REFLECTING RESURRECTION…IN OUR RELATING
1 Corinthians 13
May 13, 2018…Mother’s Day
Over the past few weeks we have been exploring the question- could it be that Easter is not just a day nor even a season…but rather a lifestyle? Could it be that resurrection is more than just a belief we voice in a creed? Could it be that resurrection is something to be reflected?
If we would walk with the risen Christ, then we must strive to reflect his resurrected presence on a daily basis—in our thinking, in our doubting, witnessing, in our giving, in our dying…and today, we are going to delve into what it means to reflect resurrection in our relating. And Mother’s Day is certainly an appropriate time to talk about relationships.
In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin approaches his mother. “Can Hobbes and I go play in the rain, Mom?” “No!” “Why not?” “You’ll get soaked.” “What’s wrong with that?” “You could catch pneumonia, run up a terrible hospital bill, linger for a few months, and die.”
Calvin, looking out the window at the rain, says to himself, “I always forget. If you ask a mom, you’ll get a worse-case scenario!”
Well, that’s okay. It is part of a mother’s nature to protect her family from adversity at all costs.
A mom is a perfect living example of what it means to reflect resurrection in our relating, because to do such is to love. To love simply. To love selflessly. To love sacrificially.
The Apostle Paul offers a melodic testimony to the power of love in his first letter to the Corinthian Church. Hear these profound words:
1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Yes, the first things we can say about love as it pertains to our relating to one another is that…
We can devote our lives to all sorts of momentous pursuits, but in the end, without love, our lives are empty and meaningless. God has designed us for relationship. Even the most introverted of us. We are meant to love. We are meant to care. We are meant to have each other’s backs.
How did John Donne, the 17th century philosopher put it? “No man is an island, entire of itself.” We simply do not thrive as human beings when we are isolated from one another.
And love is that peculiar glue which binds us to God and God’s people. It welds us together in spite of our faults and warts.
So many of our young people have come home from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 18 years. They have differing viewpoints on what they achieved there…some are proud, some are cynical…wondering if was worth it. But the one thing you’ll hear them always speak of is their relationships with their fellow soldiers and Marines. Those bonds will never vanish like the shifting desert sands upon which those bonds were forged. They became brothers and sisters in those tough times.
That is the nature of love. It welds us together, be it in the home, the neighborhood, the workplace, the school, the battlefield. And all else pales in comparison in its power to do so. And without love, life is empty and meaningless.
Love welds, and….
Paul digs into the practical aspects of love:
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
Yes, love is work. It’s hard work. It’s dirty work.
I’ve got a good friend whose aging father is so demanding. Nothing pleases him. His declining health has led him to a point in his life where’s he’s a misery to most everyone. John says he tries to be patient and kind to his dad, but admits some days he’s on his last nerve. Just last week, when his father was complaining and cussing nonstop on the way to a doctor’s appointment, John took a sharp turn on South Ave., drove him up to the front door of Avante and told him, “Dad, if you can’t shut up, you can get out right here!” John said his dad quieted down…for a while.
John says some days it’s so very hard to be patient and kind. We’ve all been there, have we not?
And think about some of the other things Paul mentions—not being jealous of your friend and her new good-paying job, or conversely, keeping quiet to yourself about some good fortune that has come your way, avoiding being uppity and prideful.
How about giving up the need to always be right, keeping score, flying off the handle at the slightest provocation, reveling in others groveling, but instead, striving to take the higher road in all circumstances.
That’s work. That’s hard work. That’s how love works, says Paul.
Love is a verb. It’s much more than some fleeting feeling. It is a supreme act of the will. And it manifests itself in very practical action.
It is lived out in the real world of you and me relating to each other daily, striving not to find what’s in it for me, but rather, what’s best for you. Most days there’s nothing touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy about it.
Years ago, as a young pastor, I got to witness such love first-hand as I paid a visit to Roy and Margaret Bowman in their old weather-beaten farmhouse just south of Edinburg. Roy and Margaret were in their early 90’s. They had been married 72 strong, inseparable years. Now time was taking its toll. Margaret spent her days pretty much confined to a small recliner, her frail body wracked and gnarled with rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands were twisted together in a knot, but her mind was still sharp as ever.
Roy, on the other hand, had the body of a 40-year-old…spry and strong. And yet, his mind was quickly sliding down the slippery slope of dementia, to the point he would lose thoughts in mid-sentence.
It was lunchtime when I stopped by. Margaret was in the middle of instructing Roy on how to make a grilled-cheese sandwich. She was giving him step-by-step instructions from her chair as he stood over the stove. She reminded him patiently where the butter was in the refrigerator, and what drawer the spatula was located in. She refreshed his memory on how to turn on the stove. He prepared a grilled cheese for her, then I watched as he came over to her side and lovingly fed it to her, bite-by-bite with a loving and satisfied gleam in his eye.
Margaret said something to me that day which defined love better than I had ever heard it described: She said, “Roy completes me where I am incomplete.”
Love welds. Love works. It works hard, in spite of handicaps. And, this we can be sure of – in the end….
7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
It’s painful for me to go back to my hometown of Chase City these days. The address where my home stood on Virginia Avenue is now a vacant lot—the old frame house decayed to the point it was torn down. It’s hard to stare at that bare plot of ground.
And yet, the longer I stand there and reflect, the good memories come flooding forward and overflow that emptiness. The first 18 years of my life were spent in that environment with parents and siblings who were not perfect, and yet, they certainly were loving toward me. They gave me a great foundation to build my life upon. And even though the house is no longer there, the home will always be. It is still standing, in my heart, because of the love I experienced there.
Yes, love will be left standing in the end, because God will still be standing in the end, and as we know, God’s nature is ultimately love. God is love. God is eternal.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. Why is this so? Because, according to William Barclay, “love is the fire that kindles faith and the light that turns hope into certainty.” [William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, p. 126]
God’s love, shown to us in Christ, and lived out among us in our own relationships, is the only thing of ultimate permanence in this world. It will be left standing in the end when all else has faded away. Love wins. This we can be sure of.
On this Mother’s Day of 2018, we remember the love exemplified by our moms and grandmothers—love founded in the very heart of God—love that welds us together, love that works tirelessly and selflessly, love that ultimately wins when all else has failed.
And one final footnote about such love—sometimes it is tough.
You may remember Toya Graham, the young mother who, during an uprising in Baltimore in May 2015, used some rather pungent language and some open-handed slaps upside the head to pull her 16-year-old son out of the riot zone.
She told CBS News her son had gone there in defiance of her orders. She said when she saw him, dressed for mayhem in a black face mask, rock in hand, “I just lost it.” And, boy, she did. She went off!
Now, folks on both the liberal and conservative sides in our country sought to make Toya Graham some kind of symbol—a symbol of our own social and racial and political axes to grind.
But as The Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. put it, perhaps “Toya Graham was nobody’s symbol, but simply somebody’s mom.” She feared her son might end up like Freddie Gray, a drug abuser and a dealer and now dead, and she wasn’t about to let that happen.
When Toya Graham saw her son in danger, she waded in to save him from it — at all costs and by any means necessary.
Is that not what mothers do? That’s tough love, my friends.
To reflect resurrection in our relating is to love.
Love welds. Love works. Love wins. And such love is tough—it never, ever gives up. And on this Mother’s Day, we especially celebrate Toya Graham and all mothers who have taught us much about the nature of God’s amazing and enduring love!