Tag Archives: Mothers Day

Mothering: Susanna Wesley Style

Sermon for Mother’s Day, May 13, 2018.  Susanna Wesley is one of the figures included in the Church of Resurrection’s, Leawood, KS, stained glass window which has loosely tied the sermons together for the past several months.

            Just imagine where The Church would be without mothers.   Mothers have raised children perpetuating their culture’s faith foundation even before Jesus was born.  Looking at the COR window, the images include other mothers, too, but Susanna Wesley cannot be ignored within our tradition.

John Wesley learned his faith and developed his methods from his mother’s teaching.  He along with his nine other brothers and sisters including Charles, were raised in a devout Church of England family.  Their father was Samuel Wesley, a priest in the Church of England, who even left the family for a year simply over a political argument with Susanna.

The article from historyswomen.com quickly introduces Susanna Wesley as the Mother of Methodism:

As a wife and mother in a small 18th century English parish Susanna Wesley herself received little recognition for how she managed her household, raised and educated more than a dozen children and coped with a sometimes impecunious, idealistic and occasionally difficult clergyman husband. Yet from her personal influence and loving home came a son who would experience a spiritual awakening and use that inspiration to begin a ministry that would fill a void in the national spiritual life and also develop into a world wide church. Indeed, it might be said that the movement called Methodism had its foundations in the home of Susanna Wesley.  [Accessed on May 10, 2018.]


I have no idea if Mom and Dad connected my name with Susanna Wesley, but I do know that Mom certainly referred to Susanna after I had my two kids.  Susanna had ten children who survived beyond infancy, but I clearly remember one of Mom’s pieces of advice that I am sure is familiar to many:  “You need to give each one an hour.  Susanna Wesley had ten kids and she devoted one hour to each one.”

Now, I am not certain if that is completely accurate, but I did find a similar statement in historyswomen.com biography:  She gave each child individual attention by purposely setting aside a regular time for each of them.  [Ibid.] A second website, christianitytoday.com, added this statement: Susanna made it a rule for herself to spend an hour a day with each of the children over the period of a week.

One thing I do know is that Mom greatly respected Susanna Wesley and so did her own son.  My mom also told me how the family’s home burned and John almost died. The biography on christianitytoday.com also affirmed Mom’s references:

After the fire of 1709 family discipline broke down, but Susanna managed to restore it later. She paid special attention to John, who was almost lost in the fire. He referred to himself as “a brand plucked from the burning fire,” and his mother said that she intended to be more particularly careful of the soul of this child that Thou hast so mercifully provided for, than ever I have been, that I may do my endeavors to instill into his mind the disciplines of Thy true religion and virtue.  [Accessed on May 10, 2018.]


Today we honor our mothers, true; but consider where today’s church would be without Wesley’s mother.  She was the daughter of a priest, she married a priest, and she mothered a priest (remember John Wesley was ordained in the Church of England as a priest).  Her personal upbringing greatly influenced her mothering.  One can only speculate how the scriptures prepared her for that role.

Looking at the Old Testament, the wisdom of King Solomon is found in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon/SongsSurely Susanna knew these words well:

Scripture:  Proverbs 22:17-21

17 Listen to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
18 For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
19 I am teaching you today—yes, you—
so you will trust in the Lord.
20 I have written thirty sayings for you,
filled with advice and knowledge.
21 In this way, you may know the truth
and take an accurate report to those who sent.


Proverbs are“short, concise sentences that convey moral truths,” as explained in the Life Application Study Notes.  These statements cover

“a range of topics, including youth and discipline, family life, self-control and resisting temptation, business matters, words and the tongue, knowing God, marriage, seeking the truth, wealth and poverty, immorality, and, of course, wisdom [defined as applying knowledge/facts to life]. [p. 1306]


As Susanna was raised in a religious home, she must have known these proverbs well.  In an UMC.org feature by Joe Lovino, a letter she wrote to John outlines her mothering tips. The tips are outlined in these categories:

  1. Religious education
  2. Education
  3. Order and Discipline
  4. Sleep
  5. Meals and Dining
  6. Manners


Reading through Proverbs 10-24, which is titled “Wisdom for All People,” many of Susanna’s tips seem to echo several proverbs.

