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I must candidly confess that when I was in seminary the 16th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans didn't do much for me. It struck me as being boring nothing more than a long presentation of people's names, most of whom I could not pronounce; I usually skimmed over that part so I could get to what I considered to be the real Gospel. Over the years I have greatly changed my attitude about this particular chapter and I have discovered that there is much more to it than I had first imagined. For example, it is interesting to note that of the twenty-six people who Paul singles out for his personal greeting, six were women. Now that strikes me as being rather interesting, since Paul has frequently gotten a bum rap for being a male chauvinist. I think it also shows us the tremendous influence that women had in the early church. In the male oriented first century Palestine, it is telling that Paul could not describe the church without mentioning the significant role of women.
Verse 13 of chapter 16 is particularly interesting and it is one that scholars have struggled with over the centuries. Paul writes: "Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." Now this statement could be taken two ways. It could mean that Paul had two distinct women in mind--the mother of Rufus and his own personal mother. Or, he could be saying: "I salute Rufus and his mother, who is like a mother to me." If that is what he meant, and most Biblical scholars agree that that is indeed what he meant, then it raises some interesting speculation. When and where did Paul meet Rufus' mother? Did she nurse him through some serious illness?
Did she receive him into her home for an extended stay during his missionary journeys? How did this woman and Paul form such a close bond that he refers to her fondly as being like his mother? Mark tells us that Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried Jesus cross, had two sons: Alexander and Rufus. Was this the same Rufus to whom Paul was speaking? If that is true, his mother would be Simon of Syrene's wife. No one knows for sure who this remarkable woman was who served as a mother figure for the great Paul. But it really makes no difference, because what he writes makes an excellent springboard for a Mother's Day sermon.
1. First, mothers should be saluted for their tenacious love.Do you remember playing "Follow The Leader" when you were a kid? The "leader" called the shots. Whatever way the leader went, whatever the leader did, the "followers" were supposed to imitate. It was a fun game until some "leader" decided to do something, well . . . not smart. Jumping over a ditch was an adventure until someone didn't quite make it and tumbled down and got hurt. "Following the leader" goes bad when the leader goes bad, when the "leader" doesn't consider the welfare of the led.
2. Secondly, mothers should be saluted for the tremendous impact they have.
3. Third, mothers should be saluted because where they are, that is where home is.
2. Secondly, mothers should be saluted for the tremendous impact they have.
3. Third, mothers should be saluted because where they are, that is where home is.
Sheep are great at playing "follow the leader." The "herd mentality" looms large in a sheep brain. If sheep are in a line and a stick is thrust in front of one animal, forcing it to jump over that barrier, all those following will jump over that stick - whether it is there or not. For sheep, seeing a member of their flock jump over "something" is enough to make the next animal jump up and over whatever that "something" is - whether it physically exists or not. Make one sheep jump and you can make a whole herd jump - regardless of whether there is actually anything to jump over.
Growing up in Galilee Jesus knew sheep like a cowboy knows cattle. Jesus knew the instincts, the needs, the intuitions of the sheep that surrounded him in his homeland. Jesus used that everyday knowledge to reveal to the people he encountered the desires that he knew permeated and perforated their lives. Jesus always dealt with people on the basis of a one-on-one personal contact. But he also knew all about our communal needs - our desires to be connected in some way to a larger whole, to be connected to a community. Jesus knew we are needy lambs and yet also hopeful herds looking for a leader.
In this week's gospel text Jesus offers himself in three different roles: first as the shepherd, then as the gatekeeper, and finally as the gate itself. Jesus is the port, the patrol, and the portal...
___________________________What I want to deal with is leadership. People are saying in Boston, Mass, Palm Beach, Florida, and towns throughout our country that there must be something wrong with the church. Why has the religious leadership failed?
Now let us travel 3000 miles to Israel. In towns very familiar to us because they are biblical towns there is a war going on in the streets. The two sides are deeply religious and yet they are at each other's throats. Even the children there are abused and used as human bombs.
People are saying in Palestine, Jerusalem, Kabul, and in towns all over the east that something is wrong. Why has the religious leadership failed?
