If you wish, you can hear this sermon as it was preached in the pulpit of the United Church of Jaffrey. Simply click to the play button below.
Delivered at the United Church of Jaffrey.
May 13th, 2018
You may recall that I was, shall we say, a little wiped out last week after Children’s Sunday Services.
It was with some relief, then that I hopped into my car to head off. But Just as I turning out of the driveway… I noticed the church sign.
The sign was proclaiming to the world “This Sunday: Call your Friends”
Well, that was what I just preached (or tried to preach) to the kids — so the sign was now proclaiming a sermon title that was already used up.
I like doing putting the sermon title for the upcoming Sunday on the church sign, because it gives people who are driving by a sense that our church is a living church and that the preacher is concerned with things that they might care about.
Great idea Mark!
The trouble is… like most great ideas, it’s easier said than done!
If I am going to pull off this “great” notion, I have to be on top of my game.
To pull it off I must…
A. Have some slight inkling of what I might be preaching about the following Sunday, and
B. Remember to change the sign.
But in that moment, as I sat Idling on the side of Rte 124, with my hazards on, I looked at the sign and realized…
A. I didn’t have the slightest inkling of what I was going to preach about next week, and
B. I’d forgotten to change the sign.
So…I looked at the sign.
The sign looked at me.
And that, my friends, is when it hit me.
Next Sunday (that is, today) was going to be Mother’s Day!
So all I had to do, was change one word.
All I had to do was change “Call your Friends”
To the word “Call your Mom.”
Call your Mom!
Even if I had trouble making my sermon fit that title, it wouldn’t matter, because it was a timely and positive sentiment that would be just right for the sign.
And, thought I — if our little sign inspires someone out there to call their mom — we, as a church, will have succeeded in a small act of love upon which to grow our Christian faith.
Ironically, of course, most of us in this room can’t call our Moms.
At least not in the regular way, by picking up the phone.
For most of us, gathered here, our Mom’s have long since died.
And it may be that some of us who can pick up the phone and call our moms, don’t really want to.
That — it is worth noting — is the problem with the so-called “Mother’s Day sermon.”
I could head down to the CVS and picked up a hundred mother’s day cards, shuffle them up and read them out to you as a sermon — and the result might warm many hearts but I suspect one or two of you out there might leave thinking — hmmm… it’s a little more complicated than that.
But watch out Mark — this is a bit of a minefield, because while all of us have moms — many of you out there are moms.
And while I have no doubt that every mom present here today is a great mom…
even the best mom is willing to admit that she’s made a mistake now and then.
Perhaps the ability to admit this, is part of what it takes to be a great mom.
Let’s just say that being a mom is not always easy.
But that, I think, is all the more reason to honor moms.
Moms! This is your day!
It is my hope for you that all your kids — wherever they may be — happened to see a sign on the side of the road somewhere, reminding them to call you.
And they call you.
To tell you that they love you.
Telephone of the Wind
As I thought about all this last week, I could not help, of course, thinking about Lois Koyama — my own dear Mom.
I thought about how nice it would be to pick up the phone and talk to her.
I thought about what I would say to her if I could talk to her.
And that was when I remembered “Kaze no Denwa”
Kaze no Denwa is a Japanese phrase that means “telephone of the wind”
“Telephone of the wind.”
I first heard about the Telephone of the Wind on a radio program called “This American Life.”
I listened to the program in my car on the way up to Jaffrey, and I had a bit of a difficult time staying on the road, because pretty soon I was weeping. I wasn’t teary eyed. I was full-on weeping. The tears were streaming down my face. The story opened up something deep inside me.
On a hilltop overlooking the town of Otsuchi, on the Northeastern coast of Japan, there is an old fashioned telephone booth.
Inside the telephone booth, there is an old black rotary phone.
May people these days don’t know what an old rotary phone looks like, let alone how to use one.
But even if people knew how to use it, it would do them no good, because this old rotary phone is not connected to anything
It is not connected to a telephone wire.
And it is not connected to any cellular technology.
But it is connected to something.
It is connected to something that requires no dialing.
It is connected to the wind.
This morning’s scripture reading from the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel is revealing moment.
It is revealing because, a little way through reading it, one gradually begins to realize that what you are reading is a prayer — a prayer that is being offered by Jesus Christ himself.
We are often told, in the gospels, that Jesus goes off by himself to pray — but rarely are we close enough to hear what he is saying when he is speaking to God.
In today’s reading, we are close enough to overhear Christ’s prayer itself.
And though the word “mother” does not appear in these verses, it is not hard to hear in Christ’s prayer, an undertone of concern that sounds distinctly mom-like.
“Now they know that everything you have given me is from you” Christ declares, like a proud mom who has brought up her children as best she could… “I am asking, on their behalf… that you protect them…”
This, in a nutshell, is the narrative movement of parenting — it is the hope in the heart of mom-ness — the hope that…
A. You’ve done your best
B. Now it up to them, but
C. The world is cruel so
D. Please, God, protect them!
Jesus is facing the hard reality that all parents sometime face — that our ability to protect our children is limited, and a time will come when they will be on their own.
But in this moment, Jesus does not despair.
Instead he speaks, with the imagination of his heart, praying to that love that will always be there, even when he is not.
Prayer connects us — moms and dads who live only for a short while — with a love that lasts forever.
The Imagination of the Heart
The man who put the old phone booth in his garden is a man named Itaru Sasaki.
He put the phone in his garden in 2010 after the death of his cousin. He wanted to continue to communicate to his dead cousin but he found that his
“…thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line,”
The phone booth was Sasaki’s answer to the problem. THis way, he said, his thoughts could be “carried on the wind.”
The imagination of his heart created this new thing — and it would have stopped there, a very personal, intimate gesture…
But then, on March 11th, 2011 the town of Otsuchi, where Mr. Sasaki lived, was hit by a tsunami that, in a matter of a few minutes, flattened half of the town, claiming the lives of 10% of its population — over 12 hundred people.
Soon the word got out.
In the years since the tragedy, thousands and thousands of people have come to use the phone to speak to their lost loved ones.
The telephone of the wind.
Like Jesus, it is connected.
Not to a telephone wire
Or a cellular tower,
But something far greater — something eternal
The imagination of the heart.