Text: Exodus 20:12; Mark 7:5-13 Theme: Honoring parents takes different forms: for kids- obedience; for teens- respect; in middle years prizing them, and in later years caring for them.
Perhaps you went shopping for a Mother’s day card this week. The variety of cards is amazing: religious ones, sentimental ones, humorous ones. There are regular sized cards and huge ones; fancy ones and even more fancy ones. However, there’s a better way to show appreciation to your mother: how you treat her. As the fifth commandment says: Honor your father and your mother.
Honoring our father and mother over a lifetime involves different stages. Each stage of life brings different challenges as we and our parents grow older. I will highlight four stages of honoring our parents.
The first stage of honor is to obey. The Apostle Paul makes that clear in Ephesians 6: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Boys + girls, the quickest way to dishonor your parents is refuse to listen to them. Make a mess with your toys even when Mom repeatedly told you to pick them up. Grumble every time Dad asks you to help with chores. Make a fuss when its bedtime. But if you want to honor your father and mother, cooperate. Obey them!
Here I think of a great scene from beloved book: Anne of Green Gables. When Anne first arrived on Prince Edward Island, she discovered it was all a mistake. Marilla Cuthbert had actually asked for an orphan boy- to help on the farm.
Well, Matthew takes this freckled, skinny, talkative orphan to Green Gables anyway. After great reluctance and a trial period, Marilla finally announces Anne can stay. Anne is thrilled? She says: I'm so happy. I'll try to be so good. It will be uphill work. Mrs. Thomas often told me I was desperately wicked. But, I'll do my very best.
Boys and girls, a willing spirit of cooperation and obedience is what counts.
Jesus himself is a fine example. At age twelve, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. He wanted to be in the temple- his Father’s house. His knowledge wowed the people. When his parents returned + found him, they scolded him for causing them such worry.
How did Jesus’ respond? He went along with them and was obedient to them.
So kids, when you get home, don’t just ignore this: obey your parents. When you get up each morning, pray: God, help me to obey my mom and dad today. That’s one of the main duties you have in life right now. Honor your father and your mother. A second facet of honor is respect. Respect is really a synonym for honor.
You may obey your parents on the outside. But that doesn't mean you respect them inside. I can remember friends who would call their parents “my old man" or "my old lady." Saying my old lady kind of took their mother down a few notches. Then what she said didn’t seem as important.
I never could bring myself to talk like that. Maybe I feared my parents too much. But I think I also respected them too much.
Respect your father and mother. Perhaps this specially applies to teens + young adults. During these years we start to think more independently. We notice other families. We discover: not every family does things like our family. And sometimes we like how other families do things better.
I remember this stage: it was easy for criticism and disrespect to creep in. For some teens it can be a favorite pastime with peers: to cut down your parents. Here's a real challenge: to respect your parents- to their face and behind their backs.
Now, that doesn't mean that your parents' decisions won't gripe you at times. It doesn't mean that you pretend your parents never mess up. But it does mean that you give them respect- because God made them your parents.
You know, I think one important ingredient in respect is appreciation. When we truly appreciate what someone has done, we’re much quicker to respect them. And nine times out of ten there is no one who has done more for you than your parents.
The investment parents make in their kids is incredible! Just giving birth: the discomfort of a pregnancy and then the pain of labor! Then there are all the diapers. A baby has what- nearly ten diaper changes a day? That means in the first year alone parents change diapers over 3,000 times! When we truly appreciate what parents have done for us, we'll be quicker to respect them.
So, young people, if you want to wipe your parents out, never show any appreciation. Just assume they owe it to you. It’s what every kid deserves anyway. But if you want honor them, then show your appreciation- for the meals Mom makes, for taking you places, for sending you to sports camps or music camps, for cheering you on, for just being there for you.
Honor your father and your mother. A third facet of honor is to prize highly. This is a special challenge for middle-aged adults. You are busy. You are busy with work; you are busy with kids; busy keeping up the house and yard; you are busy with church; you’re just plain busy. At this time in life it’s easy for your parents to get the leftovers in your schedule.
To prize highly means to hold your parents as a high priority in your life. Make time for them. Take initiative with them. Do special things for them. Involve them in the lives of your kids. That will be a great joy to your parents. Middle-agers: how might you prize your parents- in this busy stage of life?
During my years as a pastor I never lived closer than 200 miles from my parents. But one old-fashioned thing I could always do is write. And I did- nearly every week. Thru those letters my mom/dad stayed deeply connected with my activities + thoughts. They read those letters and re-read them. They saved them. They deeply appreciated that I prized them enough to take the time to write.
Here I want to say a word to anyone whose parents have been a disappointment. Because of that truly honoring them may seem impossible. They hurt me too much for me to honor them. They don't deserve it. My father was never there for me. My mother always made me feel inadequate. You wouldn't expect me to honor that woman if you knew what she did.
These are deep, agonizing hurts. It may take years to work through pain like that. Yet God doesn't say: Honor your father + mother if they've never done you wrong- if they've been really good parents. No, God says: Honor your father + mother- period.
The Heidelberg Catechism wisely adds this: be patient with their failings. To do that may not be easy. But the Holy Spirit offers the power to make this possible.
Honor your father and your mother. A fourth + final facet of honor is to care for. In our gospel reading Jesus got after the Pharisees for not caring for their parents. The Pharisees encouraged that money to help parents be given instead to the temple. Jesus angrily rebuked them: You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
Jesus himself gives us a tender example of care for his mother. It’s on the cross. He's being mocked by the crowd. He's racked with pain. He’s in the middle of dying. And yet Jesus saw his mother there + the disciple whom he loved standing near by. And he said to his mother: “Dear woman, here is your son” and to the disciple: "Here is your mother." Despite his own suffering, Jesus provided for his mother!
Caring for your parents. This especially becomes an issue when they grow older. Then they may not be able to provide for themselves. Then roles are often reversed. Then children honor their aging parents by ensuring that all their basic needs are met.
I think of Ruth’s father. He was an engineering professor, author + college president. All his life he has been highly capable and competent- providing for so many others. But at age 99, his mind has slowed; he gets confused; he can no longer do basic things.
Fortunately Ruth has three siblings who live right in town. A sister takes care of his checking and finances. She often goes shopping for him. A brother lives a few blocks away and can scoot over if some need arises. Another brother is a doctor who can consult various health issues. It’s a beautiful thing: the children honoring their father by caring for him.
You never know when you’ll get that phone call. That phone call... saying that your Mom or Dad has died. And when you get it, won't it be great if you've done everything you could for them? Caring for aged parents may the greatest opportunity of all to honor them.
Honor your father and your mother. Each stage of life presents different challenges. For children there is obedience. For teens there is respect. For busy middle-agers there is taking the time to prize highly. And when parents are well advanced in years, there is the challenge of providing care.
It’s interesting that only the fifth commandment ends with a promise: Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Ephesians 6 gives us the New Testament version of that promise: that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. As we honor our parents, God promises to honor and bless us. It’s a circle of grace.
This morning I want to leave you with a challenge. For those with parents still living, look to honor them in some special way. Think about them and your stage of life. What would they appreciate? Be creative. Do something which says loud and clear: Mom, Dad, I honor you with all my heart.
Neil Jasperse Faith Church (Mothers Day) Nashville, Tenn.