Monday, August 8, 2011

Old, old stories

My sister, RE, wrote me an email which precipitated me going through the file box in which I keep retreat, sermon and Bible study notes. This led me to re-organize them in a more systematic fashion, which made me start reading them.  One thing after another after another.  Well, this is how life often goes.  Doesn't it?  Anyway, I came across snippets of journal entries I'd copied to use for a retreat.  The retreat was about ways to enhance our spiritual devotion and the first session was about journaling.  So all through the retreat, I read portions of my journals to back up the other topics (We looked at spiritual friendships, suffering, and community as well). 

Some of the journal entries were quite good and seem so far from me I barely remember them coming from my own pen, though they have my voice, if that makes sense.  So I thought today that I'd share a couple of my old, old stories, so to speak. Bear with me, they're long (especially the second one, but it's worth it!).

February 8, 1997
I feel like the plum tree Grampie took his pruner to last spring right after the buds had turned to blooms.  All whacked apart, left to fall on the ground any which way, leaving branches and blooms gloriously flowering, screaming on the ground.  "Why did you do that?  I'm dying, dying, just as I'm most alive and beautiful."  And I felt offended that he chose to prune indiscriminately without asking, without so much as a 'by your leave'...But trees don't get a choice. EVER.
There I am saying, "Wait a minute, I like that limb, I was using it." And the Lord is saying, "We gotta trim you back get rid of this dead weight." If I'm completely honest, I have to admit I'm afraid, that like this plum tree, when I get pruned by Him, so much will be whacked off that it will take forever to grow back and bloom, or worse, that I will die altogether.  Could that happen to me, Lord?  Are you going to kill the whole dang thing?
But maybe sometimes He has to.  Maybe there are parts of me that are so diseased that the tree must come down, because I'm a lump of dead leaves and absolutely nothing is growing.  In fact, maybe I'm infecting those around me.  So maybe, sometimes the only way to grow is to die completely.  If I can just endure it.

March 27, 1997
God. He had skin and hair and fingernails and teeth.  His beard grew and he may have trimmed it or maybe not.  His body got dirty and sweaty in the sun.  He had to bathe, at least now and then because all that sweat and dirt smelled like the dickens. A real man with real human functions.  He set himself among us and limited himself to flesh.  At least most of the time.  There were moments, of course, when he stretched beyond, when he bypassed the slowness of this earth to do a natural process at supernatural speed:  turning water into wine.  Or he leapt beyond to make limbs move that could not.  Or stretch the minute into mass--2 fish and 5 loaves into 500 lunches. These feats, so simple for God but impossible for man, tore the veil from our eyes for a moment. But in the end, when he settled into flesh (or so we thought) we saw ONLY the flesh of him: the beard, the skin, the teeth, the fingernails.  And we mocked him. We laughed and yelled at the audaciousness, the very impossible presumption that this man--this man so like us in his smell and look and being--might be God. It could not be so, we yelled.  "Crucify Him! Let Him save Himself."  We pierced that skin and it could be pierced.  We pressed thorns through his hair and those thorns caused real blood.  And we nails His body to a cross.  And because he was a man, it killed him.

But we were wrong.  He was God. Wrapped in human flesh, He was also God. And He did save Himself...after He'd saved us.  After He'd died for us.  After what we did to Him--after we made Him bleed--He saved us.  And make no mistake, WE did yell with that crowd.  All of history was represented there.  It might not be a cross and nails in 20th century America but we'd find a way to crucify Him...and still, tomorrow morning, just as the sun rims the eastern horizon, He'll be walking out of the grave, leaving an empty tomb.  For us!  For the very ones who screamed at Him, ran from Him, rolled the stone to keep Him in. Still, there He is, walking toward us.  Toward me, the very one who held the hammer that nailed Him to the death tree; there He is, with love gazing out those more-than-human eyes, and the veil is ripped forever. HE is God.  And though I don't understand it and know I don't deserve it, He wrapped His infiniteness into finite flesh for me.  This IS my resurrection day.

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