Bob's Sermon for Sunday, May 13, 2018


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Giving thanks for our mothers


Proverbs 1:8, 9


      “Listen . . . to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

(9) They are a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.”


     Proverbs was written by a father, who wanted to prepare his son for life. The dad advised his son to seek wisdom. Daughters benefit from this wisdom, too. As you can see, the father told the son: listen to my “instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Powerful, intriguing images stand out in this verse. 


     To fully appreciate a diamond, you must look at it from many angles. Unfortunately we have time to examine only a few aspects of this Proverbs jewel.


     The dad compared a father’s instruction and a mother’s teaching to a head garland and a chain adorning a neck. “A garland to grace your head” is pleasant alliteration, but this isn’t just a fancy phrase. The dad was saying, “If you want to win in life, act wisely. Practice common sense. Obey your parents.


     When we compliment parents for their children’s successes, they frequently reply: “It’s good to know I did something right.” All mothers would like to think they succeeded—they did something right. Moms and dads want their children to win.


     For centuries, the winners in various contests received garlands, especially laurel wreaths as trophies. Winners of speech and drama contests, music competitions, and sports matches all prized those wreaths. Military victors also wore those head garlands. The Greeks called garlands “stephanoi.” The names Stephen and Stephanie come from that word meaning garland-crown. The crown Paul expected was a “stephanos.”


     In 70 AD following a 2-year siege of the city, Roman general Titus destroyed Jerusalem. He demolished the Jerusalem Temple and took some of its prized furnishings to Rome. A golden table for holy (show) bread, the gold candelabra, and a scroll of the Law were key fixtures in the Temple’s “holy place.”


     To celebrate conquering the Jews, Titus rode on a four-horse chariot in a Rome victory parade in summer 71 AD. His soldiers carried those prized, but sacred Temple furnishings: the table, the golden candelabra, and the scroll of the law. To commemorate Titus’s victory, the Romans constructed a huge (50’) arch that stood at the entrance to the Roman Forum.[1] The Arch of Titus is a present “must-see” in Rome near the Coliseum.


     Carved in panels on that big arch are scenes of Roman victory and Jewish defeat.     The arch’s south side has a panel that shows Roman soldiers carrying the candelabra, the table of show bread, and scroll during the 71 AD victory parade. 

A second panel on the north side depicts Titus entering Rome in his chariot drawn by four horses. Nike, the goddess of victory crowns Titus with a laurel garland or wreath.  


     The pictures posted below show:

 First: the Arch of Titus in its present state near the Roman Forum.


Second: the south panel, showing soldiers blowing trumpets, carrying the table, the menorah, and likely the scroll containing the law; the signs probably identified the captured treasures the soldiers carried.


Third: the north panel which features Titus with the goddess Nike behind him crowning him with a laurel wreath. 


     Scientists who study ancient ruins have recently learned that the Romans painted or dyed their public buildings and monuments. They tell us that ancient Rome was an extremely colorful city. The Romans “painted the town. Rome’s public buildings were not bland, gray stone structures.


The fourth photo shows how scholars have recolored a peace monument known as the “Ara Pacis Augustae” to show how it might have looked in ancient times.


Photo 5 shows a color digital reconstruction showing how scholars, scientists, and historians think the Arch of Tutus originally looked . Victorious soldiers proudly wore green laurel wreaths on their heads;  berries are visible in the garlands. Women wore garlands, too. Recall that Nike the goddess of victory wore a giant wreath (garland).[2]                   


     The photos show how archaeology, history and use of color imagery help us better understand the ancient advice in our text: Want to win in life? Seek wisdom. Listen to dad and obey your mother. A victory garland will grace your head. Many men and women athletes love to wear chains on their necks.


     Some scholars go to great lengths to explain differences between dad’s instruction and mom’s teaching. Dad was stricter and thrashings often accompanied his discipline, they contend.


     I’d like to hear your opinions on this subject. While preparing eulogies for their parents, I have interviewed hundreds of  offspring. Dad was not always the one with the firm hand. Mothers often carried memorable discipline enforcers. From what she has told me, that was true in Norma’s family.


     Mark Twain once said: “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me but I think she enjoyed it.” As Mark Twain’s did, my mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I am not sure she enjoyed very much of it.


     Probably the best explanation for the differences relates to the traditional shift from mom’s to dad’s supervision. Until recent times, mom’s took care of kids in the early years and dad took over once the kids grew older or maybe began working with dad in his trade. Moms took care of the infants and young kids, provided clothing, maintained the house, and prepared food. Dads often sat at the city gates, watched folks come into town and tried to look important.   


