One on each side…

041314_1740_ACrossBetwe1.jpg    At least the blood at stopped pooling at the foot of his cross.

    As a mother, I had seen many scrapes and cuts on my little boy’s body. I had seen blood pour from his forehead one day when he tripped in the street and cracked his head on the rocks. It was a bloody mess. It ruined the clothes he had on that day.

    But it was nothing compared to this. When the spikes first went through his wrists, the blood poured across the wooden crossbeam and pooled in the rocks below. After they lifted the beam and attached it to the upright, the blood still poured from the wounds in his wrists.

    I couldn’t stop watching it.

    But amazingly, in what seemed like hours ago, it stopped. The wounds were there in his wrists and if he fidgeted too much, or tried to lift himself to breathe easier, it would start again. But never much. Maybe it had run out. Maybe the blood couldn’t reach that high in his body anymore. I don’t know. I just know my son had stopped bleeding. It wasn’t much. He would still die. But somehow this little fact comforted me.

    And if only he would quit moving…quit being restless…quit talking…maybe that horror wouldn’t begin again.

    He always was a restless boy. Never content to stay still. Even at the foot of his cross, I could remember him as a child going all through the neighborhood, always a following of other kids with him. They would run the streets and play their games but he was never one to stick to any game for long. He would not come home until someone physically brought him home. “He’s got a restless spirit,” his father would say. But somehow I thought it was endearing, this energy, my child, my boy had. I even remembered the time he convinced others that we had said it would be okay for him to stay the night. Oh, the fright when we found he was missing. We thought he was gone for good. But that time would wait until this day.

    I sat there in the shadows on this passing day and remembered his growing up. The changes. The restlessness turning to moodiness. The moodiness turning to anger. The anger turning against his family.

    I knew he ran around with a dangerous and different crowd. Some of them were prostitutes, both male and female and some were just petty criminals. I didn’t know what my son was but I knew he was still restless, still looking for something, for someone to accept who he was.

    What I didn’t know would come out at his so called trial. My son, my restless wandering boy, had turned to a life of crime and offense of our laws. He stole. He lied. He did things that I could not bear to hear. But none of them changed my love for him. I would stand by him. I would bear this shame on my knees – the shame of my love for my child.

And oh, how those around me stood in judgment. Not only would my son be killed for his offenses, but his family was kicked out of the synagogue. We were told not to return, even after his death. Somehow, what he was tainted us as well. It didn’t matter to me, though. I loved him still.

    Oh, how I wish I had controlled him a bit more when he was younger now. Maybe without the restlessness and all that followed it, I could somehow have avoided this day. And maybe he wouldn’t keep moving on that cross. I know he was leaving. I didn’t want him to leave. But I wanted him to be at peace. I cried for his peace.

    Somewhere in the midst of my tears, I heard one of the others being killed talking. Another said something and I heard my son tell the first to be quiet. He said, “We are getting what we deserve, but this man did nothing.” And the man in the middle said the strangest thing. He looked at me and then looked at my son and said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” I did not know this man but I heard the rumors swirling around him. He was a teacher, a rabbi, who was stirring people up and had to be killed. Strange words from a rabble-rouser. If anything, his words showed more compassion for my son than any religious person had ever shown.

    My son stared at the man in the middle for what seemed like an eternity. He never moved a muscle while he watched him. He relaxed. His breathing evened out. His struggle stopped.

    And so did the blood.

    Eventually, I heard the soldiers coming. They were clearing the way so they could break the legs of those being crucified and hurry their deaths. They checked one of the men and broke his legs – oh, the screams he made. I wished my son would die before they got to him, but still he looked on the man in the middle.

    The soldiers checked that man and found he was dead. His mother cried out and I knew her pain but I wished, oh how I wished they would have stayed longer checking on him. I knew what would come next.

    The soldier’s reached my son’s cross and he moved his eyes from the man in the middle and looked at me. There wasn’t a muscle moving when they hammered at his legs. I waited for his screams, but nothing came. He looked at me, looked at the man in the middle, and breathed his last breath.

    I thought I would cry. I expected to wail. But I didn’t. My son, my son had found peace at last. If I cry in the future, it will only be because he had not found it until that man in the middle spoke to him words of hope and words of love.

