more about this sight

"you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen"...'Walk On' by U2

WATERSHED: A voice in the wilderness. DARYL UNDERWOOD.

 

The concept of Centerpoint Christianity briefly stated is:

Christianity from the centerpoint outward.

Christianity from the climax forward.

This blog constitutes concepts for a new view of Christianity that begins with what is foundational and moves forward from that point. It is based on the assumption that we are being pulled towards something unseen and pushed from a place that once was.

What Centerpoint Christianity attempts to do is bypass some of the constraints imposed by metanarratives by using the life of Christ and particularly the climactic actions of Christ as beginning points.

It supports the conviction that God is essentially timeless. From this beginning point we endeavor to move outward from the definitive moment of the parousia (visitation) of Christ and forward to the future which functions as a type of magnet to "what can be--and is coming".

When we begin at the life of Christ and move outward as from the centerpoint of a web, rather than in a linear timeline of history, another wide picture emerges.


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Tuesday
Dec162008

jesus

  •  courage

“There are two kinds of people in this world, Charlie.
The first group are the people that face the music;
the second group are those who run for cover.

Cover is better.”

--Lt. Col. Frank Slade in the movie "The Scent of a Woman”

Dustin Hoffman plays the part of Colonel Frank Slade in the movie 'The Scent of a Woman'. He is a survivor, seen enough of war to know that when you stick your neck out in battle there is a good chance someone might cut it off. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Better to just take cover. If there are indeed, 'two kinds of people in the world' those who 'face the music' and those who take cover Jesus clearly was the first. What He did as He set His face towards Jerusalem could hardly be seen as anything other than instigated homocide. When it came time to 'make a righteous stand', as Springsteen puts it, Jesus clearly, stubbornly, faces the music. The inevitability of being silenced in the most final form did not stop him from doing the right thing.

'Cover is better' if you want to live without trouble. Let someone else take the bullet, sit back, wipe your forehead and sigh 'yet for the grace of God go I'. Be conservative, bend to the Man, don't fight city hall. Don't take unnecessary risk, don't get involved, take care of your own. Insulate and isolate your self from trouble. Create boundaries with enough padding to soften any blow, save for the rainy day, run for cover and perhaps you will get by to live to a ripe old age.

You may lose your pride along the way, you may leave friends on the battlefield, you may walk about blind, but it is the price to pay. At least you didn't die.

Like Jesus did.

He died.

He rushed in.

He risked.

He took the hit.

He did not back down.

The late Mark Heard asks, 'What kind of friend would do you in when the bomb goes off and the shelters his?' Why, of course, no friend at all. We sing 'What a friend I have in Jesus'...but the question which lingers asks 'Are you, am I, a friend like him?'

If there are two kinds of people in this world, as the Colonel observes, then Jesus was the kind who would face the music no matter what the cost.

When God emerges on the other side of silence he sets his face like flint towards Jerusalem. This is the beginning of the end.

And the end which speaks the beginning. Final word. What follows is the story of a courageous man who did the right thing, faced the music, and died. A person who held the power of the atom, the devastating power that could make the a-bomb seem miniscule. He didn't drop that bomb.

He could have.

He didn't.

He emptied the chamber before high noon.

There is a reason.

 

  • ascend

'In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?'--Paul in the letter to the Ephesians chapter 4 verse 9.

When I say God descended into the lower story in the form of Jesus I am not saying anything unorthodox or particularly new. I am hearing the testimony of Paul. What the people of his day would have taken in so easily during his time has been buried so deeply as to not even show up on our contemporary radar. When Paul said he descended into the lower regions--the earth--he meant just that.

To believe in resurrection demands we believe in a God who comes down. Who enters in. We say it glibly without realizing the sanctity of the moment, the courage of incarnation. After a long silence between the testaments God 'enters the scene' to become the herald of the morn, the confronter of darkness, the messanger of a 'new creation'. And the message when it is heard rightly is; 'I died so that you might have life. Now go and do the same for your brother'.

That Jesus died is not so powerful as what he says in the manner in which He dies. Most powerful God said 'lay the rifle down'. When James Taylor laments (in his beautiful haunting song Belfast to Boston') he speaks as a prophet to us.

'Missing brothers, martyred fellows, silent children in the ground
Could we but hear them could they not tell us
"Time to lay God's rifle down"

Who will say this far no further,'

But we have truncated the gospel, taken it hostage, made it about our own 'personal Jesus'. We have taken what was meant to be freedom for the captive right now and made it about something that we hope happens some day. We need to be reminded that salvation is not about tomorrow as much as it is about today. We have squandered that message, packaged it, and effectively castrated it of its power in the world.

