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When meeting with six young pastors, I asked, “What text have you chosen for your Mother’s Day sermon?” No one had an answer. The common response was, “That’s a hard sermon for me to preach; I’ve not found my sermon yet.”

Another time while in Kentucky, I asked two veteran pastors the same question. We were having dinner together, and bear in mind it was Wednesday night before Mother’s Day. Both of them shook their heads and said, “I don’t have my sermon for Mother’s Day. That’s a hard one for me to do.”

Why is it so difficult for pastors of all ages to preach Mother’s Day sermons? My hunch is it has nothing to do with faulty relationships with their mothers. It has more to do with two realities: a) They do not want to go all sentimental and just preach a “how wonderful is motherhood” sermon, and yet are not clear what to do; and b) They are mostly men. My granddaughter was the one who reminded me of this.

I was pushing my 8-year-old granddaughter Abby in the swing in her front yard, our favorite place. She and her twin Erin had been learning about childbirth from their mother. Abby was not liking what she was learning. “I’m not going to have children, Grandpa,” she said. “It hurts too bad.”

My first thought was to say, “If your mother felt that way, you would not be here. And if your great-grandmothers felt that way, none of us would be here.” But what I said was, “You’re right. It does hurt. But the pain goes away, and you’re left with this beautiful child, and you decide that it was worth it.”

The child looked me square in the eyes and said, “You’re a man. What do you know?”

After picking myself up off the grass, I laughingly admitted she was exactly right—all I know on this subject is what I’ve been taught. Let us admit the obvious here: This is one experience where we men are on the outside looking in. We men are out of our league trying to assess what mothers go through and the challenges they face.

So we will cut these pastors some slack and pray for them, that the Father will give them the sermons He wants them to preach. In the meantime, I have some ideas for the rest of us.

 

What I’m Preaching On

My sermon for a Mother’s Day morning at FBC of Kenner concerned the conflicting currents flowing through even the best mothers, the tension even Christian mothers contend with. Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus in Luke 1 and 2:

  • Bearing the Son of God in her womb: What a privilege. Enduring the suspicion and rumors of family and neighbors: What a burden.
  • Bringing forth this special child in the City of David; having to do so in a stable a long way from home.
  • Blessed by Simeon and Anna in the Temple; hearing of God’s great role for this Child, and then learning that a sword will pierce her own heart.
  • Visited by the Magi with special gifts; hearing of murderous Herod’s intentions; the midnight escape to Egypt.

Poor Mom. She has to depend on other people to help look after her children, and sometimes finds them undependable. (You can hear Mary and Joseph interrogating others on the journey to Jerusalem: “What do you mean, He’s not with you? I was counting on you to look after Him!”) Every parent has to have others they can count on—extended family members, school teachers, pastors, Sunday School teachers, choir and mission leaders, coaches, etc. Sometimes we find they let us down. (The church is such an important resource for parents. It’s so crucial that we select the best and finest to work with our children.)

Poor Mom. She finds it hard to accept that her Son is growing up with a mind of His own and His own sense of how the Father is leading Him. So, when she rebukes Him for “treating us this way,” Jesus informs her the temple should have been the first place she looked, that He had work to do. Literally, He answers: “Did you not know that I must be about the things of my Father?” Interesting that Mary says “Your father and I have been looking for you,” and Jesus speaks of a different Father. (Mothers sometimes find it difficult to begin to relinquish control as the child matures; and yet if the child is to become a responsible adult, this must happen. Watch a nature program and see the mother lion run off her adolescent son, then watch the eagle push the fledglings out of the nest when the time has come for them to leave it.)

Poor Mom. So much to consider. “Mary treasured all these things up in her heart.” She was so torn between the privilege of parenting the Savior and the burden of the daily responsibilities of her role. Every parent knows the tension. (Interesting, too, the assumption Mary and Joseph made that Jesus was among them when He wasn’t. One wonders how many church members these days are assuming that because they go to church or were raised by Christian parents that Jesus is automatically with them. They need to take stock and make sure.)

