May 8, 2016

                Did you know that Anna Marie Jarvis and fellow members of the Methodist Episcopal Church led the charge to make Mother's Day an official observance? When Andrew's Methodist Church of Grafton, W.Va., held the state's first official Mother's Day on May 10, 1908, Jarvis marked the victory by bringing in 500 carnations, honoring her late mother, who had been a leader in the initial efforts to mark the occasion.  And on May 8, 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May, as a special day to honor the nation's mothers, especially those who had lost their sons to war.

          And so, instead of the usual Biblical mothers who are normally mentioned in Mother's Day sermons, President Wilson has inspired me to specifically focus on mothers who had a faith strong enough to trust the Lord with their sons.  Our Scripture readings briefly tell of the mother of Moses, Samuel, and our Lord Jesus, each of whom entrusted God with the future of their sons - and each for different reasons.

          Let us begin with the birth of Moses as we heard in our first Old Testament reading (Exodus 1:22, 2:1-10).  While I'm sure all of you are familiar with the story, how many of you even know the name of his mother?  It is Jochebed.  Her faith is often overlooked, and yet if it were not for her faith in trusting the Lord with her son, the entire Old Testament might have played out very differently.  But the Lord knew exactly whom He wanted to have give birth to Moses, the baby who would grow up to be the man who was destined to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the promised land - a man who performed many miracles, saw God face to face, and yet was declared by God to be the most humble man that ever lived.  Jochebed had the type of faith necessary to put her baby son in a basket in the river and leave him there.  We know that Pharaoh's daughter found the basket, rescued Moses, even made Jochebed his nurse, and that Moses grew up as the son of Pharaoh.  But when she initially placed her tiny son in the river, she had no way of knowing that would happen.  But she had faith.  She trusted God with her son.  Just as my own mother trusted the Lord when she put me up for adoption, not knowing if she would ever find out where I went or how I turned out.  And yet our gracious Lord, knowing my mother's faith, reunited us several years ago, answering both of our prayers.

          Our second Old Testament reading (1 Samuel 1:9-11, 20-28) is about Hannah.  Her husband, Elkanah, had another wife as well, named Peninnah.  Hannah was greatly loved by Elkanah, but it was his other wife that had borne him multiple sons and daughters, while Hannah was initially barren. Peninnah was very cruel to Hannah, and never let her forget that she had borne no children to Elkanah.  Hannah would cry and cry, and even refuse to eat.  The emotional torment that Peninnah inflicted on her was so great, that her husband could not even console her.  And so she prayed to the Lord, and in her prayers she made a vow, that if the Lord would give her a son, she would give that son back to the Lord.   God, being the merciful and loving God that He is, answered Hannah's prayer.  And in pondering these events, I think perhaps God knew that if he initially closed Hannah's womb, and allowed her to suffer at the hand of Peninnah, that her faith would not fail, and that the outcome would be that very vow to give the prayed for son to the Lord.  And He knew that Hannah would keep her vow, and that the young Samuel would be brought to the temple to be raised there - the same Samuel that God called as a boy to be a prophet, in a time when there were very few true prophets in Israel.  Again, the faith of a mother led to the blessing of her son, as well as the blessing of many more through her son.

          And last, but definitely not least, we have Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Our Gospel reading (Luke 2:25-35) concluded with a very solemn prophecy uttered under the power of the Holy Spirit by Simeon, who was promised by God that he would see the Messiah with his own eyes before his death.  He said to Mary, "A sword will pierce your very soul".  Mary was given the highest honor of any woman that ever lived - that of carrying, giving birth to, and raising the Son of God.  And yet that honor was not without cost.  Her faith to believe the angel's announcement, as well as her willingness to accept the stigma inflicted on her by those who did not believe her child's father was God himself, and that her baby was actually conceived out of wedlock by a human father, was rewarded with a child that was perfect and without sin.  And I'm quite sure, none of us parents can even imagine the joy of having a child that never does anything wrong!  But Jesus did cause her plenty of anguish in other ways, beginning from the time he stayed back at the temple after they had left and they didn't know where He was - up to having to watch him die on the cross.  When one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side as He hung there, Simeon's prophecy was fulfilled, as Mary also felt it deep in her soul.  She had known in her heart all along that it would not end well, but had faith in God's plan, and now her beloved son is glorified and will reign forever. 

          In retrospect we all would like to think we would have had the faith these women did.  But we forget that we know the endings to their stories.  These women did not know beforehand exactly how their son's lives would play out, but they trusted God anyway.  They knew that God already knows the beginning and the end, not only of each person's individual life, but of all of human history as well.  We also need to keep this in mind every day.  We should praise God that He has given each of us a part in his great plan, and marvel as we watch it unfold.  After all, He has given us His Word, and when we read it we can see that it does indeed have a happy ending.  So we need to quit sweating the small stuff, and just stand on His promises!  Amen.