Watershed is about boundaries, insulation and isolation, and a new emerging paradigm that turns on the light bulb. It is about a moment when we say 'I get it'.

And when we turn around (the meaning of the word repentance), when we intentionally bend down the bars that separate, when we purposefully, thoughtfully erase the doctrines and ideologies that justify our isolation and insulation and keep us a safe distance from our brothers, when we stop asking 'so who is my neighbor?' so we can measure how much to care; when we stop saying stupid things like 'am I my brothers' keeper?' hiding behind ignorance with our 'bloody hands' behind our backs, when we stop hearing the gospel just the way we want it, when we turn around and go back to make amends for what we've done along the way...it is then and only then that we will reflect the one who came down and laid down... rights, power, and fear... to embrace a new day. It is then that we can be called Christian.

Less than this is a convenient apparition. Will we ascend?

 

  • God on the other side of silence.

Hello, darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision
That was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

—Simon and Garfunkel in “The Sounds of Silence”

Jesus is God on the other side of silence. We confess Him as God but have significant confusion about this. We treat Him as God like or God reflective more than very God of very God. I suggest He is God, in the beginning with God as the wisdom of God, the rib of God, the Sophia love of God. He, gender being somewhat insignificant yet in another way quite important, is the One who will set God free, sooth His wound, and begin a new day. All that comes forth from this union will be healed as well. In fact the creation as we know it groaning in travail will open its womb and a whole new creation will emerge. This child and all about her will faintly remember the days of old, the days of death. It will be like Cold Mountain on a sunny day filled with the sweet aroma of magnolia rising from the grounds which once cried out violent with blood of the fathers. The devils and dust of pain have been extracted by this act in the visitation of the Son, who builds a temple where the community can gather again, almost like the family beneath the Magnolia, safe and happy forevermore. This scene is ignited in the presentation and resulting 'work' of the Son.

He bursts onto the scene as a baby, with a fair measure of hoopla, amongst an equal or greater share of humility. Somehow the narrative pulls these two opposites together in a fashion that is astounding, if not a bit puzzling. Following this gloriously humble entrance He all but disappears until He is finally revealed by John the Baptist. When He comes on that scene, somewhere around the age of 30, He does two things which have great meaning for us. First of all, He comes to be baptized. And secondly He faces down His nemesis, his “demon” in the wilderness. Several things are peculiar about these events.

At the baptism of repentance the voice that speaks comes from 'above' declaring, “This is my son…listen to Him”. This is His coronation as the oracle of God and as we come to know, God Himself. Paul puts it this way 'He is image of the invisible God', a purposeful use of words emphasizing the concept of 'image, followed up by 'the firstborn over all creation'. This son is an image reflector come to reveal the face of God in a new creation. A turn from one way unto another way.

Secondly, a dove descends, reminiscent of the vow of God to never again punish the sons of God across the entire earth as He had through the flood in the days of Noah. The dove flies over the dirty water of the muddy Jordan when He lifts up. The skies are opened and God descends--reaches down and makes a declaration. This shows the interlocking and overlapping of the upper realm and the lower story.

Thirdly, the type of baptism he submits to is not incidental. It is a baptism of repentance. Based on what has gone on before much can be said abut this. Suffice it to say at this point…when He comes up…He comes clean. God is making a statement. Clearly a new day dawns.

It is an impressive opening scene that will unveil his work. The baptism of God is almost exclusively seen as His alliance with mankind. I suggest it could be something altogether different. It could be that the baptism of repentance is a statement about the 'about face' of God. The turning, which will be further unveiled in the collection of sayings which begin with, 'You have heard it said (by whom was it said-by God of the Tanakh, of course) but I say unto you'. Now God, an experienced God, says through the Son, 'once this was the way'...but in these latter days 'this' is the new way.  Jesus is the One who is to be listened to, a new voice, from the God who is, after a significant time of solstice, emerging on the other side of silence. The voice and vocation of Jesus represents this change of God.

Following the baptism He appears on a mountain and is immediately challenged by the underbelly god in the wilderness. They are like two heavyweights gauging one another. Challenges are made, authority is questioned and challenged, the reach of the tape measured as they lock horns. It is all about jabs and jostling and maneuvering for position. It is the prelude of things to come.

