Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day Sermon Help

Okay, I had forgotten how many hits I get every year on the website from folks looking for Mother's Day sermon help. So I went back and grabbed some of the stuff I've written over the years. Yes it's late, but if you are still searching, here it is.

Mama Tried
(This week I'm writing about women who have made a difference in my life)

41Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. 42One poor widow came up and put in two small coins--a measly two cents. 43Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. 44All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford--she gave her all." Mark 12:41-44 (The Message)

When I think of my grandmother, I see her hands. Small, wrinkled and scarred from years of work - first picking cotton in the fields of Southwest Georgia, then in "Mr. Willingham's Mill" where she worked from age 7 to age 72. She had lost portions of some fingers in the twine rolls there, but continued to work 6 days a week to feed her family. Her hands were seldom idle, even in the last few years of her life. But when they were, she'd rub them together over and over, as if she could wring the last bit of pain from her life. Often, I'd see her bowed over her Bible, her hands clasped in silent prayer.

She buried her husband early, after he was struck by a car, walked home, then died the next day. Then came her daughter, set ablaze while lighting the stove and in her fright, racing away and preventing anyone from helping. Soon the car in which her oldest son was riding in was struck by a train within earshot of his home. She gathered the remaining children together and loved them even more.

The depression came, but I'm not sure she noticed much. They were bitterly poor, but rich in what matters - so rich that when two other children needed a home, she took them in. Took me decades to figure out that Aunt Barbara and Aunt Peggy weren't really related at all. Others came and went - folks used to say that Bertie was a "soft touch", but in those years when people were often wanting, Mama did all she could do.

She raised her family, made sure they got an education, and lined them up every Sunday and marched them across the railroad tracks to Rebecca Baptist church. There they would hear about someone who loved them no matter what. His name was Jesus. They learned that He gave His life for them. Mama made sure her kids knew Jesus.

My mother was one of those who was baptized in that little church, and after coming home from WW2, settled into a home next door to raise her family. I don't remember Rebecca Baptist, but I was told that on more than one occasion my Mother took me to the front porch to lay on hands.

When Mama died, there wasn't much for the family to divide. My Aunt Geneva got her sometimes sharp tongue. My Mother kept her giving heart. All I got was a memory of a woman who spent her life giving to her family everything she had - one day at a time. Maybe she couldn't make her kids lives better than hers, but mama tried. Her legacy was a family who loved God and each other.

Fiercely loyal, surprisingly warm, always faithful. When her life was over, it was clear she had put into her family all she had. They might not have been perfect, but Mama tried.

I thank God for women like that. What a difference they make!

May God bless all those women who give their lives away to their God and to their families.

Mothers and the Boys Who Love Them

1Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. 2Jesus and his disciples were guests also. 3When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus' mother told him, "They're just about out of wine."
4Jesus said, "Is that any of our business, Mother--yours or mine? This isn't my time. Don't push me."

5She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it."

6Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. 7Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim.

8"Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did.

9When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, 10"Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!"

11This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:1-11 (The Message)

It's been many years now since my Mother went home to be with Her Lord. But it hasn't gone away.

There are days when it's easier, when you remember silly little things, like the way she used to fix the boys instant cheese grits with torn up bits of sliced processed cheese, and they treated it like manna. "No one else could make grits the way Grandmother did," they'll say. Bunny and I would shake our head and laugh. Some days are laughing days.

Certain songs bring her memory closer. Old show tunes, big band numbers, and any song where someone yodeled. Yes, her first brush with fame was singing with "Uncle Ned" on the radio, and yodeling. A strong voice would come in handy later on when two boys competed for how far away from where they ought to be they could get. Oh and anytime the Star Spangled Banner is sung, I think I hear her too. Some days her memory is like a picture in my wallet.

Certain seasons too. No one ever was a bigger kid, or got more of a thrill out of Christmas than my Mother. Every year, no matter how old we got, under the tree we'd always find a couple of gifts from "Santa" or if she was pressed for time "SC." I'll probably never know how far in debt she went some years to get my brother and me what we wanted for Christmas, or for our birthdays. Of course as soon as our two boys were born, our benefits were cut in favor of the grandsons.

Seemed reasonable.

