31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
May 8, 2016, Mother’s Day
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“The Gospel is caught, not taught.” So read the banner on the ceiling beam in the basement fellowship hall. Words written in hand by an Associate Minister who came years before my tenure at that church, words that had hung there for so many decades that they had become a very part of the building.
“The Gospel is caught, not taught.” There is real truth to these words, and yet, the church for over a hundred years now, has not lived that truth. We have tried to “teach” the gospel as if it were facts to be memorized, instead of a living relationship with God that brings joy, love, and peace to our lives.
In the early 1900’s, good Christian souls began church schools. Such was the case with our own church. From that long ago time when Bristol was first known as the Ecclesiastical Society of New Cambridge, this Christian community has been involved in education. And it was a much needed mission. There were no public schools to teach children and adults how to read and write. And so our church and many others fulfilled that need.
From the very beginning, the purpose of church school was always to teach children how to read and write. With our stellar public education system in the United States, where children are learning to read in preschool, the church no longer needs to teach those skills.
And yet, a real need exists, the need to share with all the unconditional, amazing love of God; the need to share that Jesus has risen from the dead and that not even death can separate us from the love of God; the need to share that we are blessed by God and called, each of us, to share our talents and love in the building of unity and peace in our world.
There is a real need in our world for people to know God: to know God’s peace, that passes all understanding, to know the depth of God’s unconditional love, and to be supported as they try to rise above the noise and division and anger of our world to love, love themselves and love their neighbor.
There is a real need for the good news of Jesus Christ in our world, but it cannot be taught.
In the last few years, church professionals have been referring to Christian Education as Christian Faith Formation, and I would argue that faith is not formed either.
Our sense of God, our deep connection with the Holy is something we are born with. Ava, Juniper, all of us, were made by the Creator of the Universe. Before birth, we are connected to the Divine. God lives in us and all around us.
As their mothers, fathers, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, Faith Guides, pastors, brothers and sisters in Christ, we teach children the facts of our Christian faith, but for the faith to really mean something, for God’s grace to really be in their hearts and guide their lives, to sustain them in times of trial, we need to nurture their relationship, their connection with God.
Pause for a moment and think about your own life. Was it the years of perfect attendance at church school, the thorough education at private religious school, the Confirmation or Bible classes that brought you to this place in your Christian faith journey? Or was it a person who was so connected to Jesus Christ that they exuded peace and love and it was their faithful connection to God that nurtured this deep spiritual maturity in you?
“The Gospel is caught, not taught.”
At the end of this lengthy letter that the Apostle Paul has been writing to a beloved Christian community, a community that has been struggling to live as Christ calls us, a community that has seen divisions and fighting, a community that has disagreed about the right ways to worship and be in relationship, at the end of this lengthy letter, Paul reminds the church in Corinth about what is foremost, what is essential, what is of first importance – being connected to God. Being connected to God so they could feel the love, the grace of God as made known in the good news of Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of sharing the good news with them. Paul speaks of handing on the good news to them, but what Paul really did was nurture their connection with God, nurture what they already knew in their hearts – that God loved them so much that God sent them a Messiah, a Messiah who would be sacrificed for love of them, a Messiah who would break the bonds of everything, even death.
Paul nurtured in them what had been nurtured in him by Jesus Christ. And he goes on to write that it is this connection, it was God’s grace that made him what he was and God’s grace that gave him strength to fulfill his calling to be an apostle, a messenger of the good news.
It was not easy to embody God’s grace and live out God’s love. Paul was often rejected and persecuted. He was arrested multiple times and put in jail. He traveled thousands of miles by foot and boat – all to share the good news of God’s love and grace.
It was not easy to be a messenger, a role model of God’s love. It is not easy to be a messenger, a role model of God’s love.
So on this Mother’s Day, on this mothering Sunday, I invite you to take a moment and think of all of those who have nurtured your relationship with God, nurtured your Christian faith, all of those who through their own transformed lives have shown you the way of Jesus Christ.
Was it your mother? Your grandmother? Your father, grandfather, or uncle? Was it a pastor or a pew mate? A church school teacher? A public school teacher? A friend?
Who are the people in your life who have nurtured in you a deep knowledge of your identity as a beloved child of God, who have nurtured your calling to transform the world with Christ’s love?
Name them in your mind. Name them out loud if you wish, and give thanks for them. Give thanks for their Christian witness. Give thanks for the many ways they nurtured you: body, mind, and spirit.
(30 seconds of silence)
By the grace of God, we are who we are. By the grace of God, we have been blessed with women and men who have nurtured our hearts and souls, who have loved us with the unconditional love of God and shown us the how to live in love and peace. By the grace of God, we have caught the good news of Jesus Christ and the love of God, and it has transformed us and our worlds.
Throughout these six weeks of Eastertide, I have been encouraging you to share the good news of Jesus the Christ with people in your life, to tell them about a time when God was real to you, to share your stories of when God guided you, inspired you, carried you.
On this Mother’s Day, on this day when we celebrate those who nurture, care and love us, I encourage you to thank those who have nurtured your relationship with our Creator and nurtured your Christian faith journey.
And on this baptism day, I encourage you to be that faith nurturer in the lives of others, to fulfill the promises we made to Juniper and Ava and to countless children before them, to love others as God’s loves them, to walk in the peaceful and just ways of Jesus Christ.
You are a beloved child of God. You are the bearer of Christ’s light. Love and nurture others that they too might know the depth and truth of God’s grace and unconditional love.