- The Washington Times - Monday, May 13, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Douglas P. Cross at Alexandria Free Methodist Church.

Every Mother's Day we read Proverbs 31 about the good wife and mother, we tell wonderful stories of what mothers have done. But if we are not careful, we can leave church feeling a little defeated.
Think of that mother in Proverbs. Just reading about her tires you out. She was a textile worker, up before sunrise, and her lamp does not go out at night. She sells real estate, plants a vineyard, runs a trading company. She does community service, makes her own clothes and bedspreads. And in addition to all this, she has time for her children and makes her husband look good.
I would have to say my wife comes close to Proverbs 31, but otherwise, I have never met this amazing woman described in Scripture. I'm not sure I'd want to meet her. She is so perfect that I'd feel a bit uncomfortable. Bible scholars remind us that Proverbs 31 is meant to be an ideal picture, but not always the reality. We need ideals. We need something to shoot for.
What God also tells us is this: There is hope for less than ideal moms. There is hope for the mom in this book, "The Mom's Cookbook." Here are the instructions: "Get up and preheat the oven. Check for rubber balls, Barbies and Power Rangers that may be inside. Grease the pan. Crack nuts. Measure flower. Remove Johnny's hand from flower. Answer the telephone. Re-measure the flower. Call the bakery. Order the cake. Take two aspirin and lie down."
Life has gotten more complicated and hectic. Who has the time anymore to eat with the family, let alone bake a cake? We live in a less-than-ideal world, but God still gives us hope. Look at the life of Timothy [2 Timothy 1:3] who grew up in a less than ideal situation with his mother, Eunice, and a faithful grandmother. Paul says, "I thank God" for Timothy, a young gifted disciple. He was pastor of the largest church in Asia Minor in a city called Ephesus.
You would expect Timothy to have come from a perfect home, a Proverbs 31 home. But that's not the case. His father was a Greek and his mother a Jewish believer who loved the Scripture. It was a divided home, less than ideal. What can we learn from Timothy's situation? That God can work through less than ideal circumstances. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God," the Bible tells us. God always works in those situations.
Eunice was a deeply spiritual woman who married a man going in a different direction. What would you do? Stop going to church? Not raise your child in faith because the father had no knowledge of God? In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says to Timothy, "from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
Timothy's mother taught him about God in not-ideal circumstances. Mom, never give up on your children. God will reward you for your faithfulness. Also, God uses the community of believers to make up for brokenness in our families. Paul speaks of "those" who reared Timothy. Eunice had a godly mother, Timothy's grandmother. Grandparents let us know there is unconditional love all the way to the end of life.
The apostle Paul also had a profound influence in Timothy's life. Paul felt as though he was a spiritual father. Possibly Paul was widowed or was single, but he played a role as father to others. All of us have a part to play in our fragmented 21st-century society. Singles, widows, never married, childless, single-parent: God says, "All of you, come and be a part of family. You have a part to play." Timothy was blessed with this godly man in his life, who trained him in his life. But childless Paul was also blessed. God answered his prayers, and God will answer our prayers as well.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Roger L. Berner at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bethesda.

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