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A Day Of Pain And Gain

Mark 3:31-35

Tuck this away in your memory bank.

The first Mother’s Day service was held in Grafton, West Virginia on May 10, 1908. It was the brainchild of a woman named Anna Jarvis as a tribute to her own mother. One year earlier in 1907, Anna Jarvis invited several friends to her home on the second Sunday in May to commemorate the anniversary of her mother’s death and to celebrate the great work her mother had done in her life. The people who gathered in her home that May in 1907 were so touched by the experience that they asked Anna Jarvis to approach her church about having a service to recognize all mothers on the second Sunday of the following May. Well the idea for the service in 1908 caught on and it began to spread throughout the country until on May 10, 1913, the Congress of the United States together with the President of the United States set apart such a day as a formal act for our national life. Anna Jarvis actually lived to see her little idea grow into a vast international observance before she died in 1948 at age 84. And so, Mother’s Day is a gift to us from Anna Jarvis.

Sometimes I wish that she hadn’t done it! Oh I know, that seems a rather harsh thing to say, but please hear me out. You see Mother’s Day has become a day, which is highly commercialized and enormously sentimental. It is deeply important to many people to be sure. But we need to remember, I think, that while it is a time of great joy for some, it is a time of piercing pain for others. In fact I got to wondering how Mary, the mother of Jesus, would have felt had there been a Mother’s Day celebration when she was alive. Well, the more I thought about it the more I came to believe that for Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mother’s Day would have been a day of both pain and gain. Furthermore, I think the same thing is true for us. Let me try to show you what I mean.

Mother’s Day can be a day of pain.

We dare not romanticize the role of the mother of Jesus into some syrupy, sticky-sweet, sentimental story. It was a painful experience for Mary right from the very beginning. The circumstances surrounding the conception and the birth of Jesus were fraught with embarrassment, uncertainty, and even the threat of death. No sooner was the child born to Mary than she and Joseph had to uproot themselves and frantically move to a land—not their own—in order to save then-baby’s life, (childhood and then adolescence for Maiy and Jesus were marked, we can safely assume, by the agonizing loss of Joseph as the father and provider in home. We know that’s true because it is quite clear that from the time of His adolescence until the beginning of His earthly ministry Jesus was responsible for the welfare of the home, and that would have been true only if the father had died.) There came that time when Jesus left His mother and His home in order to become a wandering preacher. The record notes that after that Jesus returned to His hometown only once, and that was a most unhappy occasion. There was a saying in those days that, “A prophet was not without honor save in his own country.” Jesus repeated that saying referring to Himself, but then He added to it these words, “And among his own kin and his own house.” Those words must have been painful for His mother to hear. On another occasion when Jesus was speaking to a crowd, a man came to Him and said, “Your mother and your brothers are here, and they are asking to see You.” Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then, motioning to those seated around Him, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.” The message was that He had joined a larger family—the family of God. And while that was certainly true, nevertheless, we can be certain that that would have had a stinging impact on His mother. Then, of course, there came the day on Calvary when Mary had to watch her Son savagely beaten and brutally executed. That day at the cross would have been a mother’s deepest agony and worst nightmare. Yes, I’m convinced that had there been a mother’s day back then it would have been a day of pain for Mary.

And I have come to see that it is a day of pain for many people I encounter in my own life in the ministry. I think of the time I have spent with mothers who have lost their children to death. When our parents die, it is hard, but it is somehow easier to accept because it is natural. That’s the way life is—those who are older precede us in death. But when our children die, that’s different. It cuts across everything we believe and hold dear. That’s not the way life is supposed to be. So for those mothers, who have lost a child, this is a day of great pain. I think of the time I have spent with women who have had miscarriages. Our society and even the church—God forgive us—tend to treat miscarriages too lightly and casually. For the woman who carries that life within her even for a few days or weeks simply cannot lose that life without grieving. It’s not like having the flu and getting over it, my beloved, it is infinitely more serious than that. I wish that the Church of Jesus Christ would create and provide to women, who have experienced miscarriage, the same worship, faith, and support resources we provide to those who experience a death in the family. So, you see, for those who have had miscarriages today is a day of pain. I think of the time I have spend with women who have had abortions in years past and who now are struggling with a deep sense of guilt because of it. Mother’s Day hits them especially hard. But I hope it could be a time for overcoming their sense of guilt through Christ. You see, when we seek forgiveness for the things we do in life, the Bible tells us that God’s Grace is sufficient. Therefore, I would ask them to remember that what was done in this life will be put right in the Kingdom of Heaven. They, in fact, will be reunited there in Glory with the children of their womb. Then I think of the time I have spent with women who are not and perhaps will not be mothers. To be sure, many times I see women like that who become “mother figures” to large numbers of children not just to one, two, or three biological children. And that is a perfectly beautiful thing to see. However, I have spent enough time with women who are not mothers to know that there is a measure of ache in their souls because that is true, and so, for them, Mother’s Day can be a day of pain.

Do you hear what I’m trying to say? (Mother’s Day would have been a time of great pain for Mary, the mother of Jesus. So it is for some of us.) If, in fact, Mother’s Day is a day of pain for you, please know that my prayers are with you in a special way. And please know that Jesus is with you in a special way, as well. After all Jesus had a mother…

But Mother’s Day also can be a day of gain.

