Sermon Text: The Code of the Mother-in-Law
I have one tough mother-in-law. She shoveled gravel until she was 80. Actually, she built a stone wall to celebrate her 80th birthday. She is a tough cookie.
But don't get me wrong...I love her, and she's wonderful. I don't understand all those mother-in-law jokes. Mine is just terrific.
Her dad, my wife's grandpa, was a Methodist minister. So my mother-in-law was a preacher's kid. Paula's dad used to tell me this: "Preacher's sons and preachers daughters do the things they shouldn't oughter." She vowed she'd never marry a minister. Well, her daughter did.
There's something else about my wife's mom. You just cannot tell her you like something she has. If you do, she will immediately try to give it to you. Generosity is second nature to her.
Now, she got a degree in textiles from Ohio State University. She made my wife's wedding dress. She made dresses for all the bridesmaids, and those women wore them at other times than the wedding, because they were both attractive and functional. My mother-in-law has always put her abilities to work by serving others. Her hands have always been busy for the entire 42 years I've known her.
I have a wonderful mother-in-law. Mark's Gospel implies that Simon Peter did, too.
After a synagogue service, Jesus went to coffee hour at Simon Peter's house. Turns out Simon's mother-in-law was sick with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and she was immediately well again. And what did she do next? She immediately started taking care of Jesus, Simon Peter, and the whole gang.
She had been helped, so she decided to help. She had been served, so she served. She had been healed, so she became a caregiver. I think that's the code of the mother-in-law...not evil mother-in-law of all those jokes, but the kind of mother-in-law who has blessed my life, and Simon Peter's life, too.
She'd been loved, so she loved others.
She'd been served, so she served others.
She'd been blessed, so she blessed others.
A good mother-in-law is a treasure.
Now, Simon Peter doesn't always look good in Mark's Gospel. The day after this healing, Jesus slipped out early in the morning. He needs some time alone, to meditate and pray. Peter finds him and interrupts his prayer time. "Hey, c'mon! There's a big crowd! They're all looking for you!" You can just see Simon is eager to bask in the glory of being the right hand man of Jesus.
So Simon Peter is all about status...his mother-in-law is all about service.
That's the way of Jesus.
It's not about power, it's about compassion.
It's not about glory, it's about caring.
It's not about status, it's about service.
Watch the women around Jesus in Mark's Gospel. They catch on more quickly than the men. Mark will tell us about a widow who gives generously. Mark will tell us about a woman who anoints Jesus for burial while the guys are still in denial about the whole thing. Mark will tell us about women with the guts to follow Jesus to the cross when the men had run away. Mark will tell us about the women at the tomb who hear the news of Jesus rising while the guys are still hiding somewhere else.
In Mark's Gospel, Peter's mother-in-law is the first of these strong, wise women. She'd been loved, so she loved others. She'd been served, so she served others. She'd been blessed, so she became a blessing.
A good mother-in-law is a treasure. Mine welcomed me into her family 42 years ago. She has given me all kinds of love and support. I want to be as good a person as my mother-in-law thinks I am.
And I want you to keep on being as as good a church as I think you are. I want you to continue to give money and time to good causes...and that includes the Souper Bowl, Ramp It Up, CHOW, the Canteen, the jail ministry, and more.
You've been loved, and I see you loving others.
You've been served, and I see you serving others.
You've been blessed, and I think you are a blessing.
You have shown me that you understand the Way of Jesus,
and the Code of the Mother-in-Law.
A long time ago, far away from here, Jesus took the hand of a woman and lifted her up to serve. Again and again, I've seen you take the hand of Jesus and offer service in his name.
I'm lucky in the mother-in-law I found. And I'm lucky in the parish family I've found. Keep up the good work.
But if you need someone to shovel gravel, I'm sorry...my mother-in-law retired her shovel.