     Now three brief points:

1.      We want to thank mothers today for all they have done and continue to do.

Nearly all mothers have endured many painful experiences


Remember what it was like for Mary, mother of Jesus? She and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple when he was a baby. Prominent people there predicted that Jesus would be a winner—have great success.


(Luke 2:33-35 NIV)  “The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

            Simeon did not predict all happiness and roses for Mary.

              “And a sword will pierce your own soul too."


     Moms, how many times has news of your family pierced your heart and soul? We thank you for enduring that pain. Much of what you do as a mother is unappreciated; you get little or no thanks. We thank you mothers, for braving this pain and ingratitude. 


2. We encourage you to not give up praying and hoping for your families.

The Hollywood church had its share of widows and elderly women, most of whom were mothers.

One elderly Hollywood widow had a daughter who wrote articles for magazines that specialized in lives of Hollywood film stars. During the decades we knew her, the daughter treated her mother well, but she never attended services with her mother.  

She occasionally commented about Hollywood stars and their responsibilities to the church but never publicly worshipped God. After her mother died, she changed her life and became active in the church. We always felt sad for her mother that she never got to see the change in her daughter.


     Do you recall how old Moses was when God called him from the burning and asked him to lead Israel?[3]  No one knows how a person’s story will end, so we continue praying.  God keeps working on our kids longer after we are not around. Never quit hoping and praying in the Lord for your kids.


3.      Finally, do not give up on God.

Scripture explains that God subjected the mothers of many great people to severe and trying conditions.


     It would be wonderful to have a husband who works 20-30 hours and earns a $100,000 per week. You might also want one who:

·         Has great status in the community;

·         Listens when you feel like talking;

·         Doesn’t talk down to you;

·         Disciplines the kids;

·         Encourages you to develop your gifts and skills;

·         Comes home every night bringing you flowers and perfume;

·         Kisses your feet and rubs your neck.

·         Picks up after himself;

·         Compliments you in front of your friends;

·         Is not absorbed in hobbles, video games, or sports of any kind;

·         Enjoys doing what you like to do.


     Remember Jochebed, Moses’ mother? She and her husband were slaves. Both probably came home every night nursing huge welts on their backs from beatings administered by from Egyptian slave-drivers. Jochebed resolutely trusted God. Her reward? Her son became one of the greatest persons in history.


     Recall Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel?

·         Her rival mocked her.

·         Her husband did not understand her.

·         While she fervently prayed in a house of worship, the priest accused her of public drunkenness. 

Hannah kept her faith in God. Ideal circumstances do not necessarily produce successful children or bring happiness.


     One mother wrote:

“Someday when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a mother, I will tell them:

“I loved you enough to ask where you were going, with whom, and what time you would be home.

“I loved you enough to insist that you save your money and buy a bike for yourself even though we could afford to buy one for you.


“I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep. I loved you enough to make you take a Milky Way back to the drugstore (with a bite out of it) and tell the clerk, "I stole this yesterday and want to pay for it.”

“I loved you enough to stand over you while you cleaned your room, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes.

“I loved you enough to let you see my anger, disappointment and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents are not perfect.

“I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart. But most of all, I loved you enough to say ‘no’ when I knew you would hate me for it. Those were the most difficult battles of all. I am glad I won them, because in the end you won something, too.”[4]


     That mother didn’t quit teaching her kids or expecting right behavior from them. Her kids earned garlands to grace their heads.


     Three short scriptures to close:


“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”[5]


(7) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

(8) Now there is in store for me the crown (“stephanos,” the laurel winners wreath or garland) of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.[6]


“This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome (nikon) the world, even our faith.”[7]


     Faith in God and obedience to Christ win you that victory garland to grace your head.   


Scroll down to view pictures!

[1] The Arch of Titus was built about 81 AD.

[2] See “TRUE COLORS: Digital Reconstruction Restores Original Brilliance to the  Arch of Titus” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/Jun 2017, pp. 28-35

[3] In case you have forgotten, Moses was 80. 

[4] I unfortunately lost the source of this story, which I first read several years ago.

[5] Galatians 6:9 NIV

[6] 2 Timothy 4:8 NIV

[7] 1 John 5:3, 4 NIV




Bob Blair

PO Box176

Cleghorn, IA 51014




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