Note: I am indebted to Scotland missionary JR Sheets for a discussion that we had today on how to make Mother's Day sermons redemptive. He suggested and we discussed together some of the approaches listed below. Thanks, JR!
Mother's Day sermons and the like can be challenging, I think. We want to address the topics that members and guests have on their minds on this day (there is nothing worse than having people show up on the Sunday before Christmas, for instance, and hearing a sermon on where Cain got his wife!). And the Bible does talk about mothers. However, other than Proverbs 31, it does not address really motherhood in an extended topical form, which is what many people are looking for on these days. So how should we approach this?
I believe that the role of the preacher is in large part to tell the redemptive story/Story of Redemption in each sermon as much as possible.
We are not there to preach mere moralism (though the redemptive story will lead to a higher moral standard), or just to highlight/give honor to different groups (though this can be a part of the redemptive story).
We are not there to merely give out knowledge or textual insights (though this can happen, if it is helpful to the message).
We are there (even on Mother's Day) to preach and proclaim the redemptive story of Christ throughout the ages.
With this in mind, how can we make Mother's Day and other types of topical sermons "redemptive?" Well, the most obvious answer to me is to show how, for instance, mothers fit into God's redemptive plan. Here are some ideas/passages to consider:
To this I would simply add that many mothers feel guilt and feel inadequate in their role in the raising of children, juggled with being a wife or single parent, or working parent. They also may feel hurt or pain at their children having gone astray, and may even blame themselves. And if they cannot have children or have lost children, this is devastating.
What are some passages on mothers that you see as being part of the Redemptive Story? How would you approach Mother's Day?
This Is the Key to Happiness, According to Psychotherapists
This article in Time magazine tells how the stories that we tell ourselves help determine our happiness.
While our ultimate goal in life is not to necessarily bring about "happiness," we can and should seek to help people discover the biblical shalom--goodness, peace, and meaningful life--which often leads to happiness. And changing people's self-understanding by helping them discover and adopt a new story is a way to bring about this happiness.
If this is true, then it is yet another reason why our sermons ought to seek to help people enter into the Christian story of redemption. Having stories as illustration is nice, but really, illustrating the purpose and meaning of a life with Christ should be the ultimate goal.
By taking this approach, God works through preaching to help people who are depressed about their current lives to see how a life with Christ can "redeem" their life's story and give them meaning and hope. And this, so say the therapists, may bring about greater happiness in this life--and certainly in the life to come.
Want an example? How about the apostle Paul and legalism? Before Paul encountered Christ, he was a legalistic,violent man, zealously persecuting Christians. After encountering Christ, he became the most passionate proclaimer of God's grace in all of the New Testament.
What are some other biblical and current day stories that could reshape people's self-understanding and give them hope and meaning?
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Dr. James Nored (Doctor of Ministry, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a preacher, evangelist, church consultant, writer, and missional leader located in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
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