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The Thin Pink Line

5/9/04

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You've heard of The Thin Blue line: the policemen who stand between civilized society and criminals. It's thin because there are not as many cops as criminals and because there is much working against policemen in our day. I want to speak to you of another line today. The Thin Pink Line. The line of mothers that stands between a family having a home and just having a place to stay when they're not at work or school.

This Pink Line is thin in our day. Women need to be encouraged to take their place in the line, to remain on the line, and not to believe they've wasted their effort or their lives on that Thin Pink Line.

It takes great sacrifice for a woman to take a place on this Line. The General Prayer of the Church had a petition for "all who are in...anguish of labor." It wasn't until the 20th century that the majority of women lived past their childbearing years. Having children is painful, risky business. It takes a toll on a woman's body that men just can't imagine. I believe if men had to experience that much pain and change to their bodies to have children, there would be far fewer children born.

There are plenty of physical discouragements to deter a woman from wanting to be on the Thin Pink Line of motherhood, but there are probably more emotional discouragements. Novelist Thomas Hardy has a mother say after her son leaves to marry a hussy, "And this is maternity - to give one's best years and best love to ensure the fate of being despised." It does happen that some mothers who've given their lives to maintain the Thin Pink Line end up despised by the very children they did it for. That has been happening since Cain and Able, but what is new is that society in general demeans motherhood.

The first people to speak up in defense of motherhood were the feminists. Margaret Fuller in 1820 said, "Earth knows no fairer, holier relation, than that of a mother." Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in that same era, "Motherhood is the most important of all the professions - requiring more knowledge than any other department in human affairs." Of course, the tide in the 60's changed and feminist began leading the charge against the Thin Pink Line. Now, motherhood is portrayed as an "also." You can "also" be a mother but that is not where the focus of your mind or body is suppose to me.

Outside the home, outside the family is where the worthwhile things are. Flying a Cobra gun ship in Iraq is something, but driving the kids to school can only be an "also." It is a large career to teach other people's children about English or math, but it's only a small thing to tell your own children about everything. It's considered big and important to be the same thing to many people, but small and unimportant to be everything to one person. The world says being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you're not caring for your own home; treating a man with attentive devotion is not demeaning as long as it's a boss in the office. And caring for children can even be deemed heroic service as long as they are someone else's.

How can women be encouraged to take a place in the Thin Pink Line and be assured that they aren't fools for having served there? Not by pointing them to what they must do or how they must serve, but by pointing them to what Christ did. In Christ, everything gets set on it's head. Did you hear that in our text?

To Christ, being betrayed by Judas was glorious. Once Judas had gone out to betray Him, Jesus says, "Now is the Son of Man glorified." If a person betrays my trust, confidence, or friendship, I feel anything but glorified. Betrayal was glorious to Jesus because He knew His Father wanted Him to go to the cross. He knew that the path of betrayal, suffering and death was the path His Father wanted Him on. So it was glorious to be on that path.

Understand this: Jesus being on this path, standing on the line of redemption, meant suffering helplessly on the cross and being held guilty though innocent. Surely mothers can relate to this. Rather than walk away from children or husbands who don't appreciate them or seem to care, they suffer helplessly. And how many times is a mother held to be wrong when it's really her children or husband? Nothing in all of the world can encourage a woman to stay on that sort of line. It is demeaning; it is unfair; it is just plain wrong. Yet such suffering in Jesus' name glorifies Him even as His suffering glorified the Father.

How on earth can this be? It can only be if things are not at all what they seem. Christ being betrayed and suffering helplessly for sins He did not commit did not happen because Christ deserved it, or couldn't do anything about it. It happened because of love. God so loved sinners that He gladly gave up His only Son in their place to redeem them. Christ so loved saving sinners for eternity that He gave up everything in time to do that. It's not foolish, weak, or pointless to give up things in time for the sake of eternal things. This is the perspective that modern feminism lacks. It puts before women a religious question: "Is this all there is," and gives a merely secular answer. There is more to life than children, husband, homes and housework. Feminism says the "more" is career, success, and worldly praise. Christ says the "more" is eternity.

