"The Unique Feminine Touch"


Sermon Delivered By Reverend Richard E. Stetler – May 8, 2011

Centenary United Methodist Church

Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 131

MOTHER’S DAY

     This morning I am going to talk about motherhood, but more particularly, the influence that the feminine spirit has had on all of us.  The impact of that spirit begins at the very earliest stages of our development.

     For example, while visiting a woman one afternoon, Lois and I heard a considerable noise in the family’s kitchen.  We continued to talk even though the mother was aware of the drama unfolding.  Her son was trying to bring his tricycle into the house.  Finally, he came into the den and said, “Will you please help me bring in my bike?  It is jammed in the storm door.”  She said, “No, I will not. You know that your bike is an outdoor toy.”  He insisted, “But I said, “Please.”  She said, “I know you did, but your bike is not coming in.”

     There was more thrashing around in the kitchen.  His will to succeed had not been broken.  He appeared once again and said, “You are not my friend.”  She said, “That is right! I’m your mother and there is a difference.”  He disappeared once again and now there was considerable noise in the kitchen.  He appeared a third time to announce that he did not love her anymore. Her response was classic.  She said, “That’s fine!  Loving me is not a requirement for living here. What is a requirement is that outside toys do not come into our house.” 

     During our childhood, there is such innocence.  We have so many questions about our world.  We want to try and test everything because, when we are young, we do not know fear and boundaries are just being established. When values are clearly defined when we are children, they tend to stick with us for the rest of our lives. 

     There was a similar incident that happened when I went to see a Mom who had just had a baby.  When I was approaching the front door, I could hear the conversation she was having with her five-year old daughter.  It was a very loud exchange but the anger and decibels were coming only from the daughter, a child that was extremely bright and very articulate in voicing her needs, desires and disapproval of some decision her mother had made.   

     Her mother opened the door and said, “Please come in, Dick.  Jennifer is not a happy child at the moment and we are just finishing up.”  To Jennifer I was totally invisible.  She never once looked in my direction.  Her steely-eyed gaze of defiance was directed at her mother and she had both of her hands on her hips.  She announced, “Mother, I just want you to know that I do not love you, and further more, I never have!”  After venting her frustration, she whirled around and stomped upstairs after which she entered her bedroom and slammed the door.  As she was going up the stairs her mother said, “That’s fine, Jennifer!  If you are able to join us, dinner is still at 6:00 p.m.”

     She was not embarrassed that her daughter had behaved like an unhappy, very articulate five-year old.  What I was observing was a mother who was very confident in her skills and very aware that her goal for Jennifer was to tattoo on her mind the critical fact that life has boundaries.

     Life is filled with countless disappointments, unanswered prayers and unexpected life-changing events.  There are times when we cannot control the direction the currents of life are taking us; what we can control is the skill with which we pilot our ship.  Jennifer was still in a learning curve. The power of a mother’s role in our lives cannot be underestimated.

     Adolescence is among the most awkward periods of our lives.  Hormones are raging.   Highs are so high and our lows are so low.  The music they enjoy is so illustrative of their energy levels.  Today, young teens express this energy by having to text their friends constantly.  They want to fit in with their social group.  They worry about how they look. Young girls will say, “Mom, I can’t go anywhere looking like this.”  Young boys become self-conscious as their voices change.  Moms try their best to smooth away such insecure moments, sometimes with little success.  Often young teens are convinced that no one likes them.

     This maternal presence is constantly visible and busy throughout our lives.  However, this presence that women offer is often ill-defined and rarely celebrated.  Their focus and energy flow is generally moving away from them.  Humankind has always understood the value of her presence and that is the reason why her qualities were mentioned in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs beginning with verse 10.   

     We cannot put our finger on this knowing that the mothers have, but it is highly intuitive and it works.  My Grandmother used to make bread in a wood-burning stove, and I asked, “How do you know when the temperature is right so that the loaf bakes evenly and you don’t burn the bottom?”  Her response was, “I don’t know how, Dick.  After years of baking bread that way, I just know!”  This knowing carried over into other areas of her life. She never measured her ingredients when she made cakes and pies.  She knew what to do just as our Proverb carefully outlines.

     Our needs change through all the stages of our lives, but the nurturing instincts of a mother become one of the most unrecognized needs that we have.  Even when our adult children call us here in Bermuda, if I answer the phone, the chances are good that they will say, “Put Mom on the phone.”  All of us need nurturing.

     Another element about women’s maternal mystique is why they are not celebrated more in the Scriptures.  Early Church history clearly reveals that the church would not have survived without their insights, their prodding the men, their corrective logic and their values. 

