ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH May 12, 2019
Rev. Ed Musson
Christian Family Sunday
John 17: 1-25
In both of my previous charges at about this time of year I brought a small sack of wildflower seeds to church with me for the children’s time. Wildflowers come in many varieties and sizes — one of them – a most beautiful one – is called the yellow dead nettle or the archangel”. The archangel is a spectacular orange flower with a golden colored canopy that spreads over the top of it like an angel’s wing. If it was a large hothouse flower – like an orchid most of you would no doubt rush out to buy it. But it is so small that you have to get down on your knees to see the glory of it.
This observation may also apply to spiritual things. As humans we are often attracted to what appears showy or grand. But when we are in a quiet, worshipful frame of mind we are often more aware of the great beauty in humble things. Some things are best appreciated on our knees – not just the things of nature where close examination can reveal God’s attention to detail, but also other people – people like our parents – like our mothers whom we honour here today.
There are times when it is easy to appreciate our parents – their virtues – their hard work – their care – Their love is vivid – we need not get down on our knees to know that they are living examples of God’s love.
But at other times it can be more difficult to appreciate and honour our parents, more difficult to love them – like in times where separation and divorce has split up one’s family. When it seems that our parents have chosen their own course – their own way in life and left us – their children – behind. At such times it is hard to celebrate a day like Christian Family Sunday –- hard – because anger and pain and hurt get in our way – because we do not understand how it is that someone who is supposed to love us has left us behind.
Sometimes it is not the separation and divorce of our parents that causes us this kind of pain, sometimes it is something more basic – and more universal, Sometimes death robs us, and we are left as orphans, we are left feeling alone; and though we know better, we can feel betrayed; and left, as it were, holding the bag and not knowing what to do.
Such was the situation that Jesus addressed in speaking to his disciples the night before his death. After a long time together – a time in which he nurtured and fed and taught and loved his disciples he announced to them that – He was leaving them; to fulfill his destiny. He would allow himself to be put to death.
It was – and is – a hard thing to grasp – how a person could voluntarily leave those he loves and the disciples resisted this idea – they did not want Jesus to leave them they did not want to have to face the future without his guidance and his grace.
In today’s reading Jesus told his disciples that when he left them he would not leave them as orphans, but that – he would come back to them; while the rest of the world would not see him again – they would see him – the Spirit of God would abide with them the Spirit of Counsel and of truth the Spirit of love. “If you love me”, he said, “you will obey what I command – and they who love me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them, and show myself to them.”
Some things are best appreciated on our knees – and this is one of them. Loving and obeying Christ, even when we don’t understand what he is up to, even when we are uncertain about what he has become and about just where he is located even when we don’t understand why he felt he had to leave us, why he had to die Loving and obeying Christ, leads us to an understanding, to a feeling, to a conviction, to an inner certainty – that we are not alone – that in some fashion or other he is with us and there is – comfort in this, And there is – a sense of wholeness given to us And there is a sense that there is a light in the darkness and everything is OK
As it is with Christ, so it is with one another – and especially with our parents and our children: with those individuals that God commanded us to honour, and promised to us that if we honour them, if we love them and show them respect, that we will live long and prosper in the land that Lord is giving us. The secret of what honouring is and what it involves is found in the command that Jesus gave to his disciples; the command that not only should we love one another, but that we should love them as he loves us.
To love others – to love our parents – or our brothers and sisters – or our children – or our neighbours – can be very hard at times. As all of you here today know it cost Jesus his life; But he gave that love – he gave his life – willingly because it was what love demanded. In a Spiritual sense love always demands that we give up our lives, that we give up our “selves” willingly.
To love as Jesus loves means quite simply that we will – forgive others the pain that they cause us; – reach to bless those who seem indifferent to us even hostile towards us; – will care even when do not feel cared for; – pray for others and seek the best for them, even when they seem bound to betray us, as Judas betrayed Jesus.
To love someone else as Jesus loves us does not require that we understand them; nor does it require that we approve of their actions or their lifestyle or their decisions; It most certainly does not require that they love us, though it is always very nice when they do. To love someone as Jesus loves us, to obey Christ’s command and thereby discover that we are not alone, only requires that we submit the feelings of our hearts and the attitudes of our minds to the wisdom and the counsel of God.
As I have said 2 or 3 times now – I repeat once again, Some things are best appreciated on our knees. Following and obeying Christ is the key to – a life that is worth the living, – never being alone, – knowing the comfort of the Spirit’s presence, the Spirit that communicates the presence of both the Father and The Son; the Spirit that leads us to the truth – and which is the truth – that sets us free.
Concrete and tangible love honours our parents – whether they be with us – and we with them – in the same home, or whether they be in another home, or in another province, or whether they be with God. And love – concrete, tangible, love, be it the love that was commanded by God through Moses or the love that was commanded by Jesus for one another comes to us with a promise – the promise that we – will live long and prosper, A promise that we will not be left as orphans, but that God will be with us. When God is with us – so are the saints above,and all the saints here below.
On this Christian Family Sunday, and in all the days beyond it love your mothers – and your fathers – and your children and one another – Where there is pain – love them – where there is laughter – love them – Where there is hurt – love them Where there is joy – love them. Always love them – and you will not be alone. Angels will speak to you – God will whisper in your ear, and the comfort that you, and indeed all of us – need, will come upon you – and you will know the only truth that matters in the end.
The truth that gives you life and sets you free – free to be what God intended you to be even before the day you were first conceived.
Children – Honour your mother and your father
Parents – Respect your children
Love one another as I have loved you
I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.
Before long you will see me.
Because I live, you also will live. Thanks Be to God – Amen.