Now follows a key interpretive question: When Jesus stands on the muddy banks of the Jordan what is He repenting for?

The answer is this. He is God, the creator of life and He has blood on His hands and He like anyone created in His image needs to 'wash away the blood'. And He can. Through His son, who, like Solomon of old, indeed can build the Temple of God. His father could not. Too much blood. But the Son can. The clean vessel will.

And the vision that was planted in my brain—still remains—within the sounds of silence. But now the silence is broken. Jesus speaks—God talks.

  • this far, no further

If I had ever been here before I would probably know just what to do don’t you?, if I had ever been here before on another time around the wheel I would probably know just how to deal, with all of you.—David Crosby of CSNY

If I had been here before I would probably know how to deal—with all of you. If I had experience with this situation I would be able to handle it better. Experience is a master teacher. When Jesus sets his foot on the stage of the earth He created in the final climactic act of the story He is equipped in a way that helps Him ‘deal’ with every situation—and every being—including Satan.

Jesus is God with a history.

When He speaks He speaks with an authority that has been born of knowledge. Jesus isn’t born into the world in the way we are born into the world. Jesus took on flesh and entered the world as ‘God with a history’. He speaks with authority about so many things because He has been here before. He enters with a well thought out plan. He has seen it all before.

Fool me once (in the garden) shame on me—fool me twice (the book of Job) shame on you. Fool me a third time—not on your life. It won’t happen. God will not be fooled again. Jesus is all business on the mount of temptation. Nothing is left alone to chance—there are no wagers—no deals with the devil. No giving of a single inch. No funny business. When Satan comes with His twists and half-truths the experienced God is ready and prepared. His heel is bruised, His reputation wounded, but in the end he will crush the head of the enemy. This is as certain as the foreboding scene in the Passion of the Christ when the snake is stomped down by the heel of Jesus.

This time around the wheel is the last scene.

When CSNY sings, ‘and I feel like I’ve been here before’ Jesus know the lyrics and is familiar with the melody. He knows because He has been here before. Jesus is embodied in flesh and has submitted Himself to the effects of the fall in order to confront His accuser (devil) His lover (Israel) and His enemy (mortality symbolized by death). Don’t be fooled for a moment this ‘Son of man’ has come to defeat the effects of the flesh by dying in the flesh. When He dies death dies with Him.

This time around the wheel He knows how to deal with it all. And He won’t get fooled again. Because 'out on the edge of darkness...there rides the peace train'. And the light comes to the darkness on this thin edge and darkness is no more. Light wins. And we can live in the new daybreak today. The Sunday after dark Friday.

Come take me home again.

This is the place where all the rifles are buried. At the foot of the cross. James Taylor in his thoughtful song Belfast to Boston asks, 'who will say this far, no further' is answered here forever.

Belfast to Boston
by James Taylor

There are rifles buried in the countryside for the rising of the moon
May they lie there long forgotten till they rust away into the ground
Who will bend this ancient hatred, will the killing to an end
Who will swallow long injustice, take the devil for a country man
Who will say "this far no further, oh lord, if I die today"

Send no weapons no more money. Send no vengeance across the seas
Just the blessing of forgiveness for my new countryman and me

Missing brothers, martyred fellows, silent children in the ground
Could we but hear them could they not tell us
"Time to lay God's rifle down"

Who will say this far no further, oh Lord, if I die today.

  • the betrayal of doing nothing

'The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal'--Dante

'Come on up to the rising. Come on up lay your hand in mine.'--Bruce Springsteen's song 'The Rising'

A dark night; a cold sweat; followed by a dry day; a long walk. The dry mouth feels like paste. The realization of warm blood running down theface. The taste of salt and iron. And you want to vomit but instead you stand transfixed and gaze at this wreck.

What happened here?

In the end they didn’t want to hear any more from him. They were weary of the tension He brought into their world. They had had it with him. To put him away would be a relief. Why didn't he just let it go? Why did he have to always push the envelope? He caused this, you know, I mean He could see it coming and in fact, invited it in. Those stories. The turning of the tables. To get it over with would allow everyone to get back to normal. The rabble back to their cave, the compromisers to their 'cul-de-sac'. No one changes the system. The system simply takes care of you...handles you.

And I think he knew it, too. Instinctively we know it when they want us to leave the room, to give it up, to settle down and 'let it be'. Tight lip stares on one side and gaze avoidance from the other. Never lock eyes with a 'dead man walking' lest you begin to care.

