We have such a beautiful scripture for today: Jesus’ commandment to his disciples as He said: “that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) It’s especially meaningful to me that it falls this year on Mother’s Day, because that was the last thing my mother said to us, before she died, not that long ago. She didn’t say it as a commandment, of course, but as her last wish and gift to us. And I think that was how Jesus meant it as well. It is a command so full of power and promise, we can hardly hear it as a demand, but rather as an empowerment and blessing. Look at the reason Jesus gives them for this “commandment”: “so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) It can hardly be considered a burden to be commanded to do something that will fill you with joy.
So, we have good reason to desire with all our hearts to follow this commandment to love each other, even as Jesus loved us. We know first how much He loved us, and he told us secondly that as we follow this commandment, our joy will be full. We owe it to Jesus, we owe it to ourselves and to each other to obey this commandment to love. I owe it to my mother in a very special way now, and in a real sense, we all owe it to our mothers. God gave us life, through them.
I want to say a word today then, about the “love connection” and a word about mothers — both awesome subjects, at once very simple and very complex.
This passage, at the heart of John’s gospel, is about the ultimate connection, the connection to life; from the beginning, now, later and always, which is love. Jesus begins his teaching on this in the first verse of this John 15 by saying “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” God is the source and Jesus is the living connection to the Source, and the connection is made through love. We are the branches. “Abide in me,” Jesus says, “as I abide in you.” (John 15:4)
Now we know that this connection can be broken. Like the fragile intravenous line of life, the love line can become clogged, blocked, pulled out, and then people wither and languish and if it goes unconnected long enough, in our spirits, we die. We can lose touch with the renewing, sanctifying power of love.
We also know that while we still live, at any time, we can be reconnected, grafted back into the vine, by an infusion of love, from wherever, in God’s great providence, God chooses to send it into our lives. When we feel a bit of disconnectedness, we need to pray urgently and turn our-selves most earnestly to God, seeking that renewal of life and love in us. It is the most important index for us to watch in our lives, and we need to be more sensitive to it, than to anything else: more careful of the measure of love to which we are connected and from which we can give to others than of anything else. It is our lives. We know God loves us very much. But if we’re not feeling that love, we’d better check what might be causing the trouble in our transmissions, because that problem is a matter of life and death to us.
We live in a society and world where there are lots of powerful, toxic elements, constantly invading the vine, to clog the connection. We see displaced, disconnected people turning up more and more all around us. We see mothers on T.V. whose children are not being cared for. We know that what we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. If nine children are found uncared for in an apartment, then we can fairly guess that there are many, many more.
The history of the world is the Fall into unconnectedness. That’s one way to put it. There was a time — they called it Paradise — when the whole natural world, humans included, was without boundaries, physical or spiritual. Love flowed freely through everything and there was awareness that all of life was sacred and connected. When humanity fell into sin, the age of the ego began. People separated themselves from other people, hoarding began, killing and wars began, tremendous pressures were put on some people because of the sick ego needs that made others ruthless in what they sought to draw into their “boundaries”, and disconnectedness became epidemic. We see its ravages all over the world now on our T.V.s and in our own streets today.
There was a young man here at church just a few days ago, looking for a place to stay. We were about to have our Discipleship meeting, but we delayed it while Jack and I tried to find a place for this man and his friend. Jack finally took them to a nearby motel for the night, and gave them money for breakfast as well. The young man mentioned that his mother lives near here, but she won’t let him stay there. I’m sure she has her reasons.
To take an analogy from plant life, disconnected people are like annuals. They can be kept under control. They die out each year, so they will never spread, like a vine. A vine is perennial and will eventually cover the earth, if not uprooted, poisoned or cut off. How do we reconnect all the broken and wounded branches? It’s very mysterious, but we know God is at work doing this all the time, and often through the love of mothers and the love that children bring out in their mothers.