After a somewhat rocky start, ("You're going to what?") my Mother and my wife got along pretty well. The fact that they both had two boys, and both loved them fiercely, helped a lot I'm sure. There's something about the way a mother loves a boy. Girls most often grow up with mothers, boys grow away toward their fathers. But that love from their mother never leaves.

So when I read the passage above, particularly in the emotionally charged paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, I see a real mother and son relationship and out of that, the Son is recognized for what He really is - Messiah.

No one but Mary could have "pushed" Jesus and assumed He'd agree to be moved to action. No one except His mother. Mothers know their sons for who they really are, and mothers see what they can become. As they raise them to maturity, they fade into the background, but they never leave.

Women are unique in all of God's creation inherently. But a Mother takes that unique gifting and gives it away - willingly, gladly, joyfully. As one who continues to benefit from that gift, and who is grateful to be married to someone who continues to give, my prayer is that God will bless each Mother who reads this with a glimpse of just what you've given and it's lasting effect on your children. Lincoln was right - no one is poor who has a godly Mother.


David Wilson

She Meant Well

18 Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night.

Deut 11:18-19 (MSG)

I've been sitting here for the last few minutes praying through our church directory. The people in it are all lined up nice, neat and alphabetical. Most are smiling, and I get to look at how they were on whatever Sunday morning their pictures were taken. Then I balance that snapshot against what I see happening in their lives, and I pray. Hard.

Most any of us can suck it up and look like we have it all together for the length of time it takes to have our picture taken, or the time it takes to "do church." But life invariably requires more of us that that, and we find that some are having trouble we'd never see in a snapshot of time.

As a pastor, my job is as one writer has put it is "to keep the congregation attentive to God".

Way over my head. I need a lot of help. So I pray. A lot. When I talk to my friends who are pastors, they echo the same feelings I have. Just different places, different names. People are people, I guess.

For some people seem determined to do everything else except focus on their walk with Jesus. I know personally what a heartache it is to look back over the course of your life and realize I had taken control and not let God order my days - it breaks my heart to know others are going down that same, well traveled, road.

The man who puts his work ahead of his family.
The woman who does the same.
The teenager or young adult who lets the culture or their friends determine their values and morals.
The parents who push their kids to be involved in every sort of extracurricular activity, even if it conflicts with worship or Bible study.

I know, they mean well.

But I get a horrible picture when I think about the consequences. That of the Greek mother last week whose town was threatened by wild fires. She got her kids together and tried to flee. They were found to have perished together, with her arms around them.

Her home was untouched by the flames.

She made a decision. There's absolutely no way she could have known for sure that her house would have been spared. What she did, even to the last, she did out of love.

She meant well, she just didn't know.

For a Christian, meaning well while in effect denying that your life and day planner has been surrendered to the cause of Christ just won't cut it.

We know better.

Life is a dress rehearsal of sorts to see if we are ready to meet God. We're given everything we need to succeed at it. The very Spirit of God takes up residence in us and gives us all the strength, courage, and wisdom we need - if we will surrender our ordinary days to Jesus.

At the end of our lives, I don't believe we'll be looking back on how many hours we put into that project at work, or how well we did in middle school band, high school chorus, or any of those things that we're valuing over walking with Jesus now.

When we stand in the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, saying "I meant well" just isn't going to work.

Turn it over, all of it, to God. Pick up His plan, His scheme and walk in it. Don't get distracted by those things that ultimately won't matter at all.

Don't just mean well.

Follow Jesus.


The Keepers of the Springs - Mother’s Day Sermon

2 Timothy 1:5-7, 3:14-15

Note from David -This sermon is dedicated to my Mother, Lodie Marie Bowden Wilson. Mother went home May 29, 1991. In her life she was a daughter, sister, wife, WAC, civil servant, Mother and Grandmother. Not a day goes by that I do not miss her, but I know where she is, and one day, I will see her again. She was truly a Keeper of the Springs.

Peter Marshall, one of my favorite preachers from days gone by, told this story.

Once upon a time, a certain town grew up at the foot of a mountain range. It was sheltered there in it’s shadow, so that the cruel wind that threw sleet at the windows and howled through the cracks of homes on the other side, when it came to the foot of the mountain, was a wind spent.

High up in the hills, a strange and quiet fellow took it upon himself to be the Keeper of the springs. Whenever he would see a spring, he cleaned its brown pool of silt and fallen leaves, of mud and mould., and took away all foreign matter, so that the water that bubbled up from the springs was clean and cold and pure.

