Monday, May 13, 2013

Mothers Made in the Image of God

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is always a special day on which to preach.  I can look out and see the corsages. I also see all of those smiles on the faces of our mothers this morning.  Some of you may think those smiles have come from the presents they received this morning: special cards, breakfast in bed, "child art.”  But I have learned over the years the real source of those smiles.  Our mothers this morning know that when they leave here this afternoon, they are off duty!  Today, Sunday lunch is someone else’s job.  Today is a day of relaxation!  Mothers, if someone is not giving you the day off, go on strike today!

Yes, preaching on Mother’s Day is a special thing, because this is a special day for mothers and families But, it is also a difficult day for others.  Often in our zeal to celebrate our “cultural holy days,” we forget that those same days that bring happiness to some are sources of sadness for others. In this room this morning, sitting right next to the mother with the corsage is another woman--Who has recently lost a child, who has never been able to have children, or who was abused by her mother. Church, I ask you, how am I to preach to such a group about mothers this morning? The same words that lift up one group will cause heartache for another.

For these very reasons, I have often thought of ignoring Mothers Day or Fathers Day on my preaching calendar.  Is the Christian corporate worship service even the place to spend so much time speaking about mothers or fathers, anyway? The fact is our Christian culture has become enamored by nuclear families. Some outside these walls may be left with the impression that to be "Christian" means to be in a stable, loving two-parent home. To be a Christian means one is married. To be a Christian means one has God-loving children. To be a Christian means one drives a mini-van, lives in the suburbs, and allows James Dobson to be his or her guide to childrearing!

But if being Christian means all of those things what about the single Christians among us?  What about the apostle Paul?  What about Jesus Christ?  You know, Jesus wouldn’t fit very well in a church that spent so much time glorifying the nuclear family! So, how should I approach this morning?  What should I say to our mothers this morning?  What should I say to our single women this morning?
What should I say to Jill Killough?

Jill and her husband, James, don’t really fit the bill in many Christian congregations.  About a year ago, they were expecting the birth of their first child.  In those earliest days, they learned that their baby had a genetic defect.  He or she would probably only live a few hours after birth.  Immediately, that couple turned to a unique prenatal hospice program.  This Christian-based program was designed to help couples like them through such a crisis.  The people of that program stood by them the entire way--holding their hands, crying with them, praying with them.  Raquel Beucher was their personal nurse.  She stayed with the new parents even after Alaina was born. Raquel provided for them a special room to be with their new daughter.  She arranged for them to meet with the neonatologist.  She took care of all the details.  Peter Lund, the hospice chaplain, was also there.  He stayed with Jill and James throughout that day. He prayed with them.  He praised the beauty of their new child.  When the miracle occurred and Jill and James were able to take their daughter home, Peter regularly visited them at home.  He consistently urged Jill and James to think a great deal about God’s role in this process.  Today, Alaina is over 2 months old.  She will most likely not live to see Kindergarten.  Her parents will never see her graduate from school.  James will never walk his daughter down the aisle.  With this knowledge, James had this to say:

"I want to go through this with my eyes open. I want to feel every ounce of pain, of happiness, because if I avoid it now, it will come back to bite me. I want to experience grace. What does that mean, because it's such a vague term? I'm still trying to figure it out. I think I'll experience it when this event comes complete, when she passes."

 His wife, Jill, the mother, added:

"When we were expecting Alaina, people would say, 'You're in our prayers.' But people were praying…to make it all better for us." In those days, we quit praying 'Make it all better.' God doesn't come down and touch you to heal you. He sends people to be with you."

If Jill Killough was here this morning, what could I possibly say to her on Mother’s Day?  To be honest, I don’t think I’d have to say much.  Because I think she figured it out already.

The church is certainly an appropriate place to talk about family.  After all, God created families.  He created mothers and fathers to raise children.  He intended for those children to be reared under the tutelage of a strong, Godly marriage.  But, church, in our discussion of “family,” I think the church has forgotten about the most important family of a--the Family of God.  As James and Jill Killough have wrestled with their reality, the family of God has stepped into serve as spiritual fathers, spiritual siblings, and spiritual mothers.

So, on Mother’s Day I would like for us to remember the special role played by the spiritual mothers in this room--the married mothers, the single mothers, the young mothers, the older mothers.  Church, I want us to realize something this morning: every woman in this assembly is the mother of many.  Whether that woman has spent hours of her life in a hospital delivery room, or whether that woman has been blessed with an adopted child, or whether that woman has never once received the spiritual gift of changing a dirty diaper--they are still our spiritual mothers.

So, mothers, do you know what your role is in this family? Yes, I do understand the pandora’s box I just opened!  What images or issues come to your mind when you hear someone ask about a woman’s role in the church?  The fact is our generation has become fascinated and frustrated by that question.  My friend and former professor, Carroll Osburn of ACU, wrote two huge volumes on that subject.  When I was a minister at Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville, we spent an entire year studying that question.  Congregations have split in two over that question. The questions keep coming and coming. What is a woman allowed to do in the church?  Can she lead a song?  Can she lead a prayer?  Can she preach?  Can she serve as an elder? Don’t get me wrong. These are important questions.  The church needs to ask these questions.  I think those on all sides of these issues need to be in fervent prayer and discussion and study on these issues.  But, I will also say, in our fascination with these questions, some of us have lost sight of some of the more obvious roles women have played in the church for a very long time.

In the New Testament letter to Titus, we find a great deal about the spiritual family.  There is a discussion there about men and women. Listen to those words:

Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. (Titus 2:3-5)

Women are to be “models of goodness.”  What a fantastic description of spiritual mothers!  What does  this phrase mean?  The text tells us.  Mothers, one of your primary roles in the church is to teach younger women.  Teach young mothers how to raise their children.  Teach young wives how to love their husbands.  Teach younger women how to be pure and virtuous.  Teach younger women how to manage a household.

I think we could extend the description a bit. Mothers, teach younger women to love on our children in the nursery.  Mothers, teach younger women to teach the Bible!  Mothers, teach younger women to be committed to God’s church.  Mothers, model for us all “goodness.”

Glenwood is blessed with some tremendous spiritual mothers!  One of our mothers, Faye Huckabee, calls all of her children on their birthday! Another of our mothers, Dawn Dobbs, has been teaching the Bible to our children for over 25 years in Bible class.  Betty McKinney and Virginia Chambers recently held a series of dinners for some of our younger women—passing on the art of hosting people in your home!  Judy Thyssen drove to San Antonio this past week to be with Dana and Al Tantillo in the hospital!  Why?  Because she is a spiritual mother of this church.

I think we, as members of a large congregation, fall into a deceiving trap sometimes.  We get into the trap of thinking, “Someone else will do it.” After all, “That’s what we have paid ministers for, isn’t it?” Some say, "Our youth minister will teach my teenager the Bible. Our preacher will make sure that ministry is taken care of. Our spiritual formation minister will make sure all of the classes are covered."

Mothers, you have a vocation given to you by God: help nurture His church.  Teach us about goodness!  You may offer an unlimited number of gifts to this church, but I want you to know that this congregation is bankrupt without your contribution of "goodness" to this family.

So, what should I say to someone like Jill Killough on Mother’s Day?  This is not a hypothetical question.  Jill is in here this morning, and there are many others like her.  So, Jill, here is the message for you on Mother’s Day…  Thank you for being our spiritual mother.  Take pride in the fact that God has chosen you to help nurture His family at Glenwood.  And in the busyness of your life, please don’t forget to show us what the goodness of God looks like in our world today!

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