The Joy and Heartache of Relationships

The Joy and Heartache of Relationships

Preached at 9am Worship on Sunday 12th May (Mother’s Day)
Series: Relationships

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain

Well the Federal election is less than a week away and who is excited???  It is a bit like that isn’t it.  After weeks of constant back and forth and trust me and don’t trust them … we begin to tune it out.  Don’t worry, I am not preaching politics today, but I did want to highlight something that happened on the side of all the electioneering which was just beautiful.

Last week in the newspaper kerfuffle about Bill Shorten’s mum, the hashtag #mymum started to trend on twitter and Facebook with people sharing their own stories about their mothers.  Did anyone else see this? 

Using the #mymum hashtag, Australians from all walks of life and all sides of politics were going deep on what it was like to be raised by parents willing to take odd jobs, make sacrifices, and put their own dreams on the line in order to do the absolute best by their children.

The ABC put together a great montage of some of them and it was quite moving to hear how proud they were of their mothers and the deep sense of gratitude and love that they held their mothers in.

I guess we were doing that a bit this morning with Edwina’s kids talk.  Mother’s Day is the day for celebrating this special relationship we have in our lives.  For most of us here, the relationship with our mother is something which has been loving, enriching, fulfilling.  It is something that we could probably write a paragraph of gratitude and label it with #mymum. 

I know for me, it is been one of the most significant and influential relationships in my life – and one of the best examples of unconditional love that I have ever experienced.

For most of us, Mother’s Day is a day full of thanksgiving and gratitude … but it is not for all people.  For some people the relationship with their mum was complicated.  Some mothers for different reasons found it hard to be loving and kind and the experience of the children was tough.  In some families there has been disfunction or a breakdown in relationship between the mother and children and Mother’s Day just reminds them of that pain of separation.  And for other’s Mother’s Day brings a wave of grief … either feeling a sense of loss over the death of their mother … or the death of a child.  I remember one Mother’s Day in my first church I had a special prayer time after church for mothers who had lost a child through miscarriage, still birth or their chid had died prematurely and I was overwhelmed with the number of mothers in my congregation who had had that experience. 

So, if Mother’s Day brings such heartache to some people … then why do we celebrate it?  Because it reflects the complexity of relationship.  Mother’s Day is about the joy and the heartache.  It’s is all of these complex feelings together. 

But we could probably say the same thing about all relationships, couldn’t we?  Relationships with our mothers can be complex … but so are relationships with all our families and extended families.  I have shared openly before about how my own family is tricky and that in the last 15 years there has only been two times that my parents and all my siblings have been in the same place at the same time.  It’s complex.

But so are relationships with our friends.  Good friends can bring us the greatest joy and love and feeling of acceptance, but we have all probably had the experience of being let down by a friend or hurt deeply by a friend.

I am I brave enough to mention the complexity of intimate relationships?  Being married to Marion is the best thing I have ever done in all my life – but is it great all the time?  Of course, it is.  But if we are real – all of us who married or in intimate relationship know that it can bring the greatest joy, but they are not always great.  And as a community we know the heartache that comes when an intimate relationship breaks down.  Or when a couple divorces. 

And then there is the impact of death on relationship.  I have no words for the heartache caused when a close friend dies.  That sense of a hole being left in our lives.  Someone told me yesterday that when their husband died it was like a part of their body was amputated – that sense of loss was so great.

Well this is a cheery sermon, isn’t it?

I wonder, if relationships have the potential to bring so much pain and loss and heartache … then why do we enter into them at all?

Because they also have the potential to bring so much love and joy and fulfillment and life … and it seems that you can’t have one without risking the other.  And the bottom line is that the love and joy is worth the risk of heartache and loss.

Would you agree?

So, as we sit in the tension of the joy and heartache of relationships … where does this sermon go from here?

I would like to offer two small bits of wisdom – one from scripture and other from experience. 

Firstly – I want to encourage us all … within the complexity of relationships – to be our best in all our relationship.  To give our best.  To love our best.

