Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
1 John 5:9-13
Right off the bat I just want to say, Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms, all you that have moms, and all those who just have that maternal instinct and drive to care for others that aren’t you. I don’t necessarily think that Mother’s Day is just for those who have had children incubated in their bodies for 9 or so months, but it is celebrating and lifting up the traits of women that make them what we classify as “motherly.” With that in mind, thank God for mothers. And not just because it’s Mother’s Day today, but seriously, thank God for mothers. I also realise that not all mothers are good enough to be thankful for, there were a few times in there that I thought even my own mother was horrible, but still, I thank God for that maternal instinct that we were just talking about. I thank God for the mother’s drive to get things done. I especially thank God specifically for the mother of my children, her ability to cook so well, her creativity in keeping the kids busy, and her tireless way of doing everything she can to raise our kids right.
Why am I so thankful for all of this?
Because I’m not doing it. Being a parent is stressful, you know, so I avoid it when I can. Before I was a parent, I didn’t understand why people complained so much about parenting. I mean it looks easy enough. Playing and acting goofy with a kid or two or three, and buy them toys and McDonald’s here and there? But at the same time be strict enough that they don’t end up as a bad person? Sounds easy enough.
But now as a parent? Man alive… it isn’t easy. The first one wasn’t so bad, but then another one came. Things were busy and difficult, but we were managing and then yet another one was born. And… yeah… it’s not easy. Some of our friends that have fewer kids than us think we’re nuts for having three. Or those who have had three before we did thought we were nuts for having three. Even sometimes my own kids see how I react to certain situations and they’d say, “well then you shouldn’t have had three”. Seriously. I wish I were joking.
We’re out numbered, we are outmatched in terms of energy levels, and I admit we are sometimes even outsmarted as those kids can be conniving masses of evil hell bent on breaking us. Or at least breaking me. My wife seems to be able to handle them way better than I could. While I know she gets tired and stressed and stuff too, she still somehow manages to manage, and the kids will always prefer her over me any day of the week (unless we’re talking about playing video games, in which case I’m the king of that department).
So yeah, thank God for mothers. Especially the mother of my children. Because I really don’t think I could do this without her. Actually no, I am 100% sure that I would not be in any shape or form be able to do this without her. I don’t think I’d be able to handle the stress, the pressure, the sheer fatigue of just learning how to feed these picky kids with different tastes and preferences. Or just learning to cook for that matter.
But with a mother in the mix, someone I can lean on, depend on, and maybe even blame when things go sideways, well that makes it all the easier, doesn’t it? Having someone who is as invested as I am, perhaps even more, that I can work with, bounce ideas off of, and just look up to makes all the difference between wanting to run away from my kids all the time to just wanting to run away like 90% of the time. Hey, that 10% is a lot when you’re talking about infinity.
There is something about that, isn’t there? To have a partner, a team, a community on which we could lean, depend, and trust. There is something about having an example to follow or back up to fall back on, just someone there to go through what you’re going through with. It is true what they say that there is strength in numbers, that two are better than one, and a cord of 3 strands isn’t easily broken.
This is one of the things that Jesus is asking for us in his prayer that we read today. This prayer, said on the night of Jesus’ betrayal, is different from the others that we read in the other gospels. While the others are said in private, whether intentional or not (as the disciples could have heard if they didn’t fall asleep), this prayer is said right in front of them.
Can you imagine that?
Jesus praying for you. This is the night of Jesus’ betrayal like I said, he is basically saying goodbye (or maybe a “see ya later”) to his disciples, and there are a million different things he could have done to help them for what is to come. He could give them more instruction on what to do, he could have been more specific on some of the doctrine that still confuses us today, he could have just not died. But instead, he prays.
He prays for his disciples, and thus he prays for us. He asks God to protect the disciples, to protect us, and to ensure that we are taken care of in our mission. And above all, he asks that our joy be complete.
I love that.
Our joy. Complete.
Granted, Jesus says it’s his joy complete in us, but what is this joy that he’s talking about? I mean, if you really think about it, Jesus has every reason to be miserable. He is overworked, people don’t listen to the change he’s trying to bring, and his friends all pretty much suck. And after all that hard work he is unjustly tried for a crime he didn’t really commit and he’s executed. Sigh. And I thought parenting was bad.
But Jesus says that he has joy and that it is complete. His joy comes in knowing God, and knowing that God is love, and having that love for all people. This joy comes from the promise of God’s blessing on him, on us, on all people of all times and places, knowing that while we might be stressed out and want to run away, God will be with us plugging us into community where we are united with others who are going through the same thing.
Because you know what? The Christian mission isn’t an easy one. Being called to live in the world while not being of the world is a tall order. Setting an example for all in speech and action is enough to stress people out, let alone wanting to help the sick, provide for the needy, and feed the poor. It’s a no wonder that people stop coming to church or give up their faith, because the expectation of living like a Christian, this counter-cultural advocate of peace and justice is enough to turn anyone away.
And really, who wants to give up every one of their weekends? Who wants to come to meetings and programs after work? Who wants stand up here in front of all these people and try to read and pronounce these old names that don’t mean anything to us anymore? It would be so much easier to not get involved and just sit and be a spectator, and leave the heavy lifting for those who enjoy doing it, are trained in it, and perhaps… find joy in it.
You know, as much as I like to make fun of parenting or at least my parenting, as hard as it sometimes is, and as much as I say I would rather just not, there is a lot of joy in it. There is a reason why we decided to have 3 kids (not what you think… rawr), and truthfully I would want to have more if my wife would let me (with her of course). There is joy in seeing the lives that we brought into the world thrive. There is joy in experiencing the fruits of our work and effort flourish and grow. There is joy in loving another being this much. And it doesn’t even have to be your own offspring. It could be a nephew or niece, a friend or colleague, or even a pet. There is joy in loving another.
And that joy grows exponentially when we share it with someone. Whether it is a spouse or partner, whether it is kids or parents, or whether it is the community to which you belong, the joy that we have becomes more and more complete. That is what Jesus was praying for, that is what he wants us to have, that is the joy that he keeps talking about.
Today is the last Sunday of Easter, this is the last day of the church calendar that we focus on resurrection and discern what that means to us. And in light of what we’ve just been talking about, when we see how Jesus lived, a life just like ours full of stress and difficulties, we see he lived it with joy. Even though people didn’t like him, it may seem that his ministry wasn’t successful and didn’t go anywhere, and he eventually was killed for it all… that hardship didn’t stick. Death didn’t even stick. Rather, Jesus’ work and influence and love survives even today.
As we are connected to Christ and each other… we matter. As we press on with what we are called to do… what we do matters. As we look to our community and lean on it for life and love… our joy matters. And Christ promises us this joy, prays for us for it, and reveals it to us through church and community and allows us to continue living in this joy through love and ministry to others.
Life is hard and stressful but together we can not just survive, but live in joy.
On this final Sunday of the Easter season, may we all embrace the new life found in Christ, the love that God gives and reflects through us, and the joy of the Holy Spirit, leading us to serve and live in community, both now and forever. Thanks and praise be to God. Amen.