Here’s my wife’s sermon-notes for Mothers’ Day.
WHY GOD MADE MOTHERS
MOTHERS DAY IS NOT EVERYONE’S FAVOURITE DAY OF
– your mother may have passed away
– you may have bad memories of your mother
– the Bible records a few of those
– you may have longed to be a mother and were not able
– even worse your children may not contact you
– I still remember my mother with joy on MD
WHAT ARE OUR ROLES?
Are we born male and female or are we
conditioned into the roles society has for us?
EG boys and girls in playgroup.
Do women want to be like men?
I’m not saying women shouldn’t be in the workforce,
I’m saying let’s get our values sorted out.
Certainly the Bible recognises women in positions
of power – women who contributed to making the world a better
Miriam who led the people in praising
God after the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 15:21), Ruth who put
God first and became the ancestress of King David (Ruth 1:16;4:17),
Deborah, a judge in Israel (Judges 5), Hannah who ‘lent to the
Lord’ the child of her prayers (1Sam 1:28), Esther who took her
life in her hands to plead for her doomed people, the widow whose
obedience sustained the prophet Elijah (1Kings 17:9-16), a little
captive maid who told Naaman’s wife of the man of God who could
cure Naaman of his leprosy (2Kings 5:2-4), the woman who anointed
Jesus with the expensive ointment (Mk14:3), the poor widow’s gift
of two mites which won Jesus’ praise (Mk 12:43), Mary who gave
birth to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Luke 1:28), Martha
who served and Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42),
Mary Magdalene who brought spices to anoint Jesus, who first greeted
the risen Lord and who received the first commission -‘Go tell’
(Jn 20:17-18; Mk 16:9), Lydia one of the first converts in Macedonia
(Acts 16:14), Dorcas – full of good works (Acts 9:36), Phebe &
Priscilla – servants of the church (Ro 16:1-4), Lois and Eunice
who had sincere faith (2Tim 1:5), Persis ‘the beloved’ and Tryphena
and Tryphosa who laboured for the Lord (Romans 16:12).
So being a mother does not suggest lack of initiative
and ability. It does mean getting priorities straight. It doesn’t
mean freeing men from all responsibility with young children.
It means sharing responsibility but recognising gifts.
Emerson (the American essayist) said ‘People are
what their mothers make them’ and Abraham Lincoln said ‘All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother’. Most of the greats throughout history have had dedicated mothers and it is interesting to note that Nero’s mother was a murderess, and that the rather dissolute Lord Byron had a mother who was proud and violent. But let’s be quick to acknowledge that Christianity has lifted women to equality with men. In many parts of the world women are still considered almost a beast of burden. It was Jesus Christ who elevated womanhood, and it was Paul the apostle who said that in Christ there is ‘neither male and female’.
You may know of Lord Shaftesbury’s statement ‘Give
me a generation of Christian mothers, and I will undertake to
change the whole face of society in twelve months.’ It is true
to say that the influence of a mother in her home upon the lives
of her children cannot be measured. The mother-infant bond is
an intense relationship of unparalleled human affection. It is
the foundation of the child’s emotional and physical survival.
QUESTION: Can a man take on that role? Yes, I believe it is possible. Nothing is black and white.
HAVE THE FEMINISTS GONE TOO FAR?
In 1963 Betty Friedan wrote a book called ‘The Feminine
Mystique’ in which she claimed that women are trapped in an unwanted life of domesticity. Translated into English that means that most women don’t really want to be ‘stay at home mums’. Three years later the same woman founded The National Organisation For Women, a radical political organisation designed to promote the cause now known as feminism. Radical feminism sometimes assaults the self-esteem of women who make motherhood a priority. To them the work of child raising is better done in a day care setting, while women find their place in the world by competing with men for all that the world of business and commerce can offer. Most people in our community don’t want to be identified with the agenda of that radical movement, but the extremists have moved people in the middle toward the belief that it is not personally fulfilling just to stay at home and be a mother. The structure of our society is such that the woman who has worth and value is one who runs a business, serves in a political office or is the nightly T V newsreader. It’s not for me to say women shouldn’t do these things, but can’t we do something to let the mothers of the world know that preparing meals, running the kids to dental appointments and to basketball practice, and putting a bandaid in a child’s skinned knee are all valuable acts of service and even essential to the development of children.