Additionally, Susanna practiced self-discipline, too. In fact, her prayer life was extremely important, and I stumbled into one blog that discussed her use of a “prayer apron”:

When Susanna was young, she promised the Lord that for every hour she spent in entertainment, she would give to Him in prayer and in the Word.  Taking care of the house and raising so many kids made this commitment nearly impossible to fulfill. She had no time for entertainment or long hours in prayer!  She worked the gardens, milked the cow, schooled the children and managed the entire house herself.  So, she decided to instead give the Lord two hours a day in prayer!

She struggled to find a secret place to get away with Him.  So she advised her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, that meant she was in prayer and couldn’t be disturbed.  She was devoted to her walk with Christ, praying for her children and knowledge in the Word no matter how hard life was. [Accessed on May 10, 2018 at http://sharonglasgow.com%5D

Certainly today’s mothers know the difficulty of finding quiet prayer time; therefore, let us quiet our own lives, consider throwing an apron over our heads, too, and spend some time in prayer:  (The practice in our church family is to join in a time of prayer during our worship, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.)

Reading through Susanna’s letter to John, provides today’s mothers solid advice on raising their families.  Even though few families have ten kids living in the one house, the wisdom of her motherly advice is worthy of review.

  • Religious education:

Devotions:  “The children of this family were taught, as soon as they could speak, the Lord’s prayer. . .

Worship and music:  “. . . the day began with reading or singing a psalm, reading an Old Testament chapter, and saying private prayers—all before breakfast.  At the end of the school day, they paired up to read a psalm and a New Testament chapter.”

Sabbath:  . . .The children “were very early made to distinguish the Sabbath from other days. . .”

  • Education

Focus:  School was 9-12 noon, and 2-5 pm

No goofing off:   “Rising out of their places or going out of the room, was not permitted unless for good cause. . .

Reading:  Each child was taught to read at age five. . .

  • Order and discipline

Routine:  a tight schedule. . . [with] times assigned for naps, education, meals, and bedtime.

Self-regulation:  Susana believed “self-will is the root of all sin and misery,” . . worked to help her children develop self-control.

Forgiveness  . . . never be punished for the same offense twice.

Peace  . . . household was not chaotic . . . much quietness as if there had not been a child among them. . .

  • Sleep

Bedtime  . . .all in bed by 8:00 pm whether they were ready for sleep or not.

Naps  infants . . . napped on a schedule. . .to bring them to a regular course of sleeping

  • Meals and dining

Dining  Mealtime was family time.

No snacking

Choosing meals  . . . expected to eat was served.

Medicine  . no problem when “. . . used to eat and drink what was given them”

  • Manners

Polite speech  be polite. . . [if] wanted something they were to ask

No lying  . . .if confess it and promise to amen, they would not be punished.

Respect for property  . . . taught to keep their hands off of another’s stuff. . .


Mothers all know the struggles to raise children, and Susanna was like all mothers yet today.  She knew how difficult managing a household can be much less homeschooling the ten children.  And among those ten children were two sons John and Charles Wesley.

The Church grew as John adapted his own organizational methods to take God’s message to those beyond the doors of the Church of England and even across the Atlantic to the United States

John’s brother Charles worked side by side with John and is accredited with writing so many hymns that appealed to the populace:

[Charles]was said to have averaged 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years. He wrote 8,989 hymns, 10 times the volume composed by the only other candidate (Isaac Watts) who could conceivably claim to be the world’s greatest hymn writer. [Accessed on May 10, 2018 at Christianitytoday.com]


Susanna’s motherhood was not easy.  Susan Glasgow’s blog summarizes Susanna’s motherhood:

A devastated home isn’t always apparent on first impression, is it? Susanna Wesley was married to a preacher.  They had 10 children of which, two grew up to bring millions of souls to Christ. That would be John and Charles Wesley.  It’s a powerful story if you stop there, isn’t it?

But, behind the door of her home, hopeless conditions were the norm.  She married a man who couldn’t manage money.  They disagreed on everything from money to politics.  They had 19 children.  All except ten died in infancy.  Sam (her husband) left her to raise the children alone for long periods of time.  This was sometimes over something as simple as an argument.

One of their children was crippled.  Another couldn’t talk until he was nearly six years old.  Susanna herself was desperately sick most of her life.  There was no money for food or anything.  Debt plagued them.

. . .One of her daughters got pregnant out of wedlock and the man never married her.  She was devastated, but remained steadfast in prayer for her daughter.


