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John 19:25-27 (New International Version)

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary
Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your
mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Yesterday I came across an article by Kathy Gilbert of the United Methodist News Service. The
article was about a conference of pastors who were looking for ways to reach out to men and
women returning from military tours of duty in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places. But what
caught my attention – what made me read the article, was the title: “Many Stuck in Holy
Saturday, Professor Says.”

The professor that the headline refers to is Dr. Shelly Rambo of Boston University School of
Theology and what she told this gathering of pastors is that churches and faith communities are
not going deep enough when it comes to helping veterans to heal from the trauma of war. “We
offer them beer and turkey dinners,” Dr. Rambo said, but as Christians we oftentimes leave them
stranded in Holy Saturday, a place between death and life. We leave them there alone to figure it
out, and so they continue to organize their lives around the trauma. They are never able to heal
and in some circumstances they feel so isolated from the rest of the human family that they die
on the inside. Some even take their own lives. They never make it to Resurrection.

Dr. Rambo’s words, I think, can even be extended beyond the plight of returning veterans. We
don’t have to look very far to see that there are a lot of people who are stuck in Holy Saturday.
Many, many of God's children have lived through or witnessed trauma.

* Children who are abused and neglected.


* People who have been victims of physical violence or of the social violence of poverty and
racism and hatred.
* Those who have committed acts of violence themselves.
* People stuck in addictions that isolate them and keep them living in despair.

We live in a world where many are stuck in Holy Saturday. Even people of great faith, who have
a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, are not immune to getting stuck there. We’re doing fine
and then suddenly along comes a big loss – a death, the loss of a job, a broken relationship – and
it shakes our faith in a way that we never could have predicted.

In this text from John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks volumes when he says to his mother, Mary, “Dear
woman, here is your son,” and to the Beloved Disciple, “Here is your mother.” He’s not just
tying up loose ends, while whiling away the minutes and hours up there on the cross. He’s not
just being a good Jewish son and making sure his mother is cared for.

Jesus is suffering. It would have been difficult for him to speak. He cares deeply about these two
– his mother Mary, and the Beloved Disciple John, and he knows the price that they are paying
as they stay by him, at the foot of the cross, right to the end. The price for loving him as much as
they do, is that they, too, are suffering.

What if Jesus hadn’t said these words? The women would take Mary home. They would cry
with her, they would build a fire and fix the meal, clean things up, and urge her to lie down. They
would sit by her bed and brush her hair and hold her hand when she was overcome with grief.
But then, sooner or later, they would have to leave. The sun would come up on a new morning
and Mary would find herself once again back at the foot of the cross.

What of John? Maybe he’d go back up to Galilee. Walk along the shore until the sun came up,
just walking, for hours. He’d see the fishermen there, in the early morning light, with their boats
and their nets, maybe coming in with the fish if they’d been out on the water all night, and he’d
think of that day with his brother James, and Peter and Andrew, and about the stranger who
called him and changed his life. A stranger named Jesus, who became the best friend he’d ever
had. And now, that friend was gone. And so John would keep on walking, day after day, town
after town, the sun beating down on him, his lips cracked, his hair tangled, his clothes filthy.
Sleeping on the beach, or wherever he could find a spot when he was so exhausted he could no
longer walk. And the dreams were the worst of all – dreams of his beloved friend Jesus, hanging
there on the cross, blood running down his face. And so he’d wake up and start walking again.

These words: Here is your Son. Here is your mother. They seem like simple instructions – but
these are profound words. These are words that point the way back to life, words that plant the
seeds of resurrection before the resurrection even happened.

Dear woman, here is your son. He will take you into his home, he will see to it that you never
have an earthly care for the rest of your natural life. He will build a fire for you, and dry your
tears, and if you cry out in the night he will understand. He will ask you questions and he will
listen to the childhood stories about Jesus, and the adolescent stories, and the family stories, no
matter how many times you tell them.

And John, here is your mother. She will make sure that you remember to eat. She will mend your
clothes. And she will dry your tears, and listen when you tell her about the nights that you and
Jesus stayed up talking around the fire, after all the rest of the disciples had drifted off to sleep.
Discussions about the Law, and the Prophets but also about the stars in the sky and the way that
God created us as one human family. She will listen as you try to describe the way that his voice
sounded when he told the story of creation, as if he were right there when it all happened. She
won’t laugh, or call you crazy when you talk about her son as the Light, or as the love of God in
human form, but instead she’ll listen and she’ll tell you that you need to share this with others,
this special way of understanding who Jesus was.

These words of Jesus, I’m convinced, made the difference between life and death for these two
people Jesus loved. And they make that kind of difference for us. From the cross, Jesus reminds
us of the God-given gift of relationship with each other. It’s a gift that is with us during those
times when darkness surrounds us and when God seems very far away or maybe even absent.

From the beginning of time, and in all times, God has given us the gift of each other. May our
eyes be open, may our love for each other and for all of God’s children carry us through the dark
night of Good Friday and the uncertainty of Holy Saturday to new life, and to Resurrection.