What Do We Live For?

Today, the sun is shining. The bars and cafes are packed with folk who have ditched their thick coats and heavy boots. From wide-flung windows and back gardens, cheerful music and happy voices ring out. A special meal is prepared and a glass of wine is drunk, or two. After a long and cold winter, the people of Scotland are now, just as the people of Jerusalem did then, making the most of their festival, their long weekend away from work.

But not for one young man.

Not for the people whom he loves and the people he is loved by.

For us, this is the end of all things.

The end of what?

What did Jesus come for? What was His purpose? Why did He live? And why on Earth did He not run when he had the chance?

Because it didn’t have to end like this.

At about quarter to midnight last night, I was sitting on a tile floor that seemed to be getting colder by the minute. The sunshine had gone. The friends from the upper room had gone. The meal had long since been eaten and my stomach was beginning to grumble. On that cold tile floor, I had a certain sympathy with Peter and James and John as they nodded off in Gethsemane. And I started to wonder – what are we all still doing here? The garden is open. The road is over there. The people who are going to come to arrest you aren’t here yet. Run. Run, for God’s sake, while you still have the chance. Why can’t we change the story? Why couldn’t He?

He was his father’s son, and his mother’s son, and Joseph’s, too, and they had taught him well, raised him up right, and now, on this darkest of their days, this brave and beautiful boy, now become a man, says, these are the things for which I have lived and they are the things for which I am prepared to die. Not for this man the path of least resistance. Not for Him to betray his principles and his integrity.

For me. For you. For the whole world, even the parts that turned their backs and declared that they wanted nothing to do with it.

For peace. For love. For equality. For justice. For freedom. For fairness.

For truths that I hold to be self-evident, but which led to Him being branded a radical and a terrorist. Truths that He refused to betray and for which He was killed. Truths for which people are still being killed today. As I sat there last night and asked why He didn’t run, I thought about Jesus, yes, but I thought about the ones who came after him. The brave men and women of integrity who said, these are the things for which I have lived and they are the things for which I am prepared to die.

And now he’s gone.

The churches have been emptied of God. The world is cold and dark, the singing voices are silenced, and it feels as though we might never be happy again. The light of the world has gone out.

What do we do now?

What do we live for?

And what would we die for?

turning point

Trees are growing.  

Dark branches gnarling and criss-crossing .. twisting in strange forms.

They watch, through knotted eyes, an event roller coaster. 

ImageThey watch humanity hobble on an inevitable journey of hurts and costly joys. 

The journey began somewhere ……. 

Bethpage, Jerusalem, Gethsamane, or back in time, forever back and forwards.

The trees watch the hobbling steps of creation to an inevitable turning point.

Each moment they watch, as the Creator shoulders darkness, patiently and constantly.

The trees watch. 

They will play their part…….

fresh branches for a pathway,

trunk and branches, heavy and spreading, for pain ……. but full of liberation…..

and fallen leaves,

decomposing as another turning point.

John 11.1-45

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Even in the darkness, we can still see the Light (like a chink through the trees); that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

The Gospel reading for the Eucharist today is John 11.1-45; the death and the raising of Lazarus. Though we’re still journeying on in these Lenten days preceding Easter, we look forward to realising afresh that where there is death, Christ has the victory.

temptations in the wilderness

co-posted on Beauty From Chaos

 

During his 40 days in the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus with 3 things: adulation, self-sufficiency, and immortality.

 

Jesus and I have this in common.

 

I was sick all last week, horizontal on the couch for much of it, and one thing I realized is how much I hate being in need. I like to be the caregiver; I like to think I can handle anything, alone. It’s sinful, full stop; if we think we are beyond the need of our fellow humans, we’re also believing ourselves beyond the need of God. Yet while I could certainly stagger to the refrigerator and fix myself lunch last week, despite my weakened condition, I can’t assure my own salvation. I can’t offer myself forgiveness of sins. How much better to be reminded of my neediness by accepting my family’s care, by letting my husband bring me lunch and my daughter tuck a blanket around me.

 

How scary, to rely on other people. How imperative.

 

And for me, a novelist, adulation and immortality are in some way combined. Shakespeare’s words live today, and Milton’s, and Austen’s–and wouldn’t I love to be known like that? I would settle for a few days–weeks–at the top of the New York Times’ Bestseller List. Or thousands of people could flock daily to my blog. Or Wal-Mart might carry my books–that would be pretty cool.

 

Me, me, me. The self-centered introspection that is the opposite of a journey through the wilderness.

 

I wrote a blog post at the tail end of last week. It was an angry post, because I was angry about some specific events that happened last week within the American Evangelical faith tradition. You could argue that as a Catholic I ought to leave the Evangelicals alone–but, at any rate, I didn’t. That’s fine except of course for my desire to be not only critical and angry, but also right. And justified. Perhaps even celebrated? For my wisdom and erudition, of course.

 

Fortunately I am still not alone. I can rely on the grace of others, even if it takes me some time to believe it. And so my friend Jess emailed me a link at the close of the week–no explanation given, just another blog post to read. The entire post is here, but the salient part reads, “love is without limits, every one of us is a part of the sacred, every one of us has worth and dignity, each of us is tied to the other in an infinite web of love and connection.” In other words, quit exalting yourself, Kim Bradley. Remember to love as you are loved. Remember the temptations in this wilderness, and if you can, step aside.