Sermon   May 10, 2015  by Rev. June Fothergill

Scripture:  John 15: 9-17

As I was boarding an airplane recently  I over heard a Mom say to her little 7 year old daughter .  “ I was worried about you.”   “ Oh Mom” said the girl as she jauntily walked up the ramp to the plane, “ Why do you worry about me?”   The Mom shrugged,  “ I guess It’s just something we moms do.”

I try not to be a worrier but on our trip there was a moment when I worried about one of my sons because I hadn’t heard from him.  My imagination started to think of all the possible things that could happen to him that would leave him unable to communicate.  Of course soon we did get an email reply and I felt much better.   I can’t imagine how my parents did it when I traveled in college before email and facebook and such.  They had to wait for those letters to come across the ocean.   I didn’t realize how much they worried until years later.    Worrying about our children or at some point in time the reverse, worrying about our aging parents seems a normal part of loving our families.   It’s just what we do.

Now some anxiety is normal, such as a little flurry of worry when someone doesn’t connect like we expected.    But too much worry can create unhealthy stress in our lives.  Too much fear can be debilitating.    When we think about parenting or loving our family it’s healthy to find a balance between being overly protective and restricting because of our fears or worries and being too lenient and even neglectful because of our  apathy or feeling overwhelmed.  How do we find the healthy balance  which is loving and realistic?  How do learn to love in a way that can bring joy , peace and hope to our lives and the lives of those around us?

Certainly these questions are part of  the setting of the words of Jesus we read in John’s gospel this morning.  This is Jesus last word to his disciples before he dies.  He  and they know that he is heading into dangerous territory.  He is trying to prepare them for the stressful time of his death.  He wants to give them all the resources he can for the difficult time ahead.  John is also writing for later disciples who also faced stressful times of persecution and struggle. So, the context of this passage is one of high anxiety and even worry.

Jesus tells his disciples to keep their focus on one important thing-  Abide in my love!  I love that word abide- it makes me think of hanging out in a hammock just basking in the sun.  But I have a feeling that is not what Jesus means.  He has already used the dynamic image of life flowing from vine to branches.  So, what does Jesus mean by abiding in his love? How do we do this?

He answers by telling us that we are to keep his commandments- live by his teachings.  What is this teaching?   Jesus shares it again in vs. 12  Love one another as I have loved you!   We abide in Jesus love by loving one another, by continuing to let Jesus love flow in and through our lives.  That sounds great, the only hitch is = how does Jesus love us?  What are we asked to emulate?

He gives his life for us. What greater love is this than to give ones life for ones friends!   This love Jesus is speaking of is not just a nice, warm feeling about someone else. It is choosing to sacrifice for someone else’s welfare.  It’s being willing to let go of our own agendas,  treasures, even lives for the sake of another.

I experienced this love in a small but significant way when I was in Chile.   I went to the local catholic mass with my new friend Gema. She is a devote catholic and a local mission worker in her neighborhood outside of Santa Cruz.  At the mass,  I enjoyed listening to the music and trying to understand the sermon and the prayers.  When it came time to take the communion I didn’t go forward because as a non catholic I knew I was not supposed to go.  I knew that as a devote person, Gema would want to take communion as a central act of her faith, yet she didn’t go forward.   I wondered why so after the service was over I asked her. Her simple answer was” I didn’t want to leave you alone.”  She stayed there out of love and solidarity for me.  This small but significant sacrifice touched my heart.

Jesus invites us to see that loving like him means  letting go. Letting go of our own agendas and need to control, letting go of asserting our own needs as primary, letting go of  all the trappings that keep us from genuine relationships.   For example I remember an older woman in another church commenting that although she didn’t care for the new hymns and praise band music in their church, she noticed that the young people loved it and found it meaningful for their lives.  She rejoiced that they were coming closer to God.   And in doing so she grew closer to God too.

As mothers, a compassionate people, as people who want to love like Jesus, we tend to want to fix things, to put the band aids on the scratched knee and make it all better.    Yet, what Jesus shows us is that loving someone isn’t about fixing or controlling them, making everything the way we think it ought to be for them, but rather to let go for them.   To give of ourselves, all that we have to give and then to trust that they will take it and make  their own lives. As a mother I experience this.  As my children have grown I notice that I spend less time protecting and teaching and have to learn to let go and let them fly.   Jesus gave up himself, his whole life so that the disciples could  carry on his mission of love.

Then Jesus goes on to talk about the changing relationship.  He says, “You are no longer servants but friends  because I have passed on to you all I learned from God.”    Jesus way of loving involves an openness to change in relationships.     For example, as children grow up, we have opportunities for new ways to stay related. They no longer need us in the same way, yet now we may be able to have a more mutual relationship.     There is a time to give and a time to receive, a time to sacrifice and a time to come back to life.

One of the things I experienced in Chile was being a guest.  So often I think in terms of offering welcome and hospitality, it was very strange to be the guest, to receive the ministrations of a hostess.   I had to give up my need to do things, to be in control, to have the answers, to take care of myself.     To receive the love poured out for me.     I knew that for Clara Juan’s mother is was in part reciprocal because she knew that I had given time and nourishment to Juan when he stayed with us.    But that is what love is about- it’s that flow of giving and receiving, of letting go and resurrection.  Part of growing in love is realizing and trusting that you don’t have to keep score- that in God’s love the flow will  make sure everyone’s needs are met.   We can give of ourselves and we can receive the gifts of others  because we believe that the river of love is endless, that from the cross flows a mercy that cannot be stopped.

Jesus trusted this. I think that is why he reminds his disciples that the purpose of his teachings about love and self giving is that they know true joy- that then his joy can be in their lives.  Then they can abide in him and all he wants to  continue to give them of peace,joy and agape love.

For finally, the purpose of this loving, this abiding in love is so that the disciples can have fruitful lives filled with the joy of Christ.   Jesus tells them that he has chosen and equipped them to continue his work of love in the world.  Starting with loving one another!

So on this Mother’s day, as we come to the communion table together, we can remember this word of Jesus.  His sacrifice for us was to show us that love can flow even in the midst of pain and struggle.  Self giving love, love that lets go will become the source of greatest joy and fruitfulness in our lives.  If you came today with worries, if you are not too sure how to love, if your family is driving you a little crazy sometimes, if you wish you’d loved better and deeper- this table is for you.  For at this table of Jesus there is enough love flowing for all of us and our families!  Abiding in Christ, following Christ with our lives- then we will learn to love one another!

 

 

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