5-10-15 Baptized in Truth – Mothers’ Day

Acts 10:44-48 Peter had not finished speaking these words when the Holy Spirit descended upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who had accompanied Peter were surprised that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also, whom they could hear speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter asked, “What can stop these people who have received the Holy Spirit, even as we have, from being baptized with water?” So he gave orders that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  After this was done, they asked him to stay on with them for a few days.

Today we finish this sermon series about the boundaries of our compassion. The first Sunday we talked about how as Christians loving Jews is a way of claiming God’s love for us. The second Sunday in the series we talked about the boundaries our denomination is experiencing around compassion in relation to LGBT folks. Last week, we talked about the lessons from Baltimore to inspire us to deeper caring. As we finish our readings from I John today, this epistle of love, we talk about the more internal boundaries of compassion, the inner obstacles to love. Listen for the word of God for you this day.

I John 5:1-6 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God.  Everyone who loves God loves the One who has come from God. We can be sure that we love God’s children when we love God and do what God has commanded. The love of God consists of this:  that we keep God’s commandments.  And these commandments are not burdensome. Everyone born of God conquers the world, and the power that has conquered the world is our faith. Who then can overcome the world?  The one who believes that Jesus is the Only Begotten of God. Jesus Christ came by water and blood—not by water alone, but with water and blood.

May 10, 2015

Inspired to Care: Baptized in Truth

God loves us, so we can love God and love God’s children. John repeats this message in a number of ways throughout this short letter. God loves you. It would seem repetitive if it wasn’t one of the most basic lessons of all of scripture. What is more important for us to know? God loves you. Jesus loves me, this I know.

We love this message and can’t hear it too many times. It is only when we hear it applied to others that we realize how limited our understanding of this basic concept of our faith really is. In the Acts reading that Felicia read this morning, we see even the earliest disciples having trouble as they are amazed at the Holy Spirit entering Gentiles as well as Jews. This goes back to the message of the first sermon in our series. Peter has to reach beyond what he thought was possible to baptize Cornelius and the other Gentiles who were coming to them in those early Spirit-infused days.

As I read these passages this week and thought about our themes in this sermon series, I noticed that as much as I like to talk about the big issues of our world, sometimes the limits to caring are a lot closer to home.

I noticed it, for instance, as I was picking out Mothers’ Day card for my wife. I’m reading various cards in the store and trying to pick out one that says what I want to say – loving, but not too schmaltzy, appreciative but not over the top. It’s easy to put aside the funny, silly cards, the sexy, needy cards and so on. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be putting aside cards that feel too effusive in their declarations of love. And finally, I try to pick out a card that expresses my love in a way that is true and that stretches toward the bigger truth of love.

Do you know what I’m saying? I would put it in theological terms, as reaching toward expressing God’s love for my wife, rather than my own petty caring filtered through feelings effected by day to day squabbles, disappointments or misunderstandings. God loves us as we are, as we really are. The eyes of the divine see all parts of our brokenness, and see beyond that brokenness to our loving core. That’s what we want to express in our Hallmark inspired moments. Our words and even the words of a carefully selected card usually feel so inadequate.

 

When I went to see my mother last summer, we were in the car at the home where she lives and she pointed to a man in a wheelchair and said, “There’s Clint Sykes.” I immediately got out of the car to go over to see Clint who was well into his nineties before he died this fall, just since I saw him. I had to remind him of a story that my dad used to tell me before he died.

Clint Sykes was a classmate of his from high school. When my father was in the hospital with colon cancer, about thirty years ago, he had a real scare. He wasn’t sure he was going to make it. While he was in the hospital, he decided that he was going to start telling people that he loved them.

Clint came to visit him before he got out of the hospital. They had a nice visit, and as Clint was getting ready to leave, my dad said, “Hey Clint, I love you.” He said Clint was in the doorway, and said, “Uh, yeah, … well, I love you too, Bob.”

From that time on my father never faltered. He was much freer than he had ever been with telling us he loved us. He would always end every phone conversation with “I love you.” Nothing fake or forced about it.

After I reminded Clint of this story, my mother told me another one. She said Dad had also told Peggy Kennedy that he loved her. Peggy Kennedy went out and told her husband that Bob Tatgenhorst told her he loved her. And her husband said “Well, he probably does,”

Years later after my dad died, Peggy Kennedy invited my mother to a talent show. She dedicated this song to my dad. It’s from Wicked, “I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason. Bringing something we must learn And we are led To those who help us most, to grow If we let them And we help them in return Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true But I know I’m who I am today Because I knew you….” She said that ever since that day when my dad randomly told her he loved her, she started telling people she loved, that she loved them, and it changed her life.

 

Now I know it’s may be strange to tell you a story about my dad on Mothers’ Day, but that’s kind of how I roll sometimes. What I want to tell you is that it makes a difference when we can reach past our internal boundaries to let people know that we love them. Maybe we express it in a sappy Mothers’ Day card, but how much better is it to say it in person? Why is it so hard to say the truth to a dear high school friend? or to a spouse? or a child?

The truth is that whether we reach through our timidness or not, God does. When we are baptized, God says to us “I love you, permanently, irrevocably. I love you as you really are, and always will.” “I love you permanently, irrevocably, like the best mother, like your mother or your father.”

And because God tells us that truth, because God will get that truth through to us no matter who we have been or how lost we have become, we can communicate it to the ones we love as well.

This is God’s good news.

Responsive Hymn 2224 Make Us One