A Mother’s Love as the Work of the Christian Church

Mother’s Day, 2015 – Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Standish, MI.

GRACE, MERCY AND PEACE are yours this day from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The text for our consideration is from our Gospel Lesson where we hear our Lord Jesus tell us, “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.
Today is Mother’s Day. And those of you who are mothers know the struggles and joys, trials, temptations, and satisfaction associated with the raising of children. Motherhood is not a vocation to which men are called. In fact, not all women are blessed to be a mother in this life. But all of us who have been called into Christ’s Church have mothers.

First, we have the mother who gave birth to us and the mother who raised us. For some of us, we are blessed that this is the same person. Sadly, because of the toll of sin’s corruption on the world, some of us experience such nurture and love from different people. But no matter what, whether the woman who is loving, caring for and nurturing us is our birth mother or an adoptive mother or a step-mother or some other woman whom God has placed in authority over us, it is good and right and proper to honor them. For the work they are given is a work given them by God.

But on Mother’s Day, there is one woman who is frequently overlooked. A woman who is the mother of all who gather in the Lord’s Name to receive His mercy and grace. This woman has given birth to each of us. She has nurtured us and raised us up according to God’s command and will, so that we would be safely carried through this life to the life that is to come.

Of course, I am speaking of none other than the bride of Christ Jesus, Himself; the one, holy, Christian and apostolic Church. She has given us birth by water and the Word. She has nurtured us up and raised us through the Word and sustained us through the Sacrament of Christ Jesus – feeding us – training us – teaching us – and loving us as dear children.

Cyprian of Carthage, an early church father, as he was calling for Christ’s bride and the individual members of Christ’s church to be faithfully united in that which God has given to us in Christ Jesus, is reported to have said, “He cannot have God as his Father, who does not have the church for his mother.”

A mother’s loving work is to raise up, nurture, care for, and sustain the children in her household according to the God-pleasing will of her husband, he is to lay down his life to protect and provide for her and his family – just has Christ has laid down His life for His bride, the church and entrusted to her the loving work of raising, nurturing, caring for, and sustaining God’s children in her midst.

This is, in fact, the very work that Christ talks about in our text when He says, “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” By handing over to His church the revelation of His mercy and grace – His care and His loving kindness – moreover, by explaining His actions in suffering and dying in order to cleanse His bride in order to present Her to Himself spotless and without blemish, our Lord frees His church and each member to love and serve one another without fear and dread.

Christ Jesus has gone before us. He has and done battle. He has defeated our enemies – sin, death and the devil – and continues to protect and preserve us in this world and provide for His bride all things needful to raise up and nurture all whom the Father calls to Himself.

This is where we often lose focus and fail as individual Christians and as the corporate body of Christ – as His bride, the Church. We look at the world with its trials and troubles, with it’s persecutions and dangers and we believe that we are abandoned and separated – as a faithless husband would separate from and abandon his wife. Or worse, we look at the commands and instructions given to us as burdens too great to bear and consider ourselves abused at the hand of our Lord.

But consider what our Lord has commanded and what He gives, and we see that the faithless husbands of this world and the abusive tyrants who take advantage of their strength and power over the women around them share nothing in common with Christ Jesus.

Our Lord holds nothing over our head. He is the faithful husband and loving Lord of the Church. To rescue us from the perverse degredation of sin – to redeem us from prostituting ourselves after false gods and to save us from the just desserts of our sinful desires, He came and took our place in faithfulness to God and in punishment for our sins. Taking our sin-stained rags, He makes of them a sparkling white gown – hiding every imperfection. And He lovingly and tenderly calls to His bride to stay true to Him and to care for the children of their union. He incorporates us all into one family – brothers and sisters – all sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.

The so-called “command” that Christ gives is to hear and know and understand how He has loved us and how we have been freed to love and serve one another. This is why He says, “These things I command you, so that you love one another.”

It is not, itself, the command TO love, it is a command that bestows on us the ability to love. This is what He speaks to us at the beginning of our text, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

And what greater joy is given a mother than to know that she is loving and caring for her children as they need to be loved and cared for. This is what provided Jesus with the resolve to go to the cross and suffer and die – because such suffering was the means by which He would love and save us. We know this task given to Him by the father was difficult, painful. In his anguish and struggle, the great drops of sweat pouring off of him in prayer were drops of blood, imploring the Father, begging Him to remove the difficult work before Him to make another way of salvation.

But He kept the Father’s commands. Jesus remained in the Father’s love – and by remaining and abiding in the Father’s love – by carrying out the work that the Father had given to Him, Christ Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. He restored us to the Father.
And now, Jesus has handed over to us the Word of His testament – He does not call us servants, but He makes us friends. All that the Father had spoken to Him, Jesus has spoken to us. He has delivered to us the promises of the Gospel so that we may know that just as He lives, we too shall live. Rising on the third day is proof that He has accomplished everything for our salvation He gives to us – together – incorporated into the One Holy Church – the loving work of carrying that whole message of salvation to a world in need. Giving new birth from above to those brought to the font of Holy Baptism, where He incorporates new believers into His family and makes them His our brothers and sisters in faith. He gives to us His body and His blood, a sacred, heavenly meal by which He delivers to us His grace and Spirit so that we may all hold fast to Him as a loving bride clings to her faithful husband.

For He has promised to be faithful – and has proven his faithfulness to us through His death and resurrection. And He promises to His bride continued care – advocating for our good before the father, continuously applying to us His forgiveness when we fall and when we fail, and giving us His Spirit to guide and guard us through His Word so that we, together, may love and care for one another just as a mother loves and nurtures the children in her care.

For this is why He instructs us in His commands – not to lord over us as a tyrant, but so that we may know how it is we love and serve and care for one another.

For a true mother does not allow her children to wander far from what is good and right, but she calls her children to account – showing them their error – pointing out to them the proper path to follow – forgiving their sins – and establishing them in rigteousness.

And this is the work Christ has given to His bride, our mother, the Holy Christian Church. By following and abiding in His teaching by remaining united and firmly attached to His Word that He has delivered through His Holy Apostles, the church and all her members show Christ’ love to one another and to the world.

For He has chosen us as His Church that we would go and bear much fruit – raising up generation after generation of children in the house of the Lord – caring for them in mind, body and Soul, just as we would expect an earthly mother to do.

In Baptism, we have been born of God – and by this we know that we love the children of God – not when they are happy with their life as it is – not by failing to confront them with their sin – not by letting them run wild – but when we love God and obey His commands – when we, together, as one, seek to raise up all of God’s Children in our midst – young and old – rich and poor – in the fear and admonition of the Lord – Reminding them that they are God’s children and they no longer ought to live as the world lives, but having been born again by the water and the Spirit, they have overcome the world.

This is how our faith in Christ’s work manifests itself in the world – when we as God’s children live according to His rule and command – not our own self-elected works – not our own outward show of worldly wisdom – but as we recognize that Jesus is truly the Son of God who has overcome the World for us. Granting us and all people forgiveness of their sins – and delivering to them His Holy Spirit to work faith in them so that they, too, may obey His commandments and abide in His truth – forsaking the path of the world.

And this is the true work of the Church of God. This is the command of Christ to His bride and the Spiritual mother of all Christians – to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins – to teach of His love and mercy for poor miserable sinners. And this is why as we recognize Mother’s Day, we ought to give praise and thanks to God for giving us such a spiritual mother who does these things, so that we would abide in His love and have His love abide in us. And in this wise, we see how we are to be His faithful bride and how together, we become a mother to all whom Christ has called to Himself. For these things He has commanded us, so that we may love one another.

In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.

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