The hubby was driving yesterday when I spotted one of those “clean out the garage day” sort of piles next to someone’s mailbox. It looked pretty well picked-over, mostly crunched cardboard boxes and un-fixable furniture.
Then two figures caught my eye: a plastic Mary and plastic Joseph. The sort that you see on lawns at Christmas, bowing over a plastic Jesus-in-a-manger. There wasn’t a baby Jesus at the curb. No wise men or camels. No cattle or sheep. No angels. Just Mary and Joseph, bowing down to nothing, really.
It seemed a little wrong somehow, tossing out these plastic renderings of Jesus’ earthly parents. A little cavalier. I
wondered aloud ranted to my poor family – if we have special ceremonies to properly retire American flags as they show too much wear, surely there is some sort of procedure for disposing of the holy family members…
My dear hubby and the FPK graciously reminded me (well, maybe there was some eye-rolling involved) that these were just mass-produced plastic decorations that could, frankly, be described as tacky. How do you argue with truth like that? But when drove back by them on the way home, I realized their fate was still nagging at me. Not enough to stop and adopt them, mind you.
The thing is, I think sometimes we do that with Mary and Joseph for most of the year. Kind of the way we do with the Holy Spirit except Pentecost and Trinity Sunday. And most of the Old Testament folks. We can get so wound up in Jesus, what Jesus does or doesn’t do and what Jesus says or doesn’t say that we kick everything else to the curb.
In reality, we must read the Bible forward. It’s impossible to understand what Jesus was saying to his followers (or those who opposed him) without understanding the history and traditions of the Jewish people in which he lived and ministered. Nor do the letters of Paul and other New Testament writers. Even the begats that we bemoan are revelations of the radical inclusiveness of God’s grace. When we look only to Jesus, or even primarily to Jesus, our vision of God is diminished. We must not shy away from the task of teasing out the work of all three persons of our triune God in every act of Creator, Son and Spirit.
Certainly, as we move through this season of Lent, we are drawn ever closer to the cross. As you go, take a look around. Mary’s there, following her beloved child and rabbi in one, remembering the way the Spirit overtook her to bring a child into the world, praying to God that the promise of God’s enduring love would prove true. Children, lepers, the blind, hungry and lame are there. Gentiles and Jews, rulers and beggars. And somewhere among the followers and foes, the skeptics and believers and the healed and hurting, you and I are there. And we’re still not quite understanding – even though we know what happens on Sunday- exactly what Good Friday means for us. At least not the way we will.
Because God doesn’t kick her children to the curb.