Ecofeminist Mother's Day Sermon (John 15:9-17)
2012-05-12 by David von Schlichten


Sermon on John 15:9-17   

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, May 13, 2012,

6th Sunday of Easter, Year B,

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 657)


Ecofeminist Sermon


            Women endure a strange and disturbing paradox here in the United States. On the one hand, we revere at least some women, including mothers. We speak reverently about a mother’s love, and so we should. At its best, maternal love is intimate and powerful. At the same time, while holding women, such as mothers, in such high regard, we often do not treat them well. In the U.S., women are still paid only seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man makes, and many of those women are mothers. If we revere mothers so much, then why don’t we pay them better? In general, in fact, we tend to treat women with disrespect, even while claiming that we respect them. For instance, in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every single day. You can bet that many of those women are mothers. In fact, abused women frequently receive their first beating when they become pregnant. Yet supposedly we respect mothers.

            Now, you might think, “But Pastor, aren’t men also victims of violence?” Sure they are. For instance, in 2001 about fifteen percent of victims of intimate-partner crimes were men. Of course, that means that eighty-five percent of the victims were women. Similarly, men make up about 7-9 % of adult rape victims; women make up the remaining 91-93%. Men are indeed victimized, but women are victimized much more.

            Then there are the burdens we frequently place on mothers. We often expect them to work outside the home and take care of all the domestic responsibilities. Men have become more helpful at home, but the bulk of the domestic chores tend to fall on the women. We expect women to be pretty and thin all the time, to be successful at their jobs, and to hold everything together at home.

            Today, Mother’s Day, what if we vowed to commit ourselves to showing women, including mothers, real respect? I don’t mean put them on a pedestal. I mean treat them with dignity, respect, and kindness. Jesus tells us in John 15 that urges us to love one another. Essential to loving one another is regarding each other with genuine respect. Loving one another demands not hitting each other, not insulting each others, not belittling or bullying each other, not using sex as a weapon, and not playing head games. Loving one another entails showing everyone solid respect, including mothers. We say we respect them. Let’s truly respect them, just as we should respect all people. Let’s live the Resurrection.

            There’s another mother we tend to disrespect and brutalize, and that’s Mother Nature. Actually, we often treat nature the same way we treat women. We say we respect women, but then we beat and belittle them. Likewise, we say that we respect nature, revere it, yet we continue to be wasteful, continue to allow destructive and desecrating practices such as mountaintop removal mining and fracking. BP had its horrible oil leak. We were all appalled, but what really has changed? We claim to revere mothers and Mother Nature, but do we really?

            Perhaps you do, and if so, then thanks be to God. Wonderful! Be a model for others. Legions of us, however, are inconsistent in our respect for women, mothers, and Mother Nature. Sometimes we are respectful, sometimes not. How can we be more respectful?

            Indeed, may we be more respectful toward all, male and female, human and non-human. After all, Christ has respected us. In John 15, he calls us friends. Friends. Not servants. Calling us friends, even though we are unworthy. Even though we are sinful, Christ still respects us, loves us, dies and rises for us, saves us through baptism, teaches us through Scripture, feeds us his body and blood, forgives us our sins. Amazing! Christ is risen. Christ washes our feet and then says, “Now go, and wash each other’s feet.”                            

Sermon Thoughts for May 13, 2012 (Mother's Day; Ecofeminism; Gay Marriage)
2012-05-10 by David von Schlichten

Mother's Day: We tend to sentimentalize maternal love on that day, and maybe a little sentimentality isn't bad. At the same time, it is wise for us preachers to acknowledge that motherhood is far from ideal. However, God's love is ideal and always supports us, even when mothers (or any other human) fail us. God also supports the mothers themselves. Moreover, God offers loving care for women who want to be mothers but cannot.

We could even preach about God as Mother. God gives birth to us, teaches us, protects us, breastfeeds us.

Acts 10: Peter is surprised to see that the Gentiles have received the Holy Spirit. The Gentiles, like the Ethiopian eunuch of last week, are outsiders, yet the Holy Spirit comes anyway. What other outsiders does the Holy Spirit come to? How about members of the LGBT community, including those who are married? You bet the Holy Spirit comes to them.  

Psalm 98: Even nature is to praise God. Why? Because salvation is for ALL creation, not just humanity. Everyone is included. So then, if God cares for non-human nature, then we should, as well. 

John 15: We humans tend to love hierarchies, loving ranking people, yet Jesus softens a hierarchy by calling us, the disciples, not "servants," but "friends." Indeed, the vine image also softens hierarchy. Of course, the Father and Jesus are "higher" (vine grower and vine), but all Christians are branches (equally). And again, Jesus softens the hierarchy between God and humanity by calling us friends.

ECOFEMINISM: We revere mothers but still often treat women as inferior to men. We revere Mother Nature but still often exploit and desecrate her through drilling, fracking, mountaintop removal mining, and more. Jesus calls us to love one another, and loving one another demands, not this inconsistent reverence, but consistently treating mothers and nature--indeed, all--with true, durable, consequential love.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Sermon Thoughts for May 6, 2012; 5B Easter
2012-05-02 by David von Schlichten

Acts 8 and John 15

Ethiopian eunuchs. Deuteronomy 23:1 says that eunuchs are to be excluded from the community of believers, but the Holy Spirit decides to use Philip to include the Ethiopian eunuch.

Whom do we exclude? Sometimes we exclude disabled people because including them is logistically more challenging. We also exclude people whose appearance we find disturbing or whose behavior is odd.

Then there is the likelihood that the eunuch is black, and he most certainly is a foreigner. Yet he is included, and so he should be.

John 15: We are all branches. We members of the Church are equals, and it is not our job to decide who gets lopped off. Once again, we're focusing on inclusivity.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Sermon Thoughts for April 29, 2012; Good Shepherd Sunday
2012-04-25 by David von Schlichten

Acts 4: Peter is before the council because he taught about Jesus. Unlike Gospels-Peter, Acts-Peter is poised, confident, wise -- a strong leader. He does not back down before his opposition but proclaims the truth.

We, also, are not to back down before opposition, before wolves or hired hands or robbers. How do we serve as shepherds who are also sheep to THE Shepherd? How do we stand strong in the face of opposition?

What is our opposition? People who say that religion is just a crutch for the masses can be opposition. The appeal of secularism can be, as well. So can hedonism, the obsession with buying stuff, making sports into a religion. What is the opposition?

How does the Shepherd empower us against the opposition? Christ sends us baptism, Bible, prayer, holy communion, forgiveness, each other.

Imaculee Ilibagiza was a young Rwandan Tutsi when the genocide broke out in April of 1994. She hid in a pastor's three-by-four foot bathroom for about 90 days with seven other women. Ilibagiza eventually wrote a book about that horror and travels the world telling people about it. She says that prayer and focusing on God's grace got her through that long night.

Christ the Shepherd led her through the opposition. The Shepherd does likewise for you and me.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator  

Sermon Thoughts for April 22, 2012; Earth Day and Easter
2012-04-18 by David von Schlichten

Jesus Christ redeems, not just humans, but all of creation. Moreover. in our reading from Luke 24, the writer emphasizes that Christ is not just a spirit but a physical being. Thus, the passage reminds us that the physical, including the natural, is not evil. The dichotomy between the spiritual and physical is false.

The natural realm, including our own bodies, is good, even though it is fallen, and it is lifted up from its fallen state through Christ. Therefore, it makes sense to honor Easter by doing, among other things, that which helps to care for the planet.

Christ brings new life to all of creation through the resurrection, and we are to pattern our environmental efforts after the resurrection. Reduce, reuse, recycle a la resurrection.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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