So, should you preach Mother’s Day sermons? In a word, yes. This year, let me say it even more strongly, “You’d better!”
Don’t Be Tone-Deaf By Ignoring Mother’s Day Sermons
Before I outline my own thinking on the subject, let me add that you should preach a Mother’s Day sermon especially this year when moms are either super-overworked or super-lonely from being sheltered. It seems to me that the primary role of the Zoom preacher or the Livestreaming preacher is to speak the Gospel plainly. But in these days, we have to recognize the pastoral needs that every family is experiencing.
The lock-down has been a pressure-cooker for many. It has exposed cracks and crevices in marital relationships. It has revealed to parents just how busy they used to be with activities. Some parents have discovered that the screens and devices in their children’s hands are very addictive. Taking them away causes painful withdrawal symptoms for everyone.
So this year, a preacher that does not address the new reality that mothers face might be tone-deaf. Pastor and preacher, please hear this: This Sunday is a FANTASTIC opportunity to address the families of your church as a whole. Speak to families. Speak to moms. Speak to children.
Should You Preach Mother’s Day Sermons?
There are some readers who are going to disagree loudly. But calm down. Think about it for a few minutes…hear me out.
The bible stresses the vital role of women in the transmission of the faith.
Not only is motherhood vital in the Old Testament, Paul calls out the mother of Timothy and his grandmother. He honors them for being the ones who gave Timothy a vision of what to believe. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” (2 Tim 1:5). If Paul called out moms and grandmothers for meritorious conduct, we should too! Way to go, mom!
Like a Mother to Me
There is a touching moment in Romans 16 that chokes me up nearly every time I think about it.
Paul is sending his personal greeting to his friends in Rome. He says, effectively, “Say hi to Rufus…and to his mother who was a mother to me.” (verse 13)
Whoa! What did he just say?
We know who Rufus is. He was the son of Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross of Christ on the last leg of the painful Good Friday journey. This means that Simon (probably) went home from that experience a changed man. And he shared the power of that moment with his wife who then, likely, shared it with her sons, Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21).
Are you not moved by imagining that she heard from her husband about his close encounter with Jesus…and that the two boys heard it as well? And then, in a remarkable loving intersection of faith and circumstance, she might have shared it with Paul. (How they met, where they met, and under what circumstances this remarkable coincidence occurred, we will never know.)
But imagine this: she was like a mother to the Great Apostle Paul. Paul of Tarsus may have learned about the final moments of the life of his new Lord from the wife of the man who carried the Lord’s cross, Simon of Cyrene. She was like a mother to him. Whatever that meant for Paul, we should be thankful for her.
And her care and love of Saul of Tarsus, the terrorist-turned-missionary, should inspire us all. Think about it. Without knowing who he would become, she was a mother to the most significant convert in the history of the church. Glory to God for her!
Gender Saved the World
The womb is God’s great tool for the salvation of the human race.
God had to ‘borrow’ one to accomplish his plan. He fulfilled the promise through a borrowed womb (Gal. 4:4).
Think about that for a long time. We live in an age when sex is lauded and revered, but gender is confused, and motherhood is jeered at. But God didn’t use sex to save the world.
Instead, he used gender.
God used the gender of the female kind, to save us. He did honor pregnancy and motherhood in a way that our culture does not today. God bypassed what our culture ‘worships’ today (sex) and used what our culture dismisses as unimportant (motherhood). Moms should be honored by us…God honored them all with the Incarnation.
Of course, there are women who do not have children or who cannot have children.
And there are many mothers have had lost children to early death or misfortune. A preacher must be very sensitive to that fact. But, we all have needed mothers in our own lives. And those moms, living or dead, good or bad, provided life for us…or to us. We should at least give thanks for our mothers…all of our mothers.
No, I don’t usually preach the Hallmark Holidays (Valentine’s Day, Groundhog’s Day, etc.) but I do think that Mother’s Day sermons are a reminder of God’s faithfulness to us at so many levels…it deserves more than a mention. Being a mother is worthy of honor.
How to Preach Great Mother’s Day Sermons
Motherhood is one of the most fundamental human roles, given by God and knit into our DNA. There are unique opportunities for the preacher this Sunday to build a message of hope and encouragement for the women and moms in their virtual church. Here are a few ways to make it special.
Perhaps you have wondered if you actually should preach a Mother’s Day sermon. I dealt with that subject last year here. I even posted my Mother’s Day sermon from last year. But, if you decide to do it (and you’d better hurry) here are a few ideas you might find helpful on that Hallmark Holiday.
- Center it in the Gospel. Never give up your opportunity to preach the Gospel. Ever. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. How did he come here? Through the womb of a willing woman. Go for it.
- Make it biblical. There are dozens of episodes in the bible that can provide good examples (and bad) for modern moms. There is (of course) the super-woman of Proverbs 31, but obvious names like Eunice, Lois, Mary, Elizabeth, Hannah, Eve, and even Paul’s ‘foster mother’ (Romans 16) can inspire a great message too.
- Acknowledge the Mother’s Day ambivalence as you begin preaching. There are non-moms in the room who have deep pain and regret for never having children…or continually trying unsuccessfully. There are moms who have lost their children to death or drugs or family dysfunction. But naming the reality and the pain has a soothing effect on the listeners.
- Celebrate all of our mothers, not just those mothers present. While not all of us are mothers, all of us have mothers. A Mother’s Day sermon might encourage every listener to remember, give thanks for, reconnect with, or celebrate their own mom.
- Stay away from saccharine. Sweet, sappy stories from a sermon illustration websites usually always miss their intended mark. Be real. Talk about your own mom.
