Loving Like a Parent

Preacher: Emily Reed
Date: July 31, 2022

Scripture: John 1:1-14

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Transcipt is below:

Sermon for the people of United Parish in Brookline
Given by Emily Reed, July 31, 2022

Before I became a parent, I received so much good advice, guidance like “sleep when the baby sleeps”
and “Go out to dinner now! You won’t be doing that again for a while!” These stand out in my mind nearly
6.5 years into parenting as both still very true. Stefan and I certainly don’t go out as much as we once did
and I haven’t had a “normal” night’s sleep in a really, really long time. I read parenting books and blogs,
watched my sister and other close friends become parents, Stefan and I took classes together, and we
had wonderful doulas - people trained to be companions before, during, and after childbirth - who guided
us along the way and had us well prepared to accept that birth most certainly wouldn’t go as we

Parenting was always something I’d envisioned in my life and I was very excited to embrace this aspect of
the human experience that connects us back generation to generation to generation. I was fully expecting
it would be the beginning of something new. I anticipated the exhaustion, the laundry, the intensity and joy
of breastfeeding, the complex challenges and emotions of arranging for childcare, organizing the day
around nap schedules, the total shift of focus inward to our family. What I didn’t expect? To be sitting with
my parents at a favorite South End restaurant, Picco for my birthday lunch a month after Myers was born,
weeping. My fresh understanding of what a “birth day” is and what we as a species require from our
parents had me absolutely overcome with gratitude and deeply humbled.

I am tremendously fortunate to have the parents I do, people who themselves were raised in love-filled
families and who made caring for their children and spending time with them a priority. Parenting requires
acts of strength and selflessness that sometimes show up in really big ways: moving your family across
the country to seek medical care for a child, advocating for services within the bureaucracy of a large
school district, sending a child to live with family in another home in order to place them in a safer
environment, and sometimes look more like the day-to-day of life as I experienced.

I studied oboe beginning in school in fifth grade (not an instrument that is usually at the top of the list of
options for a 10 year old) and that definitely comes along with some barriers. Once I was older, in order
for me to have weekly private lessons, my parents arranged for me to study with a teacher about a half an
hour away from us. So Mom and Dad would get home from work, get dinner together, and then one of
them would get back in the car to drive me to my lesson, where they’d sit in the car in the dark in the
driveway (before the dawn of cell phones!), probably thinking of everything on the to-do list, drive home,
and then begin their “me time” portion of the day, if my sister and I didn’t need help with homework or had
something we really needed to talk with them about.

In high school, I played in the percussion ensemble for the marching band and we performed for the
football games and at regional competitions. My parents were always there, usually freezing in the
fall/winter New England evening air, wearing their extra long coats purchased for these occasions and
cheering us on. I didn’t realize then that their presence in these ways was an act of selflessness and living
out their love, but presence is one of the greatest gifts we can give to each other.

As I prepared to share this reflection with you, Kent reminded me that at the time of writing the scripture
passages we just heard, the first century Greeks used many words for love, distinguishing between the
love experienced in friendship, affection, desire, and agape - that deep love of wanting what is best for
another, regardless of your own needs.

My experience of my parents’ love and of knowing my children is love as agape - cherishing them for
exactly who they have been, who they are now, and who they will become. This love feels boundless and
personal, seeing Myers and James as unique individuals and knowing that my role as their parent is
about guiding and accompanying them for however long we share life together.

In First Corinthians 13 we hear that “Love (Agape) is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not
boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of
wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always
hopes, always perseveres.” Nothing could be more true about parenting a toddler - that definitely reveals
the patience of love. I’m pretty sure I say “please make a different choice, that’s not kind.” about a
thousand times a day - good thing we’re “keeping no record of wrongs.”

In the passage that Meagan just read, John unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation: that God
appeared in human form and that Jesus shared our earthly experiences. This is the traditional final lesson
for the Festival of Lessons and Carols service at King’s College in Cambridge, England, which has taken
place annually since 1918, is broadcast worldwide, and our family listens to each Christmas Eve. Almost
immediately after its introduction, other churches began adapting the model of the service for their use
and all the church choirs I’ve been part of have sung a version of this service annually, as we do at United
Parish, all ending with these first words from John. I’ve heard this passage A LOT. Listening to it, my
attention usually goes to the mystery part, the part that strikes me as the “Christmas-y” part - that the
Word became flesh and dwelt among us - and the humanity of our sin part - “that His own people rejected
him.” I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I was alive when Jesus was, if I would have been someone who
rejected him or followed him - and of who in my life I’m rejecting now. But as I’ve become a parent, I am
drawn to the magnitude of being “children of God.”

If God’s love for me is like the love I have for my children, it’s the most freeing feeling. Gone is all the
pressure I put on myself and I can just be. Something I’ve become aware of in recent years is that I hold
myself back from taking risks and trying new things because I want to do a great job at everything I do.
But I don’t have to do everything right or know everything - we don’t expect this of our children and God
doesn’t either.

It’s really hard to live in this space, embracing such extravagant love. I’m pretty comfortable living into
“love your neighbor,” definitely harder for me is “love yourself like you love your neighbor.” I have a
tendency to doubt my worth. Even in preparing this reflection, there were several points along the way
where I was belittling myself, convinced that I didn’t have anything valuable to share with you today. But
God’s love doesn’t allow for this. God speaks to me, in this case through my spouse, telling me when I’m
limiting myself, “stop talking like that about this person who I love so much.” God’s love guides me to new
experiences, comforts me as I fumble and flail about, is there for me even when I push away, with
limitless love that is tied to me personally. And like Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I am
convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor
any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the
love of God that is in Christ.”

At United Parish, this love abounds and is freely given to everyone - regardless of the journey that
brought you here and where else you have or haven’t experienced agape in your life. In this community,
we practice sharing agape with one another and with the whole world. I see this love:
1. As we open our homes and gather in fellowship around tables for Dinners for 8,
2. As we welcome our neighbors in our thrift shop, often by name, and seek to connect each guest
with exactly what they are searching for - clothing is just the beginning,
3. In the relationships that develop between our young people and their church school teachers and
how we nurture our youth through their Rite 13 and confirmation processes, encouraging them
wrestle with their questions and sing and speak from their own voices,
4. As ALL are invited around the communion table and we hear the words “No matter who you are
and where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here” which really means “No matter who
you are and where you are on life’s journey, you are loved here.”

I am so grateful to you all for creating this space together that reminds me that I am loved just as I am, a
child of God.

Thanks be to God.