These are my remarks from the Interfaith Vigil held February 15, 2015 at Boston Ave. United Methodist Church in Tulsa. We remembered the lives of Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad and Mohammad’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. Here are my words:
At Bethany Christian Church today, our gospel reading was Matthew 20:20-28.
We reheard the story of Zebedee’s wife, mother of James and John, who asks for her sons to have the seats on the right and left of Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.
Often, interpretation of this scripture focuses on the fact that these disciples were not prepared for what Jesus was to endure. That to have such an honor meant enduring the unknown to them and the known cross for the readers since the writing of Matthew.
Perhaps it is that I am the mother of an infant and sleeplessly see everything through that lens, but I can’t help but identify with James and John’s mother and see the text from another view. From the very moment they were born she, like scripture shares about other mothers and fathers and like I’ve done, I imagine she prayed blessing over blessing over blessing of her children.
Holy God, keep James safe. Vast Creator, give John joy. Purest love, might their hearts never be broken.
The mother of James and John did nothing wrong in asking for blessings of her sons. She did, however, give in to the temptation for ask for blessings that come at the price of others. You see, the scripture only mentions two seats. We cannot as a society, as people of any faith tradition, as human beings, pray only for the thriving of our children, for their preferential treatment at the cost of another. It is that kind of prayer that sacrifices others, simply for being other. It is that line of thinking that begins to make excuses for violence and bigotry because we aren’t the perpetrators or our children are immune.
Whatever our faith, if we pray for blessings that limit love to a favored few, we blaspheme that which we hold dear. It is my hope that the blessings I pray for my daughter are transformed by the Creator of all to expand to all.
As I imagine the prayers that Deah’s mother prayed over him at his birth, the ones Yusor and Razan’s mother prayed over them too, I join my voice with those grieving mothers and cry out to God:
We ache, Mystery of mystery, at the death of three young people. Why in a world so alive do people seek to limit your creation by killing? Why is a world so filled with variety do people demand we all be the same? Hold tight Deah, Yusor and Razan as we grieve, Mystery of mystery. Make known to us love when violent hate has overcome any chance of understanding. Amen.