Mothers Day May 10 2020
The bulletins say it’s the Fifth Sunday of Easter, but everybody else says it’s Mother’s Day, and there’s just no way to get around it. Problem is, it’s a holiday meant only for some, and that’s awkward in church. Not every Christian is a woman, and not every woman is a mother. So what’s the message here that can apply to everyone, and not just the moms?
It doesn’t help that in the Bible, motherhood gets off to a rough start. Hallmark would never print our lesson from Genesis 3 on a Mother’s Day card. It’s pretty much the opposite of everything else you might hear today.
You know the story. There was a tree in the Garden of Eden–the Tree of the Knowledge; the knowledge of Good and Bad. God warned Adam and Eve to stay away from it, because once they ate the fruit, they would condemn themselves to die.
God probably shouldn’t have said anything, because once he told them not to, then the first thing they did was eat the fruit. But the serpent was right—they didn’t drop over dead. What happens instead is a kind of awakening. They started noticing…things. And then they realized that they might be a little more comfortable if they put some fig leaves over those things. But soon enough, they started having kids anyway.
It wasn’t a “happy Mothers Day!” The way God describes it, motherhood sounds like a curse. He tells Eve, You will desire your husband, and he will rule over you. “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.”
And then God makes them homeless: In verse 22, God says, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” And so God kicks them out of the garden.
Why? Follow the logic: You can’t have the tree of knowledge AND the tree of life. Adam and Eve can’t have kids AND live forever. The world is only so big—you can only jam so many people into it. You can do the math yourself:
If nobody ever died, within a thousand years there would be more people than mosquitoes in Minnesota. That’s why God took away the Tree of Life. You can’t make babies and live forever too.
That’s the Tree of Life. But does that connect with the Other Tree, “the knowledge of good and bad”? In verse 5, the serpent tells Eve that if she tastes the fruit, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And that was the truth. In verse 22, God himself says, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”Back in chapter one, when it came time to create people, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”
The other animals would reproduce “according to its kind.” Animals reproduce automatically. Rabbits make more rabbits, and in fairly short order, those rabbits are making rabbits of their own. But we’re like God. When we create, the stakes are higher. We have to distinguish good from bad.
A mother rabbit doesn’t worry about Bunny Number 22 turning into John Dillinger. We do. We’re responsible for the fruits of our creation. We’re all responsible. It may take a village, as they say. But parents bear the first line of responsibility.
And so God warns Eve up front: “with pain you will give birth to children.” Every mother knows that the pain of giving birth is nothing compared to the ongoing pain of parenting. The pain of childbirth is measured in hours. But the pain of bringing children into adulthood is measured in years. And “adulthood” isn’t necessarily achieved at a magic number, like 18 or 21. Jesus Christ himself seems to have lived at home until he was thirty, and even then, his mother seems to have been following him around all the time.
And just about the time you think you’ve finally produced a finished product, that product starts churning out grandchildren, and a whole new set of responsibilities kicks in. For grandchildren, grandparents are the living, visible tie to the rest of the human race. You, my grandchild, were born with a history. And now you’re looking at history. If you want to know who you are, if you want to understand those weird parents of yours, look at us. We made them that way.
So childbearing is painful. We have the knowledge of good and bad. Teaching children to choose the good and avoid the bad is difficult. And even though today is devoted to honoring mothers, in the Bible itself, fathers are given even more responsibility for making sure the kids turn out okay.
Parents must remember that in the eyes of your children, you are God. You represent the creative power of God the Father Almighty, the power that provides food and shelter and everything else.
You also represent the redeeming power of God the Son. Do you forgive your children as God forgives you? Or do you hold tightly to every past misdeed and mistake, never letting the child forget? Do you love as Jesus loved you—freely and without conditions? Or is your love conditional? Is your love based on whether your children do everything the way you want them to do it?
And parents represent the sanctifying power of God the Holy Spirit. Does your spirit bring your kids closer to God or push them farther away? We would like to say to our children, Do as I say, not as I do. But most kids ignore what you say, and do what you do.
Every parent knows this pain: our kids don’t listen. But they do have an uncanny way of imitating us. How many times have you seen a family where the children are rude and sarcastic to their mother? Look for a rude and sarcastic father. How many times have you seen a family where the children are mouthy and disrespectful? Look for a mom who’s mouthy and disrespectful. The apples don’t fall far from the tree.
You can’t blame the TV. You can’t blame the schools. You could make the kids stand there and say the Pledge and the Ten Commandments for three hours a day, and it wouldn’t matter.
What matters is the Spirit you’re sending out to your children and grandchildren. What kind of spirit is it? A holy spirit, or an unholy one? Does your spirit make their hearts burn with love, or just leave them burned out?
But before you criticize someone else’s kids, no one gets off the hook today. Parents are the front line in the painful work of childbearing. But no war is won or lost at the front. It’s the troops in the rear who provide the support and bring up the resources. All the good efforts of moms and dads can be undone if the troops in the rear aren’t carrying their weight.
And so to every child, whether it’s ours or someone else’s, we must reveal the image of God. The Father is the creator: Do we help children become creative? Are we positive and supportive people, or are we negative and harsh?
Think of it this way: If you put just one drop of ink in a gallon of water, it will turn the water blue. And it will take twenty-one gallons of water to dilute that one drop enough that the water is no longer blue.
The moral is that it only takes one negative comment to spoil everything, and it will take twenty-one thousand positive comments to put it right again. So what kind of God have you been this week? Have you pumped out twenty-one positive words for every negative word you’ve uttered?
The Son is the redeemer: Are you helping to redeem the world, or do you merely condemn it? Are you showing forgiveness or nursing grudges? Are you showing unconditional love, or are you insisting that everyone around you toe the mark and do things your way?
The Spirit is the one who draws us to God: Are you showing people the face of Christ or Satan? Are you showing them Heaven or just give them hell?
Mothers are in the front line of the battle. Today, we honor their devotion and sacrifice. But the best way to honor our mothers is not by being draft dodgers ourselves, but to volunteer, and join them in the struggle, doing what we can to help carry them to victory; by the grace and power of Jesus Christ our Lord.