Thursday, March 14, 2013

The most important passage in the Bible?


Stephen and Marsha have been sorting through different projects that would be possible Kickstarter campaigns. He’s especially excited and intirigued by the  organ. Digging into the Internet. Seeing what he can find out online about it. 

The mumbling man is back again and again it costs me. 

RL and Poet Tim stop through on their way up to the studio.

Cara is alternating between Jane’s Addiction and a Lebanese woman singing oriental chants. Between 80’s strip clubs and desert convents. She stretches slowly and easily as the  dancer she is. I’m amazed at her supple flexibility, wish I could have seen her at the top of her game. She tells Stephen and I about her feathers.  For women and fems in recovery, marking  their sobriety anniversaries with peacock feathers. For the more manly men, it’s pheasant feathers. The peacock feather was her first awakening to a higher power. The intricacy and delicacy of pattern and design, like an Indian fabric, like paisley. She laughs and says, so when you see this and remember your higher power, you’ll remember  I got mine...

There’s an old Mexican asleep in a back  pew. She’s given him water. Anna’s afraid he’ll asperate. And we’ll be responsible. We get him up before Bible study, but while we’re deep in the Garden of Gethsemane, he slips back in. 

That’s where we are tonight in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. (Mark 14: 32-42) The third time he’s prayed. At the beginning, the middle, the end of his journey. Always in a quiet, deserted place. Away. By himself. He asks his friends to stand by, to stay awake. Knowing that while one will betray him, all will desert him. Still he can hope. 

His emotions? The Greek behind distressed and agitated...grieved unto all the deepest anguish, a heart pushed to brokenness, as Keierkegaard put it, fear and trembling and sickness unto death.  He knows what’s up ahead and with everything in side of him does not want want to go there. 

Why? Why must he go there? It is the critical question.  Anna has read a book by Albert Schweitzer that analyzes Jesus as manic depressive, even paranoid schizophrenic, what we’d call bipolar.  For John,  Jesus has to die because of our sin, because of what happened in the Garden  of Eden.  I explain that in the Jewish tradition, it’s not so much the fall as it is the story of coming to consciousness. Leaving the garden is about having to live as a responsible adult in the world. Still John  has spoken clearly traditional Christian theology. For Marsha, the idea of a God demanding blood sacrifice of his own son just doesn’t work. John speaks of the Old Testament God. And I say that there are at least two if not three images of God in the Old Testament. And that the traditional theological argument leads me into an intellectual cul de sac.

The answer seems to me to come from the context of a Passover seder/season. Jesus as the Paschal lamb. The blood that was sprinkled over the doorposts of the children of Israel so that the angel of death would pass over them. So in this context, Jesus’ blood is not to take away sins, but to save from death.

(We’ll leave aside for a moment whether the angel of death should have been smart enough to have figured that out on his ---or her, see American Horror Story, season 2-- own.)

Marsha asks if Jesus himself ever said his mission was to die so that our sins would be forgiven, and the answer is no.

So ...what we are left with is this...Jesus, reluctant, anguished, fearful...chooses to be faithful and follow the path to the end...and thereby, by defeating the fear of death, is transformed. And thereby we, by following that path, can be transformed. It is not about substitutionary atonement (cul de sac) or even martyrology. Only about faithfulness. Bonhoeffer, King, Romero, the Salvadoran nuns...and on...

Marsha says this may be the most important passage in the Bible. And I agree. By choosing to be faithful to the end, the victory is already won. Resurrection becomes icing on the cake, confirmation, so to speak.

And once again, we have found a living word. Made my day. And the words of each and everyone around  the table brought the word alive. Ears to hear.
We also noted that when Jesus kept finding his friends asleep, even adamant Peter, the so called rock, he calls him by his original name, Simon. Rock no more. 
Nevertheless,thy will, not mine be done.  

                            * * * * 

Last Phoenix thoughts. Friday night was a party at Trina’s house. She gathered 20 or so long time faithful friends. people who have stood for women’s reproductive rights, rights of the disabled, immigrant rights, humane borders. Some for half a century or more. To be progressive in New York City is one thing. In a place like Arizona, the dry zone, it’s something else. It comes with a price. To remain faithful for half a century, despite the opposition of neighbor and even your own church people, that takes courage. But what I see in their faces is not tiredness, not exhaustion, but a sense of peace, a sense of joy. Somehow this connects. With the story of Jesus. In the garden. 

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