A friend of mine tells me he has a strong faith – something that he really relies on to get him through days good and bad and good again.
“It’s just Jesus that I have a problem with.”
“You’re in good company” I tell him.
I once wrote a poem about how talking about Jesus in a public place – like a subway car say – was socially akin to letting a loud fart go.
That name has become so sensationalized by TV preachers declaring all kinds of intolerant, incredible, institutionally self-interested claims, that I have a hard time praying to Jesus on a Sunday morning without those associations going through my head. I assume that the people in the pews also have such associations in their heads. If they’re not thinking about what’s for lunch that is.
Our Worship Team was talking this week about how easy we are with praying to Spirit now. One wise woman remembered how the old Holy Ghost used to be so problematic in her memory’s eye on the church of the seventies. Now it seems God’s Spirit drops into our holy conversations much more easily.
In this Easter season we hunt for Jesus. The man is lost to us – dead and gone. He shows up and eats and talks with them that recognize his voice behind a changed appearance. He comes close enough that they feel his breath bestowing unspoken commands. He cooks breakfast on the shore and gives his old pals better angling tips than Red Fisher.
Grieving people often experience the presence of lost loved ones. It is perfectly normal for conversations to continue and the relationship to go on even though it is often, but not always, one-sided.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” So the saying goes. So I tell my wife as I take off for another Spring road trip, my heart drumming blood through my veins like the quick rhythm of white dashes on asphalt.
“Out of sight, out of mind.” she quips back.
My dead mentor Frederick Buechner writes that any preacher worth their salt must address the absence of GOD in the face of a suffering world. Jesus’ forsaken cry is his last word – suffering both the ultimate physical and psychic pain. Trying to fill that void with candy-apple formulas for answered prayers is obscene. We must acknowledge that GOD’s absence is as hard to reason with as the PRESENCE poet’s sing of, storyteller’s weave their tales about, and the lost find so sweet.
Mystics tell that the MAKER is so complete and full and pure that it is only by withdrawing that a void occurs where Creation can flourish; wildflowers springing up in the footsteps. Would fishermen take up the task of healing if the MASTER were still here to do it? Would I dare to break the bread, or speak in HIS name if JESUS were standing here beside me?
In fact, it is only because Jesus does stands beside me, behind me, beneath me, before me, that I dare to do what HE did.
This MASTER asks not “are you Worthy?”
Only “are you Willing?”
Willing to serve though you don’t see?
Willing to work without hope of success?
Willing to sit with those in fear’s shadow?
Willing to rudely demand a larger portion for the forgotten?
Willing to say white is black and find gold in the grey?
Willing to follow whispers, signs, and puzzles and never be sure?
Willing to suffer the stones of those who are sure?
I am unwilling to take such risks. I only go because Jesus has stolen my heart away and I can do nothing but search for it. And when I take unwilling steps in the direction of hope, I find HIS heart beating in my chest, HIS blood in my veins, HIS body there beside me.
Anyone also serving in this mission of hope becomes brother and sister; whether slave or free, circumcised or not, theologically correct or confused, it doesn’t matter – Jesus is the Judge and he’s so far ahead – let’s just keep walking – eh?
Workers of the World Unite! (I had to get that in somehow)