The son of a couple who attend St. George’s died about a week ago.  He was 20 years old, and it looks like it was probably an accidental drug overdose (mixing alchohol and other drugs recreationally).  I’ve been wanting to address this, and didn’t know what I wanted to say.  This is simply tragic for him, his family and his friends (of whom there are many).  There is nothing that makes it alright.  But we do have to live with it.  And we will have to move forward from here.

My sermon for last Sunday, Mother’s Day, wrote itself once I started writing about a parent’s love and God’s love.  And, although it is not really about this death, the sermon does mention his death, and is really probably what I would want to say about his death.  So it’s about love and death and even something about my core beliefs as a Christian.

If you want to hear the sermon, you can find it here.  (The week beginning May 10 it’s the video sermon on this page.  In following weeks, it should be available in the audio links to earlier sermons.)  If you would like to read the sermon, it follows below:

Mother’s Day

 It’s likely apocryphal.  But growing up, I remember hearing that when properly motivated, people can do unbelievable thing.  The example I particularly remember concerns a mother, lifting the front end of a truck off her son, so that he could be pulled out from under it.  The “afterward” of the story is that she is supposed to have broken every bone in her body.

We hear a lot about love in our readings from I John, this week and next week, and how as Christians we are to follow Jesus’ example of love.  But the piece that comes to mind for me when I think of that supposed example of a mother’s love is from John’s gospel – and not today’s gospel.  It’s the one about there being no greater love than to give your life for another.

In many ways, that’s what parents do.  Our lives are shaped and changed in so many ways when we have children that in a general sense parents, and particularly mothers, do give their lives for their children – even when it’s not breaking every bone in your body to save your child – even when it’s not laying down your life and dying for your child.

That’s what God did for us.  He loves his children so much, that he was willing to give his life to bring us home again and keep us safe.  Sadly, like all parents, God knows that this is not always possible.  Children have minds of their own, and make bad choices, however loving the parent.  People and circumstances can combine to hurt our children.  But we still love them, no matter what.

I’ve talked often about the fact that the word in Greek which we commonly translate as “love” is “agape.”  “Agape” is a verb, not a noun.  The best translation I know suggest it’s like a parent caring selflessly and sacrificially for their child.  There are feelings involved.  But it is fundamentally about what is done to help care for another person.  That’s the kind of love God calls us to.  That’s the kind of love God practices.

I can’t help thinking, as I write this, about Bill and Cruz and Gail, and the heartbreak they must be feeling because of the way they care for their son Lukas.  I think they must be feeling the same way about this that I believe God feels about this.  What a tragedy!  In spite of all their care!

Whenever something bad happens to our children, I think we always second guess ourselves.  Could we have done something different?  What would have made the difference?  But the truth is that we cannot be ultimately responsible for what happens to another person.  We are responsible for the effort we make (or we don’t make).  But people have free will, and the choices other people make are ultimately their own.  For better or for worse, God has to live with this too.

What I think might be different for God, at least some of the time, is what happens after.  For us, what happens after death is completely beyond our control.  And I do believe that even in death people have free choice, and can choose to be with God, or not to be with God.  But I believe, when we’re willing, even in death, God can bring us home.  In some ways, that’s what we’re all counting on.  And can we imagine a loving parent who would not want to bring their child home, however lost that child may have been.

That’s why, for me, the parable we usually call the parable of the Prodigal or Lost Son (which in my mind might be better called the parable of the Father’s Outrageous Love) is really the central core of the gospel Jesus brings us.  That loving relationship is what it’s all about.

And that love is most often seen around us, I believe, in parental love.  So this Mother’s Day, that’s the love I want to hold before us.  Our earthly parents are always flawed.  None of us are perfect (and some of us are tragically far from perfect).  But in this world, a mother’s love (or a father’s love) is probably as close as we’re going to get to God’s love – to the love God calls us to follow.

Thank you mothers, on this, your day, for the godly love which you have so often modeled for us in your lives.  In your love, God abides in you, and you abide in God.  God bless you for it, as we have so often been blessed by it.

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