Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mothers Day

This piece was published in the Rapid City Journal two weeks ago, but for some reason did not make it into the online edition. The author was kind enough to share this for posting online here.

Mother's Day

by Lin Jennewein
(used with permission)

We are in the season called "Eastertide" which includes the five weeks following the resurrection when Jesus shows up in a variety of ways and to a variety of people in order to prove his resurrection. About a week after this event Jesus came through the locked doors of the Upper Room and said to the disciples: "Peace be with you" and then repeats it again "peace be with you" (John 20:19). Scripture reports that a short time before the crucifixion he had also said to the disciples: "Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27). I have always used these words at the conclusion of a funeral or memorial service; they are soothing and re-assuring words. But I also wonder about this peace that is "not as the world gives do I give to you".

I have written many sermons on peace and I strive for peace in my life but I have come to the conclusion that peace is one of the most elusive theories or concepts that I have ever tried to wrap myself around.

The Rev. Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest gives us a clue when he writes "always remember that the peace you are working for is not of this world. Do not let yourself be distracted by the great noise of wars, the dramatic descriptions of misery and the sensational expressions of human cruelty. These do not create in you a true desire for peace. Keep your eyes on the Prince of Peace.

This is a difficult thing to do in light of the amount of chaos in the world today. One of the Denver Post columnists recently wrote that though she could not bring about peace on earth she could do simple things in and around her to help make it possible. She would use peaceful language in her home, read to her children by the fire, listen carefully to the imaginative ideas of others and rub lotion on tired feet. This made sense to me and helped me to define for myself what peace could be.

And as we approach Mothers Day, let us remember Julie Ward Howe who nursed the soldiers in the fields during the Civil War and who after seeing the realities of war took on a new cause. In 1870 she called for women to rise up and oppose war in all its forms. She wanted women to come together across national lines and commit to finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts. She issued a declaration hoping to gather together women in a congress of actions. Here were a few of those words from the declaration: "Arise then women of this day. Arise all women who have hearts whether our baptism be that of water or of fears. Our husbands shall not come to us reaking of carnage; our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a congress of women be appointed to promote the great and general interests of peace".

Though she did not live to see this "mothers day for peace" come into being, another woman, Anna Jarvis, took up her cause and in l914, Woodrow Wilson declared the first national "Mothers Day".

As I re-read Howe's declaration, I do not feel quite so guilty about opposing this war and speaking for peace. Julia said nothing about abanding the troops; she merely asked women to unite for bringing the men home and rending unto God what is God's. Perhaps the "rending unto God" is what Jesus meant when he said "not as the world gives do I give to you."

Perhaps Julia Ward Howe of long ago presents all of us with a challenge for today. Perhaps we too can speak or take action for peace in our little corners of the world. Actually, this might be the greatest Mothers Day present a mother or the world could receive. Peace.

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