Leadership. We all want good leadership. Good shepherds to lead us in and out of green pasture. We vote hoping to elect it, we apply for jobs hoping to work for it, and we go to school hoping to be educated by it. But we do not always find it. The trust we place in our leaders can be broken. So what are we to do? John 10 holds the answer...
No man is poor who has had a godly mother.
An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.
When Robert Ingersoll, the notorious skeptic, was in his heyday, two college students went to hear him lecture. As they walked down the street after the lecture, one said to the other, “Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn’t he?” The other said, “No, I don’t think he did. Ingersoll did not explain my mother’s life, and until he can explain my mother’s life I will stand by my mother’s God.”
James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1972, p. 381.
Motherhood and Compassion. A few days ago I made a marvelous discovery. In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament the word for “compassion” comes from the root word, “womb.” The picture is of a birthing. Something new is being born. If I apply this in a human experience, it means that my compassionate acts always give the other person another chance. I do not hold past failures against them. I offer a “fresh start.” I want this for myself from others. Am I willing to give it to the other person? Such compassion will dramatically change the way we relate to each other.
Brooks Ramsey, Pastoral Counseling and Consulting Center, Memphis TN.
Parent's Influence. When parents understand the source of joy, when they decide to let Christ rule in their home, they have chosen the way of joy that will never disappoint them. Billy Graham’s parents were both committed Christians. Although he was a businessman, his father had at one time felt a desire to preach. The way never seemed opened for him. After Billy entered the ministry, the father said, “I prayed for years for a way to be opened. But never once was there the slightest encouragement from God. My heart burned and I wondered why God did not answer my prayer. Now I feel I have the answer. I believe that my part was to raise a son to be a preacher.” Imagine the joy that thought brought to him and to his wife.
Proclaim, Father’s Day Sermon: Joy in the Home, June 18, 1989.
Ilion Jones writes that "On the great biographer Ida M. Tarbell's 80th birthday, someone asked her to name the greatest persons she had ever met. She responded, 'The greatest persons I have ever met are those nobody knows anything about.'
"Once the New York Times was asked to help a group of club women decide on the twelve greatest women in the United States. After due consideration, the editors replied, 'The twelve greatest women in the United States are women who have never been heard of outside of their own homes.'"
Jones concludes, "I ask you, who was greater, Thomas A. Edison or his mother? When he was a young lad his teacher sent him home with a note which said, 'Your child is dumb. We can't do anything for him.' Mrs. Edison wrote back, 'You do not understand my boy. I will teach him myself'. And she did, with results that are well known.
Morning Glory, January 8, 1994.
Over one hundred years ago, G.K. Chesterton asked: "Can anyone tell me two things more vital to the race than these; what man shall marry what woman, and what shall be the first things taught to their first child?" Chesterton goes on to comment that: "the daily operations surrounded her with very young children, who needed to be taught not so much anything but everything. Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, a woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren't...Our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world....But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean....If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge (at his work)....But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless, and of small import to the soul, then I say give it up...."
How can it be an (important) career to tell other people's children about mathematics, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe?...A woman's function is laborious...not because it is minute, but because it is gigantic. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.
Steve Farrar, Family Survival in the American Jungle, Multnomah Press, 1991, pp.113-114.
Years ago, a young mother was making her way across the hills of South Wales, carrying her tiny baby in her arms, when she was overtaken by a blinding blizzard. She never reached her destination and when the blizzard had subsided her body was found by searchers beneath a mound of snow. But they discovered that before her death, she had taken off all her outer clothing and wrapped it about her baby. When they unwrapped the child, to their great surprise and joy, they found he was alive and well. She had mounded her body over his and given her life for her child, proving the depths of her mother love. Years later that child, David Lloyd George, grown to manhood, became prime minister of Great Britain, and, without doubt, one of England’s greatest statesman.
James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1972, p. 375.
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan had 4 sons and they were all preachers. Someone once came into the drawing room when all the family was there. They thought they would see what Howard, one of the sons, was made of so they asked him this question: "Howard, who is the greatest preacher in your family?" Howard had a great admiration for his father and he looked straight across at him and then without a moments hesitation he answered, "Mother."
A. Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Eerdmans, p. 139.
I cannot tell how much I owe to the prayers of my good mother. I remember her once praying, "Now Lord, if my children go on in sin it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold on Christ and claim Him as their personal Savior."
Grandma, on a winter's day, milked the cows and fed them hay, hitched the mule, drove kids to school...did a washing, mopped the floors, washed the windows and did some chores...Cooked a dish of home-dried fruit, pressed her husband's Sunday suit...swept the parlor, made the bed, baked a dozen loaves of bread...split some firewood and lugged it in, enough to fill the kitchen bin...Cleaned the lamps and put in oil, stewed some apples before they spoiled...churned the butter, baked a cake, then exclaimed, "For goodness sake!" when the calves ran from the pen, and chased them all back in again...Gathered eggs and locked the stable, back to the house and set the table...cooked a supper that was delicious, then washed and dried all dirty dishes...fed the cat and sprinkled clothes, mended a basketful of hose...then opened the organ and began to play: "When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day..."
Reminisce, premiere issue, 1991, pp. 46-7.
A teacher gave her class of second graders a lesson on the magnet and what it does. The next day in a written test, she included this question: " My full name has six letters. The first one is M. I pick up things. What am I?" When the test papers were turned in, the teacher was astonished to find that almost 50 percent of the students answered the question with the word Mother.
Our minister's wife told of filling out a form in her pediatrician's office. Beside the blank marked "occupation" were these words: "If you devote the greater part of your time to loving, caring and making a home for your family, put a big star in this space."
Legally, a husband is the head of the house and a pedestrian has the right of way. Both are perfectly safe and within their rights as long as they do not try to confirm it!
George E. Bergman.
Lorne Sanny of The Navigators once wrote of his mother: "My mother gave birth to me in a frontier house on a Midwestern prairie. On the kitchen counter she placed a list of the ingredients necessary for my formula. At the top of the list was 'prayer,' and that remained at the top of her list for me throughout her life...I have her to thank for firmly establishing my spiritual roots."
Today in the Word, January, 1990, p. 23.
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."
Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 10.
A little boy forgot his lines in a Sunday school presentation. His mother was in the front row to prompt him. She gestured and formed the words silently with her lips, but it did not help. Her son's memory was blank. Finally, she leaned forward and whispered the cue, "I am the light of the world." The child beamed and with great feeling and a loud clear voice said, "My mother is the light of the world."
Bits and Pieces, August, 1989.
It is in the home that we first develop our sense of who we are. Every child has aright to a secure, happy home life. Every child has a right to the love and nurture of his or her parents.
Akin to identity is the question of self-worth. Dr. James Dobson, author of several excellent books on raising children cautions us that, “A child can learn to doubt his worth at home even when he is deeply loved by his parents! Destructive ideas find their way into his thinking process, leading him to conclude that he is ugly or incredibly stupid or that he has already proved himself to be a hopeless failure in life.”
The famous Psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Adler had an experience when a young boy which illustrates just how powerful such a belief can be upon behavior and ability. He got off to a bad start in arithmetic and his teacher became convinced that he was “dumb in mathematics.” The teacher then advised the parents of this “fact” and told them not to expect too much of him. They too were convinced. Alder passively accepted the evaluation they had placed upon him. And his grades in arithmetic proved they had been correct. One day, however, he had a sudden flash of insight and thought he saw how to work a problem the teacher had put on the board, and which none of the other pupils could work. He announced as much to the teacher. She and the whole class laughed. Whereupon, he became indignant, strode to the blackboard, and worked the problem much to their amazement. In doing so, he realized that he could understand arithmetic. He felt a new confidence in his ability, and went on to become a good math student.
We need to encourage our children. We need not only to surround them with love but we need to help them feel competent as persons.
I wish every one of us had inscribed on the walls of our home the words of Dorothy Law Nolte’s work, “Children Learn What They Live,” and then kept this constantly before us in our daily activities.
If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.
A sermon called The Divine Family, author unknown.
