By Paul Koch –
This marks the 100th anniversary of the celebration known as Mother’s Day. 100 years since Woodrow Wilson set the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day, I wonder what we did before then. In fact long before Sunday brunches, Hallmark cards and mail order flowers, it was often a time for mourning mothers to remember their fallen soldiers and work for peace. But it’s a bit different than that today. Now Mother’s Day is a fun and special day especially if you have a good relationship with your mother, but I always feel bad for those who don’t. For the many sons and daughters that have strained or broken relationships this day is not a day of joy but a day of guilt and shame. Mother’s Day can be a time of introspection, a time of wondering who we are and where we are going.
In fact this is a good question to be asking yourselves, just who are you? You are certainly someone’s son or daughter. You may be a mother or a father yourself. You may be a grandparent. You may see yourself in your job; you are a teacher, a fireman, or a salesman. But in this place we are reminded that we are something more, something greater than all these things, something beyond even being a Mother on Mother’s Day. You are the children of God. And being God’s child is what defines everything else, it shapes our vocations, be it a manager or a mother.
St. John declares to you this morning, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” It is by the love of the Father alone that we are declared to be such a thing; it is through his great acts of love alone that we are called his children. This is not something we deserve it is not something we have earned it is not a title that belongs to us by right or mandate. It is by love, by grace and mercy alone that we, all of us gathered here this morning are declared to be the children of God.
But as soon as that proclamation is made, as soon as we hear the good news that we are God’s own children, his beloved – there arises opposition. It’s one thing to say that we are the sons and daughters of this or that person, it is one thing to define yourself by your occupation, but to claim to this world that you are the children of God, why that is something altogether different. To be his children means that you are his heirs, it means that you are possessors of life and salvation and all eternity stands open to you. And the world says, “You? Are you kidding me, you are the ones that have access to such blessings, you are the ones that are welcomed into the glorious weeding feast of eternal life?”
We hear their doubts and their snickers and in the commotion we begin to struggle to hear that Word that declared us to be such children. In fact we begin to believe their there is some truth in what the world says in their doubt regarding our being chosen as God’s children.
After all we don’t have to look very hard at our own lives to see that there are major flaws with us. If we are the children of God, how come we don’t act like his children? If we are products of such unsurpassed love and mercy why is it that we find our own lives to be marked by failures in love, why are there so many we have let down and hurt over the years? Instead of believing that we are his children we want to work toward becoming his children, we seek to live up to such a title, to earn such a position.
I heard a story about a young man who had a pretty tough go as a child. He was always in trouble at school but his home life wasn’t much better. Through he had a strained relationship with his mostly absent father it was his relationship with his mother that always seemed to haunt him. He told me that he felt that she was always nagging him and holding him back. He resented her; in fact he later came to realize that he was following in his dad’s footsteps. As soon as he could he moved out of their home and though he had thought his life would get better it only seemed to fall apart. A sick cycle of drugs and abuse engulfed him until he found himself in mandatory rehab at rock bottom.
It was there that he really began to see his own life for the first time. He could look back and see what decisions led to his current state, and it was there that he gasped in horror at how terrible he was to his own mother. Above all things he wanted to reconcile with his mom. He called her and told her he was sorry for everything, and she said, “I love you.” He went to see her as soon as he was out of rehab and when he cried in her arms she said, “I love you.” But he had been so terrible so bad, he do so many things wrong that he had to prove to her his love. He vowed to earn her love, to show her by his actions that he was a good son.
In his desire to do right, to earn the love of his mother he wasn’t listening to her words. Her love didn’t need to be earned her love was already given, it was freely spoken over and again she said, “I love you.” And so it is with us. Our Father in heaven has given his love to you, he has declared you to be his children, he has loved you without any worthiness or merit on your part. He has done it all and we no longer hear him. We look to our own efforts to our own actions, to our own hearts and desires and set about working to be worthy of such love. We work to prove the world wrong to prove our own sinfulness wrong, and all the while our Lord is standing there with open arms says, “I love you, already. I love you right now!”
Hear again the words of St. John, these words are spoken to you, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are.” And so we are! He has spoken it, he has declared it and it is so. This is the same Word that spoke all of creation into being, the same Word that caused life to sprout and the sun to rise, if this Word says you are his children then you are his children. Despite what he world sees, despite what even you see when you look in the mirror, you are now this very day the children of God.
He goes on to say, “Beloved we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared.” We await the “not yet.” We long for the appearing of our Lord in glory, when we will see along with all the faithful that we actually are what his Word declares us to be. St. Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia puts it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” That is our reality now but we do not yet see it. Not yet, but the day is fast approaching, the day will surely come when we will see our Lord come in glory and on that day we will finally see what we are right now, what his Word promises us to be – the holy and beloved children of God.
This is the gift then that we have proclaimed in our midst today, it is the free gift of Christ’s love, the gift of a Father in heaven who seeks and saves the lost, the gift of one who dies for sinners and so declares them to be his own children. And this gift is yours – it is yours right now. You are God’s children now, you are redeemed now, your are loved and forgiven and embraced by Christ right now!
I was having a conversation with some colleagues and a few were telling about what they were doing for mothers on Mother’s Day at their church. And one of them asked me, “What are you giving mothers on Sunday.” I smiled and said, “The Gospel.” See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are. What greater gift could we have?