It leaped sparkling over rocks and dropped joyously in crystal cascades until swollen by other streams, it became a river of life to the busy town.

Millwheels were turned by its rush. Gardens were refreshed by its waters. Fountains threw it like diamonds into the air. On its surface swans swam lazily, and children laughed and played on its banks in the springtime.

But the city council was a group of penny conscious businessmen. They scanned the budget and found within it a salary for the Keeper of the Springs. The CPA said, "Why are we paying this invisible man? He is never seen. We don’t need him. Why if we build a reservoir, we can do away with the position entirely.

So they did. The water filled the concrete basin, but it didn’t seem the same. Where before it was sparkling and clear as it moved past the city, now it sat, brown and languid. Soon, it began to show the signs of a green slime. There were constant troubles with the pumps after that, and the swans found a cleaner place above town.

Finally, an epidemic broke out, and the sickness reached its cold hand into every home in the city. The City Council met again, realizing the error of its ways, and called for the Keeper of the Springs to make it right again. It wasn’t long until it was right. The springs were cleaned and the water joyfully leaped down the mountain. The Millwheels turned as of old. The swans returned. And children played again by the banks of the stream.

Now by now you are wondering, where is he going. Well, I do not exaggerate when I tell you this morning that I think of women and mothers as keepers of the springs.

It was my mother who read me the scriptures. My mother who taught me how to pray. And my mother who made sure I did. It was my mother who enrolled me in Sunday School as a baby - they called it the cradle roll back then. All through my life, she consistently applied both the gospel and at times the flat palm of her hand to my life, each where they would do the most good.

She was following too, her mother’s example. Now I will insert here my Mother’s Day disclaimer. I am talking on Mother’s Day about the influence a godly WOMAN can have on our lives. If you are not a Mother, that by no means excuses you from the responsibility to seek to influence other people for Christ. Men, you know that we need sometimes to stand back while our women work and praise God for their tenderness, their patience - I really like the KJV word to describe a mother’s love - loving-kindness. So I am not giving anyone a get out of the sermon free card today. There is something for us all in a godly example and its results.

It’s not an easy thing, this motherhood. For anyone who is entrusted with the care of children needs 189 moveable parts, 3 pairs of hands and the ever popular eyes in the back of her head. Norman Bates of All About Families ministry says, "She’s got to be as insightful as a psychologist, tough as a Marine Corps DI, gentle as a nurse. She’s got to be a labor and management negotiator, a teacher, an electrician, a plumber and a carpenter. It requires a massive amount of patience, endless energy, and iron will, and the ever present reality that if she gets sick, she’s got to get well before the end of the day." And all the Mothers say, Amen!

But oh what a difference a godly woman can make.

Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying, "No man is poor, who has had a godly mother." There is no position ordained by God with more influence than that of a Mother. That cuts sharp at times though, doesn’t it.

I remember watching a TV show where the lead character, a woman, catches herself in the middle of an act that she remembers from somewhere, but just can’t quite figure out where. She continues for a few moments, and then it hits her. She rushes over to the mirror, and screams, "I’ve become my Mother!" How many of us can find things we do, or say that we can trace right back to something we learned maybe without ever realizing we did.

It is a powerful influence.

When attending the funeral service for Mrs. Ruby Mimbs last week, I was touched as example after example of her influence was testified to. I myself felt it just last Sunday too, as I was told that my use of the word D-A-R-N (I spelled it hoping to sneak it by), would have earned me a trip to discipline city. Of course I’ve never been there before. Well, let me be a little more accurate. Only recently can I pass a chinaberry tree without involuntarily putting my hand behind me in hopes of deflecting a switches’ blows.

Paul is giving credit where credit is due. Timothy had become a Christian, and a strong believer, thanks to the influence of his Mother and his grandmother, Lois and Eunice. The seeds they sowed with little Timothy had produced fruit pleasing to God.

