Lessons from My Mother – A Sermon for Mother’s Day
Dr. Charley Reeb
Pasadena Community Church (UMC)
Last Father’s Day I shared lessons I learned from my Father. The message was well received and I appreciate how the lessons my father taught me were helpful to many of you. So as I planned my message for Mother’s Day I thought it would be a great idea to share with you the wise lessons I learned from my mother. I know the lessons she taught me will be helpful to many of you.
In my ministry I have always been intentional about being sensitive on Mother’s Day. I recognize that not everyone has a positive experience of mothers. But I do believe God provides mother figures in our lives when we need them. Everyone needs a mother figure on some level. When we don’t have one or we have a negative experience of our mother God will provide people in our lives who can play that role if we are open to it. My message to you is to pray and keep your eyes open because God will provide a mother figure in your life.
As a backdrop to what I want to share with you about my mother, I would like us to read portions of 1st Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Now faith, hope and love, abide these three, and the greatest of these is love.
-1st Corinthians 13:1-7, 13
Abraham Lincoln said “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” It is a worn out quote, but there is a lot of truth to it for me. I would not dare credit my mom for everything I am (in fact, she would not want me to!). But a great deal of who I am is because of the influence of my mother.
My mother’s name is Jane. She often introduces herself as “Plain Jane.” Well, there is nothing plain about my mother. Here is a picture of my mother coming home from the hospital after my older sister Jill was born. My mother was born Nancy Jane Edmonds in Spartanburg, South Carolina, which is where she also grew up. She has an older brother named Billy. She had two wonderful parents, Papa and Mama. Here is a picture of the two of them. My grandfather was a great pitcher for the Atlanta Crackers and later owned and operated a successful finance company. My grandma was a wonderful piano player and singer. She sang in her church choir every Sunday and gave stirring solos on a regular basis. She was also the first woman to be a featured soloist at the annual Christmas concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta!
Like my grandma, my mom had a flair for the dramatic. One of the most notable things about my mother was that she was a very talented stage actress. She was so talented that when she was a teenager she moved to California to perform at Pasadena Play House, a famous stage for acting. She was even offered a movie contract, but her parents told her she was too young and so she moved back to South Carolina.
Because of my mom’s talent as an actress she has amazing platform skills. She is a wonderful public speaker and teacher. In fact, in addition to teaching drama and English, she also taught public speaking. My mom is an extremely gifted communicator with great capacity for expression and insight.
The influence my mom had on my calling as a preacher cannot be overstated. It all began with her helping me memorize poems and speeches for school. She taught me when to pause and when to project, when to go fast and when to slow down, when to get louder and when to get softer. She taught me how to speak and preach in public. She planted those seeds and taught me key fundamentals of communication at a very young age. I believe they have served me well.
I have learned over the years not to put too much emphasis on the feedback of others, good or bad. Living or dying by people’s opinions of your sermons is not a healthy place to be as a preacher. But I will tell you that I still care a great deal about what my mother thinks of my sermons! I think most sons never outgrow wanting to please their mothers in some way.
My mom also taught courses on managing people. My mom is wonderful with people. She has legendary people skills. She could’ve written Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” As I watched her at parties, teaching Sunday school or having people over at the house, I learned two very important lessons about winning friends, influencing people, and generally getting along with others:
-If you want to be interesting, be interested!
-If you want people to like you, get them to talk about their favorite subject: themselves!
It is true. I have had dinner with people and they have said, “You are wonderful. I have never met anyone like you.” I don’t know how they would know. I did not say one word to them. I just acted interested and listened! You do that and people will rise up and call you blessed. Most of all, listening is one of the most loving things you can do for a person. Finding someone who really listens to you in this world is a rare gift.
My mother taught me how to love and listen to people. She genuinely cared about people and they knew it. From the teller at the bank and the cop on the street to the cashier at the grocery store they all loved to see my mother coming. It put a big smile on their faces. This applied to strangers too. I remember as a kid being with my mom at the grocery store. She smiled at a lady in line with her and the lady replied, “Thanks. I needed that.”
There is a reason my mom is so kind to others. She has the love of Jesus in her heart. Because of the love of Jesus in her heart my mom created for me and my sisters a home of love, hope and faith.
Home of Love
I felt so loved by my mother. Love is what defines my mother. That sounds like something from a hallmark card, but for me it is true. I grew up in a very affectionate home. We told each other “I love you” all the time. I grew up knowing I was loved, loved by God and by my mom and dad. This taught me to love myself, which is the greatest gift you can give to a child.
My mom’s love was so strong that it extended way beyond our family. My mom showed me what Christian hospitality is all about. Growing up my house was just a big bed and breakfast. We lived right across the street from our elementary school. After school half of my class would be at the house eating out of our pantry, watching television and running around the house. My mom loved it. She loved a house full of happy people. And when people were in our house they were happy because my mom made it a wonderful place of warmth and love. When my friends would talk about having sleep overs, they would always insist on sleeping over at my house because they just loved being there.
My mom is a great southern cook too! Growing up our house was always filled with the smell of delicious food. I recall the smell of cheese toast and cinnamon bread in the morning and pot roast at night. And when my mom packed our lunches for school she would always put a sweet note in the bag reminding us how much she loved us.
