SERMON PRESENTED ON MAY 20, 2006
Mother's Day as we know it in the 21st Century originated in the United States in 1914. On May 9, 1914, by an act of Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. President Wilson established the day as a time for "public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."
A form of Mother's Day was first suggested in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe who wrote the lyrics to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." She called for an assembly of women to "bewail and commemorate the dead" and to "take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace." Julia Ward Howe organized a number of annual gatherings in Boston beginning in 1872.
Mrs. Anna Reeves Jarvis likewise was involved in the peace movement and called for a special day in which prayers for mothers and for their children would be offered along with prayers for peace and non-violent solutions for disputes between nations. In 1907 Anna Jarvis, daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis followed in her mothers footsteps. Her campaign led directly to President's Wilson's establishment of Mother's Day and gave rise to the tradition of distributing carnations on Mother's Day
A special day to express love and reverence for mothers is not original with the United States, however. In England, since at least the 17th Century, the fourth Sunday of Lent was known as "Mothering Sunday". It was a day when mothers were honored. Servants who worked and normally resided in the homes of the wealthy were given the day off and encouraged to return to their homes and spend time with their mothers. A tradition arose involving the baking of a special type of fruit cake, known as "Simnel Cake" which would be shared both at home and at various gatherings. There appears to be no direct connection between Mothering Sunday and Mother's Day.
Difficulties with Mother's Day:
It is worth noting here that Anna Jarvis, who successfully campaigned for a Mother’s Day celebration, became disillusioned with how Mother's Day evolved, and in particular with the commercialization of the holiday. Jarvis filed a lawsuit in 1923 to stop a Mother's Day festival and was actually arrested for disturbing the peace when she protested the sale of carnations to raise money for a War Mother's Convention. Jarvis told reporters shortly before her death at age 84 that she was sorry she had ever started Mother's Day.
Since 1914 many countries have either officially or unofficially adopted the observance of Mothers' Day. Australia, Belgium, Finland and Holland have all adopted the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day. Some in the Christian community have struggled with how best to celebrate motherhood in a society where many children experience the pain of separation, divorce and parental abuse.
Some churches, such as the United Church of Canada, have responded to these issues by designating the Second Sunday of May as "Christian Family Sunday" where they focus on Christian family values and encourage their members to avoid the commercial and sentimental excesses of Mother's Day. It is interesting that in North America, Mothers Day is the busiest and most profitable celebration for flower shops and restaurant owners for the whole year. In this respect it has become, like Christmas and other celebrations, a commercial extravaganza.
For the sermon to day, I will take my queue from the United Church of Canada and focus not just on motherhood but on parenthood. As you know, we have had sermons in the past that have painted a rather grim picture for us of the state of morality in America and showed how parenthood has become a challenge of mammoth proportions. Media technology has led to an explosion of information, and the marketing of every conceivable opportunity to entertain the self. Sports have become a national obsession. Our society places a premium on seemingly making every minute of ever day count for something. New terms such as “soccer mom” have come to define the demands placed on both mothers and fathers to accommodate endless involvements of their children in activities of one sort or another.
Some years ago country singer Feron Young had a hit record entitled, “I’m Gonna Live Fast, Love Hard and Die Young and Leave a Beautiful Memory.” The title of that song could well characterize the mentality of far too many young Americans. I doubt, however, that very many subscribe to the "Die Young" part of the song. Unfortunately Feron Young himself died at a comparatively young age reportedly committing suicide over frustration with a declining singing career.
Back in the 1950’s a young actor by the name of James Dean starred in a movie entitled Rebel Without a Cause. The movie was all about the rebellious behavior of teenagers flaunting civil authority and creating havoc in their community. Unfortunately for James Dean, he tended to live the make believe of the movie in real life and ended up being killed in an auto crash at a very young age, thus ending a very promising movie career.
The title of Dean’s movie is actually a misnomer. There is no such thing as a rebel without a cause. All behavior has a cause. Righteous cause produces righteous behavior Unrighteous cause produces unrighteous behavior. The most powerful human attribute God has given us is the power of choice. We have the ability to choose right from wrong. Unfortunately right and wrong for many has become so muddied that what once was considered wrong behavior is now acceptable and what was once was considered right behavior is dispensable.
We live in a very immoral and corrupt society. There are many dynamics that have led to this corruption. A major dynamic is the failure of the family unit. This is a major dynamic behind much of what is wrong in our culture. A classic example of this dynamic is seen in the musical West Side story.
