Dr. Carol S. Franklin
Dr. Carol Franklin is a retired higher education professional and is a member of Christ Church.
I have to tell you that I have struggled this week. To be honest, I have felt at a loss for words, which you know is not typical of me. It’s not that God hasn’t spoken. She has spoken volumes through her tears, the tears of a mother. I started in one place and you will hear some of that riff on the theme “What’s love got to do with?” But more and more I heard not Tina Turner but Roberta Flack asking plaintive “Where is the love?”
In recent months, we have been bombarded by chants of “Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter.” But the events of the last few weeks make them seem like nothing more than rhetoric. They are shooting and killing babies on the streets of Cleveland while the body of a child seeking shelter from the storms of war and oppression washes up on a beach in Turkey.
I know that I feel helpless in the face of these mounting tragedies. How can such things happen in a supposedly civilized world, especially to the innocent and defenseless ones? Where is the love and where is Jesus in all of this? Last week the answer to Jesus’ question “who do you say I am?” was the messiah, the embodiment of God’s love, compassion and grace. Our concern this week is what that means for us in a world in which love and compassion seem in short supply. We could rightly ask not just “where is the love”, but “What’s love got to do with it anyway?” At the heart of today’s lessons as Jesus teaches about ministry and about what discipleship ought to look like, I think the answer is love is absolutely everything!
When I look around what I see is a world in which Jesus’ prime directive to love God and love others gets lost in the noise from voices that say doctrine or profit or position trumps love (and I didn’t do that on purpose). We see it in the hateful speech about immigrants and women and the poor that passes for legitimate political dialogue. We see it in Kentucky and the fight over marriage equality. Rather than talk of abundance we talk of building walls or erect real life barbed wire barriers believing that we can isolate ourselves, keeping the cares of the world out of sight and thus out of mind. We see it in a world in which we seem to cherish the life of the unborn more than we care for or cherish the lives of the children among us. And this is not about being pro-life or pro-choice; it’s about love and about caring for those among us. With nearly 20 million children around the world living in orphanages or on the street and 60% of children surveyed indicating that they were directly or indirectly exposed to violence it is clear that we are we living our lives to please ourselves rather than to please God.
Where is the love in that picture… A picture of a world in which the prevailing belief is that there is not enough space or time or money or you fill in the blank for anyone or anything but ourselves... A picture of a world in which young people, supposedly our future, seem more afraid of living than dying?
It is a picture of a world in which there is not enough concern or compassion for others and not enough thought about justice or peace. This image is in sharp contrast to that of Jesus placing a child among the disciples to instruct them on love the true way of discipleship. The message seems clear. A little child shall lead us. But this week, where will the sight of the bodies of little ones lead us? In the face of such tragedy and need, whom are we called to be and what are we called to do?
The way of the disciple, accepting that “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all & servant of all,” is not an easy path. Love is not about standing up and lording it over others or being a part of the in-crowd or the clique of the ‘saved.’
Jesus was a fanatic about love, about caring for one another and welcoming the invisible ones into community. Love is about reflecting the priorities of the God that Jesus proclaimed. Love is about stooping down and reaching back and lifting up. It’s about welcoming the voiceless and those at the margins into community even when it makes us uncomfortable.
The lesson of this week is that the other are no longer invisible because Alyan and Ramon and Major and all those clamoring for refuge from the scourge of war and poverty, oppression and death are no longer faceless or nameless. From the traffic barricades in Shaker Heights to the barbed wire at Hungary’s borders we can’t build walls high enough or deep enough to isolate ourselves from their anguish. For that anguish gives voice and meaning to Jesus’ call of welcome. If we close our hearts and minds to that voice then we are closed off from love which is the presence of God among us. I don’t know about you but I am not interested in closing the door in God’s face.
As I said in the beginning, I feel helpless, but in the face of today’s lessons no way hopeless, because love is about abundance, it’s about opened hearts and opened doors. You cannot tell me that there is not enough because God’s grace says otherwise.
So folks, I am here to tell you that we’ve got to figure this out. We’ve got to do something about violence. We’ve got to do something about protecting and nurturing the innocence of children. We’ve got to do something about barriers to justice and peace. We’ve got to recognize that though God works through us, standing in judgment is not part of the job description; love is. At the end of the day when asked, “Where is the love?” I hope we can respond here in this place as we reach out to love as Christ loved and heal as Christ healed.