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  • Pastor Jim Gronbeck

“Abide In Love”

In case you haven’t remembered, today is Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms among us! Mothers are special people, for most of us. My mom was truly the person who taught me so many of the virtues that Jesus holds for us. She showed unconditional love for me even when I know I made things difficult. She accepted me for who I was, yet she loved me enough to push me to grow when she felt that I needed to change or to do something I wasn’t excited about doing. Moms know us better than we think and often know what is best for us when we are not sure of ourselves.

Our moms can remind us of the love of Christ. Even though they did not choose us and we did not choose them, and even though we both have our shortcomings and are in need of forgiveness, our moms love us in a way that transcends earthly faults and failures.

In one of my favorite passages from John’s Gospel, Jesus says to the disciples and to all who follow Him, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Our lives these days are overwhelmed with choices. From the time we get up to the time we go to sleep we are bombarded with choices. “Do this. Buy this. Go here or there. Watch this. Eat at this restaurant or buy this type of food or drink. We either feel autonomous and able to make our own decisions, or we become lost among all the choices. It’s quite comical when you think about it.

Life is a gift. It is given by our Lord who entrusts that gift of life to human mothers and fathers. We don’t get to choose our parents, or our family, or our situation in life. Jesus even says that we do not choose Him, but He chooses us. So, no matter what we are like, no matter how popular or unpopular we may be, or what we may think of ourselves, Jesus chose us. It wasn’t a contest Jesus won or lost! It was the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives that claimed us in our mother’s womb. Our lives belong to God right from the beginning. We have been chosen by Jesus who has loved us so deeply, so mysteriously, so perfectly, has shown us what love is all about.

The unconditional love and acceptance that our mothers have shown and taught us is but a pittance of the love that Jesus has for each of us. Jesus has taken us—a sinful and rebellious people—and has given His life for ours. Jesus has chosen us and has claimed us in our baptisms to be His children. He is always at work loving and forgiving His sinful children who recognize their sin and turn to Him to ask for forgiveness.

The unspoken piece in this passage is the understanding that our lives are not really under our control as much as we’d like to believe. We make our daily choices and we go down our path in life often unaware that we are not alone in the decisions we make. When we stop for a moment and think back on our lives, we can see how Christ has led us and helped shape the decisions we have made.

To the modern individual, this can be a bit unnerving. We may fight the fact that we aren’t in control; by not going to church unless we feel like it, or by letting our marriages, families, jobs, farms, or other important relationships go to pieces before we admit our helplessness. Admitting our sin and our dependence on others—a spouse, parent, friend, employer, and even Christ is often taken as a sign of weakness in our culture. Sometimes it takes a life-altering event, an illness, or a situation that we realize is out of our control before we admit our dependence on another. But, admitting our weaknesses, our fears, or our need for someone else in our life is actually a sign of strength. It takes a big person to admit his/her faults and weaknesses and ask for help. It is not in our natural make up as humans to admit our own powerlessness. We normally want to be in complete control—or at least think we are in control—in order for our lives to make sense. Anything else is seen as a sign of weakness.

But Jesus calls us to change our thinking—to acknowledge and seek His direction and guidance in our lives. Jesus calls us to open our hearts and our minds to where He is leading us and ask Him to show us the possibilities that can come our way. Jesus calls us to put our need to be in control aside, to love and forgive one another, and to abide in His love. When we are able to let go of our need for control and let Jesus guide and lead us, we are promised the deep joy that comes with sharing our lives with our Lord.

We are a chosen people. God, in Christ, has made His decision about us. He has chosen to love us, to care for us, to forgive us, and to give us His Spirit—“The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord.” God’s choosing us and empowering us with His Spirit can give us the strength to free ourselves from the chains of self-pride, stubbornness, narrow-mindedness, and whatever binds us to the ways of the world.

Christ gives us the strength to say, “Yes, Lord! You are in charge of my life! Help me to realize your leading hand in my life and give me the courage to acknowledge your presence in my life.” This isn’t a threat to our independence or our self-esteem. It’s a reassurance. It’s like saying Jesus has our backs. It’s a relief to know there is someone else who is with us on this journey of life. Christ’s presence, forgiveness, and love picks us up and gives us strength to continue on in what we’re doing with renewed vigor. It helps release us from the grip of the Old Adam who constantly wants to be in control of us and of others. The realization that we are in Christ’s hands is threatening to the Old Adam and we are in a constant tension between the two forces.

Christ has chosen you. Christ loves you, forgives you, and has made you His very own child no matter what happens in life. That is strength. That is hope—a hope that leads to deeper faith, love, and joy in our lives.

AMEN

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