Some Thoughts From Ruth Bell Graham

Here are more Mother’s Day sermon ideas from Ruth Bell Graham in her wonderful book, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them.

Monica, mother of Augustine, prayed for years that her brilliant but undisciplined son would be saved. When she sought the counsel of her priest, he listened as she poured out her heart of love and her intercession for this prodigal. At the conclusion, the priest said, “Go on! Leave me alone. Live as you are living. It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost.” (I think when a mother’s prayers arrive in Heaven, they go to the head of the line. When Hannah gave birth to her baby, she was so thrilled that God had heard her prayers, she named the child Samuel—literally, in the Hebrew, it means: “Heard of God.” His very name proclaimed that God had heard his mother’s prayers!)

You know the Augustine story. Monica prayed that he would not go to Rome, which was then such a wicked place. But he slipped away and went anyway…and came to Christ there.

Some poetry from Ruth Bell Graham (same book):

“Lord, in This Frenzied Puttering”
Lord, in this frenzied puttering
about the house, see more!
The dusting, straightening, muttering,
are but the poor efforts
of a heavy heart
to help time pass.
Praying on my knees I get uptight;
For hearts and lives are not the only things
that need to be put right.
And, while I clean, please, if tears should fall,
they’re settling the dust—that’s all.
Lord, I will straighten all I can
and You take over what we mothers cannot do.

Another poem, with the title: “Listen, Lord”
Listen, Lord, a mother’s praying
low and quiet; listen, please.
Listen what her tears are saying,
See her heart upon its knees;
lift the load from her bowed shoulders
till she sees and understands,
You, who hold the worlds together,
hold her problems in your hands.

Luther's Story

Luther Little was a Mississippian who pastored in Charlotte, NC, in the 1920s and 1930s. I’ve read his books; he was so well worth knowing. In his autobiography, he tells about his mother, who never had the opportunity to hear him preach.

When Luther announced to his family of God’s call into the ministry, only his mother was pleased. His father and brothers harassed him mercilessly about it, accusing him of seeking a softer life than what they would experience on the farm. The day Luther was scheduled to preach his first sermon, his mother became ill and was unable to accompany the family to church. She brought her young son near and said, “Son, you go on and preach. I’ll stay behind and pray for you. When you get back, you can tell me all about it.”

A little more from Ruth Bell Graham. She is so wonderful.

This is her take on the story of the homecoming of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15.

“Joe Came Home Tonight”
Joe came home tonight. He’d been gone quite awhile—and missed.
Funny how his absence was felt more than Charlie’s hanging ’round.

His dad stayed near that window day and night, looking—
listening for a call that never came.
Joe never missed his dad like that.
He was too busy having fun—then pigs—his own troubles—himself.
And all the time his dad was missing Joe.

Then tonight Joe came home.
First we knew the old man shouted and banged the door
and took off down the road.
We saw them meet.
A proud old man and a bum.
I couldn’t believe Joe could get that dirty
and his dad be so glad to get him back.

Charlie? You know Charlie—faithful but complaining.
Well, he was faithful to his complaining tonight.
The rest of us? Boy! It’s great.

P.S. I hope Joe didn’t get a round-trip ticket.
P.P.S. He did. Where are you, Joe?

One more from Ruth Bell Graham:

“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 the others.”

Mercifully, 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?—and she but Pharaoh’s daughter?

Had I been Daniel’s mother I should have pled
“Give Victory!—this Babylonian horde
godless and cruel—Don’t let him be a captive—
better dead, Almighty Lord.”

Had I been Mary, Oh, had I been she,
I would have cried as never mother cried,
“Anything, O God, anything...
—but crucified.”

With such prayers importunate
my finite wisdom would assail
Infinite Wisdom. God, how fortunate
Infinite Wisdom should prevail.

Okay, Pastor. See if any of this helps.



Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry at JoeMcKeever.com.

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Talk about it...

