It Only Takes ONE Mom

Sermon for August 14, 2011 (Lect 20a).
Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28, Isaiah 56:1.
Sermon refers to the recent ONE Moms trip to Kenya.

Moms are incredible people.  When a mom is on a mission for the sake of her child, there is not much that will stop her.  The best advice to those who would try is to get out of her way!  Sarah Palin used the term “mama grizzlies” to describe the instinct of a mother grizzly bear to protect her cubs as something that is present in human moms, too.  I suspect that even her political opponents would likely agree on that particular point.  When a mom is driven by love for her child, she will go to incredible lengths and accomplish incredible things, even if she has to do it all by herself.

This is what we hear in Matthew 15 as Jesus is approached by Cannanite woman and the story ends with Jesus proclaiming, “Woman, great is your faith!”  It’s the only time in the entire gospel of Matthew that anyone’s faith is described as “great,” and it comes a few paragraphs after Jesus call Peter “you of little faith” as he tried to walk on water and began to sink.

This Canaanite woman makes a pretty quick entrance and exit in the bigger story of the gospel and the story of Jesus, but in this single encounter Jesus recognizes and celebrates her great faith.

We know she was not living an easy life.  “My daughter is tormented by a demon” she tells us.  She watched day after day as her daughter’s life was being torn apart by something that could only be described as evil: as “a demon.”

Imagine the deep sadness–the constant hurt–of a mother watching her child suffer, feeling powerless to offer any help.  Day after day she watches her daughter suffer as she looks for any possible way to make it all stop.  But when a mom is on a mission for the sake of her child, there is not much that will stop her.

She has a brief but striking encounter with Jesus.  At first it appears that Jesus isn’t going to help.  It even appears that Jesus isn’t willing to help.  But this mom was not about to back down.

There is a lot to think about, pray about, and discuss in this story of Jesus and the Cannanite woman:  Was Jesus really not willing to help her?  Was Jesus testing the woman?  Was Jesus showing the disciples that their own lack of concern was to be overcome as God’s new reality happened right in front of them?  There is a lot in this very rich story for us to be changed by.  Today, I invite you to consider the tenacity of this woman–this mom.  Day by day she watched her child suffer, and instead of being driven to despair, she was driven to action.  She couldn’t solve the problem on her own, but she was determined to be involved in the healing.

When she encountered Jesus, she used the one thing she had the power to use:  she used her voice, determined to see her child healed.  It required that she speak up, even when surrounded by people who did not want to listen.  It required that she be persistent: not in order to make her point or to win an argument, but in order to save her daughter’s life.  And when a mom is on a mission for the sake of her child, there is not much that will stop her.

As I listen to this story of a foreign mother begging for her child’s life with determination and tenacity, I think of the moms even in today’s world that face the same struggle.  I was hoping for chance during my last few weeks at Temple Lutheran Church to draw our eyes once again to the work of the ONE Campaign.  This week, the opportunity has presented itself in a beautiful way!

It came in the form of a news story this past week: a story about a group of moms from across the country that were gathered together by ONE and traveled to Kenya to witness the reality of the famine happening there today.  They went to visit with moms just like the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15.

Let’s take a look:

What an incredible journey!  As the “ONE moms” returned home this week, they have been forever changed by their week in Africa.  One of the moms wrote this week that she is “still processing” what she saw:

“I am still processing that so many people are living with HIV.  I am still processing that programs that are clearly working are in jeopardy of being cut or severely reduced because of funding.  I am still processing that children die senselessly from malaria and tuberculosis and pneumonia.”

Moms around the world are watching their children suffer and die, and many of them, just like the Canaanite woman, are looking to Jesus.  But here’s the thing:  in the 21st century, we are the presence of Jesus in the world.  Jesus places his ministry in our hands and sends us into all the world.  And that begs the question, then:  as followers of Jesus in the world today, are we going to stand by and let this crisis continue on our watch?

We have the ability to end the suffering.  The diseases are preventable and treatable; we have the medicine.  It’s just a matter of having the determination to see it through.  The programs that have been developed in the past 8 years are working.  There are now 5 million people on the continent of Africa receiving the treatment they need to prevent HIV from killing them.  If we see this through, by 2015 we can eliminate the risk of any child being born with HIV.

I am proud that we continue to be a part of God’s response to this crisis.  As Temple Lutheran Church, we have saved lives.  People are alive today because of Temple Lutheran Church.  We’ve sent bed nets to fight malaria.  We’ve sent animals to fight poverty and hunger.  In the past few weeks the ELCA has sent $400,000 in aid and Lutheran World Relief has sent nearly $500,000 to save lives from the famine in East Africa.

As we continue to find ways to use our resources to provide help, we must also use our voice and our determination to see these children healed.  We must speak up, even when surrounded by people who did not want to listen.  We must be persistent: not in order to make a point or to win an argument, but in order to save the lives of millions of God’s children.

We know that the world is facing challenging times.  There is a financial crisis that effects every one of us.  We must not, however, lose the tenacity needed to create the new reality that Jesus came to make possible.  We must remain committed to the new reality that our faith invites us to create in the world.

Like a mom on a mission for the sake of her child, we must stop at nothing.

Guiding our steps on this challenging journey is the command and promise of God spoken by the prophet Isaiah:  “Thus says the LORD:  Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.” (Isaiah 56:1)

We must not be driven to despair; we must be driven to action.

ONE Moms in Kenya

It only takes ONE mom.  It only takes ONE voice to change the world and make healing possible.

And as we add our voices together–moms, dads, women, men, old, young–we become ONE church serving ONE God to bring about ONE new reality for all the world.  A new reality in which where someone lives doesn’t determine whether they live.  A new reality in which blessing and healing are open to everyone.  A new reality shaped by God’s love revealed in Jesus.  A new reality shaped by what God is already doing here at Temple Lutheran Church.

A new reality shaped by the good news of the gospel.  Amen.

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