Meditation for Good Friday, April 2, 2010

Riverside Covenant of Churches Worship

Ascension Lutheran Church

Rev. Douglas Asbury

John 19.25b-27: “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.”

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The link between a mother and her child is the most significant link there can be between two human beings. When that which has been conceived is brought to term, for roughly nine months the two beings are attached to each other through the umbilical cord, the mother providing all the nurturance and protection available to the child. The child, meanwhile, is oblivious to the significance of the cord, the womb, the heartbeat other than its own, the movements of the mother, the sounds with which it is surrounded, because ‘significance’ is something that is learned in relationship, not something inherent in a thing itself.

This is, in part, why Jesus said in John chapter 3 that one must be ‘born from above.’ That is to say, one must recognize that one is and has been attached to a divine source of nurturance that has been provided without one having had to do anything to gain it, without having even been aware that such nurturance has been, and is being, provided.

Even after one is born (from ‘below’), one requires – and, in the best of circumstances, receives – nurturance with the goal of becoming capable of being responsible for oneself and, ultimately, to take part in nurturing others – sometimes, even one’s own aging parents. In like manner, when one is born from above, one is nurtured by a faith community to become spiritually mature, becoming capable not only of bearing one’s own responsibility as a servant of God but also finding one’s identity as a child of God whose primary purpose becomes the fulfillment of God’s will for one’s life, extending the divine care to others and, thereby, nurturing the divine Spirit in the world.

In Jewish society, it was the mother who was charged with the responsibility of giving her children religious training. Thus, the one who nurtured the child in the womb also helped the child comprehend the significance of the divine umbilical cord and womb, the spiritual heartbeat other than its own, the movements of the Spirit, the sounds of the Spirit moving through the world, preparing the child for this birth from above of which Jesus spoke as being essential to each person. Mary had apparently done a good job with her own son, so that he was also known as the Son of God. (In our culture we rightly understand this responsibility to belong to both parents.)

The mother’s womb, and the womb of God – two examples, human and divine, of a hospitality that is meant to characterize all our relationships – whether welcoming persons inclusive of age, race, education, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identification, and special needs, and helping them respond appropriately to this divine linkage; or whether welcoming God into our lives in the way in which God desires to be welcomed – by being given the place of honor in the depths of our hearts and minds and in the center of our relationships with others.

And so, as Jesus directs his mother Mary’s attention to “the disciple whom he loved,” and as he points that disciple to his mother, calling her now that disciple’s own mother, Jesus is seeking to recognize a bond of hospitality between them that serves a nurturance both human and divine, thereby giving us, too, a greater comprehension of the significance of the command he had earlier given his disciples, that we “love one another, even as he has loved us.”