use your ambition

  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at downplaying the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at criticizing the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at selling short the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at stereotyping the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at holding up the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at antiquating the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at confusing the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward embarrassing the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at dominating the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward pleasing everyone in church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at disheartening the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at burdening the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at dividing the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at freaking out the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at paralyzing the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward dumbing down the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward remaining ignorant about the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at spoiling the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at prostituting the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at emasculating the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at using the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at ignoring the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at forsaking the church.
  • … use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at tearing down the church.

… use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at building up the church.” (1 Cor. 14:12b CEB)

Our Father in heaven, bring in your kingdom and deliver us from evil. Amen.

the third word

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 CEB)

In that day, in that part of the world, there were no social attachments as rigid or determinative as that of the family. Family origin determined your whole life, your complete identity, your entire future. So one of the most countercultural, revolutionary acts of Jesus was his sustained attack upon the family.

In a culture like our own, dominated by “family values,” where we have nothing better to command our allegiance to than our own blood relatives, this is one of the good things the church does for many of us. In baptism, we are rescued from our family. Our families, as good as they are, are too narrow, too restricted. So in baptism we are adopted into a family large enough to make our lives more interesting.

“A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you,” he said elsewhere (John 13:34). Watch closely. Jesus is forming the first church, commanding us to live as if these foreigners were our relatives. Churches where we are thrown together with a bunch of strangers and are forced to call these people with whom we have no natural affinity, nothing in common, “brother,” “sister.”

So after this moment, never again could the world safe family without Jesus is people thinking church. …

From the cross, in his third word to us, Jesus disrupts the totalitarian influence of the family in order to free us and give us a new, bigger family he detaches us from parents to give us a new parent. We are to call no one “father” but the “Father.” Jesus saves us from that too narrow, constricted, and constrained family into which we were born in order to give us a new, expanded, and more catholic family. …

So Jesus says to his disciple that he is giving him a new “mother,” and to Mary he gives a new “son.” At the foot of the cross, we who thought we were so different because of race, gender, or clan for once stood together, chanting in unison, “crucify him!” Our uniting of nations is not a pretty sight, for our uniting and communing is always our attempt to get rid of God. But from the cross, Jesus stares into this crowded crucify ours and thrusts us together by Jesus is loving solidarity. We, who once cared only for those folks who have the same genetic endowment as us, now are made to care for those with whom we have nothing in common except Jesus.… It’s one of the gracious, demanding by-products of standing at the foot of Jesus’s cross. It’s called “the body of Christ.” …

Look around you just now, at these losers who gather at the foot of the cross, people whom you hardly know, much less have much in common with. Pray to God for the grace to be able to see these strangers as your siblings. Pray to God that they’ll be given the grace to see you as a close relative. All of the inadequacies and problems that you had growing up in your family are being healed. He who had no conventional family, he who sired no children, is busy forming the largest family the world has ever known.

Welcome home.

William Willimon, Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words of the Cross, pp.31-32,33,34,36