Things My Mother Taught Me
It’s Mother’s Day. More importantly, it’s Sunday - it’s the Lord’s day. I know pastors who don’t observe these special Sundays by Hallmark. They say they observe scripture, not Hallmark. And while I think there is a careful balance we need to take into account - we need to not be too quick to observe Hallmark celebrations over and above the CHURCH calendar. But we all know that one of the ten commandments is that we are to honor our mothers and our fathers. So I believe today, as we honor our mothers, we honor God by following at least ONE of his commandments.
So today is a day to honor our mothers, and that’s an important biblical principal. And I think you’ve heard me say this before, that we have twisted this tradition around, so that instead of honoring OUR mothers, we honor those who have HAD children. There’s a difference. See, one is about the other person - our mothers. The other one becomes all about ME - if I’ve had children. And I’m going to even be so bold as to say one is SERVANT oriented. One is selfish.
See, if we keep Mother’s Day in perspective, and honor OUR mothers, the ladies who have had children will be honored, but EVERYONE will be included in mother’s day. Too often it’s not that way. But, I’m almost 100% certain that everyone in here today HAS a mother. And you have a mother, you can honor, no matter what KIND of a mother you think they have been, you can make the choice to HONOR your mother. That’s why EVERYONE (or almost anyway) got a flower today. Because we’re ALL involved. Because it’s a day to honor OUR mothers.
That’s the first part of my introduction. Now shift gears just a little bit.
Most of you know that I am a Dr. Ben Witherington III groupie. I discovered his teaching and writing about a year ago and I have learned so much from him. Not the least of which is, a new perspective on grieving. Dr. Witherington’s daughter died very unexpectedly this past January at the age of 32. One of the things that really impressed me when he shared his grief with his readers. Even though I don’t know this man. I’ve never met him. I feel like I have walked with him through the grieving process from his initial thoughts about his daughter’s death to more recently the yard sale they had when he and his wife had to clear out their daughter’s apartment.
Now - most of you (I expect everyone here) knows that less than a month ago, my mother was ushered into eternity. And those of you who attend here, at Faith Bible, regularly, you know that this is my first message in the pulpit since my mother’s death.
Because of what I feel like I’ve learned from Dr. Witherington, and because of what scripture says about where his daughter, and my mother, are right now. I didn’t want to get up here today and preach a message that didn’t acknowledge in any way, the hope that I have which is in Christ Jesus.
Scripture says that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.
So today, in honor of MY mother, I want to share with you what I believe are the three MOST important things my mother taught me. Mother’s teach us A LOT, don’t they? Some things they teach us, they wish they hadn’t! But we watch our mom’s and quite often we imitate them. And when we grow up, and our mom’s see themselves in us, sometimes they’re shocked! I can’t tell you how many times in the last month I have heard someone tell ME, “You’re just like Mabel.” Or “Mabel will never be gone as long as you’re alive.”
Here are some things Mabel - my mom - taught me that likely weren’t the MOST important things.
1. Always wear clean underwear, in case you have an accident.
(When you have an accident, they cut it off anyway so what does it matter.)
2. Make your bed, company might drop in.
(Companies going to be in my bedroom??!!)
3. Rinse the dishes really well, soap will give you moths in your tummy.
(So why are you washing my mouth out with soap, Mom?)
4. Eat ALL the food on your plate - there are starving children in Africa.
And my favorite.
5. Did you wash behind your ears? I grew up thinking behind my ears was the most important part of my body!!
Mom’s teach us all kinds of things. Some good. Some not so good. Some just plain silly.
Of course, the most important thing mom, and dad, taught me - was the love of Jesus as my Savior.
There are three other very important things, that mom specifically taught me, that I want to share with you today, as we honor our moms.
The first thing Mom specifically taught me was:
1. Go to Church. Hebrews 10:25 (READ)
Church was not an option in our house. Every time the church doors open, the MacPherson family was represented. Mom lived by Hebrews 10:25, “And let us not neglect meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Why is it SO important for us to go to church?
It’s in that verse. The most important reason to go to church is to encourage one another.
You might say, “But Pastor! That’s wrong! We go to church to worship God - you’re right, we do.” Can you worship God anywhere besides at church. Of course you can. Can you be a Christian and not go to church - maybe? Personally, I think the jury’s still out on that one. To me, that’s like saying you can love your wife, and not go home to her at night.
God ordained church because He’s coming again! And we are to ENCOURAGE one another by meeting TOGETHER for worship.
You know what I’ve discovered this month. It’s pretty easy for me to keep a lid on my grief if I’m not with anybody. But the minute I’m in someone’s presence - especially someone who is offering their love and support - here’s what happens - everything I am as a grieving daughter comes to the surface, and I can express those emotions, that reality, and receive encouragement. I’m still grieving when I’m alone, all by myself, but the encouragement - the process - happens in the presence of others.
Now, that’s how church works. You can HAVE SOME KIND of a relationship with Christ. You can BE a Christian, and not go to church. But your Christianity will always have a lid on it - it will be stunted - why? Because the minute you come into the presence of other believers, whether it’s for worship or fellowship or a pot luck, or prayer, or anything where your focus is your common bond in Christ, you ENCOURAGE one another because the REALITY of your Christianity is expressed in the context of other believers. And if you and I don’t have that encouragement, I really don’t think it’s possible to be a Christian for very long. I sure don’t want to try it anyway.
