Gifts of a Changed Perspective

I’m so happy to have my friend Juana Jordan sharing a message this week. During this season of busy days, I pray that we will pause and look around for people who need love. What better gift could we give?

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son,” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” — John 19:26-27

Rev. Juana Jordan is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, where she is currently planting the soon-to-be Bridges UMC in the city, a multi-ethnic intergenerational faith community in the downtown urban core of her hometown. As an elder in full connection of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Jordan holds a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Ga. and a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. She is the former senior pastor of Harris Chapel UMC in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., her very first appointment where she served for 5 years and is passionate about pursuing her passion as a Gospel storyteller, teacher and writer, and believes like the Rev. Dr. Nancy Lane that “telling our stories is a holy work.” When time permits, Rev. Jordan can be found at the local kickboxing gym, dancing to the rhythmic beats of the African drums or thrift store and consignment shopping. Follow Juana on Instagram at preachergirl_in_the_city.

I remember praying I wouldn’t be asked to preach this text for a Good Friday service. Of all the seven last words of Jesus, this was a passage I feared. Not only did it not seem sexy enough (yes, there are passages that are sexy, therefore making them easy to preach), but it didn’t seem to offer kindling to get a good fire started — or so I thought. Besides, how could I relate to this passage. I am not a mother nor a wife. I am a no children having, single, never been married preacher and in no way can I relate to the Jesus/child/parent dynamic — or so I thought. So with hesitation, “fear and trembling” and in obedience I accepted the challenge to deliver a message, only to be surprised at what Jesus revealed. I did in fact understand the feelings that can rise up when the one you depended on being there is no longer there. I did understand the anxiety around the thought of being alone for the rest of your life. I did understand the feelings of not wanting to go on or knowing whether you can go on and how to go on when your life is torn apart. As a single, never been married, no children having woman, I guess I really could understood the absence of a family and the fear of not having one.

Jesus was Mary’s son, yes, and he was also her family. Jesus was John’s friend, yes, and he was also his family. And in a compassionate expression of selfless love, Jesus introduced them and “gave them” to each other so that they would be each other’s family. Jesus handled it, in an unexpected way. He covered their silent fears and concerns of loneliness and aloneness in one fail swoop. He sent the message that bloodlines don’t necessarily bind us. It’s the love lines we have with each other that matter. It was a point he made to the disciples: “And they will know that you belong to me by your love for each other.” (John 13:35) In other words, it is our act of love and acceptance and embracing of each other that speaks the language of family. Jesus’ action is a reminder of what he does for all of us — loves us so fiercely by adopting us into his family and connecting us to others who share his call to love beyond traditions and societal and familial boundaries. He reminds us of what it means to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. He reminds us of what family looks like and what its members do — they care for each other.

In this holiday season, I was reminded of this gift of family through this passage. I was reminded of the many times Jesus has turned me and others over to each other and sealed us as members of the same family. I was reminded, in the moments of loneliness, that I am, in fact, not alone, but a part of many families that stretch from my days in college, my work in the cities I have lived as a journalist and now those given through my vocation as a pastor and preacher.

What a beautiful present in this season of Hallmark commercials, movies and holiday billboards that can sometimes taint our mood, cloud our perspective and leave us feeling as Mary and John — that love is gone and we belong to no one and no one belongs to us. What a beautiful sight, when in those times, Jesus, in his surprising, unexpected way, commands us to look around to see who is among us and who is with us and what we have been given. He invites us to change our perspective. How has Jesus invited you to change your perspective this season? Who are those Jesus has invited you to name and claim as family? Because I am almost certain that in looking into their faces, we see Jesus and are reminded once again, like insurance, He’s got us covered!

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