John 15:9-17 (NRSV)
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Mother's Day has always been a rather complicated holiday at our house. Our three children are adopted, and all three were fostered before they came to us. So between the three of them, they had six mothers before they came to be my children! As we celebrate each of these women, we also are aware of the loss each of our children experienced in being severed from those first mothers. So, as I said, complicated.
But as I ponder Jesus' command to "love one another as I have loved you," I can't help but think of one of those mothers. My daughter spent almost a year with her foster family in Korea, arriving in our home two weeks before her first birthday. When we met her at the airport, her Korean escort gave us a duffle bag full of things sent by her foster mother, including precious pictures of her as a little baby. He also gave us a brown silk woman's blouse. It seems that as the foster mother handed her to him, she also gave him her blouse. She said that our daughter would no doubt be frightened by being separated from everything she had known as "home," and so she wanted to send this blouse, which looked and smelled like her foster mother, for her to hold on the airplane.
For nearly a year, this woman deeply loved a little girl to whom she did not give birth and whom she would not raise to adulthood. She gave so much of her life, not for a friend, but for a helpless stranger. And at the end, she gave this intimate gift of herself to keep loving our daughter on her journey to a new home. We keep this blouse as a reminder of that kind of love.
And we give thanks each Mother's Day for her love, and that of the other two foster mothers who are part of our children's extended family. As our children now enter adulthood, our words to them are "go and do likewise."
Loving God, mother and father of us all, as we seek to know how to love, help us to remember how we have been loved. Thank you for all who have modeled your kind of love to us, and give us the strength, wisdom, courage, and joy to go and do likewise. Amen.
The Rev. Rochelle A. Stackhouse is the Transitional Pastor of the First Church of Christ in Hartford, CT.