This Mother’s Day sermon based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 teaches us how to integrate scattered pieces of life.
Creativity generates creativity
We are in our sermon series on creativity. Now, more than ever, we need creativity to figure out how to face things we have never met before. As the world changes so rapidly and COVID-19 is loosening our grip, we are resetting how we move forward.
I saw an interview that my wife’s nephew, Drew Kinkade, an artist, did for a television show. He talked about how his creative process is enhanced by taking chances and practicing different expressions of art. He said that he noticed that his song lyrics improved after he started painting. Painting is gooey and messy and fluid, he said. My lyrics were too rigid, and painting inspired me to take a new approach, more fluid, making the lyrics so much better.
When we get involved in new creative processes it stimulates our brains and improves other areas of life. Creating something, whether it is a meal, decorating the house, restoring a Model A, or developing a lesson plan, spills into other areas in surprising and beneficial ways. As people created in the image of a creator, exercising our creativity is an essential component of personal and spiritual growth.
Throughout our series, we have been exploring God’s creative process so that we might learn from it and integrate it into our own lives. Troy Bronsink identifies different waves of God’s creative process in scripture, and the wave we are talking about today is integration. Integration is about how things fit together. An artist decides how to order photographs in an exhibit so that they tell a story. Recording artists consider which order songs should go on an album to flow well from one to the next. When creating a sermon series, I give a lot of attention to the order and flow. I am sure you do it in your creative processes, too.
How well is your life integrated?
In building a life, we are always in the process of integration and reintegration. We wear so many different hats: family member, employee, friend, mentor, volunteer. Sometimes it feels like we are flying in so many different directions that it tears us apart. When we start feeling that way, we need to sort through our priorities and make sure things are fitting together well.
As I wrote this, I overheard my daughter, a single mother, on the phone explaining to a client, “My son’s birthday is that day. It is non-negotiable. I am not dragging him to your trade show in Las Vegas that day. Let’s work something else out.” When we are not integrated, putting first things first, we wind up falling apart and going bonkers.
Let me ask, how well is your life integrated? Sometimes in the artist’s process, some songs are excellent, but they just don’t fit on a particular album so they have to be set aside. Maybe there are some directions you are going that you need to lay aside for a while so you can have a more integrated approach to life.
God created this big, wonderful world with its macro and micro-ecosystems where each life form, plant, and animal work together in a sustainable system. That’s integration. Similarly, people as individuals and the human race in general is not meant to be divided against each other.
The Church as an Integrated Body
In scripture, the church began from modest beginnings. Launched by the Apostle Paul most early churches gathered an eclectic mix of people from different religions, cultures, classes, races, nations, and backgrounds. Most of them had never heard of Jesus or knew much about the God he praised. No one was doing this sort of grand experiment in bringing together such diversity where everyone was integrated and had an important part to play as equals.
Guess what. It did not always go well because people are people. Their default mode was to go back to the divisions they had lived by all their lives. As soon as Paul left the community to start another church, people began to fuss and divide. When they were about to fly apart, they wrote to Paul asking, “Now what?”
About half of the New Testament is filled with Paul’s letters (called epistles), to struggling communities, urging them to overcome those divisions. Be a family, he said. Work together in love. Our passage today is one of his most important teachings. He said we should behave like a body. Each member is essential—a body needs hands, feet, eyes, a head, etc. Not everyone has to be doing the same things, measuring their worth compared to someone else. Everyone is important and deserves to be honored. We do not need to be the same, but we need to be mindful and respectful of each other at all times.
Lessons from my mother
Whenever I read this passage, I think about all those times my mother intervened between my annoying little brother and his saintly sibling. At the drop of a hat, or the yelling of the word, “Ouch,” Mom produced exquisite lectures with life lessons. She’d say, “Quit annoying, provoking, and reacting. Find common ground. Get along. All this fighting is driving me nuts!” She was saying, “Let’s integrate as a family.”
I learned that moms are really into peace and working together. On this Mother’s Day, we do well to heed these fundamental lessons so that we can reintegrate lives, our families, our church, our nation, our world.
The heart that walks around outside your body
Elizabeth Stone has a beautiful way of talking about the essence of motherhood. She said, “Making the decision to have a child — it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
Having your heart walking around outside your body means that much of your happiness and sorrow depends on what happens to someone else.
The Origins of Mother’s Day
You may be surprised to learn that the celebration of Mother’s Day has its roots, not in a board room of Hallmark. Do the research, and you will find its origins came from a peace movement. Mothers were fed up with how the world was breaking their hearts and children with strife and violence.
Mother’s Day came from an urgent call in 1870 for mothers to come together and find a way to stop the culturally sanctioned destruction of their children’s lives (especially by warfare). Julia Ward Howe called women to come together to work for peace so that their children and husbands would not have to die in war and learning to hate, thereby undoing the values they had impressed on their children. Only later did Mother’s Day morph into the more sentimental holiday we know today.
In these days of so much conflict, strife, and violence, let us embrace the lessons of integration that our mothers have tried to teach us. Let us learn from their wisdom and listen to the struggles women face today and find the way to that place where their hearts are no longer broken.
Breathe and Push
One contemporary mother trying to work for more just systems and opportunities for the next generation is Valarie Kaur. She’s a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and Yale Law School. In her book, See No Stranger, she echoes the lessons Paul taught about getting celebrating the diversity of the body instead of going the route of so much tribalism we see exploding all around us.
She says it is like we are in long labor for a better society to be born—an America that is just for all, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith with systems that are accountable and stop breaking the hearts of mothers. In this long labor, we do well to heed the instructions of a midwife in any delivery. Breathe and Push.
Breathing is about being non-reactive, taking the time to listen to people who are not like you, to people who rub you the wrong way. Learn their fears, where they come from, how their environments have broken them. Often it is hurting people that hurt other people in one form or another. Where are they hurting?
Breathing is also about touching that spiritual center within each of us. Remember that in the Bible, the word for spirit and breath is the same root word. We have to connect with those practices that bring us inner peace and the ability to forgive and move on. So everyone, especially mothers, today breathe. Relax. Tap into those internal sources of beauty and love so that you might help elevate us all.
Today we breathe. Tomorrow we push. We push to hold leaders accountable, reform institutions that have become corrupt, or sustain injustice. It’s a call to come together, let our voices be heard, and do what we can in our ways to advocate for justice, to model the lessons our mother’s taught. Quit fighting. Quit provoking. Quit reacting. Quit retaliating.
Let the Drums Roll
Mothers: Teach your children well. You are the greatest hope for the salvation of our world. Teach us how to breathe and push. For we want to help, you care for that heart that walks outside of your body. The values you teach remain. No good thing ever vanishes. It is carried over from generation to generation.
So, let the drums roll, let the cheers go up, for you are our reason to hope. Whatever horrible things fill this world, they are not enough because this world is also full of mothers.
And with God’s help, their lessons to breathe and push, we shall overcome someday. Amen.