Everybody has heard of Martin Luther, but who knows the name of his mother, the wife of a coal miner who often went hungry so that little Martin might attend school? The aforementioned is very true of the times Martin Luther, the great reformer, came from. Mothers were not honored with the kind of honor bestowed upon mothers in America on Mother’s Day.
Much like Martin Luther’s mother sacrificed for the benefit of her son, so have many mothers sacrificed for the faith development in all of us. We can see how valuable a mother of faith is to the faith community through the Old Testament narrative found in the book of Ruth.
The mother-in-law of Ruth is named Naomi. The definition of Naomi is pleasantness, and my delight. In chapter one of Ruth, Naomi has experienced several tragedies. Naomi’s sons have died, her husband has died, and now she is left with two daughters-in-law and no real way of earning a living for herself or anyone else.
Naomi also lived during a time when women were only worth the cattle or dowry paid for them before marriage. Naomi’s faith can be seen in her care for her daughters-in-law Ruth and Orpah. Naomi has decided to leave Moab and go back home to Judah.
With all the pain Naomi experienced, she did not want Orpah and Ruth to suffer the pain by joining in the journey. Naomi believed that God was punishing her, saying in Ruth 1:13 “... it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.”
Naomi then blesses both Ruth and Orpah and begs them to go back to their own mothers, saying in Ruth 1:8-9, “Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.” Both Ruth and Orpah refuse and weep after Naomi begs them to go back to Moab. Naomi again blesses them and commands them to go back. Orpah goes back but Ruth continues to travel with Naomi, refusing to go back.
Ruth 1:16-18 says, “But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die -- there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’ When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.”
We see a wonderful parallel between Naomi and holy mothers who raised us and continue to be examples of faithful mothers. Faithful mothers who raised us in the faith were selfless in their care for us. Mothers of the faith made sure we learned our scripture lessons and knew them as well as they did.
Mothers of the faith blessed us through praying for us while teaching us how to pray. We see how mothers of the faith gather for prayer in their homes, churches, hospitals and any other places prayer is needed. We also experience the answered prayer because of Godly mothers and certainly know we would not have made it without those prayers.
A mother whose name we do not know raised Martin Luther. Let us not forget the faithful mothers who raised us in the faith not only on Mother’s Day last Sunday, but every day. Call out the names of the mothers who are now with Jesus and make sure we honor the mothers of the faith now serving Christ to the glory of God.
Rev. Dr. Angel De La Cruz is pastor of Word Centered Presbyterian Church in Sharon.