First lesson Acts 10 34-48
Responsive Reading Psalm 98
Second Lesson 1 John 5 1-8
Gospel Lesson John 15 9-17
This week’s gospel lesson is a continuation of last week’s and so as we look at today’s gospel lesson we want to have last week’s in mind. Last week was all about the vine and branches and how we must stay connected to the vine if we are to bear any lasting fruit. This week Jesus explains how abiding or remaining in Christ and bearing fruit are tied to love. Last week’s passage didn’t mention love once and now love is all over the place - 11 times in our passage and 5 times in verse 9 alone. Jesus ties his love for us to the Father’s love for him – AS the father has loved me SO I have loved you. He commands his disciples to abide, remain - rest in his love.Then he goes on to say IF you keep my commandments You WILL abide in my love JUST AS I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love – again Jesus ties our obedience to his commandments - to his obedience to the Father’s commandmentsJesus makes his command very clear - love one another AS I have loved you. Isn’t that incredible? – AS I have loved you. Jesus didn’t avoid those that were difficult to love, he didn’t politely tolerate them, he didn’t love us in a patronizing way. He tells us and shows us what it means to love – laying down one’s life for another. While we were still sinners Christ died for us – we were enemies of God and enemies of the cross and yet Christ willingly stretched out his arms and poured out his blood for you and for me. Seeing as we are celebrating Mother’s Day today I’d like to share an example of the self-sacrificing love of one mother. On December 7, 1988, 55,000 people were victims of the worst earthquake in the history of Soviet Armenia. Susannah Petroysan and her 4 year old daughter Gayaney, had gone to Susannah's sister's apartment. It was on the 5th floor of a 9-story building. When the earthquake struck, Susannah just had enough time to gather her daughter in her arms before the floor gave way beneath them and they fell into total darkness. The entire building collapsed, and when Susannah regained consciousness, she was in complete darkness. She heard her daughter crying in her arms and reaching above her head she felt a concrete panel 18 inches above their bodies. Hours passed without any sign of rescuers coming to their aid. Gayane began to cry incessantly - she was thirsty. As time when by, the little girl's cries began to grow weaker until her mother realized it was likely that her child would die of dehydration before rescuers could find them. In desperation she felt around in the rubble and miraculously found a jar of Blackberry jam. Hours later the jam was gone and the little girl was still crying. "Mommy I am so thirsty, please Mommy give me something to drink." But there was no juice, no water, nor liquids of any kind available to save the life of her child. In desperation she cried out to God to help her save her daughter. At some point, Susanna had an idea. She remembered a television program about an ex- plorer in the Arctic who was dying of thirst. His comrade slashed open his hand and gave his friend his blood.“I had no water, no fruit juice, no liquids. It was then I remembered I had my own blood.”Her groping finger, numb from the cold, found a piece of shattered glass. She sliced open her left index finger and give it to her daughter to suck.The drops of blood weren’t enough. “Please, Mommy, some more. Cut another finger.” Susanna has no idea how many times she cut herself. She only knows that if she hadn’t, Gayaney would have died. Her blood was her daughter’s only hope.Eight days after the earthquake they were rescued. Susannah had saved her child's life through the gift of her own blood. This is a great example of selfless agape love. It portrays the way that parents often lay down their lives for their children. Not many of us have the opportunity to lay down their lives in such a dramatic way but day in and day out parents and caregivers lay down their lives to nourish the children entrusted to their care.Mother’s day is a wonderful celebration of motherhood. It’s got to be one of the busiest phone days of the year. Everyone is calling Mom. But when we mention the word mom, mother or Mother’s Day it triggers a wide range of emotions. For many it brings to mind an image of mom straight from a Norman Rockwell painting – mom the caregiver, the one we run to when we are hurting whether it is a scraped knee or a wounded heart – the word mom conjures up memories of warm hugs, incredible fragrances pouring out of the kitchen – turkey dinners, pies and cookies. At the same time, we recognize that human life is fleeting, and that human love and relationships aren’t perfect. So, while the mention of mom may bring a broad smile to one person, to another it may bring tears. Maybe it’s tears for a dear mom that has recently passed away. Or tears to a mom that has lost a child. Or tears for someone that would love to be a mom but hasn’t had the opportunity. Maybe thoughts of mom cause us to cringe from the hurts that we suffered or from guilt for the pain that we inflicted as a child or as a parent. We live in a fallen world and yet sometimes we are blessed to experience a taste of selfless love.I love the story of Susannah and her daughter. It is such a graphic picture of selfless love. And the corollary to Christ’s love is so apparent. By her blood she saved her daughter and by Christ’s blood we are saved. So we celebrate all the glimpses of selfless love that we have known, particularly today those of mothers. And at the same time we lift up to our God – in the name of the one who shed his blood for us -all the pain and guilt that we have suffered as children, as mothers, and as those that have longed to be mothers.The Bible tells us of a number of different mothers and I’d like to refer to these various mothers as we pray.
Let us pray We remember the mother and grandmother of Timothy - Lois and Eunice. They raised him in the faith. Faithful God, we thank you for mothers who teach us your Word and encourage us in our faith by example; fill us with your Spirit and empower us so that we might also teach your Word and proclaim our faith with our lives.We remember Abraham’s wife Sarah who was taunted by others in the household because of her inability to have children. And we pray for those who have struggled to be moms and feel left out this day when we celebrate mothers.Lord we remember Esther, who was raised by her cousin. and we give you thanks for children that come to parents in a variety of ways. We give you thanks and we pray for foster mothers and those that have become mothers through adoption.We remember the mother of Moses, Pharaoh demanded that all Hebrew boys be put to death and so she placed him into a raft on the river. Saving God, we pray for parents who struggle to raise their children in oppressive circumstances.We remember Hannah, who loved her child so much she handed him over to another to raise. Loving God, we pray for parents who have entrusted their child to the care of another.We remember Ruth’s mother in law - Naomi, who grieved the death of her sons. God we give you thanks for the children that have been entrusted to us for a time and we pray for parents who mourn the death of a child.We remember Ruth, who gave up her family to be family to another. and we pray for those who choose to be family to those isolated by culture, language or distance.We remember John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth, who had a child in old age and we remember Mary the young mother of our Lord. And we pray for mothers of all ages We remember Rachel, crying for her children. and we pray for those mothers whose children are victims of evil and violence. We pray that you might keep children from evil and that they might live safely in their communities. We remember other mothers, not named in the Scriptures, like the mother of the prodigal son. and we pray for mothers who wait for a phone call or a visit, cut off from family and friends by distance or disagreement.
Nurturing God, we give thanks for those who enrich our lives by their presence who teach us about your abundant love who encourage us in our faith. amen
Susannah gave her blood to save and sustain her daughter. Christ gave his blood to save and sustain us. In the blood there is forgiveness, in the blood there is healing, in the blood there is love. Amen