7 Easter (Mothers Day Sermon)
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 Sermon
May 8, 2016
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & The Service Book and Hymnal):
TLH 221 "Hark! 10,000 Harps & Voices"
TLH 212 "A Hymn Of Glory Let Us Sing"
---------- "Thank God For Christian Mothers"
SBH 115 "Golden Harps Are Sounding"
CELEBRATE TODAY CHEERFULLY
TEXT: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
When I read the daily newspaper, I always read Amy Dickenson's advice column. For those of you who might be unfamiliar as to who Amy Dickenson is, she is the advice columnist that replaced Ann Landers in a lot of daily newspapers. I don't always agree with her, but she often has some pears of wisdom that are worth reading.
Several years ago, the following letter appeared in her column: "Dear Amy: Last Mother's Day, my daughter was a new mother of a 2-month-old baby. Instead of asking me to lunch, she got upset that I didn't ask her out to celebrate her new motherhood. I had sent her a card. Instead of spending time with me, she went out for the day with her father, which hurt me a lot. Am I wrong? Should I be celebrating her motherhood? Am I being selfish for wanting her to celebrate me first? Please help me, because Mother's Day is coming up again, and I don't know what to do." Signed, "Mother in Denver."
To this, Amy Dickenson wrote this reply: "Dear Denver: Although Mother's Day seems to have morphed into a free-for-all celebration of all-things-Mom, in my view, the day should be one where we daughters (and sons) honor and celebrate our own mothers -- and not a day where we expect our mothers to celebrate our parental status. After all, haven't our mothers already done enough? This means that you should honor your mother (if possible) and your daughter should honor you. Acknowledging your daughter's new motherhood last year was thoughtful. She also should have honored you on the day. That said, you and your daughter seem to have unresolved issues that have descended into petty and mutual mommy-baiting. I hope you can take a long view, work things out and acknowledge each other."
This letter to Amy Dickenson prompted a few responses, a couple of which I'm going to share with you. One woman from Fairfield, CTwrote in saying: "Mother's Day is a load of [baloney]. Just another Hallmark holiday where you're supposed to spend money; and mothers, even the [lousy] ones, try to guilt you into kissing their [behinds]."
Another woman from Chicagoprovided this commentary: "Sad to say, but generations X, Y and Millennials are 'all about me.' That's why a significant proportion of them don't remember their mothers on Mother's Day. I've concluded it has little to do with the kind of mother they have and everything to do with the kind of inconsiderate person they grew up to be (despite decent parenting)."
Today is, of course Mothers' Day. And in due consideration of this, I extend to all mothers everywhere my best wishes for a happy Mothers' Day. It's not only appropriate, but it is also heart-felt. There are a lot of good things associated with Mothers' Day, and those good things need to be highlighted and emphasized.
That being said, I think this is one of those times that Amy Dickenson is right. Mothers' Day has morphed (or changed substantially) into something it was never intended to be. Mothers' Day has gone the same way as have Christmas and Easter. In so many instances the original intent has been completely overridden with selfishness, greed, and guilt.
And going hand-in-hand with this, commercialism has completely taken over. For example, let's take a look at some figures for 2015. It was estimated that over 3.8 billion dollars (and that's billion with a "B") was spent just on Mothers' Day meals or a special activity last year. I'm not going to give you exact figures here, but if you add to that the money spent on such things as flowers, candy, cards, manicures, pedicures, day spas, make-overs, and long distance telephone calls, the total in 2015 was a whopping 21.2 billion dollars spent on Mothers' Day, which averages out to approximately $172.63 per person. That's the highest dollar figure ever reported. Mothers' Day ranks third in the listing of holidays for the most money spent; and it ranks number one on the list of long distance telephone calls placed, which includes collect calls.
And if you want to do a comparison, only 12.7 billion dollars were spent on dear old dad on Fathers' Day last year, which is far less than people spend on Mothers' Day. Even though the percentage gap is less than what it used to be (70% in past years), somehow it just doesn't seem fair.
But be that as it may, the various merchants, especially the restaurants and florists and greeting card people, look at Mothers' Day with huge dollar signs in their eyes. They are taking advantage of the feelings of guilt and greed and selfishness experienced on this day, and they're laughing all the way to the bank.
As I was pondering the spirit of this holiday, I began to look at different Biblical texts that would adequately describe the proper spirit of Mothers' Day, and do so in such a way that the proper attitude would be fostered and nurtured.
What I finally decided upon was this section from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9, and I'll read again verse 7: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Of course we immediately recognize this as a stewardship text, which describes what a person's attitude is supposed to be when contributing to the work of the Lord. God wants us to be happy givers, to give to him out of a spirit of love and a grateful heart. The focus here is not on the size of the gift, but the attitude connected with it.
I believe this text has application here too. When people give a gift to their mothers on Mothers' Day, it needs to be given with a spirit of love and gratitude for what our mothers mean to us. And in turn, mothers can't be acting like spoiled children do when Santa doesn't bring them what they want for Christmas.
When I read that letter in Amy Dickenson's column, I felt like this is exactly what was going on. Here were two women, a mother and a daughter, who were engaging in a childish playground type of behavior. The mother's nose was out-of-joint because her daughter didn't treat her the way she thought she should be treated on Mothers' Day; and in a similar sense, the daughter's nose was out-of-joint because she felt her mother should have done more for her since she became a mother herself. For these two women, Mothers' Day had become nothing more than a competitive battle of selfishness, greed, and guilt, with the poor husband/father stuck somewhere in the middle. I wound up feeling like taking the two of them and knocking their dang fool heads together.
