Unconditional, Irrevocable, and Infinite Love sermon by Pastor A.J. Houseman
A few years ago on Mother’s Day, I was specifically asked to preach about Mother’s Day. I struggled with this a lot.
See Mother’s day is a complicated day for many people. Women who struggle with infertility for one instance. Women who have been trying for years to have children and women who have been told that they can’t.
Or maybe for those who have recently lost their mothers. The first mothers day without your mom.
Or for those that did not have a mother figure, say your mom left when you were young.
Or for those that have lost children.
It is a highly emotional day for many, many people.
And so the church was filled with flowers, all leadership that morning were women with boutonnieres and me. And for the first time in my preaching career, I walked into the pulpit with a blank piece of paper in front of me.
I had no idea what to say. Should it be a word of consolation? Or should I just ignore all the potential pain that is being masked behind flowers and fancy Sunday clothes?
I did neither. Instead I named it and then I turned to God, as I am going to invite us all to turn to now, to turn to God.
See the thing is often times we get male language for God. By often, I mean like most of the time… maybe not here so much because you guys had a pretty cool pastor before I got here and she was pretty good about not gendering God…. better than I am even.
And part of this male centered language just has to do with language structure of Hebrew and Greek. But the thing is…. We limit God if we decide God is a man. God is not a man sitting on a cloud somewhere dictating what happens on earth. Who sent his little boy to go be killed.
Thats not a God of love is it? Like the one we read about every single Sunday.. How God loved the world so much that God did all of these wonderful things.
The God of love. We hear about this God of love again in our Gospel lesson for this morning. The God that invites them into relationship, that cares for them, and shows them over and over again how to abide in this love.
That kind of divine parenting is just as much a motherly love as a fatherly one. And for some of us, it's more motherly than fatherly. Or maybe even for other still, it is a different parently figure. It's the agape love.
There are three different kinds of love in Greek, which makes it a little hard for we English speakers that only have one word for all the things. But not the Greeks.
There is Philia which is friendly, brotherly, sisterly, camaraderie kind of love. Most of the time this is the kind of love we feel for family and friends. Its deep and it's honest. Then there is eros, this is the erotic love. It is passionate and intimate.
And then there is agape love. Agape love is unconditional love. The kind of love a parent has for a child. The mothering hen that will pluck out anyone’s eyes who comes near her chicks.
The kind of love that is unconditional, unwavering, indestructible, and infinite. This is the kind of love God has for all of us.
Jesus reminds us that the greatest agape love one can have is to lay down one’s life for a friend, or beloved or dear one... those are also acceptable translations. To lay down your life for your beloveds.
If that doesn’t sound like a mother, then I don’t know what does.
A friend reminded me this week of the words of George Washington from the Broadway play, Hamilton. George said, “dying is easy, young man, but living is hard.” We often hear in this verse that we are to die for our beloveds. But instead, is laying down your life giving all of yourselves? All your life? That sounds like agape love to me.
Mothers give all of themselves to their children in a way that is astonishing. And potentially the closest thing to the agape love of God that we truly experience in our Earthly lives…. Like in child birth alone, am I right?
But in every aspect of their lives. One step after another, fiercely loving, protecting, serving, and laying down all of themselves for their children.
This is, I think, what it means to be a mother.
And so today, on this complicated holiday. I wish for each of you that you have or will experience this agape love. Whether it is from your mother, your father, or another parent figure in your life. I hope that you remember them and honor them. I hope that you can share this love with others… just as Jesus invites each and every one of us to. To love. Amen.