[The following sermon transcript has been edited for this blog. The original video recording and slides can be viewed here.]
When I was asked to preach on Mother's Day, I became curious about why we all love our
moms. So I conducted a survey, and I think some of you (including my FB friends and blog readers) also completed
it too! What I had meant to be a simple informal survey of
friends and people I know turned into an international survey covering hundreds
of people from more than 10 countries and every continent in the world!!! That’s
the power of social media! Anyway, the survey respondents also consisted of both
genders as well as a spread of different age groups. Well, here are the results of the survey.
Why we love our moms
Firstly, we love our moms because they feed us! Regardless of which country
or continent we come from, moms are more likely to
be the ones to make sure there’s food on the table for the family. I’m sure that for many of us, even after
we’ve grown up and got married, our moms will still make sure we are well-fed
whenever we visit them. In fact, whenever we attend any meetings or gatherings,
who are the ones who would bring food for everyone? The moms, of course! Secondly, we also love our moms because they
clothe us. More than ¾ of those who responded to the
survey said that when they were kids, their moms would make sure there were
bigger clothes on standby even before they had outgrown the ones they could wear.
Not only do our moms feed and clothe us, they
also take care of us when we are hurt or injured. The person who stays up through the night to
monitor a feverish child’s temperature and administer medicine is most probably
mom. Other than physical wounds, moms are also the
ones more likely to comfort us when we are emotionally hurt or feeling down. And this seems to come naturally to moms
because they have been gifted by God with a sense of empathy. That’s why more than half of the respondents
said that their moms would be the first to cry during a sad movie. In real life, moms are also the ones who’ll
feel sorry for those who are in pain or suffering. Like when we see a little
child fall down, we are the ones who would fuss over the child to make sure he
or she is alright.
We also love our moms because they teach us
basic skills like how to brush our teeth and tie our shoelaces, and other much-needed
skills for us to get on in life! Last but definitely not least, moms,
sometimes together with dads, teach us values and beliefs through modelling and
explaining them to us, in other words, by mentoring us.
How our moms love us
I grouped my survey results into three main
categories – Nourish, Nurse and Nurture – three N’s! To nourish is basically to provide all that
is necessary for someone’s physical health and growth. To nurse is to care for someone when
something goes wrong. And to nurture is to teach and equip someone. Now we know some reasons why we love our
moms. But do we know why moms do all this for us? Because of love! Mothers instinctively express
their love for their children in these ways.
Of course I must qualify that I am not
saying fathers don’t love their children by nourishing, nursing and nurturing
them. In fact, some of the respondents indicated that their dads, rather than
their moms, were the ones more likely to do so. But I’m generalising here as moms do tend to
be more predisposed to showing their love in these ways. Dads may express their
love for their families in other ways but that’s the topic for another sermon,
perhaps on Father’s Day. 😉
How we should love others
As we look at why we love our moms and how
moms express their love, let us not forget that God has explicitly told all of
us to love one another (John 13:34) and to love our neighbours (Matt 22:39). That means, moms, we not only have to love our
own families but we are to love the families around us and also those who are
without families. And these instruction aren’t just for
moms, so regardless of
whether we are moms or dads or neither, all of us as the body of Christ and the
expression of His love for the world, also have to do the same! In fact, we can easily find instructions for
us to show love to others through these three N’s - Nourish, Nurse, Nurture - all over the Bible. Let me just list a few of these to explain
what I mean.
Then the righteous will answer him,
‘Lord, when did we see
you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see
you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will
reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matt
If we want to be counted among the righteous
at the day of judgement, then we should be feeding the hungry and caring for
the needy. That’s why we have community outreach by the
church to reach out to the poor and needy in the community and to help meet
some of their needs. This could also be something we do in our
daily lives like for example, helping to cook a meal for our neighbours’ children when their parents are
unable to for whatever reason.