Myron Heckman

commented on May 3, 2010

Good, well-thought out material here. I don't attempt to preach a "Mother's Day" sermon, however. Mother's Day, unlike Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost doesn't have roots in a biblical event, but rather is a popular civil holiday. I think that's why it's hard to keep it from being sentimental, which is always unsatisfying to the preacher and the hearers. In our service, we welcome mothers, pray for mothers, and I seek where possible to amplify or illustrate points and/or apply my semon to mothers or parenting. I may use Monica's prayer for her son as an illustration of abiding in Christ this Sunday, for example. But I would find an annual sermon to mark the day a recipe for homiletic mediocrity on my part. I understand others may not have that trouble, but from Joe McKeever's informal survey of preachers without a Mother's Day text, I think most are in my category.

Bruce Smalley

commented on May 3, 2010

Like Myron I do not feel obligated to preach a specific type of sermon simply because of civil holidays. That being said, we attempt to be sensitive to the reality that Mother's Day is a day of great pain for many women (and some men) in our churches for a variety of reasons -- including the inability to conceive or to carry a child to term. I suspect some of those women stay away from some churches where they know "Mother's Day" will be a focus of the services. (And, yes, I know they should rejoice with those who rejoice, but...)

John Ferguson

commented on May 3, 2010

I am going to preach about Naomi in the book of Ruth. The trial she went through, loosing her family, then still hearing the still small voice to guide her daughter-in-law Ruth, to have a great grand child named Jesus.

D. Olson Scbroeder

commented on May 3, 2010

I'm preaching on Lydia, a biblical "modern woman." I know what it's like to not be able to speak of motherhood joyfully. I previously stayed away, as Bruce suggests, but now as a pastor, I can be sensitive to other women and their husbands. Lydia was a strong woman of faith who asked Paul into her house, and this will be the thrust of my sermon. My prayer will bless those who mother, be they male or female. Thanks, Joe, for the poetry ideas. Not sentimental but still fine for a woman pastor to use. :-)

Robert J. Garbett

commented on May 4, 2010

Thanks for the article and comments. I am going to pull from several Biblical examples this Mother's Day Moses' mother (Jochebed), Timothy's mother and Samuel's mother (Hannah). Three characteristics of godly mothers we find in these ladies are protection, teaching and provision.

Richard A. Hunter

commented on May 4, 2010

I plan to preach on Ruth 1 with the theme, "Caring For the Families that God Has Given Us." I am going to have powerpoint pictures of different families that represent the rich and diverse families in our congregation. My main points are about relationships. They are based on 1)mutual sacrifice; 2) centered on faith and 3) built on putting the needs of the other first, be that your spouse, children, parent, etc. God sends us family to love and care for - don't allow bitterness and trouble to blind you to future opportunities and blessings.

Sharon Wiese

commented on May 4, 2010

As a woman and a mother who raised her son as a single parent I take every opportunity to to life up God's plan for families, the current situation in the country 1/2 of all families are single parent, and Biblical examples for handling the parenting and family issues of our day.

Thomas Cash

commented on May 4, 2010

To comment on the first couple responses: Yes, Mothers Day and Fathers Day have no Biblical roots, but what an opportunity to "give honor to whom honor is due!" And what an chance to share some Godly principles of parenting with so many who have been raised in dysfunctional settings. I too have preached about Moses' mother, but from the perspective of a godly partnership with Moses' father; see "Amram & Jochebed: Bringing up Godly Children" on sermoncentral.com

Philip Washburn

commented on May 5, 2010

My wife sees me struggle during this time each year. I call May one of my fluff months. Mothers Day, Graduation Day, Labor Day...all are great holidays, but none are Biblical. One time a deacon told me really misses it when I skip the holiday approach. So I try each year to come up with a fresh approach, and the sermons I have preached are from all the same sources already mentioned. So back to my wife, she said preach. Don't worry about the mothers, because if they are really "Godly Mothers" they want others to hear the Word. It is Wednesday. My question now is do I listen to my wife, who is the mother of five, or to my heart. I'll tell you later what I did. I know I am going to rearange the books on in my office now and maybe God will inspire me what to do before Sunday.

