Obedience, Forgiveness, Love
a homily based on John 18:1-19:42
What should I do with my life? What would give my life
meaning? Thatís what Cheryl Schott kept asking, and deep from within she kept
hearing a voice that said "youíll know." 18 seconds of television
changed her life. In 1985 she saw Diane Sawyer interviewing a 12 year old named
Mohammed who lived deep in the Sahara. He was starving, homeless, dirty, but a
beautiful child. As Cheryl watched, a voice from within said, that boy is my
son; thatís my son. The urge to reach out to that boy lasted beyond the 18
seconds he was on the screen. Cheryl and her husband borrowed money, maxed out
credit cards, made countless phone calls and traveled into the Sahara desert 400
miles to find Mohammed. He was sick from malaria, an infected club foot and TB
when they found him a year later and brought him to this country. Mohammed
graduated last Spring from Georgetownís prestigious School of Foreign Service.
13 years ago, when Mohammed arrived at Cherylís home, he thought he was
supposed to be the houseboy, and was ready to clean and serve. No, Cheryl
explained, you are here to be our son, our son. To which Mohammed replied, I
donít know what that means, but if you teach me, I will learn.
Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said,
Woman behold your son.
Throughout the centuries, there have been many depictions of
the crucifixion. And the focus is usually, understandably and appropriately,
Jesus hanging on the cross. What we often forget, is that there was a whole
world beneath that cross: women weeping, disciples hiding, bystanders heckling,
and a whole bunch of people busy about their own lives, preparing for the coming
Passover; perhaps only vaguely aware of the dayís executions. It is striking,
that for just about 18 seconds, Jesus addresses himself to those who are below,
giving Mary and John to each other, not only as mother and son, but as a new
You and I stand at the foot of the cross. We are that new
community. And some of us are weeping, hiding, heckling or just vaguely aware.
Today we look at the cross of Jesus and ponder, have we learned what it means to
be Godís children. Are we willing to learn if we are shown. For it is a matter
of learning OBEDIENCE, FORGIVENESS, LOVE.
OBEDIENCE We donít like that word because we think it is
about following commands, much like a child, or worse, a dog. When did obey get
to be a four letter word. It means to listen. Jesus always listened to God. He
always let Godís word direct him, guide him, strengthen him, even in the most
terrible moment of his life. He wants to teach us obedience. In times of
difficulty, confusion, or struggle, it is not the words in the NY Times, on MTV
or from the latest new age guru that help us. It is Godís Word. And we must
learn from Jesus that we listen to that word, not simply on the Good Fridays of
our life, but every day of our life.
FORGIVENESS Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to live.
Maybe because it takes more than 18 seconds. Maybe because it means sometimes we
have to change course and drive 400 miles into the Sahara. Maybe it is because
it means we have to be silent. Notice Jesus in his trial says very little. Where
is his brilliant defense? Couldnít he have used a parable or at least a
beatitude? No, he says in the face of hatred, there is no need to retaliate, to
argue, to be right. His attitude is one of standing in the power of God. That is
what forgiveness is friends. Standing in the power of God; not in the power of
getting even, making my point, proving you wrong, getting the last word, making
you pay. Forgiveness says those things have no power over me. Just think how
different your life might be, if we were really willing to learn forgiveness
LOVE Jesus wants those who stand at the foot of the cross to
learn the meaning of love. Yet we confuse love with how we feel. We use love as
a kind of bargaining tool, thinking we get something in return. Love, Jesus
says, is when you are willing to give yourself to another, because you see
yourself in them. Yes, it may be easy to love the beautiful baby in the crib;
but difficult to love the moody adolescent; and challenging to love the self
centered adult; and impossible to love the one who has betrayed, lied or
murdered. It is difficult, challenging and impossible, when we think of love
first as putting our arms around them. It is first seeing myself in them. I am
moody. I am self centered. I have betrayed. I have lied. I could murder someone.
Only when we do not, as Isaiah, says, look away, do we suddenly look at the
people we canít stand at work, the shiftless and lazy, the hundreds of
thousands of refugees leaving Kosovo, those who are hungry at this hourÖ only
when we do not look away can we suddenly see, and be able to say. Thatís my
son. Thatís my daughter.
No one is asking you to drive 400 miles into the Sahara to
rescue a child. But could we have just a bit more than 18 seconds of your
attention, your time? Could this last Good Friday be the turning point for you?
Could this be the hour when you finally say, it is about obedience, forgiveness
and love? Any time we wonder what we should do with our lives, just look at the
cross and those who stand beneath it. Youíll know.