The Mother Side of God / Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 14:15-21

         20In that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you.21Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Today is the day when we honor Moms. See if anyone here recognizes this Mom:

You stand up to take pictures at your son’s school play even after they’ve asked people not to.

You insist your child wear a sweater when YOU’RE cold.

You tell your daughter how much prettier she looks with her hair out of her eyes.

You hear yourself say [things like], “Your face will freeze like that,” and “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”

There’s a used Kleenex stuffed up your shirtsleeve.

The first thing you ask when someone walks into your home is, “Do you want something to eat?”

You spend your vacation wondering if you left the iron turned on.

Your daughter says smugly that she’ll never be anything like you.

Sound like anyone you know.

Our text is very appropriate for today. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. Our translation has Jesus saying, I will not leave you as orphans . . .  Both renderings of the text sound like Mother’s Day to me. I don’t want to be guilty of over-generalizing or stereotyping, but when most of us think of being comforted, do we think of our Moms or our Dads? A survey asked boys who they would be most likely to confide in if they had a problem, and about 23 percent said their father. The remaining 77 percent said they would confide in their mother. I will not leave you comfortless, said Jesus. I will not leave you as orphans. There are a lot of Dads who are do a great job of comforting their children, but in the majority of cases, for comfort, we think of Mom. Yes, God is like a Father, but God is also like a Mother who comforts her children. Where is comfort to be found? That is the question for the day. What is Jesus promising us?

Jesus says, first of all, He will comfort us by His presence.

I will not leave you comfortless, He says to His disciples, I will come to you.  Jesus is going away. But God will send a comforter – the Holy Spirit. They will not be alone. God’s Spirit will be with them. There is no greater gift that we can give those we love than the gift of our presence. It’s hard to love somebody you never see.

Years ago there was a country-western song titled, “Roses for Mama.” In the song, it’s Mother’s Day, and a man goes to a florist shop to buy his mother a bouquet. He knows he should visit his mother, but he has more exciting plans, so he decides to send her flowers instead. At the florist shop, the man encounters a little boy who wants to buy some roses for his mother, but he doesn’t have enough money. The man gives the boy some money, he then buys his mother’s bouquet.

As the man drives away from the florist shop, he happens to pass by a cemetery. Looking over, he sees the little boy kneeling on a grave, a bouquet of roses in his hand. The man pulls into the cemetery and asks the boy what he’s doing. The boy explains that his mother has been dead a year, and that he comes there all the time to talk to her and, on this special day, to give her flowers. The man turns around and drives back to the florist. There, he asks the florist if his mother’s flowers have been delivered yet. When the florist tells him no, the man tells him to cancel the delivery, he wants to deliver them himself.

There’s nothing that says I love you like simply being there. Children need parents who are there for them, if possible, both mother and father. Aging parents need children who will come to see them. Jesus is leaving His disciples, but He wants them to know He is not forsaking them. I will not leave you as orphans, He says, I will come to you. He will be there. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, He will be with them. And US.

But there’s another way in which Christ comforts His disciples. He comforts them with His understanding and love. Physical presence is wonderful, of course, but it’s not enough. We need not only someone who is there, but someone who understands and forgives. Here is where Jesus shines. No one was more understanding than Jesus. See Him hold little children in His arms. See His concern for those with physical challenges, for the person whose life has been broken by sin, for the penitent thief on the cross. And here is the Good News. That’s what God is like, Jesus teaches us. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father. Jesus and God are of one. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. The comfort that the Spirit provides is the comfort Christ would provide if he were still here physically. It is the comfort of empathy and understanding.

A mother had found a six-pack of beer in her daughter’s closet, so when her daughter came home, she said, Okay, Maria, what is this? It looks like a six-pack of beer to me, Mom, her daughter answered. Don’t get smart with me, young lady, tell me about this. Well, I don’t know what you’re talking about, the girl replied. I found this six-pack in your closet young lady. You’d better explain. Maria thought real fast and said, oh yeah, I was hiding that for a friend. You expect me to believe that? Maria gets mad and stomps off to her bedroom and slams the door.  Does any of this sound familiar to some of you?

When the mother reached out for advice, the answer was, why were you so concerned with finding a six-pack of beer in her closet? Because I don’t want her to get into trouble, the mother answered. Understandable, but why is it you don’t want her to get into trouble? The mother answered, well, because I don’t want her to ruin her life. Again understandable, but why is it that you don’t want her to ruin her life? Finally, mom got it. Well, because I love her, she said.  Do you think she got that message? The answer was, of course not! What do you think would happen, if you started with that message? If she were to start with, honey, I love you so much that I got really scared when I found this six-pack of beer in your closet. Could we talk about this? Because I’m afraid you could get into trouble, could we talk about it? In this approach, you start by being vulnerable and telling your deeper truth instead of conducting an inquisition that inevitably leads to denial. Starting from the position of love and vulnerability evokes closeness and trust so that the child can then open up and work together with you on some kind of solution.

All our dealings with young people can be handled this way and lead to more understanding and of course more love. This was Jesus’ method. Time and time again, He resisted the temptation to lecture, to scold, to harass. Rather He asked caring questions, and He allowed the person an opportunity to discover His or Her own solutions. What a Friend we have in Jesus. Why? Because He is empathic, because He understands.

I will not leave you comfortless. Christ will be there. Christ understands. But there’s one thing more to be said. Christ not only sends His Spirit to be with us. Christ not only sends His Spirit to empathize with us and comfort us. Christ gives us the power to conquer our problems. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you, said Jesus. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. How many people have been encouraged by those words, because I live, you shall live also? Because He is with us, we can cope, we can endure, we can conquer.

A parent who is there is wonderful. A parent who understands is even better. But best of all is the parent who prepares us to cope with life and gives us the tools to succeed.  In 1942, hysteria over Japanese involvement in World War II led to the relocation of some 110,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps. In one of these camps, Carole Doi, a third-generation Japanese American, was born.  Years later, Carole married a man who had also spent time in the camps. When she delivered their baby daughter, they noticed that the child’s feet turned inward, the toes facing each other. Carole was determined to do whatever it would take to help her daughter walk normally.

For four years Carole provided the child with corrective shoes. Her daughter was walking normally by age six, but Carole wasn’t satisfied. I wanted her to do anything in which she would use her legs, she says. The girl chose ice skating.

The girl was a natural on the ice. Before long, the youngster was bugging her mother for more rink time. She’d refuse to leave the ice until she got a particular move right. Soon Carole was rising at 4 a.m. to get her daughter to the rink. Finally, after 15 years of lessons, young Kristi Yamaguchi represented her country in the Olympics.

As the U.S. flag was hoisted during the 1992 medals ceremony, Carole and Jim Yamaguchi watched Kristi receive the gold medal. Kristi Yamaguchi stood on that victory platform because of a mother who stood behind her and helped her conquer.

I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you, said Jesus, because I live, you shall live also. There it is! There’s the promise we need most of all: The Spirit that comforts us is not only one of presence, not only one of understanding, but it is one of overcoming. It is like a mother slowly helping her daughter walk with straight feet. It’s that Spirit that gives us wings like eagles.

We honor our mothers this morning. But more importantly, we honor God who is like a loving parent who is ever present, ever empathizing and ever giving us the strength to overcome. Because God lives, we do live!