Mother’s Day

Sermon Notes of
Reverend Harvey Alford Matney
(1868 – 1951)
May 9, 1915 – Augusta, Texas

This sermon includes a very special introduction written by my mother, Frances Matney Woodard, during the height of the liberation movement. I hope you enjoy both her writing and my grandfather’s very special Mother’s Day sermon. — Harrison Woodard


In these days of upheaval we sometimes feel that the world is a hopeless place, each generation claims the previous one is a failure. Women assume that their accomplishments are unimportant unless they become famous or a voice loud and clear for women’s rights or equality with men. Little do they realize what a tremendous role they have in life in promoting the very situation they abhor.

Every time a child is born, there is an opportunity to teach that child a sense of well-being, a feeling of worth, and ambition to accomplish great things. A son can be taught respect for a woman’s ability; he can be taught that work at home is a necessity each member of the family must share, and thus eradicate the old attitude that only a woman must do the housework, stay at home and never “outdo” a man’s efforts.

While thinking about the liberation enthusiasts, I happened to check through some old papers of my deceased father. He was a minister who served for 37 years in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. He was a quiet man of deep thought, very sensitive to human suffering and need. If he were living he would be more than 100 years of age. I was interested to find how up to date his ideas were for present day problems, and found that many of his notes refer to the same situations fifty years ago that we face now.

Among the many pages of his accumulation of sermon notes, I found one dated May 1915, listing various churches and dates preached until 1929. The subject was a Mother’s Day sermon in which he describes the value of mothers and their responsibility. It still applies to all of us who are mothers today. In the scripture taken from the book of Judges, he refers to Deborah who was a prophetess of Israel, who with Barak delivered Israel from Jabin and Sisera. Deborah referred to herself “that I arose a mother in Israel”.

I try to remember his words when teaching my own children. I think also of the words, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” I hope my children will remember to be fair, to show respect for other people, to help those in need, to study and work to do the very best they can in their chosen vocation. The greatest mistake that people make is to fail to respect the rights of others – men or women. As a professional worker for many years – with youth, children and the elderly, I found this to be the source of most of their problems. Jesus taught respect for human life – a mother’s job should be no less. What are you sowing? What shall you reap? Mothers, the work is yours. — Frances Matney Woodard (1922 – 1991)

Judges 5:7 NIV

Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.

Mother’s Day

Strictly speaking, Mother’s Day is the one day we recognize the role of the mother in the molding the child’s character, training his spirit to reverence God, forming its faith anchors, and shaping his future destiny.

The mother who fails to lay the ark of her child’s life on God’s altar robs that child of the most sacred right of existence. I’ve tried to think of Moses’ mother going from some social function of high life to place him in the ark on the Nile, but it won’t fit.

In later life he shows the effect of his mother’s instruction and disciplining, and prayers, and faith in God. In fashioning the child’s character there is no other workman can be on the ground so early or begin so soon.

When the gate of the mind is first opened she can enter with things the child mind should receive and drill them into its very life growth. What questions are put to her! What answers she may return! Now she may crown that life with glory and honor! Behold Solomon with the crown wherewith his crowned him. (Song of Solomon 3:11)

Mothers, what crown will you place on the head of your boy, your girl – the crown of love of truth, love of honor, love of service; or will it be some other crown, trivial, tinsel?

Napoleon said, “They that rock the cradle rule the world.”

It is said of Ahaziah that, “His mother was his counselor to do wickedly”, (2 Chronicles 22:3) and that is what he did. One must wish the mother had not thus appeared in the story of his wicked life.

The mother, who will do most for her boy and girl, will pray much for divine guidance for them and for herself. Jesus encouraged this by his treatment of the Syrophoenician mother. It is marvelous how eloquent lips become when they utter to God only what the heart longs for and take no notice of those about them.

Mother, plant the seed of Bible truth in the child heart, and it will remain. Men, you may not get much systematic theology, or scientific gospel, or providential progress, or rationalism; but seize something and hold on somewhere. If you can only understand what your mother taught, hold it fast; it saved her and will save you.

We need the motherly element in the church of God, not critics. We cannot live on law and discipline; there must always be a tender element in our education and our religion, for we are weak and need the ministry of compassion and love.

In our honor of the fathers, we overlook the “Mothers in Israel”. She need not be a theologian – just a mother.

A famous poet has written a few words about a book, an old worn, dear old book, a mother’s book. It was a book that cheered her heart when sad, that staid her hand when feeble, that fed her spirit when hungry, that clothed her face with a look of tenderness in temporal defeat. It was Mother’s Bible. You should have seen that Bible, it wasn’t a fashion Bible, or a political Bible, or a social Bible, or a literary Bible. It was that book of all books – God’s message to the human spirit, and her spirit caught the message. She trusted that message while living, and spoke kindly of those who would injure her and hers.

She trusted it when dying, and smiled sweetly and intelligently as she crossed the bar. I saw her. I shall not forget it. So they leave us – Then who?


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