May 16, 2011

Urban Legends: Mother's Day

Today being Mother’s Day, we want to take a step back and honor the women here today and the beauty of motherhood. There is an old Jewish Proverb that says, "God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers."

If we had to pull this message under the banner of our current series we could say it was the Myth of the perfect mother. That would be an easy one to break down and we could be out of here in just about 2 minutes because we all know that our parents were not perfect and, as parents, we know we are not perfect. Myth busted! We’re done! We could go home. Maybe, though, we should have used last week’s message on forgiveness for this weekend.

Celebrating the woman who gave us life and reared us is not something we should do only one day a year, but we do it one day out of every year so the Greeting Card companies can turn a profit.

Little Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes, though couldn’t find a card that expressed his feeling exactly so he wrote his own...here is what it said, "I was going to buy a card with hearts of pink and red. But then I thought I’d rather spend the money on me instead. It’s awfully hard to buy things when one’s allowance is so small. So I guess you’re pretty lucky I got you anything at all. Happy Mother’s Day. There, I’ve said it. Now I’m done. So how about getting out of bed and fixing breakfast for your son. Love, Calvin."

This morning we are going to look at what it means to honor our mother’s and talk about some practical ways to do that.

Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (NIV).

Out of all the 10 Commandments this is the only one with a promise. God told His people Israel that when they committ to honoring their father and mother He would bless them with long life in the land. In his writing to the Ephesian church, the Apostle Paul is discussing the relationships family members should have toward each other. He reminds them of this commandment and the promise that those who honor their parents will have long life.

Honor your parents so you may live long in the land. My mother had a similar saying, “You better do what I tell you. I brought you into the world, and I can take you out of it!”

I used to think that “Honor your father and mother” was a command only to young children. That’s how all my Sunday School teachers used it. Reminding me that I needed to obey, be a good little boy, and honor my parents...we see how that turned out, but they were hopeful!

The 10 Commandments, however, were not spoken to children...they were given as commandments to adults. It was the adults, particularly the men, who gathered around to hear Moses teach the words given to him by God on the Mountains.The adults were then to teach them to their children, but they were first given to the adults of the community.

So what does it mean when the Bible uses the word “honor”?

The Hebrew word for “honor”...kavad...means to make heavy or weighty..parents are to be weighted down with all the respect and praise they receive both from and because of the children. This is a charge for children, both young and grown, to respect and obey their parents, but also to live out what their parents have taught them. It was expected that both the words and actions of the child would bring honor to the parents.

The idea of honor does not stop there. This more than a charge to children—it is a charge to parents to be worthy of that respect and obedience. To honor or give respect also signified that the person was noteworthy, worth attention, and deserving of obedience. When the Apostle Paul revisits this passage in Ephesians he immediately follows it up with instructions for fathers to not exasperate their children.

The imagery of honor here is one of a King receiving his crown. He is a man worthy of the respect and honor being given him, and the people are honoring him by place a heavy crown and the weight of responsibility and rule on him. They are piling on their praise. Parents by their honorable actions receive the honor and praise they deserve.

So we must ask ourselves what does it mean for us, in our culture to honor our parents? There was a time when children never moved very far from their parents. They lived in the same community as their parents and people could see both the parent and the child and honor could be given. But we are a mobile culture. Most of us no longer live with regular, daily interaction with our parents.

There was a time when family dysfunction while present was not as rampant as it is today with broken homes and abusive relationships and multi-step-parent homes. How do we as Christ’s followers remain obedient to God’s Word and honor our parents when they are not honorable?

What does honoring our parents look like now?

First, We listen to their advice.

Proverbs 1:8 says, “Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching.”

Parents serve as the first authority figures and teachers in our life. In Hebrew the word for Parent (horim) and the word for Teacher (morim) share a common root that emphasizes that roles are about teaching and instructing. Parents were meant to be instructors. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says to parents, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Children bring honor to their parents in the same way a student who excels in their studies brings honor to a teacher. That relationship takes a willing and bright student and a wise and dedicated teacher.

If you have a bright student and a horrible teacher...the child will often struggle, rebel, and ultimately fail in his studies. If you have a gifted teacher and an unwilling student...the child will not develop in her academics. But if you have both a willing child and a gifted teacher both the teacher and child excel.

As parents our job is first a commitment to being teacher and instructor for our children and doing so in a way that gives them honor and they in turn bring honor to us.

Our parents should be respected for their instructions. If we are willing to have ears and listen, we can learn from our parents. For some that is an easier task than for others. Some parents we have to learn from not so much from their positive teaching, but rather from their mistakes. The old adage that some people can always serve as an example of what NOT to do is sometimes true.