Susannah Wesley's Rules For Raising Children:
1. Subdue self-will in a child and thus work together with God to save his soul.
2. Teach him to pray as soon as he can speak.
3. Give him nothing he cries for and only what is good for him if he asks for it politely.
4. To prevent lying, punish no fault which is freely confessed, but never allow a rebellious, sinful act to go unnoticed.
5. Commend and reward good behavior.
6. Strictly observe all promises you have make to your child.
The love of a mother is never exhausted. It never changes--it never tires--it endures through all; in good repute, in bad repute, in the face of the world's condemnation, a mother's love still lives on.
The most creative job in the world involves fashion, decorating, recreation, education, transportation, psychology, romance, cuisine, literature, art, economics, government, pediatrics, geriatrics, entertainment, maintenance, purchasing, law, religion, energy and management. Anyone who can handle all those has to be somebody special. She's a homemaker.
Richard Kerr quoted in Homemade, February 1989.
Women who never have children enjoy the equivalent of an extra three months a year in leisure time, says Susan Lang, author of Women Without Children. If that figure seems high, remember that the average mother spends 3.5 more hours a week doing housework than would a woman without children, plus 11 hours a week on child-related activities. This adds up to an additional 754 hours of work every year--the equivalent of three months of 12-hour, 5-day work weeks.
Signs of the Times, May, 1992, p. 6.
Bob Greene (in the Detroit Free Press) cited a study by attorney Michael Minton on the monetary value of a wife's services in the home. First he listed the various functions she performs: chauffeur, gardener, family counselor, maintenance worker, cleaning woman, housekeeper, cook, errand runner, bookkeeper/budget manager, interior decorator, caterer, dietitian, secretary, public relations person, hostess. Using this impressive list of household duties, Minton figured the dollar value of a housewife's work in today's (1981) labor market. He came up with the amount of $785.07 a week. That's $40,823.64 a year!
Bob Greene, Detroit Free Press.
Eight common challenges faced by mothers of young children: 1) Low self-esteem, 2) Monotony and loneliness, 3) Stress from too many demands 4) Lack of time with husband, 5) Confusion about discipline, 6) Home atmosphere, 7) Need for outside role models, 8) Training of children.
Susan A. Yates, And Then I Had Children, Wolgemuth & Hyatt.
Percentage of mothers of infants (children less than 1 year old) who are employed or looking for work: 51. U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey.
American Demographics, December 1988.
A four-year-old and a six-year-old presented their Mom with a house plant. They had used their own money and she was thrilled. The older of them said with a sad face, "There was a bouquet that we wanted to give you at the flower shop. It was real pretty, but it was too expensive. It had a ribbon on it that said, 'Rest In Peace,' and we thought it would be just perfect since you are always asking for a little peace so that you can rest."
The mother of three notoriously unruly youngsters was asked whether or not she'd have children if she had it to do over again. "Yes," she replied. "But not the same ones."
David Finkelstein, Reader's Digest.
Had I Been Joseph's Mother
Had I been Joseph's mother
I'd have prayed
protection from his brothers
"God, keep him safe.
He is so young,
so different from
she never knew
there would be slavery
and prison, too.
Had I been Moses' mother
I'd have wept to keep my little son:
praying she might forget
the babe drawn from the water
of the Nile.
Had I not kept
him for her
nursing him the while,
was he not mine?
but Pharaoh's daughter?
Had I been Daniel's mother
I should have pled
--this Babylonian horde
godless and cruel--
Don't let him be a captive
Had I been Mary,
Oh, had I been she,
I would have cried
as never mother cried,
"Anything, O God,
With such prayers importunate
my finite wisdom would assail
God, how fortunate
Ruth Bell Graham, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, 1991, Focus on the Family Publishing, p. 69.
A Mother's Influence
I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day;
And as my fingers pressed it still
It moved and yielded at my will.
I came again when days were past,
The form I gave it still it bore,
And as my fingers pressed it still,
I could change that form no more.
I took a piece of living clay,
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art,
A young child's soft and yielding heart.
I came again when days were gone;
It was a man I looked upon,
He still that early impress bore,
And I could change it never more.