Mothers’ Day Sermon (Easter 6)
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
John 19:26-27 Sermon
May 13, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
208 “Christ Whose Glory Fills The Skies"
459 “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”
----- “Thank God For Christian Mothers” (text at end)
543 “Blest Be The Tie That Binds”
TEXT: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”
Her name is Dorothy Mengering. She lives with her husband Hans in Carmel, Indiana, a suburban community just north of Indianapolis. She’s 86 years old, but you’d never know it to look at her. She’s attractive, charming, articulate, and has a great sense of humor.
She has quite an active lifestyle too. Dorothy and Hans love to travel, and they’ve gone many places. When she’s at home, she’s also very active in the life of her church, where she retired from being the church secretary.
Dorothy has three children too—two girls and a boy, who of course are grown with families of their own. Her oldest child, a daughter named Jan, lives closest to her mother in Indiana. David, her son, lives in Connecticut. And her youngest daughter, Gretchen, lives in Florida.
Even though they are separated by quite a distance, she still is able to maintain a close relationship with all of them. Dorothy loves her role as “mother” and “grandma.”
She also loves cooking and baking in her kitchen. She says that baking pies are easy; and I’d lay odds that there isn’t anything she couldn’t tackle in the kitchen. She could probably have her own show on the Food Network. On Thanksgiving, her table is nothing short of a Norman Rockwell type masterpiece.
So how do I know about this great lady? For one thing, she’s written a cook book, which contains just as much family history and trivia as it does recipes. It’s a great book, and I’d recommend it to anyone.
Secondly, Dorothy Mengering is the mother of the late night talk show host, David Letterman. David’s father, Joe Letterman died in 1973; and Dorothy remarried in 1983 to Hans Mengering, her current husband. If you’ve watched Letterman’s show on TV, most likely you’ve seen her from time to time during one of her appearances. On TV, Dorothy is simply known as “Dave’s Mom.”
For the most part, David Letterman is a very private person who keeps the majority of his personal life out of the public eye. I can appreciate that too. It’s important for him to be able to remove himself from the lime light, to go home, and to leave it all behind. Among other things, he needs personal time, family time, recreational time, and spiritual time.
However he does share some of his personal life with his TV audience. There are two things of which he is particularly proud—his son Harry for one, and also his mother Dorothy.
The fondness he has for his mother, and the close relationship that they share is evident from the appearances she has on his TV show. This is one way that David is able to keep his mother as an integral part of his life.
She has been to several winter Olympics events, and has done remote broadcasts from them as a correspondent. Every year at Thanksgiving, CBS does a remote broadcast from her kitchen, where they play “guess the pie.” And just this past Friday, Dorothy was in New York appearing on David’s show, where she received thunderous applause and a standing ovation. She was there to deliver the “top ten” list, which she has done for at least the past three years. This year, the list was entitled, “Top ten pieces of advice I’ve given Dave over the years.”
Dave’s mom is a delightful lady, and a joy to watch on TV. Even though she and Dave share comedic exchanges, yet the depth of the love and affection between them is readily apparent.
I really have to hand it to David Letterman though. It is indeed rare for a TV celebrity to bring a parent/child relationship into the spotlight. If the parent and child are both celebrities, you don’t often see any relationship beyond the professional mask they are wearing.
David’s Midwestern values and Christian upbringing are apparent with the relationship he shares with his mother. Even though my knowledge of the relationship doesn’t extend any further than what I’ve seen and read, the depth is obvious to me.
Furthermore, I believe that David Letterman is giving us all an example of how to treat our mothers. He’s proud of his mother, he loves her, and he is more than happy to let the world know about it. He’s not about to let fame and fortune create a chasm between them either.
On this Mother’s day, I’ve used this illustration between David Letterman and his mother, Dorothy Mengering, to lead into a rather sobering display of another mother/son relationship; namely the relationship between Jesus and his mother Mary.
I’ve chosen as a Mother’s Day text the two verses in John’s gospel, which are the third of the seven last words Jesus speaks on the cross. Here, Jesus is speaking to both his mother Mary, and his close friend John. With reference to John, he tells his mother “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to John with reference to Mary, “Here is your mother.”
The meaning is obvious. In those days, there wasn’t any such thing as Social Security or any sort of retirement or pension schemes. It was common practice that when someone’s parents became elderly, or specifically in this case of a woman becoming a widow, they would move in with the eldest child and live out their days under their care.
By this time, Joseph must have died, and Mary was living all by herself. Jesus must have been able to see that she was taken care of; but now at the hour of his crucifixion, someone else needed to step in and take his place.
I’ve often puzzled as to why John was given this specific task. The Bible indicates that Jesus had siblings—half brothers and sisters in this case. Where were they? And weren’t there other relatives as well? Why wouldn’t they step up to the plate and take over the responsibility? Why was Jesus the only one available to take care of his mother?
The Bible is silent as to the reasons why things happened this way. What we do know however is that Jesus was fully aware as to what his responsibility was toward his mother. And so as he hung on the cross bleeding and dying, he asks John, his friend and disciple, to take over this responsibility.
Jesus was on a mission. He came to bear the sins of the whole world. He had a lot of things going on in his life. But even with all of that, the care of his mother was a prime concern of his. Even though his relationship with his heavenly Father was his key objective, he also never forgot the relationship he had with his mother.
