The rain keeps coming down in our parts - and soon there will be more snow! At least that is the prediction for the Berkshires and it is probably right. So as I sit in the dry warmth of my desert-colored study, sipping hot tea while listening for the lure of God's Spirit in the appointed scriptures for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, I am struck by St. John's insistence upon the primacy of loving relationships as the heart of faith. In both the Epistle and Gospel (https://lectionary.library. vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=90) Christ's message is clear: let us love one another as God has loved us from before the beginning.
"Abide in me as I abide in you." That is, rest in my grace as I have tenderly filled your hearts with my revolutionary love. It has been said that the message of Jesus in St. John's gospel is a celebration of compassionate relationships: from start to finish John tells us about communion with God and solidarity with one another. St. John is known as the "Beloved Disciple," not because he is elevated spiritually over the others, but because "this name reveals to us this disciple's deepest identity: one who rests in Christ's love." (Vanier, The Gospel of John, p. ix) Throughout this gospel we see Jesus living in complete communion with God, creating ways for friends as well as enemies to come into a grace-filled relationship with himself, and then to learn how to live with one another in a loving community. There is depth and discipline, fruit-bearing alongside barrenness, joy in the midst of sorrow, light within the darkness, action and reflection, and the birthing of a new way of living together guided by the Way of the Cross. In a reading from Jean Vanier, the charism of L'Arche is described as a contemporary embodiment of Christ's invitation:
God wanted L'Arche to be a new form of family: a family of the poor that rises above prejudice and fear of difference, a family witnessing that the only way to build peace and unity is to recognize our own poverty and our need for others.
This morning Di and I went to church for the first time in three months. Well, we participated in church by watching Middle Collegiate Church's on-line streaming of their worship. It was right on the money. I found tears of joy and sorrow spontaneously welling up and flowing as I owned how much I miss being in community for worship. Not leadership, mind you, but the experience of being a part of a fellowship of love. Middle Collegiate Church is where the Revolutionary Love conference was held. It is where Valerie Kaur and Parker Palmer met to discuss moving from disillusionment and death to birth a community of tender and strong people of love. And, I must confess, it was grand to be back in the fold today singing the hymns, praying the prayers, listening carefully to preacher Jackie Lewis unpack St. John's words "God is love and love is God." There was even a piano rendition of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do with It?" so I really felt like I was going home! (check it out here: http://www. middlechurch.org)
Being "in" church again also solidified for me how deeply I have been missing my friends at L'Arche Ottawa. I'll be heading north again next week (for a time in the Townships with Di for our anniversary) and the following week in Ottawa (for a community retreat and Mass.) As we've joked about before: one worship home has ended and a new one has begin - it is just six hours away -at least for the time being!
Before worship I was reading Vanier who suggests that our model for living into this new way of revolutionary love and tenderness is implied in the witness of the Blessed Virgin Mary in St. John's gospel. Not only is she the standard for our personal commitment to contemplation, but she embodies the wisdom and practice of Christ's holy relationships. Within the Christian tradition some have posited that the "beloved disciple" experienced Christ's mystical heart through his encounters with Mary. At the foot of the Cross, Jesus said to Mary, "Woman behold thy son." (John 19: 27) Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farms in Americus, GA and progenitor of Habitat for Humanity, taught that when Mary saw Jesus upon the Cross, all the pondering within her heart became clear. "This is what my love looks like in the real world; for I was born to embody how we become whole through our vulnerability."
Vanier writes that Mary then teaches this truth to John: "The last words of Jesus on the Cross are: "Woman, here is your son.... and (to John) here is your mother."
It is said that from that moment, John took Mary as his own, as his treasure... and John lived with Mary. As the mother of Jesus, Mary naturally had an intimate relationship with him. Jesus lived nine months in her womb, had suckled at her breast, and was nourished by her milk. Mary thus had a knowledge and experience of Jesus that nobody else did. For about thirty years, she and Jesus lived together with Joseph... (That is why tradition teaches that) the story told by John about who Jesus is and who God is will be uniquely influenced by John's relationship with Mary. Jesus said, "Here is your mother." He did not say, "Welcome my mother." He said, "Here is your mother." In this we can conclude that John carefully chose events to tell us about Jesus in the light of the gentle understanding John received concerning Jesus through his own special relations with Mary. (ibid, xvi)
Small wonder that revolutionary love and tender relationship born of fragility
and vulnerability become the heart of St. John's gospel, yes? Today I was shown yet again how important it is for me to worship in community. It is where I am fed, taught, trained, corrected and embraced. It is where the Word of scripture comes alive in the flesh of sisters and brothers. My heart has been filled. My soul has been nourished. Like Mary once sang, "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior." My calling in these later days is to practice revolutionary love from the inside out. Maybe that resonates with you, too? (check it out: http://www.revolutionarylove.net/about-the-revolutionary-love-project/)
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