Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Mike Turgeon “God’s outrageous love” May 13, 2012
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent the Son into the world so that we might live through him and his atoning sacrifice for our sins. In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us; thus, we ought to love one another. If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from Christ is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. I John 4:7-12, 17-21
God’s outrageous love
A teacher was giving her class of second graders a lesson on the magnet and its properties. She went through all the ways a magnet was mysterious and indispensable and magical even. As a way of reinforcing the lesson, the next day the teacher gave a written test in which she included this question in the form of a riddle:
"My full name has six letters. The first one is M.
M _ _ _ _ _. I pick up things. What am I?"
When the test papers were turned in, the teacher was astonished to find that only 50 per cent answered ‘magnet.’ The other half answered ‘mother.’
A short history
In honor of Mother’s Day, I have here the history of Mother’s Day in 2 minutes. The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the gods. It was a pagan celebration. As Christianity spread throughout Europe the celebration changed to honor the "Mother Church" which bestowed spiritual power.
During the 1600's, people in England celebrated a day called "Mothering Sunday" on the 4th Sunday in Lent. "Mothering Sunday" honored the mothers of England. During this time many of England's poor worked as servants for the wealthy. On Mothering Sunday the servants would have the day off and were encouraged to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the mothering cake,
was often brought along to provide a festive touch.
Over time the church festival blended with the Mothering Sunday celebration as people began honoring their mothers as well as the church.
In the United States, Mother's Day was first suggested in 1872 as a day dedicated to peace by Julia Ward Howe, the woman who wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Howe held organized Mother's Day meetings in Boston every year.
In 1907 Ana Jarvis, a woman from Philadelphia, began a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. She persuaded her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother's Day on the second anniversary of her mother's death, the second Sunday of May. By the next year Mother's Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia.
Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessmen, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother's Day. The campaign was successful and by 1911 Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day a national holiday that was to be held each year on the second Sunday of May. So there you have it, everything you needed to know about Mother’s Day.
God’s outrageous love
Even though our scripture this morning is not about mothers, it very well could be. That is so because the scripture speaks about love, real love, love in its purest form. This passage from the First Letter of John may not be as famous as the familiar love chapter in Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians but the core truth is the same:
“If I have all faith so as to remove mountains but I do not have love, I am nothing.”
I Corinthians 13:2b
Did you notice in the John scripture that is says ‘God is love’ but not love is God? Some in this world would have you believe that love is God but that is not so. The world seeks love as much as it seeks God; desperately so in certain cases, but love is not God. The world proves often that it does not know what love really is--except perhaps in the case of mothers loving their children.
Part of the problem with understanding just what is love is due to our language about love. We use, and misuse, the word love in so many different ways. We “love” pork chops, for instance.
Mmmmm! Pork chops.
I’’d “love” to
We “love” the way your hair looks. We love our country and we love to go golfing. If you’ve ever used Facebook, you know a key word is to “like” something, a person, a product or a service. Mark my words, in a future version of that social medium, you will be asked to ‘love’ those same things.
Obviously, we express preferences when we say we “love” something. We describe an emotion, maybe an affection. But love is not a thing that can be lost or found, sought after or cherished. You can’t find love in things, and you can’t treat people as things when you find love in them. When you treat love as a thing, it becomes a certain kind of god, but not God.
According to Paul’s letter, and John’s letter here, love, real love, is a verb. Love requires action, and often not easy action.
According to John, loving actively is something we can learn to do because God first loved us and sealed the deal with the gift of Jesus Christ. Do not be misled, however, real love will never be easy because it requires us to get beyond ourselves.
As far as our neighbor is concerned, even if Jesus had Facebook, he would not ask us to “like” what our neighbor looks like; we wouldn’t have to “like” being with our brother or sister. But we are to care for them and meet their needs as if we had deep affection for them, as if they were our own child.
Loving someone without liking them is evidence that the love of God dwells within us, but as John’s letter makes quite clear, God’s love must be spread around. Opportunities to love ‘as if’ abound, don’t they? But church, hear me and hear me good, these loving acts are often the only means by which others experience the love of God in their lives.
Loving as if...this is where mothers love is so useful.
My favorite saying about mothers is an old Spanish proverb that says:
“An ounce of mother is worth a ton of pastor.”
This always reminds me that, unlike a mother’s love, pastoral love comes from the outside; it is an external source of love. For pastoral love to be effective, it has to get as close as possible to mother’s love. Mother’s love is like God’s love in that it is unconditional.
Now, of course, it is true that mother’s love is not the sole domain of mothers. For various reasons, there are mothers who never teach their children how to love. There are mothers who only knew love as an emotion when they were little, something over which they had little control and were therefore not able to love their own children well. And mothers can’t do everything for a child. It helps to have help being a mother.
But motherly love affects eternity because you can never tell where its influence stops. If I were king, my decree would be that the most money be paid to those who do the mothering. And, as king, I would give the lowest pay to everybody else.
A mother’s love, at its best, has no strings attached, it is truly God’s gift, the same gift that God gives us. Chances are mother was the first person to show you what love looks like. The demands of infancy do not automatically evolve into the loving actions of adults. The learning curve is painfully steep. Me, me, me, me, mine, does not become you, you, you without extra-ordinarily loving intervention. We learn to love our mothers and the world, when we experience them loving us. Mothering love is one of God’s change agents.
Love, real love, the mothering kind, or the God kind, is the long-term solution to the human condition.
Love casts out fear
Love, if it is truly that, does not include fear, but rather, casts out fear; that is the sign of its power.
Years ago, a young mother was making her way across the hills of South Wales, carrying her tiny baby in her arms, when she was overtaken by a blinding blizzard. She never reached her destination and when the blizzard had subsided her body was found by searchers beneath a mound of snow.
The searchers discovered that before her death, the mother had taken off all her outer clothing and wrapped it around her baby. When they unwrapped the child, to their great surprise and joy, they found he was alive and well. This mother had mounded her body over her child, and in so doing had preserved life for him, displaying for all the depths of a mother’s love.
Years later that child, David Lloyd George, grown to manhood, became prime minister of Great Britain, and, without doubt, one of England’s greatest statesman. (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1972, p. 375.)
God’s outrageous love
Now, it is unlikely that you and I have a grand story of this magnitude, but each one of us has something equally as powerful in our lives--the grace and mercy of the love of Jesus Christ. I find when trying to capture the length and breadth and depth and width of Christ’s love, the images and metaphors mostly seem to come up looking a lot like mothers. That is for good reason.
Because God loved us first, then we have the chance to be made whole. Yes, we have issues, and problems, and addictions, and prideful egos that always want to be right. My sense is that the ego is quite useful, until about the age of 18, and then it turns on us, until we do something about it.
One who will never turn on us, but who will turn us around is the one who lives and reigns always within our reach. Grace is what he is offering. It’s outrageous that this offer stands, knowing how we act most of the time.
On this beautiful day of celebration, let’s make our mothers proud, let us love as Christ loved us.