Lessons from the Family (Mother’s Day)

The is from one of the letters or epistles of the New Testament. It’s from a letter which
Paul wrote to his young friend Titus. It talks about the lessons we learn in our families.
The lessons we learn in church are important, but the lessons we learn in our families
are the most important ones of all.

“Older people should be temperate, dignified and wise – spiritually healthy through their faith, hope, love and endurance. They should not gossip or be overfond of wine.

They should be examples of the good life, so that younger couples w ill know how to love each other and their children, how to be sensible and faithful, how to build a loving home and love each other. Every home should be a good advertisement for the Christian faith.

Encourage young people to be self-controlled. Show them all this by doing it yourself with integrity. Always speak the truth, and your opponents will never have anything to say against you.”

– Titus 2:1-8 (composite translation)

I’d like to talk with you about the influence that parents can have on the home.
School is important – we all hope that our kids will learn good things in school. We
choose our children’s schools carefully. We try to make sure our kids have good
teachers. A good teacher can make a world of difference.

Church is important, too. We all hope that church and the faith community will be a
good influence on our children. A great many families come to church for that very
reason.

But the family is the place where kids learn their greatest lessons. And if our children
don’t learn certain things at home, they probably won’t learn them at church or in
school.

One of the things children need most is to know that they’re loved. Love, or the lack of
it, is going to affect our children for the rest of their lives. Love supports and underlies
all those other important things we talk about – confidence, trust, self-assurance,
willingness to work hard, willingness to try new things.

If kids aren’t loved, they’re going to be crippled. I sometimes hear parents say, “You’re
such a rotten kid! I wish I never had you! I wish you’d never been born!” That just
breaks my heart. It’s going to cause damage which may never be healed.

I feel sick those times – we’ve all had them – when I see parents yelling at their children
in the supermarket or the store. If they yank their kids arms and slap them and scream
at them like that in public, don’t you wonder what’s going on at home? Every parent
gets angry now and then, of course. I don’t think any us doesn’t get angry. But kids
believe what they see and hear and feel all the time.

Home is where children need to learn that their parents love them, and to learn that
God loves them. That lesson of love can never be repeated too often. Love is
patient and kind, as we’re reminded in the Bible. Love isn’t envious or boastful or rude.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love
never ends.

As our kids grow up, their understanding of love and of God should grow with them.
Sometimes I think we don’t give our kids enough credit for being able to learn about the
height and depth and the full scope of God’s love. They can handle it.

The love of God needs to be a daily reality, for all of us. If we don’t share God’s love,
we are failing to share with our children the most important thing there is.

Home is where kids learn about prayer. If prayer seems like a foreign language to our
children here at worship, it’s probably cause they never learned about it at home. If
mom or dad never pray, it’s going to be very tough for children to learn to pray here or
anywhere else.

Prayer needs to be talked about, and shared. It needs to be natural. Kids need to learn,
from the example of their parents, that having a conversation with God, or asking God
for help, is a perfectly normal thing to do. When we feel a prayer has been answered,
then we need to rejoice as a family.

One of the things I remember about my grandmother, is that every day she would take
an hour and go to her bedroom, and shut the door. We couldn’t interrupt her during that
hour. It was her prayer time. She did it every day.

I can’t tell you what a powerful influence that was on our entire family, growing up. My
parents, and my aunts and uncles, all knew that she was praying for them. Every one of
us grandkids knew she was praying for us. One person affected a whole, large family
with her prayers.

The realities and difficulties of prayer also need to be shared with children. Kids have
inquiring minds. If we want our kids to grow spiritually, if we don’t want their prayer lives
to be permanently stalled at about the 4-year-old level, we need to let them see what
it’s like to pray as a grown-up.

As adults, we pray for difficult things. Kids need to learn that prayers aren’t always
answered right away. It’s important for kids to learn about faith and confidence from
their parents, but it’s OK for kids to learn about spiritual struggles and dark days, too.
Kids should never hear us pray for the downfall of someone else, or for someone else
to be hurt. We pray when we rejoice. We pray when we’re celebrating.

We want our kids to grow up to be real people, not artificial people. We want them to be
joyful, but real joy often comes after fears and tears have been honestly shared.

The family is where we first learn to be generous. It’s probably the first place we learn to
forgive and be forgiven. And of course, the flip side is that if our home is not generous
in spirit, or if things that people do are remembered and held against them forever, kids
are going to learn those lessons, too.

When I was a kid, everybody had jobs to do. My jobs weren’t impossible. There was
always plenty of time to play. But everyone in the family had responsibilities.

I grew up in snow country. It snowed a lot in Buffalo when I was a kid! All the kids had
to help shovel the walk from a very early age. It had to be the full sidewalk, too, not just
a narrow pathway, one shovel wide. No cheating allowed!

What I remember most, though, is that after we shoveled our own walk, we would go
and help shovel the walks for older people who lived next door and across the street.
And – we weren’t allowed to take any money for doing it. That was one of the greatest
lessons my family ever shared with me. Help other people who need it. Help people,
because it’s right, because they’re your neighbors, and not just because you’re getting
paid.

My parents were the ones who taught us to welcome guests into our home. I think we
had company for over dinner at least once a week, and often a couple of times a week.
Welcoming people into our home was a joy.

The other thing I remember about meals is that we always ate together at supper.
Breakfast was all broken up, because we left for school at different times, and we all
had to take turns using the bathroom. Lunch was a brown paper bag that my mom
packed for me.

But supper was different. It was when the whole family got together. We hardly ever ate
fast food, because it hadn’t been invented yet.

Supper was always family time. It was when we reminded ourselves that we were a
family. Nobody was allowed to be late. The TV was turned off. We always said grace.
Everyone told what they did that day. There was always a tablecloth, or placemats, and
napkins. If we were in the dining room, there were candles. It was a gracious time,
almost a sacred time.

The family is where we learn to be welcoming and gracious. We didn’t talk about it, or
obsess about it. We just did it. Our meals were always a blessing.

Have you ever noticed how so many of the stories Jesus told, and the stories that are
told about Jesus, are family stories?

The prodigal son, which really ought to be called the story of the forgiving parent. The
parables about suppers, and weddings. The stories about parents who came to Jesus,
asking him to help heal their daughter, or their son. So many of the gospel stories are
family stories.

Mother’s Day is a good day to remember some of the more feminine images of God –
the God who knows us even before we’re born. The God who cherishes us while we’re
still being formed in the womb. The God who nurses us, like a nursing child. Those
images are all in the Bible. Jesus once talked about God cov ering us with soft wings
like a nesting mother bird.

Did you know that in the Bible, the Holy Spirit is often portrayed as female? The early
Christians called the Holy Spirit Hagia Sophia, which means Holy Wisdom. The name
Hagia Sophia is feminine, not masculine. It’s a different way of thinking about God.
And it’s a good reminder that mothers are wise.

That’s not all there is to say about the family, but it’s important. The family offers some
of the best opportunities to learn the most important lessons of all.

I know we’re not perfect – my family certainly isn’t. But the family is where we can be
imperfect, with love and grace. It’s where God blesses us, every day.

That’s all I really want to say this morning. During our time of open worship, some of
you may want to say thank you for your mothers, and your families. Others people may
want to talk about injuries, and scars, and healing. Other people m ay just want to be
quiet. That’s OK.

This time belongs to all of us. Let’s spend it in worship together.

Copyright © 2016 by Joshua Brown

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