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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


This was my second sermon for preaching class.

John 16:20-32

You know the first thing that strikes me about this passage? It's obvious that the writer of this Gospel has never given birth to a child. I have never yet met a woman who has forgotten the experience of labor and delivery. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, without medication, it doesn't happen. Get a group of women together sometime, and ask what they remember. It doesn't matter if they are new mothers, or great-grandmothers; you will hear labor and delivery stories, recalled in graphic detail, that will curl your hair. Nope-- no forgetting there.

Here's something you may not realize: the same is true with adoptive parents. It's true that they do not share the same physical drama; but the emotional impact is fully comparable. The focus of body and mind, the seizing into memory of the moment, happens in much the same way.

At least, it did for me. My husband and I are somewhat unusual, in that we are both biological and adoptive parents. Our daughter is our birth child; our son came to us through adoption. And I can tell you just as precisely the circumstances surrounding his arrival in our home and family as I can hers: the physical and emotional sensations... sight and sound, smell and touch... all of it. It's a time that builds to a moment when life changes forever, and nothing is ever the same again... How could I forget such an experience?

That impact, those memories, would explain why recent advertising for a television special caught my attention. Last Friday, Barbara Walters hosted a 20/20 special on adoption. Did any of you see it? I wasn't able to watch, because of prior commitments that night-- but then again, I wasn't I sure I wanted to. The advertising for the program took an unusual slant-- or maybe not so unusual, in this age of reality TV. From the ABC News website:

In a unique television event, Barbara Walters documents a young birth mother's journey as she selects who, among five anxious couples vying for a child of their own, will become parents to her child.

...20/20 cameras were there last October when the competition for Jessica's baby began as the five families arrived at the agency one by one.

...20/20 cameras are there as each couple tries to convince the pregnant girl that they would be the best parents for her soon-to-be-born baby.

...20/20 cameras are there as Jessica selects a family to adopt her baby. But this is not the end. Jessica is still not sure she will be able to place her son for adoption.

...In the end, who will raise the little baby boy?

Now, I'm a mother, twice over. I have had new life brought from my body, and I have had it laid in my arms as a gift beyond price, from a woman unable to cope with her reality. So when I read these things, what I think of is all that hope and anguish placed on display, in the name of entertainment, and ratings. All I hear are the words of John's Gospel: "Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice."

How in heaven's name are we to respond to this? To souls so desperate that they will allow themselves to be exploited this way? And to a culture that finds this exploitation of the individual acceptable?

I think that's the key, right there: "Exploitation of the individual." When we hold ourselves separate, from God and from one another, in the name of "independence," and "choice," this is one result: the value of the person is determined by attention, and fame, rather than owned as intrinsic to our very nature: created in God's image, beloved by our Creator in every single fiber that we are.

Jesus acknowledges this feeling of separation in today's Gospel, even as he models being mindful of the truth beyond it:

"The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me."

There's one answer, one Christian response: to remember that we are not solely individuals, but called and formed to live as integral members of the Body of Christ: something larger, and better, than any of us can be alone. That awareness, and the caring that stems from it, strengthens us to be more than exploiter, or exploited.

"I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!"

No, we can't do it alone. The Good News is, we don't have to.


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