THE TEXT for my sermon this morning is from the Book of Lamentations, which was written by the Prophet Jeremiah at the time of the Churban , when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple was put to the torch. The Prophet wails bat aim le'achzar kayeanim bamidbar' "The daughter of my people has become cruel, like ostriches in the wilderness" (Lam. 4:3).

If Jeremiah had said this about fathers, we could understand it. Father has become the family joke of our day. Here is a story that is typical. Little Jackie had a dog named Laddie to whom he was very much attached. One day, while Jackie was at school, his dog Laddie got in the way of a passing truck and paid the penalty.Jackie's mother was terribly distressed. She hardly knew how to tell her boy of his great loss. At first she considered telling him that the dog had strayed from home, but she made up her mind that the truth must be told. So when her son came from school, she said to him quite timidly, "My boy, I'm sorry to inform you that Laddie was killed today." To her surprise, Jackie shrugged his shoulders and blurred, "Is that so?", and went downstairs to watch his favorite television program. It so happened that his older sister was also downstairs, and she undertook to give her brother some details of the tragedy. At once there was a loud wail, and Jackie came rushing upstairs to his mother, sobbing as though his heart would break. Naturally his mother was puzzled. "Why?" she asked. "Why are you weeping over what your sister told you, when you did not seem to mind at all when I informed you that Laddie was dead?" As Jackie struggled with his tears he managed to explain, "I thought you said Daddy was killed."

In our text the prophet directs his rebuke not against the fathers of the day, but against the mothers. Surely he was quite a daring man! It takes all the courage that I can muster even to repeat his words. For, as you know once a year on Mother's Day we take time to honor her whose love is about the most beautiful thing that this world knows. We all agree that there is no crown too resplendent to be placed upon the brow of motherhood at it best. And yet this prophet is daring enough to remind us of something that we are very prone to forget, namely that motherhood in itself is not of necessity a badge of either goodness or greatness.A thoughtless, flippant and self-centered woman is not necessarily transformed into a saint the moment she becomes a mother. There are those who remain vain, selfish and heartless to the end of their lives. It is against this type of mother that Jeremiah brings his bitter accusation.

What is the charge that he makes against the mothers of his day? He does not accuse them of unfaithfulness, nor does he condemn them for being giddy, gossiping gadabouts. He does not say that they spend half their time at the beauty parlor and the other half at the card table. He does not charge them with keeping their children awake at night by the loud hilarity of cocktail parties, nor does he accuse them of inflicting bodily harm upon their offspring. There were very few maimed bodies because of the aggressive meanness of mothers in his day. What then does the prophet charge them with? He accuses them of the ugly crime of cruelty. "The daughter of my people has become cruel like the ostrich in the wilderness." The Bible does not think highly of this bird. In Scripture, the ostrich is the symbol of cruelty and forgetfulness. Job describes her in this graphic fashion: "She leaves her eggs in the earth to be warmed in the dust, and forgets that the foot may crush them or that the wild beast may break them. She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers" (Job 39:14-16). The cruelty of the mother that so enrages the prophet, is the cruelty of neglect. She cannot be bothered. She is too busy having a good time to be worried by such a small matter as taking careof her own children. Sometimes she is so absorbed in "saving the world" that she has no time for saving her own home.

I once knew such a mother. She never missed an opportunity to lecture on the importance of the right training of children, but she left her own to be raised in the street. A cartoon that I saw sometime ago draws her picture. A forlorn rooster is standing beside a hen's nest. The nest is full of eggs that are just beginning to hatch. Some of the chicks are half out of the shell, but the hen is nowhere in sight. A friend passes and asks the rooster as to the where abouts of his wife. As the big tears run down his face, he answers, "She's down at the Mother's Club giving a lecture on 'How to Hatch Eggs.' " Thank God, that while this type is still with us, she is in the minority. Why were these mothers neglecting their children? I am sure that it was not due to ill-will. No mother ever set out deliberately to make her child a menace to himself and a menace to society. There were doubtless a number of reasons for their neglect. I am going to mention only three.

1. Those mothers failed to recognize the fact that the child is of supreme value; that the child of today is the man or woman of tomorrow. Soon everything we possess will slip from our fingers into the hands of our children. That is worthy of serious consideration.

2. They failed to realize the terrible tragedy that is born of neglect. Everyone knows that if a baby is left all alone, it may spell disaster. Few realize, however, that spiritual neglect of children may be just as disastrous. Most cases of juvenile delinquency are the results of such neglect.

3. The final reason for their neglect was their failure to realize the rich rewards of the mother who is willing to pay the price that real motherhood involves, rewards in terms of nachas, joy and peace of mind.

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