Summary: A Sermon for the Ascension Season.
I`d like to begin with a story this morning, the story of a man called Peter. Peter loved Mary very much indeed. He was always telling her that he loved her - always showing her in lots of little ways. In many ways he was a model husband....... ..........not perfect, of course, but generally thoughtful, loving and giving. But Mary took his love and giving for granted, took it, in fact, as her right. Wasn`t that what he married her for? Hadn`t he made a promise to her "with all my worldly goods I thee endow"! In return she gave him a frigid coldness.... treated him like dirt. Aren`t some people strange!.
But, one day Mary`s dog died, and, as she saw it die, she burst into tears..... and then a miracle happened. "Peter!" she said, "I`ve just realised how I`ve been treating you all these years! I`ll never forgive myself for what I`ve done to you!".
What had happened? Simply this - she`d had that dog for many years - she`d fed it the best food - given it the most comfortable place in the house to sleep - taken it out for walks every day - talked to it like a child - she`d given that dog all the love she should have been giving to Peter.....and the dog had just taken it all........ never once had it shown her an ounce of love or affection........ and then, on the day it died, it had just looked at her - and dies, just like that! And suddenly she saw!
Don`t ask me how she saw.... it isn`t easy at times to know how people tick...... but somehow, in that dog, she saw a mirror of her own life....... that`s what she`d been like......... she`d taken and taken and taken - taken all that he`d given - he`d given her everything that marriage should be - and she`d just taken it as of right.
From that moment on Mary was a changed woman - she began to see that marriage is a lifetime of giving, not a lifetime of taking. She began to give to her husband in the same way that he had been giving to her all their married life......... and the strange thing is that she found that she began to enjoy herself! Up to that time she`d been like a shrunken up prune - bitter when her rights were denied, but NOW the dissatisfaction began to melt away in the sheer joy of giving........ she began to sense an excitement entering her life. It grew and grew as she began to look forward to discovering new ways of pleasing Peter. Then she saw something else, that what she was doing was giving him pleasure - and she was pleased, and that came as a surprise.
Then something else happened - something even stranger. She found that, though Peter had been generous towards her in the past, her new way of responding to him opened a floodgate, a floodgate of love within him. As she gave to him, he was able to give more to her! Why? Not only because he was more open to her - but because she was becoming more open to him. They were like flowers blooming - they became beautiful together. Instead of being cruel, demanding, self-centred, and poisonous........she became a quiet, peaceful, generous, satisfied person.
And here`s where the story takes an even stranger turn -
About 5 years after they had married, with her pattern of lovelessness well-entrenched, but with the house filled with lovely furniture, and the mortgage nearly paid off, she had demanded her next step tp satisfaction - a baby! In effect she told Peter to get on with it - but nothing had happened. The Doctor said there was physical reason why she shouldn`t have one - but she just didn`t. But two years after that poor dog died, she had the surprise of her life - she found she was expecting a baby - and she was overjoyed. But why should it have happened now?
Perhaps in her previous state she`d have nothing to give a child. Perhaps having a baby would have squeezed Peter further out on to the sidelines of love than he was already.
Perhaps her body was saying "get your marriage right, and this will come right too".
WHO KNOWS? but that`s what happened..
And it didn`t stop there either, for, after the baby, they still seemed to have plenty of love, and that love bubbled out to others - soon they were giving out of the overflow of love to others who came to them. Today, if you saw them, you`d never recognise them from what they were 30 years ago. Oh, Peter maybe - although he`s changed too - he glows.