For our Good Friday service a number of years ago, a professional actress in my congregation portrayed Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she stood at the base of the cross. Those of us who risked coming to worship that morning experienced some of the pain, horror, helplessness of the crucifixion of Jesus. After the service, many who were present said, “Please don’t make the Good Friday service so graphic. I don’t ever want to experience that again…”
Our inhumanity to our fellow human beings didn’t begin or end with Jesus. Every day we hear and see pictures of soldiers dying in wars around the world. Film clips and books written about life in refugee camps, the direct result of war, touch our hearts. Like the story of the crucifixion, we don’t want the pain of these experiences to penetrate our hearts.
In Jesus’ time, torture and death by crucifixion was the absolute worst punishment. Yet even in the midst of his pain, his disappointment with us, the story tells us that God spoke words of love through Jesus – “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) God’s loving mercy poured forth from the cross.
Holy Friday is a story about God showing us unconditional love. God became flesh and walked among us as Jesus. His stories called us to love our neighbours and our enemies. His teaching called us to let go of tradition that was imprisoning us. He accepted us all, Jew and Gentile, as God’s beloved children. Jesus’ last act of love was his excruciating death on the cross. Jesus lived God loving us at our worst, just as we are.
We tell this story because we need to see our role in the horror of today’s chaos. We need to feel Mary’s all-consuming grief at the base of the cross. Only through experiencing some of the pain and horror, can we begin to understand the depth of God’s forgiveness. Good Friday becomes Holy when we allow our hearts to open even a tiny crack and feel the desolation of the crucifixion. Through that crack, God slips in with a love so strong and deep that it brings new life.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Whatever is going on in your life, rejoice. Give thanks for live. Rejoice that we believe in a God of love who has created us to learn. We can learn to love more and more deeply. We believe in a God of love who trusts us with creation, who has come to us in a beautiful baby, in every beautiful baby that is born. We believe in a God of love who has entrusted us to care for all of new life, human, animal, plant. We believe in a God of love, for forgives us, who never gives up on us. We are truly blessed. In the deepest recesses of your mind today, accept the love that God offers. Your thought for today is:
MAY I RECEIVE THE LOVE THAT GOD OFFERS ME TODAY
AND PASS IT ON!!!
Blessed Christmas everyone. Love to all, Janet and Tom
It’s 1:45 and we’re on our way. We’ve started with a wonderful morning. Rev. Nancy spoke on the story of Esther with the theme line, “For such a time as this.” For the last five years I’ve talked about writing an inspirational travel blog. I guess I’ve been waiting “for such a time as this”. The hymns, the prayers, the entire service seemed to affirm my intention to use this trip as an opportunity to seek God through the whole trip. This morning, surely God was speaking in our church, to me and I’m sure to many others.
Loading up was very smooth. Besides the car packed solid, we’ve a ski box on the roof. That’s carrying grandson Chris’ skiis and x-box and sundry other things. I think our car will be needing God’s help on this cross country journey. For sure it won’t be giving it’s customary low mileage, although the gauge in the car shows it hovering between 5 and 6 litres per 100 km. That’s still better than many cars. We must be driving on the wings of God’s Spirit.
The wonders of modern technology have brought us good news from home. Granddaughter Ellie and her under 15 rugby team won the provincial championships this morning. Grandson Zachary and his under 18 rugby team won the provincial championships this afternoon. All in all, quite a day for our family. It was fun to text back and forth and feel included. Oh, how I hate to miss anything.
By 7:00 p.m. we are settling onto my sister Sharon’s couch, glass of wine in hand wrapped in her love and hospitality. We breathe deeply of the delicious aroma of homemade lentil soup simmering on the stove, a gift made by Sharon’s friend, as a special welcome for her weary family.
Once again, God has reminded me that we are truly blessed. Yes, we have left family behind and we will miss them. And yes, we are travelling to family, our loved ones we see once a year or less. We will renew connections with precious friends as well. We are not alone on this adventure. God’s gifts of people, events, and scenery are waiting for us all along the way. I am truly grateful.
Sharon’s apartment is on the fourth floor. This picture was taken from the parking lot below so I wouldn’t have glare from her window. The huge window with this view is a writer’s dream. She says I can use it this afternoon. Blessings continue to pour down.
At birth, I was named “Sharon Margaret Grigg.” Adopted, I became Janet Lynn Kilbride. With my first marriage I became Janet Lynn White. In my second, I exchanged White for Stobie, confusing many people. Those who knew me as Jan White don’t always connect me with the Rev. Janet Stobie who writes books. Consequently, I have to identify myself as Janet White-Stobie. Names are important. They help us keep people straight.
In our Christmas story, before Jesus was born, God’s angel tells Joseph to name his child “Jesus,” which in Hebrew means salvation. While the baptismal waters were still streaming down Jesus’ face as an adult, the heavens opened, God’s Spirit descended like a dove, and God said, “You are my beloved son. I am pleased with you.”
At his baptism, Jesus was identified as a beloved child of God. Note that Jesus didn’t become loved when he was baptized. Rather God proclaimed that Jesus already was God’s beloved child. In the church, we make the same proclamation at a child’s baptism. We claim God’s love for that child. Added to all their names given by their parents come the names, “beloved” and “child of God”.
I sign my book, Spectacular Stella with the words, “Always remember you are God’s beloved child.” I want every child that reads Stella to know that God has loved them from their beginning.
What difference does it make in your life, to know you are God’s beloved child.
This name gives us value even when we make poor choices or fail. This name tells us that God will always give us another chance. Like the father in Jesus’ story of “the Lost Son”, God is always waiting, arms open wide. Regardless of how far we go astray, we only have to turn around and step into God’s warm embrace. God’s unconditional love is with us always.