“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’” -Matthew 23:37-38
|From the First Mother's Day for Peace|
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!
In the United States, the origins of Mother’s Day can be traced back to 1870,
(five years after the end of the civil war,
and, incidentally, 5 years after the founding of this congregation)
In 1870, Julia Ward Howe – an abolitionist, a devout Christian and missionary, and also a Suffragette,
(who was also very well known for writing
the “Battle Hymn of the Republic, ” by the way)
began working to establish what she and her friends would refer to as a “Mother’s Day of Peace.”
Howe’s agenda for her Mother’s Day for Peace celebration
was, as she said it, “the full eradication of war.”
For a large portion of her life, she organized festivities around this ambitious vision.
|Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910|
Three years before Howe died,
In 1907, as a result of a lot of organizing by
one of her friends (who also held many women's and mother’s events), Anna Jarvis,
Mother’s day gained some renewed momentum.
As a result, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson “made it official,” proclaiming Mother’s Day a national holiday set aside as a “public expression of our love and reverence for all mothers.”
(You may have noticed that Wilson did not include the bit about peace).
Throughout the years here at First Trinity, we have read from Howe’s speech, which came to be known as “The Mother’s Day Proclamation,” and was first titled “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World.”
And we’re going to read from again this year, this Mother’s Day.
It is worth noting, I think, that in her Appeal, Julia Howe, raises something sadly similar to what Jesus raises in today’s Gospel.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus says this morning,
“City of peace, place of peace,”
“How long will you kill? How long will you destroy God’s angels and prophets?”
How long will you silence those who come to you
with cries of Justice and declarations of Love?
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, People of God, Children of Peace,
How long will your cities be the birthplaces of war?
How long will you say “safety, safety,” in one breath, and “war and prison and punishment” in another?
Do you not know that bodies contained and bodies at war are not safe, and are not at peace?
Do you not know that God is Parent of us all?
I long to be your Mother, says Jesus, to gather you up, to care for you, to give you true peace and warmth beneath my wings.
It is still true today, as it was 2,000 years ago (and 150 years ago): that men take pride in their ability to harm others, to fight, even to kill. We call it “tough” and “manly” and “macho.” We brag about physical and sexual conquests.
And not only in locker rooms.
The Spirit testifies through this nonsense, and God speaks to us in human flesh, confronting us, turning us, admonishing us that such glorifications of abuse and conquest make no one more human, and certainly not more of a “man.”
In the midst of all of the machismo and violence, Jesus, fully human,
says he’d rather be like a Mother.
Like a grandmother.
Even like a bird.
Jesus says he’d like to gather the brood. To gather us in.
He’d have us not to stone the prophets,
but listen to them.
So Jesus says today:
Love one another. Lift one another. Be fully human.
Yet most often it has been women who proclaimed this Gospel of peace and abundance for all.
Imperfect though she was, Howe was one of those women with a vision of a just world at peace.
Thank God for mothers in whom we have seen God,
and mothers who have taught us what it means to love
and to give life, mothers who have kept us alive when no one else would.
Thank God for women who have imagined a world at peace, and named their desire in the face of oppressive structures and violent men.
And thank God for our Creator who gave birth to all that is,
and calls us to into a future of peace and love.
May we learn live in that love, and to dream their ancient dreams of a peaceful tomorrow.
I’d like to invite Mary Dungy and Alicia Ibarra to read Julia Ward Howe’s “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” first delivered as an “Appeal to Womanhood Throughout the World,” in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe.
Again, in the sight of the Christian world, have the skill and power of
two great nations exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again
have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to
the fatal mediation of military weapons.
In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers
has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the
bloody exchanges of the battle field.
Thus men have done. Thus men will do.
But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill
the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical
force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the
sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be
heard, and answered to as never before.
Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of
water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies, our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with
carnage, for caresses and applause.
“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been
able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one
country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to
be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It
says, “Disarm, disarm! The sword is not the balance of justice.” Blood does
not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of
war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and
earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and
commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each
other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace,
each learning after his own time, the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of
In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed
and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period
consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different
nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great
and general interests of peace.
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!
Song: Redemption Songs