The Church continues through the efforts of mothers everywhere.  Susanna Wesley may be the mother of the Methodist denomination, but she is really the same as Christian mothers everywhere.  Her model of mothering includes the self-discipline of works of piety her son outlines:

  1. Reading, meditating and studying scriptures
  2. Prayer
  3. Fasting
  4. Regularly attending worship
  5. Healthy living
  6. Sharing our faith with others


The model of Susanna Wesley reflects much of the wisdom shared in the book of Proverbs.  As our opening scripture shares, we are . . .

17 Listen to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
18 For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
19 I am teaching you today—yes, you—
so you will trust in the Lord.

Today, we can turn to Proverbs and share with others the wisdom, too.  If Susanna can do so, so can we.

[Distribute at least 30 proverbs among those in attendance and have them read them aloud to the others.]


Thank you to Susanna Wesley for her mothering skills.  Today, we can understand how challenging it is for mothers in our world by realizing that mothers have always managed life challenges.  The key is to study scripture and to raise our children the best that we can, teaching them the wisdom found in scripture.

Closing prayer:

Dear loving God,

Thank you for providing words of wisdom

as we find in the scripture.

Thank you for Susanna Wesley

raising her children in faith.


Guide us to continue following leaders

who live faithful lives  based on scripture.

Guide us to teach our children

to do all that they can for all they can.


May our efforts continue The Church’s work

carrying your story forward.

May our work demonstrate the true wisdom

in loving one another as we want to be loved.


Thank you for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Thank you for Susanna, the mother of John.

Thank you for loving us, your children.


In your name,

In the name of Jesus Christ,

And through the Holy Spirit, amen.

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Lydia said yes; so, Mother, may I?

given on Sunday, May 8, 2016–7th Sunday of Easter and Mothers’ Day

 Scripture connection: Acts 16:13-15, NLT

On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.


Just three verses share the story of Lydia, so why is Lydia even mentioned? Well, Lydia said yes to God. Lydia defied the social and cultural norms, yet she extended hospitality to Paul and Silas as they boldly crossed a cultural boundary:

Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia,[b] but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we[c] decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

The communities listed in these verses are unfamiliar to us sitting here in west central Missouri, but remember that the ancient region is geographically about the size of Missouri. Traveling on foot, the two disciples depended on the hospitality of the local faithful. In the Jewish culture, the men typically made decisions; but Paul and Silas crossed the border into Macedonia, a Greek culture not a Jewish culture, and there was no Jewish temple and it was the Sabbath. What were they to do?

These two Jewish men had already accepted Jesus as their savior and were called to share the message with others. The trip to Macedonia was the second mission trip, but this trip crossed into Macedonia, a European country rather than Asian. This fact might not seem significant, but Luke did and included it.

Lydia said yes to God and demonstrated hospitality to the two weary missionaries. The importance of Lydia’s invitation is detailed in the study notes and accredits Lydia as the first European Christian. Lydia said yes to God. Do we?

How many times do we get an idea to do something that may seem a bit out of the norm? Maybe it is just something we want to do for ourselves, but we cannot let go of the idea. As kids, we often turned to our mothers with the question “Mother, may I. . . “

Mothers are our first teachers. We depend on them for the most basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. We turn to them when we fall and hurt ourselves. We learn right and wrong. Mothers guide us and test us preparing us for independent life. As we grow up and become independent, our mothers’ words echo through our minds as we make life decisions. Sometimes we call and reconnect, even asking, “Mother, may I . . .

Lydia is a mother of Christianity. She said yes to God’s call and continued life as a successful businessperson. She made her living manufacturing and selling purple cloth. Today that may not sound impressive, but during ancient times this was an elite product and catered to those with money. Lydia was atypical to the Jewish culture and made her decisions independently. Lydia was a leader in the community and she said yes to God.

Do you say yes to God? Does our church say yes to God? Successful businesses find ways to meet customer needs and tweak their advertising, their product, and their service in an effort to assure success. Lydia did this in her business and she did it as a Christian, too. Saying yes to God comes naturally even in unexpected settings and through unexpected experiences.

Paul and Silas did not expect to find Lydia when they crossed the border. Yet, they followed God’s call to share the message in ways that were new and unfamiliar. Like Lydia, Paul and Silas said yes to God. Do we say yes to God?

