1 John 4:7-21

John 15:1-8

Jesus tells us, “you can’t do anything cut off from the vine.” Without Jesus as our vine, we would just be a rootless branch, floating free in the world, but Jesus roots us and connects us to God. Apparently, Jesus was a better preacher than a gardener. Not that I’ve ever done it, but you can take a cutting from a vine and make it thrive. You can give roots to a cut-off branch, with lots of care. Of course, Jesus is not talking about any particular vine. Jesus isn’t a particular vine, he’s our rootedness. We all come from particular vines, rooted in God, because someone cared for us enough to make us grow.

That’s one of the final good gifts of a mother: the strength and freedom to stand on our own and separate from our original source. Separation is a painful step for most, whether we do it at age 13, or 6, or 42. We and our mothers (or we and our children) both pull and push on each other while we figure it out. At various moments in that process, we feel our own roots dig in, but we feel our mother’s presence in that.

One of the moments when I’ve had that experience was when I was shepherding kids at a summer meals program in South Boston. My job was to keep a dozen nine-year-0lds together, getting along, and safe. This job involved hollering – lots of it. As you might expect, it involved saying things I’ve heard before – from my mother. So I can never again be surprised when I sound like her. I sounded like my mother in ways I liked and ways I didn’t, because I was deeply immersed in caring for my kids.

I learned the truth about the statement from 1 John that “perfect love drives out fear.” My love actually deepened my fear for my kids. I was afraid on big levels like wondering about my kids’ parents or what would happen for them at school that fall, and I was afraid on more immediate levels like when we crossed the road. Because of love, not in spite of it, there is much in life to fear. When in doubt, I sound like my mother. Even when my voice isn’t perfect or fearless, it’s full of love. Those moments were full of fear – not for myself, but for my kids: I would dive into Columbia Road for them, and came close to it sometimes. That’s love casting out fear, when your fear is for another more than for yourself – that’s love welling up from a depth somewhere within us.

Your love also comes from somewhere and someone. That love in me comes from my mother, and perhaps yours comes from your mother too. It comes from someone who raised you this way, and you see their love especially in those moments when you care for someone else. I’ll try to keep many parts of my mother, and I’ll try to avoid some. I have to become myself (we all do) and live her love in my own way.

So we may have one more gift to receive from our mother (or to pry out of her hands, if that’s what it feels like). We may have to learn a new way to live her love. You can feel your roots go down, tying you into God, beyond the shape of your first connection to your mother. You can feel the love of the Mother of all mothers, the source and connection of all life, who is so glad for each of Her children. She will always look something like your mother, because your love will always look similar to your mother’s, for better or for worse. We each have our own roots to nurture, our own connection to the Mother of all. May Her love fill us now and always.

Amen.

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