Unfortunately if a ‘stay at home mum’ accompanies her husband to one of his work parties she is somehow made to feel her work lacks status when asked what she ‘does’. Not everyone is as bold as the university professor’s wife who replied to such a question from an academic: ‘I am socialising two homo sapiens in the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they may be instruments for the transformation of the social order in the teleologically prescribed utopia, inherent in the eschaton’. That usually ended any intimidation.
WHAT MODERN PSYCHOLOGISTS ARE SAYING
For awhile now psychologists have been saying that the bonding of baby with mother in the first few minutes of life are vital for the stability of any child and that that bonding through childhood has greater importance than the input the father has at that time. That is not to say his contribution is unimportant. But when the child reaches adolescence the mother’s role diminishes relatively and the father becomes vitally important. He helps to affirm his son in his manhood, in a type of informal initiation. The Jewish culture places importance on the Bar-mitzvar, and some cultures have much more horrific forms of initiation. But the father ‘s role with his daughter is also of greater importance as the adolescent girl develops. She desperately needs to hear from her father that she is attractive and capable. From the lips of some other male it is less believable.
LET’S LOOK AT JESUS’ FAMILY
One writer suggests that one of the great struggles of Jesus life grew out of the tension he felt between the love of his mother and the call to be about his Father’s business.
From the few glimpses we get of Mary in the Gospels, she bears all the marks of a loving and protective mother. After all she had gone through quite a bit to bring that life into the world.
Considering the shame and the misunderstanding, considering the
circumstances of his conception, she would have been anxious to
spare him any scandal. Her feelings of protectiveness were very evident in the mixup there at the temple in Jerusalem, and what
we see coming out is in the classic tradition of a mother’s supportive, protective and enveloping love.
Over against this, however, is the pull of what Jesus spoke of as ‘His Father’s business’. This influence tended to call Jesus beyond the boundaries of his mothers little world of safety and into larger areas of concern. His curiosity about the temple and and the traditions of his people represent a sort of pulling away from his mother and a reaching out to bigger things.
And of course this was only the beginning of what proved to be
some rather frightening things for his mother. On several occasions Mary attempted to intervene and to save Jesus from all this danger, but with no effect and finally her worst fears came true as she saw him executed as a common criminal. A cross was where all this talk about ‘his Father’s business’ had gotten him, and Mary’s heart ended up as the angel had predicted, pierced through by the sword of suffering.
These two forces, his mother’s protection and the need to be about his Father’s business, were very evident as Jesus’ life unfolded and it seems to me that this is the case not just for him but for all of us. A mother’s love stands for that part of us which is concerned about safety and security. I myself have constantly pontificated that no one of my offspring is to hang glide or jump from a plane. My husband has in fact been the one who has been tempted to disobey. After all this is a dangerous world to live in and no matter how old we are the protective impulses our mothers had for us and instilled in us are with us forever.
And what Jesus called the demands of his Father’s business are also a reality in each of us. These are the creative impulses, the pull of curiosity and adventure and growth that beckon us to move out and take risks. The classic roles as the psychologists define them fit with Jesus’ experience. If the mother gives life and sustains it, the father calls forth the potential that is there. These two forces that had so much to do with shaping Jesus’ personality, are forces that interact on all of us. As I think about each of these forces I am overwhelmed by the importance of each. Certainly there is the grey between and there is overlap in some cases. But surely our greatest mistake today is in giving greater value to that creative impulse which belongs to the father.
We women should not seek that role but recognise that ours of
protective nurturer is foundational to our children’s well being.
