Mother's Day (A Sermon)

This is a "sermon" that I preached back in 2012 when I was still in full-time ministry. It was my attempt to move beyond the typical Mother's Day sermons that focus exclusively on those women who have had children and raised them well. I do not think that this is intentional in many churches, but for many women this is a day that is more painful than any other, and this is what I sought to mitigate in the small way that I could. I read this sermon verbatim as it is written here...

Saint Augustine and his mother Saint Monica.

Saint Augustine and his mother Saint Monica.

Monica, mother of Augustine, prayed for years that her brilliant but undisciplined son would be saved. When she sought the counsel of her priest, he listened as she poured out her heart of love and her intercession for this prodigal. At the conclusion, the priest said, “Go on! Leave me alone. Live as you are living. It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost.” (I think when a mother’s prayers arrive in Heaven, they go to the head of the line. When Hannah gave birth to her baby, she was so thrilled that God had heard her prayers, she named the child Samuel—literally, in the Hebrew, it means: “Heard of God.” His very name proclaimed that God had heard his mother’s prayers!)

Some of you know the Augustine story. Monica prayed that he would not go to Rome, which was then such a wicked place. But he slipped away and went anyway…and came to Christ there.

Monica is quoted as saying the following in Augustine' s Confessions:

Such things was I speaking, and even if not in this very manner, and these same words, yet, Lord, Thou knowest that in that day when we were speaking of these things, and this world with all its delights became, as we spake, contemptible to us, my mother said, “Son, for mine own part I have no further delight in any thing in this life. What I do here any longer, and to what I am here, I know not, now that my hopes in this world are accomplished. One thing there was for which I desired to linger for a while in this life, that I might see thee a Catholic Christian before I died. My God hath done this for me more abundantly, that I should now see thee withal, despising earthly happiness, become His servant: what do I here?”

In many ways I feel totally unable to speak about the special role that we honor today, Mothers. 

This is in part because I know that being a mother is more complex, more complicated, and more difficult than most of the sermons I ever heard about this day growing up. 

So what I want to do briefly is look at a couple of ways that motherhood is spoken of in Scripture and then take up the ancient practice of Christian preaching which is offering a blessing on a special occasion. 

Paul writes to Timothy of the influence of his mother and grandmother in the formation of his faith…

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. (2 Timothy 1:3-5)

Jesus speaks about those who lose family to follow Jesus and participate in the Kingdom of God…

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

Paul describes what has been true for many people down through time…

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. (Romans 16:13)

I do not wish to pretend that motherhood is easy, or painless, or simple and straightforward. I do not want to pretend that everyone in the room has had great experiences with their own mother's or that there aren't regrets and hurts from being a mother as well. Life is more complicated than that, the world is more broken than that, and the church needs to be more honest than that. 

But what I do wish to say is that the God of the Universe is a good God, that he is love and mercy and redemption and grace and power and wisdom and compassionate. 

That no matter your experiences, no matter your choices, no matter your shortcomings, regrets, failures, or victories… God loves you and we thank God for you. 

Down throughout church history it has been customary to offer blessings on special days. These blessings typically hold three things in common.

(1) They are specific to the occasion that they address.
(2) They seek to acknowledge the complexity and realities of life in relation to God.
(3) They seek to point us back to the one who makes all things possible, Jesus Christ. 

I have spent some time looking at various blessings written down through the centuries and this is the blessing that I have composed for this special occasion… Mother's Day:

A BLESSING ON MOTHER'S DAY

To mothers, both biological and adopted, connected by blood and by experience, torn apart by circumstance and sometimes by choices…

To those who have given life both in birth and in formation, to those who have lost life before birth and before old age…

To those who have done what only mother's can do, 

To those who have been "the perfect mother" and to those who live with regrets, 

To those who are close to their children, and to those who feel like they are a million miles away, 

We bless you today, on this day, Mother's Day. 

To those women who have given birth to a child this year, 
     We celebrate with you the gift that God has given. 

To those who feel the pain of children long desired but never received, 
     We grieve with you the too often secret pain you have borne.

To those who have experienced miscarriage, failed adoptions, and kids who have run away, 
     We mourn your loss and ask for your forgiveness when we have been silent or even worse, indifferent.

To those who have longed for children, but for whatever reason have been unable to have them, 
     We love you and we are sorry for the times that we have failed to be sensitive in our words and actions. 

To those who have been "mother's" to others who are not their children, 
     We need more people like you both in the church, and in the broken world in which we live.

To those who have close and meaningful relationships with their children, 
     We celebrate this day with you and thank God for his grace.

To those who have complicated, painful, or non-existent relationships with their children, 
     We sorrow with you and thank God for his grace, while we pray for redemption and reconciliation.

To those who have close relationships with their own mother, 
     We thank God for that intimacy. 

To those who have suffered at the hands of their mother, 
     We acknowledge you and love you as our own. 

To those who lost their mothers whether recently or so many years ago, 
     We mourn with you today.

To those who have experienced weddings, graduations, and the general experiences of growing into adults, 
     We are proud of you for coming through them with grace.

To those who have gone through school tests, medical tests, emotional tests, and tests of patience with your children, 
     We are encouraged by your patience, your faith, and we stand with you as these will continue to arise. 

To those who will have an emptier nest this year, 
     We both celebrate and cry with you. 

To those of you who long to be better mother's, 
     God's grace will provide and we will commit to you as well. 

To those who long to make things right with your children, 
     Remember that God's redemptive power can cross any boundary, any brokenness, any pain. 

To those who struggle with their children today, 
     Remember that even the young Jesus almost gave his mother a heart attack on more than one occasion.

To those who feel like all they do is struggle and experience stress and frustration, 
     Remember your investment is never in vain, and that God uses your faithfulness to change the world.

To those who are bursting with pride today both with their mothers and their children, 
     We celebrate with you today.

For those of you who struggled to get out of bed this morning, who would rather be at home because of the pain of this day, 
     We love you and are encouraged by your faithfulness. 
     We pray that we may be more sensitive and more proactive in being a blessing to you and yours. 

To the men in the room, love your wife and love your mother's as Christ loved the church. 
     Give yourself not as "the husband" or as "the son" but more deeply than that as a servant of Jesus Christ. 
     Don't let today be the only day you do the dishes, help with the kids, or say kind things to grandma. 
     Recognize that your wife and mother and grandmother are made in the image of God, 
          They are precious to him, they are like his mother or grandmother or bride. Honor them as such.

To the women in the room, we thank you for who you are and what you mean to us as individuals and to this church. 
     We would not be who we are and where we are if it was not for you. 
          We haven't always done a good job of honoring you, thanking you, appreciating you. 
          We haven't always loved you as you have loved us. 
               For that we ask for your forgiveness and grace. 
     May we be people who honor and encourage and bless you from this day forward for whom God has made you, precious children of God. 

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."

And in the words of the Hebrew writer...

"Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20, 21, NIV)