As this issue of our newsletter goes out we will have just celebrated Easter and I don’t know about you but I always find that as a season it feels like an emotional roller-coaster. On one hand we have the solemnity that comes with Holy Week, those days leading up to the cross and the death of Jesus, and on the other the celebration of His glorious victory over death. When you read through the gospel accounts there is so much packed into the texts that each time I read them I find myself caught up in a different moment. Recently I came across that passage where Jesus saw His mother and John from the cross. We read, “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)
A number of things struck me about that passage. The first is that it is absolutely extraordinary that anyone who was dying the kind of death that Jesus was could be capable of thinking about others while He was in such excruciating pain and yet He asked God to forgive those who had crucified Him and He did His utmost to take care of those He loved. The word ‘excruciating’ is derived from the pain of the cross—literally ‘ex-crucia’ or ‘of the cross’.
Secondly, Jesus was absolutely intent on building community with almost the last breath in His body. He knew that the disciples, perhaps especially John, and His mother were going to struggle with His death and that they would have trouble with the authorities when He’d gone so He called upon them to be community, to look after one another.
It is for good reason that we often refer to church as our ‘Family’. It’s the thing that we’re called to do together. To love one another and to love God (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:39) with every ounce of our being. It’s what Jesus did. So when we look at the communities around us and we see brokenness and separation what we’re looking at is the opposite of the call that Jesus gave for us. So, as a church or as a fellowship we work hard at building community. We aim to give people a warm welcome when they arrive on a Sunday morning, we organise social events in order that people will have time and space to gather together without the worries of the world getting in the way. After all there is plenty of time for the woes of the world to bother us outside of church! We create space to study the Bible and pray together. Whether we recognise it or not we are built for community and without it we can run the risk of living a life without the oxygen of love.
I have been single and I remember what it was like to be alone; in those times friendship was so valuable to me. I have been in groups of people where I didn’t fit in so I know how easy it is to be isolated in a crowd. I have lived in a remote place on my own so I know what it’s like to crave company. Having lived in Africa I have been an ethnic minority too so I know what it feels like to look different. But we are all the same, we suffer the same things, we deal with the same illnesses and issues and we feel pain and hunger the same way. Perhaps we could each think of someone who is alone, isolated, new to our place of work or the street where we live or just struggling with life and do as Jesus did. “Here is your son, here is your mother...here is your friend.”