It is the best of days, it is the worst of days.
There is a Dickensian quality to Mother's Day, fraught as it is with the emotional power of a profound, primal relationship.
For some, it is a day of deep delight, gratitude, appreciation, celebration, joy.
For others, it is a day of fierce pain from stabbing memories, crushed dreams, grief, anger, regret.
Not all mothers are created equal, and not all women who want to be mothers can be, and not all women who want to avoid motherhood do, so this holiday becomes complicated.
Some would rather not have the preacher spoil this perfect day by mentioning anything perceived as negative; others would rather not have church give out any flowers because the whole stupid holiday should be thrown out with the bathwater.
Both would cut away half of the truth that Dickens wrote whole because life and emotions are not as orderly or consistent or compliant as we are tempted to make them.
Mother's Day and Christmas sting people God loves with additional pain.
Childbirth and weddings send people God loves into grief and depression.
Funerals provide people God loves with laughter, gratitude, and joy.
The emotions and behaviors we are conditioned to expect on certain occasions don't always come, and sometimes we injure each other with our assumptions.
People feel terrible for not feeling the right way.
Expressions of joy or sympathy make people feel even more misunderstood and alone.
Shoulds lead to gossip, guilt, and shame.
Some people will celebrate today.
Some people will not.
God loves them all, and commands us to do the same.
Love, of course, is simple but not easy.
Listen to Paul's famous description: does this describe how you treat others?
Love is patient;
love is kind;
love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; ... it...rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Even when the truth isn't what you want to hear.
Even when some of all things aren't what you want or assume them to be.
Even when life doesn't align with your plans and preferences.
Even when others, to quote one mother I know and love, won't get with the program.
Love's program is the wellbeing of the other.
That requires immense courage and often, not only strength enough to hold on, but even more strength enough to let go.
To let go of speaking and embrace listening.
To let go of certainty and embrace doubt and possibility.
To let go of our own way, of expectations and comfort and control and conflict avoidance and and others' wrongs and our being right and well-deserved grudges and many other treasures, in order to hold on to the beloved.
Love is hard to do, which is why mothers need to be both celebrated and forgiven.
Love is a difficult, exhausting, and holy road.
Love is the uphill climb to joy.
If you chart the fifteenth chapter of John, you will draw a triangular mountain.
Jesus is using a common Greek rhetorical strategy called chiasm, with matching statements stairstepping up to and down from a central point—the pinnacle—which is only stated once.
That's how you know you've reached the top.
The closer a statement is to the center of the speech, the more important the idea.
The longer the speech—the bigger the mountain—the more important the topic; John 15 has one of the most elaborate, extended chiasms in the New Testament.
Love is close to Jesus' center, but it is not the pinnacle of the mountain.
Love is the high elevation, difficult climb to get there.
Here's the summit: I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.
The point is full joy.
And love is the long, hard, holy, wise, worrisome, and wonder-filled way to get there.
We learn from the Master.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.
A few chapters later, after he has laid down his life for them and returned from the grave, he says, As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
We are loved before we are sent.
God will not send us into the world without first giving us the greatest love anyone has.
It is both the strength and the direction we need to make the arduous climb through this treacherous, insatiable world to joy.
Love is not only the challenge, it's the fuel.
We do not have to generate it; we only have to channel it – we are the branches, not the vine.
Abiding, staying, remaining in God's love, as simple and as difficult as that is, is the key to conquering the mountain.
And joy is worth the effort, according to the voice who lets go of everything at the cross in order to share his joy with us.
That was the very next day.
It was the worst of days; it is the best of days.
Against all appearances and expectations, Christians rejoice and call that hideous Friday good.
It proves that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things just before Easter teaches us that love never ends.
We, the beloved and joyful community of Jesus, are sent into the world to embody and speak and do and live this message so that his joy may also be in the world, and so that its joy may be complete.