In 1961 the Jerome Robbins/Leonard Bernstein Broadway musical West side Story appeared as a movie and won 10 Academe awards including best picture. This show about rival gangs on the streets of West Side New York became one of the most popular shows of all time. One memorable segment of the show is when some gang members do a routine reflecting their perspective of what’s wrong with them. The routine is addressed to Sergeant Krupke who was a police officer always getting in their faces. The routine also addresses a judge and social worker. Here are several segments of this routine:
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke
You gotta understand
It's just our bringin' upke
That gets us out of hand
Our mothers all are junkies
Our fathers all are drunks
Golly Moses, naturally we're punks
Dear kindly Judge, your Honor
My parents treat me rough
With all their marijuana
They won't give me a puff
They didn't wanna have me
But somehow I was had
Leapin' lizards, that's why I'm so bad
My daddy beats my mommy
My mommy clobbers me
My grandpa is a commie
My grandma pushes tea
My sisters wears a mustache
My brother wears a dress
Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess
Dear kindly social worker
They tell me get a job
Like be a soda jerker
Which means I'd be a slob
It's not I'm antisocial
I'm only anti-work
Glory Osky, that's why I'm a jerk
This routine comes across as humorous but in reality it is a pretty adequate portrayal of what goes on in many homes across our land. Use of elicit drugs and over indulgence of alcohol by parents in the presence of their children is not uncommon. Adultery remains a dynamic of behavior with many parents. Such behavior often leads to divorce and the subsequent disruption of family life which can have serious negative effects on children. Spousal and child abuse remains a series concern in many families. Abusive behavior often leads to dysfunctional family life and sometimes physical injury having long term affects. Is it any wonder our youth are having problems?
Why has this occurred? It has occurred because we have lost our moral compass. A compass is an instrument that tells you what direction is north. Once you know where north is you can determine where south, east and west are. If you can’t locate north, you will have a difficult time finding your way. Our society is having trouble finding its way because it has neglected to locate where north is, morally speaking. It has trouble locating north because it fails to use the compass that is readily available to everyone. God has provided us with a compass. The Biblical Scriptures is the compass our society should be using to find north. The scriptures point us in the direction of north which is the direction of righteous behavior. The scriptures act as a beacon of light to direct our paths.
Psalm 119:105. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
It is in the scriptures where you find the moral guidelines for life and where you also find recorded the ramifications of failing to follow those guidelines. It is in the scriptures where you find what kind of behavior God approves and what kind of behavior God hates. We need to learn what God hates and learn to hate the same things.
Proverbs 6:16-19: There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
If, as a society, we would learn to hate just these seven things and behave accordingly, we would experience great improvement in all areas of our culture. Solomon goes on to say:
Proverbs 6:20-23: My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.
Unfortunately the teaching of many parents is not the teaching that provides for the establishment of sound moral values of conduct. When this is combined with exposure to the unscrupulous media marketing of immorality and violence we have the recipe for disaster that is unfolding all around us.
There are many parents who try hard to teach their children righteous behavior. Their task has become increasingly difficult, however. The challenge of overriding the influence of the media and peer pressure is more than many parents are able to handle. Those parents that would take command of the situation and provide sound parental guidance are often hampered by the absurd laws of our land that make it a virtual a crime to discipline your children. Four times Solomon, in the Proverbs, addresses the need to use punishment in conjunction with disciplining a child.
Proverbs 13:24: He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
Proverbs 22:15: Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13-14: Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.
Proverbs 29:15: The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.
We have lost our compass because we have lost respect for and fear of the sovereignty of God. Failure to recognize the sovereignty of God is at the base of our societal problems. To be sovereign is to have supreme authority, power, rule and dominion. God is sovereign. Our nation pays lip service to the sovereignty of God but virtually ignores the implications of that sovereignty. God is sovereign! He does not, however, force His sovereignty down our throats. He certainly could. But He doesn’t. God gives us the choice of responding to His sovereignty or ignoring it. While God allows us to choose to submit or not submit His sovereign, God does not give us the choice of avoiding the consequences of ignoring his sovereignty. Negative consequences will flow from ignoring the sovereignty of God. We see it all around us.
If we ever hope to right the ship of our society, we must teach our youth to recognize the sovereignty of God and what that means relative to human behavior. Teaching our youth to recognize the sovereignty of God is no easy matter when our education system teaches we slowly evolved from single celled organisms over millions of years. Teaching the doctrine of evolution as fact has done great damage to belief in the teaching of the scriptural account of creation and what that account implies as to proper human relations.