Peggy Stone was my best friend for years. All through Junior and Senior High School, we walked to school together every day. That meant we spent several hours together, at least 5 days a week for 6 years. But throughout that time I never was invited upstairs into her house and I virtually never saw her mother. On the few occasions I did see Peggy’s mother, I remember feeling a great remoteness about her presence. I had no inkling how I might “connect” with her. With only vague clues of what was going on there, I somehow felt its hidden challenges for Peggy were great. Nevertheless, years later, when her mother died, Peg read at her mother’s funeral, a poem about the beloved mother “watching at the gate.” There was no gate at Peg’s house. Just a long dark staircase leading up into a mysterious darkness above, that she disappeared into every day. I, her best friend was never allowed to enter with her. I entered it in my mind, and it was very dark.
The poem was not a sham. Somehow, over the years, Peggy had been able to put the pieces together, to understand the soul-work her mother was doing, and reach herself for the vine that connected her to a love that eventually fed and drew her mother in, as well. Out of that love, she reinvented her childhood, so that it, and the rest of her life then, were filled with the love that had been dormant there, in the dark. It’s mysterious. Jesus said, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16) We can’t do this connection thing for ourselves, but we can earnestly and constantly seek it. And we can nurture places in us for love to grow. We can build soil.
When we moved here to Palos, there was a dog run in the parsonage back yard. It was about 8 feet by 4 feet, with a base of about four inches of concrete. On top of that were piles of rotting wood, and a wire fence, attached to old metal poles surrounded it. The thing had obviously been there for many years, and was in woeful disrepair. Don Hammel was Chairman of the Trustees then and one day when he and Nancy and I were standing back there looking at it, we decided right then to take it out. Don made a good start on dismantling the fence. Later David and I took a sledge hammer to the concrete, after pulling out the big, old logs piled high on top of it. It took awhile, but eventually we got it all cleared away. The next Spring, from beneath where all that had been for so long, miraculously, there came up beautiful red poppies, black eyed susans, lilies — yellow and deep red, with yellow centers and much, much more. A veritable garden of paradise had once been planted there, and had waited years, beneath all that blockage, to grow again! I could hardly believe it.
There is so much power and endurance in the life of “the vine.” And it can wait. But we should look to it, and not make it wait too long.
“Mother” is not a name. It is a divine function! “To mother” is to be the bearer of life. But how can a person do this, let alone do it well, if the burdens on them are so heavy that they themselves are crushed to the ground and buried there — so to speak — under heavy darkness? As people of God, we need to trust that love’s needs are the basic needs of life, and put them at the top of the list. And as mothers, we need to trust that we can do no less than give all to love and free ourselves to follow those impulses. There’s an old poem with the quaint, nostalgic line in it: “but mothers get so tired.” In our society today we have a much more serious term for a wide-spread phenomenon now called “the collapsed mother.” That’s very serious, because it says something very sinister about the future of life, suggesting a very real threat to it. Our modern world has invented a sin that is so great we don’t even have a name for it, and that is the hacking at the roots of our own life source!
God lives and new life is constantly springing up, to reconnect us to God renewing us in love and to reconnect us with each other, in love. We can be so very thankful for that: for the enormous power, ingenuity and endurance of God’s love! And especially today we can cherish and celebrate about how much of that love God has vested in mothers. Wearied and injured as they may be by the journey, we have to give them great honor for the life they bore or are bearing along the way, anyway.
Was it George Bernard Shaw who said: We all assume, when we’re young, that our mothers are perfect. Most of us find out later that they’re not. Few of us ever forgive them! It was of course, the wrong assumption, in the first place. But mothers try to live up to it anyway.
I don’t believe there ever was a mother who gave her children any less love than she could. But that’s why it’s so important that mothers be connected to the “true vine,” and why that connection should be so nurtured and protected, so that they have lots and lots of love to give. And let me say again, perhaps more explicitly this time, that the life in the vine runs both ways. The connection or reconnection can happen through a mother’s child too, and often does.
God knows, mothers should be very much loved. And so should we all Therein is our joy, the fruits of our lives, and thereby is the Father “glorified.” (John 15:8)

Share This On: