Friday, May 9, 2014

The Greatest Gift a Mother Can GIVE

Maybe some of the mothers in this room have received a letter like this one…
Dear Mom,
Our Scoutmaster told us to write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and were worried. We are OK. Only one of our tents and two sleeping bags got washed away. Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up the mountain looking for Chad when it happened. 
Oh yes, please call Chad's mother and tell her he is OK. He can't write because of the cast. I got to ride in one of the search and rescue jeeps. It was neat. We never would have found him in the park if it wasn't for the lightning. 
Scoutmaster Walt got mad at Chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Chad said he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn't hear him.
Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas will blow up?  The wet wood didn't burn, but one of the tents did, also some of our clothes. John is going to look weird until his hair grows back.
We will be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster Walt gets the car fixed. The wreck wasn't his fault. The brakes worked OK when we left. It gets pretty hot with 10 people in a car. He let us take turns riding in the trailer until the highway patrolman stopped and talked to us. Scoutmaster Walt is a neat guy. Don't worry; he is a good driver. In fact, he is teaching Terry how to drive on the mountain roads where there isn't any traffic. All we ever see up here is logging trucks. 
Guess what? Today, Wade and I threw up, but Scoutmaster Walt said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken. He said they got sick that way with the food they ate in prison. I'm so glad he got out and became our Scoutmaster. I have to go now. We are going to town to mail our letters and buy bullets. Don't worry about anything. We are fine. 
Love, Gordy
PS: How long has it been since I had a tetanus shot?
Today, mothers are being honored around the world and hopefully they will not receive a letter like this one. Instead, they are opening good gifts from their children. But let me remind you why we give gifts on Mother’s Day. We give gifts today to honor those who have given so many gifts before. So, this morning, mothers, we thank you. We collectively thank you for the gifts you've given us.

But I do have a question for you, mothers. We honor you for the gifts you've given us. So, I ask you this morning, mothers, what gifts are you giving your children?

There was a mother who lived long ago, a mother who gave her son a very special gift. Hannah had been married to a man named Elkanah for some time. They loved each other deeply, but like so many other couples from the Old Testament, there was a problem. Hannah was barren. Though she prayed and prayed and prayed, she could not have children. Not only did she have to deal with her barrenness, she also had to listen to Peninnah. You see, in those days, polygamy was quite common. Elkanah had two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had numerous sons and daughters. Hannah, as I have said, was barren. Peninnah was jealous of Hannah’s relationship with their husband, so she would constantly remind Hannah of her inability to have children. We don't know exactly how she did this, maybe she daily paraded her many children before Hannah. Maybe she pulled on her religious conviction saying her lack of children surely indicated God’s displeasure with her. Whatever the case, the taunting brought Hannah to tears and curbed her appetite on a daily basis. This went on for years until one night when Hannah found herself completely at the mercy of God in the religious sanctuary in Shiloh. The people had gathered there for the religious festival. While everyone else was celebrating the harvest, Hannah found herself unable to move from the sanctuary. There she was, pleading with God for a child, beside herself in agony and frustration. That night, she made a vow to God…
If you give me a child, I'll give him back to you…
God, if you give me this gift, I'll give you a gift in return. A short time later, Hannah became pregnant. She gave birth to a son, Samuel. And once God had given her this beautiful gift, she remembered her vow.
The man Elkanah and all his household went up to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and to pay his vow.  But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear in the presence of the LORD, and remain there forever; I will offer him as a nazirite for all time.” Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him; only—may the LORD establish his word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him. When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine. She brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh; and the child was young.  Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed; and the LORD has granted me the petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he is given to the LORD.” She left him there for the LORD. — I Samuel 1:21-28 (NRSV)
Did you hear what Hannah said to God…
I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now, I give him to the Lord. For his whole life, he will be given over to the Lord.
I suggest to you this morning that in this action, Hannah not only honored her vow to God, she not only gave God back His gift, she also gave Samuel the greatest gift she could give. I’m sure there were many times Hannah questioned her vow. Once Samuel was born and she got to know him, the text says Samuel stayed with her until he was weaned. You may think Samuel was 1 or 2 at this point. Actually, in the ancient world, it was not uncommon for children to continue breast-feeding until they were much older, sometimes 6 or 7 years old. Now, once you get over the shock of that image, consider something else. By that time, Hannah would have become quite attached to young Samuel. Mothers, can you imagine giving up your 6 year old? Marching him to a far away town and leaving him with a perfect stranger? Yet, at the appointed time, she brought him back to Shiloh and gave him away. To be raised by someone else. She would see him only once a year at the time for festival. So, why did she do it? She did it because she loved God that much. She did it because she loved God more than she loved Samuel. Or maybe, she did it also, because she loved Samuel that much too.

I call this story to our attention this morning, because I can think of few passages of scripture that better illustrate “godly motherhood” than this one. It reminds us of how much this mother loved her son, even before he was born. It reminds us of how much she loved God and it reminds us that mothers are called to give good gifts to their children. But this passage also should cause us to reflect a bit. Hannah gave her son back to God, that was the greatest gift she could give him. Mothers, what gifts are you giving your children today? One thing I have noticed in the last thirteen years of my life is that mothers are extremely busy people. I didn't notice this as much as a child; children don't tend to notice those kinds of things. I know now that my mother must have been very busy when I was growing up. I come from a family of four children. I'll be honest: I didn't appreciate all she did when I was younger. But as a father, watching Kim everyday, I get dizzy sometimes! Being a mother in 21st century America is busy work. Taking kids to soccer (because we want them to be athletic), taking kids to art lessons (because we want them to be cultured), taking kids to the library (because we want them to be smart), going to PTA meetings (because we want to teach them to be involved), reading to them at night (because we want them to enjoy books), feeding them good foods (because we want them to learn good eating habits), teaching them to say yes sir and no ma'am and please and thank you (because we want them to be polite). Parents have a lot to think about! But, I encourage you this morning to not overlook one important thing, the most important thing. Mothers, in your drive to give your kids good manners, athletic ability, and intelligence, don't forget to give them God.

Consider this: How much time and energy and passion do you put into teaching your children about art and soccer and nutrition? Do you spend the same time and energy and passion teaching them about God? Let me brag on one of the greatest mothers I know: my wife. Kim is the mother of four children. Looking at her calendar makes me tired. In spite of all of the busyness, Kim has always made the spiritual development of our children her top priority as a mother. Over the years, Kim has read them stories from the Bible at the breakfast table. She encourages our family to pray together each morning. She makes service among our children a priority. In doing these things, she is giving Anna, Ellie, Luke, and Ben the greatest gift anyone could ever give them. Mothers, the greatest gift you can give you children on this Mother’s Day is a head start on their relationship with God.

On this Mother’s Day, I want to encourage all of the children in this room, young and old, to spoil their mothers today. Take them out to eat. Buy them something nice. Give them a great gift, and mothers, enjoy it, because you deserve it! But when the day is over, when you tuck your kids in tonight, remember this story of Hannah and Samuel, and remember the importance of giving your children the most important gift of all.

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