If You Love Me…
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If You Love Me…
The Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
A cartoon in the Saturday Evening Post showed a young boy about five or six years old talking on the telephone, he says, “Mom is in the hospital, the twins and Roxie and Billie and Sally and the dog and me and Dad are all home alone.” (1)
Did you ever wonder what some of the mothers in the Bible might have said to their children? A friend of mine published a list a few months ago that I thought I’d share with you this morning, in honor of Mother’s Day.
10. Samson! Get your hand out of that lion. You don’t know where it’s been! (Judges 14:5-8)
9. David! I told you not to play in the house with that sling! Go practice your harp. We pay good money for those lessons!
8. Abraham! Stop wandering around the countryside and get home for supper!
7. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! Leave those clothes outside, you smell like a dirty old furnace!
6. Cain! Get off your brother! You’re going to kill him some day! 5. Noah! No, you can’t keep them! I told you, don’t bring home any more strays!
4. Gideon! Look at your clothes! Have you been hiding in that wine press again? (Judges 6:11)
3. James and John! No more burping contests at the dinner table, please. People are going to call you the sons of thunder!
2. Judas! Have you been in my purse again?!
1. Jesus! Close that door, what do you think, you were born in a barn? (2)
One of the fondest memories I have of my mother isn’t her cooking and cleaning, though I think she lived in the kitchen. My fondest memory will always be Christmas and underwear. Mom always checked to make sure we had put on clean underwear, “in case we got hit by a bus.” Don’t ask me how that could help but it was one her rules. At Christmas, Mom always gave us underwear and socks. She said we needed them. She wrapped them all separately so it looked like there was more under the tree. About 3 or 4 years ago, my brothers and I had been harassing Mom about that habit, and when Christmas rolled around that year. After all the presents were opened and we were sitting around admiring each other’s gifts, Mom got up and came back with 3 more packages and said, “Oh, I forgot these.” And handed them to me and my brothers. You guessed it, underwear and socks. She had the last word.
Today’s passage isn’t about mothers but it is about love. And love is the key ingredient to being a good mother. Just as it is the key ingredient to living a Christian life.
I. ORIGINS OF MOTHER’S DAY:
A. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Children tend to use this quote in a different sort of manner. They tend to try and use as a tool, as leverage to get us to do what they want. Kids will say thing like: “If you love me, you’ll buy me such and such or if you really love me you’ll let do this and that.” That’s not exactly what Jesus had in mind.
Jesus wasn’t trying to twist our arms to get certain things done by filling us with guilt. He wasn’t trying to manipulate us at all. Instead, He says this all of this with a sense of expectation. Basically He says, “If you love me . . . then this is the way that love is shown and proved so that everyone will know that you love me. This is how you will spend your self and your time”
That’s how the woman who is credited with founding Mother’s Day spent herself and her time.
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B. The woman credited with founding the modern observance of Mother’s Day is Anna Jarvis. Her Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, is called “the Mother’s Day Church” because Anna Jarvis was active there. Her home in Grafton is a national landmark.
Anna Jarvis was inspired by her mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis who, in the 1850s, organized “Mothers’ Work Day Clubs” in the area. The clubs provided medicines for the poor, inspected milk for children, provided nursing care for the sick, and ran shelters for children with tuberculosis. When the Civil War broke out she called together her clubs and asked them to make a pledge that friendship and good will would not be a casualty of the war. Throughout the war, the women nursed soldiers from both sides and saved many lives. Anna Reeves Jarvis became a genuine peace maker after the war, organizing “Mothers’ Friendship Days” to bring together families from both the North and South which had been torn apart by the war.
Anna Jarvis, the daughter, was born in 1850 and was an impressionable child and teenager when her mother was at the peak of her courageous work. So in 1907, two years after her mother’s death, she organized the first “Mothers’ Day” in Grafton, West Virginia, so that her mother’s work of peace and mission would not be forgotten. She campaigned for years to make it an American National event. She succeeded and in 1915 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the 2nd Sunday in May as Mothers’ Day.