What called you to church this morning? Maybe attending church started because Mom made you go. Do you know your mom’s faith story? Maybe the key was your dad’s or a friend’s faith story? Something called you to church and you said yes.

When did God call you to church? Did God’s call to you begin simply because you went to your parents’ church, or did your faith journey begin differently? What invited you to open the church doors and step in? Something made you say yes to God.

There really is no difference in the story of Lydia and our very own story. God wants to be in our lives, we just have to say yes. Whether we were first brought to church by our moms and dads, the Holy Spirit has asked us to stay and we said yes. As a church, are we asking others to say yes to God?

Christians are called to service and summer is here. Let’s make this a “summer of service” in as many ways as possible. Of course there is Sunday’s worship service, but review the worship of our ancestors and how worship has changed over the centuries. What invites today’s generation to church?

Service has so many different faces. There is worship service, but there is the hands-on form of service. What is the history of the church’s service? Has it changed? Of course it has changed. One surprise I learned recently is how the church of my grandparents became the origin of the Women’s Temperance League. I had learned that my own grandmother was actively involved in this movement, but I did not know the purpose of the league until Rev. Jeremy Bassett explained it.

The temperance league began as a social movement against alcoholism. The mothers fought for prohibition because alcoholism in the household was leading to physical abuse of fathers toward their children. Included in the movement was the drive to establish kindergarten in an effort to get kids out of the house where the abuse was happening.

This new knowledge changed the paradigm of my own history. I talked to my aunt and asked her about this. She remembered when Grandma would host the temperance league in her house. I asked if alcoholism had been a problem within the family that was pure German. My aunt was not sure, but when I shared what I had learned and that I was always curious how a German family culturally never consumed beer or any alcohol. She mused and considered that there might be some rationale in that, but she was not sure.

The “summer of service” may not mean establishing a temperance league, but it means identifying a problem and looking for a solution. In our community, the children are asking, “Mother, may I . . .” and the answer needs to be “Sure you can go to church.”

Let’s keep the focus on the needs of our children and the community. When someone arrives at our door, lets invite them in much like Lydia invited Paul and Silas to join in worship. There was no Jewish temple, but Lydia was the mother of Christianity and she invited these two Jewish, Asian missionaries to join her in worship. She said yes to God and her hospitality opened the European borders to Christianity; and from there it has grown into the global religion it is today.

Mother Lydia, may we follow your example? It is time for us to serve one another in God’s name. It is summer time and we are called to serve. How we serve may be as simple as opening the door during the week and being present. Movie nights for the community youth are examples of hospitality and serving. The Chilhowee Fair concession is hospitality and serving, too.

God is calling us to serve one another in love. If God calls you to serve in one fashion or another, just say yes. The church is available. Just say yes if God asks you to serve. If you need a team, ask. If funding is a problem, ask. The money for a ministry may have to have the council’s approval; but if not, just say yes to God. Make this summer one of service.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

Summer is approaching and school will be out.

People will be on the move day in and day out.

Sometimes it is difficult to see how to serve,

But you call us to serve.


Help us to hear your call as Paul and Silas did.

Help us to find ways to serve in today’s world.

Help us to follow Lydia’s example of hospitality.

Help us answer those cries, “Mother, may I?”


Guide us in learning how to serve.

Guide us in identifying issues needing us.

Guide us in working together in your name.

Guide us in sharing your love.


Thank you for Lydia serving with hospitality.

Thank you for moms faithfully teaching us.

Thank you for calling us into your service.

Thank you for a summer to serve others with love. –Amen


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Moms know faith handles changes


given on Sunday, May 10, 2015–Mothers Day

Lectionary Scriptures:

I John 5: 1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ[a] has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross[b]—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.

Ladies: Hold up your purses. Now, look around at each other’s purses and/or bags. Do they look the same or are they each different? Could you divide them up into similar categories? Does each bag show the personality of the one holding it?

If we are all being totally honest, we like our bags more than we need them. Plus, we do have to admit that the styles of the bags seem to identify our ages and/or our personality.

How does this pertain to Sunday morning worship? Well, this Sunday it does. A woman’s purse or bag has long been a symbol of preparedness, at least in our society. It serves as a means of carrying supplies, identity, currency, and sometimes a snack, medicines, or even emergency repair items. Kids quickly learned to turn to mom if they needed something and odds were that it was in that bag.

