Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When Life Begins

Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.

I re-tell an old joke I overheard at the gym where I worked out when I lived in West Hollywood. Old Jewish men, some of them with concentration camp numbers tattooed on their arms, would sit in the sauna spinning stories and telling jokes.

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi got into a heated discussion about when life begins, the moment when conception occurs. The priest spoke first, “Life begins when the egg is fertilized by the sperm, don’t ya know.” The minister disagrees, “No, life begins when the child is born.” The rabbi expresses still another view, “No, no, no! Life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies!”
Anyone who has had a child or been a child knows that conception is more than the mere biological act of a sperm wriggling its way into an egg. A child’s conception begins with adolescent daydreams of intimacy and raising a family. At its best, it begins with a twinkle in the parents’ eyes, moments of ecstasy, months and then years of planning for the child’s welfare and well-being, dreaming of who the child will be or become, investing in the child’s future with education and recreation and a college fund. Life begins when the child is welcomed and loved and eventually honored as an independent being.

Like many mothers, Jesus’ mother Mary conceived more than a child. She conceived a vision of her child as one who would turn oppression on its head, one who would bring justice to those who had more than their fair share and compassion to those who had less. What mother does not think her child is divine—at least, at first? Babies, puppies, and kittens are all made cute by nature, I believe, to prompt our tender feelings toward them and our desire to care for them. We are born with the same-size eyes we will have in adulthood, and those big eyes in a little face are endearing, compelling us to protect such vulnerability.

If only every child could be welcomed as a divine emissary, a fulfillment of prophecy, a hope for the world! The model of Mary for our world today is not that of a virgin but the model of a mother’s feelings for her child, a mother who would treasure all things related to him in her heart. Unlike Christians of an earlier era who needed to see Jesus as other than a product of sexual intimacy, Christians today are on our way toward affirming the divine inspiration of such intimacy. Whether Joseph was his biological father is irrelevant to our vision of Jesus, just as it surely was for Mary, for every conception cradles divine possibility.

This Sunday, June 26, Chris speaks on "The Power of Words" during 11 a.m. worship at Our Hope MCC, which meets in the Univ. of GA Presbyterian Student Center, 1250 S. Lumpkin St., Athens, GA 30605. Tel: 706-202-3723. His books will be available.

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