It was a Powerful Influence, but it was also a Perpetual Influence.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 ‘that from childhood you had known the Holy Scriptures." How did little Timothy learn them? In his Mother’s and Grandmother’s lap. I have seen that picture played out in the life of my sons, as their grandmother read the Bible stories to them in a way that made them seem to jump off the pages. Then their Mother drilled into their hearts with a question that was asked and answered hundreds of times. Over and over Bunny would ask Adam, then Sean, "who loves you best?" At first they would say "Mommy." Bunny would then lovingly correct them, "no, what did Mommy tell you? Who loves you best?" Then each boy would answer, "God loves me best."

It is that consistency of virtue that does "train up a child in the way he should go" that produces "and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Plant those seeds of salvation beloved. Men and women alike must dedicate themselves to making disciples of those loved ones that they are in regular and sustained contact.

Now some of you this morning may have a prodigal in a far country. Let me give you assurance that God’s Word will bring them back. One day they will realize just who loves them best, if you made a diligent effort to plant the seeds of salvation.

Paul referred to a "sincere faith" that made the difference. Now I am not going to get personal here, but if the Holy Spirit decides to, then you blame Him. Is your faith sincere? I have known many people over the years that seemed full of faith on the outside, but were not sincere. And you know what, time will tell.

My oldest son is dating a young woman who told us just last week that her parents dropped her off at church, but didn’t go themselves. They wanted to make sure that she read the bible, but didn’t themselves. Now when their child is a woman of 22, they want her to have the faith that they do not have. Today more than ever, we need sincere faith. I’ve sure seen a lot of the false faith. Many times it is so covered in Christian cliches that it’s like peeling a onion to get to the truth, but it always is revealed.

I came across a quote this week that rings with truth. "You can do everything else right as a parent, but if you don’t begin with loving God, you are going to fail." Beloved, parenthood is a partnership with God. We are given God’s most precious creation, a baby, warm and helpless, and for 20 years or so we work with God to bring His work to completion. It is in exact parallel to our following of God’s plan for our lives that we see success in giving back to our Creator, a man or woman fit for His service.

Can I ask you another question? What do you see as most important for your child to know? Algebra, computers, or Christ? Softball, soccer, or the Savior? Many of us think nothing of making sure little Johnny or Susie get here and there on time and on budget, but when it comes to church activities, well, he or she just has too much going on right now.

Well beloved, you have to decide what you want your child to value. If they choose, you can be sure that Madison Avenue, Disney, and the like will entice them away from faith. Choose to put God first in your life and then your child’s and all the rest will fall into place. But if you don’t start the trip to adulthood with Christ, it gets more and more difficult to go back and get Him on board as they get older. Choose this day who you will serve said Joshua. You too have choices to make that will have eternal consequences.

It’s a powerful influence, a perpetual influence, but at times it is also a painful influence

I think Mary understood this well. On the day she took her son Jesus to be dedicated at the temple, she was told, "a sword will pierce your heart also." How many times did I see my Mother cry over me. And for twenty years as a father, I’ve seen my wife cry over my sons. There’s something I’ve come to realize about those tears though. They are not tears of defeat, in fact, they are a sure sign of victory.

When those times come when Mother’s cry it is this washing of their soul that prepares their hearts again for battle against all that Satan can array against her. How powerful are a Mother’s tears? One tear from a Mother can move even the strongest man to do what he would not for any other reason under the sun do. One tear from a wife can move a man past his pride and cause him to become a real minister to his family. Did you notice Paul’s comment about Timothy’s tears? Brothers, don’t be afraid to show you hurt. Real life hurts sometimes. Real grace heals it.

Still, can I confess that there are times when I just don’t get it? When I feel outside the great secret that is Motherhood.

The story is told of a family’s pet dog that died one morning, and they were discussing it later at the dinner table. Mother was quite sad and one of her sons said, "Don’t feel bad Mother, we can get a new dog tomorrow." The father then chimed in his support and concern by saying, "Yes honey, and you know yourself that Rover was old and sick and ready to pass over to doggie heaven." But the Mother was not satisfied.

"You just don’t understand," she said. "To you he was just a dog, but I was the one that held him and fed him as a puppy. I took care of him everyday and cleaned up his messes. It was me that took him to the vet every time he got sick. That dog was part of my heart."

I’ve experienced that love myself. When I doubted I could ever finish college, my Mother and my wife said, "You can do it." When I was faced with difficult decisions, time after time, I’d turn to the Bible my Mother gave me. When it seemed no one else believed in me, my Mother and my wife did. Friends, when a woman gives you their heart, treasure it, for it is beyond price.

