Easter #7…Series C
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (May 7&8-2016)
Text: John 13:31-35
Title: Two Stages of Love…A Mother’s Day Meditation
I begin my homily this evening/morning with an honest confession. I admit that I am (and have always been) a bit ambivalent about preaching on Mother’s Day, and for several reasons. First, Mother’s Day is, essentially a secular holiday, which is not included in the liturgical calendar of the church. Mother’s Day always occurs during the Easter season, and the message of Easter and the resurrection should take precedence over Mother’s Day. I am also ambivalent about Mother’s Day, because the day seems to exalt and elevate childbearing as the only legitimate way to be a woman. But what about the feelings of women who choose not to be mothers or, because of physical limitations, are unable to bear children?? But I guess my most significant and personal reason for feeling this Mother’s Day ambivalence stems from the fact that my own mother died 16 days after my brother and I were born. The tragedy of my mother’s death created an enormous hole at the center of my life and robbed me of the opportunity to know and experience my mother’s love and Mother’s Day was an annual reminder of that painful truth.
For many years, I stubbornly refused to preach Mother’s Day sermons. But I suppose I have mellowed in my old age. Now I realize that Mother’s Day may not be on the church calendar, but it is on everyone’s heart and mind this morning, so, for the past few years, I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to link Mother’s Day and the message of the Gospel of Grace and the mission and ministry of Christ’s Church. And today, I will make yet another attempt…
But before I do that, let me set the scene for today’s Gospel from the 17th chapter of John…a portion of the Fourth Gospel that Biblical scholars describe as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. This prayer was prayed in the Upper Room on the night before Jesus’ passion and death and it reveals, in a powerful way, the heart of Jesus. Jesus knows what lies ahead, so he gathers his closest friends for a final meal (the Last Supper). And he offers them parting words of encouragement and hope, and then prays for them. He prays that they will endure the challenges of ministry that will certainly come after his death. He prays that they will be drawn together…in perfect unity…the same unity which exists between God the Father and God the Son… But what is interesting and important is that Jesus prays not only for them…not only for the apostles sitting in front of him…Jesus prays for all for who will believe in Jesus because of their testimony…because of what they say and what they do and what they share with generations yet to be born!
Friends, it is important for us to remember…we must never forget that we are here today…we are members of the Body of Christ…part of the Jesus Movement because somebody, somewhere told us about the Gospel of Grace…somebody, somewhere told us about the relentless love of God for us and for the human race…somebody, somewhere told us about Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sake world he loved and came to save. Friends, we are here because someone…somewhere cared enough about our spiritual life and health and our relationship with God… And in so many cases that “SOMEBODY” who cared enough to share the great “Legacy of Faith” also brought us to the church to be baptized and who saw to it that we were nurtured in the faith of our Baptism…that SOMEBODY was our MOTHER (or someone who substituted…who played the role of Mother for those who didn’t have a mother)!
So, here’s the connection, as I see it and understand it, between our Gospel for this 7th (and final Sunday of Easter) and Mother’s Day (are you ready). There are two Stages of Love! Whether it is a Mother’s love for her children or God’s love for the world…there are always two stages of Love. Stage #1 is to receive the love given by another. You see, we have no experience of love that is not first received…We do not love intuitively…love is a “learned behavior”…we must learn the “Art of Loving” by receiving love…by experiencing love from others. We can’t love before we receive love any more than we can return from someplace we have never been! So that is Stage #1. We receive the love of others.
But there is a Stage #2…and Stage #2 is our obligation to give to others what we have received. If our Love is fixated…if it remains at Stage #1 it will die. Love is not meant to be hoarded but to be shared. The Dead Sea in Palestine is dead because it is “land locked”…it only receives…it never gives away what it receives. And the same is true with love…if we only receive and never give, our love will die! This, it seems to me, is the basic principle of the “Stewardship of Love”…hoard it…Keep it to yourself and will surely die…Give it away and it will thrive!
And, friends, we honor the one who has given by sharing what we have received with others! This is true of God and God’s love…We honor God by sharing God’s love with others (not by hoarding it…keeping it to ourselves). This is also true of our Mother’s…We honor our Mother’s by sharing the same self-giving, self-denying, sacrificial and unconditional love with our children and our children will honor us by sharing that same love with their children and on and on it goes…generation after generation, , and we fulfill our destiny as God’s beloved children and, once again, the fierce, relentless and unlimited love of God takes on human flesh and lives in us and thru us, it lives in this bruised and broken world. And, friends, that’s what we celebrate today… the marvelous and mysterious circle of life and love continues! Happy Mother’s Day!