The tradition of observing Mother’s Day in our land all started in a small Methodist Church. The year was 1907. On the second Sunday in May, a special service was held in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, organized by Anna Jarvis in honor of her mother who had died on May 9, 1905.
By 1908, Jarvis was advocating the day be used to honor all mothers, and the Sunday was adopted and recognized by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1912. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation recognizing Mother’s Day in 1914.
There is some historical connection with the old English Mothering Sunday in mid-Lent, which focused on returning home and paying homage to one’s mother. There was also a Mother’s Day for Peace introduced in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe in Boston in 1872.
Mother’s Day is a time for gifts and cards express one’s love and appreciation. It is also a time to remember and honor those mothers who are no longer with us. Whatever the traditions of your family or faith may be, it is a time for all of us to realize how indebted we are to our mothers.
This second Sunday in May reminds me of the four most important women in my life. These are my mother, my wife, her mother, and our daughter. The number may vary in your life, but I think you will agree with my reasoning.
Of course on Mother’s Day week I would have to list my mother first. She is the one that gave me life. Even more importantly, she gave me love and helped to start my faith journey. As I have worked with many families over the years, I have learned not to take for granted such gifts. If fifty years of ministry has taught me anything, it is that nothing will always work the way it should. I know I was blessed to have the mother I had.
I would add the second most important woman in my life, my late mother-in-law. I think I have heard most every mother-in-law joke there is, but I know I was blessed with a great mother-in-law. In her very unassuming and caring way, she gave to me the most important part of my life, for it was her love that shaped the person my wife Linda is. I would not have her, if it hadn’t been for my mother-in-law. On Mother’s Day I remember that she was always there when we needed her.
The third one I would list is my wife, the loving and caring mother of my two children. It is no easy matter to be the spouse of a clergy person. But I know at all seven churches I was appointed to serve, the people would say, ‘You can move Wiley, just leave Linda.” She has been my strength and support in whatever life has brought our way.
One night we were bathing some of our grandchildren, I said to Linda, “I can’t remember doing this many times with our children.” To which she replied, “You didn’t.” Mother’s Day is a reminder to us all to make sure we don’t get so busy living that we lose the real value of life. Linda was the one who invested herself in her children and their father. Mother’s Day reminds us what really matters in life.
Of the four women I have listed, the only one I had a choice about was Linda. I didn’t get to choose what family I was born into. I have to accept what family Linda came from, there was no changing that. And of course we may choose when to have children, but we sure don’t get to order what we want, though I know I was blessed. But God granted me the wisdom to make the right choice in who would be the mother of my children.
Our daughter Kelley Johnston learned well from her mother and grandmothers. She has been the loving mother of four wonderful children who have become amazing young adults. And she did this while balancing business at the Bread and Butter Bakery, the Mystic Grill and the Alley gift shop with her responsibilities of being a mother. She has the added duties of being the Mayor’s wife as well. I love the smiles on people’s faces when I am introduced as Kelley’s Dad.
I hope you can see from your own list how God works in our lives through mothers. But as we celebrate Mother’s Day, let us realize not everyone is so fortunate. There are those grieving over a recent death of a mother or child. There are those who want so desperately to be a mother, and cannot. I always found Mother’s Day a challenge to prepare a sermon for, due to the simple fact we are not always at the same place in life.
For a variety of reasons there are times when a family comes apart and there is a need for foster care. May is National Foster Care Month. In our nation there are over 400,000 children and youth in foster care. I urge you to find ways to support those active in this work. You might consider becoming a foster parent.
To all mothers, I would say thank you for the love you have shared and the sacrifices you have made. There is something I call a mother’s appetite. When there are three people, and only two pieces of pie are left, the mother seems to lose her appetite. Mothers, today is your day, so go ahead and take the piece of pie.