Today is Mother’s Day. A day we in the Church celebrate the Christian ideal of Mothers and the Christian Home. I gave up doing long flowery sermons about the virtues of motherhood a long time ago. When I was young and naive, I hoped all other families were like Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. But in reality, sometimes they’re more like the Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family than the 1950’s idyllic family portrayals.
Do you know what the Perfect Family and the Easter bunny have in common? They’re both a myth. Families are made up of frail, sometimes sinful self-centered people who didn’t or don’t make very good parents. But the people that make up families can change and be perfected. That’s what the Church and our faith is all about. But there’s really no such thing as a perfect family.
Unfortunately we aren’t given an owner’s manual when we enter into a marriage covenant. Or when have children. Our kids don’t pop out with easy instructions for successful parenthood in their hands. We have to learn from the mistakes of our parents, from our own mistakes, from the mistakes of friends and from Scripture. We have to be wise about it. Even with Scripture we have to be careful because some of the Scriptural parents weren’t all that perfect either. They got it wrong, too. However, there was one Perfect Mother in Scripture, Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think we can use her as a model for motherhood and parenting
We know very little about Mary except some of her lineage. We know that she and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, were related, either cousins or second cousins. John and Jesus were cousins or second cousins. Mary comes from the name Miriam which interestingly enough has four different meanings: Bitter, God’s gift, beloved, or defiant.
She was present during much of Jesus’ ministry. She was at Jesus’ first miracle, actually instigating it and at his crucifixion.
I. DEEP FAITH & HUMILITY:
A. Her Presence at Jesus’ First Miracle and at His Crucifixion point to her DEEP FAITH AND HUMILTY. Which is immediately obvious as we read Luke 1:26-55 (NRSV)
 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.
 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.
 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.
 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Notice that while Mary asked questions she did not hesitate to live out her faith by surrendering her will to God’s Will in a deeply humble manner. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
B. Mothers need a Deep Faith and Humility because it takes faith to raise a child. It took deep faith in Mary’s time. It was a time of peace but a peace filled with uneasy tension because they were being occupied by the Romans. They were the captive nation and people. The constant threat of uprising or revolution seemed to fill the very air especially around Passover which was and is a celebration freedom, Israel’s freedom from bandage and captivity. It had to have filled Mary with fear and anxiety.
I don’t know a mother today who doesn’t hold that same kind of fear anxiety in her heart. Our troops are scattered all over a world filled with war, revolution and terrorists. Our sons and daughters serving in the military walk in harm’s way nearly every day.
If it’s true that Mary followed Jesus’ ministry closely, then she had to have a Deep Faith because every day He was tested. And the more he taught the testier the political and religious leaders were getting. He was walking in harm’s way. And not only from the political and religious forces. There were the dark forces of evil who wanted Jesus gone, too. In their mind, Jesus was an infiltrator, a spy bent on destroying them. And they were right. So, Mary needed a Deep Faith in the presence and providence of God. She had to trust God completely.
Mother’s need that Deep Faith, that Deep Trust every single day because, as Christian Parents, we’re called to pass it on and model it for our children.
A mother was trying to soften the blow of the family cat’s death and told her daughter, “Tabby is in heaven now.” The little girl gave her mother one of those weird quizzical looks and then asked, “Why on earth would God want a dead cat?” (1)
Mother’s need that Deep Faith, that Deep Trust in God every single day because, even though as parents, they try to model the Christian life for their kids, sometimes the kids don’t get it. WATCH
A. Mary, the mother of Jesus, also exhibited great COURAGE, especially on two particular occasions. I’ve already said that Mary was at Jesus’ very first miracle and was the one who instigated it. That took Deep Faith and a sense of Courage. In those particular times, a wedding feast could run for a week so it probably wasn’t uncommon for the wine to run low. Obviously, Mary was related to the family and may have even been helping serve as a hostess.
So, rather than seeing her relative be embarrassed by the social faux pas of running out of wine, she came to her son, Jesus. And maybe there was a little of that Motherly wisdom working, too. Maybe Jesus was being a little reluctant in starting his ministry. Maybe God put this little push in Mary’s heart. Whatever the case, it took Courage to walk up to Jesus and tell Him the wine was running low and he should do something about it.
I remember reading a story years ago about a mother who took her son and daughter fishing in the Alaskan wilderness when all of a sudden a baby moose approached them in a small meadow. Moments later the mother moose charged onto the scene, nostrils flaring and head lowered. The children were now in danger. Mom noticed what happened and came to the rescue. She ran between her children and the mother moose, screaming and waving her arms like someone gone completely crazy.
She charged right up to the mother moose which startled the moose. That mother moose didn’t know how to react and decided to make a hasty retreat. Later, the children excitedly told their father all about their encounter: “You should have seen it Dad, Mom scared off that moose with nothing but her face!”
You remember that look don’t you? The one that could freeze you in your tracks? When you got it you knew you were right on the brink of disaster meted out by Mom, so you quietly backed out of the room or situation and didn’t say a word. Remember that look?
I wonder if that’s not the look Mary gave Jesus that day as she turned to tell the others in the room, “Do whatever he tells you to do.” Jesus objected at first. But after that look, they had more wine then they’d ever need. And it was better than any vintage anyone had ever tasted. Maybe it was because they both knew that from this moment on, everything in their life and their relationship was about to change. Jesus would no longer be her little boy, now He would become her Savior.
Mary, the Perfect Mother knew when it was time and had the courage to do something about it.
B. There’s one other incident in the life of Mary and Jesus, when Mary needed both her Deep Faith AND all the Courage she could muster. That was at the foot of the cross. No mother should ever have to see her children die. That’s not the natural order of things. It’s hard enough when we lose a parent, but to lose a child. I can’t imagine. My only experience is through friends and family members who have lost children.
No matter how much Mary knew. No matter what her Depth of Faith and level courage, watching Jesus tried and unjustly convicted, then brutalized and crucified must have been the hardest thing anyone has ever had to do. The privilege and the joy of being the Mother of the Son of God turned painful and heart breaking. Yet the willful, determined kind of love which Mary had filled her with Courage, courage which has become an inspiration for us.
Mary, the Perfect Mother had Deep Faith and Humility and she exhibited a life of Courage. That’s inspiration enough. But there’s one more thing about Mary that we know.
III. WOMAN OF PRAYER:
A. Mary was a WOMAN OF PRAYER. We know this because in the book of Acts we’re told that after the Ascension, the Disciples and those who accompanied them to Galilee, returned to the Upper Room in Jerusalem. Acts 1:14 has this to say. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.”
The Perfect Mother was a Woman of Prayer. She drew her Faith and Courage from that intimate relationship with God which is developed in and through prayer. For me, that more than implies that as Mothers and Fathers, as parents, we should be a people of prayer.
A mother was in the grocery store trying to shop. The little girl was crying and wailing inconsolably from her perch in the cart because Mom had told she couldn’t have something or to put something back. The checkout clerk heard the mother murmuring under her breath, “OK, Emily, just calm down, control yourself, be patient just a little longer. It’s alright Emily. We’re almost through. Calm down, That a girl. You can do it.” As the clerk scanned the last item, she turned to the mother and said said: “Little Emily’s having a hard time, isn’t she?” The mother looked up and looked rather confused and then said: “You don’t understand, I’m Emily.”
Sometimes those are the only kinds of prayers we can pray as parents; especially when the kids are awake. And when their asleep, so are we.
B. I ran across a Mother’s Prayer, it’s based on 1st Corinthians 13 and was listed as Author Unknown. “If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper–not a homemaker. If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn cleanliness – not godliness. Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh. Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window. Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk. Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys. Love is present through the trials. Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive. Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood. Love is the key that opens salvation’s message to a child’s heart. Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection. Now I glory in God’s perfection of my child. As a mother, there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.”
We should imitate Mary, The Perfect Mother. Mary had DEEP FAITH & HUMILITY, COURAGE AND WAS A WOMAN OF PRAYER and we can’t go wrong with any or all of those.
I know that for some, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are hard because of burdens from the past. But know this, we are about redemption. Parents who feel guilty need to remember God requires is that we believe, pray and try to do our best. The Good News is that if we failed in any one of those, if we failed to be a good parent; if we failed to believe, pray and try to do our best, we can start right now. It’s not too late. We are a forgiven people. We are a people of Resurrection and Resurrection living. There’s no death sentence in Christianity only Resurrection.
For children who feel we have not prized our parents as maybe we should have, the same is true. Forget the past and start now! And for us children who are holding grudges or have held grudges against our parents, the same holds true for us. We CAN forgive as we have been forgiven. We must forgive as we have been forgiven, our forgiveness depends on it.
Someone wrote, “The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, they become an adolescent. The day the adolescent forgives them, they become an adult. The day they forgive themselves, they becomes wise.”
That’s why Jesus came. That’s why Paul wrote: “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). We’re not called to be Perfect Parents. Mary was the only Perfect Mother. However, we can aspire to have the Depth of Faith, Humility and Courage she had and to be People of Prayer.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Leadership Vol.19, #2
2. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, Jan 1994