Going over this, I wondered what does that design and contents of purses/bags tell us. Could it identify the personality, the age, or the person’s role in life? Does the choice of the purse/bag change as our lives change? That lead to the next question: Do we wear our faith like we carry our purses/bags? What in or on that bag shows how important our faith is to us?

A few months ago, a Christian retail company sent a sample devotional, Woman of God: Joy in the Journey (which, by the way, is small enough to carry in a bag). Five different mothers in the Bible are the subjects of the devotions targeting 21st century life. The mothers include Sarah, Ruth, Deborah, Mary and Martha.

The stories of these five individuals are extremely different, but each one shares as examples of how God led to such joy for each one of them despite all their different, trying, real-life experiences. The first one is about how Sarah’s faith helped her withstand the emotional drain of not having children in a society that believed children was evidence of God’s favor.

Sarah remained faithful. The devotional puts this in very real perspective:

For years she and Abram had waited and prayed for a child. . . .Still, [at the age of 60] Sarah waited. She waited another 25 years? She went through menopause, maybe even holding her breath when decreasing hormone levels interrupted her monthly cycle. Still, no baby. Little by little, her joy seeped away.


Sarah’s faith survived all the issues and late, very late in life, she gave birth to a son. Her faith sustained all the ups and downs in her life, and God never forgot her, either.

The story of Ruth, found generations later in the Old Testament, is a story of loss. She learned of God’s love through her marriage, but her husband died. She was in a foreign land with no family except her mother-in-law Naomi. Returning to her home would have distanced her from the faith that sustained her through her losses.

By living in a faith-based community, despite all the poverty and loss that Ruth found Naomi and herself living, God remembered them and Boaz served as God’s loving arms to care for them. Marrying Ruth, Boaz also accepted the care of Naomi, too. And even more, Ruth then gave birth to a son who was part of Jesus’ lineage.

The third woman is Deborah. Her story is found in Judges 4 and 5. The description of Deborah is very different as she was a prophetess and a judge for the Jewish people. In today’s society, she would be one who broke the “glass ceiling” in the male-dominated world. She stepped out of the ancient stereotypical female role.

Her role may be an easier one to relate to in our lifetime since our culture includes many female leaders. Still, the devotional states that despite her community role, she considered herself a mother and the Israelites turned to her even in battle:

            . . .the spirit-wounded Israelites lived immobilized by fear. They needed to turn to their Lord in faith and rekindle their confidence in his love. They needed Mother Deborah.

            What a job for that woman of God! Mothering one screaming toddler or stubborn teen exhausts any mom, yet Deborah joyfully took on an entire nation, especially their army. Where did she find the strength?

            Debra drew her power from the Lord.


The model of how faith gives us the strength to manage our difficult lives reaches beyond the Old Testament right into the New Testament with the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Many Mothers’ Day articles and sermons would naturally seem to relate to the story of Mary, but today her personal story demonstrates the power of faith.

Mary was a teenager, raised in a devout Jewish family of Levites priests. Naturally she had to question how this could happen, but when reassured by Gabriel that nothing is impossible through the power of the Holy Spirit, she believed. Her faith in God, through the Holy Spirit, could do anything, and that gave her the strength to carry out her role in the birth of God as the human son Jesus.

The Old Testament shares the changes in the role of women, but the New Testament continues the story. Faith in God is so important to manage all the various roles women must manage. Yes, the demands life places before us tire us—men and women both.

The final story in the devotional is Martha’s story. We have heard someone described as ‘a Martha.’ The reference is to the way a person attends to all the details of serving meals, keeping house, preparing for visitors, and making sure the visitors’ needs are met.

And like Martha, the need to make sure everything is perfect for the guests, makes us so frustrated with others who do not help. We complain that no one cares; we gripe because we have more details we have to get done before we can join in the visiting.

But Jesus loved Martha and kindly told her to let go of all the business in being the hostess. He knew that her stress was interfering with the love of God. He slowed her down and loved her so she could receive the joy of knowing God.

The irony of Martha’s story is that once she did slow down, she was able to reduce her stress and recharge so she could do more. That sounds like the advice we all need today. We need to spend time with Jesus in order to reduce our stress and recharge to serve.

What changes have mothers had? Or, maybe there really are no changes in mothers. The women of the Old and New Testament have lived with the same issues and problems as today’s women. There really is no change, the change is in knowing God.

