I didn’t preach last Sunday because our choir along with members of the Kansas City orchestra led the bulk of our worship service. It is a custom at St. John’s United Methodist Church to have an Easter cantata and because we are focusing on the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross our choir director had the perfect piece in mind. He selected Franz Josef Haydn’s Stabat Mater written in 1767. Reflecting upon the words of Jesus from the cross where he looked at his mother and said “Woman here is your son; son here is your mother” this was the right piece to lead us in worship.
(art titled Ty Mam Duw courtesy of http://www.poorclarestmd.com)
Beyond Sunday’s performance I’ve had a few moments to think, read and pray about this particular word from the cross.
All of us want to belong – to have people that we belong to. Family wise I know who I belong to – my parents are Jerry and Becky. They are the construct of man and woman who biologically brought me and my 4 siblings into this world. As much as we might to change the fact it is undeniable – we are our parents children. Others of us fall into this category as well – we know our parents and where we belong. Unfortunately there is a class of folks who do not benefit from this – they don’t know where they come from or where they belong.
No matter what side of the fence we are on we all have the same innate desire and that is the desire to belong.
While the gospel accounts tell us a variety of different things there is also a lot of detail that is left out. According to the gospel author Jesus takes a moment to speak to people who are near the cross – his mother and the disciple that Jesus loved most. Jesus basically charges the disciple with care for his mother and tells his mother to go with the disciple and live with him. But here is the detail that is missing.
Where is Joseph? What happened to him that he isn’t there to take care of Mary?
And where are Jesus’ siblings? Why aren’t they there to take care of their mother? Why is it that Jesus gave a disciple charge over her?
Details we do not know but questions we certainly have – what we do know is that Jesus took a moment to think of someone else. In the midst of his agony and pain Jesus thought about his mother, Mary and her needs after his death. It is a portrait certainly of how we are to think about each other and care for each other but there is something more as well.
I read a variety of commentaries when ever I am preparing to speak – there is a lot of wisdom, nuance and detail that I would otherwise miss. One theologian suggested that what Jesus does in this very moment is establish the church. Two people not related by biology were given to each other for care and support – especially of one who presumably is about to become a vulnerable widow who has no living children. This charge is the charge of the community of faith – to be a place that welcomes the vulnerable, destitute, physically and spiritually hurting into our midst so that they can belong.
That is what God desires us to be – a place where we think of others and welcome them to belong. Why?
As Haydn put it in his closing line of Stabat Mater so that “when my body dies, grant that to my soul is given the glory of paradise. Amen.”
So come and join a community that will welcome you; find a place where you can belong! This is God’s desire for you – this is what Jesus did for you on the cross.
Blessings for the journey.