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Take Me Home To My Mother

II Kings 4:8-20, 32-37

When Henry Aaron, the great baseball player, hit his 715th home run, thus eclipsing Babe Ruth’s long-standing record, as he crossed home plate, he was mobbed by people wanting to congratulate him—members of his own team, members of the opposing team, umpires, and even some fans who had scrambled down out of the stands. Some weeks later, Henry Aaron was asked what he remembered most about that moment. He said, “All I remember was that my mother was there. She was hugging me and smiling. I don’t know how she got there, but my mother was there.” Here was one of the greatest athletes in the world at the moment of the greatest accomplishment in his life, and what he most remembered about that moment was that his mother was there. You see, there is a unique relationship between a mother and a child. Whether that relationship is biological or adoptive in nature, it carries with it the same uniting power. I am very much aware of the fact that as a man, while I can observe and appreciate a mother’s depth of feeling for her child, I can never know it or understand it myself. However, I have been on the receiving end of such a relationship, and certainly I have watched it in Trisha’s relationship with our children.

Perhaps that’s why I love this story from II Kings. It’s the story of the Shunammite woman, who was very impressed with a preacher named Elisha who was intinerating in her area. So much was the case that she had her husband build an extra room on their house where the preacher could stay whenever he was in town. Elisha was most grateful for their hospitality, and he wanted to show his appreciation. Now this couple was somewhat advanced in years, and they had no son. In ancient Middle Eastern society, it was very important to have a son and so Elisha said to them, “You are going to have a son.” And sure enough, they did. Then one day, a few years later, this young child accompanied his father out into the fields to watch the workers harvest the grain, but evidently the little boy stayed too long under the hot, burning sun, and he suffered what appeared to be a sunstroke. He cried out, “Oh, my head. Oh, my head.”—and then he collapsed. His father said to the workers who were trying to help him, “Let’s take him home to his mother.” Well, his mother did all that she could do, and then she enlisted the help of the good man of God, Elisha. As a result, the young boy’s life was saved. Well, that story is 2300 years old, but I relate it to today because it strikes me as interesting that in that very chauvinistic society where a man was considered to be superior to a woman in every way—when it came to a moment of crisis when his child was desperately ill, what did the father say that they were to do? He said, “Take him home to his mother.” Now I think that’s a great text for Mother’s Day, “Take Him Home to His Mother.”

The text reminds me of the role our mothers play in our physical life.

It was my pleasure a few years back to speak to our Presbyterian missionaries and military chaplains in Korea. I remember visiting with several of the chaplains one day, and I asked them what it was like to minister to dying young soldiers on the field of battle. They had all had the experience, and they shared with me their stories. I was surprised to find that there was a common thread in virtually every one of those stories -each of those boys had cried out for his mother. But then on second thought, maybe it’s not so surprising after all that, in a time of physical illness or distress, they would cry out for their mother. Yes, maybe it’s not surprising at all.

Now I know that mothers sometimes say some very funny things. I can remember some of the things that my mother used to say to me, “If you fall off that fence and break your neck, then I won’t take you to the store with me!” Or, “If you cut your toe off in that lawn mower, don’t come running to me!” Or, “If you cross your eyes like that, they may stick like that forever!” But, you know, for all those crazy things she used to say to me, I knew that if ever I was hurt or sick my mother would always be the first to respond. That’s why so many of us, in times of physical pain or distress, say in one way or another, “Take me home to my mother.”

And that text reminds me of the role our mothers play in our moral life.

I keep thinking today of a little story told by Dan Clark. It seems there were some preachers discussing the merits of the various translations of the Bible. One liked the King James Version best because of its simple and beautiful English. Another liked the Revised Standard Version best because it came nearer to the original Greek and Hebrew. The third minister preferred the New International Version because of its up-to-date vocabulary. The fourth minister was silent. When the others pressed him for an opinion, he replied, “I like my mother’s translation the best.” The other three expressed surprise. They said, “We didn’t know your mother had translated the Bible.” He answered, “She translated the Bible into life everyday of her life. It was the most convincing translation I have ever seen.”

