I must candidly confess that when I was in seminary the 16th chapter of
Paul's letter to the Romans didn't do much for me. It struck me as being
boring nothing more than a long presentation of people's names, most of whom
I could not pronounce; I usually skimmed over that part so I could get to
what I considered to be the real Gospel. Over the years I have greatly
changed my attitude about this particular chapter and I have discovered that
there is much more to it than I had first imagined. For example, it is
interesting to note that of the twenty-six people who Paul singles out for
his personal greeting, six were women. Now that strikes me as being rather
interesting, since Paul has frequently gotten a bum rap for being a male
chauvinist. I think it also shows us the tremendous influence that women had
in the early church. In the male oriented first century Palestine, it is
telling that Paul could not describe the church without mentioning the
significant role of women.
Verse 13 of chapter 16 is particularly interesting and it is one that scholars have struggled with over the centuries. Paul writes: "Give my greetings to Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine." Now this statement could be taken two ways. It could mean that Paul had two distinct women in mind--the mother of Rufus and his own personal mother. Or, he could be saying: "I salute Rufus and his mother, who is like a mother to me." If that is what he meant, and most Biblical scholars agree that that is indeed what he meant, then it raises some interesting speculation. When and where did Paul meet Rufus' mother? Did she nurse him through some serious illness? Did she receive him into her home for an extended stay during his missionary journeys? How did this woman and Paul form such a close bond that he refers to her fondly as being like his mother? Mark tells us that Simon of Cyrene, the man who carried Jesus cross, had two sons: Alexander and Rufus. Was this the same Rufus to whom Paul was speaking? If that is true, his mother would be Simon of Syrene's wife. No one knows for sure who this remarkable woman was who served as a mother figure for the great Paul. But it really makes no difference, because what he writes makes an excellent springboard for a Mother's Day sermon.
Some people ridicule Mother's Day as a lot of sentimental drivel. They say that it is nothing more than the creation of the greeting card companies and the florists. And, to be perfectly candid, there are many ministers who shun this day because, they say, it is not a religious holiday. Furthermore, they preach from the lectionary, which has an assigned scriptural reading each week, and therefore mother's day is left out.
Well, of course, we must admit that there is sentiment to this day, but what is wrong with that. Seems to me that a little bit of sentiment is healthy. True enough, there are some women in the Bible, such as Jezebel and the vindictive Herodias, who had John the Baptist beheaded, who tarnish the institution of motherhood. There are women today who abandon, abuse, and corrupt their children and who create a poor model, but I like to think that these are the exceptions. Most mothers do the right thing and deserve recognition. So this morning I would like to join Paul and salute all of the mothers who are with us.
1. First, mothers should be saluted for their tenacious love.
2. Secondly, mothers should be saluted for their tremendous impact.
3. Third, mothers should be saluted because where they are that is where
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