But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came
where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and
his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then
he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke
Jesus also told the parable of the good
Samaritan to illustrate what it means to love our neighbours. And in the
parable the Samaritan nursed the wounds of the man who had been attacked by
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in
all our affliction, so
that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Cor
We are also called upon to nurse the emotional
wounds of those who are in any
kind of affliction. So it could be comforting someone
who has just lost a loved one or encouraging someone who’s unemployed to keep
looking for another job.
These commandments that I give you today
are to be on your hearts. Impress
them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at
home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deut
up a child in the way he should go; even
when he is old he will not depart from it. Prov
Finally, we are also to nurture the next
generation by teaching them to know God and to follow His way. This is not just the job of the parents and
the Sunday school teachers or youth mentors, it is the responsibility of all of us
in the faith community because we model to the young ones what it means to
worship and serve God through what we do and say.
Jesus Himself exemplified what it means to
love. Let’s look at what Jesus did and His
demonstrations of love in the following video clip. As His disciples, we should then imitate Him and love
like He did.
So just as Jesus fed the crowds
(nourished), healed the sick (nursed), and taught others about the kingdom of
God (nurtured), we are also expected to do all that and
even greater things (John 14:12)! But
would be impossible for us to do all that with our own strength. It is only
possible for us to love and serve others in the same way He did because He first loved us. It is only by the
power of His love in and through us that we can also love those around us.
How He loves us
So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?”
or “What shall we drink?”
or “What shall we wear?”
For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that
you need them. But seek first his kingdom and
his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matt 6:31-33
When we have experienced how God feeds
and clothes us and provides for all our needs then we can also feed and clothe
Come to me, all you who are weary and
burdened, and I will give you rest. Matt
He gives strength
to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Is 40:29
And when we are tired and weak, He
nourishes us so we can nourish others.
He said, "If you listen carefully to
the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his
commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases
I brought on the Egyptians, for I
am the Lord, who heals you." Exod
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
healed me. Ps
God also heals us so we can have the
confidence to minister to those who are sick.
The Lord is close to
the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps
Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you
earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts
his people and will have compassion
on his afflicted ones. Is
And when He nurses us lovingly during our
times of heartbreak, we will also have the strength to comfort and minister to
others who are suffering or in pain.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is
useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim
Whether you turn to the right or to the
left, your ears will hear a
voice behind you, saying, "This is the
way; walk in it." Is
I will instruct
you and teach
you in the way you should go; I will counsel
you with my loving eye on you. Ps
when we have received His teaching and instruction through His word as well as through the guidance and
prompting of His Holy Spirit, then we will be equipped to teach and nurture
others in the faith.
The Master carried two pails of water each day to the people in his community. Day after day he made the trek. One day the pail on the right side of the pole fell off and cracked. But the Master didn't throw the pail away; he continued to use the broken pail to carry water to the people.
Every day he made the trek with the two pails of water.
Every day the broken pail dripped water along the path.
When the Master arrived at the people's homes, the bucket on the left was full and had plenty of water to share. The pail on the right had only a small portion of water left because it had dripped water along the journey.
One day the broken pail said to the Master, "Master, I am no good to you. I am broken. Please, just throw me away."
And the Master replied, "Don't you know how good the world has become because of your brokenness? Please, come with me. Let me show you how beautiful the world is because you hung from my pole on the right side of the road, right where I put you. Do you see the flowers there? Every place you dripped through your brokenness, I planted a seed. Because you were broken, the dry, barren ground was watered and the flowers bloomed."
Let’s look more closely at the pail that didn’t
have any holes and wasn’t leaking water. Because it wasn’t watering the ground
on the left side of the path, the ground remained dry and barren. Perhaps some of us are like this first pail,
somehow you can’t shower love on others. You just don’t have the desire nor
motivation and find it difficult to do so. Then I would say that what you need to is to ask for and receive more of God’s love. Only when you know His love and are
filled to overflowing can that love then flow out of you onto others. Once you
are moved and touched by His love, loving others will come naturally.
