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Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is said that mothers only offer advice on two occasions: when you want it and when you don’t. Yet mothers have a wonderful way of teaching us life’s most important lessons. On my Mother’s 80th birthday, I shared with her this list of lessons I had learned from her.
My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done: Which, in our family, meant: “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside, I just finished cleaning!”
My mother taught me religion: “You better pray that will come out of that carpet!”
My mother taught me logic: “Because I said so, that’s why!”
My mother taught me foresight: “Make sure you wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.”
My mother taught me irony: “Keep laughing and I’ll give you something to cry about!”
My mother taught me about the science of osmosis: “Shut your mouth and eat your supper!”
My mother taught me about contortionism: “Will you look at the dirt on the back of your neck?”
My mother taught me about stamina: “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone!”
My mother taught me about the weather: “It looks like a tornado went through your room!”
My mother taught me about hypocrisy: “If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times-don’t exaggerate!”
My mother taught me about behavior modification: “Stop acting like your father!”
My mother taught me about envy: “There are millions of less fortunate kids in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do!”
My mother taught me about the circle of life: “I brought you into this world, I can take you out!”
Now honestly, where do mothers get all this remarkable knowledge and wisdom? After all, much of the time, it’s simply on the job training. At least it was in my home.
Mothers have a special place in everyone’s life. Even for those whose relationships are strained, there is a longing to restore to perfection that which has been lost. No matter how far the distance, or length of time, you remain dear to your mother. Whether it is the woman who bore you, or the woman who opened her heart to you, there is a place just for her.
So what makes Mother’s Day so special? It is certainly not a liturgical holiday; nor is the second Sunday in May mentioned in the Bible. Of course, there’s the sentimental side to motherhood, as William Goldsmith Brown penned, “The sweetest sounds to mortals given Are heard in Mother, Home, and Heaven.” These are fitting sentiments for any Hallmark Card occasion when you are giving the very best. But there must be something more. It is my belief that mothers have been given a special role in God’s majestic plan and that role is to teach us joy.
My friends, this morning I would like to share with you the lessons that I have learned from the mothers I have known over my 30 years of parish ministry- and there are many. Yes, there are the mothers who gave birth to their children, and there are those who welcomed children into their families. There are the mothers who have lost a child and whose story is still being told. There are those mothers who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains, and those mothers who have experienced miscarriages, failed adoptions and run away children. There are the longing women who walk the hard the path of infertility, and there are the foster moms, the mentor moms, and the spiritual moms. They have all taught me the lessons of the pursuit of joy, and how their joy is made complete. These mothers of all kinds have taught me what I would like to share with you today. Love enjoys. Love hurts. And love never ends
Let us begin with the simple lesson – love enjoys. Mothers learn and in turn teach that you must enjoy love and life- here and now. For a mother, this lesson begins with life’s little moments. Humorist and author Barbara Johnson writes that becoming a mother is like getting a life sentence in prison with no hope of parole. The work of a mother keeps you active night and day. In the middle of the night, when you’re awakened from sleep, you find your only solace is to laugh. Yes, you equate laughter with changing a baby’s diaper, “It doesn’t change things permanently, but it makes things OK for a while.” As a child grows, you learn to appreciate 2nd grade humor. You may not laugh, but you smile loudly. “Did you hear about the doorbell and hummingbird who fell in love? They had a little humdinger!” A mother may even learn to enjoy their son or daughter as they enter into the teen-age years. I am reminded of the doting mother who tried unsuccessfully to kiss her son good-bye as he set off for school. She waved to him from the door as he walked across the yard. Just before reaching the gate, the boy bent over to give their dog a hug. As she stepped back into the house, she sighed and told her husband, “I guess tomorrow I’ll try barking.”
The mothers I have known have taught me that you don’t have to wait around for your children to grow up to enjoy them. No, do they have to be talented, successful over-achievers in order to cherish them. You begin by enjoying them today. A child is but a small member of a family who can make love stronger, the days shorter, the nights longer, and the bank account smaller. And yes, as mothers of all kinds know, when a child enters the family, the home will be happier even as the clothes become shabbier.
Even the simple Mother’s Day’s gift should be enjoyed. A five-year-old and a seven year-old brother and sister presented their Mom with a house plant. They had used their own money and she was thrilled. The older of them, however, said with a sad face, “Mommy, there was a bouquet that we wanted to give you, but it cost too much. It was real pretty. It had a ribbon on it that said, ‘Rest In Peace,’ and we thought it would be just right for you since you always asking us for a little peace so that you can rest.” Love enjoys life here and now.
Second, the mothers I have known have taught me that love hurts. All mothers know that one of their child’s first words is “no.” They walk down the street and you hear, “No hand!” Children quickly pull a shirt over their head and cry, “No help!” They reach to tie their shoes and they shake their head and say, “No, me do!” Fathers hear the word no and believe that a son or daughter is talking back. A mother knows that “no” is the beginning of maturity and independence. You want a child to say “no,” so they can learn one day to say “yes.” But it is not easy to hear. Love has the potential to hurt you- and that is a part of true of joy.
Motherhood is filled with sacrifices and pain. A teacher asked a boy this question: “Suppose your mother baked a pie and there were seven of you–your parents and five children. What part of the pie would you get?” “A sixth,” replied the boy. “I’m afraid you don’t know your fractions,” said the teacher. “Remember, there are seven of you.” “Yes, teacher,” said the boy, “but you don’t know my mother. Mother would say she didn’t want any pie.” I was 35 years-old before I realized that my mother didn’t like chicken backs. It was always what she took from the serving plate when it passed by her. O certainly, fathers state that they sacrifice for their family. But most often for fathers it is what they choose not to do. A mother’s sacrifice is what she chooses to do. She forgoes professional advancement, social contacts, and personal growth and satisfaction for the sake of the ones she loves. She actively opens herself to frustration, pain and hurt. Sometimes she doesn’t have a lot of choices. She simply stumbles along from one crisis to the next. The mothers I have known have taught me that, Love hurts.
Finally, love never ends. No, matter how old you get, mothers watch their kids waiting for signs of improvement. – even when they’re middle-aged. To my mother’s dying day, she still believed that with a little prodding she could rid me of my final bad habits, and my wife Janna was cheering her on. Mothers always hope that something they have instilled in their child might show up, even when they’ve started to think it’s too late. And yet, there is still the painful moment when they leave- to head out on their own.
Writer Beverly Cooke once said, “When my first child left home, I felt the world had come to an end. Little did I know I would feel the same when the last two left. My neighbor said, “They are like birds and when they learn to fly you must let them go.’ So I did. But I have always left a little birdseed out . . .” A mother’s influence may be diminished, but it never ends because love never ends. Not even in death. Yes, even from the grave our mothers have a strong hold on our lives. Their lessons and wisdom, and the joy they expressed in the simplest of ways, continue to affect our choices and our actions. And when our mothers are no longer there, we mourn the fact that we may not have learned all the lessons they could have taught.
A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away. As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing. He asked her what was wrong and she replied, “I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars.” The man smiled and said, “Come on in with me. I’ll buy you a rose.” He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother’s flowers. As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home. She said, “Yes, please! You can take me to my mother.” She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave. The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother’s house.
No, Mother’s Day is not a liturgical holiday, nor is it mentioned in the Bible. But in remembering our mothers, we are reminded of those who have embraced Jesus’ teaching and who are willing to lay down their lives for those they love. For in this way, mothers are truly Christ-like. As our Savior Jesus himself taught us. “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Love enjoys, love hurts and love never ends. Happy Mother’s Day. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.