It was Dante who said, ''The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal'-- and humans held their 'peace' and spoke not a word--and this crisis was met with the silence of the witness. Silence becomes 'betrayal'. Neutrality is the coward's excuse. And everyone excused themselves from the room. They still do.

When you are alone--really alone--you can choose to panic or face this fate with dignity. From the first sweat of blood in Gethsemane to the generous flow of liquid from His spear pierced side at Golgotha, it seems Jesus words were few. What more was there to say?

No one was really listening anyway. He chose dignity.

  • at the place, at the cross, on the street, high noon

We just stand there while He wastes away. When I look around this place I am not alone. And some people are washing their hands and making their way to the exits already. The show is over. Final credits roll. The fire flickers and I look your way.

'I saw you there.'

‘No you didn’t'.

'Oh yes I did'.

And you just look away and leave. We all walk away from this mess, this cross, to get on with our lives. From the footprints we leave behind I begin to smell something rising. Out of the ordinary. In the impression where we once trod I see a silver thorn, a bloody rose. And a sweet scent emanates from the mud of the earth. It comes up. Rising ever rising. It is the smell of forgiveness coming up. Forgiveness. Unsolicited, unwanted mercy. Forgiveness is the fragrance that the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it—and it is rising right where you and I walked.

Songwriter Don McLean has crafted a song about Vincent Van Gogh but every time I hear it I see Jesus. I feel Jesus.

Hear the Jesus lullaby. It’s taps for the Son of God.

And when no hope was left inside
on that starry, starry night
you took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent

This world was never meant
for one as beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
with eyes that watch the world and can't forget

Like the strangers that you've met
the ragged men in ragged clothes
a silver thorn, a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
and how you suffered for your sanity
and how you tried to set them free
they would not listen, they're not listening still

Perhaps they never will...

Come on up to the rising. Come on up lay your hand in mine.


  • outcast

As one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,
and we esteemed him not'.
--Isaiah 53

Streets of Philadelphia

I was bruised and battered
And I couldn't tell what I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself

Saw my reflection in a window
I didn't know my own face

Oh brother are you gonna leave me wasting away

Psalm Twenty-two


Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.

Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.

  • The God who fades to the back

I believe one of the best lines from Springsteen's phenomenal song "Streets of Philadelphia" is 'and my clothes don't fit me no more, I'd walk a thousand miles just to slip this skin'. How easily this could apply to Jesus. He is shrouded in flesh by mortality. The flesh doesn't fit him. Mortality is an invader. The blood that runs through His veins is tainted by the infection of the 'fall'. And it is about to take His life. He has a history. If Jesus seems older than the thirty-three years historians have put on Him it is because He is older. He has the wisdom of the ages since time began and even before creation itself. He has walked the many miles that it has taken for Him to climb this hill to Golgotha, the place of the skull, which is an appropriate term for this desolate spot where He will die. He can feel himself fading away. He sees the faces of friends now vanished and gone. He is desolate. He that had no beginning is about to have His 'first' encounter with 'the end'. Jesus' final climb is not found in the city of brotherly love or the place that holds the liberty bell. His freedom is purchased in a place where brothers betray one another with a faithless kiss. The final road is in Jerusalem and known to us as the Via Doloroso. It is here at last where he will shed this skin.

The movie that Springsteen penned the song for is named Philadelphia.

In the film Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), a gay lawyer infected with HIV, is fired from his conservative law firm who live in fear that they might contract AIDS from him. After Andrew is fired, in a last attempt for personal peace, he sues his former law firm. With the help of a homophobic lawyer, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) he pleads his case for justice. During the court battle, Miller sees that Beckett is no different than anyone else on the gritty streets of the city of brotherly love. He, a black man who understands prejudice risks all he has gained, sheds his homophobia and helps Beckett with his case confronting the formidable controlling class before AIDS overcomes Beckett. Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of the AIDS stricken homosexual man who was marginalized by the powers that be.

Some might think it scandalous to compare the Christ of glory to the despised countenance of a 20th century man, most likely branded with the name of "homo" or "queer", disfigured by the devastation of a disease called Aids. This is in the minds of some his come-up-a-tance. And some gloat over him as he walks the streets of Philadelphia, bones protruding rudely from a body once strong now wasting away. Some in the church certainly did.

But that is the point is it not?

