Friday, May 13, 2016

A Mother to Me (Exodus 2:1-10; Romans 16:13-16) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

A 15-year-old boy arrived home from school and found his mother in bed: “Hi Mom, boy am I hungry, what's for dinner, hey, what are you doing in bed, are you sick or something?"  "Well,” his mother replied weakly, "I'm not feeling too well, so I thought I'd lie down a minute.”  “Sorry to hear it mom, but don't worry about dinner, I'm pretty strong, so I can carry you down to the kitchen.”

Today our nation sets aside a day to honor mothers, single or married, grandmothers and great grandmothers, step mothers, foster mothers and adoptive mothers.  Today we pause to remember our mothers whether they are living 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, for women who longed to become mothers but it wasn't to be and for mothers who are estranged from their children.

Today we show mothers that they are special, that we appreciate them.  Some families will take their moms out to a restaurant. Other families will visit their mothers in a nursing home or a retirement home, and still others will go to cemeteries and lay a bouquet of flowers at the gravesite, as a way of honoring their mothers.

The Bible looks at motherhood realistically.  It honors mothers, as we read in the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” but it doesn’t idealize motherhood. It acknowledges the joys and sorrows, the challenges and rewards, the pressure and peace of being a mother.   The Bible tells many moving stories about mothers.

Like the story of the courageous and wise Jochebed, the mother of Moses.   Because the Hebrew's  population in Egypt had greatly increased, the Pharaoh felt threatened and forced the Hebrew people into slavery.   Pharaoh put forth this order: “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.” It was during this reign of terror that Jochebed became pregnant with her third child, Moses.

After Moses was born she hid him for three months.  And when she could hide him no longer, and an idea occurred to her.  She made a papyrus basket, set him in it, and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.  Jochebed made sure that her oldest daughter watched Moses from the shore.  When Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe, she saw the basket floating in the reeds, found the baby Moses, and took pity on him.   When Jochebed's daughter saw this happen, she went to speak to Pharaoh's daughter and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the child.  That woman was Jochebed.

We honor Jochebed and all mothers for their ingenuity, courage and commitment to protect their children.  Mothers must be creative and resourceful when raising children.  God rewarded her faith and courage.  Jochebed raised Moses in Pharaoh’s court and Moses grew to become one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Jews.

In the letter of Romans, the apostle Paul sends special greetings to persons whose loyalty, faith, and friendship had made a tremendous 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.”   Rufus' mother and Paul shared a close relationship; he cherished and respected her.

I also remember a woman who 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 I got a part-time job as a dish washer in a pancake house while I was attending City College.  I worked three nights a week washing dishes, cleaning floors, vacuuming, and cleaning out the drains.  What a job.  After getting off work at night, I would go over to my friend's home.  She would set out the ice cream.  Doris, her son John and I would engage in fascinating conversations.  She was smart, kind, encouraging, generous and a good listener.

I suspect you too can think of someone, who in addition to your own mother, acted like a mother to you.  Who comes to mind when you think of someone who took time for you, encouraged you, accepted and understood you?  Yes, God uses both our biological mother’s and women who act like mothers for His purpose in our lives.

Conversely, some of you here this morning have been like a mother to another child, to a neighbor child, a friend of your children, or you've been a mentor to a student at school.  You have been like a mother to a niece or nephew or grandchild.  Women can always be like a mother to a child, like Rufus’ mother was to Paul.  God brings such opportunities into our lives. Anthropologist 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, be a Christian witness to your children, let them see and hear your faith.  Let them see that you love God and trust in God.  Let them see how the church is significant in your life.  Pray and read the Bible with them.  Worship as a family.    Bring neighborhood children to church or to youth activities.    Teach them about sharing, respect, forgiveness, kindness.  These biblical values are not inborn, they need to be taught.  Be a Christ-like example to children that they might catch the faith and Christ's love from you.

Second, see your child as God’s child.   Children are gifts from God, they are on loan temporarily for you to protect, nurture, cherish, teach, love and provide for.  Don’t compare them with other children.  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 and temperaments.   See the potential in them and spend valuable time cultivating that potential.  Keep expectations high, but also realistic.

Third, bringing discipline.  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.  It is a way of bringing structure, boundaries, and accountability into a child's upbringing.  In my humble opinion, always trying to be a friend rather than a parent is problematic. Children may grow up to be defiant and angry because they grew up with too much freedom, to fast and too little structure.

Fourth, make motherhood a priority.  Spend precious time with your child.  There is no substitute for you, for your presence and influence, for your counsel, for your values and virtues, for your hugs and smile.  Only you can bring the gift of your personality and spirit, your guidance, faith and moral example, and your love and teaching.  You don't have to be perfect, just present.  Learn to forgive yourself.  God doesn’t expect perfection, God expects faithfulness.

Fifth, leading them to graduation or to launch time.  This is perhaps the most difficult and frightening aspect of parenting.  Allowing our children to experience more freedom to make decisions appropriate to their age.  Allowing them to fail and learn from their failures as well as their successes.  Allowing them to accept responsibility and the consequences of irresponsibility.  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 goal of parenting to launch our children the world as independent, productive, faith-filled, moral and responsible human beings?

Now after children leave home and become independent, our role as parents of course changes.  The hands-on manager must become the outside consultant.  Yet we obviously desire to maintain good relationships with our children.  Keep checking in, without checking up, learn to listen and not to lecture, give advice when asked for, and ask questions for the sake of praying, not prying.

I close with a story titled Rent A Mom.

"For $40 an hour, you can have your very own mother figure help you make a tough decision, provide emotional support when you're going through a break up or when you get sick, or make you a homemade pumpkin pie when you're spending the holidays alone. No judgment included.

Nina Keneally, 63, of Brooklyn, is the mother for hire. She came up with the idea for the service when she realized she was dishing out free advice to youngsters in her yoga class. "I've noticed that a lot of young people in the neighborhood wanted to talk to me about what was going on in their lives," Keneally said.

As a mother of two adults, and one who is familiar with the New York City area, she says she can help Millennials, those born in the 80's and 90's, navigate the harsh waters of life as a young person in the big city.   As she puts it on her website, you can “call her when you need a mom, just not your mom."

Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and to his mother, who was a mother also to me.”  Amen!

No comments:

Post a Comment