I wrote this for our Good Friday service last year. But I’m reminded of it now as the jury in Florida hears the case surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, and thought I’d share it.
My son, your son.
That’s what I kept thinking…
At the CROP Walk in Kansas City last fall, when I brought my young son, still in a sling. And I had planned to carry him that way the few miles, figuring he’d be lulled to sleep by the steady movement, the warm air, the closeness of our bodies. But I didn’t get to, because he became, very quickly that afternoon, not my child. I just watched, from a few steps back, as the youth of this church paraded him down the path, or slung him over their shoulders, or cradled him in their arms as they walked, each one talking a turn. He was as happy as he could be. My arms were empty, my sling light, my heart full.
My son, your son.
That’s what they’ve been saying. My son, your son…
At the vigils for Trayvon Martin, the seventeen-year-old in Florida who was killed last month, family members and friends and strangers, in Los Angeles and London, and in between and beyond, have been claiming him as their own. They have been donning hoodies and buying Skittles. They have been standing in solidarity with his mother and father, crying their outrage, marching their grief. They have been telling the story of his life, mourning the story of his death, mourning all those deaths that come from our own hands, our own violence.
My son, your son.
That’s what Mary heard…
Some two thousand years ago, when she was a young woman, she was woken up, must have thought she was still dreaming, rubbed her eyes and this angelic figure stood before her, told her not to be afraid… and said to her, “This is what God says: My son, your son.” She listened, and then she remembered the promises of God, to rescue all people, and she sang her thanks for this incredible moment, and she said back to God, “My son, your son.”
And so there was this tension, always – to whom do you belong? One day he’s twelve, in a temple, arguing with the teachers. His parents haven’t seen him for days. When they find him, he tells his father – didn’t you know I would be my in father’s house? God says to Joseph – parent to parent – “My son, your son.”
And that boy grew, and came to a river one day to be baptized. And when he came out of the water, God said, “My son.” And the scripture of our tradition tells the other half, tells that God loved the world so much, God gave Jesus, and said to the world, “Your son.”
And then the son started talking. Saying, “Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the imprisoned. Make time and space for the ones cast out. Make room in your hearts for the ones you want to hate.”
He said, “My son, your son.” He said, “Them, me.”
We call him Teacher, and Lord. We call him Savior, Brother, Friend. Ours. Our Teacher, Our Brother, Our Friend. We do not call him Our Son. Child of God, but not our child. Son of Humanity, but not my son. Not your son.
What would that mean? To say that in Jesus, God becomes not just a child but our child… That this part of the story, this most intimate part, is not an abstraction. This vulnerability is in our hands. We sing about Jesus as our Lord, and celebrate him as our teacher, and shy away from claiming him as our son… Why do we do that?
I don’t know, but maybe it has something to do with this day. Maybe it’s because we know that the story comes to this. It doesn’t end here, but it does come to this. Mary is warned that her heart will be pierced with sorrow. If we are warned about the sorrows that our loving could end in, do we still risk that love?
From the depths of his sorrow, the son says it one more time. When only those who have risked the most remain – his mother, and his best friend – he offers them to each other. He tells his mother – “I have loved this friend like I would a child – with my whole heart. Take him as your own.” And he tells his friend, “My mother has loved me as high and as deep, as wide and as long as love is. She has you now; care for her.” He says, “I am trusting you with each other. If you love me, love one another.” He says, “Son, this is your mother. Mother, this is your son.”
He says it because he knows that they will need each other. He knows that sorrow has pierced their hearts. He knows that the risk of real love is that sorrow, knows that the only way through it is to claim each other.
And if we say that this is our story, too, then we are bound up in the exchange. The disciple’s friend is Mary’s friend is our friend. God’s son is Mary’s son is our son.
Long ago a preacher said of Good Friday, “This is the day we console God.”
I don’t know what that might look like. I cannot imagine the sorrow. I know that some of you can. I don’t know, except to say that maybe we call on those promises that were spoken so long ago, that assure us that we belong to God, and that God is faithful, God is with us. And maybe we hold one another and we say to God, “Your son, our son.”
Or, better, “All your children, all our children.”
We remember them, and in their memory, and so that more might live, we love one another.