Granted, the handbag demonstration may have seemed a little corny, but it shows us how fashion or purpose affects the choice of different purses/bags. The stories of the five women are each different, too. Yet there is this one unifying key: faith. God created us in his or her image. The physical changes in men and women today may be evidenced through various data, but faith in God is as important today as it has been since the beginning.

Today’s scripture follows the crucifixion. The fact that the man Jesus was no longer present was a definite change for the earliest believers, but the presence of God did not change.   The presence of God is always available and available to everyone:

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ[a] has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.

The stories of the Bible include five mothers who struggled with all the same problems we have yet today. And despite everything, the only thing they needed was to love God and receive God’s love:

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.


These verses from I John were written after Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb. We must know that they are words for today, too. None of us know when the second coming of Jesus will be, but just as mothers have known throughout the generations, God defeats evil as long as we believe.

I guess the most important thing to carry in my bag is my faith and maybe a way to read the Bible so I can spend some time with him as I learn to model the faithful who have lived before me.

Closing prayer

Dear God,

The stresses in life drain us

So thank you for sharing the stories

Of your faithful followers.

With each story, we find you.

In our own lives,

We have stories of mothers

Who also managed challenges

by their faith in you.

Thank you for them

And for the others

who model faith for us.

Guide us in our own lives

To spend time with you

Through words of the Bible,

Prayer, song and meditation

So we, too, can manage life

And all its changes with joy

And the strength you provide.


Closing words from scripture:


The lectionary scripture from John 15 are too valuable when talking about how faith works, especially in the context of mothers, to ignore. Therefore, these words are shared in part as a benediction for each and every person who is facing life challenges.


John 15:“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

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May I introduce our mother, Susannah Wesley

given on May 11, 2014–Mother’s Day


Today I would like to introduce you to a very special mother, Susannah Annesley Wesley. She was born January 20, 1669, the youngest in a family of 25 children. She married Samuel Wesley and had 17 children including John and Charles. She was the mother of the Methodist Church and not just because she gave birth to these two founders of Methodism.

During her early years, she witnessed the persecution of the clergy involved in the protestant reformation.   Her father himself was removed from his parish. Susannah made her own observations about the church and its doctrines. When she met the Samuel Wesley, whose father also was removed from his parish during the reformation, they shared a passion for their religious principles. One biography, illustrates this and it can explain the foundation of her mothering philosophy:

“Before I was full thirteen,” Susannah says, “I had drawn up an account of the whole transaction, under which I had included the main of the controversy between them [the dissenters] and the Established Church, as far as it had come to my knowledge.” She was “early initiated and instructed in the first principles of the Christian religion,” and had a “good example in parents, and in several of the family.” In girlhood she “received from the heart the form of doctrine” from her father’s lips. When asked by one of her children for a rule as to diversions she replied that her own rule as a girl was never to spend more time per day in worldly pleasures than she was willing to spend in private devotions. [Accessed on May 8, 2014 at www.faith2power, quoting from William Horton Foster, “Susannah Wesley,” Heroines of Modern Religion, ed. Warren Dunham Foster, (New York: Sturgis & Walton, 1913)


This attitude and self-discipline developed into the 16 House Rules Susannah used in her own home. [These are outlined in the bulletin.]

  1. Eating between meals not allowed.
  2. As children they are to be in bed by 8 p.m.
  3. They are required to take medicine without complaining.
  4. Subdue self- will in a child, and those working together                             with God to save the child’s soul.
  5. To teach a child to pray as soon as he can speak.
  6. Require all to be still during Family Worship.
  7. Give them nothing that they cry for, and only that when asked                     for politely.
  8. To prevent lying, punish no fault which is first confessed                             and repented of.
  9. Never allow a sinful act to go unpunished.
  10. Never punish a child twice for a single offense.
  11. Comment and reward good behavior.
  12. Any attempt to please, even if poorly performed                                           should be commended.
  13. Preserve property rights, even in smallest matters.
  14. Strictly observe all promises.
  15. Require no daughter to work before she can read well.
  16. Teach children to fear the rod.  [Accessed on May 8, 2014 at http://www.raisinggodlychildren.org/2011/03/16-house-rules-by-susannah-wesley-john.html]


Reading through Susannah’s biography and then the 16 rules, the parallels to the Old Testament’s Proverbs are impossible to ignore. The Old Testament lessons supporting the Old Covenant long have served as the foundation for the world’s Judeo-Christian lifestyle—sociological, political, and even economical. The reformation that served as the cultural setting for Susannah and Samuel Wesley did not battle the doctrine as much as the political manner into which the church had evolved.