C. Another one of the earliest promoters of the idea of Mother’s Day was Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Julia Ward Howe was a militant abolitionist, and her “Battle Hymn” inspired the Union Army in the Civil War. When the Civil War was over, Julia Ward Howe focused her attention on two other causes: voting rights for women, and world peace.
In 1870 war broke out between France and Prussia. The war in Europe didn’t make much sense to her and she wrote:
“Why don’t the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone know and bear the cost? . . . Arise Christian women of this day. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women on this day leave the duties of hearth and home to set out in the work of peace.”
She began organizing what she called “Mothers’ Peace Day” festivals which were celebrated annually on June 2. Her conviction was that though the world may be divided by war and conflict, the experience of childbirth could bind the mothers of the world together into one family and they could make a difference.
So, the central concerns of those who established Mother’s Day were civil liberties, international peace, overcoming poverty and ministering to the poor and sick. From the beginning this was a day not simply to remember our own mothers, but a day to express the deepest form of love possible. We see that expressed in the lives of such mothers as Anna Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe. (3)
Being a parent in today’s society is difficult. Today both parents have to make hard choices. In a society that now expects both parents to work in order to fulfill themselves, and provide an income that will keep up with everyone else, it is hard to raise children with the care they need. If a young mother chooses to stay home and raise her child, she looked down upon by certain working mothers as being less of a woman. If a young father chooses to stay home and be the caregiver and househusband, he’s looked on as being a freak or a weirdo. But if both parents work, many times they both feel guilty that the children aren’t getting enough love or attention or simple time with the parents. And then you throw single parents and blended families into this mix and you can see how difficult it is to be a parent in today’s society.
I think the answer or at least part of the answer is in these verses. The home is so important – it effects everything we do. Normally, what happens at home in the formative years determines how a child will live out the rest of their life. If home is a place of violence, then in all likelihood the children will be violent. If home is a place of faith and prayer, then generally the children from that home will be faith-filled and prayerful. If home is a place of abuse, then that abuse will be perpetuated whether alcohol, drugs or sexual abuse. If home is a place of unconditional love and grace, then the children of that home will generally perpetuate that unconditional love and grace.
B. This passage can help us in a number of ways. It teaches us that we should create a certain environment in our homes. An environment of Love, an environment of Grace, An environment of Faith, and an environment of Security. Let’s look at those.
III. LESSONS FOR US:
A. Create an environment of love:
That’s what this passage is all about. Loving God and being loved by God. It’s also about how God shows that continued love through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. All we’re called to do is to live that love and to allow ourselves be mirrors of that love for the world to see.
Why, because love builds self esteem and self worth. Love helps keep lives centered and focused. Love helps us live in ways that are selfless like Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.
B. Create an environment of grace:
We should create an environment of grace. Here I mean a home life that isn’t judgmental. A home where children are given opportunity to try out certain attitudes and ideas without recrimination and a load of guilt. A home life that allows for mistakes. And especially, a home life that offers forgiveness when those mistakes are made.
There’s an old story about a boy and his mother who had been to the Mall. While there, the boy hadn’t been very good. He wanted this and that. He ran off, he got into things he shouldn’t, and all those other things that make for a bad day. As they were driving home, he could sense Mom’s displeasure and asked, “When we ask God to forgive us when we are bad, He does, doesn’t He?”
Mom replied, “Yes, He does.”
The boy continued, “And when God forgives us, God buries our sins in the deepest sea, doesn’t He?”
Mom replied, “Yes, that’s what the Bible says.”
The boy was silent for awhile and then said, “I’ve asked God to forgive me but I bet when we get home, you’re going to go fishing for those sins, aren’t you?” (4)
Too often, we do ‘go fishing’ for other people’s sins that God has already forgiven and buried. Our home needs to be like certain diets, “guilt free” by being a place of grace and forgiveness.
C. Create an environment of faith:
We should also establish the home as an environment of faith. On e of the ways we do that is through attending Sunday and Worship with our kids. It is good to send kids to Sunday School and Church, but it’s even better when parents attend with them.
