There is something about sitting in mom's lap listening to a story. You just don't want to leave, even if she's read the book 5 times. You don't want to leave that place of safety and warmth and those kisses on the top of the head. It feels good to be somewhere you know you are loved.
As we celebrate Mother's Day this week and next (I hope your celebration didn't end Sunday!), I want you to use the picture of your mom's love for you to try to give you a glimpse of your God's love for you - the one who gave you your mother in the first place.
In John 15, we see Jesus talking about HIS love for us. In verse 9, he says it so simply, "Remain in my love." Notice exactly what kind of love we are talking about. That verse begins with Jesus comparing his love for us to the Father's love for him. "Just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." Think about that. How does God the Father love God the Son? How does he look at his perfect child, his perfectly obedient, perfectly respectful, perfectly talented and perfectly loving child? He rejoices over him. He sees no disappointment or any negative.
There is absolutely no obstacle to his love for him. Now, Jesus tells us that exactly the same way God the Father looks at him, that is the same way Jesus now looks at us. That is Jesus' kind of love for us, warmer than the warmest mom's lap, more tender than any earthly mother can be, more loving than is humanly possible.
So it makes sense to remain in it. Verse 10 tells us how: "If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love." How do you remain in his love? Obedience. Do what he says.
First of all, the things he tells you to do are for your good. You know that, right? Obedience isn't some kind of drudgery because God likes watching us suffer. Think about it. When your mom told you to do something, even if you complained about it at the time or fought her on it - you know now - she was doing what was good for you because she loves you. That's what is going on in our text. Jesus says, "Listen to me and you will remain in my love."
Now, don't misunderstand this. Don't mix up the cause and effect here. It's not as if God rewards us for our obedience by giving us his love. This text is in the context of his vine and branches picture. The fruit we produce is a result of the vine we're connected to, not a cause for the vine. When God gives us his children a command, it is not to make us holy but to give us the opportunity to exercise and express what we already are.
Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were holy and God gave them that command not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Obeying that command didn't make them holy - they already were. It just gave them the opportunity to exercise the holiness he had given them and to express it.
So when we listen to Jesus, that's what we are doing. When we obey him, we'll be doing the things that are good for us, that keep us in his love. We'll be in his word where we are more and more firmly grafted in. We'll be avoiding the things that threaten to get in between us and God's love.
Have you ever wrestled with that, with doing what you know is good for you? This week, I found myself making a bunch of phone calls and visits on people who haven't been to church in a while. And it seemed that the story was the same for every one of them. It's a story you know too. They all admitted that they should be in God's word and worship. They admitted that things are better when they are making time for the word and prayer. But then they had a list of reasons why they couldn't right at this time. And you are familiar with their reasons, their excuses.
Satan tries to use the same on you - whether it is trouble in the marriage, a rough patch in the finances, conflict with a fellow believer or being overwhelmed with the busy pace of life.
Yet, every one of those problems that try to keep you from time with God actually finds its solution in time with God and a working on our relationship with him. The relationships are bound to be helped when you get in God's word and focus on his forgiveness and love. The finances fall in place when you hold God to his promises and seek first his kingdom and righteousness. The marriage gets a boost when you prioritize time growing closer to your Savior so that by definition, as you both grow closer to him you'll naturally be growing closer to one another.
Rather than waiting for things to get better before you deal with your relationship with God - do what he says first - and see if he doesn't take care of it all. It's just like with mom. Her advice won't help you unless you listen to it. So Jesus says - "Do what I say." That's how you remain in his love, next week, we'll look at why. In the meantime - cherish all of your time in God's word like the child on the lap of his mom. Happy Mother's Day.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.