How do we do this?  The Bible gives us a blue print of how to do this in the classic reading we had from 1 Corinthians 13.  Listen to some of the words again…

Love is patient, love is kind.
Love does not demand its own way.
Love is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes,
and endures through every circumstance. 
Love will last forever.

This is good stuff.  I encourage you to pull out this reading every now and again to remind you the way that God designed love in relationships to be.  Read through it and use it to inspire you to be the best in all your relationships – in the way you love your family, your partner, your good friends, your church family. 

If you are really brave … you can see how you stack up by just read through it replacing the word love with your name

For example, 

Phil is patient, phil is kind …  or …

             Phil is not easily angered,

he does not keep a record of wrongs…

It’s not easy to do.  You will find that some things you will be doing all right in, whereas others you will think, “Gee, I’m not very good at that.”  That’s OK.  None of us are perfect, just keep doing the ones that you are doing well and try to do better in the ones that you aren’t as good.

If you use this reading as a blue-print of how to love, then I am sure that all our relationships will benefit from this 1 Corinthians 13 wisdom. 

My other piece of wisdom is about barriers.  One of the issues that come from the complexities of relationships is that when we have been hurt by those close to us, when we have had our heart broken by someone we love … our natural human reaction is to put up a wall to protect us from being hurt again. 

A poet who only identified herself as Manny started a poem like this,

Out my kitchen window
I see the barrier surrounding my backyard.
And the backyard after that.
And the one after that.
And the one after that.
And so on…

Wanting to keep people out.
Guarding our things
and guarding ourselves.

The poem goes on to talk about how she has observed in her life (and in people around her) that we have walls that get in the way of our relationships. 

Sometimes when it comes to relationships we are the ones who build the walls to, as Manny said, to keep people at an arm’s length, or to protect ourselves.  Sometimes the walls are a response to something that has happened to us.  If we have been hurt or abused or had our trust taken advantage of, we reactively build a wall to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  And sometimes the wall has more to do with other people or outside circumstances and very little to do with us and yet when we look out the kitchen window in our lives we see the walls there … surrounding our lives, the person next to us, and the one after that, and so on…

What do you think?  Is Manny’s description close to the mark?  Do you look at this poem and say, “yep, she is right”?

The Bible uses this same wall or barrier imagery to talk about the breakdown in our relationship with God.  But this is not the way that God wants our relationships to be – and as shown in the symbolism of the curtain in the temple being torn into two at the first Easter … God wants to help us deal with the walls in our lives.

So, would you like some divine help in addressing any walls that you have built in your life? 

This morning God wants to bring you some healing to any wounds that we have as a result of our relationships.  God wants to soothe the heartache.  God wants to help us to be more open, more trusting again in relationships.

God wants to help us to be more loving … to be more in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 13.

Would you like God to help and minister to you this morning?

If you do, I would like to offer two things. 

Firstly I would like to offer you an opportunity for prayer or just some space for you to give any of the heartache of relationship to God.  Over here I have some candles and after the service if you would like to come and light a candle:

  • for a particular relationship
  • to pray for someone
  • to honour a special relationship
  • to be open to God’s help or healing

… come and light a candle and be open to God. 

And secondly, I finish this sermon with another poem.  This one was written by a friend of Manny, Sarah, who wrote the poem about walls before.  Sarah read Manny’s poem about walls and wrote this poem as a response.  I would like to read it to you, but I would like you to not only imagine Sarah saying this to her friend but maybe imagine God saying these words to us.

I see your barrier.
It’s made of the thickest stone.
There are barely any cracks or breaks
just signs that someone tried to get inside
and holes patched from their effort.

I wish I could make all the hurt go away.
I wish I could provide the comfort you need.
I wish I could tear down that stone divider.
I wish I could shatter your wall.

I stand at your barricade
my hands placed on the cold, thick stone.
Projecting all my love and warmth
through the tips of my fingers.

I lift one stone and place it behind me
and begin to rummage through this rubble
so that I can find you
and hold you.

God is offering that to you this morning. To help us break down our barriers in our relationship with God, and in our relationships with God. To bless all our relationships… And to support and help us both in the joy and the heartache of relationships …and to hold us close.    Amen.