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Sunday, May 10

Today’s Reading: John 15:1-8

Today's reflection/sermon...

Ten weeks ago, the world lost an amazing talent – a gentleman whose radio broadcasting career spanned the better part of seven decades stretching from the 1940’s into the 21st Century. The gentleman’s name was Paul Harvey.

Paul was able to forge such a long and illustrious career because he had two things going for him. First, he had a distinctive style that was all his own. Second, Paul had a memorable tagline that generated a radio show all of its own. The tagline and show was known as “The Rest of the Story”.

The purpose of “The Rest of the Story” was to take what seemed to be relatively straightforward stories and throw in an unexpected twist at the end. After presenting the twist, Mr. Harvey would sign off with those unforgettable words: “And now you know… the rest of the story.”

This morning I thought I would honor Paul Harvey’s legacy by creating my own version of “The Rest of the Story”. And for the topic of my first broadcast, I thought it would be appropriate to chose Mother’s Day.

The holiday began through the efforts of a young woman by the name of Anna Jarvis. Anna was born in the tiny town of Webster, West Virginia in the year 1864. She was raised by Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis who moved her family from Webster to Grafton, West Virginia when her daughter was very young. Young Anna enjoyed a close relationship with her mother until her mother passed away in 1905 when Anna was 41.

Two years after her mother’s passing, Anna pulled together a celebration to honor the memory of her deceased mother. And as she was putting the celebration together, an idea popped into her head. “What if we were to set aside time each year to honor not just my mother, but ALL mothers.”

And guess what? Within 7 years, Anna’s dream was realized when President Woodrow Wilson and Congress marked Mother’s Day as an official holiday on the calendar.

Now as far as most Americans are concerned, that’s where the story of Mother’s Day ends. But in Anna’s case, that’s not true. For you see, Anna had one fear about this Mother’s Day that she created. She feared that the loving spirit of the holiday might one day give way to something else: commercialization. If Anna only knew…

Listen to what has happened to Mother’s Day. According to researchers at IBISWorld, this Mother’s Day Americans will spend $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on gifts to pamper mom, and another $68 million on greeting cards. Jewelers love the holiday! 7.8% of their revenue last year came from Mother’s Day. Restaurateurs are particularly fond of the holiday - for it is the day when more Americans dine out than any other day during the entire year!

Well, Anna was a bright woman. So by the 9th observance of the holiday, Anna had a new campaign to motivate her. She became the leading opponent of what the holiday had come to stand for. Listen to the words Anna used to critique the way folks celebrated the holiday: “A printed card – [that] means nothing except that you are too lazy to write the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother – and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!”

Anna became so obsessed with battling the commercialization of the holiday that she and her sister spent their entire family inheritance waging war on its practice. And in 1948 – at the tender age of 84 – Anna was arrested for disturbing the peace during one of her annual protests. Before she died, Anna said: I wish I “would have never started the day because it became so out of control...”

And that … is the rest of the story.

“Okay, Craig,” you’re probably thinking. “Now that you’re done channeling Paul Harvey, what does all this have to do with today’s reading from John. Are you just trying to bum us out on Mother’s Day?”

No. Here’s why I felt the need to give you the rest of the story regarding Mother’s Day. You see the entire movement to create Mother’s Day was originally born out of a noble desire – to celebrate the love that most of us have experienced that comes from our mother. But something happened almost immediately. Folks lost sight of the purpose of Mother’s Day. And because they lost sight of its roots, they allowed the day to become about this [hold up a picture of dollar bills] and not so much about this [hold up a picture of a mother].

In much the same way, Jesus found himself speaking to a group of people who had also lost site of what their spiritual lives were all about. Instead of devoting their time and energy to the thing that mattered most – nurturing a living, breathing relationship with their Creator – they allowed their focus to shift. They became obsessed with other things in their life. Their relationship with God suffered.

In many ways, Jesus’ words remind me an awful lot of the words spoken by Anna – for they were desperate, passionate words intended to get our priorities back on track.

So if folks had gotten off track in the ways they lead their spiritual lives, what was Jesus solution to get them back on track?

Here’s where the image of the vine, branches, (and the implied root) all come in handy.

Think for a moment about what a person needs to do in order to properly tend to a plant. What do you need to do?

[Take suggestions for a moment.]

That’s right. You need to devote time and energy to nurture the plant and keep it healthy.

Now think about your spiritual lives for a moment. How much time and energy do you devote to it? How many minutes a day do you spend in prayer and meditation? How many times a week do you explore the sacred writings of our faith (that would be the Bible)? How often do you create time in your life for acts of worship? How many hours do you spend each week in service nurturing other branches...?

Friends, as I close our time together, I want to do so by using the spirit that Anna Jarvis used during the second half of her life; that is, by issuing a challenge for us to get us back to our roots. You see Anna noted that the most important thing about Mother’s Day isn’t the cards that we buy at the store, or the flowers we pick up at the florist, or the meal we eat together at the restaurant. It’s the time we spend nurturing our relationship with our mothers.

Same thing goes with our relationship with God. It’s the time we devote to the care of the plant that counts. Not just on Sundays, but every day of the week.

If we do that – if we devote time to live or abide in God each day– then we can rest easing knowing that our branch will be in great shape.


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