Almost 8 years ago today, on a Sunday morning like this one, I held my Mother’s hand for the last time in this world. I was watching as she fought for life. The cancer had ravaged her body. Her lungs were filled with fluid and couldn’t be drained again. I prayed to my God to take my Mother home. One last beat of her heart, one last pulse through her arteries. I was holding her wrist when I felt what I believe was a release of all the cares of this world. She was home.

Beloved of God, my mother held my hand so many times when I crossed the street. If I needed her, she reached down and grabbed my hand in hers and made sure I was okay. I believe she did it one last time that Sunday morning as she made sure I understood just how to go home.

Do you know how to get home? The Bible tells us that this world is not our home. Our home is with Jesus Christ, and we cannot get there to Him unless we claim His salvation through faith in His sacrifice for our sins, and His resurrection as our eternal hope of glory.

As I wrote this last line of the message, it came to me what you need to know before you leave here this morning - Yes, your Mother may love you, but God loves you best. Will you come and claim that love?

"Blue is my favorite color"

Mark 10:15 (Msg)
"Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in."

While I was checking the mail this morning, a mother and her daughter walked by. I had seen them in the neighborhood, so said hello and asked how they made out in the hurricane.

The mom then explained...
about the loss of power,
the loss of everything they had in the freezer,
the loss of income since her business was closed for a few days,
and the loss of shingles from their roof.

Then she said:
"We went and got tarps from FEMA to cover the damage until the roofers get around to us. They don't look too good, that blue really sticks out on a gray roof."

Her daughter looked up and me and smiling said, "blue is my favorite color."

Sometimes children teach their parents, if we'll listen.

Think about it.

The mom was telling me about things that had happened, lamenting really, about losses that had occurred. She was working in the past, from what was wrong.

Her little girl, like all children, was living in the now. And that folks, is where we have to live too.

We've been given today - because today is all we can handle. So find a reason to praise God in the midst of wherever you find yourself.

"Blue is my favorite color."

Mine too.



Just Another Day?

On July 15th, 1920, on the wrong side of the tracks down on Roff Avenue near "Mr Willingham's Textile Mill", a little girl was born to Henry and Bertie Bowden. Her parents were millworkers who had moved from the farm to the city in search of a better life. Each had lost a spouse to death before they met each other, and the family was a blend of Fosters and Bowdens.

The little girl grew to adulthood in that shotgun house, becoming the first of her family to get a high school diploma. During those years, she saw a sister die in a fire, a brother killed when his car stalled on the railroad tracks that ran parallel to the road. When she was 12, her father was hit by a car and died the next day. Hurt came often to Roff Avenue. The family grew tight - they had to. Somehow the widow "Bertie" raised all their kids and another couple of girls besides. Lodie was the big sister now, and she went to school and worked in the mill too. Whatever it took to help, she did.

She met a young man who lived in the same mill village, and just as World War Two began, they married. He was sent away, and in a year or so, she enlisted herself. They saw each other once during the War, in Manila.

After the war, they had both changed. Everything had.

They divorced, and then love found them again, and they remarried.

One day they got the news she was pregnant with twins. Nine months later they got the news the babies wouldn't survive. Delivered, they lived less than a week. But a couple who had seen so much pain and held so much heartache, just wouldn't give up hope. One year later, I was born - the young woman was my Mother - Lodie Marie Bowden Wilson.

She passed away 15 years ago. But today would have been her 86th birthday, and I remember her on it. No other person had more influence on who I became than she. Not one day in the years we shared on this earth did I not awake knowing that my Mother loved me deeply.

When you are the recipient of love, like a Mother's love, most of the time you are blind to it. Days come and go, sacrifices are made for you. Some you might realize but poorly comprehend. Others you miss completely. When your children come along, understanding does too, and then when the giver passes away, the gifts are made visible in the loss of the one who gave them.

I cannot give her anything now. All I can do is give to others as I have been given to. When I was reading Philippians the other day, I came across this. Those of you who read it, do as I have done today and think about your life, and what someone years after you are gone will write about it in review. Will it be God-honoring? Will it be praiseworthy? What will be your legacy? Will you have pointed your family to Jesus? Can you write as Paul does here?

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 NIV

Remember, we love, because He first loved us.

It's called...



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