In my reflection and prayer on today’s gospel, one phrase jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. Jesus says, “I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” For the Father himself loves you. This is startling in its simplicity but it is the core theme of John’s gospel; the love of the Father for all of us. This simple phrase from the 16th chapter of John: “…for the Father himself loves you, mirrors the sentiment of love from way earlier in the 3rd chapter: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
In Jesus’ day, the need for this message was great. The stance of the religious authorities was that God did not love you if you did not “fit in.” If you were born to a certain caste; if you were crippled, blind, or a leper; if you were poor and couldn’t afford to keep the sacrificial laws of the temple; if you were a woman who was widowed or abandoned and forced to provide for yourself and your children by the selling of certain “services,” (and the list goes on); then God did not love you. If God the Father did not love you, then you were as good as dead to society at large. Anathema. What made Jesus dangerous to the religious authorities of his day was the ever so simple message that: Yes, God the Father himself does indeed love you. And this love is unconditional.
In our own day in age there are those who still believe the lie that certain power and privilege continue to preach loud and proud. In a 2006 interview with Salon magazine the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch states, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” [i]
In our day there are people who claim to be followers of Christ that hold signs that say “God hates Fags!” and picket funerals of young people who have lost their lives to suicide due to the inner turmoil of dealing with their own sexual orientation and identity. These followers of Christ overlook the fact that the God they proclaim to follow is not the king of might, power, and judgment but is the God who took on human flesh to suffer as we do. Jesus was a peasant from the wrong side of the tracks whose very family lineage was questionable at best. His friends were unwashed, dirty, leperous, with equally questionable lineages and who supported themselves and their families as tax collectors, prostitutes, and vagrants. Our Invitatory Psalm from Morning Prayer, Psalm 24 asks the question: “Who is this king of glory?” I think it is safe to say that Jesus is not very “Abercrombie.” This king of glory is the one who took on our condition and proclaimed to all who listened: “God the Father himself loves you.”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Tonight at 8 PM we will bear witness to God’s love, light, and life of inclusion with “Of Hope and Remembrance: A Candlelight Vigil for LGBTQ Youth Suicide; those who we have lost to suicide due to bullying and discrimination around their sexual and gender orientation. We would be honored if you would share with us a time of healing for all those whose lives have been affected by such tragic loss. Help us bear witness that, in the words of the apostle Paul, “…..neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen
[i] Denizet-Lewis, Benoit. “The Man Behind Abercrombie and Fitch.” Salon. Salon Media Group, Inc. 24 Jan. 2006. Web. 10 May 2013
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.