First Congregational Church
May 10, 2015
Mothers Day, 6th Sunday after Easter
“How Do We Love When We Don’t Like?”
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
A young man agreed to baby-sit one night so a single mother could have an evening out. At bedtime he sent the youngsters upstairs to bed and settled down to watch football. One child kept creeping down the stairs, but the young man kept sending him back to bed. At 9:00 the doorbell rang, it was the next-door neighbor, Mrs. Brown, asking whether her son was there. The young man brusquely replied, “No." Just then a little head appeared over the banister and shouted, "I'm here, Mom, but he won't let me go home!”
Why are computers so smart? They listen to their motherboards. The Sunday school teacher asked the student, “Tell me, Johnny. Do you say prayers before eating?” Johnny replies, “No, ma’am, I don’t have to. My mom’s a good cook.”
Our scripture passage today is actually part B to last week’s part A, Jesus the vine and we the branches. It takes place in the middle of the after communion conversation that takes place on Jesus’ last night with the disciples. Before Robin comes up to read it, I thought I’d prick your ears with this little version.
9 “As the Father has liked me, so have I liked you. Now remain in my like. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my like, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his like. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Like each other as I have liked you. 13 Greater like has no one than this: 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 servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Like each other.
John 15:9-17 NIV
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: 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 servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Thank you, Robin. I like the wording choice they used in creating the New International Version, especially when it comes to the last verse for this morning. In other versions, it may say “Love one another,” which can have sort of nebulous, anonymous meaning. It’s much harder to hedge around “Love each other.”
Twenty years ago, I might not have liked that version nearly as much. For those who don’t really know, my mother and I have never had the “best friend” sort of relationship that I know many of others have. Now that more history is being revealed, I am understanding better why mom and I were more of acquaintances than related - except when I hear something she said come out of my mouth. I don’t ever tell this truth for the purpose of getting sympathy, but so that others can understand that I get it that not all families are perfect.
It wasn’t long after I came here that I realized I had to reconcile my near hatred for my mother and this calling to be a pastor. I needed to learn how to put the fun back in dysfunction - at least for me. It was easier to love people I didn’t know - complete strangers even - people across the world I didn’t even know existed - than to love my mom. And I will always be grateful to Marvelee Kneisel for making me see that truth.
While this may seem to be a lot about me and my mother, we all have people in our lives that are harder to love than others. Depending on what can cause our blood to boil, there are some that will openly say, “I hate so and so.” “I have no love for that person.” How can we possibly reconcile such intense feelings with Jesus’ command - yes, command - to “Love each other?”
It goes back to the vine and branches talked about in the passage right before this one. “As the Father has loved me” - as God has loved Christ - “so I have loved you.” - so Christ has loved us - enough to put down his life for ours. Those of us who realize the gift of Christ’s love realize that he doesn’t love without God’s love. So the very first thing we have to remember is that we don’t do this sort of loving without God, Christ and the Holy Spirit.
It’s also helpful to realize that, within this passage, before Jesus tells us to love anybody else, he says, “Now remain in my love.” It’s our relationship to God that allows us to carry out this command to love each other - our grounding in God’s love, our connection to Christ’s vine that makes it even possible.
While the soldiers stood at attention during a parade, a private waved to someone in the audience. "Jones, never do that again!" the drill instructor whispered. But a few minutes later, the soldier waved a second time. Back in the barracks after the parade, the DI stormed in and barked for Jones to come front and enter. "Son, you knew I was going to see you," he screamed. "You knew it was wrong. Aren't you afraid of me?" "Yes, sir!" replied Jones. "But you don't know my mother!"
As was the case last week, our passage tells us that God chose us and appointed us so that we might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last - that whatever we ask in Christ’s name, God will give us. Most surely by God’s grace, I realized that I could “love” someone by praying for them - things that could be real and even beneficial to the one that was hard to love.
So I prayed that so and so would get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is good. Everyone needs good sleep. I could pray that prayer for that hard to love person with an honest heart, and it didn’t matter how much or little I liked him or her. I prayed that my hard-to-love person would have a good day. It’s not so emotional as “make me love my hard-to-love person, but it was/could still (be) heart-felt. I prayed that any pain or difficulties the hard-to-love person had would heal and get better. Basically, the prayers were: whatever I could pray for a complete stranger, I could pray for my person-of-thorns.
It wasn’t long and I realized that my anger toward the person with whom I was having issues lessened. He or she was no longer living rent free in my head. Instead of wishing my mom out of my mental background, my prayers for her released her into the world of everyone else and me from my prison of anger.
I’m not saying that this is the only way to fulfill Jesus’ command to love each other. It’s not instantaneous, or necessarily fool-proof, so to speak. But it helped me, and maybe it can help someone else. It’s also interesting how it parallels “whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
Mothers and Fathers Days are so bittersweet. Between the precious breakfasts in bed, to the parents that have lost a child, the gathered flock at the old homestead to the recent passing on to eternal life of the family matron, there is an entire panorama of emotions around this day. It is part of being human - good times and not so good times. It’s how we do it, how we go down this human road that makes all the difference.
Billy Graham once said, “When granted many years of life, growing old in age is natural, but growing old with grace is a choice. Growing older with grace is possible for all who will set their hearts and minds on the Giver of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The same can be said of love. Growing old with love is a choice.
When the legos have clogged the toilet for the umpteenth time, the chocolate milk spilled on the new cream-colored carpeting and the newly planted annuals have been “weeded,” it is understandable how a mother’s love can momentarily lack like. As adults, we get that life can get in the way of our loving “all” people. But we still have Jesus’ command to love each other, if not for the sake of the world, then at least for the sake of our own hearts. We all have to work through our own situations to do that, so we all have the need to pray that we love as best as we can. So shall we?
God of all love, the command to love each other is a high calling, and you give it to each of us. For seeing such potential in us, we thank you. For using us in bringing about healing and completing our joy, we are also grateful. For those of us that are struggling - with love in general or in specific, we pray you would lead us to love with your love. Thank you for the mothers in our lives - and those who mother us. Let us not grow weary of living our lives according to the example of your son, Jesus Christ. And all your people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.