However, I suspect that more of us are like the
broken pail. You have been giving and serving the people around you so much so
that you are drained and emptied. I just read a few days ago an article on parental burnout, which quoted a study published in the Frontiers of Psychology journal: 12.9% of mothers and 11.6% of
what the researchers called "high burnout." That meant they felt
exhausted, less productive and competent, and emotionally withdrawn - qualities
that are similar to professional burnout - at least once a week.
Another article also discussed the findings of a Yale psychiatrist's research that showed how new mothers often suffer from post-partum depression because they feel that they will never be able to live up to the image of the perfect mother often seen on social media: a
nurturing, organized, sexy-but-modest multitasker who glows during prenatal
yoga and seems unfazed by the challenges of leaking breasts, dirty laundry and
And sadly, a new mom in Singapore had jumped out of her flat with her infant baby because she had been struggling to cope with the demands of motherhood and pursuing a career. I have
ministered to many stay-home moms and they already carry heavy, sometimes
unbearable, burdens on their backs. So for working moms, it must be many times
Remember that the broken pail
had to be
refilled over and over again in order to be able to water the seeds in the ground and
bring forth the blossoming of flowers. Similarly, we must be continually filled
with God’s love so that we can continue to love and serve the people around us. We need to take some time out regularly to
soak in His presence and His love and be filled up before we can go out to the
world to give that love away.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will calm you in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
How He loved Elijah
Let us now consider a classic case of burnout and
depression in the Bible (1 Kings 19) - when the prophet Elijah was escaping from Jezebel who was
after his life. He had just witnessed God’s dramatic power and defeated the
prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Yet he wanted his life to end as he felt
there was no way out for him now that Jezebel was determined
But God knew what he really needed was some food and a good
rest. So He sent an angel to feed him and get him to sleep. After the
nourishment, Elijah was very much strengthened, so much so that he could get up
and walk for forty days
forty nights to Horeb.
There, he met with God and the first thing he
did was complain about how lonely and discouraged he felt. But God in His love
and mercy, spoke to Elijah gently in a still, small voice and nursed his
bruised emotions and encouraged him with news that he was not alone after all,
but that 7000 other Godly men had been preserved. God also gave him specific instructions of
what to do next.
As we can see, at a time when Elijah was
feeling absolutely drained from serving God, even to the point of being
depressed and suicidal, God showed up and nourished and nursed him back to
health, then continued nurturing him for the work ahead. But let us not wait till we get to the end of
our limits like Elijah to take a break and get refilled with His love. Let’s
learn to go to God daily for our daily dose of His love just like the broken
pail was refilled with water daily.
We love because...
So let all of us who are busy serving people
like Martha, remember to spend time regularly at Jesus’ feet like Mary did. We
must allow Him to keep filling us with His love so we can keep loving and
serving others. No matter how tired and weak we may be, He
is sure to provide for all our needs and nourish us with His rest and His
strength. Regardless of what we’ve suffered and the
hurts that we carry, He is always ready to soothe our wounds and comfort us,
and nurse us back to health.
And even when we’re feeling lost and
hopeless, He will shine a light on our paths and direct our steps as He
continues to build and nurture our faith. The key is to first be loved by Him, the God
We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Maybe you are someone who finds it hard to love
others or perhaps
drained from loving and serving others - be it as a stay-home or busy working
mom or a burnt-out dad or someone who is overloaded from serving in a few
ministries on top of your regular job. We all need to first receive His love and
keep coming back to Him for more of it! So practise soaking in Him regularly on your own, at home or wherever, to make
sure your love pail is filled up.
For instance, you could play the songs in this list, then meditate on the meaning of the lyrics, or you could pray silently and
cast your cares on Him, you could also just wait quietly upon the Lord and
listen out for His voice, or imagine Him singing over you as a
sing over her child to soothe and calm, or you could do a combination of all
that. The main thing is to allow His love to fill you and touch you where you
need it the most.