Chronicles in Ordinary Time 93: Easter/Holy Week

Christ Washing Peter - FM BrownChrist Washing Peter’s Feet – Ford Madox Brown 1852–56

An innocuous scene, to the eyes of those in the 21st Century. The controversy innate in the scene isn’t obvious to modern viewers. The controversy is a little more obvious if one has followed the Papal career of Pope Francis—the Pope who began washing the feet of women seeking an audience with the Pope—and who compounded the controversy this week by the washing of the feet of refugees, including women and those of the Islamic faith. The Donald was no doubt unhappy. Not that I particularly care about his opinions.

Feet washing—a kindness given to those who wandered about the unpaved landscape in sandals. A kindness assigned to servants. Not one of the kindnesses expected from the Messiah, the King of Israel—as Peter believed Jesus to be. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. I was a ‘public servant’ for 14 years, working for the City of Portland. One of the memorable debates that often arose was the question as to whether we were ‘public servants’ or ‘City employees’. There were many who rebelled at the concept of being servants. I came there to serve.

I grew up an atheist. Never heard about God, but my [favorite] Grandmother called my parents and I ‘heathens’. We did not go to church; she seemed to overlook the obvious-to-me-fact that she didn’t go to church either. She couldn’t find a Norwegian “Hellfire and Damnation” church in Portland. So she watched church on TV on Sunday mornings. Apparently there was an adequate amount of “Hellfire and Damnation” available on television. From what I can tell, there still remains an abundance—and more channels.

I came to faith, kicking and screaming, during my 3rd year of University. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the religious people I encountered on campus. Religion has never had much meaning for me; still doesn’t, after 40+ years of doing church. I encountered faith among a handful of students on campus, a philosophical concept I studied fairly thoroughly. Over the next 3-5 years, I encountered Belief. I encountered the Intangible, the Unexplainable. In Church terms, I encountered the Holy Spirit; in more non-Church terms, I encountered ‘windows’ between this dimension and the dimension of the spirit. I can’t prove it to anyone. I see the openings between these dimensions all the time. There are many who can’t see them at all. A concept I do not understand.

For much of my life there has been a connection between Cosmology and Theology—the study of the Cosmos and the study of the Creator of the Cosmos. Stephen Hawking and others are fairly convinced that the nature of the Cosmos is such that it could come about without a Creator—the Laws of Physics are sufficient. I tend to wonder how the Laws of Physics came into being. How gravity came into being. For some, the concept of God is unnecessary; as if God was some sort of ‘great and powerful Oz’—with a man behind the curtain. I doubt that we have the capacity to perceive the Creator with our senses.

Jesus was a failure as potential monarchs go—being crucified meant that one failed. This is why Pilate posted a sign over Jesus’ head—“King of the Jews”. Pilate didn’t understand; Peter didn’t understand, nor did any of the other guys at the table above.

The Doctor would understand, if his creators understood. A scene from The Zygon Inversion:
“DOCTOR: No, it’s not a game, sweetheart, and I mean that most sincerely.
CLARA-Z: Why are you doing this?
KATE: Yes, I’d quite like to know that, too. You set this up. Why?
DOCTOR: Because it’s not a game, Kate. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk! (sigh) Listen to me. Listen, I just, I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? It’s just a fancy word for changing your mind.

CLARA-Z: I will not change my mind.

DOCTOR: Then you will die stupid. Alternatively, you could step away from that box, you can walk right out of that door and you could stand your revolution down.
CLARA-Z: No! I’m not stopping this, Doctor. I started it. I will not stop it. You think they’ll let me go, after what I’ve done?
DOCTOR: You’re all the same, you screaming kids. You know that? Look at me, I’m unforgivable. Well, here’s the unforeseeable. I forgive you. After all you’ve done, I forgive you.

CLARA-Z: You don’t understand. You will never understand.

DOCTOR: I don’t understand? Are you kidding? Me? Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!”

On this night called Maundy Thursday, some 2000 years ago, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He knew what was ahead of Him, and had known it for a long time. Scripture says that Jesus was sweating ‘drops of blood’ for a long time, while his best friends slept instead of praying with Him. I am of the opinion that during this time of prayer, the Creator of the Universe, the One who lives outside of Time, the One that could never fit into the body of a human being, allowed Jesus to see the barbarity, the cruelty, the hatred that would take place in His name for the centuries to come; and Jesus wept.

He said to Himself, to the Creator whom He was, “when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!”

And no one has to. In our foolishness, and our arrogance, we decide to do it anyway.

Until we find release.

May you find release.







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