Transcription details: Audio 05 13 2018.mp3
Input sound file: Audio 05 13 2018.mp3
this is my mother. I had to count back, and suddenly I realized this was 25 years ago. That’s the basement of the Centenary United Methodist Church in Jacksonville. My mother fled Texas for a short period of time but then decided she never wanted to be in the winter in Illinois ever again [laughter]. So she went back down to Texas. But for a while, she lived just a few miles from us. And my mother was not perfect. We have to start right off at the bat. Some people do not have perfect mothers. In fact, a few people really have had mothers who are quite awful. But usually, when one cannot fulfill the task of mother, somebody else steps up for us to get the mothering that we need.
And every woman who mothers is different. My mother had her own unique set of characteristics. You can see the ironing board. That’s to remind me to tell you that when I was in fifth grade, my mother said, “Dave, you need to learn how to iron a shirt.” Now my mother was one who made all my clothes for me. And I said, “Mom, why in the world do I need to learn how to iron a shirt? I’m a fifth grader.” She said, “Son, it’s time for you to learn to iron a shirt.” And finally, I gave in and she taught me to iron a shirt. And I said, “Mom, why? I’m in fifth grade. Why do I need to know how to iron a shirt?” She said, “It’s very simple. When you grow up, I don’t want you to marry the first girl who offers to iron your shirts [laughter].” Now, I have no idea where that came from but it was important to her. I needed to hold out for someone who was more than a good ironer. She never did specify what else I needed but this was important to her because mothers teach us. And I can go on and on and on because still to this day there’s a certain way my mother felt about things. I cannot go against it because they have a good influence on us.
This is what it was like to be mothered in the 60s. I actually had a suit like that. I outgrew it six months later, but I still had to wear it for several more years [laughter]. But this is the way mothering was in the good old days because it’s Easter Sunday, your mother gets up early, and every single hair has to be in place. Everything needs to be just so. And you see a little girl like this? She wants a mud puddle so bad. But her momma is going to make sure they all go to church on Easter Sunday and everything is perfect, right down to the gloves and the hat. So the old-fashioned mothers, they were controlling, and so we tended to rebel against them. We said, “You’re not mothering me. You’re smothering me.” Nonetheless, an aspect of their controlling was for our own good. In the spring of 1980, I was pastoring a church in the inner city of Louisville, a poor white church on the edge of the ghetto and because of pastoral changes, I had to move out of the parsonage that I lived in in the slum, but I wasn’t done with school yet so I had to find someplace to live. And believe it or not, I was welcomed into a Roman Catholic nunnery. Roman Catholic nuns who were in the poor neighborhood. They had a house and they had a spare room in the house so that’s where I stayed for a couple of weeks. It was very nice of them. But sitting around the table, the supper table, I would ask them, “Why are you here and what are you doing?” And what they said is, “The reason we’re here is because poor people aren’t just poor anymore. They’re poverty-stricken.” You understand the difference? 50 years ago when you were poor, you still had someone, your mother, your grandmother who made certain that your clothes were clean. 50 years ago you still had someone whether it was a mother or a grandmother who made sure you had food to eat. But as the nuns explained it to me in 1980 and friends, it’s just gotten worse. Today, children are dealing with being poverty-stricken, in a good family. Both the mom and the dad are working part-time jobs to try to pay the rent, and the children have to fend for themselves. Or maybe mom is addicted to drugs, or maybe mom is mentally ill, or maybe mom is just gone, or maybe mom is lazy and irresponsible. But what happens is children have to fend for themselves. And I’ll be honest with you, they don’t do a very good job of it. But not only that, when they have to be adults too soon, they generally reach adulthood with some adult characteristics and some child characteristics, and very sadly they often become the kind of mother or father that they had.
These particular children are refugees from Hurricane Katrina. This picture was taken in 2012, They are taking care of themselves while their parents looked for work. they’re not doing a very good job of it. There is a tremendous lack of mothering in our culture today. Because mothers who used to have all the time in the world now have no time. Mothers are focused on things other than being mothers like being at the makeup counter and getting everything looking just right. There is a great need for mothering today Because we’re raising children who will become nightmares as adults unless the get the mothering that they need. Therefore, I want to make the suggestion. Jesus said, “This is the commandment.” Now, commandment. Not a suggestion. Commandment, not a tip. Commandment, something we should do. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But how exactly do we do that? How exactly do we meet the need that our neighbors have. How exactly do we mother our neighbors? Since I don’t know how to explain that very well, I’m going to let Kim explain it.