    My son…my restless son…had found peace.

…one on each side … John 19:18

Stitches

Occasionally,
there are things that cut so deep
my body is in need of the healing power of stitches.

A knife slips while slicing onions,
and my watery eyes do not take note
of the quick movement
towards the taut, stretched skin of my finger.

[Shouted…] “Crap!”

Off to the healers for stiches.

Occasionally, words cut…
cut through the roughness and toughness
of my calloused exterior.
They find their way – these cutting, ripping words –
to a place deep inside
slipping inside my psyche
twisting in the depths of my soul.
A tongue slips during a time of greeting
to lodge an “observation”
about sloppiness and lack of attention
to detail.

That tongue slices through
my taunt, stretched smile
and lays bare the nerves that lie deep within.

Blood collects on my own bitten tongue

[Unspoken…] “Crap!”]

Off to the healers…for stitches.

“Thank you for offering kind words to my friend…”
“Thank you for checking on us and caring for us…”
“Thank you for sharing your story…”
“It’s nice to know we have a pastor who truly is human…”
“I love you, Daddy.”

 

©2014, Scott Sears

Inspired by www.pray-as-you-go.org and John 5:1-3, 5-16 (NRSVA)

Ask Almost Anything (Leftovers Again…)

One question that came up during the Ask Almost Anything sermon series – where I received text messages and emails from the congregation during and after worship and answered those questions during the sermon time – was a question that I believe is very basic to our understanding and living of the faith: What is the definition of a “Disciple”? 

Now, when I first saw this question, I didn’t notice that the word had been capitalized.  My immediate (and as usual, sarcastic, response) would have been: “I don’t know…why don’t you try looking in a mirror!”  🙂

However, I think the person askikitten-or-lion-which-is-itng this question is looking on two levels.  First, I think that they want to know what the definition of a “Biblical Disciple” was in the days shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  There has always been some interest in identifying the “Twelve” and distinguishing them from others who followed Jesus and giving further distance to those who made up the “crowd.”

This first part of the question can be answered fairly briefly: a “Disciple” is one of the Twelve, was  one of those  Jesus called to follow him and who were witnesses to his resurrection.

A second a deeper part of this question, I think, has to do with what makes one a disciple of Jesus today.  And the answer begins in the same way…those who are called by Jesus to follow him and who are witnesses to the power of the resurrection in their lives.

There does need to be a sense of “calling” for someone to be a disciple.  Those callings come in many ways.  Some hear or feel the presence of God leading them to some deeper relationship to him that is found in Jesus.  Others feel some sort of void or absence in their life that only the presence and calling of Christ to become a part of something bigger than themselves can fill.  Either way…a person is called.  (I guess in United Methodist circles, we would call this the grace of God at work in our lives even before we are aware of it – something called prevenient grace.)

A disciple also should be able to show that they are witnesses to the power of the resurrection.  (The original “Twelve” did the same, however, they were also physical witnesses to that resurrection.)  I like to think about it like this…As those who have heard some call from Jesus and answered it to follow him, we discover that this man chose to give up the power of heaven to become human while remaining the very Son of God.  As that person who walked, talked and taught among other humans, Jesus found himself constantly on the outside of both religious and political power by introducing us to a new way of seeing the Kingdom of God being present with those around him.  Eventually, Jesus was arrested and killed on a cross for the sin of humanity – failure to see the power of God at work in the humbleness of the servant Jesus, the servant God who wants to be in relationship with each and every one of us.

In a very real and powerful way, Jesus showed his love for all human beings by allowing himself to become this sacrifice for us.  God accepted that sacrifice and resurrected Jesus to show that death – the ultimate price of sin – would no longer hold power over anyone who followed Jesreflections-in-mirror 1us.  We become witnesses to the power of the resurrection not when we talk about the glory of heaven or about the gift we will receive for following Jesus, but when we do the very same thing Jesus did – love one another as he loved us.

So, the brief answer for the second way of looking at this question can be found in John 13:31-35.

You can know a disciple…by the way she or he loves.  Short and simple.

Until the next question…keep heading towards home!!