Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

The Cost of Motherhood

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A sermon delivered at La Grange Church of Christ on May 11, 2014 (Mother’s Day)

In The Cost of Discipleship Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked Christians to consider the cost of following Jesus. Before Mary ever considered the cost of following a Savior, she considered the cost of motherhood. Mary is one of the most important figures in the Bible, and yet we do not spend much time talking about the faith and life of this incredible woman. This is a mistake. She deserves more of our attention. She deserves for us to call her blessed.

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed”
(Luke 1:45-48)

Mary is called blessed because of her faith and because of what she did. Not only that, it was prophesied that all future generations would call her blessed. This is not said of any of the apostles. This is not said of some of the great figures we read about in the Old Testament. This is said of Mary. She is given a special designation that not many others in the Bible are given.  Now it is possible to take this designation too far. The Bible never tells us to worship Mary or pray to her. Mary is not deity. She is not God. She was a human just like us, but she was a special human and she is given a special honor in the Bible. It would be wrong for us to ignore this. It would be wrong for us not to call her blessed. Mary was an incredible person and she deserves our attention.

When we happen to take the time to look at Mary, the story we most often tell is that of the angel Gabriel telling young Mary that she is going to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary is probably around the age of 16 when this happens. She is a young single woman when the angel explains to her that she is going to have a baby. This is not exactly good news. This is something that could get Mary in a lot of trouble. She could even be put to death. Notice how she responds to this incredible news. In Luke 1:38 she says,

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

At sixteen Mary utters these extraordinary words of faith. “Let it be to me according to your word.” But Mary you are going to be an unwed mother. “Let it be me to me according to your word.” But Mary this could ruin your reputation. Your upcoming wedding could be called off. “Let it be to me according to your word.” But Mary they may stone you. They may put you to death for taking this risk. “Let it be to me according to your word.”  Mary, a young peasant girl from the small town of Nazareth, showed incredible faith in the face of great peril.

That story alone would have been enough to ensure Mary’s legacy among Christians, but that is just the beginning. Following this visit from the angel Mary sings a song. This song is more than faithful praise to the God who has blessed Mary with this honor. It is a song of trust in a God who Mary believes will act in incredible ways to help his people. Mary puts her trust in the God of the Exodus who heard the cries of his people and set them free. This song is a song of rebellion against the rulers and powers who oppress. Mary sings,

He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53)

This sixteen year old peasant girl goes toe to toe with Herod and Caesar. In the eyes of the world this girl is powerless. She has no standing or status within her community, and yet she is not afraid. She will not back down. She knows God is on her side, and because of this she has nothing to fear.

At this point in the gospel story other figures become prominent.  The emphasis begins to transition to Mary’s Son, Jesus.  Mary shows up in the story from time to time, but we are not told everything about her life, just as we are not told everything about the life of Jesus or others in the story of the Bible. However, Mary does make another appearance at the climax of the entire Biblical narrative. Mary shows up at the cross. In John 19 we learn that Mary was standing near the cross as Jesus was being crucified. Here we find a third pivotal moment in the life of Mary where she shows great faith. As many followers of Jesus are fleeing the scene of the cross, Mary is close by. She refuses to leave her Son, but she also refuses to leave her Savior.

As Jesus is looking down from the cross he sees his mother and he does a remarkable thing. As he is dying he is still thinking of others. He is concerned about who will care for his mother. He entrusts her care to the disciple whom he loved. This is interesting. Why did he not commission one of his brothers to take care of his mother? It could be because his brothers did not believe he was the Messiah at first. They doubted the claims of Jesus. They are absent at the cross, but not Mary. She is present at the cross. She is not only the mother of Jesus, but she is a believer also. Now that Jesus knows he is about to die, he entrusts his mother’s care to another believer.