You know one of the things I will always remember most about my mother? When we would ask my mother what she wanted for Mother’s Day. You know what she NEVER failed to ask for - there wasn’t one Mother’s Day that I know of that came and went during her life when she was asked what she most wanted for Mother’s Day, that she didn’t say, “I just want to be in church will all my children.”
Go to church.
The second big thing my mother taught me was to
2. Pray. Pray for the lost. Pray for spiritual growth for believers. Ephesians 3:10-17 (READ)
Now John taught us a lot about prayer last week, so I just want to share a story with you about prayer at our house. Of course, we always said a prayer before each meal, and before bedtime. But there was another time in our family that, I think, has pretty much been forgotten these days - it was called, “The Family Altar.” Now we didn’t always have it, but Mom sure wished we did. She’d gather us around before Dad went off to work, before we went to school and we’d all kneel down either at the sofa or living room chairs - but we’d kneel, and there we would pray for each other, for the day. And you know, as much as I was frustrated by those times, because I wanted to get to school - get out the door - I remember those times when I would hear mom and dad pray for my day at school and that I would interact well with my friends and do well at my school work and respect my teachers - those were the times that are burned in my memory as some of the richest and most meaningful of my life.
Why? Why is that? It’s because the old adage is still true - the family that PRAYS together STAYS together.
Then there’s something else that my mother taught me. And this is a REALLY big thing, whether you’re a mother, or father, or just about any role you have or any age you are after about 10 or 12, and that is:
3. Worry doesn’t change a thing.
My mom was a worrier. Is yours? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I’ve discovered something about Moms. Most moms worry - at least a little bit. And I think that’s why prayer was so important to my mom. I think she realized that the more she prayed, the less she’s HAVE TO worry!
Worry and prayer are like the repelling sides of a magnet - you know there’s the one way that a magnet picks things up, and then the other way, it repels things. Prayer and worry are like that.
Jon gave us a quote last week that I’d like to adapt here. It’s from John Bunyan. Here it is:
“Prayer will make a mom cease from worry, or worry will entice a mom to cease from prayer.”
And worry really is just about crossing bridges before they are there. Worry is about the “what if’s.” The best “what if” I can remember from my mom was when I was about 16 or 17 and the church we went to was mainly white people, and there was a vibrant church on the other side of Toronto which was mainly black people and we often did things together. The make up of the churches was really just to do with demographics, not because of any separation of races. And the youth groups very often got together to do things and eventually some of us, ended up dating each other. And the pastor’s son of the black church was a very handsome young man - his name is Paul Taylor. And one night all the young people were going to Toronto City Hall to go skating and Paul Taylor called and asked me if I would go with him. I was delighted! I put my hair in ringlets and got all dolled up because I had a date.
And I’ll never forget it, mom was already in bed when we went out. I don’t know maybe she was just resting or something. I don’t really remember that part, but I do remember she was laying in bed and I hollered in to her that I was leaving, and she called me back and said, “So you’re really going out with him.” And I’m sure I rolled my eyes, and said, “Yes, Mom.” And here’s what she said. She said, “WHAT IF - What if you marry him?”
Mom couldn’t fathom the idea that I would have a date with a black boy, because WHAT IF I married him. You know what would have happened IF I had married him. I’d have been Elizabeth Taylor!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Worry doesn’t change a thing.
The final most important thing that my mother taught me, is
4. There’s victory in Jesus. 1 Cor. 15:51-58 (READ)
That was my mother’s philosophy of living. Even during these last few years when she was forgetting many things, she never forgot her Source of Victory. She prayed for our church. Lately when I talked to her she would ask if we’d moved into our new house yet. But she meant the church. And she was praying for victory in Jesus for us. You could ask anybody who knew mom very well, what was her favorite hymn for her whole life, and they would tell you, it’s Victory in Jesus. Our family may have disagreed on anything, but there was never any doubt about this hymn. Mom couldn’t sing a lick - but she sang this song loud and clear and today she’s singing it in perfect pitch.
We’re going to stand and sing Victory in Jesus. But before we do that, I want to ask you mom’s - what are the big things you’re teaching your kids? And for all of us - what has your mom taught you?
“Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12).
I want to finish with this tribute
Happy Mother's Day Mom. How I miss your smile and our phone calls. Thank you for all the lessons you taught me, even when you thought I wasn't getting them. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for squiggling up your nose when I was doing something wrong, and for not saying, "I told you so." Thank you for giving me good manners, a brave heart, and confidence to take a risk. Thank you most for giving me Jesus. Thank you for teaching me to persevere through the hard times and that the best jobs aren't always the highest-paying ones. Thank you for teaching me to comb my hair, brush my teeth, and to look both ways, not just when I'm crossing the street but before every big decision. Thank you for teaching me that it's better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all. Thank you for not spending "enough" time with me because you were working so hard to make ends meet. Thank you that I never knew we couldn't afford it when you let me go to Youth Rallies, and Silverlake Youth Camp, and the All Night Sings at Massy Hall. Thank you that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I will see you again because there is Victory in Jesus.
Let’s stand and sing . . .