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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

John 13:31-35 Love One Another
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church
May 9, 2004

Not Mother's Day, but A Mother's Day.

Rev. Craig Barnes writes about a mother's day in his book, Searching for Home.

"She wakes up in the morning with a start because she overslept from working too late the night before. So she jumps out of bed, gets the kids up, sits them at the breakfast table, and puts the cereal and milk in front of them. Somebody spills the milk and it goes all over her clothes. She gets ready to clean that off, but is interrupted as she sees her dog running across the street after the neighbor. She drags the dog back into the house, breaks up a fight between the kids, and searches for a lost shoe. After getting the kids off to school, she gives her spouse a peck on the cheek just before he jumps in the taxi that is taking him to the airport. Again. As she flies off to work, she only gets as far as the bottom of the driveway before remembering she has to take the dumb dog to the veterinarian, so she races back into the house, drags him into the minivan, and speeds off. After dropping the dog off, she gets caught in traffic and is really late by the time she hauls into the office. Her morning is jam-packed with computers that crash, copy machines that jam, and a legion of those little pink slips that say please call (but they don't really mean please). Trying to return just one of those calls sucks her into a black hole of a conversation she cannot escape, so she's late for a meeting down the hall. She rushes into the conference room and takes a seat only to have the person next to her say, "You smell like sour milk." Finally she gets of that meeting that took forever and accomplished nothing, darts over to the fitness club, and jumps on the treadmill where she runs and runs and gets nowhere, as if that's not the metaphor of her life. Then she races out of the gym, and flies back home in order to pick the kids up. One of them has to be taken to soccer practice and the other to piano lessons. While they're there she dashes over to the grocery store to get something for supper, and then hauls back to pick up the kids from their practice and lessons. She hurries into the kitchen and makes something fast for dinner. Everyone sits down at the table, and just when she's about ready to take her first bite, one of the kids asks, "Where's the dog?" So she tears back to the vet, gets the dog, and returns to a cold dinner. She then throws herself into doing the dishes, helping with homework, tossing laundry in the washer, paying bills, trying to fix the leaky toilet, and calling her mother, who says, "You aren't taking very good care of yourself," which is not exactly a news flash. Finally she falls exhausted into bed wondering how in the world she will ever keep it all together."

Now, not every mother's day is like this mother's day. Some of them are worse. To some mothers this would be a day off.
Other mother's days are totally undistinguished from the next. Go here. Go there. Stop here. Yada, yada, yada.

And not only is A mother's day different from one mother to the next, the holiday is different from one person to the next. Some people absolutely dread Mother's Day. It's a reminder of what they don't have or didn't get, or haven't done. For a lot of women -- mothers or not -- it's a hard day.

One of the things they don't put in the brochure is that being a mother is hard. One of the things we don't often say out loud is that love, in general, is hard. Oh would that it were all fresh cut flowers and breakfast in bed. Whether you're a mother, or a dad or a son or daughter, loving one another as Jesus loved, as Jesus loves, is hard work.


This little passage we read today from the New Testament is all about the new commandment Jesus gives to his disciples: "Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." This beautiful little passage is sandwiched between two ugly scenes -- one of betrayal and the other, denial. Just before it, Jesus sits at the Last Supper and predicts that Judas will betray him. And just after, Jesus looks across the table at Peter who says he'll lay down his life for him and tells him that this very night he'll deny him three times. Even in the Bible, love that never dies is pressed between between ugliness that never goes away. Love is hard.

On a day when we celebrate a mother's love, we need to remember that love, all love, is hard fought and and hard won. Whatever love we have is an echo, a pale reflection of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Who loved, who washed the feet and broke the bread with the same people he knew would betray and deny him again and again and again. To love one another -- that's nice, but it's nothing new. To love one another as Christ -- that's different. To love as Christ loved stretches our faith in people beyond the breaking point. To love as Christ stretches our faith to the point of believing that God, and only God, can put things back together again. The mother in the earlier story who goes to bed wondering how she's going to keep it all together is not going to wake up refreshed. The hardest part for any of us is confessing that we can't hold life all together. Only God. Only God who creates our minutes and redeems our scattered and broken days. Only God has the love to get that done. And so the hardest part is denying ourselves, and taking up our crosses, and following him. Not Mother's Day. Not A mother's day. But a Son's day. Our Savior's day is the day we honor him by showing back the love he shows us.


At the end of the movie, "The Sixth Sense," the movie where the little boy says, "I see dead people," the boy is in the car with his mom and he finally tells her his secret gift of seeing that makes him different from everyone else. As the mother begins to believe, she looks at her son. He reacts, "Don't look at me like I'm a freak. Don't look at me like everyone else does." The mother tells him in a tough New York accent, "I will never do that. I will never think that about you." And when he feels assured, he tells his mother, "Sometimes I see Grandma. She told me that you asked her a question that day when you were at her grave. She said to tell you the answer is, 'Every day.' Mom," the boy says, "what did you ask her?" And the mother says, "I asked her if I made her proud."

As we kneel before the cross of Jesus who was once dead but now lives, we dare not ask if we make him proud. We know the answer. And it's probably not, "Every day." But if we ask him a different question, we're assured that we will hear the only answer that makes sense enough to hold everything together. If we ask him, "Do you love me?" then his answer will be the one we long to hear. "Every day." Not only Mother's Day. Not only A mother's day. But a Son's day.

Every day.