Mother's Day, 5/11/03, E4B
other's Day has taken on a different meaning for me this year as I wear the white flower for the first time. This has been near my heart this week as I have recalled the experiences of a lifetime and have reached a higher plane in my grief, which has become more of a celebration as I remember mother and the parsonages in which I was reared. Of course, Memories of Dad were also in those recollections. I have relived the good times and the bad, but with a new understanding and maturity. God has helped me this week in prayer and study, but in ordinary events too.
I attended the funeral of a preacher friend's beloved aunt this week at our neighbor church, Mount Zion Second Baptist on Boulevard. She had been a second mother in his "coming up years." After the service I asked the Pastor, The Rev. Henry Wise Jones, if he remembered making a statement that had touched my heart. Haven't we all heard words through a person, poet or musician, which were God's message for you? Here it is: "There is something about a mother that cannot be replaced; except by the Lord Himself."
Isn't that exactly what the Lord has done for those of us who have lost our mothers?
C. S. Lewis lost his mother to cancer when he was nine years old. He grieved for twenty three years; until after his conversion to Christ, when he realized that throughout his difficulties he had carried with him a strange sense of "Surprising Joy," which he first felt at his mother's grave. As an adult believer he understood that the Joy had been the Spirit working to bring him to conversion. Some years later he was "Surprised by Joy" again when he fell in love, at nearly sixty, and married a woman named Joy.
I think it was appropriate for us to open our Mother's Day worship, again this year, by inserting the word "Mothers" in the hymn, "Faith of our Fathers." The hymn was originally not about our Fathers or Mothers anyway, but about the great faith of our forefathers who made it possible for us to freely practice our Christian religion. By singing, "Faith of Our Mothers" we might be reminded of the fact that we each have had many parent substitutes in our lives who have helped shaped us into the persons that we are: Grandparents, uncles and aunts, older siblings, cousins, pastors, teachers, coaches scout leaders, neighbors, family friends and the list goes on and on in our minds.
Our Gospel text for this fourth Sunday of Easter records Jesus saying, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11, NRSV) Is it too much of a stretch for us to substitute the word, "Mother, for shepherd? Indeed, most of us were fortunate to have had parents, and parent substitutes, who saw their participation in our rearing, as a reflection of Christ in our lives. G. K. Chesterton called the family, "The ultimate human institution, the cell and central unit of almost all societies." It is in the family that parents and children learn to get along.
If you are fortunate enough to have your mother, you have come today to honor her. Or, some have come in memory of the person that was your model of Christ.
Our annual American observance of Mother's Day is often criticizes as being overly emotional and too sad. Others say that is just a trick by the greeting card companies to sell more gifts and cards. If that is true, I suppose the same could be said about Valentine's Day, and wedding anniversaries and maybe even Christmas. However, for most believers today is a truly wonderful day to show a token of our love and veneration for our mothers. After all, not everyone has a Valentine, but we all have a Mother. We can't do too much to express our love, gratitude and respect.
Further, don't most of us have many mothers in our lives? Many of the ladies in this church have become like mothers to me. You have stood by me through the difficult times and have celebrated with me in our joys. Sometimes it has been a pat on the back, a note in the mail, a phone call or a word in the hall. One of the joys of pastoral ministry is that one gets a lot of mothering. It has been helpful. Even the times when I have needed a "straight talk" have been appreciated, mostly. Sometimes a "mother substitute" can get our attention more effectively than and man to man conversation. Men sometimes resent lectures from other men, but expect it from their mother.
I still have my Aunt Frances as a mother substitute. She lives about half way home from my church office, so I often drop by to talk. I run a lot of things by her and she usually shares her opinions. It may be that in my careful wording of experiences to her I am receiving some deeper clarity than even in the responses that she makes. Our talks, take on an element of prayer. Most of us are usually very careful when we tell God our problems, and it is sometimes in the careful wording that The Good Shepherd leads us to find our pasture.
As you have already been thinking, the best way that we can pay back younger persons who cross our lives is to become a worthy example of Christ, The Good Shepherd. It is a great honor to find ourselves as a mentor. We realize that we need to rise to a higher dignity and live a more honorable life worthy to be followed, since someone is striving to become like us. Yet, it is a daunting responsibility to become a mentor. However, God's empowering grace will help us become more than we thought we could be. God can help us measure up to the task.
And the Spirit of God will enable mothers to rise to the difficult role that they are called upon to fulfill in our homes. New mothers especially can feel terribly frightened by the seemingly impossible task that they have set before them. The truth is that none of us could even begin to fulfill our parenting roles without God as our helper. With him all things are possible!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor