Pastor Jeff Needleman
Mom's Day Text & Video
Mother’s Day 2017 – The Compassion of the Other Centered!
Last week I had a bad hair day… I’m sure most of us did, unless you’re a politician. What is their secret to not having to wear hats or caps to keep their wonderfully wavy hair under control. I’m thinking that their moms handled their hair- because a mother’s job involves a 1000 vocations!
My favorite mom story is about a young man who wanted to introduce his bride-to-be to his hypercritical mother. But in order to get an unbiased opinion, he invited over 3 other female friends as well & didn’t tell his mom which one he intended to marry. After they left, he asked his mother, "Can you guess which one I want to marry?" "The one with short hair." "How’d you know?" "Because that’s the one I didn’t like.
Given Covid 19, we can’t gather together to honor & celebrate God’s presence in our lives & likewise, we can’t gather to honor & celebrate Moms. But that doesn’t mean we don’t - & I pray you’ll find a way to do both! Today’s message has the tough job of honoring & offering tribute to the God of compassion & love while honoring & celebrating moms who have served their families in a Godly fashion.
Moms are God’s best gift to us after Jesus Christ because it was her life that nurtured ours from conception. In a survey of 600 college freshmen 448 said the most beautiful word in the English language was... Mom. Here’s a definition of Mom: someone who does the work of 20 for free. Cross reference words Saint & Masochist.
One of the more be-laboring stories we read in the Guinness World Book of Records is about Feodor Vassilyev who lived in Russia in the 1700’s. In 40 years he fathered 69 children; 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets & 4 sets of quadruplets. I guess he took Genesis 1:28 to heart…. be fruitful & multiply & populate the earth! He was obedient to God- prolifically & abundantly so.
His wife set the record for most children ever birthed by a single woman; yet we have no details of her life; we’re not even sure of her name, other then Mrs. V! Talk about unsung heroes- She did all the… labor, & he gets all the credit! It’s his name we know almost 250 years later! But such is the life of mom’s.
Now you know you’re a mom during Covid 19 when going alone to Walmart feels like a vacation! When you have to be extra careful of hiding your secret chocolate stash! When a trip to the bathroom includes an audience! & when cleaning up is a pointless exercise.
As I do each year, I want to acknowledge that although the majority of Moms did their absolute best, not all were or are spiritually & emotionally healthy parents. & just like a whole bunch of people, places & things- including churches, Christians & pastors, some were or are inattentive or overly self-absorbed causing some hurt & harm. & sadly, there are some moms who’ve inflicted great S,E &P damage on their children. However, that’s not who or what I’m addressing this morning. I’m chatting about those S&E healthy moms, Christians & churches who strive to honor the Lord by using their God given gifts & talents to the best of their ability to love God & love others, to the benefit of all! Very much like Jesus.
& to that point, as Jesus hung on the cross, He uttered 7 sentences through His excruciating pain. Let’s read about His 3rd statement in: Jn 19:25-27 CEV Jesus' mother stood beside his cross with her sister & Mary the wife of Clopas. Mary Magdalene was standing there too.
When Jesus saw his mother & his favorite disciple with her, he said to his her This man is now your son. Then he said to the disciple, She is now your mother. From then on, that disciple took her into his own home.
What we just read is a solid demonstration of the love & compassion. Mary & Jesus are examples of sacrifice in loving others- they were other-centered- & that’s the root- that’s the foundation of love & compassion!
Now the opposite of Other Centeredness is- self-centeredness. & Let’s be very clear, God calls us not to be self-centered but to be filled with love & compassion just as Jesus modeled. Scripture tells us in: Ro 8:6-8(CEB) The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life & peace. So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t. People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.
spiritually & emotionally healthy moms are perfect examples of being Other-Centered & it’s expressed in their love & deep compassion. Being Other-Centered means you’d rather have the 103o fever then watch your kids suffer with it; or when the joy your child experiences fills your heart to the point that it does somersaults inside your body. Or when you take it personally when strangers don’t smile & wave back to your baby. But be careful not to transform into overly protective momsters! Some of you know of what I speak!
Back to the Cross; Mary had at least 4 other sons- plus daughters! So why did Jesus give His disciple John the responsibility of caring for His mom? Understanding comes as we look at the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day. Jews took the 10 Commandments seriously- & the 5th Commandment said to honor your mother & father.
The 5th Commandment is found in both the O & NT: Ex 20:12 NIV "Honor your father & your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Jesus said in Mt 15:4 NIV For God said, 'Honor your father & mother'. Paul writes in Eph 6:2-3 NIV Honor your father & mother-which is the 1st commandment with a promise— "that it may go well with you & that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
Government programs such as welfare & social security didn’t exist so honoring meant providing for their parent’s needs! Now, when Jesus was crucified, Mary was a widow & living in a time when widows were dependent upon their children for support. This duty usually fell upon the 1st born, & if not possible, the younger sons.
