Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 13, 2012 - Reflection by Rev. David Boyd - Mother's Day

Mother's Day; Sixth Sunday of Easter

 Lectionary Scripture: John 15:9-17

Do you remember the movie Ghost that starred the late Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore? It came out in the early in 90's. Instead of a romantic evening with Janet going to dinner and movie, I and the youth group leader took our youth group from St. Andrew's to the movie. We did have some interesting conversation about the judgementalism of the movie when those who were evil and bad were taken to hell by the off-key moaning shadows. However, that's not why I bring up this movie. I bring it up for the simple fact of remembering the love story part of it and the fact that Patrick's character could never tell Demi that he loved her. He would say "ditto" or "me too." He couldn't, unsolicited, say, "I love you" except at the end when, as a ghost, he is able to tell his beloved that he loves her.
Do you remember when you first heard those words? You were probably a child and it was a parent speaking them to you—at least I hope so; there are far too many children who go forth in this world without hearing the words "I love you" and maybe even hear worse. Maybe you heard these words from another significant person in your life. When I graduated from high school, my father wrote a poem to me that said, "I love you." I don't recall my father ever saying those words out loud, to my regret. Most of our phone calls with our children these days end with the words, "I love you."
Do you remember when you first spoke those words, "I love you" to someone? You'll remember that saying "I love you" takes courage. Especially when you say the words without responding to someone else who just told you that she or he loves you. As Patrick's character knew, it's far easier to say, "I love you, too" or "same here" or "me, too." It's much more difficult to speak the words first, without any expectation of a reply.
It may be a bit simplistic to say that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is God saying, "I love you" to the world. And yet, simplistic or not, I believe it to be true. God's love transcends death, weaves through life—all life, embracing, holding, caressing, and blessing.
In all that Jesus did in his life, and continues to do, he conveyed the sense of God's love. He conveyed his own love, which, as John tells us in his gospel, is the same as God's love for God abides in Jesus and Jesus in God and we abide together in God. Jesus conveyed love in the way he related to women and children, in the way he included sinners and outcasts, and in the way he challenged the power structures of his day that left much to be desired. And he did all of this in an era when men didn't relate to women other than from a dominant position. It was an era in which children didn't really count until they became adults. It was an era in which men didn't express vulnerability and openness, didn't express love. In so much more than what he said, Jesus conveyed the inclusive, all embracing, community-building, holy gift of love.
At the preaching festival in Seattle that I attended a couple of weeks ago, the preachers, in their ways, talked about the power of love to heal, to challenge, to make new, to reconcile, to forgive. Nine sermons in two days might seem a bit excessive! And many people thought I was a bit crazy to attend such a festival, but it was great. It was great to hear the variety of perspectives and styles in preaching and to hear the gospel proclaimed and be filled and affirmed.
I remember some years ago reading a book by William Herzog called, Jesus, Justice and the Reign of God: Ministry of Liberation. It paints a portrait of the first century. By all accounts, it was a century in which you didn't fare well if you didn't fit in. Prophets weren't welcome. Anyone disrupting the status quo wasn't wanted. People challenging the accepted mode of operation in Temple affairs, in political affairs, and in spiritual affairs had better keep quiet or else face the dire consequences. If you were ill and people didn't understand what your illness was about, you were ostracized. Men, women and children had rigid places in society and woe betide you should you question these roles. So it wasn't exactly a time conducive to someone preaching a radical peace—turn the other cheek, or a radical message of justice in which those on the outside might be welcomed and included, or a radical kind of love in which one gave one's life for another, or a radical view of equality in which all, men and women together, would be friends. This is what Jesus did. And he faced the consequences and died for it. But God said, "I love you" to the world.
Some biblical scholars have stressed the importance of a little word in today's passage from John; it is the word that is translated as "just as" or "so," or simply "as." It appears a couple of times in our passage: in verse 9, "as God has loved me..." and again in verse 12, "love one another as I have loved you." This simple word appears 31 times in John's gospel. It reveals the simple fact that God, Jesus and all of us are one; there is a mutual relationship here. Jesus' love imitates and mirrors God's love; and "just as" Jesus abides in God's love, we abide in Jesus' love. It is about mutuality and equality.
The resurrection only emphasizes this mutuality and the power of love. What we need to remember, though, in resurrection story after story, is that God didn't magically remove Jesus' wounds. They were there in all their bodily glory. Jesus pointed them out. Jesus appeared, ate and showed them his side, his hands and his feet. It makes sense to me because we forget too easily that we can be wounded when love calls us to take risks, to get our hands dirty, to get down into the muck and the earth of our world and work and toil for the same kinds of things Jesus embodied: peace, justice, inclusion, overturning unjust power structures, equality, mutuality, and especially love. So, Jesus showed his scars as much to say, "don't forget that love costs something! It won't be easy, but it will be worth it!"
Today on Mother's Day, it is a good day to say "I love you." But not just to our mothers; to everyone. I attended a presentation by Dr. Jackson Katz last Wednesday night; Dr. Katz is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in gender violence prevention in schools, the sports culture in Canada and the US, and the military. He also led a workshop on Thursday that I could not attend. Dr. Katz' premise is that gender violence needs to involve men, that these are not women's issues, but that they are men's issues as well. And he challenged men to be role models, to be vulnerable and open, to ask for help, and to say "I love you" without waiting for someone else to say it first, to not say "ditto" or "me, too." This day, and every day, is a good day to say, "I love you."

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