Easter 6C Sermon (2007)

6th Sunday of Easter
Texts: John 14:23-29;
Rev. 21:10, 21:22-22:5; Acts 16:9-15


Queen Noor of Jordan wrote an op/ed piece for CNN.com this week entitled “Let’s reclaim Mother’s Day for peace.” In it she explains that full title of Mother’s Day was originally “Mother’s Day for Peace,” and she points to a page on the history.

Mother’s Day for peace was conceived after wars at home and abroad by American abolitionist and suffragist Julia Ward Howe. Besides initiating the tradition of Mother’s Day, Howe is best known as the author of the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” As a pacifist during the Civil War, she witnessed the devastating effects of the conflict through her work with widows and orphans. In 1870 she wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to women to oppose war and to convene to promote peace and be the architects of their family’s political futures. She presented it at international peace conferences in London and Paris, where she lamented the atrocities of not only the American Civil War, but also the Franco-Prussian War.

Howe envisioned the first “Mother’s Day” as a time for women to gather, grieve and determine a peaceful solution to war. Her “Mother’s Day Proclamation” reads in part:

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 solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In 1873, women in 18 American cities held Mother’s Day for Peace gatherings. During Howe’s lifetime there was never any formal recognition of Mother’s Day, but Howe’s efforts influenced Anna Jarvis, whose mother, also named Anna, had organized women during the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, calling for Mothers’ Work Days.

After the death of her mother, daughter Anna Jarvis was determined to found a memorial day for women. She celebrated her first Mother’s Day on May 10, 1908 , at the Methodist church where her mother had taught Sunday school. In 1912, Anna was recognized as the founder of Mother’s Day by the General Methodist Conference. President Woodrow Wilson declared an official national Mother’s Day in 1914, approving the Congressional resolution to celebrate the day every year on the second Sunday in May.1

There you have it. Mother’s Day was not started by the greeting card companies or floral shops.2 It was started by women with the thought that mothers have a special interest in working for peace in this world.

In our Gospel Lesson today, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” A peace that’s different from the one the world gives. I take it that Jesus is saying something similar to Julia Ward Howe, or vise-versa really, when she talks about “bearing the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.” I’d like for us to ask ourselves this morning: As followers of Jesus, do we, like mothers, have a special interest in working for peace in this world? We follow the one who has a wholly different way to peace than that of the world. Jesus has a way of peace which is different than the one humanity has relied on since the foundation of our human worlds.

In Matthew 13:35, Jesus says, “I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.” That thing which is hidden from us, I propose to you this morning, is our human way of peace which is buried deep within our anthropology. Jesus, as true Man and true God, came to show us both who God truly is and who we truly are. There are clues to this anthropology throughout Jesus’ teaching and ministry, but it takes his cross and resurrection to finally fully reveal this to us. There’s an important clue in today’s Gospel, for example: that is, the special name for the Holy Spirit which Jesus has in John’s Gospel. It’s translated as Advocate (with a capital “A”) in our bulletin translation. In Greek the word is Paraclete, and we translate it with a capital letter even in English because it is the title for a person who in court would defend the Accused person. The Paraclete is, so to speak, the Defense Attorney. Now as to how this provides a clue to our deeper anthropology I have to take the risk of giving you quick sketch of the anthropology we now have available to us in a more modern scientific understanding; and this sketch will focus on the role of accusing in our human way of peace.

Almost like the Adam and Eve story our proposal goes back to the time when our ancestors were first becoming human. The way of peace on higher animal groups is kept by the males fighting to establish dominance, and then that pattern of dominance is held to in keeping the peace for things like first dibs on the food and on mates. But for our earliest human ancestors this did not work any longer to keep the peace because we were learning to use rocks and clubs as weapons, and so the fighting for dominance was more often fatal. What filled into the void to become our human way of peace? The proposal is that the accusation that filled the void. If someone could make a dramatic gesture of accusation, imitated by the rest of the group against the one accused, then the rest of the group experiences a magical peace against the one they accused.

Now, I’ve given you only the briefest of sketches which leaves out so much of the data that fills in the picture of an actual scientific hypothesis to help explain all the gods in so many religions around the world and the role of ritual blood sacrifice to reenact the accusation which leads to the whole group killing someone on an altar. But I want to use one example from our contemporary situation which helps, I think, for us to glimpse the power of accusation behind our way of peace still today.

Extemporize ending

Paul J. Nuechterlein
Delivered at Prince of Peace Lutheran,
Portage, MI, May 13, 2007


1. Much of the above is from the webpage: http://www.rediscovermothersday.org/history.asp (no longer on the Internet). The address of the Queen Noor op/ed piece is:


2. To complete the story on a note of bitter irony, here is the closing paragraph on Anna Jarvis in the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Jarvis):
By the 1920s, Anna Marie Jarvis had become soured on the commercialization of the holiday. She incorporated herself as the Mother’s Day International Association, claimed copyright on the second Sunday of May, and was once arrested for disturbing the peace. She and her sister Ellsinore spent their family inheritance campaigning against the holiday. Both died in poverty. Jarvis, says her New York Times obituary, became embittered because too many people sent their mothers a printed greeting card. She considered it “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.”
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