In today’s world, we don’t give as much thought to the welfare of our parents as people did even a generation ago. When I was growing up, I remember numerous instances of aging parents living with their children; and frequently that was on the family farm. Even that recently, there were people who didn’t have any social security benefits. These folks would get what we called “county aid” which was basically welfare, and it paid only a meager pittance. And so often, people worked right up until they died because they couldn’t afford to retire.
But today, people get social security, pensions, and even housing assistance. People plan on their retirement so they can live independently and have a comfortable lifestyle. They can travel and be financially secure, and leave an inheritance when they die. Children aren’t burdened with the care of their parents like they were a generation or two ago.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with this; however people tend to get lackadaisical about it too. They think, “Well, mom is safe and secure in her nursing home,” or “Dad can take care of things.” Our lives can get so busy and complicated that we forget about our parents and their well being. We feel that they no longer need our attention, and so our love and affection and our relationship wanes.
But this is Mothers’ Day, and our mothers are still our mothers. Everybody has one; and good or bad, they are still our mothers. And we are never relieved of our responsibility toward them.
I know of a situation where this couple have just one daughter who is very wealthy. Her parents are not people of means, and they have difficulty making ends meet. This daughter will not send her parents even one dime, and she uses the excuse “I don’t want to give them anything, because I don’t want to resent them.” That’s about the most selfish and feeble excuse I’ve ever heard.
But then haven’t we all had excuses for not being the children we should be to our mothers? Haven’t we all been neglectful, and at times even resentful? Haven’t we ignored when we should have paid attention, or helped out when we’ve turned a blind eye?
The Bible speaks directly to this. In I Timothy 5, 8 we read: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Well, so much for that rich woman’s excuse for not helping her destitute parents.
And so let’s go back to the cross again, where we see Jesus thinking about his mother while he is paying for the sins of the world. If his siblings were guilty of neglect, he was paying for those sins. And when we are guilty of neglecting our mothers, our fathers, and our family, Jesus paid for those sins as well.
We have to confess that we haven’t always been the children God wants us to be. And to be completely fair, we haven’t always been the parents God wants us to be either.
So we come to Jesus looking for forgiveness. We need to have the relationship restored between ourselves and our heavenly Father. We need to treasure our parent/child relationship we have with God.
We have this only through Jesus, because we know that through faith in him, and only through faith in him, our relationship with God is thereby restored. Jesus is able to restore not only that relationship, but give us a foundation on which to build our earthly relationships as well. When love and forgiveness are primary elements in a relationship, then what evolves from that will be good and strong and accepting.
David Letterman has a Christian mother, and he was brought up in a Christian home with Christian values. Even though we only catch a glimpse of this on TV and by what has been written, it is still evident nevertheless. I’m sure that there have been many troubles and heartaches along the way, but the relationship has remained strong.
Dorothy Mengering has become rather infamous herself because of her popular son. She has had numerous offers for product endorsements and other celebrity type offers. If she wanted to, she could take advantage of her situation in many ways.
However she hasn’t. She did write one cook book entitled “Home Cookin’ With Dave’s Mom,” but she donated all the profits to charity. Apart from that and her occasional appearances on Dave’s TV show, she enjoys a rather quiet life with her husband, taking walks, traveling, cooking, being active in church, and most importantly being a wife, mom and grandma.
Dorothy is quoted saying, "The positive response to my appearances on David's show has nothing to do with my amateur abilities as a broadcaster. People enjoy seeing a mother and son together. It's that simple."
Yes, it is that simple, but the meaning is very deep. People can see a mother and son share a relationship from which we can all learn. David is as proud of his mother as she is of him, and he doesn’t mind if the whole world knows about it. And from what I’ve read, there has never been even one single scrap of negative publicity about Dave’s mom, Dorothy Mengering. That in itself is a rarity in this day and age.
Today, Jesus gives us a message right from the cross. Mothers are important, and we have a responsibility when it comes to them. It needn’t be complicated either. Maybe it’s a helping hand, or a kind word, or something to let them know you care.
So today let us thank our God for our mothers, who endured a pregnancy and suffered through labor pains to bring us into this world. Even though mothers and children aren’t perfect, we are thankful that through our faith in Jesus, we are forgiven for our imperfections and given a strong foundation for that relationship to continue to grow.
Dorothy Mengering put it so well: “People enjoy seeing a mother and son (or daughter) together. It's that simple." Yes Dorothy, it is that simple; but I’m sure she’d agree that it is priceless.
MOTHER’S DAY HYMN
Tune: Munich 76,76. D. (O Word Of God Incarnate)
1. A Christian wife and mother
God’s gift from heav’n above.
To members of her family
A source of constant love.
An help-meet for her husband
In good and evil days;
A blessing to her children
In e’er so many ways.
2. She always well remembers
Her marriage vows with love;
To live in sacred honor
With help from heav’n above.
With him whom she has taken
As partner in her life;
According to God’s ord’nance
A truly faithful wife.
3. She looks with love and favor
Upon her children fair;
As precious gifts from heaven
God gave into her care.
With Christian admonition
And nurture in the Lord;
She rears them well and wisely
With Scripture’s full accord.
4. Thank God for Christian mothers
Remember them today;
And call upon your Saviour
To bless their earthly stay.
They are a nation’s blessing
A stronghold in the home;
We honor and salute them
Now and in life to come. Amen.
- - John Mueller