The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope
Today’s Gospel: John 8:47-59
In today’s Gospel lesson, we have stepped into the middle of a family argument. Like many arguments, some harsh words and accusations are being leveled by those on both sides. It is particularly uncomfortable because Jesus seems to be “giving as good as he gets.” What is going on here?!
Johannine scholars Gail O’Day and Susan Hylen write that “The argument here is an intra-family dispute—two siblings arguing who will best represent the family story. Clarifying as this context may be for the Gospel’s first readers, it still leaves hard questions for the contemporary Christian: is it necessary for one faith group to exclude others so absolutely and with such invective in order to secure and establish its own community identity?”
Sadly, we have seen the dangers and consequences of invective and exclusionary language. It too easily morphs into hate language as evidenced today in racial, ethnic and religious conflicts. We know only too well the examples at home and abroad.
Words matter, and Lent is a good time to do a check on our own use of “us” and “them.” Who do we see as other? Who do we refer to as “that person” or “those people”? What family argument are we leveling because we are sure we are in the right? While the Gospel writers told “the family story” in a variety of ways and to distinct and different audiences, they all agreed on the core of Jesus’ message—love God and love your neighbor.
I am grateful for a few more weeks of Lent because I clearly have some work to do!
O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, page 100)