Rev. Cooper's Sermon for May 9, 2021
1 John 5:1–6
A Mother’s love is a unique kind of love that only mother and child will ever fully understand, if such a comprehension is even possible. This love from parent to child is an intimate relationship. Mama knows all baby’s vulnerabilities best and mamabears are vulnerable toward their cubs.
The tender love that exists there is special. The protective love that is present in this parenting relationship is also easy to see. Of course, this love is complicated and goes through many ups and downs. Whatever we go through together though, this love takes two. Just like mama’s love us, we love our mama’s back. This love doesn’t stand alone, it lives in reciprocity.
Let’s spend some time today hearing from children who love their mama’s enough to share special stories about them: stories of their tender love, their protective nature and parental role, and how this relationship asks us to reciprocate love. Since our Scriptures are all about love today, we will weave these sons and daughters stories into the Biblical lessons to see what we can learn from modern day mama’s and age-old scriptures together.
Our first parallel exists between God’s tender love and that of a mama. Lisa Stevens sent the following submission into Reader’s Digest, illustrating this tenderness beautifully:
“I was rushed to the emergency room with complications from my high-risk pregnancy. After weeks of mandated bed rest in the hospital, I found myself suffering from an unfamiliar sadness. One day, my nurse brought a surprise to my room—a newborn named James. James’ mom (who also experienced a high-risk pregnancy) sent her precious, healthy son for me to hold, along with an encouraging message: “This is the reason you are here in the hospital.” Three decades later, my heart is still full of gratitude for Baby James and his mom. And, I am thankful for my own healthy son, Hunter.”
Tenderness is all over this story, and we all have our own memories of mama’s lovingkindness. Be it from our birth mothers or our second mama’s, nurture and care are the gold standards when it comes to a mother’s love- best described as tender. But where is tenderness in the Scriptures?
We have tenderness shown to us in Christ’s grace. When he laid his life down for us on the cross, our Savior showed his love to the extreme. Mama’s tender touch is often sweeter sounding than this, but the strength of these vulnerable moments is what speaks volumes. James’ mom opened herself up to Hunters’ mom, motivated by love. In the same manner, Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice on our behalf, motivated by love.
Our second story shifts from tenderness to a tougher love: that of the protective parent. We all know mamabears come by their title credentialed. You don’t mess with mama’s baby! This protective love is part of the parent in each mom or bear, and it can be a little scary.
But really it’s rooted in love.
For example, rules have to be set for safety, which call for obedience. You can maintain that safety when little ones follow those rules. Mamabear pokes her head out when babies are in danger- no matter who disobeyed the rules.
In that same sense, God the Father set us in covenant with him to help protect us from danger. We have a covenant from our God who loves us enough to keep us safe. It’s based in love—a parent’s love that seeks to safeguard beloved children.
This love often shows up in protector mode, but it takes all forms. Parental instincts help us to teach and instruct as well. So much of our bible and our faith reflects this value too. We look to God as the Father, and Christ as a role model. Together, our God and our Jesus work to parent us into shape, to form our character.
Diana Alan Castaic wrote of her mom’s unforgettable teachable moment:
“We lived in the Bronx, all seven of us kids and my single mom. It was mid-January and a huge snowstorm hit. The snow was so thick, the highways came to a complete stop. We lived a half of a block from the highway. The darkness of night was approaching. There were several cars stuck with people and their families and or pets inside.
Mom stood up and said to my brother “I will open my house to the stranded people on the highway.” She said “please go to them and invite them to our house.” We had thirteen families come. Our living room was covered in sleeping bags, blankets and pillows. In the morning, we had three pots of coffee, one huge pot of hot chocolate, bacon, eggs and warm French bread. Everyone showed such gratitude. Mom’s act of kindness and humanity was so profound to me. She showed us all the selflessness of helping others.”
Diana’s mama taught her babies how to love others well, our main message in the Scriptures this morning. What’s we can learn anew from her story, however, is that there is power in opening up the love we share. Our mama models of love tend towards family, but our Christ-like models of love tend towards all God’s children. Moments of sheer magic happen when the two converge. A mother’s love doesn’t have to apply to her babies alone.
How much more powerful to think of a mamabears den being expanded? Her cubs and others are welcome to her fierce protection. That is a model Christ teaches us, and it’s another way we can work to show love to our brothers and sisters. We can expand our familial love outward, which isn’t just a lofty ideal either.
It’s basic to our baptismal rite. We take in one another as family, and we become the family of God. Our fellow Christians are our brothers and sisters. Christ calls us to mimic Diana’s mom, to open up our homes and hearts to all God’s children.
Finally, there is a reciprocity, which lies at the heart of each of these teachings. Our God and our Jesus, just like our mamas, love us. We, in turn, love them back. Or so they hope…
Which leads me to our last story for today, shared by Saman Rahman of Pakistan. She writes:
“Mommy, you are a fairy,” I said. My mother laughed like tinkling bells. “I am serious, Mother. You know everything.”
“My child, I try to answer as best as I can. When you grow older, you will not need me,” she said. “No, Mom, I will always need you. Nothing can change that,” I said. Her words echo in my heart as I look at the blue sky: “Dear daughter, nothing remains the same except the vast blue sky.” It has been ten years since I lost my fairy. Mom, you were wrong about one thing: I still need you.”
The vast blue sky does not change. The need we have for our mamas is just as constant. Whether we act on it or not, that mama size hole is there in our hearts. We can deal with it in however we choose.
What makes this part hard, as Saman understands well in her story, is that our need is complicated by how our mother’s meet those needs. At times moms fail. Which makes our Lord’s love all the more important. We are so loved by our Heavenly Father, our Lord, and that love helps to meet the mom sized need in us, no matter what our earthly mothers do.
We need our moms, but we also need our Jesus. That same love that shows up in the form of a baby James, that same love that opens it doors to strangers… that’s a love we need on repeat. It’s a love we need from God.
Thankfully it’s a love we get from God- in both tender and tougher measures. But what this last story really highlights is how this love presents as an invitation. While mom’s love and Christ’s love can stand alone, it also asks to be reciprocated.
Will we return tenderness with the same? Will we receive commands as loving protection? Will we receive the love as an initiation, an invitation, to close relationship?
This invitation may come in limited capacities for our earthly mothers, but the God who mothers us all issues this invite without limitation. All are welcome into the joy of Christian covenant, no matter what’s going on with mama.
Tenderness. Protection. Reciprocity. All things that help define our mama’s love, but also things that teach us more about God’s love. The divine mysteries start to reveal their truths when they take on flesh. As Jesus dwelt among us, so do does our Mother God dwell among us in the form of all mamas. In them we see faces of God that help share more about who our Amazing Lord really is, and how we can participate in the beautiful gift of life lived in covenant with him.