However, all of this should make us take a serious look at ourselves. Everybody since the creation of our first parents has had a mother. Some have even had additional mothers, like foster mothers, adoptive mothers, step mothers, or even house mothers. We can even extend this to grandmothers and great-grandmothers, and on back up the line as far as we want to go.
What do these women mean to us? How have these women influenced and shaped our lives? What kind of special relationship have we had with them? Is this something worth celebrating? Isn't there something, in fact many things we need to thank them for?
Those are all rhetorical questions, because we know the answer. A mother's love is something that cannot be duplicated or replaced, and somehow a simple "thank you" seems almost inadequate. Of course, one of the key things for which we can all be thankful is that our mothers carried us during pregnancy and endured the labor pains of giving birth, just so that we could have life. That is one of the most precious gifts a mother can give a child.
But as we all know, mothers aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Sin is a huge factor in the life of every mother. It might not be as dominant or as crass as the example of the mother and daughter in Amy Dickenson's column, but it is a major issue nevertheless.
Of course children are anything but perfect too. I don't care whether the child is male or female, the influence of sin is always there. We know that children misbehave all the time. It seems like raising children is almost like one drama after the other. Sometimes a child will copy sinful behavior from his or her parents. Sometimes a child will get bad influences from friends or other children. And sometimes they will come up with some pretty awful stuff all on their own. It's realistic, and it definitely happens. Nobody is spared when it comes to sin.
A child needs to look at his or her parents, at his or her mother and see a reflection of the love of Jesus. 1 John chapter 4 is one of my favorite "love chapters" in the Bible. Verses 15-16: "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us."
A mother's love is a reflection of that love that God has for us, a love that sent his only begotten Son into this world to save the human race. The love of Christ for us was so strong that it took him all the way to the cross to die for our sins. That's the definition of love that the Christian uses, a love that is sacrificial. A couple weeks ago, I preached on this topic. And as I mentioned, Christian love is a love that puts the welfare of another above that of themselves.
One of the best examples of a mother's love I've seen is how she reacts when her child is in court or in some kind of trouble. She cries and is filled with sorrow. Regardless of what her child may have done, whatever wrong has been committed, her love shines through. It is a love that endures regardless of anything else.
That's the kind of love Jesus has for us. We can come to him in faith, with the knowledge that all of our sins and faults have been forgiven and forgotten. Regardless of what we do, Jesus is there with open arms ready to receive us. When we come to him in faith, when we through the call of the Holy Spirit accept him as our Lord and Saviour, we know all of our sins are forgiven. And most importantly, we know that we are loved, no matter what. That's the kind of love we experience from God; and albeit imperfect, that's the kind of love a mother has for her child.
In spite of how the holiday is abused, I like Mothers' Day. I think it's great to have a holiday in which our mothers are honored, and where we are given a special opportunity to say thank-you. In the past, I never really went overboard with getting my mother a whole lot of expensive things. My usual gift for her was to buy her some sort of hanging flowering plant to hang outside of her kitchen window. It was never anything very exotic or fancy; it would be a gerbera daisy or begonia or impatiens or a fuscia. It would hang there all summer, so every time she would look out her window, she knew I was thinking about her. And that's what I'll be thinking about when I put flowers on her grave this year.
So what kind of gift should you go out and get for your mother this year? The Orlando Sentinel published a list of suggested things that mothers appreciate. They are: 1) Portraits and photos. Find a nice one, take it in and have it enlarged, and put it in a nice frame. 2) Plants. A plant will last a whole lot longer than cut flowers, and it is a gift that will keep on giving, like the flowering plant I used to hang outside of my mother's kitchen window. It's a good idea, so long as your mother doesn't mind taking care of it. 3) A break. Do some of the chores she normally does, like cook a meal, clean the house, or weed the garden. As a special treat, maybe fix her favorite dish for her. 4) Things the kids make themselves. A diamond necklace from the finest jeweller in the world is not nearly as precious as the construction paper greeting card decorated with macaroni with the words "Happy Mothers' Day" written in crayon, handed to you by your child with loving eyes. 5) A pedicure or massage. Every woman loves to be pampered once in awhile. 6) Outings. This might mean a meal in a favorite restaurant, but it can be other things too. If there are places mother likes to go or things mother likes to do, indulge her.
This year, I'm sure that people will go and spend lots of money on things for Mothers' Day. The florists, restaurants, greeting card people, and even the jewellers will be raking it in.
Out of the billions of dollars that will be spent however, there is one gift that I have yet to mention. The Los Angeles Times surveyed mothers awhile back, asking them what they would like for Mothers' Day. More than anything else, most mothers said they wanted a family gathering. When all was said and done, the gift of togetherness was the most important thing to most mothers, to be with those she loves the most.
This year as always, we thank our God for our mothers. We have been blessed by them; and even when we haven't been the children we ought to be, they still love us just the same. And even when selfishness, greed, and guilt threaten to spoil our earthly relationships and this holiday, we know that our relationship with Jesus will always sustain us.
God loves a cheerful giver, and so do our mothers. So when we are searching for something to cheerfully give our mothers, give her what she wants the most--ourselves and our time.