Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Tribute to Mothers

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3

Romans chapter 16 shows us the tremendous influence that women had in the early church. In the male oriented first century Palestine, it is telling that Paul could not describe the church without mentioning the significant role of women.

Verse 13 is particularly interesting and it is one that scholars have struggled with over the centuries. Paul writes: "Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." Now this statement could be taken two ways. It could mean that Paul had two distinct women in mind--the mother of Rufus and his own personal mother. Or, he could be saying: "I salute Rufus and his mother, who is like a mother to me." If that is what he meant, and most Biblical scholars agree that that is indeed what he meant, then it raises some interesting speculation. When and where did Paul meet Rufus’ mother? Did she nurse him through some serious illness? Did she receive him into her home for an extended stay during his missionary journeys? How did this woman and Paul form such a close bond that he refers to her fondly as being like his mother?

Mark tells us that Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried Jesus cross, had two sons: Alexander and Rufus. Was this the same Rufus to whom Paul was speaking? If that is true, his mother would be Simon of Cyrene's wife. No one knows for sure who this remarkable woman was who served as a mother figure for the great Paul. But it really makes no difference, because what he writes makes an excellent springboard for a Mother’s Day tribute.

Some people ridicule Mother's Day as a lot of sentimental drivel. They say that it is nothing more than the creation of the greeting card companies and the florists. And, to be perfectly candid, there are many ministers who shun this day because, they say, it is not a religious holiday. Furthermore, they preach from the lectionary, which has an assigned scriptural reading each week, and therefore mother’s day is left out.

Well, of course, we must admit that there is sentiment to this day, but what is wrong with that? Seems to me that a little bit of sentiment is healthy. True enough, there are some women in the Bible, such as Jezebel and the vindictive Herodias, who had John the Baptist beheaded, who tarnish the institution of motherhood. There are women today who abandon, abuse, and corrupt their children and who create a poor model, but I like to think that these are the exceptions. Most mothers do the right thing and deserve recognition for many different reasons.
First, mothers should be saluted for their tenacious love.
I think I have chosen my words carefully. Tenacious is exactly the word that I want to use. Let me give you an example. Admittedly this is anecdotal and not statistical, but I have certainly found this to be true in my own experience as I go around and make hospital calls. Sick rooms wear out fathers a whole lot quicker than they do mothers. Fathers become impatient and go in and out, but mothers stick it out. As a general rule I have found this to be true over and over. There is a bull doggedness about a mother's love that simply cannot be denied.

We read in the Old Testament a very old and obscure story about Rizpah. Rizpah was not a very nice woman, but, of course that does not disqualify one from being a mother. She did in fact have two illegitimate sons by Saul. Later, when David ascended to the throne, he had these two sons killed because a conspiracy in which they had participated had resulted in the deaths of many people. David decreed that their bodies should be hung on a public gallows for all to see. Rather an intimidating object lesson. This is when Rizpah comes back into the story again. She goes to the execution site and begins a sad and lonely vigil beside the bodies of her two sons. We are told in this very grisly scene that she drove away the vultures by day and the jackals by night. When David heard of the tenacity of this mother's vigil he was moved to compassion and he went to Gibeon personally and had the bodies removed and given a decent burial. It seems to me that Rizpah's vigil speaks to the tenacious love of all mothers.

Long after some fathers have disowned their children a mother will still be there. There is a tenacity there that we must salute. A mother will love her child when everyone else sees them as unlovable.  A mother’s love never gives up just as God’s love never gives up on us.

Scripture to Claim:
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.  Isaiah 49:15

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