Their stare, their glance, their way, is the same spirit that stood on the way of the Via De La Rosa. The crucifixion was a brutal and shaming end to a human life. There was no dignity on the cross outside the city gates. Christ was most despised and totally rejected by all here. Psalm 22, undoubtedly on the mind of Jesus expresses the scene vividly.

Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.

Springsteen gets it… and the real question that lingers is; do we? Do we get it when he says 'when you do this unto the least of these you do it unto me'. Where was everyone when He faced the end? Don't you think He 'heard the voices of friends vanished and gone'

How lonely it must have been at the ninth hour when Jesus shouted in a loud voice, "Eloi Eloi lema sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" the first verse of Psalm 22 quoted above. Death, which cannot exist in the presence of God in His dimension, creates this unbearable chasm. This "gulf of separation" that occurs between God the Father and God the Son, in the death of the latter, has been described by the theologian Jürgen Moltmann as 'death in God'.

The night has fallen, I'm lyin' awake,
I can feel myself fading away,
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss,
Or will we leave each other alone like this

I believe Jesus takes his place last in line, at the back of the bus, and fades into oblivion beneath the powers of the world both religious and secular. But He doesn’t stay there. We love that part. And we should. But before we go to the ending we must appreciate the path Jesus trod to get there so that we might follow that path. The descending nature of God is the way of redemption, of renewal, and of deliverance. There is no other way, in a world gone horribly wrong, then to empty oneself, stoop down, step down and...to repent...to lay down "rights". Or as Paul puts it--to crucify oneself...

'I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.' Galatians 2:20

This is the way of salvation and when the world--all the world-- gets this and lives by it--the world will be saved.

But they would not.

It is a dream that I fear will never come true because our nature is violence, The curse of Cain looms like a heavy mist amongst us and nothing will lift the fog. Nineveh with its whole hearted surprising repentance will not repeat and we will not receive the broken Christ at the center of our respective societies. This is the stain that permeates all cultures for all time. The cycle of violence, of power, had to be rendered powerless. Unless the age is interrupted blood will spill and evil will continually prevail.

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

So when Jesus says "Love your enemies," he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition.The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation." --Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

This is one of the key reasons Jesus goes to the cross. In that one act God Almighty laid down His rights, His arms, His power to show us the way. Jesus broke the cycle of hate and violence by willingly going to the cross. The cycle was broken, the chain reaction of evil diffused at the cross--this is the message of God--this is love poured out--this is the message of the cross. This is the reason for the purposeful laying down of "rights" described in Philippians 2 and referenced by Jesus before Pilate in Matthew 26,

"Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?".


Of course He could--but the point is He didn't--and when Peter bears the sword in Gethsemane; Jesus' response is sharp and decisive. When the law courts of Jerusalem and Rome strike His cheek--he turns the other cheek. When James and John ask who will rule on the seat to the right and left Jesus says--you still don't get it do you? This is not about force but about upending force. It is not about being served but serving. It is not about my rights but being right in the eyes of God.

It is the message of God.

This is finally the reason for the return of the Christ. The present evil age with its 'Am I my brother's keeper?' mentality will one day come to a close.

World interrupted.

  • love's goodbye

'...never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.'--John Donne Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

It begins in a garden. It finds its climax where it begins. This is the setting for the final scene before the battle. It is here where God and Jesus meet, Father and Son hug, and Man and Woman kiss one last time. The last embrace before one goes off to war lingers as long as it can. And here all things die because the sun has set and darkness rules the night. Once bright and full of life the garden of life is now doused in sweat and blood.

When a soldier goes to war does he go alone? For whom is war hardest? Is it the One who goes to flight or the One who is left behind to wait?

 

  • ending

"We're a long long way from home Bob,
home's a long, long way from us,
I feel a dirty wind a blowing..."--'Devils and Dust' written by Bruce Springsteen

And after the day came the night. And they took him before the council of the Sanhedrin where it was determined that He was a genuine threat to the peace of the community who lived under the tyranny of Rome. It was a sound decision fueled by tremendous fear...with the finger on the trigger. And they all agreed together, they were of one mind, and they made a pact. They were sure of their position. They were 'right'. And this needed to be done for the sake of the community.

We've got God on our side
We're just trying to survive,
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love

Fear's a powerful thing
It'll turn your heart black you can trust
It'll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

Fear's a powerful thing, it'll turn your heart black you can trust...take your God filled soul and turn it to devils and dust. And they are afraid. Let sleeping dogs lie. And they took him to the steps of 'justice' where it was determined that he had done nothing wrong. And Pilate washed his hands while she dreamed a dream. And the elders went home to rest.

