How Many Times Did I Tell You?

Heritage Presbyterian Church

Mother’s Day
May 12, 2019
4th Sunday of Easter
Scripture readings – Acts 9: 36-43 and John 10: 22-30

I didn’t know it at the time, but when I was a kid, I sure did have a lot of moms…

I had my own mother who told me OFTEN what to do, how to behave, what I should have done, and how to live my life if I expected to be anything when I grew up.

But Mom left out a few things…and she had lots of “Mom Back-ups” to make sure I turned out okay instead of a crazed killer locked away in a deep, dark prison…and each of those Moms had something to say to me that reinforced my belief in the love that exists for all of us in God’s world.

First of all, I had my grandmother, who lived only two blocks away for five years of my childhood. I also lived with her and my granddaddy for my first year of college when I was nineteen. All of you have heard me discuss my grandmother and the impact she had on my life. She was one of the world’s greatest storytellers, and I can still hear her voice in my head when I retell some of them to my own family.

She told the story of my young cousin who prayed at church for a kitten. When his family arrived home, young Peter rushed into the

house and searched in vain for his kitten. When his parents and his younger brother found him, he was distraught that his prayer had not been answered. As it turns out, his prayer was just a little delayed. His kitten showed up for breakfast the very next morning. When my astonished Uncle phoned my grandmother to tell her, she said, “Son, never underestimate the power of prayer.”

She didn’t have to tell me twice. I learned it from my cousin.

My mother’s two best friends, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. LeBas, were a constant gentle presence in my childhood. I played with their children and grew up with them as my extra sisters and brothers. Whenever the Plunketts, the Johnsons, and the LeBas gathered, it was loud, busy, fun, joyful, and wonderful. Both of those surrogate moms told me lots and lots of things as I grew up. Mrs. LeBas was my piano teacher, and she was the one who first noticed that I often wheezed when I arrived at her house after riding my bike for about a mile. She practically ordered my mom to get me to the doctor. It was her attention that got me the help I didn’t even know I needed at about age ten. Mrs. Johnson was someone I often phoned and visited when I returned to Austin to go to college. Whenever things were tough in those turbulent years, she was a loving, listening ear that I could trust and talk with about anything, including both my parents. She often cautioned me to be careful in relationships; I wished I had listened more closely to her warnings on that topic. But she sure loves my wife, Jeanne, my most successful relationship!

Another extra mother from an early age was my Great Aunt Ruthie. Now I know some of you have great aunts that are a little scary. Or perhaps they belong to the “children-should-be-seen-but-not-heard” committee…a harsh and unsmiling committee of stern folks who would make any Puritan proud. Or if I were to add that my Great Aunt Ruthie never had any children of her own…I’ll bet some of you have already

painted the portrait of what she was like.

And you would be SO wrong!

My Great Aunt Ruthie was the coolest, classiest woman I ever knew. She had an old, interesting house down near the University of Texas that she had lived in since her childhood. She always had tasty things to eat and drink. She traveled the world with her best friend, and she brought back one-of-a-kind presents for us kids. She taught us how to swim side-stroke in the Guadalupe River; they don’t teach side-stroke swimming in most swimming lesson programs today…

But my favorite thing about her was that she taught all us kids that burping aloud was not only okay, but it was fun too. She was too much of a lady to do this in front of any parent, but she was too much of a PARTY to avoid it in front of children. When we gasped (and secretly thought of our own mothers’ reaction), she grinned and said, “You gotta let it out!” Great Aunt Ruthie told us all that laughing was a great way to spend your life.

I was also blessed to have a very unique extra mom in my life, but I really didn’t get to know her until I was in college. She was my Great-Great Aunt Bettie. She was 95 years old when I got to know her well. She lived in the Methodist Golden Age Retirement Home in Lockhart, Texas and had been there since she was 88. She was the first person I ever knew personally who had grown up with Civil War heroes as neighbors. She was the first person I ever knew who remembered when the first automobile ever came through town. She knew former slaves and former slave owners personally. She was fun to talk with!

But the thing I remember most about Aunt Bettie was the way she lived her faith…every single day. She told people she loved them and she did it so easily! She told people she was praying for them, and she really did it. She was open to all kinds of people of different faith traditions

and she demonstrated it with her question, “Tell me how your church works.”

Most of all, she loved Jesus, and she told everyone that too.

I hope you noticed a pattern in my descriptions of the various extra moms that I had. Through their wisdom and love and constant presence in my life, I became a better person because of the various things they told me. They each covered ground that my mother also covered, but perhaps it was hearing the same thing from someone else that cemented it into my brain. God knows, my mother told me enough…and I suspect yours did too.

This is a good day to remember that.

But when we hear things over and over and OVER as mothers are so very good at delivering, do we ever shut down and quit hearing? Do we ever say – either in our heads or in our hearts – “Okay, Mom!” but not really mean it.

It’s tough to hear the same things over and over.

And Moms are good at that particular skill.

Yet I have never met a single mom who repeated herself because she believed in the numbers. Moms repeat themselves because they love us and want us to turn out okay and not crazed killers locked away in a deep, dark prison…

So we hear the same things over and over and OVER.

But do we listen?

We have Scripture readings today in which the people of Jesus’ day were told things repeatedly…and yet they either didn’t believe or they didn’t listen.

Sound familiar? “Insert moms here” it should say next to these readings in the New Testament.

Peter is told that Tabitha is dead. He goes to her, and through the power of Jesus Christ, she is raised from the dead. When she appeared to the others, can’t you just imagine Peter rolling his eyes at their astonishment? How many times did he tell them about the love and the power of his Savior, Jesus Christ? And how many times would Peter have to repeat this before the so-called people of God would get it?

· God is powerful.

· God is not distant…he is present in our daily lives.

· God loves us.

Peter told them. Peter also tells us. So…how many times does he need to tell us? Or do we need extra moms to back him up?

Then we get to my very favorite “I-already-told-you-that” moment in Scripture. Jesus is confronted by a group of people at the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus has been there often and has taught extensively and clearly and boldly. There was nothing to guess about. Yet they surround him and demand that he tell them once and for all: Was he the Messiah?

His answer could have been on the lips of just about any mother who ever lived: “How many times did I tell you?” Either they weren’t listening or they didn’t like his answer…or they failed to believe it and needed to hear it again. In that space, Jesus had Apostles like I had extra moms: other good people to supplement what he had already told them…just in case you missed it the first time…or the second.

Today each and every Christian serves that same function for every other.

We remind each other over and over again that God love us, that Jesus was sent to teach us and to save us, that his full power and authority was revealed when he rose from the dead on Easter morning, and that the Holy Spirit would give us the power to do amazing things.

We should tell ourselves, our children, and our friends all about it. We should live it in everything we do and say. We should never tire of revealing the love of God to others.

And we should honor the mothers – any mother – who teaches this to her children…like mine did for me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!

God loves you.

And so do we. Amen!