It is Mother’s Day in the secular world, although in the United Church this day is Christian family Sunday. A day when we celebrate not only mothers and fathers but take a look at what it means to be sisters and brothers in Christ.
Two years ago this week I was at Bedford United Church to witness the baptism of two of my great-nephews, the sons of one of my nieces. You have to imagine this: There is Melinda, my niece, in the middle. On one side her is her oldest son Ty, beside him is his father, his father’s new partner, who is holding their new baby. On the other side of Melinda is Neil, the father of their son Jackson, who was born at 22 weeks gestation, and it was touch and go for a while whether or not he would make it. Unfortunately, under the stresses and strains of a very sick baby, their relationship floundered. This is not your ‘traditional’ family that many of us would picture when we think of a baptism taking place. But this is a Christian family… all of them standing there to support each other and the promises they would be making that morning.
Most of us learn about love from our home life. It’s important to say that not everyone has been blessed with a mother or a father who has the ability to love in that way. It’s also important to say that this day may be difficult for those who weren’t able to have children, or for those whose parents’ have recently died. Which is part of the reason that we celebrate Christian Family Sunday… a time to honour those who have nurtured us and those we have nurtured, even if the title mother or father is not part of that nurturing role.
For some, the love of God in Christ is the first experience of unconditional love. For some, the love of God is their only experience of love. Christian Family Sunday doesn’t celebrate the traditional family… Christian Family Sunday is a day to remind us that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Whenever I baptize someone, no matter what their age, I use words from Galatians to welcome them and remind them and the gathered community that we are now family.
That they are brothers and sisters with everyone else in the faith community, and in an ideal world, that is how we would treat each other.
These are the words,
“There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
I was delighted to see that in the JNAC, one of the characteristics that you want in your new minister is that they be inclusive with respect to age, gender, and sexual orientation. Because that’s what being brothers and sisters in Christ means. That ALL are part of the Christian family.
The church from its earliest beginnings debated who was in and who was not. The reading from Acts is the culmination of a much longer reading about whether or not the uncircumcised, in other words the gentiles, could be followers of Jesus and included in the community. The Holy Spirit had fallen on ALL the gathered people… and Peter and those first followers of Jesus were ASTOUNDED. Peter asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Of course not… of course not…
Peter and the early communities that gathered realized that God’s family included everyone, even those that they would have previously excluded. Can we do any different?
Might I suggest that motherhood at its best, encompasses Jesus like qualities… Prayer… presence… persistence… passion… peace… In the same way, there is no one way to be a mother… We celebrate the infinite variety of the ways of being God’s people.
Next we hear that we will abide in God’s love… when we follow Jesus’ commandments.
And those commandments are, “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.” God’s love is revealed to us in the incarnation, in Jesus Christ, who came to live among us, as one of us. That love is not generated from US, but from God. Because of this love from God, we should love each other. God’s love is made visible in the way we love one another Our love testifies to our belief in Jesus’ words about loving neighbour as self. Finally, this kind of love is proof that we abide in God, and God abides in us. This kind of love casts out fear; has no room for hate, tosses resentment aside. Because fear, hate and resentment crowd out our ability to love each other. And if we are not loving each other, we are not loving God. If we love God, we will love one another.
Pretty strong stuff… Love… No blame… No fear… No resentment… No holding grudges…That is the kind of love that our faith communities can practice… love that goes beyond the surface of similar clothing and skin colour, to be brothers and sisters in Christ… because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. This is the kind of love we can celebrate on Mother’s Day, on Father’s Day, on any day!
To this God, who is mother and father of us all, be all honour and glory, world without end, amen.
Acts 10: 44-48
John 15: 9-17
May 10, 2015
St. Paul’s United Church
Catherine MacDonald 2015