Sunday, May 8, 2016

Motherrrr ...

Γύναι …

North of Pensacola, out Palafox on US29 past Ensley and Cantonment, just south of Century and the Alabama line, Bluff Springs, Florida is a “populated place” that the government says “is not a census-designated or incorporated place having an official — federally recognized name.” My mother was born there in Bluff Springs, 104 years ago yesterday, May 7, 1912. As far as I know, her grandparents were farmers, we have a large photograph of her paternal grandparents in chairs in front of an old unpainted southern house, surrounded by their family of sons and daughters and their husbands, wives, children and grandchildren. It’s a wedding anniversary picture of my Gentry great-grandparents. My grandmother and grandfather Mamie and Walter Gentry are in the picture. My mother looks about three years old, so maybe 1915. 

Before that, they’d moved from Bluff Springs to Pensacola, where my grandfather Walter joined his brothers Lee and Elbert in the business of loans and pawns, and he did that all his working years. Gentry Bros Loans and Pawns. The last location I remember was 10 E. Intendencia, a block off Palafox downtown. 

When I was growing up, our family radio in the living room, and some of my clothes, and my first watch, and my first radio, and the two bicycles of my childhood came from Gentry Brothers Loans and Pawns. If your grandfather is a pawnbroker you grow up with nothing new, and it’s fine.

Mama’s May 7th birthday was always mixed up with Mothers Day, and as a boy I always tried, not always successfully, depending on my resources, to have her a present for both occasions. I enjoyed buying gifts for my mother, and always felt she loved whatever it was, mothers are that way.

My mother was generally my champion, always bragging on me (not always a good thing if you are a boy). When I was growing up she used to say to her friends, in my presence and hearing, maybe to help me overcome my extreme shyness, but it had the opposite effect, “Look at Bubba, isn’t he handsome!” which for a growing up boy was humiliating, turning my face bright red, until the day I asked her never to do that because it embarrassed me so. She stopped, but changed it to telling friends, again and still in my presence and hearing, “It embarrasses him when I say how handsome he is, so I can’t do that anymore.” Mothers can be helpful or mothers can make you want to drop through the floor, and I’ve been there.

My mother went to Parents Night at Bay High School when I was a freshman, it was Fall 1949, I was 14. Bill Weeks, Mr. Weeks the American History teacher, had graded me “C” on the first report card. When my mother met him that night, he said of me, “Oh yes,” and assured my mother, “he’s average.” My mother exploded viciously, “He is not average,” and went into such a tirade of fury that other parents eased out of the room while my mother had her go at my history teacher. Thank God I was at home, but she told me about it later. I was so mortified that next day in class I wouldn’t even look at Mr. Weeks, but he came over to my desk and said, “Your mother really bit a chunk out of me last night.” 

We are here in church this morning, and so on a religious note, I will say that my mother put the fear of God in Mr. Weeks and my grades in his class were “A”s from then on, including through World History years later as a senior. 

I remember and honor my mother today, and that’s why we are here. Today is Mothers Day, our special service, children doing lots of things in worship, a day to bless our mothers by serving God in mother’s honor. 

You know, the Christmas Holidays can be very hard on people, making some folks sad and depressed, or grieving, when everyone else is having a big celebration. It’s not only Christmas. I read with sadness this week, that some people skip Mothers Day observances because they are not mothers, and never will be, either by choice or because that is the way life has gone for them. Some are disappointed, sad, bitter, even grieving. But it’s not a day to be honored because you are a mother, or a day to feel sad because you are not a mother — it’s a day to honor your own mother. Every person here has or has had a mother. This is a day to honor them, to bless them for the gift of life they have given us. Not simply a day to receive honor, but especially a day to give honor, to honor your mother, even as Jesus honored his mother.

After Matthew’s and Luke’s nativity stories, our best stories about Jesus and his mother Mary are found in the Gospel according to John. Early on, the Holy Family lived in Nazareth, and in John’s gospel Jesus and his family and friends have gone up to a wedding in Cana, about six miles north. You know the story: the wedding party drinks up all the wine, a great embarrassment, and Mary tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” Jesus says — I visualize him as a young man who definitely does not like his friends to see him with his doting mother around still telling him what to do, red-face embarrassed he mumurs, “Γύναι, Motherrrr, that’s none of our business” But he does as she hopes. Jesus honoring his mother.

John’s other story is at the Cross. Jesus crucified, in bloody, agonizing, excruciating pain, at the point of death, and he sees his dearest friend standing there with his mother. Knowing that from this day she will have no one to look after her, he says lovingly, “Γύναι, behold, your son.” And to his best friend he says, “Behold, your mother.” And the Bible tells us that the friend took Mary into his home that very hour. Jesus honoring his mother throughout his life.

I don’t, I do not have a lot to say to you today. In my heart, and sharing a bit with you today hoping it may stir some of your own memories, I honor my mother, who gave me life and always loved me. If I remembered her lovingly though ironically this morning, maybe you are remembering and loving your mother, I hope so. I also hope you will remember and give thanks for Mary, the mother of our Lord, who gave life to Jesus, whose life, death, and resurrection gives everlasting life to us. Without his mother Mary there would be no story to tell.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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Mothers Day sermon/homily preached in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida on Sunday, May 8, 2016. The Rev. Tom Weller

Γύναι (gyunai) is "woman" and it is not disrespectful, in fact, I see Jesus saying it tenderly --

As always my sermons are posted not for pride but for love of a friend to whom I made a promise. TW+

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