Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Men in Dignified Attire
When he was in that moment of the processonal in which he was just about to reach his chair, he was gripped with a terror-inducing vision that gripped all of his wholly-dignified being with great horror. In this moment he eyes no longer looked intense, but merely big and wide open; his beard no longer strong and grizzly but rather bushy and fizzy. In his mind's eye his royal Dining Hall was suddenly cleaved in two, with him and his present condition taking up one half, and the other half of being filled with the vision that so disrupted his feeling of comfort and supremecy that came with his recent victory. It was as if the very fabric of the cosmos had split in two, and from some strange place at either it's center or its most outer limits extended this strange thing he was seeing in his mind's eye as if from another land and another time.
The other side of his hall was suddenly filled with a crowd of light-hearted, normal looking people, laughing and eating and carrying on as if they had not a care in the world - at least not a king to fear. And these people he saw - they were his very subjects who lived under him around his great castle (but they looked so different!). But because the Hall was split in two, and because the vision seemed to be from some strange and distant place of the cosmos, but yet right here in either his Hall or his mind, he no longer had any control whatsoever over his subjects.
The floor, walls and ceiling in his vision, rather than being of cold earthen stone, looked like some strangely comfortable and yet cold man-made material that he had never yet seen. The seats were red, just like the seats on his side of the hall, but rather than cushiony velvet, they were that strange un-placed material that he could not understand (merely a different color). And the food. It seemed even more abundantly available than the food that was about to stream from his great kitchen! And there were so many of his very impoverished subjects eating without limit, seeming not to care that the food might have any sort of possiblity of running out at some point in a not-too-distant future. The king heard one of the smily people in the vision say, "This is a good burger, I like Burger King." This, for the king, was a puzzling statement.
Then, the strangest of all the sights in his vision - he saw a little child wearing a crown just like his! But cardboard! And no one was listening to a word he said! How dare them - they should all be hanged. He was talking and carrying on and it was as if not one of his words were of one bit of consequence to anyone but himself.
Next to the boy with the crown the king saw a man in some sort of dull grey attire that looked, despite it's immense lack of beauty or glory, as if it was supposed to be dignified just like the King's current attire. The man in the attire did in fact have some semblance of dignity about him, or at least it looked that way in his posture and in his mannerisms as he ate the strange piece of meat with bread on each side. What made the king think especially that the man must have had some level of dignity among his people, was that the man seemed to have the right to ignore everything that everyone did and said around him, including the cute little boy beside him who was foolishly babbling away at no one. But what was striking to the King was that, as far as the king could tell, there was not that much that was actually dignified about the man in the grey attire. It made the King wonder about his own dignity. Was he really dignified as he looked? Such invalid and unvain thoughts were rightfully pushed back to where they belonged - the land of the forgotten (strangley, 'tis a highly populated land to be inhabited only by what isn't around anymore).
The king saw between the two halfs of the hall a grizzly and gruesome sight. The vestiges of some sort of sacrificial ritual - as if the guts of unknown men sacraficed to some great new cause like the sacrificial goat prior to the great theatrical plays of ancient Athens whose guts are layed out by the priest at the crossroads between the stage and the audience - had been strewn across the floor of the hall. The king was not sure of who these sacrificial men were, whether they were from his own land and age, or possibly some distant past or future one. But it seemed obvious to him in his mind that these intestines, forming the threshold between his world and the terror-inducing, horrifying one he could not recognize, had contributed in some way to the formation of what it was that the King was seeing.
Laying in the center of this linear pile of vestige intestines was a big, heavy, wooden cross. It seemed almost as if that cross had born the possibility for his smiling subjects - an uneasy feeling for the King. What was this cross, and what power did it hold? It spoke to him in some way, but exactly how he was not sure. He could sense that it was speaking to him about his relationship with his subjects, but he could not tell if it represented a lustful and greedy desire for all of his subjects to be unjustly just like him (after all, those people in the vision, just like him, seemed to have so much freedom and power and not much burden), or if it represented some deep inner calling for him to be more like his subjects (which he could not quite understand - he had the passing thought that it would make him a better king).
At that moment the vision disappeared. He turned toward his royal dining seat, uneasily smiling and nodding to his Queen, who was now standing to his side by her own chair, forgetting as best he could about the crazy vision he had just seen. He smiled proudly as a man from the infamous Culinary Guild of the King's own patronage walked out briskly from the kitchen in order to describe the coming meal.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
The Nice Ass
There is this strangely reigning idea that Jesus was a nice-ass, eerr, nice guy. That he was this passive sheep with arms open wide to anyone willing to manipulate him into their force-field of niceness over which they could not manage to gain control. Is that why he turned the tables over of all the money changers in the Temple? Is that why he healed people on the Sabbath, something that was against the Law that only those in positions of "authority" (other than the Messiah) would have had the power to "authorize" - thereby directly challenging their power and authority? Is that why everyone who came to "bring him in" to the authorities, to the "precinct" if you will, came back to the "precinct" saying, "Uuhh, sir, we know you asked us to bring him in, but we've never heard anyone speak like that before. He's too powerful. Good luck on your ventures reigning him in." Jesus wasn't the sheep, but the shepheard. Not the nice guy who behaves well and follows instructions well (in fact he was considered "a drunkard and a winebibber"). Not the guy who relies on the system (the system that corrupts the Temple), but they guy who challenges it - to the point of death.