Bill Williamson

commented on May 5, 2010

So, all good thoughts, but on such a delicate day, how do you address the women who cannot have children of their own without giving them the same old "rejoice when others rejoice" rhetoric?

Maryellen Lanoue

commented on May 6, 2010

Because Mother's day is hard I will be approaching it from a different way. So many do not have good memories of a mother. I will mention that we can be glad our mother's did not abort us. There are 1.4 million abortions a year and we were not in that number. We can be thankful for that and because we are here I will go to Jeremiah 29:11 and read that God has a plan for our lives. A good plan. What is a mother anyway? I have a sister in her 70's who never married or had a child and has mothered many children in her over 50 years of teaching little children in Sunday School. She is a mother to many. My daughter has a little chicken and bought some baby chicks and put them with this strange mother and this mother took these babies and nestles them under her wings each night. She is a mother. I will look forward to preaching this mother's day. So many need to hear they are important at any stage of life. Thank you

Maryellen Lanoue

commented on May 6, 2010

Because Mother's day is hard I will be approaching it from a different way. So many do not have good memories of a mother. I will mention that we can be glad our mother's did not abort us. There are 1.4 million abortions a year and we were not in that number. We can be thankful for that and because we are here I will go to Jeremiah 29:11 and read that God has a plan for our lives. A good plan. What is a mother anyway? I have a sister in her 70's who never married or had a child and has mothered many children in her over 50 years of teaching little children in Sunday School. She is a mother to many. My daughter has a little chicken and bought some baby chicks and put them with this strange mother and this mother took these babies and nestles them under her wings each night. She is a mother. I will look forward to preaching this mother's day. So many need to hear they are important at any stage of life. Thank you

Luther Kerwin Hickley

commented on May 7, 2010

Reading all the comments from co-laborers of the gospel is very encouraging. However, we are living in real hard times, the stress and the pressure of giving up on family and even God is real. 1 Chron. 4:9 (Living) Jabez was more distinguished than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because she had such a hard time at his birth (Jabez means "Distress"). And even though “Mothers Day” it’s a civil holiday, just to encourage our mothers to hang in there and not faint, “The Pain Of Purpose”…

Lily James

commented on May 7, 2010

I am a preacher and a Mom of 5 great kids, and what I have felt compelled to teach is how we have spiritual Moms. I am using Huldah the prophetess who inspired Josiah to lead the Children of Israel to National revival. She was faithful in voicing God's word and in that led to the teaching of a whole generation after Josiah, who were later exiled in Babylon. Huldah's spiritual mothering led to the grounding of faith and truth for Shadrack, Meshack, Abednigo and Daniel. Her treasuring the word inspired a king, who inspired a nation. That all of us would see we are to be spiritual parents to the next generation would radically change our sense of who we are and what God wants us to do.

Mark Byrd

commented on May 8, 2010

I will be preaching on salvation and God's amacing Grace. What an opportunity to bring a message of salvation to those who would not normally come to church if not for Mothers Day, Easter and Christmas. What an honor it would be for Mothers to see those children that may have slipped away, or who have not come to Christ yet be moved by the spirit of God to give thier life to Christ. I will recognize mothers, but preach the Word of God. An awesome opportunity not to be missed. We preach on honoring Mothers, we may not get those children back in until Christmas.

Vergilio, Jr. Bive

commented on May 15, 2010

This Mothers' Day, I will be focusing, not on the mothers, but on how their children can best show their love for their mothers. After, all, shouldn't we be giving the mothers a break? I just thought that this could be a great treat for mothers who want to come to church and be refreshed. It's like taking them out to a spa. Though I am aware of the fact that the celebration of Mothers' Day does not have very strong biblical roots, I am also very sure that those who oppose it celebrate their birthday - a thing I am definitely not oppose to - but does not even have a trace of sanction from the Bible. I thank the Lord for giving me a godly mother whose life and teachings has always been a great inspiration (the Bible comes first) to all my Mothers' Day messages.

Rev Nancy D Good

commented on May 1, 2013

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