So today I was supposed to be listening to the sermon, this gorgeous message on how we keep going back to the things that we know. And so the disciples meet the risen Jesus twice, and they still sort of can’t believe it. Like he said it would happen, but its just all too weird to process. So, as the sermon went, some of them decide to go fishing, which is exactly what they were doing before all of this happened, before, when the nets were full to bursting with fish wriggling and sparkling in the sun, before they got all caught up somehow with this wild eyed prophet and his love message.
Before they watched their friend break bread for them in a room with a low table and pillows to sit on, before they watched him die.
If that wasn’t terrible enough, he’s back, and now all of the things they were supposed to do, all of the ways they’ve betrayed each other and him and this mission they are on, well, those things become known.
Jared made the point that sometimes we don’t know what else to do. We don’t know where else to go, we cannot handle one more decision, not one more choice, and so we go home. Even if home is a place we don’t want to be anymore, a place we wish would burn to the ground or be swept up into a great tornado and carried off to Oz.
So they go backward, walking together in what was probably a rather solemn band, these men who thought they were making such a difference, wreaking such havoc on the way that society was; and believing in this awesome and radical love that their friend spoke of; teetering on the edge of believing the things that he said about God, and about who he was, sort of looking the other way when he spoke in the revelatory apocalyptic way. They walk back down this dusty road that runs beside the Sea of Galilee and they can’t see the tracks they made a few years ago, they can’t see, for the life of them, how anything has been changed.
All they can see, for those who bore witness, and it is much worse in the imagination of those who did not – all they can see is that a man died and that they loved him, but that the world DID NOT CHANGE. The sun rose the next day and the birds sang and Herod was still the boss of all of Herod’s things. Old men and young went to the temple to debate the law and the women chased the children and washed the endless dust out of clothes.
I wonder where Jesus went in between these meetings with his friends. Between that first time when he cornered them all because they were hiding, and that second time when his friend Thomas touched his wounds. Home to his mother? It wasn’t a very long way to enjoy the camaraderie my siblings and I experienced tonight, on this made up holiday of Siblings Day, where my sister in law and other mother commented on how we are. How we have six conversations going at the same time and yet are able to participate fully in each, how loud we are, how madly in love. I bet Jesus had a family like that, I hope so anyway.
Back to the tomb? Where some of us are still sweeping up, folding and refolding this holy laundry, terrified because we have finally been set free and just don’t know what to make of that?
I wonder when he knew it was time, when he knew he needed to go and get these men, fishing naked in the night in the Sea of Galilee, probably too close to shore to catch anything anyway. And what caught my attention today during the sermon was this image of him walking down a road that borders the sea under the light of the moon. Maybe he sang softly to himself, to keep himself company. Are there owls in the Middle East? Maybe he heard them hoot and call to one another, beamed a message to a little rabbit to RUN.
Its probably not very pious, and most probably heretical, but I bet he came upon a band of men singing the Jewish equivalent of Irish drinking songs. I bet they weren’t fishing at all, but medicating themselves in a place that was familiar, against a story that couldn’t possibly be true, against a task that would outlive them, that would spiral down and down through the ages to land on our altars, in our Sunday School classrooms and choir lofts, in our pulpits.
How unbearable to be handed a task that cannot be simply and efficiently completed.
I can imagine a soft breeze making the leaves whisper to each other, the way a mourning dove sounded in the trees, how the wind ruffled the waves as they lapped the shore. And there is this boat, a hundred yards out, and these baffled men are in the boat when their old friend dares to appear once more.
The fun thing about looking at the bible in this new way I am learning is that I no longer think of it as one King James book. I no longer thing of a man sitting in a room and sweating blood while the Holy Spirit just relentlessly pushed his quill pen across a parchment. Does it make sense for something to happen that way? Does it make sense for all of these books and writings that have popped up over the years to not be included? Does it make sense to discount science completely?
No, to me it does not.
But when we think of these first five books of the OT and how they are the Torah, the law, how they were carried into exile (by Ezra? I’d have to go and find my notes) and then written again in languages that people spoke. How there are other gospels discovered after the canon was formed, or thought not worthy… it makes me question this story of wonderfully pious men in a boat fishing close to shore in the middle of the night. Maybe we have put our best spin on it, put our best foot forward, as it were. It makes me question what is true.
Which is the whole point.
So Jesus comes and looks for us. And we hide. We turn off all the lights and we close the curtains and we don’t turn when we sense something coming up behind us in a darkened hall. We hide because this work is so big, so daunting. I waver between horror and hope, I really do, it just depends on the day.
I have nothing figured out.
But he does find us. Even if we choose to close our ears to the news, even if we choose to close our eyes to the figure standing in the mist on the shore as dawn breaks on the horizon and gilds the sea in hues of pink and gold. He stands and he waits. And his hands are open. And I think he understands.
Horror and hope.
Which will I choose?
I think you would like my little office. You may be horrified to learn that it is in my front entry way, with its high ceilings and crown moldings and a lamp that is broken because it tried to bean me the other night and hit the front door instead. But the light still works, and so does the space, I really don’t need much.
These are rather close quarters, but I like them.
This is home.
And I know the way that flip flops sound as they travel up the sidewalk outside, I think you do too. And I think that Jesus stands outside this little space and calls me in, whistles to me, sings a bit hoping I will just stop being obstinate and try to harmonize.
Horror and Hope.
Two bell pulls in the servant’s hall. Which one shall we answer?
Hope, my friends.