Jesus believed that the bonds that unite Christians should be stronger than any bonds we share with others. Family ties are important, but spiritual ones are even more important. This day many people will honor their mothers. This is important. This is a great thing to do. Family is important, but let me encourage you not to forget to honor your mothers in the faith. Many of you are here because some faithful woman encouraged you in a Sunday school class.  Many of you are here because you had a mother or grandmother like Timothy who passed the faith on to you. The church would not exist if it were not for faithful women. Faithful women were at the cross when everyone else had fled. Faithful women were the first ones to witness the resurrection and tell others. Faithful women, like Mary, were there at the darkest moments of the Jesus story. They were there when everyone else had given up and it looked as if there was no hope. Often when we are experiencing one of our darkest moments in our life, it is a faithful woman who encourages us and keeps hope alive. Remember your mother today, but also remember the spiritual mothers who have helped you to get to where you are.

Mary is this incredible woman who trusts in God even though the results may be deadly. She is not afraid of powerful leaders or people in high positions. She will not back down and she calls them out because she knows that God is on her side. Mary is a woman who is faithful when most are not. She stands near the cross while many are running in the opposite direction. She witnesses the horror and tragedy of the death of Jesus, not just as a believer, but as a mother also. She is unwilling to abandon her Son. Mary is the ultimate example of what it means to be a mother, but her story is not over. She appears once more in the pages of the Bible. After the crucifixion and after the resurrection we find a group of believers waiting in Jerusalem and Mary is among them.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:6-14)

The gospel story begins with Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel. It ends with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. During all these events Mary was close by, but now we also learn that Mary was present at the beginning of the church. She was there with all the apostles and other followers of Jesus. Imagine how encouraging this must have been for all these people. Jesus had ascended and the Holy Spirit had not come yet, but they were in the presence of Mary, one of the real heroes of the faith. Some of these individuals who would go on to be important leaders in the church had denied Jesus and turned their back on him, but not Mary. She remained faithful through it all.

She was the first person to know about God’s amazing plan. Before anyone else knew who the Messiah was going to be, an angel came and spoke to a very brave young girl. Mary was ready. She responded to the angel by saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Mary showed great faith before anyone else was aware of the details of God’s marvelous plan. Not many people are ready to be a mother at age sixteen, but Mary was. She was prepared to do whatever God asked her to do. She was prepared to care for this special child that God had entrusted to her. She gave birth to him. She raised him. She did everything a mother should do, but later she did something even more incredible. She came to believe in him, not just as a Son, but as a Savior. She became one of his faithful followers. She believed at the cross and she continued to believe as this new community of Jesus followers prepared to change the world.

This is an incredible story. It is a story we could all learn something from. Mary was an amazing mother who accepted this gift God gave her and the responsibility that went along with it. Being a parent is special, but we need to keep in mind that these children are not our own. They are gifts from God. Being a parent means I have a responsibility to my child and I have a responsibility to God. Mary understood this. Her story is a story of faith and trust in God. She was not sure how it would all work out, but she continued to trust. She trusted him when she learned she would be a single unwed mother. She trusted him as she painfully watched her Son die on the cross. We do not know what parenthood will bring. We cannot predict what will happen in the lives of our children. All we can do is put our trust in God. If anything parenting is about being faithful. It is about doing the best job we possibly can with the children God has blessed us with, and relying on God for all the rest. A good parent will spend much time in prayer to the Father above.

More important than being a good parent, Mary was a faithful follower of God and Jesus. This made her a good parent. Wilfred A. Peterson wrote, “Our children are watching us live, and what we are shouts louder than anything we can say.”  The life we choose to live is perhaps the most important parenting decision we will make. We cannot live one way and expect our children to live another. Children will learn from our good behavior as well as our bad behavior. If we want our children to be like Jesus, then we must get serious about living like Jesus. We teach our children about Jesus, not just by the stories we tell, but by the lives we live. If we want to be good parents, then we must commit to being faithful followers of Jesus. Mary did this. Mary was faithful in joyous times and in difficult times. When the future was unclear Mary trusted God. Mary is an example, not just to parents, but to anyone who seeks to be a faithful follower of Jesus.

For generations now Christians have called this woman blessed.  May we seek to do the same. Let us give honor to whom honor is due. We may have never met Mary, but she has been a mother in the faith to all of us who have heard her story. Her story is important because it is a story that magnifies the Lord.  As we go out into a lost and broken world let us take comfort in the words of Mary.

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.”

Hear the audio of this sermon below

2 Responses to “The Cost of Motherhood”

  1. It is a beautiful sermon. Isn’t this the one you preached on Mother’s Day?


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