- Give your wife a head’s up on the sermon. Assuming you are a married man, ask for her feedback before you leave for church on Sunday to preach it. If you are a woman preaching on this…never mind!
- If you are not preaching on this theme for Mother’s Day, at least acknowledge the day and the occasion as you begin your message.
- Interview YOUR mom on camera or live! When else would your church have the chance to meet and greet the woman who brought you up!
- Preach a children’s sermon. The 3rd most common reason that people give for attending church is for the sake of their children. This Sunday, ask families to gather together as a family and then, preacher, give your best children’s message to the children. The moms will love it!
- Pray for the mothers before the end of your sermon. Mother’s Day is always an opportunity to pray for the moms and their role as parent and grandparent. I usually give every mom a rose, by the way.
- Pray for the entire family. Pastor/preacher, why not ask the families in your church to do this? At the right moment in your service, ask families to surround their mother and lay hands on her. Then you pray over them.
- Take the time during the service to do something that you would NEVER want to do in church. Ask everyone who has a cell phone or device to text their mother or the person who has been ‘like a mother to me’, as St. Paul says (see below). Take a moment in the service. Really. Take the time. We have lots of it. Ask your congregation to live-text a loving mother or mother-like person giving thanks to God for her life.
- Some people worry that too much emphasis on ‘motherhood’ is exclusionary. But Mother’s Day is the MOST inclusionary moment of the year. Why? We all have mothers. Every one of us. Why not use this day to remember to give thanks for all mothers, living or deceased? Consider emailing your church and ask each family or person to find a photograph of their mother, living or dead, to aid in their own prayer.
- Finally, you can give a representative offering. What if you simply said this at the offering time.”On behalf of our church and in thanksgiving for all the mothers in our life, our church will give 10% of today’s offering to .” Choose a gospel-centered, family-friendly ministry to give to. THAT week, send a check to the ministry.
Here are a few more ideas that came to mind that will help make the day a wonderful and memorable moment for your congregation.
A Higher Love
While we rightly honor the unique bond between a mother and child, our culture (and ourselves) often deify a mother’s love as sacred on its own accord. But the gospel reminds us that unless our loves are generated by and subject to Christ, that even the deepest loves will become warped by sin. In fact, in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, we see precisely this scene play out: the once pure love of a mother has been corrupted into something selfish and destructive. This message can start with mothers but includes everyone—when our first devotion is to Christ, all our other loves become filled by him.
The Motherliness of God
We focus a lot on the masculine or paternal attributes of God. There’s nothing wrong with that unless those earthly metaphors come to define or limit our understanding of God. Mother’s Day is a perfect time to remind everyone of the beautiful maternal images applied to God in the Scriptures (e.g. Psalm 131:2, Isaiah 49:15, 66:13, Hosea 13:8, Luke 13:34, 1 Peter 2:2)
Great Commission Moms
Every mom (and parent and grandparent) is a missionary. The call to go and make disciples starts with the daily grind of raising kids. Moms aren’t on the sidelines of the mission field—they are on the front lines, handing down the faith like Lois and Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5) or Paul’s ‘foster’ mother mentioned in Romans 16:13. Anyone who’s raised a teenager knows the missionary’s task of bringing the gospel to a people group with its own unique customs, language, and culture!
Go Old School
Pastors sometimes struggle to bring narratives from the Old Testament into the pulpit. Why not use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to take a deep dive into the story of Sarah or Hannah or Moses’ mother? (Many/most of your congregation may not know the name of Moses’ mother.)
Bad Kid, Good Mom
It’s tempting to use an overly sentimental anecdote about motherhood, but that sort of emotionalism rings hollow. Instead, recall a time when you weren’t a particularly great son or daughter. (Maybe you have lots of material to choose from here.) It’s a chance to open your sermon with self-deprecating humor to make a worthwhile point—sometimes it’s when we are at our worst that moms are at their best. (And a word to the wise preachers: NEVER make a mom the brunt of a joke!)
Honor Thy Mother
Don’t just preach to mothers—preach to everyone who’s had a mother. Ask them what it would mean to get beyond gratitude toward their parents, but to honor. While our culture celebrates outgrowing, even condemning, previous generations, the Ancient Near Eastern world sought to respect the gifts and wisdom our mothers gave us. Challenge your listeners to make this concrete with their own parents, no matter what phase of life they are in.
Get the Kids Involved
Who knows moms better than children? Enlist your children’s ministry (or dads) to help. Show some portraits of moms on a projector, drawn by their children. Share kids’ “favorite things” about mom. It doesn’t have to be much, but it could start your sermon on the right note by highlighting the whole family of God.
Peaks and Valleys
For many, Mother’s Day is such a joyful day to remember some of the most precious moments of our lives. For some others, it’s a reminder of broken relationships, tragic losses, and unfulfilled hopes. It’s best to acknowledge all of this. Remind your listeners that this business of love, this business of new life—this is gospel business. And that same gospel encompasses the sorrow of the cross and the joy of the resurrection.
Pray for Mothers
Devote time at the end of the sermon to pray for mothers and grandmothers. This is a prayer of gratitude, surely, but view it also as a commissioning, asking God to encourage them in their role.
Scripture Reading for Mother’s Day Sermons
Since Mother’s Day is a Hallmark Holiday and therefore is not in the typical lectionary, here are some of the best passages (not mentioned above) to underscore your message.
- Philippians 1:2-3;
- I Corinthians 13:4-7;
- Ephesians 6:1-3,
- Proverbs 22:6, 23:25,
- Proverbs 11:16;
- Psalm 139: 13,
- 1 Peter 3:4,
- Psalm 127:3,
- Exodus 20:12,
- Psalm 139:13,
- Proverbs 14:1,
- Proverbs 31:10-12 and 25-31