Well, I know David has a story he wants me to tell here, but I got to tell you something first. In my chair this morning, as I was talking with the Lord, it’s Mother’s Day, and as most of you know, I have not given birth to any children. And Mother’s Day, for the last 25, 30 years, has not been particularly easy for me because there was always the dream. There was always the expectation that I would be a mother. And so this morning, I woke up and I was going about my normal routine. I was ironing his shirt. Yes. He found a woman that irons for him [laughter]. The mother would be so happy, and it wasn’t the first woman that you met [laughter]. It’s funny. So I’m going about that, and I was very quiet this morning. I gave him his breakfast. I ironed his shirt. I went about my morning, but everything was just very quiet. He kept trying to talk to me and it was just very quiet. And finally about the time that I get in the shower, he asked something about what’s wrong or something, and I said, “It’s Mother’s Day. Hello? Come on. How dense can you be? It’s Mother’s Day. You know it’s the day that sucks for me. You know it’s hard for me. How can you be so obtuse and think, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ It’s Mother’s Day.” So he quietly just went about his way and came over to church and then I was left alone with the Lord. And so the Lord and I had some time talking to one another, and I hear the Lord saying this morning, “Are you ready to get over it yet? Are you ready to get over it yet? Your life isn’t all about you. It’s not all about you. It’s about what will you do with me, and what will you do for me?”
So there is a joy in my heart this Mother’s Day. I get to go see my mom. I get to spend this afternoon with my mother, and I’m really excited about that. And because of David’s previous marriage, I am a grandmother. I am a stepmother, and I am blessed with that. And you know what? That’s okay. But beyond that, I know that God uses me to mother other people, to show love, and to show compassion, and to carry his love to other people. And one of those things that God had me do was to organize a prayer walk. I had made the mistake of telling our district superintendent, “I think I need to pray more. I feel called to prayer more.” Well, I get phone calls like you wouldn’t believe of, “Hey Kim, how about you do this for prayer and how about you do this for prayer?” And one of those things was the Bishop’s initiative. He wanted, across the district, for several churches to come together at the same time to be doing a prayer walk in their community. And if around the district we were all doing it together at the same time, it would be a mighty prayer that would be raised up to God. And it was to pray for our communities, for our neighbors, and for God’s work to happen the way that he wants it to, that whatever it is that’s holding him back, whatever that’s binding his hands, that we pray that all of those things be broken and that God have his will. And there were several that joined me on that prayer walk this morning, and I know that all of us have amazing wonderful stories of how God spoke to us during that time. And we were not to go up and knock on doors. We were not to be intrusive in any way. Our purpose was not, “Hey. Let’s get a whole bunch of people to come into our church.” It was just about our hearts and going out and just praying for whatever was happening in that house. And Lord, whatever is happening in that house, you know what’s going on. Meet that person just kind of wherever they are. And as I’m out walking there was a woman who was out working in her yard, and the Lord was like, “Okay. So go up and ask how you can pray for her.” Okay. well, I’ve never met her so I just go up and, “Hi. My name is Kim and I’m doing a prayer walk this morning, and is there any way that I can pray for you?” And so she’s like, “Well, yes. Actually, my aunt is going through breast cancer right now,” and so she told me the story of how she’s doing and how she needs prayer. And so I said, “well, is it okay if I pray with you right now?” So we joined hands together and I said a prayer. And having been around my husband for as long as I have, he’s rubbing off on me because I started the prayer with “Dear Lord Jesus.” And so after the prayer was over, she asked me, “Why do you pray to Jesus? Why don’t you pray to Father or the Holy Spirit or?” And so then it made me stop and think and it’s like, “Well, I don’t know.” And s I said, “Well, I know my husband always talks about Jesus,” and so we sat and we had a nice conversation about what method is belief and why we believe what we believe. And I was also able to say, “My husband loves these questions like this and if you ever want to talk to him, he’ll be able to explain it far better than I can ever explain it, but I’ll give it my best.” And it was just a lovely time of meeting someone that I had never met before and having an opportunity to pray with her and to pray for her, and I’ve continued to pray for her aunt and I’m so pleased that she is doing so much better. And I am thankful for that.
I have a little bit of arthritis in my hips so I don’t go prayer walking, but I do volunteer at the library. And it took a while to put all the pieces together, but the young lady that Kim spoke with came into the library one day and said something about playing guitar and my ears just perked right up. And so she’s been coming to the Guitar 101 class. And I don’t wish to embarrass her, but she’s right there [laughter]. First day in church, here, with us. First day in church and she sang in the choir. What a wonderful start. Sheri, we are so glad you’re here. If you go out for a walk, God can use you. It’s as simple as that. You breathe in when you’re in your prayer chair. In the passage that is what the disciples are told before the day of Pentecost which is next Sunday. It says in Luke 24:45, “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” Because the Holy Spirit is with you, you can understand the scriptures. You sit in your prayer chair and you pray, and that’s like breathing in. Whenever I do a wedding, I remind all of the bridesmaid and the bride, “Be sure to remember during the wedding to keep breathing [laughter]. Now, I’m actually not kidding. When people are very anxious and nervous, they tense up and they hold their breath. And kind of as a joke but kind of as a serious warning, I say, “You need to keep breathing because if you stop breathing, you will fall down [laughter].” Now, breathing in is important, so I’d like to invite you to all breathe in, only this time, don’t breathe out. You ready? Breathe in. I almost fell down [laughter]. When you breathe in, you can’t breathe in some more until you breathe out. When you breathe in in your prayer chair, you need to find an opportunity to breathe out what God has given you. And so the disciples are told, “I want you to spend this time, the 49 days between Easter and Pentecost– I want you to spend this time praying and waiting for the promise of the Father.” Jesus said, “And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you, but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” See, the Holy Spirit comes into us, and then the Holy Spirit is ready to flow out from us. We need both. God’s power flows into us. God’s power flows out from us.
