When I think of motherhood, I think of laundry.
Piles and piles and piles of endless, endless laundry.
I do laundry four days a week, and it takes up a major portion of my day.
Now you may say motherhood and laundry have no connection.
There is no biological reason why a man can't do laundry.
(Dan will surely point out to that there is no biological reason why a woman can't run the lawnmower. Thanks, honey.)
And in fact I'm sure there are many men here today who do laundry.
But I thought on this mother's day we would give people credit for a normally thankless job.
So raise your hand if you wash your own clothes.
Good job. Your mother would be proud. You are not stinky. Happy Mother's Day.
Now keep your hand up if you washed your childrens' clothes.
Good job. Be proud. Your kids are not stinky. Happy Mother's Day.
Now I know we have in the church some tough mamas who have laundry war stories to tell.
So keep your hand up if you have ever washed a baby's diaper.
A very Happy Mother's Day to you. If you lived in the era before disposable diapers…or like me you are a little bit nuts and choose to use cloth…I think you deserve a Happy Mother's Day!
Now I would like to see one more thing…keep your hand up if you have ever used a washboard. (Two women at Starr Church who were there, Peggy Beal and a visiting aunt, had used washboards!)
And this is why we need mother's day: because women who used washboards.
That kind of work just plain stinks. Those women were superheroes.
And in many parts of the world today they use washboards.
In some places, women would feel lucky to even have a washboard.
They use rocks.
Laundry is hard work.
Laundry is tedious, thankless, neverending work.
It's the kind of work that gets you no recognition for being done well, but if you do it wrong you'll never forget about it.
Anyone here ever accidentally put something red in with white laundry?
Anyone here ever put a wool sweater in the dryer?
You don't forget it.
Because clothing is very personal, and when your clothing is destroyed, it feels a bit like part of you is damaged.
That's why the image of them casting lots for Christ's clothing is such a powerful one.
As they gamble for his garments, it's a disrespect of his person.
So clothing is very personal, very intimate, and the act of cleansing a garment, of doing someone's laundry, is a very personal act.
It's a loving act; as you touch that person's clothing and treat it with care, you are caring for them, grooming them, helping them to be clean and warm and to look and feel good.
This is what mothers do as they lovingly fold their childrens' clothing,
Stopping, pausing for an instant to hold up a tiny shirt and think how fleeting this moment will be, when their child will wear such small things.
It's an act of love.
An act of care that is tedious, thankless, and neverending.
It's hard work that no one sees.
But that's when love is real.
And that's how God loves us.
God, too, does tedious, thankless, neverending work.
God got you up this morning,
God nurtured the earth to make your breakfast,
God will watch over you this whole day,
Keep your heart beating and your lungs filling,
And give you the gift of another day.
God will help you to be sheltered, dressed, and cared for.
And, like the neverending laundry, these neverending blessings go mostly unnoticed.
We mutter grace before meals.
We grudgingly give an hour on a Sunday to worship.
We remember to thank God once or twice a week or a year.
Like a mother who's only remembered for the white shirts she turned pink,
We turn to God only when something goes wrong,
Or when God doesn't do what we want.
But despite our ingratitude, God goes on doing the endless, tedious, thankless task of loving.
We call God "Father," as Jesus did.
We refer to God as "He," as the Bible does.
But Scripture also compares God, who is, of course, beyond gender,
To a mother, who will not forsake her nursing child in Isaiah,
To a mother hen, who longs to gather her chicks under her wings in Luke,
To a mother, knitting us together with care in every stitch in Psalms.
Like a mother, God gave us life,
Like a mother, God nurtured us when we were young,
Like a mother, God feeds us, God sustains us, God keeps us warm, and God also washes us clean.
Psalm 51 might seem like an unlikely choice for Mother's Day.
What does the filthy story of David and Bathsheba have to do with such a happy day?
Well, like it or not, it is actually also the story of Solomon's mother.
Like it or not, a lot of motherhood is messy.
And the task of motherhood is the task of cleaning up.
In this Psalm as in nowhere else in Scripture, someone asks for cleansing.
David begs, "blot out my transgressions, wash me from my iniquities, and cleanse me from sin!"
David looks at himself and sees a stained life,
And he wants God to pull out the Clorox.
He pleads, "cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean! Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow!"
We, all of us, have stained hands and stained lives.
We have a deep longing to be cleansed,
Not once only,
But over, and over, and over again.
Thank God God is in the laundry business.
God cleanses us, over, and over, and over.
God washes us in the waters of baptism,
God bathes us in the blood of the lamb,
God blots out our sin each time we manage to mess up our lives again.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.
What is hyssop?
The Bible mentions it here and in about a dozen other places.
Syrian hyssop is a plant more commonly known as marjoram.
It's used as a spice and a tonic,
But in Scripture, it had a very specific use.
Hyssop grows in little clumps, with leaves and fruit covered in tiny gray hairs.
The gray leafy clumps could hold a great deal of moisture.
It was like an ancient sponge.
It was an ancient Brillo pad.
It was a cleansing instrument.
So if you haven't gotten the women in your life flowers for mother's day, run out and get them some Syrian hyssop,
And tell them thanks for doing the laundry.
So this hyssop was a plant like a fragrant sponge,
And when God instructed the Hebrew people to mark their doorposts with blood,
He told them to take one of these hyssop clumps and dip it in the blood,
And it would absorb the blood like a paintbrush.
And that's how they would mark their doorpost.
And in other places; when disease left a house,
Or when someone died there,
There was a ritual cleansing that used hyssop as a sponge.
This is what David wants; to be made clean in this ancient, ritual way,
To be washed with this ancient, ritual sponge.
This cleansing is not easy work.
It is dirty, hard work,
And it is the work of self-sacrifice.
Mothers know self-sacrifice.
Mothers know what it is to give their hearts and their bodies,
Their time and their tears,
To do whatever it takes to care for us.
Mothers do the thankless work of keeping their children safe, and warm, and clean.
And this is what Christ did for us.
He cleansed us; when there was nothing else that would blot away our stains,
He used his own blood.
And there, on the cross, he cried out in his pain, "I thirst!"
John 19:29 records, "A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth."
Why did God choose to put that hyssop branch there?
To show us what was really happening.
We were being washed, cleansed, sponged clean with the blood of the lamb.
"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
The cleansing David longed for was ultimately realized in Christ.
In Christ God cleansed us, washed us clean, and washes us still.
Each time we pray for forgiveness,
Each time we receive pardon for our sins,
Each time we come to the table to receive Christ,
We are cleansed.
We are made new.
That's what love does.
That's what mothers do.
The hard work of sustaining life, of keeping us fed, of making us clean.
So thank mothers, and thank God.
Don't let this be thankless work.
But know that whether you thank us, or whether you thank God, or whether you forget,
Mothers will love you anyway, and so will God.
Because mothers know, and God knows, that there are two things that will never, ever end:
Laundry, and love.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.