There’s an old Chinese proverb which says, “A hundred men may make an encampment but it takes a woman to make a home.” And there’s a not so old Spanish proverb which reads, “An ounce of mother is worth more than a pound of clergy.” These proverbial truths suggest that mothers shape the lives and the destinies of their children more than any other person. (Mothers are in a position to teach and exemplify Christian faith, virtues, and values in ways which surpass even the ministry of the church.) The Christian heart of a mother is God’s chosen vessel for pouring out His love upon each new generation. (We can easily become sentimental about mothers and their love until we see that God has chosen them for top spiritual duty in building the Kingdom of God on earth.) The Bible makes reference to many mothers, some named others unnamed. What they hold in common is that God used them in special ways to accomplish His purpose in the world.

Look, for example, at Jochebed, the mother of Moses. At the time she gave birth to her son, Moses, the Egyptian pharaoh had ordered every son born to a Hebrew mother to be drowned in the Nile River. But with a courage born of her personal faith in God, Jochebed refused to obey this murderous decree. (Her faith was sorely tested and tried but God gave her the victory.) She was a mother worthy of highest honor because she took her stand upon her faith in God at great costs, but in the end God used her son, Moses, to deliver His people out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land. Courageous mothers, like Jochebed, ought always to be honored. Or look at Hannah, the mother of Samuel. She was the definition of “a praying mother.” Long before her child was born, she poured out her heart to God at a time when Godliness was at a low ebb in the nation. Her own desire was that her child would be completely given over to God for His use. The Lord answered her fervent prayers and gave her a son, Samuel. Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord, and he was then used by God to bring spiritual renewal to the nation. Praying mothers, like Hannah, ought always to be honored. Or look at Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. We know from the writings of Paul that Timothy had learned the Scriptures as a child and that his mother and grandmother had been his teachers. God then took Timothy’s faith and his knowledge of the Bible and used Timothy to spread the Gospel to the then known world. Double honor is due those mothers like Eunice and Lois, who teach their children the Holy Scriptures. Or then, look again at Mary, the mother of Jesus. It would not have been easy to rear Jesus but Mary possessed enough spiritual sensitivity to recognize her Son as a gift from God. She called herself “the handmaid of the Lord.” So she believed that her primary task was to instill in her Son a faith which could withstand any attack. (She then proceeded to shape His growing life with extraordinary devotion to what she believed God wanted her to do) Any mother willing to follow in her train deserves our highest honor.

Abraham Lincoln summed it up. He said, “No one is poor who had a Godly mother.” Let me then be bold enough to make some suggestions for those who would be Godly mothers.

Don’t fret over what has been.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day which read, “Wouldn’t it be great if every teenager came with a set of instructions.” Well, it would, but they don’t. Parenting is an inexact science, and therefore all parents will make mistakes. When we, as parents, are wrong, we need to say it. But then don’t look back. Don’t spend your life crying over spilt milk. Claim God’s forgiving Grace.

Don’t focus on what is now.

(Erma Bombeck said that, “Motherhood takes 180 moveable parts, 3 pairs of hands, and 6 eyes.” I would add it also takes an extra measure of God’s Grace.) Motherhood is the toughest, most demanding job on earth. I was talking with a young mother whose 3-year old was so active and full of mischief that he could make you believe in original sin. I asked how she found strength to ride herd on this whirling dervish. She said, “I have a prayer that I pray several times a day.” I asked, “What is that prayer?” She replied, “Thank you, Lord, that he was not triplets.” Godly mothers don’t let the demands of today destroy them.

And don’t fear what is ahead.

(If parents work in partnership with God, they will set patterns children will follow when they grow up. It may take years to see but it will happen.) Harry Emerson Fosdick once said, “Religion in our family was a force not a form. It was vital and real. I caught it from my mother and father.” Godly mothers so infect their children with faith that, when those children grow old, they walk in the path which has been set.

My guess is that the name Ada Mae Day will mean nothing to you. She was a godly mother. She and her husband, Harry, lived out in the desert wastes near the New Mexico/Arizona border. All they had was a 4-room adobe house with no running water or electricity. There was no school within driving distance. Ada Mae gave birth to a little girl, and she was determined that her daughter would not be limited by their meager surroundings and circumstances. So when the little girl was 4 Ada Mae started her on the Calvert Method of Home Schooling. She read to her daughter by the hour. She saw to it that the girl heard and learned the stories of the Bible and the classics of literature. She poured into the little girl all the love and discipline she needed. It was tough but Ada Mae would not fret over what had been or focus on what was now or fear what was ahead. Ultimately, her daughter went on to college then to law school and wound up becoming one of the most prominent women in this nation. The name of Ada Mae Day means nothing to you but you will know the name daughter, Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Conner. Do you remember what Lincoln said, “No one is poor who had a Godly mother?”


Once a minister was talking to a group of small children about home. The minister asked the children, “How do you spell home?” In unison the children spelled out the word for him—h-o-m-e. Then he asked, “Now tell me, what is home?” Silence. No one spoke. Then one little girl said, “It’s the place where mother is.” Every child, every husband, every father would agree with that little girl. Even Jesus would agree with her. For after all, Jesus had a mother…

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