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:
- Highlight the creation story, including Eve, the mother of all living; show how Eve made mistakes, as all people (including mothers) do, but that God worked through Eve as well to bring about the redemption of all through the offspring of the woman (Christ)
- Highlight Abraham and Sarah--showing how Sarah made some mistakes (in Egypt, with Hagar, impatience, laughing at God), but that God blessed her anyway and eventually fulfilled his promise by giving her Isaac as her son (God's timing is perfect in motherhood, even if we cannot always see it clearly), and that through one of her descendants (Jesus), all peoples would be blessed (Gen. 12:1f)
- Highlight the women/mothers found in Matthew's genealogy (Hagar, Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba); they were associated with scandal and messy family relationships and family strife--and yet, God redeemed their lives in this world, and also used them to bring about Christ into the world
- Highlight Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was also associated with scandal (a perceived illegitimate birth), and the amazing fact that God trusted a mother to raise and nurture the Son of God!; (Luke notes that Mary cherished what was revealed to her about Christ)
- Highlight John's version of the crucifixion, and how at the cross Jesus gave Mary the mother of Jesus to John to be HIS mother, and John to be HER son; at the cross and through Jesus, a Christ-centered community is formed, bringing together mothers and son, fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren--at the cross a family is formed for those who have none, and this family is stronger than any human family
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.
The essence of the gospel is God taking all of the ugliness and stain of this life--all of our mistakes and sin and pain--and making it into something beautiful and redemptive at the cross. And God can do this for mothers as well. This is a biblical, redemptive message that shows mothers their part in God's story, which can give them help and hope. So, this Mother's Day, let's honor mothers for their role in bringing about Christ, the Savior of the world, and share the great Story of Redemption.
What are some passages on mothers that you see as being part of the Redemptive Story? How would you approach Mother's Day?