Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mother's Day (Romans 16:13-16) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

A story is told of three sons who left home, went out on their own and prospered.   Growing up, they were always competing for their mother’s love and attention, and now as adults they met once again to talk about the gifts they were giving to their elderly mother on Mother’s Day.  The first said: "I built a big beautiful house for mother.  She will be the envy of all her friends" The second said: "I bought mother a new Mercedes and I included a chauffeur." The third said: "I've got you both beat. You know how Mom loves the Bible, but she can't see very well.  I sent her a special green parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took two monks in a monastery 12 years to teach him.  I had to pledge $100,000 to the monastery, but it was worth it.  Mom just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot will recite it."
The next day, their Mom sent out her letters of thanks.  She wrote to the first son: "Milton, the house you built is way too big and away from all my friends. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house." She wrote to the second son: "Marvin, I don’t go out anymore.  I stay home all the time, so I never use the Mercedes... and besides that chauffer is SO rude." She wrote to the third son: "Dearest Melvin, you are the thoughtful son, you know what your mother likes... The chicken was delicious."
Yes, it’s Mother’s Day.   Today our nation sets aside a day to honor mothers, single or married, grandmothers and great grandmothers, step mothers and foster mothers and adoptive mothers.  Today we pause to remember our mothers, whether we are adults or children, whether our mothers are alive or no longer with us.  We also acknowledge that today can be a difficult day for mothers who have experienced the death of a son or daughter or for women who longed to become mothers. 
On this day we show mothers in small or large ways, that they are special, that we love and appreciate them.  Some families will take their moms out for breakfast or lunch or dinner at a restaurant.  Some children will entertain their mothers in their homes.  Still other families will visit their mothers in a nursing home, and others will go to cemeteries and lay a bouquet of flowers at the gravesite, as a way of honoring and remembering their mothers.    
The Bible looks at motherhood realistically and honestly.  It honors mothers and motherhood, as we read in the 5th commandment, but it doesn’t idealize it.   It acknowledges the joys and sorrows, the challenges and rewards, of being a mother.   The Bible tells many moving stories about mothers.  Mothers like Naomi, the mother of two sons and mother-in-law of Ruth and Orpah, and Sara, the mother of Isaac, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and Mary the mother of Jesus.
The apostle Paul in the New Testament affirmed motherhood.   In the letter of Romans, Paul sends special greetings to persons whose loyalty, faith, friendship and love had made such an impact upon his life and ministry.  We read his words: “Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and to his mother, who was a mother also to me.”   Paul obviously had a close relationship with her and deeply cherished and respected her. 
I think of my own mother and how loving, supportive and encouraging she was.  She was a dedicated Christian, active with my dad in our church.  She who worked full time as a school secretary, and made sure my brother and I were involved in the church.  I recall times of prayer with her and conversations about the meaning of certain stories in the Bible.  She was a Christian witness.
I also remember a woman who, like the apostle Paul was speaking about, was like a mother to me.  Her name was Doris.  She was a teacher at Hoover High School and the mother of a good friend of mine.  She was a devoted Christian and member of our church.    After I graduated from Hoover high school I got a job as a dish washer in a pancake house.  I worked Friday and Saturday nights.  It was so much fun.  After getting off work, I would go over to their home.  They would dish out my favorite ice cream.  We used to talk about all kinds of things.  Doris was interested in what I was doing.  She was kind and supportive and encouraging, a good listener and had a wonderful sense of humor.
I suspect you too can think of someone, who in addition to your own mother, acted like a mother to you, a woman who encouraged you and prayed for you and was influential in your life.  Who inspired you to persevere, who accepted and understood you, who believed in you and who helped you to believe in yourself?    Who comes to mind?  Yes, God uses both mother’s and women who act like mothers for His purpose in our lives.  
