In August of 1973, I was faced with a life changing choice. I’d just been through a couple of life-changing events.
First, I’d left Guatemala in October of 1971. We were evicted due to something my father and other pastors had written and published in the paper. It was a document that said it was wrong for Christians to kill one another for political power, and a call for warring factions to come to a peace process and end a guerilla war. After it hit the press we had three days to leave the country or suffer more serious consequences.
Next, a few months later, I’d become a committed Christian and was leaving behind a world of drug addiction.
Now, I was faced with choosing one of the colleges I’d been accepted to, or going off to live in near an Episcopal Church, that had a huge ministry of a residential Christian Community gathered around Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas. I’d visited this Church earlier in the summer and wondered if God might not want me to move there.
After some soul searching I chose the Christian Community. It undoubtedly saved my life. My addiction to drugs was a strong power, and I needed support and accountability. Moving in to a residential Christian community I got both.
I suspect that I would have had a lot of support to remain addicted to drugs had I chosen any of the college I was contemplating.
It would take too long to explain this community. But briefly, it was Christians who committed to living together. A few single adults might live with a family, or a few single adults or single parents might live together.
But beyond living in the same residence, we committed ourselves to daily prayer, at least one meal a day together, to sharing resources and to working to support the ministry of our local Episcopal Church. It was a life changing experience, and I discovered that Christians really are a new kind of family.
Earlier this Friday I spoke at an ecumenical 7 Last Words service. I was to speak on the seventh word. I could not help but reflect on the reality that God in his mercy creates a family of the church, that includes and redeems our “natural” family.
My family at Church of the Redeemer in Houston continues to be a source of grace and strength even after moving away in 1983. God taught me to love the church, and to allow my heart to grow in my understanding of family.
My meditation from the service this afternoon follows.
John 19:25 ....But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26* When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
This is one of those gut wrenching scenes. Jesus is dying in a public execution. He looks down and sees his mother. We have no description of Mary. We do not know if she was standing there stoically, weeping hysterically, silently mourning.
We know that Jesus is near the end of his life, and seeing her he gasps out those two quick phrases.
Woman, see your son.
Son, see your mother.
Mary is losing her son.
But it is not the first time.
Jesus as a young boy is somehow left behing in Jerusalem. Here is a child missing for three days, with parents frantically searching for him. When they find him his response is this: In Luke 2:49 we read “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?”
And his response must have stung Mary and Joseph that day. This temple, here is my house.
And as a young man near the beginning of Jesus ministry, Mark tells us that his family comes looking for him.
Mark 3:32 And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you." 33* And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother."
Again, imagine how Mary felt. In public he says, "Look around at all these women sitting here following me. Here is my real mother and my real brothers!" Again ouch!
Jesus is not against family, But he is clearly going to say that his family will never be defined in purely human terms.
And now at the foot of the cross, he is saying, "Here is the nucleus of my new family. Woman behold your son, Son behold your mother."
At this moment what we call the church begins. A new family is created, that shares a new bloodline.
Not a human bloodline.
Here at the foot of the cross, we hear the echo of the words from the first part of this book.
Here we hear the words of that this beloved disciple penned earlier. (John 1:11,12)
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born, not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Look around you today. Behold your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your son, your daughter.