Only eternal motives can encourage women to stand on the Thin Pink Line and assure women that they have not been fools, dupes, or weaklings for doing it. What kept Christ on the Thin Red Line of redemption? A view toward eternity and an eternal love. Moms, and families, too know that motherhood is about love, but Moms don't start with your love for your family and certainly not with their love for you. Start with God's love for you which is eternally yours in Christ.

God loved you so much that He sent His only beloved Son to bear your sins. The Father loved you so much that He gave up His only beloved Son rather than you. The Son loved you so much that He would rather suffer for your sins than have you suffer. Mothers need to hear this in all it's power and fullness because nothing decimates that Thin Pink Line like guilt. A guilty conscience doesn't think anything it does is of any value. A guilty conscience lets others determine what's important. A guilty conscience abandons the Thin Pink Line because someone else can do it better than I. Now hear this mothers and mothers to be: Christ redeemed you precisely from what you believe you can't be; He's forgiven precisely those sins you think He didn't. Moms if you've ever had a child wallowing in guilt over something you had forgiven and forgotten, then you know how completely and dearly Jesus wants you to live in His forgiving love.

Motherhood, standing on that Thin Pink Line is about love, God's love for you in Christ. Moms know about the love between a mother and child. Notice in our text, right before Jesus is going to be betrayed by Judas, abandoned by the rest of His disciples, and denied by Peter, Jesus calls them, "My children." This Greek word for children only occurs here in the Gospels. It's a term of endearment. Jesus claims them as His dear children even though they will act like enemies.

Mothers, live from the fact that you're kids of Christ. Just as you protect your kids, Christ protects you. Just as even your kid's sins don't cut the bond between you and them, so your sins don't cut Christ's bond with you. He knows how weak you are. He knows, just as He did in the upper room, that you will fall sometimes, even turn tail and run from the Thin Pink Line. But don't think He'll shoot you as a deserter. No, just as He still carried to the cross the sins of the disciples who had deserted, denied, and betrayed Him, so Jesus bears your sins even when they're unbearable to you. Psalm 27 tells us that though our own mother and father might cast us off, the Lord will always take us up. Isaiah 49 tells us that a woman can forget her nursing child and have no compassion on her son, but God will never forget us. Mothers know the deep love they have for their kids; Scripture compels them to regard God's love in Christ for them as far deeper than that.

The more you dwell on Christ's powerful, complete love for you, the more love will well up in you. The kind of love that Christ points us to is not the love of affection or feeling. It is the love of intellect and purpose. Affection is called forth by something in the object we love. Love of intellect and purpose it not called forth by what we are loving. There is nothing in us that caused Christ to love us. No, it was a free act of God's grace in eternity. It was not based on our goodness, our loveableness, or our potential to change. This love was found eternally in God's heart and expressed in time in Christ. Such love found glory in suffering for us, glory in redeeming us, glory in forgiving us and glory in calling us sinners, "children."

Mothers and mothers to be, there's never going to be any earthly glory on the Thin Pink Line. There will never be any medals for bravery, for service, for sacrifice for those on that line. And there will be causalities, loneliness, sadness, fear. What can keep a woman on this line is God's love for them in Christ. Such eternal love calls you to look beyond the here and now, beyond the casualties, beyond the loneliness, beyond the sadness, beyond the fears to the God who is as pleased as can be with your ordinary, everyday, service, sacrifice and suffering on the Thin Pink Line. One day after the crosses, after the graves, in the eternal Easter of a new day you will know just how significant your being on this line has been. For now, you'll just have to take Christ's word for it even as the disciples in the upper room had to take His word that His suffering was glorious. Easter proved Jesus right; eternity will prove Him and mothers on the Thin Pink Line right too. Amen.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas

Easter V (5-9-04, Mother's Day); John 13:31-35