The scriptures clearly teach that a sovereign God created a fully grown man from the dust of the earth and then formed a fully grown woman from a rib of the man. Thus we see heterosexual relations established as the norm at creation. However, if you come to believe this creation account is a myth, you can much more easily come to believe that homosexual relations are as normal as heterosexual relations, a belief that is becoming more and more prevalent even within the Christian community.
The Scriptures instruct that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and thus brought death upon themselves. All humans have followed in their footsteps in that all humans commit sin. It is because of sin that the Christ event took place. Evolutionary doctrine dismisses the account of Adam and Eve as myth. If the Adam and Eve story is myth, what does that say about the doctrine of salvation from sin?
Paul told the Corinthians the first man was Adam. Paul told Timothy that Adam was formed first and then Eve. Paul said to the Romans “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Jude speaks of Enoch being the seventh from Adam. If Adam and Eve never existed, then Paul was teaching a myth and the doctrine of salvation from sin that began with Adam becomes very problematical.
Christians who have bought into the evolutionary theory of origins often fail to understand the implications this theory has for Christian doctrine. They fail to see the cognitive dissonance this causes. Cognitive dissonance is to believe two opposing premises to both be true at the same time. Belief in origins as taught in evolutionary theory is simply not compatible with origins as taught in the scriptures. Both can't be true at the same time. They simply don't match up. To believe both to be true is to believe a contradiction. The origin of the universe and life as taught in evolutionary theory is devastating to the entire Christian doctrinal system.
Evolution sees the material universe arising from the fortuitous activity of random molecules coming together by chance. The Biblical Scriptures sees the universe arising from the organized activity of a creator God. Evolutionary doctrine postulates that moral authority arises from culturally generated rules of behavior. Christian doctrine teaches moral authority with its rules of behavior is derived from a sovereign God. For the evolutionist, morality is relative. Right and wrong is no longer seen as established by a sovereign God but is simple whatever we humans decide it to be.
If we are to restore a moral compass we have to start with recognizing that a sovereign God created man and established laws of conduct by which man is to live. If we can’t get that straight, we will never even begin to correct the problems of our society. Yet millions of people including many Christians have fallen pray to the evolutionary doctrine and fail to recognize how incompatible it is with basic Christian doctrine. We need to educate ourselves as to the evidence for a sovereign God being the creator and then insure that we share that knowledge with our youth. It all starts with being convicted and convinced that a sovereign God created, sustains and rules the universe and all life. It is only with that foundation that one can move to accept the authority and rule of this sovereign God in ones life. As parents, grandparents’ uncles and ants, we have a responsible before God to educate our youth in the basic knowledge of God.
Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
We must teach our youth the knowledge of the Holy One. We must instill within them the evidence for God as Creator and Christ Jesus as Savior. Our secular society is constantly challenging faith in a sovereign creator God. We need to meet this challenge and we can meet this challenge. The Biblical Scriptures provide the foundation for our understanding of God. Many educators, including some Christian scholars and theologians have come to dispute the scriptures and cast doubt on their validity. For some Christians this has become a difficult challenge and for many marginal Christians non Christians an easy excuse for disregarding the sovereign God.
We don’t have to run from the skeptics. There is excellent resource material available that shows the evidence for God as creator, Christ as Savior and the overall validity of what is revealed in the Biblical scriptures.
About fifteen years ago an avowed atheist by the name of Lee Strobel was faced with the challenge of establishing the evidence for a sovereign creator God when his wife became a Christian. Lee has a master’s degree in law from Yale University and was an award winning investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Since Christianity had invaded his life via his wife, he was forced to investigate its validity. He did just that, using his investigative skills to examine Christianity. The evidence he found led him to become a Christian and write several well researched books on subjects critical to gaining knowledge of God. He has written a number of books providing evidence for the reliability of the scriptural message.
By firmly establishing a sound foundational knowledge of who and what God is and what He has done and is doing, it is much easier to move to the next step of teaching respect for and honoring of the laws that God has established for human conduct. We must restore our moral compass. We can only do this if we lay a strong foundation of faith in the sovereignty of a creator, sustainer God. It's important we do everything we can to help our youth establish that foundation.
Establishing such foundation all starts with first educating ourselves as to the sovereignty of God and then passing such knowledge and understanding unto our children and grandchildren. In giving honor and respect to motherhood we recognize the tremendous responsibility motherhood encompasses.
Let it be our prayer that the responsibilities of motherhood will be better recognized so that the current rate of dysfunctional family life can begin to be reversed in favor of stability and recognition of the moral and ethical values that have been established by our sovereign God.