There’s another old story about a little boy who was sort of disgruntled because he had to go to Sunday School and didn’t get to stay home and watch TV with Dad. Dad heard him grumbling at his mother about going, so he intervened and said, “Look, you need to go Sunday School and Church. I went every Sunday when I was your age.”
The little boy turned around, shoulders slumped and headed to the car but not before his father heard him mumble, “Yeah, and I’ll bet it won’t do me any good either.” After Sunday School, the boy was delighted to discover his father would be sitting next to him in the Worship Service that day. And after that he no longer grumbled.
So, what changed? The father’s attitude toward his faith. To be a good example you have to be actively involved. Create an environment of faith by being involved.
D. Create an environment of security:
Finally, we’re challenged to create an environment of security. That’s something that a lot of kids don’t have, even in stable homes. Our children live in a fragile society where everything is constantly changing. The only thing that doesn’t change is that things change. The changes our children experience today are different than the changes you and I experienced growing up.
I found this out the hard way. Years ago, while I was the Pastor at Ovilla, our youngest son, Joshua, was in daycare. During that time the Conference decided to have a Conference wide pulpit exchange. It was a Conference wide fundraising event and the purpose was to talk about three areas in the Conference that needed our attention: the Camp, the unfunded portion of our retirement fund, and Church Growth (which was in its fledgling stages).
It was good idea and it was sort of fun. On the Saturday night before the exchange, I told Josh that I wanted him to very good in Church the next day because they were going to have a different preacher and I was going to preach in another Church. Before I could say anything else, Josh burst out in tears.
It took us nearly an hour to calm him down and figure out what was wrong. What we finally pieced together was that there were a number of kids in his daycare class who were divorced. And the father of one of his best friends had just moved out and told his son that he was going someplace else. It had only been about eight months since we had moved to Ovilla. When I told Josh that I was going to preach in another Church, he put two and two together and came up with Divorce and Daddy’s leaving.
One of the best gifts we can give our children is the same gift God gives us, the security of love. In a world filled with so much violence, so much hate, and so much that we don’t even want our children to know about. One of the best things we can give them is security and stability. Sure things change, but we can show them that our love for them doesn’t change. We can give them secure family connections and a secure faith.
We give them that secure by being faithful. By making our faith and our discipleship a to priority in our lives. We give them security by letting them know that no matter what happens, no matter how much they mess up, we will still love them. We may hate what they have done, we may even condemn their actions, but we will always love them.
Just a few short verse after those for today, Jesus tells the disciples: “This is my command: that you love one another as I have loved you.” Through Jesus, God loves us with a sacrificial, never-ending love that is not dependent upon how good we are. God loves us. God loves the sinner and the saint with the same intense love. And God simply wants us to love Him. And Jesus says we show that love through showing love, whether we’re as a mother or as a father. The point is that we love.
Mee Spousler of the Mount Hope United Methodist Church, in Aston, PA., tells how she was trying to put her three-year-old son to bed for a nap. When she was unsuccessful, she put him in her bed and laid down with him to encourage him to rest. She fell asleep, but he didn’t. When she woke up, she saw him sitting on a chair at the end of the bed, and asked, “Luke, what are you doing?”
“I’m playing God,” he replied.
“Playing God?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m watching over you while you sleep.” (5)
Children understand more than we do sometimes. God IS watching over us. Jesus gave that promise here in talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Not only will God watch over us but through the presence and reminder of the Holy Spirit, we will be reminded of what it means to “Love Jesus and keep his commands.” And God will help us to create the environment of love, grace, faith and security that we need for our homes today. Our challenge is to listen to the Holy Spirit and to trust Christ.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 376.
2. Parables, Etc. (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), January 1999.
3. “God Like a Mother” a sermon by Rev. Donald Sensing, Trinity UMC, Franklin, TN
4. Parables, Etc. (Platteville, Colorado: Saratoga Press), November 1986
5. Dynamic Preaching, Apr/May/Jun 1999 Vol XIV, No. 2. (Seven Worlds Publishing, Knoxville, TN) p. 41-42.
Copyright 1999, Billy D. Strayhorn. Used by permission.