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Acts 7:55-60
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
John 17:20-26

A very happy Mother’s Day to all of you mothers and all of you who mother in any way.

In Spanish the woman of the house is referred to as the ama de casa, the soul of the house.  The ama de casa has often been understood as the glue that holds the family in unity, the one who prizes unity above all else.  So Mother’s Day might be very appropriate for looking at this text from John’s gospel. 

The author is describing Jesus praying for our unity, “I ask…that they all may be one.” (John 17:20-21)   That’s apparently what he most wants, that the life flowing between him and his God would flow among us in a very real concrete unity.

People make fun of moments like this.  It is easy to be cynical and sarcastic about the prospects of human community.  Sometimes when people use the phase kumbaya moment, they say it with sarcasm referring to an easy, shallow sense of unity which is a veneer over the actual disunity—a kind of naïve sense of unity.

That is a shame because the song Kumbaya originated on the banks of South Carolina and Georgia among enslaved people who understood the value of human solidarity.  It was never meant to be a shallow song sung around the campfires of “Pleasantville.”  It was a song that cried out to God for compassion and justice in the midst of a commonly experienced oppression.  Its meaning showed up again during the civil rights era when young white freedom riders had to decide whether to literally risk their lives for their oppressed, as they called them, brothers and sisters.  (Click here for a story about this by Vincent Harding.)

Our longing for unity is not a shallow matter.  It cannot be unrealistic or naive to desire oneness.  To desire like this is to know the heart of Jesus.  It is easy to view the world through our darkest lenses and to believe that it really is a “dog eat dog” world.  Our job, we believe in our false selves, is primarily to protect ourselves from others.  In the old song “What’s love got to do with it?”, Tina Turner sings, “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” and then goes on to explain that she is singing this for her own protection. 

We sometimes think of others as wolves who are trying to steal and slaughter.  According to a new book called The Genius of Dogs, some wolves figured out that they did not need to compete with humans over food, they could work for the humans in exchange for their left-overs.  These more friendly wolves developed into what we call dogs.  Moving from a dominating and competitive model of existence to a collaborative model based on solidarity is an evolutionary advance.  It is, in one sense, salvation. 

One of our heros, St. Francis of Assisi, had a legend grow up around him about the taming of a wolf.  Apparently, according to the legend, the wolf was terrorizing a village.  Francis approached the wolf in peace offering it food and ultimately tamed the vicious wolf.  (There have been recent claims that archeologists have actually found the remains of large dog-like bones buried underneath a church in Assisi.)  Like a lot of legends that are not necessarily historical fact—and this one may well be historical fact—there is a huge truth here.  It is the truth that the dominating/competing model for human existence is a lower form of existence.  Cooperation and collaboration arising out of human solidarity is what humanity is long for; and we stand for the truth that, while difficult, it is possible. 

Eavesdropping as we are tonight on the heart of Jesus (“I ask…that they all be one.”), we hear a call to practice the kind of self-knowledge that would slow us down when we are tempted to put each other into boxes and to assume that we can never love each other or even work together. 

We need to be able to see a wolf and believe in a dog.  And we need to be able to start with the wolf inside of each of us.  This is the age-old path to oneness.  On Mother’s Day when we think of phrases like “someone only a mother could love,” we might ask ourselves why mothers are able to look past certain things.  What are they seeing?  What could we be seeing?  Does God our Mother peer at me like that?  What is to be learned in a Mother’s gaze? 

As James Finley says, “Looking out through eyes transformed in meditative compassion, we see the world God has loved so …  We see others who, like us, go about suffering in the mistakes their egos make as to who they are and what they are about.”  (Finley, James (2009-10-13). Christian Meditation (Kindle Locations 1808-1810). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.)

The church we are carefully building together, this community, is one that values unity, that believes in unity, that works for unity.  Amen?

Homily by Frank Krebs
Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 11, 2013
Photo by ArranET at Flickr.com

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