Learning from someone else says more about us than it says about our teacher. Yes, we thrive and grow when given a good instructor, but we can and should also grow under bad teachers.

Appreciate your heritage.

Earlier this week I heard a great quote from Jay-Z "We were kids without fathers…so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history, and in a way, that was a gift. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves…Our fathers were gone, usually because they just bounced, but we took their old records and used them to build something fresh."

In the absence of good role models and stable parents, he, like others, are able to find other teachers and mentors to guide; to choose a heritage.

You are the sum total of all the parts that have gone before you. Like it or not, your parents are your heritage...some for good and some for bad. But it is all there. Real maturity takes place when we stop whining about all the bad things that have happened to us and realize that we are who we are because of everything both good and bad that has happened to us. We don’t forget the bad things or no longer have pain from them...we just recognize that they have made us who we are.

Many people are able to look back on generations of great parents and grandparents and feel proud of that, and they should. Some of us have to say, “I am going to be the first generation that is honor-worthy.”

The Apostle Paul took a young man under his wing and began training him for ministry. Timothy was born to a Greek father and a Hebrew mother. His mother instilled in him an understanding of his heritage...not in being a Jew, but his spiritual heritage as well. In 2 Timothy 1:5-6 Paul says to Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

As children we are part of a heritage we receive from our parents. Our story does not begin with us...it began generations ago and was passed on to us by our parents. Some of us need to be the first to break certain heritage traits that have been passed down to us. Others of us recognize the power of a strong heritage and we get to pass that along to our children.

Honoring our mothers means we recognize the heritage that has influenced them and now influences us...and learn to appreciate it for all of its good and bad.

Know them as people.

Dorothy Womack writes, “Nowhere in our structured formulaic teachings for life were we taught that we should...take the time to get to know our parents as people, not merely as our nurturers and providers…How I wish I had taken the time to just spend time in the presence of my parents, learning of their interests and backgrounds, sharing laughter and gaining wisdom from their years of experiences…”

There have been times when Lori, Bri, and I were looking at old pictures and Bri would ask, “Where am I?” When she was younger it used to upset her that she wasn’t in the pictures. We would try to explain that she wasn’t born yet...it wasn’t personal...we had a life before she came along.

Our parents had a life before we came along, and one of the best ways to honor them is getting to know them as people...their likes, their dreams, their concerns, listening to their stories, showing interest in what they are interested in. Most of them were once normal before we came along. Some were not. Each of us knows what it feels like to have someone take an interest in us without wanting something from us, and parents need that from us.

For some of us this helps us in our ability to forgive them. It is easy to hold grudges when we look at an isolated action or even a series of actions and pull it out of context of all the hurts and wounds that person has experienced that leads them to acts as they do.

For others of us we realize that our parents did some amazing things in their lives. Some have even surrendered great opportunities for some great things for the greater good of being our parents.

Care for them.

Here is a great tool you can use to get even with your parents...when your parents start doing something you don’t like...just remind them that one day you will be picking out their nursing home.

1 Timothy 5:3-4 says, “Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”

God’s expectation is that parents will be cared for by their children. We who should love others as ourselves should do that also and foremost for our parents.

Three men were discussing the gifts they had given their elderly mother.

The first said, "I wanted to take care of her so I built a big house for mom to live in." The second said, "Well I didn’t want her to be home-bound, so I sent her a Mercedes with a driver to take her wherever she wanted to go" The third smiled and said, "I’ve got you both beat. You remember how mom enjoyed reading the Bible? And you know she can’t see very well. I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church 12 years to teach him. He’s one of a kind. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot recites it."

A little while later, mom sent out her letters of thanks: "Milton", she wrote, "The house you built is wonderful, but it is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house." "Gerald", she wrote to another, "The care is lovely, but I am too old to travel. I stay at home most of the time and rarely use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!" "Dearest Donald", she wrote to her third son, "You have the good sense to know what your mother likes. That chicken was delicious!"

So these three, in their attempt to care for her and meet her needs didn’t quite get it right, but they tried. God’s call is for us to care for our parents. For some that may mean the challenge of having them live with us...for others that is not an option. But just because we are out of the home does not mean we are free from responsibility to them. They deserve and need our care.


Conclusion

This mother’s day give gifts...maybe one they will eat...but give them honor.

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” When we honor our mothers we are esteeming them in a way that is better than silver or gold. So find a way to esteem you mother’s today.

Father,
This morning we thank you for our mothers...both good and bad. We realize that we are who we are because their influence. We pray your blessing on them this morning. That You would surround them with your presence this week, encourage them, and enable us to honor them beyond what they deserve.
Amen.

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