“Mothers: a Majesty Concealed”
II Timothy 1:5
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Since today is Mother’s day, let me take a moment to tell you about a couple of amazing mothers--first, a woman named Sonya Copeland.
Since she had only a third grade education and was raised in a number of foster homes, life wasn’t easy at all. So when a man named Bob came into her life and offered to marry her, she was thrilled. And even though she was only thirteen, and he was twenty-eight, she believed it was the best way, and probably the only way, to escape her life of abuse and poverty.
At first, life was good. He treated her, she said, like his “little china doll.” But when their two boys came along, first Curtis, then Ben, things changed. That’s when he started to become secretive and neglectful. And that’s when she came to realize that her husband wasn’t only her husband. He was still married to his first wife! So she took their two boys and moved out.
Which forced her to raise them alone and at the same time, cope with anxiety and depression. So she prayed, “I don’t have any friends. I don’t have anyone else to turn to. God, You’re going to have to be my friend, my best friend. And You’re going to have to tell me how to do things and give me wisdom, because I don’t know what to do.”
Then one day, when her boys brought home especially poor report cards, she promised to do everything she could to make them become better students. She said they could watch only two television shows a week, and they had to write two book reports every week, which they were required to hand in to their mother.
And it’s a good thing she did, because one of her sons, Ben, not only graduated from high school, he earned the highest SAT scores of any student in the Detroit Public Schools in twenty years. And after attending Yale, he went on to become chief resident at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Do you know him? He’s the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, not to mention presidential candidate Ben Carson.
And by the way, it wasn’t until Junior High that he came to realize that his mother couldn’t even read.
And one more amazing mother--a woman named Raheeja DeBakey.
Now life wasn’t easy for her either. Since she was Christian, she and her husband were forced to leave their home in Lebanon in fear of their lives, and move all the way to America, to the state of Louisiana. And there they raised their three girls and two boys. And it’s there that she taught each one of them how to sew, crochet, knit and tat. In fact, her eldest boy, Michael, managed to sew his own shirt by the age of ten.
And we’re glad she did, because Michael not only grew up to become a world-class vascular surgeon, he helped to develop MASH stations during the Korean War, and was the first to create an artificial heart. In April of 2008, when President Bush awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal, he said, “His legacy is holding the fragile and sacred gift of human life in his hands and returning it unbroken.”
And in part, it’s because his mother taught him how to sew.
And speaking of amazing mothers, Taylor Swift once said of her mother, “There were times when, in middle school and junior high, I didn’t have a lot of friends. But my mom was always my friend. Always.” And Condoleezza Rice said of her mother: “My parents elected me president of the family when I was four. We actually had an election every year and I always won.” And she said, “Since I was an only child, I could always count on my mother’s vote.”
The Bible tells of even more amazing mothers. Ruth was a widow, a stranger in a strange land. But when she met and married a man named Boaz, she became the great-great-grandmother of a king. A woman named Hannah prayed for the gift of a son. In fact, her prayers were so fervent, a priest named Eli thought she was drunk. But when she finally did have a son, she named him, “Samuel,” a name that meant, “God hears.”
Sarah bore Isaac, and Elizabeth bore John, even in their old age. And by God’s grace, a young, teen-aged girl named Mary bore our Savior Jesus.
Luther, in his Large Catechism, had something to say about mothers. He wrote: “God has given this walk of life, fatherhood and motherhood, a special position of honor, higher than that of any walk of life...He distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them next to Himself.”
What does it mean? It means that there’s no higher calling than to be a mother.
You could be a teacher. Teachers are important. But what do teachers do? They help parents teach their children.
You could be a doctor. Doctors are important. But who does a doctor serve? Parents and children.
You could be a governor, a secretary of state, a speaker of the house, or even a president. They’re all important in their own ways. But they could never be more important than a parent, because it’s their job to rule society so that mothers and fathers can be mothers and fathers. Government exists to serve parents.
And there’s one more thing Luther said about mothers. He wrote, “It is a much higher thing to honor than to love. Honor includes not only love, but also deference, humility, and modesty directed (so to speak) toward a majesty concealed within them.”
