1 John 5:9-13
Celine Dion, Kristin Getty and more sang about it – there’s a whole movie – and more books and plaques and bookmarks than you could ever read… there’s power in a mother’s prayer.
This week my daughter had nightmares one night. She crawled into bed with me and pulled my arms around her so that I was hugging her. I laid there, thinking about how I’d be trying to research and write this sermon in the morning on 3 hours of sleep. Worried.
And then I realized the treasure here… just with hugs, I made all her monsters go away and the world right again.
I remembered when she was a baby, and one night I was so sleep deprived I was in tears when she woke crying again. I sat in a rocker, holding her, humming, and cat napping most of the night with her in the crib or on my lap.
Just my presence was all she wanted to make the monsters go away.
On both these nights I prayed. My mother’s prayer. All my wishes and hopes for the little one in my care. All my concerns. I whispered, spoke, these over her. On and on I went, like weaving a protective blanket, which I prayed would wrap her like my hugs when I cannot do so myself.
So she’d always be prayed over, always have that hug to keep the monsters away.
I was just doing this without plan. Without pretty words. Without a format or goal and I am pretty certain there was no ‘amen’ because the prayer just keeps going on and I’m still praying the same good things.
I think about my own mother on this mother’s day. I bet she prayed this way over me. Those nights she rocked me as I slept on her arms, sick. Those nights I lived far away and she missed me. I don’t think she’s said amen yet. She’s still praying a protective blessing prayer over me.
I think about her mother, who prayed over my mother. I remember my great aunt rocking me to sleep, and I think about myself praying and rocking my little nephew.
How very many people are praying over one another. This community, itself, all Christians, have a mother’s prayer being woven over them by centuries of prayers.
And by Christ himself.
I hear a mother’s prayer in Jesus’ prayer today for us. It is rambling. Pleading. Speaking concerns. Confessing he will not always be there physically for his little lambs. So please, please God, please holy parent, protect these dear ones. Guard them from the harm and hate of the world. Don’t take them out of the world – but protect them while they are in it. Sanctify them. Guide them on their roads of life. Give them joy. Give them love. Give them truth. For their sakes this prayer is said.
And like our mothers, our aunts, our cousins, our grandmothers, and all the women and motherly-figures in our lives… our motherly Jesus is still praying.
Not saying amen.
In our letter today, the author writes to the young Christians a mother’s prayer, also. Reassuring them. Challenging them. Reminding them who they are and whose they are.
He or she says – take courage… your own heart, the Holy Spirit within, whispers the truth to you: God loves you. God is with you. Eternal life is your’s through Christ.
Eternal life. What is eternal life? Who has it?
It’s some fancy concept of a future heaven for a lot of people. But in our scriptures, Jesus tells us the time has come. The bread of life is available now. Now, not in the future, there is the ever living waters.
The words we’re translating as Ever-living has two levels of meaning. One is the idea of being outside of time. Time passes, but the water, or person, is wholly unaffected. Unaging. Unchanging. Unmoving. No pain; no harm; and usually we imagine no worldly life. Ever-living in an after-life.
The second meaning is more akin to ever renewing waters, ever refreshing. Picture a fountain at Dolder’s or Millstream nurseries – the water flows endlessly. The flowing water is full of movement, and change, but it does not cease. The motion keeps oxygen in the water, and keeps the water from getting stale and stagnate. Stale and stagnate water is not good, grows mold, and nothing much else. But the living water supports all the animals (and people, if we’re feeling brave) who drink from it. Butterflies and sparrows, frogs and toads – maybe fish and irises and lotus.
Ever living water, in the second sense, is alive, and changes, but renews. It knows hurts and harms, but heals. It has concerns, and worries, and long nights that seem to never end… but it regains its sparkle over time.
It is a prayer that doesn’t end.
Jesus says he is these waters. In baptism, we invoke these waters. The Holy Spirit within us is these waters at work. From God, our loving parent, flow these waters.
They are our prayer that never ends. Like a mother’s prayer, like Jesus’ prayer, like the prayers each of us are speaking over one another this very moment.
Blessings. Renewal. A comforting monster-eradicating presence holding us in a hug all through our long nights. Not that you are outside of the world, aloof, removed, unchanging – but that you thrive in the world, walking with our Good Shepherd, and drinking deeply of the Ever Living Waters.
I finish this sermon today continuing the prayer your motherly caretakers began over you, long, long, before you were born:
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life
(Source: John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings)
May you feel God,
who calls you Beloved Child of Mine,
holding you, encouraging you, carrying you, reviving you.
May you feel that love of God, your Holy Caretaker, at all times.
And may you always know Jesus prays for you.