In John 7:37, one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible, Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let them come to me and drink. He who believes in me as the scripture has said out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Where does the falls come from? Water flows into it. It comes into the pool, but it has to flow out of the pool. What is that living water? Here’s what John 7:39 says. Now, this he said about the Spirit which those who believe in him were to receive. In other words, on the day of Pentecost. “For as yet, the Spirit had not been given in this way.” The Spirit flows in as you’re praying. The Spirit needs to flow out in order for you to be healthy. “Come to me and drink,” Jesus says. This is what you do when you’re in your prayer chair. Your chair time fills you up as you breathe God’s spirit in. But then, you need to go out into the neighborhood and let God’s spirit use you.
Now, here’s the wonderful thing. You don’t have to go up and beat on someone’s door. You don’t have to stand in the street and stop someone who is driving down the street. Please don’t have an argument like that with a truck. It doesn’t work. If you just simply go out there, the Holy Spirit will arrange for you to see the people you need to see, for you to talk to the people that you need to talk to because whatever it is that you do, you are cooperating with God, and God is doing the heavy lifting. To use the metaphor that Jesus uses, you’re the light of the world. And when you go out into
darkness. It’s quite clear that you’re a light. The people you’re supposed to talk to will come up to you. You have a micro-mission field. It’s the people who are willing to talk to you. If you’re a mean person, there’s not very many, but there’s still somebody whom God wants to work through you to help them in their life. How do you know who they are? When you go out there, they come up to you. When you say hello, they begin to talk to you. When you say, “Is there some way I can pray for you?” Sometimes, they’ll say, “Fine. I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong,” but sometimes there’ll be a need, and then you can pray for them. If you just simply go out there, the people you’re supposed to love on will come up to you. There’s a whole lot of churches that are really, really focused on trying to get those people to come here and for church people to only talk to them while they’re in the church building. That’s kind of a little silly.
The Great Commission says for you to go and, if you just simply go out there, the people that God wants you to help will come up to you and you can be loving, and peaceful, and joyful, and kind, and gentle, and the Holy Spirit will work through those things to change the lives of the people you interact with. You breathe in when you pray. When you go out into the neighborhood, you breathe out as you talk to people. That’s all that it takes. It’s enough simply to be friendly because God can use your friendliness to love your neighbor. And if you can mother your neighbor, maybe it will fill in some of those holes, and gaps, and empty places that people need so much help with. We all know them.
I am a sinner. See. The people you go out and you interact with are like that little kid. Scares me to death to see how close he is to that edge. Not okay. I don’t know who that woman is, but she’s a mother. Whether she’s that baby’s mother or not, she’s standing there holding that child to keep that child safe. That’s who you are when you go out there. You’re like the presence of the Lord Jesus in a human body, someone who they can see, and touch, and talk to. And because you show them that you care, they can say that God cares. And perhaps someday they’ll pray the same prayer you prayed, “Please by my Shepherd, my Savior, and my Lord.” We all need to be loved.
So I want to invite you to go with the flow, breathe in, breathe out, go down the street. If you walk all around the block and not a single person is out, that’s fine because you made yourself available. Make yourself available. Go with the flow and mother your neighbor as yourself. It’s how we breathe out. Lord Jesus, thank you so much for all of us who come here on Sunday to get filled up. Help us to realize, Lord, that what goes in needs to flow out. Help us to be sensitive to your spirit, bringing people up to us so that we can bless their life, so that we can say hello, so that we can be friendly, so that we can pray for them when they have needs, and so that we can be thankful with them when you answer our prayers. Lord, thank you for filling us up. Help us to be people and simply let your love, and joy, and peace flow out upon our neighbors. We need your love, oh Lord.
We’re going to do something brave and daring. We are going to sing this song without the piano and the organ. If you don’t know how to sing it, learn it. We’ll just keep doing it over, and over, and over til everybody gets it. If I start it too high, I’ll restart it. I’ll keep starting it over and over until I get it. But as you’re singing, please notice the meaning of the song. God notices everything that is happening in the lives of our neighbors and God notices everything that happens in your life. What’s missing is that we also need to notice what God notices. Please stand. If you’re scared, hold hands. We’ll get through this