     When the disciples were in hiding for fear of the Jews, it was the women who encouraged them to move forward.  The women knew there was a world out there that needed the healing-values Jesus had asked them the spread. Today, the same thing could be said about the role of women in the 21st century church.  The Church may not survive without them perhaps because they are more intimately tuned into the need to protect the life-force of all human beings.

     There are qualities imbedded in the feminine side of our species that have no rivals on the male side. I honestly believe that we would have a vastly different Bible had women been the ones who wrote it.   They would have perceived history and their understanding of God quite differently. We forget that while being inspired, the Scriptures were written by men.

     Women have had to struggle to be recognized.  Today, in many Middle Eastern countries, women are still covered up from head to toe, not allowed to receive an education, not allowed to work, and have little voice in the management of their societies.  Women have always had to overcome countless barriers to be heard that are not there for men.  Why is that? 

     In 1905, a woman named Anna Jarvis recognized that the women that carried every human being until they were born were being ignored by societies all over the world.  She wanted one day set aside just to honor and celebrate Motherhood.  On May 10, 1908, Mother’s Day was first celebrated in two Methodist churches in the United States.

     Anna did not stop there.  She wrote every member of Congress, influential businessmen, governors, and newspaper editors.  She was so successful in waking up the male population that in 1914, Mother’s Day became a national day of recognition by the U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson.  The proclamation said that the second Sunday of May will be a time for the public expression of love and reverence for mothers.

     I went on the internet and asked how many countries in the world celebrate Mother’s Day.  The answer came back that all of them do. This movement grew from a single seed sown by a remarkable, highly energized woman that wanted to right a major wrong in society. As astounding as it seems, it took years and years of hard work for this bud to bloom.  

     And there is still a lot of work to be done in educating many of our male dominated societies.  If we do not know the impact made on the culture of Bermuda by Gladys Misick Morrell, we have missed reading a very exciting biography of one of this country’s true saints. To demonstrate her desire to correct a wrong in Bermuda’s society, Gladys refused to pay her real estate taxes.  She packed her bags and was prepared to go to prison for what she believed. 

     Parliament did not want any hassle from the women on the island and chose instead to seize her furniture and auctioned it off in order to pay her debts.  She was not humored by Parliament’s decision and proceeded to organize and attract more women to the cause of society recognizing the equality of women in the voting booth. 

     Finally, in the 1960s, voting rights were granted to all adult citizens in Bermuda.  It was not until 1968, however, that people elected their first female member to Parliament.  And then in 1997, Bermuda elected its first female Premier. 

     There are qualities in women that can be summarized with three P’s – powerful, protective and persistent. It very well could be that these qualities are bred into most female species on earth. 

     I remember reading a meditation in the Upper Room magazine about the massive fire in one of the National Parks in the United States.  Fire fighters were walking around the park after the fire had been extinguished checking for hot spots. They came upon a dead bird with its wings completely extended.  One of the firefighters thought that was a very odd position for a bird to die until he touched the bird with his boot.  As he did so, three baby chicks scampered out from under her body.  The young birds were promptly gathered up by the firefighter so they could be supported until they were ready to fly. The two men honored that mother bird’s last desire to protect her children.  That image has never left me!

     A day may arrive when more women will be in governing positions of most countries. Because of the qualities many women have to protect the sacredness of life, perhaps Isaiah’s prophecy will come to pass.  “A day is coming,” Isaiah wrote, “when nations will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into gardening tools for pruning.  Nations will never again go to war.”  (Isaiah 2:4)  It just may take the unique feminine touch to make that day happen. 

     Mother-influence on us has spread far and wide in many seemingly unrelated areas of life.  For example, following hurricane Andrew that devastated parts of Florida years ago, a team from the Housing and Urban Development Agency approached the only home that remained standing in a community.  As the homeowner was clearing debris from his yard, the officials from HUD asked him if he knew why his home was still standing.  This is what he said:

I built this house myself over a number of years.  Also, I built it according to the Florida State building code.  When the code called for 2x6 trusses, I used 2/6 trusses. When the code called for nails rather than brackets, I used nails.  I was told that if I chose not to cut corners with the building code, the home I was building would withstand even the most violent hurricanes. Outside of losing a number of roofing shingles, she weathered the storm well. I have to add that it was my mother who taught me to play by the rules in every area of life.  I have tried to do that during my lifetime and I am sure the result has been that I’ve been spared experiencing a lot of grief.  As you can see, my house is still standing.

 

 

    

 

Many mothers have earned the title of Domestic Engineer.  Into that category fits all the adjectives that were mentioned in our Scripture lesson for today.  No doubt, we could add countless more.  It was the unique feminine touch that has made the difference in many of our lives.  Happy Mother’s Day!