A Vision

Post Author: Rev. Renee Roederer

It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a vision.origin_7916585148

There were no trances or hallucinations, no fevered frenzy or mystic insights for the ages. There was nothing dramatic that would call attention to myself or invite curious questions about my sanity. There was nothing like that.

It was just an image that came quietly, a picture that appeared in my mind one day. Though I’m no Joan of Arc or Hildegard von Bingen, this image began to represent a larger vision that was unfolding in my life. It was an imagination conversation partner, if you will.

On a rather mundane day, an image appeared unannounced during my daydreaming as images are often prone to do. I suddenly saw myself standing beneath an empty cross, and I was staring upward toward it. This was no ancient cross of another age; it was the large outline of a cross at the front of a particular sanctuary I know well.

And my image didn’t leave me standing there alone. I was surrounded by loved ones from the various chapters that span my life.  These concentric circles of beloved people with faces and names stretched into the pews and beyond those pews as far as I could see. Interestingly, though I was standing toward the front of this large group of people, I was “seeing” all of us from behind. I was an observer. I witnessed us all standing there, facing the cross.

Imagination is a curious gift. At times, it comes before words or logical connections can emerge. Initially, I assigned no meaning to this image. It was simply a picture that appeared in my imagination before I knew to ask for it.

But then I started asking for it. It was strangely comforting, so I started recalling it on purpose. And for a long time, it remained a simple image with no words or obvious associations. It was a chosen image that I began to bring purposefully into my mind.

Then one evening, something clicked, and it suddenly gained greater meaning.

I was participating in a Good Friday service in that very sanctuary, and members of the congregation were reading the stories of Jesus’ seven last words on the cross. These public readings of scripture were interspersed between beautiful pieces of choral music. They accompanied the solemnness in the room with Good News hidden among the pain.

One story I heard that night is told with a tiny amount of words, especially as we consider their significance. The story is only three verses long.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home (John 19:25-27).

Behold, here is your Child.

Behold, here is your Mother.

My comforting image snapped into focus for me that evening, and I immediately knew that this tiny story was a true expression of my life in the Church.

Behold, here is your Child.

Behold, here is your Mother.

This story suddenly resonated as a lens by which to view my own biography. I suspect that it is a biography of us all. I have stood at that cross, surrounded by those to whom I have been given. Sometimes, I have been the child, and sometimes, I have been the mother. As I examine every chapter, I see these themes woven throughout the entire fabric of my life. We have all been given to one another in this way.

We do not know what happened once Mary, the mother of Jesus, entered the home of his beloved disciple. It is an unknown chapter in Christian history. But even from the cross, and perhaps especially from the cross, Jesus gives his disciples to one another. He builds all of us into a beloved community of rich belonging and theological kinship.

Behold, we are the children.

Behold, we are the mothers.

There are no truer symbols for my own biography. The Church has been the womb that has formed my life alongside the lives of others. We are all created as children of God, and that identity is our inheritance as we bear the image of God.

That very identity is expressed in particular ways as we live alongside others.  We are children toward one another, and we are mothers toward one another. The same grace of God that loves us into being weaves us into being. Our lives pass through the lives of others, and the creation of our identity is renewed again and again. The members of our communities ‘particularize’ us and form us into specific expressions of God’s grace.

Jesus gives us to one another.

Jesus builds us into a holy family of human kinship.

And Jesus does this even from a cross. He does it in the midst of brokenness and pain. In a messy and marred world, Jesus turns us to face one another so that we can live in relationship. We are invited to enter the households of others, and this shifts the economy of belonging. We are invited into the lives of each other.

Behold, we are the children.

Behold, we are the mothers.

In this vision, we can walk together toward the crosses of this world. We can leave the comfortable doors of our own sanctuaries and trust that new creation can be found even in human pain. God is always shifting the economy of belonging. We belong to God and to one another.

In this vision, we can move together toward every Calvary. We can face the crosses of injustice and brokenness in this world and trust that Jesus will turn us to face one another. God is always shifting the economy of belonging. We belong to God and to one another.

We belong to God and to one another.

We are the children.

We are the mothers.

Behold, this great vision.


Renee Roederer is the Campus Minister at First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she lives with her astronomer husband, Ian.  Renee loves hanging out with students, walking around town (especially when it isn't uber-frigid) and watching Youtube videos of baby elephants. Because, you know, they are seriously the cutest.

Image by: RSL Images
Used with permission
1 reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] passage has been especially meaningful to me over the years. I have written about it before, reflecting on the ways my life has been given over to others in the midst of the community of […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *