Last year I read a rant from a woman that refused to listen to one more preacher read Proverbs 31 and tell her how to be a godly woman. Right or wrong, she made a couple of good points. 1) She has a good teaching pastor that opened the Bible each week, delivered a solid scripture-based sermon and shared the Gospel. Mother’s Day each year turns into a one hour Hallmark card. 2) There are those in the church who may have lost a parent, or a child, or perhaps are disappointed they cannot become parents. Honoring mothers can be especially painful for those that have tried and failed. And we personally know what that’s like. So, here is the sermon I preached on Mother’s Day, May 9, 2010.
God is relational. He seeks a relationship with his people, who in a general sense are all his children. Let’s begin with the relationship of marriage.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. -Ephesians 5:25-32
Marriage is a covenant relationship, not a contractual one. In a contract, the actions of both parties are conditional. If my contractor doesn’t finish building the deck, for instance, then I am not obligated to pay him for building a deck. A covenant is not an “if-then” type of promise. The marriage vows, like God’s promises to mankind, are unconditional. I solemnly swear to love, honor and cherish my wife even on the days she doesn’t seem to love me back. God told the Hebrews at Mount Sinai that he would be their God and they would be his people. Even when they forgot him, dishonored him and brought other idols and alters into the Temple, he remained their God and continued to love them. He sent prophets to deliver his word, and later sent the anointed one (Messiah in Hebrew, Christ in the Greek). The promises of God’s covenant continue even when we – and it’s always us – let down our end. Just as a bride is dressed, adorned, and made-up for her wedding day, so the church must be holy, spotless and blameless for the wedding to the Lamb. It may be a mystery in the words of Paul, but we are collectively the bride of Christ.
The relationship of Father to child should be all too obvious. God is the Father, both of his only son Jesus whom the scripture bears out he loves time and time again, and also to those adopted into God’s family. Many verses of the Father’s love could go here.
What about mothers? Some critics of the Bible (you know, the ones that haven’t read it) present the Bible as anti-woman. They contend the Bible was written in ancient times by a society in which women had no rights, were considered property, etc. First, I would recommend reading Proverbs 31, the introductory paragraph of this post notwithstanding. But I take you instead to two passages in the New Testament, the first in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. -1 Cor 11:11-12
And then to these somewhat curious words of Jesus:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! -Matt 23:37
Man and woman cannot be independent of each other, for every man is born of woman. There’s a revelation for Mother’s Day, huh? But watch what Jesus does. In lamenting over Jerusalem, he compares his loving compassion for them to that of a mother, albeit a mother hen gathering her chicks under wing. He wishes he could just wrap his arms around them tightly and hold them, but they will not allow it! Of all the ways the Bible tries to express the love God has for us, one analogy used for Jesus is that of a mother caring for her young. First century Israel may have been anti-women, but during the earthly ministry of Jesus he certainly is not. The Gospel writers bear this out on many occasions.
As believers, we regard one another as brothers and sisters, and the scriptures have much to say on this as well. Every family relationship, first as children, then as husbands and wives, later as parents, mirror in some way the relationships of the family of God. God loves in a way that cannot be comprehended by the human mind, and all the relationships of the family – including motherhood – help us to understand it.