Some of you have been like a mother to a neighbor child, to a friend of your children, to a troubled kid on the block, to tutoring a student at school, to a niece or nephew or grandchild.   Indeed, you may never be a parent, but you can be a mother, like Rufus’ mother was to Paul.  God always gives us such opportunities.  Ashley Montague wisely observed:  The next best thing to being a mother is to behave like one.”
How does a mother live a life in faithfulness to God?  Consider carefully these biblical principles. 
First, let your children see and hear your faith, that you take your faith in God seriously and joyfully.  Let them see how Jesus Christ and the church are significant in your life.  Let them see you live out your faith in prayer, reading the scripture, in serving God, in worshipping as a family.  Get them involved in Sunday School and the youth group.  Give children spiritual instruction.  Teach your child to become a disciple of Jesus.  Let your children catch the faith from you and let them look to the lord for a peace and power greater than themselves. 
Second, see your child as God’s child.   Your children are gifts from God, on loan to you for a short while, to protect, cherish, teach, love and provide for.  Don’t compare them with other children.  That is a road that tends to lead either to pride or discouragement.   Love them as if they were God’s children, for indeed, they are.
Third, value the unique individuality of each child.  God has made our children one of a kind, with different gifts and talents and strengths and weaknesses.   See the potential in them that you can help cultivate. Always look for the potential.   Keep expectations high, but also realistic.   
Fourth, don’t be reluctant to discipline your child when it is called for.  Discipline is another form of loving your child. It is an expression of parental love.   It is a way of teaching your child moral values and good behavior and respect for authority.  Over the years I have seen parents try to be best friends with their children and refuse to discipline them.  They are afraid their children won’t like them or will be angry with them.  The problem is that children will sometimes grow up not respecting you because you never held them accountable. 
Fifth, make motherhood a priority.  Spend time, quality and quantity time with your child.  There is no substitute for you, for your presence and influence, for your counsel and actions, for your values and virtues, for your hugs and smile, for your love and compassion.  Only you can bring your unique personality, your attitude and spirit, your guidance and faith and moral example, and your love and teaching to your child.  Don’t strive to be a perfect mom, but be a present mom.  Don’t compare yourself with other moms.  For once again, that path can lead to either pride or discouragement.  Learn to forgive yourself.  God doesn’t expect perfection, God expects faithfulness.
Sixth, slowly let go and grant your child more freedom and independence.  This is one of the most difficult and frightening aspects of parenting.   Protecting yes, but not overly protecting.  Allow your child to experience the freedom to make decisions appropriate to their age.  Allow them to fail and learn from their failures as well as their successes.   Allow them to accept responsibility and the consequences of their words and actions.  We cannot always shield them from setbacks and disappointments, nor should we, because such times are an essential part of character development.  Isn’t the very goal of parenting to launch our children into the world as independent, productive, faith-filled, moral and responsible human beings?   
I close with a story about Becky O'Connell.  She has been given a unique title—"The Baby Whisperer."  This 65-year-old widow is a temporary foster care worker.  According to a 2013 article in the Chicago Tribune, "She keeps baby clothes arranged by size in the guest room. The hand-knit caps are stacked on a table near the door. And the white wicker bassinet is always within reach."
Becky O'Connell is prepared because at any moment of the day or night she could receive a call from a social worker who needs to place an infant in her care.  Some of the children have been abandoned. Other children have been abused. All of them are desperate for love, for touch, and for attention.  So far Ms. O'Connell has taken in 77 infants, or about seven babies per year that stay from one night to four months.
The road to this calling wasn't easy.  In 1999 her youngest son, Ian, was killed in a car accident. "For years and years after his death, I couldn't concentrate," she says. "I looked and acted like a normal person, but you don't feel like a normal person." A few years later, she read an ad from a local adoption agency. They needed someone to be a temporary foster parent for newborns. To O'Connell, who had always loved babies, it sounded like a dream job.  If she has a secret, she says, it is simply giving each child her undivided attention. “My job is to fall in love with these babies."
“Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and to his mother, who was a mother also to me.”     Amen!

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