"M" is for the Many Things: A Sermon for Mother's Day

Proverbs 31:10-31
Luke 18:15-17

"M is for the million things she gave me
O means only that she's growing old
T is for the tears she shed to save me
H is for her heart of purest gold
E is for her eyes with love light shining
R is right and right she'll always be
Put them all together and they spell Mother
A word that means the world to me"

There are lots of wonderful moms here today. Moms in traditional families. Moms in special circumstances. Single moms. Step moms. Step in moms. You deserve our honor today. You deserve breakfast in bed. Lunch in bed, if you want. A pendant. Flowers.

Still, in my version of this poem, M is for the mixed feelings I have about Mother's Day. Because no human mom fulfills her role as perfectly as the mom in that poem.

Mother's Day is a day when we moms suspect that your cards tell us not who we really are, but who you, our family, society, and maybe even God wishes we were.

Happy Mother's Day to the mom who keeps the perfect home.
Happy Mother's Day to the mom who sets the perfect table.
Happy Mother's Day to the mom who's raising the perfect kids.

A recent TV survey on Good Morning, America asked viewers to list their three top television moms of the last several decades.

The gold medal went to Claire Huxtable of The Cosby Show. Silver went to Marian Cunningham from Happy Days. The bronze medal went to Marge Simpson of The Simpsons.

Claire was always impeccably dressed despite having six children. She kept a spotless home while pursuing a prestigious, full time career. And laughed at all her husband's jokes.

Marian Cunningham looked good in an apron and was always smiling.

Marge, well, she married Homer, but I guess we can't hold that against her. Marge is patient, you have to give her that.

How can we real life moms live up to all of that?

So in my version, M is for mixed feelings.

M is also for the many people Mother's Day leaves out. Moms aren't the only ones trying to fulfill roles that seem to have superhuman requirements. Men. Single dads, doing the work of both parents. Singles. You kids and teens—expected to perform by teachers, parents, coaches. What about a day for you?

M is for the many women Mother's Day leaves out: women who are not mothers by chance or choice.

M is for the many people who might like to send their mother something todayas a memento of former days. But that something would not be flowers, a card, or a diamond pendant.

M is for the many things I love about my mother.This is a woman who had four children and helped my dad start a business and was a good cook and has done tremendous good in her community. This is the woman who held my hair out of my face when I was sick and helped me after two difficult births. She called me a couple weeks ago and said, "This Mother's Day, please don't send me another card covered with flowers and filled with flattery. I appreciate your thinking of me, but they always make me cry."

"Why is that, Mom?"

"Oh, Come on, Alyce. Get real! I did the best I could, but I was far from a perfect mom! You remember. You were there!"

So this year I got her a card with that old woman on it with the hairnet and the housedress with a ciggie hanging out of her lip. On the front it says, "Hours of excruciating labor. Millions of poopie diapers. Countless sleepless nights."

You open up the card and on the inside it says, "And you get a card . . . Yeah, that sounds fair."

M is for the Many Things She Does for Us

On a first read, our text for this morning, Proverbs 31:10-31, sounds like an Ancient Near Eastern version of a Hallmark Mother's Day card. M is for a multitasking, maniac mom.

This text has traditionally been called "Ode to an excellent wife." A better translation of the Hebrew would be "Ode to a 'woman of worth.'"

A woman of worth, who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household.
Her hands hold the spindle,
and all her household are clothed in crimson.
She reaches out her hands to the needy.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness
Her children rise up and call her happy.
Her husband, too, and he praises her.
"Many women have done excellently,
But you surpass them all."
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

A female friend of mine told me recently, "I hate that text! If anyone reads it at my funeral, I plan to haunt them! No human woman could live up to that. It's a guilt trip waiting to happen."