The New Covenant coupled with the child-rearing advise of Proverbs created the very core of Methodism. The 16 House Rules outlines strong parenting skills that today are sadly lost. Working with the at-risk students, these rules are seldom found in their homes—at least most of them.

Even as one brought up in a very traditional Methodist home, these rules were lived more than taught. Looking back at my personal parenting experience, I know that I never had a clear list of rules to follow. I felt so inadequate despite the traditional Methodist upbringing I experienced. Thank goodness my upbringing was based on the same foundation of Methodism Susannah Wesley established for her children.

The words of wisdom found in scripture can provide guidance for today’s mothers and fathers just as soundly as it did for the models of faithful followers throughout the Old Testament, the New Testament, and even leaders throughout history.

One piece of advice my own mother gave me as a struggling new parent was to give the kids my time. In fact, she referenced Susannah Wesley. With 17 children of her own, Mom told me that she gave each one an hour of one-on-one attention. It was a rule. Needless to say that a full hour for each of the 17 probably did not really happen, but while reading the biography the base of this motherly advice appeared:

Her system of moral instruction was equally definite. “I take such a proportion of time,” she writes, “as I can best spare every night to discourse with each child by itself, on something that relates to its principal concerns. On Monday, I talk with Molly; on Tuesday, with Hetty; Wednesday, with Nancy; Thursday, with Jacky; Friday, with Patty; Saturday, with Charles; and with Emilia and Sukey together on Sunday.”


Try as I might, giving an uninterrupted hour to each of my children was tough. Yet, today the wisdom of that advice does make sense. And after reading Susannah’s own explanation from her biography, I can see that the intention was not 60 minutes, but time and attention, a form of motherly devotion that in today’s world is frequently ignored.

Continuing to introduce Susannah Wesley could take way too long today. The biography includes so many quotes and anecdotes that could be shared with mothers everywhere and can explain the principles of Methodism. It becomes evident how John Wesley became so driven, so passionate about serving one another in the name of the Lord.

Meeting Susannah Wesley is meeting the wisdom of God. Meeting Susannah Wesley is meeting our mother in faith. Meeting Susannah Wesley can be like meeting our own mothers, too. Meeting Susannah once is not enough, just like mothering is not ever a finished job:

Mrs. Wesley’s education of her children was not a purely juvenile task, undertaken preparatory to the work of the schoolmaster who might later succeed her. She conceived her duty toward each child as stretching from birth until death. With constant counsel, she followed her sons’ courses through college and into the ministry. Her advice was not simply on questions of personal conduct but on questions arising out of their studies and work.


Today, Mothers’ Day 2014, we all know that a mother’s job is never done. Susannah knew that, too, and even until her death in July 1742, while living with son John, the biographer includes this statement:

Her last request was: “Children as soon as I am released, sing a psalm of praise to God!” As they had honored her in life, so they obeyed her in death. Gathered about her bedside they forced back their grief as the anthem of her release and of their love swelled to triumphant notes. And well might the anthem be triumphant, for Susannah Wesley had so played her mother-part in the drama of Epworth Parish that she gave to the world-not to Methodists alone-a new freedom of large faith, a new democracy of vital religion, and a new intimacy with God.


What a testimony to faith and to motherhood! Meeting Susannah Wesley renews our admiration for the work of our mothers even today. For those with only memories of mothers, or for those of still mothering despite the ages of the sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, or even the greats and the great-greats, happy mother’s day. May you be blessed by the grace of God for all you have done.

Closing Prayer:

            Dear Heavenly Father,

            We thank you for all the love and grace your daughters share

            as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts, and the great-grand             dames of our families.

            Thank you for a mother like Susannah Wesley who bore

            her son John and 16 other children into a world of reformation.

            Thank you for all the words of wisdom shared in the scripture

            and through the words of mothers throughout time.

            Let us share the love we receive from you and all your mothers

            with the grace demonstrated even in the most difficult of times.

            Let us teach the generations to come the same lessons

            taught in Proverbs, in the letters of the disciples,

            and in our mothers’ words.

            May we find the power of unconditional love for one another

            in all that we do, for as long as we can, whenever we can

            to the glory of You, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

            Amen, amen, amen!

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