Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mother's Day Sermon; May 13, 2012; 1 John 5:1-6

Rev. George Miller 1 John 5:1-6 “Whose We Are” May 13, 2012 In the United Church of Christ there are 2 sacraments we hold dear: Baptism and Communion. One involves water; the other a meal. Both sacraments mirror 2 elemental aspects of home life: bathing and being fed; being washed clean and sharing a nourishing meal. These two sacraments say “You are loved” and “you belong.” Lately, I’ve been thinking about the language we use to describe our church, wondering just what imagery we should be using. Some will say we are a community of faith; others would call us the Body of Christ. The author of today’s scripture would say we are a sacred family. 1 John is a passionate, at times perplexing book of the Bible that was written around the year 100 in response to some conflicts the faith community was having. There were those who wanted the followers of Jesus excluded from the synagogue; there were those who secretly believed in Jesus but were too afraid to tell anyone. There were those who were following John the Baptist, and there were those who denied Jesus’ humanity, claiming that it just seemed like he came to earth in human form. Trouble was that to deny Jesus’ humanity meant denying the personal, relational experience people had experienced with Christ. To deny his humanity meant his actions on the cross were no longer a revelation of God’s divine love for us, but more like a light and laser show meant to impress us. The author of 1 John did not believe in this view of Jesus at all. That’s one possible reason why he wrote in verse 6 that Jesus came by water and blood, two substances that exist within a woman’s womb. Water, the embryonic fluid that cushions and protects a child, keeping it safe; blood which is shared by mother and child through the umbilical cord, their hearts beating as one. Of course, water and blood can also be used to represent our two sacraments of Baptism and Communion. What I find encouraging about today’s reading is the logical, theological statement the author is making in the claim that Jesus was human. In an eggshell, he basically states that if we believe in Jesus, then we have been born of God, our Heavenly Parent. If we love our Heavenly Parent then not only do we love Brother Jesus, then we love all of God’s children, who are also our brothers and sisters. And since we love our Parent, we follow our Parent’s instruction which allows us to overcome the problems of the world. In a way, you can say that by following our Heavenly Parent’s commands, we will discover that we have “enough.” And most likely the commandment being referred to is the new commandment Jesus gave in John 13:34: that we are to love one another just as Jesus loved us. Now, let us pause here for a moment, because today is Mother’s Day, and 1 John is telling us that we are to love our sisters and brothers because we love God, our Parent. This is not meant to be a kind of namby-pamby love; the kind that features floating hearts and rhymed poems. It’s a deeper kind of love, a compassionate love, a kind of love that says “I may not know you, but I know whose you are.” Which gets me to thinking about a recent commercial that’s been on TV. I know that commercials are designed for one thing, and one thing only: to get us to buy something. The crafters of commercials know exactly what they’re doing. They know how to manipulate images and words to get us to feel what they want us to feel all for the sake of selling their product. Some commercials feature subtle and not-so-subtle promises that with the right item we too can have an active, happy romantic life. For example Haverty’s Furniture with its humorous tag line “I like that, I like it a lot.” Some commercials balance fear with the promise of comfort. Allstate Insurance does this well, making it seem like fire, car accidents and robbery run rampant. But have no fear because with Allstate we’re in good hands, and for proof all you need is to look at big, strapping Dennis Haysbert to be assured that with Allstate on our side we’ll be OK. Another kind of commercial is the sentimental kind which presents life at its absolute best as long as we purchase certain products. Even in their gushiest, some of these sentimental commercials have moments of illumination and insight, for example the Publix ad which has been running for Mother’s Day. Perhaps you’ve seen it: a pregnant mother and her precocious daughter are in their perfect kitchen making pinwheels and parfaits. Every time I see it, I get a little teary eyed and hit rewind on the DVR. So, without going any further, let’s take a look at it... …I know this commercial is designed to make me want to buy pickles, mayonnaise, and fat free yogurt, but it also ties so well into today’s reading. First, we have the incarnational aspect: Mom is pregnant; her belly is big and full. The baby is real; it kicks, there’s the notion that it’s restless and able to hear, and that speaking to it will calm her down. The commercial is communal. What are the mother and daughter doing? They’re making a meal that they will eat; boiling eggs, sprinkling parsley, rolling and slicing through the bread. This is a shared meal in which body, mind and soul are being nourished on so many levels. And this commercial is relational: the expectant Mother’s relationship to her daughter; the Mother’s relationship with her baby-yet-to-be. Here’s the part I like: the daughter’s relationship to her unborn sibling. When she’s invited to say something about herself, it’s not that she’s a good soccer player, or that she’ll be a good sister. It’s “You’re really going to love Mom.” The commercial takes it’s time to show the little girl’s realization; as she hug’s her mother’s belly; as she says those words: “You’re really going to love Mom.” In that line, in that action we can infer that it is through her love for her Parent, that she will in turn love her sister… …That, brothers and sisters in Christ, is what I believe 1 John is trying to teach us today: that we love each other because we share the same Parent. A Parent who bathed us in our baptism. A Parent who feeds us in Communion. A Parent who is our dwelling place. A Parent in whose household of faith we unite our hands, our hearts, our voices in worship and in action. And our love for one another is one that can be best described as compassion. Compassion, like the little girl’s, that says “I may have not yet met you yet, but no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Compassion that says if you are lonely, I will visit you. If you are sick, I will care for you. If you are struggling, I will assist you. If you are oppressed, I will speak up for you. If you are restless, I will speak to you. And if you are hungry, I will feed you. Why would we do that? Because you and I share the same Brother- Jesus Christ who walked with us, talked with us, shared in our joys, and didn’t run away from our sufferings. Why would we do that? Because we share the same Parent who art in heaven. You may use the term Mother, you may use the term Father, you may use the term Abba, or you may use the word Mommy. But not matter what word you use, we are all God’s children, sisters and brothers in Christ. Called to love one another just as God in Jesus Christ loved us. In the words of the Haverty commercial, I end by saying “I like that, I like that a lot.” Amen and Happy Mother’s Day to all of our strong, beautiful women.

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