Dawn broke.

And He began a long, long journey home. A long way away from home, home a long, long way from Him. And if I recall there was a dirty wind blowing that night. Something rancid in the air. Rotten in Denmark you say. And it was night on that day in that hour, darker at 3:00 in the afternoon than at the pitchest time of the deep dark night. And the earth trembled as death won the day. And God trembled as He breathed His final breathe. And the earth felt His breathe and shook.

"Where are you going?" asks Pita. "Home, I'm going home" replies John Creasy. And he trudges along the suspension bridge to the other side. But this time someone walks alongside him. I see dead men walking. It is Jesus.

It isn't done. The sun will come up another day. The sun will come up tomorrow. And we will forget this ever happened.

"Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I'm free at last..." was the whisper of God that would turn to a shout. The peasant who would be King. The pauper that owned the earth. Unrecognized by His 'own' He is handled, managed, and not so discreetly put away. Silenced. In His own words he acquiesced or so it seems...'it is finished'. Well thank God for that. Perhaps we can put it all behind us. Get on with life. This has all been so disturbing to me. But in the night it all comes back to haunt. Your guard drops in the deep sleep of the night. You can't control your dreams or your nightmares. I dreamed of Jesus as 'strange fruit' swaying yet still on a tree. He is spread eagle and the blood runs red.

Well I dreamed of you last night
In a field of blood and stone
The blood began to dry
The smell began to rise

Well I dreamed of you last night, Bobby
In a field of mud and bone
Your blood began to dry
And the smell began to rise

At last it's over. This bloody mess. Who's to blame? Am I my brother's keeper? He should have kept His mouth shut. He put us in a bad situation. You can't defy Lord Caesar and live. There is too much Egypt in all of these criminals.

What kind of friend would pull a knife when it's him or you and his kid needs shoes? What kind of man will do you in when the bomb goes off and the shelter's his? Don't be naive, why, we all know that everyman does these things when pressed into a corner. We all do. But what if what you do to survive, to get by, to stay afloat, kills something deep down inside you. What if your fear kills the thing you love. What of dignity, bravery, courage and all that stuff. Fables, fairy tales and fantasy. When it comes down to it we save our own skin. We look after number one. We are no different than the crowd gathered on the Portico steps.

Still.

Something beckons us to be better than that. Actually if we only knew, it's Someone. And we want to be heroic. We don't imagine ourselves as Peter or God forbid Judas. We dream of passing through the crucible intact.

Now every woman and every man
They wanna take a righteous stand
Find the love that God wills
And the faith that He commands

We want to be heroic. But when the gun is pointed as us. When it's loaded. When it's Rome. When it's your pension. What kind of friends do friends become when the musical chairs are down to one? Will you knock me out of the chair, throw me under the bus, leave me hanging out to dry? And what kind of friend am I? Would I do you in?

Another waits in heaven. With open arms for His one true love.

When Edward asks,"So what happens after he climbs up the tower and rescues her?" Vivian replies; "She rescues him right back."

Mortality loses its grip on this day and has no more strength. Eternity is on the other side of darkness. The deliverer is nigh. God's reputation has been rescued here on this cross...and Jesus...the One who rescues God...He will be rescued right back.

 

  • the rising

Who will bend this ancient hatred, will the killing to an end
Who will swallow long injustice, take the devil for a country man
Who will say "this far no further, oh lord, if I die today"'--James Taylor in Belfast to Boston

'Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin' the cross of my calling'--Bruce Springsteen in 'The Rising'

Michael Wittmer describes the hall leading to Michelangelo’s David in the Academy in Florence which holds several of his unfinished statues:

'In some ways these 'prisoner' statues are more interesting than his impressive David, for the chiseled outlines of their half-finished forms offer us a glimpse of a genius at work. They are 'done' but somehow incomplete, unfinished, in need. Their placard says that Michelangelo left these statues unfinished to express his belief that, just as the prisoners’ bodies struggle to emerge from the blocks of marble, so our spirits yearn to escape the confines of our bodies.'*

We are made for something more than dust to dust. We know it deep inside. Something longs to be free. There is more to us than meets the eye. Deep calls unto deep. When Jesus dies He says 'into thy hands I commend my spirit' and something rests. A pause. A folding of the hands. A tilting of the head.

At rest.