So you are thinking if you are a single parent that your kids don’t have a chance. Sure it’s God ideal for a child to have the security of both parents. But single parents cope best if their children still have contact with and a loving relationship with the other parent. Mothers can offer their child the security they need if they too have a secure and loving relationship with their husbands. But mothers can make it alone but only I believe with the help of God. Billy Graham tells the story of a widow who recognised some special abilities in her son and did everything in her power to give him the best education possible.
She grew vegetables, kept chickens, took in washing etc and sent
her son to university. With graduation day pending the son gave
his mother the invitation to attend. The mother’s response was
typical but true: ‘I cannot go, I have nothing to wear’. But the son insisted and finally took her to the ceremony in her plain cotton dress. The son tried to take her to sit with with his classmates’
wealthy parents but on this point she won and sat on the far left
where she could still get a view. The son delivered his message
and was handed his piece of paper and his medal, and with the
sound of the exploding applause he went straight over to his mother and pinned the medal on her, saying ‘Mother this belongs to you. You earned it’.
This mother had not achieved all that alone. Her faith in Jesus Christ and the values He taught her were her daily strength.
THE FAMILY OF GOD
There is a popular song at the moment whose words are something like: ‘Tell me your thoughts on God, ’cause I’d really like to see her and ask her what or who we are. Tell me your thoughts on God, ’cause I’m on my way to meet her, and I’m wondering if I’m very far’. If our popular songs do reflect society’s cries, this is good news for what we are doing as a church this year in attempting to make Christ known through friendship. There is possibly a greater openness to God now than in recent decades and the challenge is to tell our thoughts on God. But the other interesting word is the gender used for God. Now don’t get worried, we are not going to start praying to mother God here as far as I know anyway. But what is true is that God loves with the love of a Father and a mother. Sure God wants to draw from us that great potential that lies latent within. But God also has those feminine qualities of giving security and love and protection and nurture and we all so desperately need. Jesus showed those qualities when he cried over Jerusalem: ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem …How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing! See your house is left to you, desolate.’ The first sentence shows that side of Jesus’ nature which seems to have very feminine quality, a sort of mothering, and I believe that as we all have a little of the opposite gender in us, God has totally both and is therefore able to perfectly nurture and protect us perfectly and lead us on into the creatively adventurous side of our adult personalities.
We must give God permission to do this for us and it starts as we are born into his Kingdom, yielding ourselves to him in recognition that it is he alone who can perfectly parent us through all the
turmoil of life’s hassles.
But please look with me at the second part of that sentence in Mt 23:38. See, your house is left to you desolate. We cannot do it alone and we were never meant to. We are designed to run with the power of the Holy Spirit within us. We were designed to have the security of the Father who is both mother and father and we were designed to be at peace with God which can only be through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us remember that there are no perfect mothers, no perfect fathers, no perfect children but with God at the helm of our lives we can rest serene in the security and the peace of knowing that we belong securely to the Father, who both mothers and fathers those of us who allow him to.
A MOTHERS’ DAY CREED
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living
God, who was born of the promise to a virgin named Mary.
I believe in the love Mary gave her Son, that caused
her to follow him in his ministry and stand by his cross as he
I believe in the love of all mothers, and its importance
in the lives of the children they bear.
It is stronger than steel, softer than down, and
more resilient than a green sapling on the hillside.
It closes wounds, melts disappointments, and enables
the weakest child to stand tall and straight in the fields of
I believe that this love, even at its best, is only
the shadow love of God, a dark reflection of all that we expect
of him in this life and the next.
And I believe that one of the most beautiful sights
in the world is a mother who lets this greater love flow through
her to her child, blessing the world with the tenderness of her
touch and the tears of her joy.
Thank God for mothers, and thank mothers for helping
us understand God!
(Rev. Jan Croucher. Preached at Heathmont Baptist
Church, Victoria, Australia, May 12 1996).
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