When Jesus met David
Monday, April 8, 2019
From John 8
Jesus said, “I know where I came from and where I am going.”
Wow, Jesus! I want what you’re having.
Jesus came from his father, speaks right now for his Father, and will return to Him. He stands solid on this rock. Jesus’ confidence frees him to live without judgment or fear of judgment. Jesus is free to cast God’s light on all who will receive it. He is the light of the world.
Where did I come from? Sperm and egg meeting in the night? From my mother’s womb? From Lincoln, Illinois? As my childhood address asserts, from “God’s Hand?” David’s psalm says he was “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Does that apply to me, too?
I take refuge in Fleming Rutledge’s words about the Bible, as she echoes Jeremiah 33: “The new understanding imparted by the Bible comes from a source lying beyond our ability to frame questions.” If I can’t even frame the questions, how can I know the answers? When I can no longer even speak the questions, my eyes turn gratefully back toward the Source. It’s not WHAT Jesus knows, it’s WHO he knows. He is sure that we can know him too.
Mary Oliver, poet and accidental theologian, gets her own “new understanding” sometimes from the trees, “especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such gladness. I would almost say they save me, daily.”
Tree roots dig down deeper every year into the earth. They stay anchored in the place they’re born in, they live far longer, most of them, than we do. They are mother, father, friend and brother, if we just let them be.
They too come from somewhere. They come from God.
Jesus had his bad days, when he was less sure of God’s presence. I have to believe that human Jesus felt the disconnection now and then. I sure do. As Mary writes about those times, “I am so distant from the hope of myself.”
Doubt precedes my faith, accompanies my faith, and I know doubt will appear again, perhaps even at the moment of my death. So I am glad for Thomas Merton’s wisdom when he said, “You can’t have faith without doubt. Give up the business of suppressing doubt. Faith and doubt are two sides of the same thing. We don’t pray right because we evade doubt.”
Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. But these things take time, and we are in a hurry to get through the dying. Today’s psalm slows my rushing, hurried, desperate attempt to take control: “Lo, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
Stop it, God says. Listen to the trees. They are in no hurry:
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine
* * *
Lord, in this peaceful, deep content you give me far far better things to do and be than I have ever done. Others benefit, and I can sleep at night. I choose fewer golden calves to worship, as my life proceeds through death to something altogether new.
Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, Introduction, p. 20, 2015
Mary Oliver, “When I Walk Among the Trees,” from Thirst, p. 4
Brother David Steindl-Rast , “Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West,” online at www.gratefulness.org