Lectionary Readings (December 9, 2012):
What is a Mother?
A Mother has so many things to do,
From washing, ironing, cleaning to tying a shoe.
She scrubs, she mends, she cooks and sews,
She bathes the children and washes their clothes.
When they forget to wash their faces clean,
And their clothes are the muddiest you’ve ever seen,
Who repairs the clothes and scrubs them like new?
Of course, that is what a Mother will do.
Who becomes the doctor or the nurse when they are ill,
Applying a bandage or giving them a pill?
Who becomes a teacher when a child has homework?
She must never her duty shirk.
Who becomes a detective to find a toy or a book?
For missing things she must look and look?
Who becomes a listener to every heartache,
To every accomplishment that a child makes?
Who scolds their children when they are naughty,
Or remind them of God when they are too haughty?
Who tends her family with love and patience, too?
Of course that is what a Mother will do.
The Hebrew word translated as “mother” in our Bibles was “AME” – which means “the bond of the family” or “the force that strengthens and holds things together”. Mum’s the glue that holds the family together – and when we recognize this, we can joyfully exclaim “Mothers are a special gift from God”.
George Washington is attributed as having said:
My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her
President Abraham Lincoln believed:
All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother. I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
I have been blessed with that Christian mother that has prayed for me – however many thousand miles away I may go or wherever I may be, I know that I am always in her thoughts and prayers.
Many of you will have heard the story of Tony Campolo’s wife, a brilliant woman: She has a PHD & is capable of pursuing a very profitable career. But she elected to stay home with her children when they were young. Her decision didn’t bother her at all except when other women would ask, “What do you do?” She would answer, “I’m a homemaker. I stay home & take care of my children & my husband.”
They would usually respond with “Oh” & then ignore her from then on. So Mrs. Campolo came up with this response when she was asked what she did: “I’m socializing two Homo-sapiens in Judeo-Christian values so they’ll appropriate the eschatological values of utopia. And what do you do?” They would often blurt out “I’m a doctor” or “I’m a lawyer” & then wander off with a dazed look in their eyes.
Our mothers – even long after we’ve grown up and moved out of home – they are still caring for us. So, when we read in Philippians:
It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way ….
We remember that mothers make sacrifices –over the years we have experienced the sacrifice that our mothers made and come to appreciate how Mother has stuck with us all the way – through our mistakes and our life lessons, through the ups and downs.
These verses from Philippians could have been written from a mother to a child or from a child back to their mother:
Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God! Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have kept on believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way …. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. ….
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. … You … use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. You live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
Notice first and foremost what is front and centre of this prayer: love.
Love should be the central focus of our relationships – with our mother, with our children, with our family, with others in the church, with strangers around us. As Christians, it should be ASSUMED that the one characteristic that we possess is this: LOVE.
I John 4: 8 says that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” and Jesus summed up the entire law and the prophets as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;” and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
In Galatians 5: 2, love is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit and it is such an important fruit, and so central to a Christian’s spiritual life that, in first Corinthians 2, he goes so far as to say that all other spiritual gifts are useless without it.
In his letter to the Colossians Paul says that love is the very thing that binds together all other Christian virtues, including but not limited to: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Paul begins his prayer with the love of the Philippian church. And he prays that this “love may abound…”, that it may overflow. Think of the recent rains in Panama, and imagine a small stream after those days of rain — the stream is completely flooding and spilling over its banks. Paul is praying that our love might overflow — not just once, but continually overflowing: more and more.
It’s easy to forget about the love that others have shown for us – we can so easily focus on the negative things about others (their neglect or their failures), but Mother’s day is a time when we remember the good things, and with this day we celebrate the faithfulness of our Mother’s love: Mothers who show their love and concern in phone calls and cards; perhaps even in reproof.
The verses in Philippians also remind us of how our mothers have never given up on us. I can just imagine my Mum saying over the phone or writing to me in a letter or email:
There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish…
God doesn’t start a project or change in our lives and then scrap it – while there may be many aspects of my character (impatience, irritation, passive-aggressive tendencies, etc.) that need shaping and I have a long way to go – God keeps on whittling away. And Mum keeps right on praying that the changes will be completed for my good.
Our mothers are joyful about our growth and maturity, because they trust in God to make people better. Mothers are constantly in prayer, and waiting for God to work… watching with joyful anticipation to see how every our changed attitude encourages others to want to be better. They believe… even when they aren’t seeing those immediate results.
Our mothers shape our faith in God and teach us to pray. I read about the case of the notorious sceptic, Robert Ingersoll. When he was in his heyday, two college students went to hear him lecture.
As they walked down the street after the lecture, one said to the other,
“Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn’t he?”
The other said,
“No, I don’t think he did. Ingersoll did not explain my mother’s life, and until he can explain my mother’s life I will stand by my mother’s God.”
Doctor Ursula Anderson puts forth the theory that mothers have a key role in the effort of taking the violence out of this world. Mothers have the delicate mission of shaping the child’s life in the first years: they are widely recognized as being the strongest single influence in a person’s life.
The following poem reminds us of the importance of how Mum’s life teaches her children:
THE ONE WHO FOLLOWS ME
A careful mother I ought to be,
A little one is following me.
I do not dare to go astray,
For fear she’ll go the self-same way.
I cannot once escape her eyes,
Whatever she sees me do, she tries.
Like me she says she’s going to be,
That little one who follows me.
She thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me she must not see,
That little one who follows me.
I must remember as I go
through summer’s sun and winter’s snow
I am building for the years to be
that little one who follows me.
I remember as a child trying to follow in Mum or Dad’s footsteps – because they were so much bigger and taller, their legs were longer – you might have to hop between each step to be able to step in the next footprint. But for some reason, as a child, we are driven to try to follow in those footsteps – we want to be like them.
Our mothers pray for us, like Paul did for his young church in Philippians:
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. … You … use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. You live a … circumspect and exemplary (life), a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
As we grow and mature into adults, the prayers offered by our mother for us change – that we will become the adults who shape the next generation, that offer that safe haven for others.
I want to finish this morning with:
Her love is like an island
In life’s ocean, vast and wide
A peaceful, quiet shelter
From the wind, the rain, the tide.
‘Tis bound on the north by Hope,
By Patience on the West,
By tender Counsel on the South
And on the East by Rest.
Above it like a beacon light
Shine Faith, and Truth, and Prayer;
And thro’ the changing scenes of life
I find a haven there.
– Author Unknown