The stakes of the game asking us to be the "nice guy" are indeed high. Whole-hearted entrance into the game of the illusory "nice-guy" means success, ease, and acceptance by all others who play. But are they for you or against you? Who's willing to play the "right" card, exchanging his death card for the Life one given originally? I must ask, am I - the perennial front-runner for the "nice guy" award, the one who conforms to whatever form by which I find mself surrounded - willing to do that? What do you see in the eyes of the one who stares you in the mirror? In Jesus I see a raging fire. A barbarian unwilling to conform to the duties of the Roman pontiff nor the hypocracy of the Jewish "aurhorities". Fires catch on all things that are dry and seek a quenching to their thirst. Game or Reality? Fire or water? Life or Death?
Imagine a table of 12 big mean men playing poker, drinking, laughing and having a good 'ol time, trying their best to take each other's money. Each intent on using their cards to play the best possible hand, putting an incredible amount of energy into deciding whether to stay in or fold. All the while still drinking and laughing as if the pouring forth of such energy were easy. Of course those are the only options, right - raise or fold? Raise or fold? What if there was a whole other card, one that no one saw in the deck when the game started but that was responsibile for the existence of the game in the first place. One by which, when laid on the table, effectively ended your enslavement to the game and its highly-limited set of not-so-great options. What if someone playing the game actually asked his fellow players whether any of them had this card? Could you imagine the looks on their faces? Astonishment. "Are you crazy?" Such a card would mean the very end of our game! No more smiling. No more drinking. No more laughing while secretly hoping to kill each other!
Now what if such a "card" not only exists but is the Reality encompassing the game, the scene that sets the possibility for the very existence of a game, but that completely annihilates the need or desire for the game, due to entrance into the Reality? Would you play it? Are you mean enough to end the game of the friends who want to kill you?
Like the Ocean's Tide
Monday, February 06, 2006
The Sacred Crutch
from the Quran
The ending to a story whose beginning is an angel of Allah granting to king Solomon power over basically all of creation, including the angelic (and "demonic") realms; at one point Solomon enlists the demons to laboriously build for him a Temple to Allah...
"'When shall the resurrection be?'
'That is known only to Allah; but assuredly not before the advent of Mohammed, the last of all prophets. Previously to it the prophet Isa (Christ), sprung from thy own family, shall preach the true faith, shall be lifted up by Allah, and be born again. The nations of Jadjudj and Madjudj shall burst the wall behind which Alexander hath confined them. The sun shall rise in the west, and many other signs and wonders shall precede.'
'Suffer me to live until the completion of my temple, for at my death the genii and demons will cease their labor.'
'Thy hour-glass has run out, and it is not in my power to prolong thy life another second.'
'Then follow me to my crystal hall!'
The Angel of Death accompanied Solomon unto the hall, whose walls were entirely of crystal. There Solomon prayed; and, leaning upon his staff, requested the angel to take his soul in that position. The angel consented; and his death was thus concealed from the demons a whole year, till the temple was finished. It was not until the staff, when destroyed by worms, broke down with him, that his death was observed by the spirits, who, in order to revenge themselves, concealed all kinds of magical books under his throne, so that many believers thought Solomon had been a sorcerer. But he was a pure and divine prophet, as it is written in the Koran, 'Solomon was no infidel, but the demons were unbelievers, and taught all manner of sorceries.' When the king was lying on the ground, the angels carried him, together with his signet ring, to a cave, where they shall guard him until the day of the resurrection."
From the mouth of Jesus Christ, risen savior who "is preparing a place for us" (it is Christ himself who is "preparing" this place", not a company of demons acting as our servants, as in the above story): "I will destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days". From here Christ's "body, the Church" is to be the new Shekhinah (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shekinah), which had previusly been represented by the Temple, or Sanctuary. This Sanctuary, this place of purity and safety in which we can freely (now) seek the presence of God and be "at home" with ourselves and others (The Greek word 'skene' - dwelling - is thought to be derived from 'shekinah' and 'sakan'). This is something all humans desire; and when they find a likeness of it, they are drawn to it.But all re-memberances of Solomon's staff, his crutch upon which he was able to build his Temple, will ultimately fall; and the only Sanctuary that will last is the one built upon the cornerstone, which is the stubling block of men. "One lovely image that affected me...is of Christ's righteousness being like a glorious wedding dress that makes me utterly gorgeous to God...Knowing that I stand before God as his beloved, because of Christ, has freed me to explore some of the disturbing and dark aspects of who I am...Because Christ's righteousness is the foundation of my self-concept, I no longer have to 'keep up appearances' with myself, God, or anyone else" - from The Emotionally Healthy Church, p. 82-83. Let me repeat a portion of the opening story: "his death was thus concealed from the demons a whole year, till the temple was finished. It was not until the staff, when destroyed by worms, broke down with him, that his death was observed by the spirits..." Compared to "I no longer have to 'keep up appearances'..."