  • Jesus and God are One

He will be, even as He is, the Great I Am. Sounds confusing but it will soon make perfect sense.

I am persuaded that God emerges in the Old Testament; called the Tanakh in Jewish literature. He emerges into a character that is in a bind, almost stumped, silenced and finished. Israel is in exile. His child, His lover, His people are on the ropes and have been for quite some time. But He will eventually come to a triumphant, surprising renewal. The God who is becoming is getting ready to make His move. The troubled God will make a triumphant return.

At the cross we see God as He emerges on the other side of silence. Jesus is God on the other side of silence. He, God, changes as the story unfolds and like so many great stories rises up just in the nick of time. It comes in the end when all seemed assuredly lost and without hope. Just then resolution comes, that which was a dissonant chord hanging loosely exposed and vulnerable in history's symphony resolves. In the end the crisis is resolved into a soothing, restful conclusion. And just then, at that very moment redemption occurs for heaven and earth.

This is God and He is solving the dilemma of fallen-ness, of sin, of evil, of Israel.

One of Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculptures is The Thinker statue, a piece originally conceived to be part of another work. The Thinker was part of a commission by the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris to sculpt a monumental door based on The Divine Comedy of Dante. Each of the statues in the piece represented one of the main characters in the epic poem.

Initially named the The Poet, The Thinker statue was intended to represent Dante himself at the top of the door reflecting on the scene below. However, we can speculate that Rodin thought of the figure in broader, more universal terms. The Thinker is depicted as a man in sober meditation battling with a powerful internal struggle. The unique pose with hand to the chin, right elbow to the left knee, and crouching position allows the statue to survey the work with a contemplative feel. This poet, this thinker, this One, is God at the close of the Tanakh.

Yes, He “will be” even as He is I am. And He is the image we reflect. And we are like Him.

Something drives Him towards this, and in that way He is like us. We emerge into ourselves and something drives us. We become who we are. We are not born who we will be. We become as we relate and experience our life. Perhaps we are not as noble as God, assuredly we are not as gracious and courageous as Jesus, but we both walk this earthly path seeking resolution and redemption.

I believe God redeemed Himself in Jesus and solved His dilemma along the way. It happened all at once. This moment was and is the most crucial moment for Him, the crucible moment for His people, and the christening moment for you and I and all of creation.

The poem ends here at the cross. Miles to go…no more. Sleep has come.

The journey has come to its end. The many miles He has traveled as God on the temporal time constrained earth from Genesis to the last breath of John have led him to this moment. Death breathes its last sigh.

Like Inman of Cold Mountain the journey has ended. Amidst the cold metaphor of snowy silence the grey clouds settle in. A storm is on the horizon.

And after the rain there's a rainbow. Can you see it? Can you imagine?. These statues will grow arms. Spirits will come alive, dead bones will shake and rise. We no longer have to ponder. The greys will turn to color. The rainbow comes after this storm.

We are made to rise. JT...the question heard from Belfast to Boston has been answered. God has taken the 'devil for a countryman'.

We are stardust...we are golden...and we will find our way back to the garden and it will be better than it ever was because we have walked the road of disappointment. We have tasted the bitter gall of the lower story. We like the Israelites in the wilderness look up and are healed at the sight of the symbol of death wrapped around the cross. What was once a man has turned into a snake. What once was the symbol of death has become the place where life begins again.

It is time to exit. Come on up to 'the rising'.

Hear the news from Belfast to Boston and all places in between. 'Who will say this far no further' is answered. Tomorrow. The sun will come up tomorrow. The dawn is already on the horizon.

Come on up on the wings of God.

"The Rising"

Can't see nothin' in front of me
Can't see nothin' coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can't feel nothing but this chain that binds me

Lost track of how far I've gone, how far I've gone, how high I've climbed
On my back's a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin' the cross of my calling...Come on up for the rising!

"Belfast to Boston"

There are rifles buried in the countryside for the rising of the moon
May they lie there long forgotten till they rust away into the ground
Who will bend this ancient hatred, will the killing to an end
Who will swallow long injustice, take the devil for a country man
Who will say "this far no further, oh lord, if I die today"

Send no weapons no more money. Send no vengeance across the seas
Just the blessing of forgiveness for my new countryman and me

Missing brothers, martyred fellows, silent children in the ground
Could we but hear them could they not tell us
"Time to lay God's rifle down"

Who will say this far no further, oh Lord, if I die today.

 

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