But my mom did not just show hospitality to family and friends; she also entertained strangers and people down on their luck. I grew up with a cross section of people at the dinner table – handymen, plumbers, executives and attorneys – all people who needed a warm meal and a loving environment. I remember the cable guy coming around one day to fix our cable. That night he showed up for dinner with his girlfriend! We had just met him that morning! By the end of the day he and his girlfriend were laying on our couches. It was like they had known us for years. I grew up seeing first hand what Christian love and hospitality look like, thanks to my mother. These memories cause me to think of two helpful passages of scripture:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. –Hebrews 13:2
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” –Matthew 25:40
My mother’s witness of Christian hospitality also taught me to befriend the underdog and watch out for people who are bullied and mistreated. I’ll never forget when I was in the third grade I had a classmate named William who was bullied relentlessly. One day he showed up with invitations to his birthday party for the whole grade. Some students tore up the invitation in front of him. It was so cruel.
When we got home and told my mom about what happened she said, “Well, if I find out you tore up the invitation too you are in for it!” Well we didn’t. We still had the invitation with us. My mom said, “I’ll tell you what you are going to do. You are going to that birthday party. In fact, you are going to show up early to help and you are going to be the last people who leave.” The truth is my twin sister and I were glad to go. We liked William. We had a great time and William ended up being one of my best friends.
My mom taught me how to love and helped me to see what a blessing it was for me to have sisters. She told me I would know how to be sensitive to women and be a great husband. I am glad I grew up with sisters. As a result, I know how important it is to compliment Brandy when she gets a haircut and I also know how to shop for Brandy’s clothing. This goes a long way gentlemen!
The greatest example of love my mom gave me was the way she loved my dad. I saw what a healthy love between a husband and wife looks like. Their love also made me feel secure. They say that the greatest gift a parent can give to their children is to love their spouse. I believe that.
Home of Hope
My mom also gave me a home of hope. We were a house of dreams. My mom encouraged us to dream and to dare to live our dreams. There was always a sense of optimism in our home too. We felt like Norman Vincent Peale lived with us! There was always a feeling of looking forward to something. My mom created a positive atmosphere. In fact, one of her favorite sayings was “Happiness is a choice we make.” I heard that one about as often as I heard this one: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Imagine how much better this world would be if more people lived that one out!
Part of the hope and positivity my mom created was in her effort to expand my horizons. She exposed me to all kinds of good literature, music and movies. My mom took me and my sisters to see “Ghandi” when we were very little. She threw us Junior Mints and told us that we would learn something if we paid attention! She also dragged us to Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond concerts! I don’t think I have ever recovered from that!
Of course my mom did make up for those concert experiences by letting me skip school to go to a Def Leppard concert when I was in the 8th grade! She even picked me up from school and lied by telling my teacher I had a doctor’s appointment! What a mom, huh?
My mom and dad also encouraged my love for tennis and drove me all over creation for tennis tournaments. They also loved to see our joy at Six Flags and would drive us there and sit on a bench playing cards while we rode roller coasters for hours! What love, hope and joy my mom gave to me.
Home of Faith
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24:15
This verse was on the wall of our house and boy was it true. Faith in God was the foundation of our home. Some of my best memories growing up are connected to faith and the church. We would always hold hands at the dinner table and pray. We would talk about God and our faith during dinner. We would hang out in the living room after dinner with my mom at the piano and sing hymns. My mom would pray for me as she tucked me into bed at night. Every Saturday night my mom would put out my church clothes. We hardly ever missed church. If we did, it was because we were deathly ill. I remember sitting next to my mom in church during the sermon asking her why the preacher was so loud and when it was going to be over so we could go to lunch! God does have a sense of humor.
My mom taught Sunday school for years and served on just about every committee in Christendom. Today my mom and I have wonderful conversations about our faith and theology. My mom would’ve been a very effective minister. Her skills in communication, her knowledge of theology and her compassion would have served her well as a local pastor.
If my mom were here she might joke that this sounds like her eulogy. No, my mom is very much alive. Though my father passed away over twenty years ago she still lives a full live. She remarried a wonderful man named Milt. I was honored to perform the ceremony. My mom is still the same loving person, making a difference to people with her compassion and faith.
If I had to sum up my mom’s influence on me it would be this: My mom put faith, hope and love in concrete for me. She not only taught me what they were, she showed me what they look like. And you can’t put a price tag on that. I have a strong and loving frame of reference that undergirds everything I do in life. My mom loved me, believed in me, and taught me I could be whatever I wanted to be.
I will close with these two quick stories. When my grandfather was dying in the hospital his blood pressure was a real problem. It would sky rocket. The doctors had a very difficult time controlling it. The only time it would drop to normal levels was when my mom was in the room holding his hand. That’s the kind of healing and loving energy my mother exudes.
When my grandmother was dying in the hospital Elvis passed way. My mom remembers a newspaper sitting on the hospital bed with the headline, “The King is Dead.” My mom recalls her mother saying, “Oh no. The King is not dead. The King of Kings is very much alive.”
It is true. The King is very much alive. He is very much alive in my mother too. Proverbs 31:18 says, “Her children will rise up and call her blessed.” Indeed!
Thanks Mom! I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!