Mother’s Day’s faith

Published 11:16 am Saturday, May 7, 2016

by Andrew Book

At Courtland United Methodist Church, we have been journeying through a number of different areas of life looking at how “Resurrection Changes Everything.” So when I began thinking about our worship service for Mother’s Day, I asked myself the question, “How does resurrection change Mother’s Day?” This is not a question that many of us have asked, but the more I thought about celebrating Mother’s Day in the light of Jesus’ resurrection, the more I realized the importance of how resurrection truly has shaped and changed our understanding of family — especially family when those close to us have died.

As a pastor, I have heard lots of well-meaning advice about leading worship on Mother’s Day. Some people want the service to be geared toward people for whom Mother’s Day is a time of grief —mothers who have lost children or been unable to have children, people whose mothers were absent or abusive, those whose mothers have died recently, and others. I have had enough conversations to realize that Mother’s Day can be a very hard day for many people.

Others want worship on Mother’s Day to focus on the mothers who are present — to celebrate them and serve them for all the work that they do (and mothers certainly deserve celebrating!). Another group wants worship on Mother’s Day to be a time for giving advice and instruction on how to be a good mother. Given that I am not (and never will be!) a mother, that course of action seems unwise!

All of these approaches keep the variety of ways we experience Mother’s Day at the front of my mind (and prayer), but they also miss the mark in one important way: worship, even on Mother’s Day, should be focused on God not on us.

We need to take time to celebrate our mothers, but a worship service must never worship moms. Instead we worship God and recognize the essential role that moms place in our life of faith. In fact, all the language about celebrating “perfect” moms ends up creating expectations for moms that none of us can live up to.

Moms, we know you work hard, love your kids and strive to help them thrive, but we also know you mess up, get tired and need to set aside your kids’ needs for your own at times. We know you are not perfect, but we still celebrate you. We know your faith and example as people who follow God is not perfect either, but we celebrate how that faith forms, shapes and encourages your children.

Two of the not-perfect but life-shaping moms in Scripture are Lois and Eunice. Lois and Eunice are not well known people in Scripture. In fact, their names only show up once (in 2 Timothy 1:5), but their influence on the early church was profound. You see, Lois and Eunice’s faith gave birth to the faith of their son and grandson Timothy. Timothy was the Apostle Paul’s protégée (Paul write most of the New Testament). Timothy is the best known and probably the most influential of the second generation of the church. The church had great leaders in people like Jesus’ apostles Peter, James and John and others like Paul who met Jesus after he had risen from the dead.

However, for the early church to grow once the people who knew Jesus face to face had died, there had to be a generation of Christ followers who never met Jesus during his time on earth. This is where the faith of our mothers come in.

We don’t know much about Lois and Eunice. We do know they are they are the first instance of mothers who passed on their faith to the children. In the 2,000 years since their lives, the number of mothers who have raised daughters and sons to be people of faith is impossible to count, and their impact on the church is truly immense.

My own Methodist tradition is a great example. The United Methodist Church (and several other denominations) traces our roots back to John and Charles Wesley — two brothers who started a movement to renew the Church of England. The work of John and Charles is incredible, but the reason they had a strong foundation of faith and the belief that God wanted more from the church was the faith their mother Susanna instilled in them from an early age.

Susanna doesn’t usually get the credit, but her work forming faith in her children led to the Methodist movement, which has multiplied around the globe today and renewed the church in many ways.

Here is where resurrection matters. Because of the new and eternal life that we have in Christ and because He defeated death, these mothers of faith — Lois, Eunice, Susanna and our own mothers and grandmothers — are still a part of our faith journey, even after their deaths.

The book of Hebrews calls such people our “cloud of witnesses” who encourage us to run the race of faith and follow Jesus (see Hebrews 12:1-2). All of our mothers in faith are still cheering for us. They are still part of our family of faith. Their example and encouragement can continue to help us live the life of faith today, even if they no longer walk this earth. Even though we are separated by death, we no longer “lose” people to death. They are still our mothers in faith and we still celebrate them on Mother’s Day!

So, as you celebrate Mother’s Day, take some time to thank God for all the women who have guided you in faith. Recognize that they still cheer for you today. Think about the best (because none of them were perfect) they offered you to point you toward God and consider how you can better live out your faith. If you want a place to come and worship God and celebrate the faith of all our mothers (living and those who have passed through death), come join us this Sunday at Courtland United Methodist Church.

Wherever you are on Mother’s Day, may you grow in faith as you remember the faith of our mothers!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or