Monday, May 2, 2016

The Tiny Goo-goo Turns 6

Some time ago, Elias dubbed Josiah the Tiny Goo-goo. The name has stuck even though the Tiny Goo-goo is now the second tallest child in the kindergarten.  The tiny goo-goo was tracking the calendar from the moment we switched it over to April. First, he was tracking Daddy's birthday and then the countdown to his.

His birthday started with a 5:40 am visit asking if it was time to get up.  Once we redirected him, he snuggled with his dad until the reasonable hour of 6am.  After a fine rendition of Happy Birthday, he got ready for his big day at school. But, before we knew it, he made his way to the basement and had me drag up his new basketball net. Interestingly enough, just as basketball season was coming to a close Josiah declared his interest in said sport.  I did some investigating and found out that the Y was offering a simple basketball program. So, I switched him out of karate and into basketball.  Hence, the need for a net as we were using plastic tires from the preschool before as a makeshift net.

The day got even better because his kindergarten teacher allowed him to pick out a treat. He picked a bear and quickly told us the bear was going into hibernation. His Bibi arrived that evening and we got to go to a high end restaurant--Buddy's.  But, he was determined to go there because they have a soda fountain that allows you to pick from over fifty flavors. He opened a pair of Hanna pajamas from her with Darth Vader on them and exclaimed that he could color them in--they were black and white. He received some fun things to build and some hand me down Legos, which were the ultimate hit. Josiah loves to follow the "constructions" on the Legos. Soon cake followed and a good night's sleep.

Josiah has settled down from the incidents in January, but we still fondly call him our id. Josiah can be very fierce. For instance, when a Lego doesn't fit in the right spot, everybody in the house knows. But, he has taken to Legos like no other child in our family. At the beginning of the year, I almost donated our Legos to an organization. I am glad I never got around to it.  Josiah now gets up in the morning and before he puts on his clothes or has a bite of breakfast, he plays with his Legos. He sticks his tongue to the side and concentrates ever so intensely.  He still enjoys a lot of rough-housing and I'm dying to purchase a trampoline, but my worry-wart partner does not want one. I'd prefer a broken bone to the high energy attacks with brooms that take place in the laundry room.

Despite Josiah's energy and passion, he is a sweet boy who likes to sing, offer all kinds of math and counting scenarios, arrange all hi stuffed animals in a special pack around his bed, and write stories about Legos. He also declared in his Martin Luther King reflection that he wished "All people have the same amount of money."  He is a good and growing boy, but he needs structure.

Inner Harbor

We have come a long way since I posted pictures from this spot two years ago.  Two years ago, we were dealing with a bad school year and were in the Inner Harbor for a bit of a respite.  This year, we spent some time with our cousins and we enjoyed a spring day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Not a "New" Commandment

Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham jail, I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not . . . the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice; Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. . . We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

I came across this letter as I was preparing to write about the new commandment--you know, the one in which Jesus explicitly states, " I give you a new commandment, to love one another as I have loved you."  This highly quoted verse often summons images of the sixties when people sang and protested for civil rights. They walked miles, stood in front of fire hoses, rode buses to the South for freedom rides, and participated in all kinds of acts of civil disobedience.  And the refrain that rang through people's ears as others sang, was "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they will know that we are Christians by our love."  And, indeed, the 60's were an unparalleled time for Christian witness in our recent history. But, as Martin Luther King references, the lines between the “good” and the “bad” were more blurred than we like to recall.  King wrote this letter in response to a group of white Alabama pastors who thought his tactics were too radical.

However, the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, "There is nothing new under the sun." This command to love one another was not new. After all, there were the Ten Commandments that shaped the Hebrew people as they practiced love. There was the shema: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your mind and all your strength, this is the first and great commandment and the second is like unto it, love your neighbor as yourself." And, of course, there are even the commandments in Matthew and Luke to go one step further and to love your enemies. So, in some ways, this “new” commandment in John's gospel is a misnomer. In some ways, this “new” commandment is perceived as a bit soft. After all, Jesus is speaking to a room full of his followers, a room full of people who have been devoted to him, a room full of insiders.  And Jesus instructs them, in a tender way, even as little children, "Just as I have loved you, you should have love for one another."

But, lest we forget, the passage immediately before, reminds us that this was not a bucolic scene. Judas reclines at the same table as the rest of Jesus' band of friends. John's gospel explicitly states that Jesus knows who it is that will give him up to death.  But, John frames this problem in a cosmic way. John says that the devil enters Judas Iscariot. And as the whole scenario plays out,  Jesus remains in charge even in the face of evil. It’s almost as if he is winking at Judas while the rest of the disciples remain ignorant of the chain of events that are about to occur. Judas is the one who will betray Jesus. And yet, Jesus is the one who is in control and who initiates his own death. Judas goes out into the darkness of the night, just as Jesus prepares to be that light that shines in the darkness.

All of the sudden, a seemingly simple command becomes more complex.  After all, we must consider that Jesus chooses love in light of betrayal. After all, Jesus loves in light of the darkness of the hour. After all, Jesus loves regardless of others’ inability to behave the way Jesus might have liked them to.  So, it comes as no surprise to me, that we might find this "new" commandment a little more difficult than earlier advertised. While in the tumultuous 60’s, civil disobedience took great courage and acts of selfless devotion, and in some cases made martyrs out of people faithful to the cause, the command to love one another, as framed by Jesus that very night, was delivered in the context of confusion. Confusion over who was good, who was bad, who loved Jesus, who was going to follow him after his death, and other questions ad infinitum. The good guys and the bad guys had not been  properly identified...As King reminds us, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

And, this is the crux of the "new" commandment.  If we look at the command to love in light of the resurrection, we see things differently.  In other words, what if we framed Jesus death in light of loving so fully that he lived into his identity and vocation? We see that our job is not to be crucified for love. Jesus has already done this once and for all.  But, our job is to live into the fullness and grace of Jesus’ love. Our calling is to give our lives away, not up, to the grace of God.  

What if his death and resurrection embodies love that knows no parameters?  Love that breaks through the confusion of good and bad, right and wrong, Judas and Peter, and embraces it all. For surely that night, there was great confusion about who might follow Jesus in they way that he taught and envisioned. And yet he gave himself up to death, destroyed death, and rising to life again made the whole creation new.

Rarely, is there a terrific image for what this love might look like. But, as I was ruminating on an image, it struck me that the marriage vows in our Book of Common Prayer which are spoken into being, capture a bit of that love that knows no bounds. For as the celebrant asks each spouse: “Will you have this person to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?”  And, of course, the response is an active verb, “I will” not I do. Because will implies something that you commit to in the future and continually do.” These vows give us a small taste of resurrection reality. For these vows promise love in all circumstances based on a covenant, not based on moods, whims, svelte bodies, or passion. These vows declare love into the future that can not be seen. The Resurrection, too, promises a love that knows no bounds. And the resurrection is God’s embodiment of the new commandment. I give you a new commandment to love one another as I love you.