For all of us, our Death, like the Solomon's death that was concealed from the demons in the above story, is or contains these dark corners of our soul. "Do not eat from this tree, or you will die". And, like Solomon, the rest of us seek to conceal our Death so as to continue building our facade, using whatever crutches (or staffs) are necessary. This "freedom to explore some of the disturbing and dark aspects of who I am" is therefore something that spills out in all likenesses of God's Sanctuary. It is only appropriate because we all carry memory of our perfect purity, our original goodness in the eyes of God; and therefore long to be purged of our demons.
Let's go back to the quote from The Emotionally Healthy Church. It said, "Because Christ's righteousness is the foundation of my self-concept." Following is the crutch, an affirmation of the "righteousness" of Solomon, which hinges accross the light of Christ's perfect Beauty:
"He therefore mounted the rostrum, and, before the whole assembled people, pronounced a discourse, in which he described the pure and God-devoted life of all the prophets, from Adam until David. In passing to Solomon, he praised the wisdom and piety of the first years of his reign, but regretted that his later courses showed less of the true fear of God.
As soon as Solomon had learned the contents of this discourse, he summoned Assaf, and inquired of him whereby he had deserved to be thus censured before the whole people.
Assaf replied, 'Thou hast permitted thy passion to blind thee, and suffered idolatry in thy palace.'
Solomon hastened to the apartments of Djarada, whom he found prostrate in prayer before the image of her father, and exclaiming,
'We belong unto Allah, and shall one day return to Him!' he shivered the idol to pieces, and punished the princess. He then put on new robes, which none but pure virgins had touched, strewed ashes on his head, went into the desert, and implored Allah for forgiveness.
Allah pardoned his sin; but he was to atone for it during forty days."
The crutch, the staff, by which Solomon fools the demons into finishing the construction of the Temple, is the same as the crutches we all use to appear righteous "before the whole assembled people"! And they are both born out of the desire for the same safe Sanctuary of healing, love, forgiveness, and the simple presence of God - a desire for home. The same desire to remember the origins of our good creation in the Garden. No crutch but a cross, however sacred, will hold us up.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
My second grade English teacher was a so-called "hard-ass". I didn't like her very much. The Bible, I think of Ephesians in particular, seems to indicate that Christ and his body are (or should be) something other than a bunch of "hard-asses". Should be a people governed primarily by the freedom of Grace rather than the chains of law. But how often in the church do you hear about "leagalism"? How many "hard-asses" do you do you know from church? 'Tis a mystery. Aaahhh. Well. Again, the theme of the mule is appropriate...
From another web site inquiring into the nature and origin of the grand profundity of the phrase "hard-ass", "I am not sure how this all connects but there's another meaning of 'hard tail': 'Mules were called 'hard tails' or 'knob heads,'.' 'Cowboy Lingo: A Dictionary of the Slack-Jaw Words and Whangdoodle Ways of the American West' by Ramon F. Adams (Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2000. Copyright 1936). " From: http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/21/messages/1015.html
Blessings to you all in finding your golden treasure of Grace hidden in the fields of the world! Hopefully mules have some strange sort of nostril-contraption that can smell gold under the earth!! Maybe - alas - they do - for we all carry in our souls memory of our "good" creation; or so says Eugene Peterson in Answering God. I believe him.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The Royal Ass
Upon further reflection after changing the title of my blog to "Golden Ass", thanks to the Redemption from our Assdom by Christ's Grace for our assdom, I came to find the name to be ever more appropriate - in so many ways - seeing that the "Ass" theme can be taken from many different angles.
"As they were loosening the colt [the ass], the owners said thereof said unto them [the disciples of Jesus - the model "stubborn asses"], Why loose ye the colt [the ass]? And they said, The Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus [He of Anti-Assdom] theron. And as he went, the spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen; Saying, Blessed be the King [the Royal King of Anti-Assdom] that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees [model Ass Holes] from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out. And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things that make for peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes [due to your Royal Assdom]." - Luke 19: 33-42.
For an especially comedic story in this context of the analogy to My Royal Assdom on what it's like tyring to move a mule and at the same time having to rely on one for your own life, see the following web site: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_34_118/ai_81221888
"...entrusting our days to the stubborn, plodding mules of duty that bear us forward--or is it the promise of our guide?--'I know this path. I have gone before you. Just listen to me. You'll make it.' Lift your eyes from footsteps in the dust to see the sure advance of a river opening the earth's hard crust, this miracle of upheaval and realignments, this magnificat of shifted faultlines--a stone testimony that nothing here is set in stone." An appropriate verse might be the request that God "Turn my heart of stone to a heart of flesh." Which could possibly be interpreted as, "May my Royal Assdom destined for Fate and Law (both the ultimate in stubborn asses) turn to face foward into God's Kingdom of Grace and Mercy" :)
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