Sermon
May 14, 2006
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
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Scripture Reading

1 John 4:7-21
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

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Sermon: Our Most Urgent Prayer

Of all the prayers that rise up from the depths of our hearts, none is more urgent than for the protection of those we love. A husband says a prayer for his wife, a friend for their friend, a sister for her sister. But chief among these must be the prayer of a mother for her child.

Last week we read a passage from the Gospel of John which proclaimed that God is the good shepherd, and that the shepherd protects the sheep. Our passage this Sunday from the first Letter of John declared that God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them

If God is love then God is manifest in the lives of mothers, and a mother’s sacrifice is a gospel no less reliable for knowing God than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them; a mother abides in her love for her child.

The first instinct of a mother’s love is to protect her child. This desire to protect is stronger even than the primal urge of self-preservation, for to protect the beloved, love will sacrifice itself willingly and without regret. This we see in the cross of Christ, this we see in the lives of mothers. A mother’s life is a gospel of God’s love. A mother’s life is a life of prayer for the protection of her child.

My mother was not a public woman about her faith, but I know she prayed for me – and she had good reason to do so.

Eileen and I were discussing a while back about how fortunate people are when they have a good marriage. I asked if she thought her parents had a good marriage - which she did. I said that I thought that towards the end of their lives my parents marriage got closer and more harmonious than it had been when I was in high school – I remember back then there seemed to be a certain tension in the air – a stress, a worry, that put things on edge. And then, in a light bulb moment, I thought – maybe that stress was me – me in my teenage years. Maybe I was the stress and it wasn’t that they got older but that I got older that gave them a little room to breathe and relax and enjoy each other.

Being a parent of a teen-ager is stressful in part because you’re constantly navigating that line between protection and freedom – between holding on and letting go. And as a teen-ager I think you’re in the same dilemma, only coming at it from the opposite direction. You want your parents to let you go but you still want the security of their protection. I don’t think I worried my parents because I did dangerous things, I just think they were confused about my intolerable disposition.

Actually, the one attracted to danger was my brother – he gave them a lot more to worry about than I did – and the worst worry was when he did two tours of duty as an combat engineer Airborne Ranger in Vietnam. Talk about feeling powerless to protect! Imagine you don’t know exactly where your son is or exactly what he is doing and you open an issue of Time magazine and there’s a photograph of him heading through a small hole into an underground tunnel to rout out the enemy out of hiding.

I saw what the stress of having a child in combat did in our family and it has been very much on my mind as I receive the prayer requests each Sunday to remember this or that soldier who is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The prayer of the soldier’s mother must be the most urgent of all, and we should join our hearts in solidarity with that prayer on this day. .

Sadly, this is nothing new. It was actually out of a desire to spare children the curse of combat that the first mother’s day was suggested. It was 1870, the United States was still staggering from the Civil War, and in Europe Otto van Bismarck was provoking a war with France in an effort to unify Germany. Julia Ward Howe, already famous for writing “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” issued a declaration calling for the observance of an international Mother’s Day – not a day for flowers or dinner out, but a day of unity in prayer and action to protect the next generation from the sins of the fathers, most notably, the sins of war. She wrote:

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of fears!
Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
"Our husbands shall not come to us reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
"Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.
"We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic gained much wider acceptance than did her declaration for Mother’s Day. We will sing her for our closing today. But the idea of Mother’s Day languished for another 40 years before it was taken up and given the sense and shape we recognize today. Yet the words of Howe’s declaration have not lost their urgency – her prayer for protection and for a sense of unity between all people to provide a better world for children is needed now as much as ever.

That’s why I appreciate being able to come to church and celebrate Mother’s Day with these gifts of CWS blankets. The blankets are prayer in action – a prayer of protection for mothers and their children. It may not seem like much but a gift like this blanket or like this little instrument in my hand can mean the difference between life and death for a child. This instrument is a sterile scalpel, and for lack of a sterile scalpel to cut the umbilical cord between the mother and her newborn, many babies have not made it past the first few days of life. Something as simple as the protection of this scalpel or a knit cap or a woolen blanket could save many tears and many hearts broken with grief.

There is also an urgency for us, for the protection of our own souls and the souls of our children, to gather in church and put our prayers into action and do, as Mother Theresa famously said, small things with great love.
for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

If we want our children to grow up and be faithful Christians, involved citizens, loving spouses, and wise parents, then we must draw them close to God in a community that abides in God’s love for the larger human family. We protect their souls from becoming self centered when we engage them in works of mercy and compassion in the spirit of Christ.

Our most urgent prayer on this day dedicated to mothers is a prayer for their protection and the protection of their children, a prayer that we might do all that is within our power to shield their hearts from suffering and grief. O God, grant that we, as sons and daughters, might honor them always in a spirit of profound respect and love.


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