“Woman, here is your son…Here is your mother.” (John 19:26d, 27b)
Family. Adoption. Belonging. “Woman, here is your son…Here is your mother.” Jesus’ loving words from the cross. The lectionary scripture of Luke 13: 1-9, about people dying horrible deaths, may seem to be unconnected: “Do you think these people were worse sinners than any others? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you too will perish.” How are these two scriptures connected?
Do you ever “knock on wood?” This old ritual is a carry over from when two things were true. One truth was that “god” was in the biggest tree around. The other truth was that this “god” was Vindictive. So, if you were saying that life was good, you knocked on wood, so that the Vindictive “god” who lived in the tree would be distracted, saying, “Hello, who’s there?” and wouldn’t hear your good news.
We still believe that God is vindictive. When the Northridge earthquake happened, some folks said, “They have porno movie studios down there.” When the tsunami hit Thailand in 2005, some folks said, “Those people were Buddhist; that’s why they got killed.” But the truth is that the folks who got swept away in Zion National Park were no worse sinners than any other hikers or folks from Ventura. But unless we repent, we too will perish. The folks at the Christmas party in San Bernardino were no worse sinners than any other folks celebrating Christmas. But unless we repent, we too will perish.
My dad had a friend who was adopted. Jim Rockwell grew up in Detroit, and was an only child in his adopted family. Jim always wondered about his family of origin. In those days, though, adoption records weren’t even kept. So, Jim had no way to find out where he had come from and if he had a “family.” He asked his adoptive father some questions: Where was I born? What’s my last name? The first was answered with a remote county in the U.P. of Michigan. The second, with “Smith.”
Jim grew up and married, and they had no children. One day, they were traveling through that remote county in the Upper Penisula. On a whim, Jim stopped at the county seat, and asked if there were any “Smiths” in that county. The woman said “Yes,” and made a phone call. When Jim told the woman on the phone, “I know this is crazy,” and told his story, she cried, “Jimmy! Stay right there. I’ll be right there.” She came and gathered Jim and his wife and took them to her home for lunch. When Jim walked in, he knew he was “home.” There were forty crying people there, and he looked like them!
They told the story that when he was about a year old, their mom and oldest sister had died, and their dad couldn’t take care of the two littlest ones: a girl of four and Jim. The other six kids were in school. So dad had taken the little ones to an orphanage, and begged them to keep them for just one year, until he could get back on his feet and figure out how to care for them. When he went back a year later, the little girl was there, but Jim was gone. So, the dad told all the kids to keep an eye out; “Jimmy will look like the rest of us. If you see him, tell me: I’ll go get him.” They kept track of how old Jim was.
The next day 120 people came to see their long lost Jimmy. His real dad was there, too, rejoicing.
Our God is Not a Vindictive “god.” Our God wants only the best, most loving thing for us. For us all. So, when something horrible happens, don’t judge. For unless we repent, we too will perish. Let us repent of believing that our God is vindictive. Instead, let us pray, “Lord, in Your mercy…” And let us recognize in Jesus’ words from the cross, Compassion. For His earthly mother, and for us.
Our Lenten prayer grows: “Father, forgive them: they don’t know what they’re doing, and teach me to forgive myself. Thy will be done. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.” Amen, Bethany