Honoring your father and your mother is one of the “big 10.” It was blazed into stone tablets by the finger of God. In the Old Testament we see that disrespecting your father or mother was so serious that it resulted in stoning (Lev. 20:9). In the New Tstament, we see Jesus show great honor and respect for God the Father—a relationship that is particularly brought out throughout the gospel of John. The apostle Paul writes that children are to obey their parents, and yet he also gives instructions to fathers to not “exasperate their children” (Eph. 6:1f). Fathers are to be honored for many reasons—first and foremost because they give us life (John 5:26). We can also look at the gospel of John and find many characteristics of God the Father that good earthly fathers also have as well.
What other characteristics of God the Father do you see in good earthly fathers?
Back in the 1950s and 60s there was a popular television show called “Father Knows Best.” In this show, Robert Young played the role of Jim Anderson, the father in the show’s Anderson family.
Wikipedia characterizes the Jim Anderson role as “that of a thoughtful father who offered sage advice whenever one (or more) of his children had a problem. Jim was a salesman and manager of the General Insurance Company in Springfield, while Margaret was a housewife.” A to the Anderson family, “One history of the series characterized the Andersons as ’truly an idealized family, the sort that viewers could relate to and emulate."
While today there is a diversity of thought even among Christians as to what the “idealized family” ought to look like, there is no question that few positive role models of either fathers or families exist on television today. Whereas many of us grew up with shows like Family Ties, Growing Pains, and The Cosby Show, these types of shows are long gone.
Furthermore, a modern day show entitled “Father Knows Best” would be a satirical punchline, for fathers/dads are portrayed today on television as lazy oafs and “not so bright” buffoons. The idea that “Father Knows Best” is utterly foreign and laughable in today’s society. And for much of recent decades, the role of fathers in children’s lives was written off as relatively unimportant. In custody battles it went almost without question that children should go with their mothers, rather than considering both parents equally. As Rodney Dangerfield would say, “Fathers don’t get no respect.”
This modern day view of fathers is in stark contrast to both historical and biblical views of fatherhood. Human fathers, while not perfect, are to be honored (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Eph. 6:2), as is our father in heaven (Mt. 6:9f). Fathers for all that you do, we honor you this Father's Day!
Why do you think that fathers are so little honored today? How can we show more honor and respect to fathers?
I am convinced more and more that the essence of preaching is the proclamation of the redemptive story--God reaching out to humanity out of his love, sending Christ to live and sacrificially die for us, and raising Jesus Christ from the dead. It is a story about God taking the blackest of life and bringing light into the world. It is about the restoration of hope through the cross.
So for me, no topical preaching lesson will have more impact than if it is connected to this redemptive story. That includes lessons like Mother's Day sermons. The story below tells of a mother's love for her child, which causes her to sacrifice everything for him.
Solomon Rosenberg, his wife, his two sons, and his mother and father were arrested and placed in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust of WWII. It was a labor camp and the rules were simple: As long as you can do your work, you are permitted to live. When you become too weak to do your work, then you will be exterminated.
Rosenberg watched his mother and father being marched off to their deaths when they became too weak to work. He knew that his youngest son, David, would be next because David had always been a frail child. Every evening when Rosenberg came back into the barracks after his hours of labor, he would search for the faces of his family. When he found them, they would huddle together, embrace one another, and thank God for another day of life.
One day Rosenberg came back, but he didn't see those familiar faces. He finally discovered his oldest son, Joshua, in a corner, huddled, weeping, and praying. He said, "Josh, tell me it's not true." Joshua turned and said, "It is true, Poppa. Today David was not strong enough to do his work, so they came for him."
"But where is your mother?" asked Mr. Rosenberg.
"Oh Poppa," he exclaimed. "When they came for David, he was afraid and he was crying. Momma said, ‘There is nothing to be afraid of, David,' and then she took his hand and went with him."
That, my friends, is powerful. That, my friends, is redemptive. That, my friends, illustrates the kind of love that Christ has for us--a love so strong that he gave himself up for us.
I would propose that what we find so good in mothers is that sacrificial, selfless love. It touches us because it points to that incredible sacrifice of Christ and the great redemptive story. Mothers have played an incredible part in this redemptive story, from Eve to Sarah to Tamar to Ruth to Bathsheba to Mary. And they continue to play an incredible part in this story in their lives of daily sacrifice. Mothers, we honor you for who you are and for who you so powerfully remind us of--Jesus Christ!
What stories in the Bible do you see that point to the redemptive roles of mothers?
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?
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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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