Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lent Day 7: Peace Be With You

1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." John 3:1-2

I love this passage, more and more. (It is so helpful when scripture makes be think more about my walk with Jesus, and less about signs at football games.) Here is a religious leader, a man of high esteem in his community, and he has to come to Jesus clandestinely, by night. He is a closeted follower of Christ. But there is something in him that knows the real deal when he sees it: "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God." Yes.

There was a time in my life when I had a hypothetical hostility to the gospel of John. I sincerely disliked this know-it-all Jesus, the one whose every fifth word, it seems, is "I" or "me". I was much more down with Mark's Jesus... all raw and rebellious and snarling at his followers to keep his secret for him (oops... that's interesting, too. Closeted Messiah.). And I also disliked the distance of the gospel from the synoptics... the leap one had to make to say, "this is Jesus, AND so is this." But then I realized that I loved John's Jesus just as much as I loved the Jesus I found elsewhere... his constant willingness to meet people where they were. People like Nicodemus, and his own mother, and the Samaritan woman, and on and on and on.

Soon I had the faith that Jesus could meet me where I was, too.

Have any of you ever read this sermon, by Beth Stroud? She was a Methodist pastor whose coming out story was chronicled in "Congregation," a wonderful documentary (you can buy it from PBS or order it on Netflix). I first encountered it several years ago, when watching this documentary with an adult ed class in a church I served in a temporary capacity. At the time, I was newly in my relationship with Beloved. What she was doing (Stroud) was almost inconceivable to me. But yesterday, one of my dear friends here encouraged me to consider contacting Beth or another clergywoman who has come out. And so I found this website and read, for the first time, the full text of this sermon.

This is Jesus. He walks into our closeted and closed spaces and says "Peace be with you." Amen.

3 comments:

Choralgirl said...

Wow, Beth's sermon is powerful...as is that last line of yours.

Peace, girl. :-)

Jan said...

Wow. I loved your last few sentences there. Thanks, Cecilia. My, you are stretching.

Jennifer said...

I followed Beth's story closely, and had the privilege of hearing her speak at Andover Newton. She is a gifted woman, and to show you that the universe is conspiring, I contemplated also sending her as a resource to you. I just hadn't gotten to it as of yet! So, consider the baton passed once again in the direction of finding those who have walked this road before. She did so with the same congregational love and focus that I hear in your words--she and her partner encouraged their congregation to make and share casseroles when they were in the thick of the trial. They wanted the congregation to use their own trials as an opportunity to better reach out and love one another, without all the attached intellectualism that can dominate community in progressive mainline churches. She is a great inspiration!