Now let me run with that thought for just a few minutes. There’s an old Chinese proverb which says, “A hundred men may make an encampment, but it takes a woman to make a home.” There’s an ancient Spanish proverb which reads, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy.” Those proverbial truths suggest that mothers shape the lives and destinies of their children more than any other person. Mothers are in a position to teach and exemplify the Christian faith, the Biblical truths, and the moral standards in ways which surpass even the ministry of the church. The love of a Christian 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 realize that God has chosen them precisely for the tough spiritual duty of building the Kingdom of God on earth. Yet, I wonder how many modem mothers approach their high calling with that in mind. Modem mothers want their children to enjoy all the advantages of today’s world. They want them to have a good education. They want them to be well dressed. They want them to have material things in life. They want them to be popular. In short, they want their children to succeed. Nothing wrong with that, except that all too often our modem definition for success does not include God, and the result is painfully obvious in our society today. Therefore, I would contend that if mothers today truly want to give their children the best—and they do—then the best thing they can do for their children is to point them to Mary’s Son and to say to them the most powerful words anyone can ever say, “Go and follow Him.” And it is my prayer that one day because mothers everywhere have pointed their children to Mary’s Son, we shall see the end of the horrors of war, the pains of hunger, the stench of slums, and all else that harms the growing souls of children in our world. Of course, for a mother that is both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity of them all: translating the Bible into their everyday lives and loving their children with a Biblical kind of love thus bringing their children to the love and knowledge of God. All of that I think is wrapped up in that wonderful line—“Take me home to my mother.”

And then that text reminds me of the role our mothers play in our eternal life.

You know the Bible speaks quite specifically and frequently of the motherliness of God. In fact, one of the passages that I especially love is the one where Jesus says to the people of Jerusalem, “As a hen gathers her chicks, so I long to gather you to myself.” Now what intrigues me here is that Jesus compares himself to a hen, a female animal. In the first century world, to use a metaphor in which he likened himself to a female figure was quite remarkable. But it was clearly intentional. You see, of all the animals in the animal kingdom, the creature which is most complete most caring and most committed in its guarding of her young is the hen. The hen is always willing, if necessary, to sacrifice her life for the sake of her chicks.

We see that same principle at work in human mothers. True story: About 6 a.m. one Wednesday morning, a man named James Lawson of Running Springs, California, a town up in the San Bernardino Mountains, left home for a long commute to his work in Los Angeles. Later that same morning, his 36-year-old wife, Patsy, left for her teaching job in Riverside, California. As was her habit, Patsy was going to drop her 5-year-old daughter, Susan, and her 2-year-old son, Gerald, off at the baby sitter’s house. They never made it. Eight hours later, James Lawson found his wife and daughter dead in their wrecked car upside down in a cold mountain stream. Gerald, the 2-year-old, was barely alive in the 48 degree water. But in the tragedy, the character of that mother was revealed in a most dramatic and heart-rending way. When the father scrambled down the cliff to what he was sure were the dying cries of his wife, he found her instead locked in death, her hands and arms holding her little boy’s head just above the water in the submerged car. For 8 hours Patsy Lawson had held her toddler afloat, and had finally died, her body frozen in death in that position of self-giving love. She died that her child might live. That, dear friends, is the essence of a mother’s love.

And that’s the essence of the love of God, as well. I think that’s what Jesus means when He speaks of himself in these terms. For you see, even as the hen will die to protect her chicks, even as the mother will die to save her child, so God in Jesus Christ died upon the cross to save us for a life which cannot be destroyed by death. I have seen that kind of Christian sacrifice in Christian mothers, and I think, that’s why, when it comes to eternal life, so many of us say in one way or another, “Take me home to my mother.”

Well…

On this Mother’s Day, I cannot wear a red carnation. My mother is not living here. I must instead wear a white carnation for my mother is at home in Heaven. And yet on this Mother’s Day, I must remember that who I am and what I do, all of it, has been shaped and molded by my mom in the role she played in my life. And I must remember that one day when death shall come for me, I shall be able to say, “Take me home to my mother.” Maybe this says it for me best of all. When Robert Ingersoll, the notorious atheist 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 replied, “No, he didn’t! 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.” My beloved people, I stand by my mother’s God. And because I stand by my mother’s God, one day when I get home to Heaven, I will stand by my mother again.

So, wouldn’t you agree that this is a great text for Mother’s Day, “Take Me Home to My Mother”?

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