Rev. Jennifer participated in a Seven Last Words of Jesus Good Friday worship service at Talladega First Congregational Church in Talladega, Alabama. Her assigned text for a 5 minute sermon was the 3rd word, John 19:26-27 –
“Woman behold thy son! Behold thy mother” –
There he goes again.
Making room – in the midst of death – for love.
Teaching us how to live even as he faces death.
Life for a woman alone in first century Judea was perilous at best.
A woman alone was an outcast, removed from the graces of proper society, without status.
Elder women alone faced both stigma and starvation.
Jesus, on the verge of death, makes certain that his mother will be cared for, that she will have a home and food and love, that even in losing a son, she will gain a son.
An act of radical love in the very face of death.
An act – yet another act – of making sure that the vulnerable – the most vulnerable – are cared for.
Two thousand years later do you think we are still in need of the witness of radical love? Are we any better today at ensuring the well-being of vulnerable and marginalized – those people whom Jesus continually cared for?
Yesterday, the midst of Holy Week, on Maundy Thursday, that celebration of love and friendship, we drop what is obscenely being called the Mother of All Bombs on one of the poorest countries in the world.
Yesterday, I sat by the side of the road with a young woman who had just been in a serious car accident.
As I wiped the blood from her face, I heard her tell her story to the police officer. She was leaving her job at one fast food restaurant on her way to pick up her friend, who worked at a different fast food restaurant.
The two of them shared the car – the car that was now a heap of crumpled metal – to get to and from work and their apartment in an area of the county that has no public transportation.
She had no car insurance, could not afford car insurance on her salary even while working full time to support herself. For that, as she sat in the back of an ambulance preparing to ride to the emergency room, she received a ticket.
Yesterday, as I was walking through Avondale Park after a planning meeting for the Easter sunrise service, a woman called out to me to come help her.
I crossed the grass to discover that she was trying to pull a homeless man from the creek.
He lives in that park and has long-term, serious medical issues. I do not know how he had ended up in the creek, but he could not get himself out.
He was soaked and swollen and dead weight. We managed to get him to safety. He refused the offer to call 911, but I worried that this unmoving man might end up – yet again – face down in the creek.
I asked the fire fighters down the street to quietly check on him because I knew of none other that would care for him in that late afternoon moment.
Yesterday, a homeless friend asked me for some clothes. He might have been drunk. He might have been sober. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Either way, he had set down the backpack that contained all his earthly possessions on a bench in that same park – and then it was gone. “I just need a change of clothes, preacher,” he said to me.
The Mother of All Bombs cost 300 million dollars to develop. Each individual bomb costs an estimated 16 million dollars.
I sat last night thinking about that bomb – and all the people who get rich from bomb-making and bomb-dropping in this world.
I thought about that bloodied young woman who, though lucky to be alive, now has no way to get to the job that doesn’t even pay her a living wage, but is her sole source of support.
I thought about this man who is quite literally dying in the park and our failure as a nation to ensure that he has a humane and dignified place with clean sheets and warm food and loving hands to tend his final days.
I thought about my homeless friend who deserves a decent place to live, where his clothes don’t get stolen, whether he is sober or not.
And I thought about these words of Jesus, who speaks life and love even into death.
We have no shortage of death in our world.
We have a shortage of love in the world.
In this midst of unimaginable physical suffering, in the middle of dying a horrible death, Jesus still teaches us to care and to love.
In his reminder we find a constant call on our own lives.
The image is “Cross-Eyed” by J.J. Jacobs