“A majesty concealed,” he wrote.
It’s true that whatever you do is important. But the greatest honor, privilege and responsibility is found in the hungry eyes of an infant, the inquisitive stare of a child, the hopeful gaze of a youth, the confident stride of a teenager, and the independence of a young man or woman leaving home for the very first time.
As one author wrote: “The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built a cathedral. She doesn’t need to. She’s built something far more magnificent than any cathedral--a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such grace! They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to heaven, something only a human mother can. What on earth is more glorious than this--to be a mother?”
In the words of a poem: “She rises up at break of day and through her tasks she races. She cooks the meals as best she may, and scrubs the children’s faces, while schoolbooks, lunches, homework too, all need consideration...And yet the census man insists she has ‘No Occupation.’ When breakfast dishes all are done she bakes a pudding maybe. She cleans the rooms up, one by one, with one eye watching baby. The mending pile she then attacks by way of variation. And yet the census man insists she has ‘No Occupation.’ She irons for a little while, then presses pants for Daddy. She welcomes with a cheery smile returning lass and laddie. A hearty dinner next she cooks (no time for relaxation). And yet the census man insists she has ‘No Occupation.’”
Let me tell you a story about three people--a grandmother, a mother, and a son.
The mother was raised in a religious home. As far back as she could remember, her mother told her all the stories of the Bible and took her to worship as often as she could. In time, both mother and daughter came to love God and learned all they could about Him.
Then when the girl grew to become a teenager, she was still very devout, but she met a man who wasn’t religious at all. Against her mother’s wishes and the teaching of her faith, she agreed to marry him. He was a nice man. He promised to love and care for her. He just thought religion was meant for simple-minded people.
A couple of years later, they had a baby boy. And that little boy was a delight to them all. The mother and grandmother spent hour after hour with him, teaching him all the stories of the Bible--about Noah and the flood, about Samson and his great strength, and about David and Goliath. They prayed with him and for him, and trained him in the things of God. Together they created a home where his faith could flourish and grow.
Then one day, a preacher came to town who talked about a Man named Jesus. And as the mother and grandmother heard him speak, they knew that He was the fulfillment of all of God’s promises and they put their faith and trust in Him. And just as soon as they got home, they told their little boy all about Him. And he too came to believe.
In time, he became such a strong believer, that that preacher later stopped by their home, and asked him to go with him, to share the good news about Jesus.
Is this just a story? Not at all, for the grandmother’s name was Lois, the mother’s name was Eunice, and their little boy was Timothy. You can read about him in the book that bears his name, for it was in the words of II Timothy chapter 3 that the apostle Paul wrote: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted the sacred Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:14-15).
One more thing--in August of 1987, Northwest Airlines Flight 225 took off from the Detroit Metropolitan airport. But as it did, the flight crew made a fatal error. They didn’t extend the wing flaps before takeoff. And while the plane lifted off at 195 miles an hour and made it fifty feet into the air, it stalled and crashed, upside down, on Middlebelt Road. And of the one hundred and fifty-five people on board, every one of them was killed--all except for one--a little four-year-old girl named Cecelia.
When rescuers arrived, they found her, crying, beneath the body of a woman. She had third degree burns as well as a broken leg and a broken collarbone. At first, they thought she had been in a car, on the road, and couldn’t possibly have survived the crash. Only later did they discover what really happened.
You see, just before the crash, her mother unbuckled her seat belt, then knelt down in front of her daughter and held her as tightly as she could. She literally put herself between her daughter and death. And so her life was spared.
Is that the kind of love Jesus has for us? Yes, and so much more, for no matter how great a mother’s love, no matter how much she would willingly sacrifice for us, only Jesus can rescue us from sin and death.
For it was out of His great love for us, that He left the safety and security of His heavenly home, and became one of us. He literally put Himself between us and hell.
In the words of the apostle Paul: “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His great mercy” (Titus 3:5).
How richly You’ve blessed us, dear Father, in giving us a mother who loved us and cared for us. Help us, by Your grace, to honor them and hold them in love and esteem, for Jesus’ sake. Amen