a sermon for the 6th Sunday of Easter
Mother’s Day has always been a bit tricky for preachers.
Let’s see a show of hands: who knows what today is? That’s right, it’s the 6th Sunday after Easter. (Actually, a friend told me that in his church, Easter is known as the 6th Sunday before Mother’s Day.) Mother’s Day is a tricky day for preachers. For one thing, it is not really a Church holiday, but if a minister forgets it, there’ll be heck to pay. Father’s Day isn’t like that for some reason; most fathers would just as soon go fishing or play golf on Father’s Day. Mother’s Day just needs to be recognized in the Church. But there’s another reason it’s a little tricky – not everyone has the same kind of “Hallmark Card” relationship with their mother. Or perhaps their mother has already died. Or maybe the child has died prematurely. All of these are a sign of our brokenness, even while recognizing the gift of motherhood. So I’d like to begin this morning by offering a blessing for the mothers among us. Let us pray:
Loving God, who watches over your Church as a mother gives life and nourishment to her child, bless these women who have been called to motherhood. Give twisdom and strength to those who are nurturing children, grace and peace to those whose children have grown, and comfort to those whose children are no longer with them. Bless too, we pray, our mothers who are no longer with us, that they may be remembered by we who remain here on earth. Let the example of their faith and love shine forth. And grant that we, their sons and daughters, may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect and service to the glory of your name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives bound in perfect love. Amen.
Sometimes, our bible readings for the day seem perfectly suited for the spirit of the day. Today’s readings are like that. In the Epistle reading we heard:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments.
For most people, there is no clearer human expression of love than the way a mother loves her child. It is the very image of unconditional love, a love that begins before a child is even born, and continues to grow from that point on. Many women say that they loved their children began before they even held them the very first time.
If a mother’s love can be like that, then imagine what God’s love is like for us all. God, who is infinitely greater than any human being, loves not only who you are, and not only who you were conceived to be, but also who you are yet become. God loves the very idea of you – it is a love that is deep; it is a love that is wide; it is a love that is vastly richer than any human love we have ever experienced.
What a concept! Each of us is the object of perfect divine love. Each of us is beloved by the greatest power in the universe! Each of us, without exception, is loved by the One in whom “we live and move and have our being.” And you know what? There’s not a thing you can do about it. That right, Jesus says, “you did not choose me, but I chose you.”
You mean I don’t get to choose whether God loves me? Nope. Not even a little bit. Because God’s love doesn’t depend on what we do. It is a completely unconditional love that pours out from the heart of God, from the core of being itself. God pours out love for us completely unwarranted and undeserved, just like a mother’s love pours out for her child.
Now, just like children, we’re not above a little sibling rivalry. My brother and I used to compete for our parents’ attention and love all the time. And it turns out that we are always competing with each other for God’s love. Some of us compete based on our modern sense of justice or righteousness. Human beings tend to think in economic terms, and one of our misconceptions about God’s love is that it comes to us as a form of exchange. For example, we might think, “If I do something good, God will reward me. God should love me more, because I am righteous.” But Jesus goes out of his way to prove that God loves the unrighteous. He loves sinners, and spends all his time with the least and the lost members of society.
Others of us compete based on our sense of self esteem (or perhaps a lack of it). We see God’s love for tax collectors and sinners than think, “Woe is me. I am one of the most worthless bums on the planet. Surely God loves me more, because I am a sinner.”
The fact of the matter is that all of us are some of each; we are saints and sinners alike. We are constantly moving between one extreme and the other. Still, God loves us. God is the constant source of love for us all. No matter what we do: God’s love is unearned, God’s love is uncaused. God loves us, not because of what we have done or who we are, but because of who God is – the source of all love, of all goodness, regardless of our righteousness or our sinfulness.
In the end, Christ calls us to live in a community of love. He calls us to love God and our neighbors for no other reason than to experience the fullness of God’s love. Does being loved so unconditionally make sense to us? Not always. Sometimes, it’s hard to understand what God sees in us, or in the other guy, especially when the other guy looks and acts so differently from ourselves.
But most important thing to remember is that we did not choose God, God chose us to love.
And you know what? Your mother probably would say the very same thing.
Thanks be to God.