing how to swim and save him,
tales told about the pranks of the Bean boys, now the parents of us listening children,
prompting the confession of two young cousins who told of crawling back and forth
under the church pews during the long Sunday morning prayers.
Family stories, which in Bible times were passed on around a campfire, or in Jesus’ company in the upper room,
and for us, around a meal in the homestead or a restaurant;
stories we cherish and find joy in recalling and retelling.
Might we need to reclaim Mother’s Day as a time to rediscover the Biblical practice of a meal around the table, where we experience the joy of telling stories that bind us together as family?
Might we need to reclaim Mother’s Day as a time to rediscover a second Biblical practice: to hold to the law for conversations, especially now in this political climate when everyone is so angry and talks around the family table can become nasty, divisive, destructive;
so that there is too much tension to come together as family?
All through the Gospels, in Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, and the Letter to the Hebrews, there is the charge to “practice hospitality,”
with the rule of house and table being Jesus’ Thursday night charge given in the upper room:
“That you love one another as I have loved you.”
Might we need to reclaim Mother’s Day as a time to reduce the tensions in a family as we set Jesus’ house rule for table conversations and experience the surprise of His promise:
the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do…
I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
knowing that what we are to ask,
is to love one another as Christ loves us.
A practice in one family is whenever they get together, and especially on Mother’s Day,
a cross is placed in the center of the table as a silent reminder of the tension-reducing rule t
that presides over all their conversations.
Might we need to reclaim Mother’s Day as a time to rediscover a third Biblical practice: to practice acceptance of those we find to be unacceptable?
The relative we hope won’t show up, but does;
each of us can fill in the details that qualify a family member who, when present,
ruins the conversations and the meal.
We may forget that this was THE meal-ruining, table-fellowship destroying crisis among the first Christians who were reminded:
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people
; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
A guest at a family’s table asked to hear each person’s story.
One told of feeling inadequate in a family where he knew he could never be one of them.
A family member broke in with, “But you are! In your Baptism it was announced: ‘Child of God, disciple of Christ, member of His Church.’
You and we are God’s people who are sitting together as family around this table!”
With that reminder, they found themselves hearing and listening and accepting with a heart ruled by mercy, and one person said,
“Maybe it would be good to make a bowl and towel the centerpiece for our Mother’s Day dinner.”
Might we need to reclaim the Biblical practice of remembering we are: God’s people, made accepted to God through God’s mercy?
So set the Mother’s Day table – at home or in restaurant – with cross and bowl and towel
and maybe add this story:
Dawne Olson got up early to prepare to lead a Bible study in her women’s group at church. Unfortunately her four young children also got up, wanting breakfast. As they rummaged around looking for something to eat, they spied a some pastry on the counter top and began to scream and fight over who would get it.
As Dawne made a futile attempt to quiet them, she finished typing her notes on the Bible study verse in Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." Taking her cue from scripture, she hollered into the kitchen above the noise, "Would somebody PLEASE be the peacemaker?!"
There was a pause and then her 6 year-old son piped up, "I'll be the piece maker, Mom!"
and she heard him say to his brother and two sisters,
"Here's a piece for you and you and you and one for me."
(Billy D. Strayhorn, I Go to Prepare a Place for You,)
Dawne had her introduction for her Bible study and we have her children’s example: to “break and share” the Biblical principles that will help us rediscover:
the joy of stories that bind us together as family,
the rule of Christ’s love that reduces tension in the family,
and the remembrance of Baptismal grace that helps us accept one another,
knowing by God’s mercy God accepts us as family. AMEN!