& formally places His mother under the care & protection of His disciple, not His brothers. For a disciple to be accorded a role in his teacher's family was a rare & great honor, but assigning the role of son-hood to John went way beyond that. Why did Jesus do this?
Jesus is our model & He teaches that when we become children of God we also become the spiritual family of God, which is to play out in very real ways! John was to care for Mary as a son would a mother. This is the same John who wrote in: 1Jn 3:18 CEV Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, & not merely by talking about it. DO SERVICE NOT LIP SERVICE – Walk the Talk – don’t be mere believers, but true Christians.
Biblical commentator, A.B. Simpson, the namesake of the Christian University I attended, writes that while we have privileges as members of the family of God, it must be emphasized that this includes responsibilities to our spiritual kin! Let me summarize what he wrote:
The lesson we learn here is the duty we owe to the family of God now that we’re a part of it thru Christ. The family of God is truly to us as Mary was to John… Here we see the dream of the household of faith & the family of God. But sadly the bonds of affection & care can be far too weak in the church.
Weak, but not absent! Now, as Christians as…members of the family of God; our primary responsibilities not only include being ambassadors to the world- but also to each other!
Back to cross- Had it been me on that cross I would’ve been self-immersed in my own pain, concerns, & future, not my mother’s nor anybody else’s! Just me! At least w/o the Holy Spirit. & please understand that Jesus is in excruciating pain… pain beyond that which we can grasp, imagine, or even comprehend. Yet, even in the throes of a tortuous death, Jesus’ Other-Centeredness is obvious!
In His words to Mary & John we find concern, love & compassion for those around Him. He wasn’t wrapped up in self-pity or played the victim. He didn’t use the excuse of His situation to be oblivious to the plight of others; & He didn’t let His circumstances make Him unaware of their true needs. On the contrary!
As we go back to the cross, we’ll see that Jesus’s compassion extended even past those closest to Him- further than the bonds of His family & friends. Let’s take a moment & look at Jesus’ 1st two statements from the cross: in Lk 23:33-34 ESV And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, & the criminals, one on his right & one on his left. & Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Wow…& wow. The THEM whom Jesus is talking about had just spit on him; humiliated, beaten, tortured & nailed him to the cross. Even in His agony, the 1st recorded words out of Jesus’ mouth weren’t ones of damnation, revenge, or rage- but of compassion! Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
In my opinion, this is perhaps the most powerful & compassionate statement ever uttered. Forgive them for they know not what they do. Forgive them- that means all who participated in His persecution. As believers & as Christians gathered together to form a church, Jesus is our example & His actions a witness for our own behavior.
His 2nd statement of love & compassion is uttered as he hangs on the cross between 2 criminals. One thief, in his anger & pain, joined the crowd & hurled insults at Jesus, but the other recognized Jesus for who He is.
We read in: Lk 23:39-43 ESV One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself & us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Jesus’ actions are a wonderful example of understanding, acceptance, love & compassion all wrapped up in one sentence! It’s the epitome of Jesus’ message to us. Without hesitation Jesus responded to the 2nd criminal’s plea for mercy: Again, in love & compassion, Jesus offers comfort to another. Jesus is our example.
As Jesus is our example, Mary is as well! She exemplifies a faithful & trusting believer as well as a S&E healthy & loving mom! 1st, Mary said yes to the God the Father’s will in Lk one:38 ESV And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. & 2nd - Mary never left the cross. From the very beginning she never ignored or abandoned her position or her son.
Now, as one commentator writes, Mary was marked by chutzpah, not reserved piety. In other words, she was cheeky, not a quiet church mouse. Scripture shows us a demanding & firm mother. We read that Mary admonished the son of God for staying behind at the temple after the family left Jerusalem for home.
Later she pressed Him into service to prevent a disaster at a wedding party by turning water into wine… when He didn’t want to. God in the flesh was compliant! & 3rd -perhaps a bit of a momster, she acted in motherly protection & tried to grab Jesus to bring Him home as He was speaking to a bunch of His disciples.
So Mary too is our example. She accepted her duties willingly as the mother of the Savior of the world. She obeyed God’s call on her life. & while she would know the joys of being a mom, she also followed God despite that fact she knew her calling would bring her shame, disgrace, worry & the pain of searing loss.
She was told that all these would accompany her journey. But she never left the cross. She’s an example to all mothers & an example to all Christians because she responded to God with great obedience & submission to His plan.
Mary trusted God, both in the joyful times & in the most painful of times. Mary faith was filled with courage, hope, love & compassion; as all S&E healthy Other-Centered Moms & Christians should be, through thick & thin.
The church- Other-Centered Christians gathered together; are to compassionately care for each other in the family of God through thick & thin. If we’re to be like Mary, we too have to be filled with sacrificial Other-Centered Christian love & compassion that begins with obedience, submission, courage, hope; & not leave the cross of Jesus Christ. If we’re to be like Jesus, then we have to practice being Other-Centered Christians, & understand that from being other centered love & compassion flows!