Love You Forever Begins..., Easter 5 (C) - 2001

May 13, 2001

[The first part of this sermon talks about Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch, a celebrated author of children's books. This is one of those books that appeals to adults as well as children. If the preacher has this book available, it might be helpful to read it (it is short) before going on to connect it to the Gospel message.]

Love You Forever begins with a mother holding her new baby. She rocks him and sings a little song:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.

As the years go by, of course, the baby grows. He becomes a toddler, and get into everything; and his mother says: This kid is driving me CRAZY! But at night she still sings him their special song:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.

The baby grows some more; he is nine years old, never wants to take a bath, and says bad words when his grandma visits. His mother feels like selling him to the Zoo. But still, at night, she sings their song:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.

The boy becomes a teenager, and, of course, that's the worst! He has strange friends and he wears strange clothes, and he listens to strange music. His mother feels like she lives in a Zoo! But guess what? At night, when he is safely asleep, she still sings to him:

I'll love you forever.
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.

Finally, the boy is all grown up and moves into his own house. But sometimes, on dark nights, the mother drives across town to his house, creeps into his house, and sings--well, you know what she sings:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.

At last, the mother is old and sick. She sings to her boy, but she isn't able to finish the song. Her son, however, has learned his lesson well. He knows what to do. Holding his mother close, he rocks her in his arms, and sings to her:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My Mommy you'll be.

And when he returns home that night, he stands for a long time at the top of the stairs. Then, going into the room where his own new baby daughter is sleeping, he takes her in his arms and sings:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living,
My baby you'll be.

And we can see the cycle of love between parent and child beginning all over again.

Today's Gospel reading comes from the chapters of St. John's Gospel known as "The Last Discourse." It takes place at the Last Supper, on the night before Jesus went to the Cross. In these chapters, Jesus has urgent messages for his Apostles, and for us; things that he wants to tell us before he goes away. "I am with you only a little longer," he says, and "you will look for me, "but where I am going you cannot come." And because the Apostles could not at that time follow where he was going, he gives them a new commandment: that they should love one another.

Now what makes this a new commandment? It is certainly not the first time in Holy Scripture that we are told to love one another. We are to love, not just with natural, human love, but as a sign of divine love. And this commandment is so important, Jesus says, that it is the hallmark of being a Christian: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Jesus' commandment is that we must love one another. And he gives this commandment because he is going away, because we will look for him but cannot follow where he is going. But we will find him in the love that we share. We will find him whenever the love of our brothers and sisters becomes a sign of God's love for us.

Today, on this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we in the United States are also celebrating Mother's Day. We can find a deep connection between the kind of mother's love that is reflected in Robert Munsch's story and the new commandment that Jesus gives us in today's Gospel.

Most of us first experienced love in the arms of our mothers--of both of our parents. The effect of a parent's love on the growing child cannot be overestimated. Any priest or minister or rabbi can tell you that an adult who has experienced unconditional love as a child finds it much easier, even as an adult, to believe in and accept God's love. It is the adult who did not receive this kind of love who winds up in the priest's office saying, "God couldn't love ME, or, "God couldn't forgive ME." Or perhaps they never visit the priest at all, but just go through life feeling unloved and unworthy.

Mothers, and fathers, are not perfect. Even the most loving of parents have no doubt made mistakes with their children. If we grew up in a loving environment, then we are fortunate. If we didn't receive the kind of love we needed when were young, it is never too late. God's love is always available. God does indeed say to us, "I'll love you forever, for always--my child you will be." And God calls us to be instruments of God's love for our brothers and sisters.

At their recent meeting, the bishops of the Episcopal Church were joined by the Primates of Papua New Guinea and Central Africa. After participating in the Holy Eucharist, Archbishop Bernard Malango of Central Africa said that he was interested to see the way we in the American church pass the Peace: "The peace of the Lord be always with you." He found this meaningful, but also shared with the other bishops something that happens in his country. There, he told them, the custom is to take the hand of the person next to you, to look in that person's eyes and say, "I love the face of Christ I see." I LOVE THE FACE OF CHRIST I SEE.

On this Mother's Day, perhaps we call to mind the faces of our mothers, and our fathers, and others whose love has been a reflection of Christ's love for us. Let us thank God for them, and pray that God will also use us as icons, as windows, of God's love for others. And as we share the Peace today, let us look into the faces of our brothers and sisters and love the face if Christ we find there. For by this everyone will know that we are Christ's disciples, that we have love for one another. Amen.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Contact:
Christopher Sikkema