Tag Archives: anger

Interrupted by the Cross

Believe it or not the same week in which my pastor preached on Christ crucified, like Paul did, in a completely random way I was trying to find “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ” by Fleming Rutledge via my library for reasons having to do with the Festival of Faith and Writing in April. I only found a sample of the e-book but have asked my library to get it. But the sample is amazing. The sermon and this book together are bringing me — hope. I have been so angry for a over a year, at the awful awful world, at people, at some medical stuff going on with me, everything has made me angry. And living with that anger, being on that edge and needing that control all the time, is exhausting.

Rutledge writes ” Understanding the cross and resurrection as a single event, undertaken from within the Trinity itself, is of utmost importance … The scandalous “word of the cross” is not a human word. It is the Spirit-empowered presence of God in the preaching of the crucified One. The Holy Spirit … inhabits the message and empowers the speaker, so that the proclamation of God’s act in Christ is the new occasion of creation, issuing from the Trinitarian power of the originating Word itself.”

The world — as completely horrible as it seems to be — may in fact be in the midst of being made new. Not with worldly power in any way (not politics, or privilege, or people/mob power and certainly not with hate and anger); but the generative power of God…

For some crazy reason it gives me a feeling of calm. If God is trying to fix the world, then however powerless I am, its okay. I can do my best not to make the world worse and call that a victory.  It is an acknowledgment — by God no less — that the world was/is broken and needs fixing. This is a horrible world. Paul would nod and maybe even roll his eyes: Of course it is. But for so long it just seems as if no one was listening. Or they would listen in the wrong way like: yep that is it exactly, that is why I am just doing what I need to do and the rest of the time eat, drink, and be merry. Which I just can’t seem to do. I can’t seem to not care.

This world: brutal. Beautiful. Both.

But one day only Beautiful.

 

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My Story 4

Oddly, I keep remembering the first time I got mad at the church. I have always had a sort of temper, but I rarely remember whatever I was angry about. Honestly, I just don’t. My husband loves this about me.

I do remember the first time I got mad at the church so clearly because I was so eager to learn more about God and had started trying to study the bible. And it was Christmas time. And the adult Sunday school class was about the nativity story. Great, I thought, this is an excellent place to start. I’ll start at the beginning. Isn’t there a song about that?

So it was interesting to learn that there are only two nativity stories, one is in Matthew and one is in Luke and that they are distinctly different.

It was interesting to learn that Matthew’s Joseph plays a large role, and a lot of it in dreams. There’s a sort of mystical quality I liked about Matthew’s version.

It was wonderful to have to more accessible Luke story, and to wonder how uncomfortable the trip to Bethlehem must have been for Mary. I started to imagine the story, imagine the stable — likely attached to a house — being rather cozy and warm.

And I got really angry when the third or fourth class was about pulling it all down. The teachers told us that Jesus is extremely unlikely to have been born in winter. There was a sort of ancient history of creating “birth stories” for beloved people in that era. Politically for Jesus to “compete” with other religions, he had to have a mysterious Godly birth. Nor can the two versions of the story be easily compared. And all the dream stuff in Matthew, so clearly made up! And so on.

I was absolutely furious. None of that was important to me. What was important to me was the story.

And I was scared. I didn’t realize it then or for many years. But I didn’t want my newly found faith to be made frail; I didn’t want to sink back into the despair that had left me open to God’s zapping love.

The gift this anger gave me was my first “Christian” poem. And many many poems thereafter….

 

Here’s my “first” poem:

 

Angel Dreams

It started as a dream for Joseph

No, actually, it started as a deal

He and Mary’s father discussing dowry and dickering

like for a horse.

And then discovery of damaged goods.

 

So, okay, it started, for Joseph, as just business as usual.

It turned into a dream.

A dream with angels, a dream of freedom for Israel.

Imagine being chosen to protect God’s son!

 

Hear what I think:

God picked Joseph because he listened

He listened to angels in a dream. How long had God

searched for a girl willing to say yes and

a man willing to listen?

 

Reality started on a cold night, in a stable,

or maybe not cold or a stable. This I know:

Giving birth hurts.

Turning dreams into reality hurts.

Hear the cries of pain, the pleading for it to be over,

See the blood, the mess, the ugly cord connecting

God’s son to Mary, and there’s Joseph,

holding the knife

carefully, carefully, barely breathing, cutting Him free.

I know, warm or cold, inside or outside, Joseph and Mary shared

a look between them of wonder and amazement.

God big enough to create himself so small inside Mary

and is now helpless before them.

Joseph’s all ready to die to protect Him.

Even though right now he’s so scared he can barely breath, and

with just the tip of his finger he touches God’s soft, warm, helpless red face

gently, gently.

___

The best bible studies are discussions, where all sorts of things get discovered together, and no one’s voice is silenced and no one’s questions are wrong. But no one is left afraid of losing faith either.

The word for where I’ve found myself is “literary” (not “literal”), where I use all my tools of being an English major: themes, characterizations, narrative, motifs, patterns, plot, everything.

Wonderful things arise!

(And perhaps check out stuff I’ve written about Matthew and Luke and so on: for example:

For example: https://rrussell10.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/christmas-luke-2-vs-john-1/)

 

Moses and Zipporah (Exodus 2:11-22)

This love story starts with a murder — verses 11 to 15 are about Moses stopping an Egyptian from beating a Hebrew. He knows that he is a Hebrew by birth, but he feels for the injustice and “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” Wow! Moses grows up and bam gets in trouble immediately. But he’s afraid. He’s didn’t haul the Egyptian to a person in authority for public justice. He didn’t try to change the system. He’s a young man and a hot head at that.

Funny how I don’t think of Moses as being a young man. I think of him as a baby and then as a old man. Chopping away preconceptions frees the text. Interestingly, in the footnotes the word used for “beating” is same word used for the retributive plagues later, only then translated as “strike”. Huh — the plagues will be a beating, will strike the Egyptians, as this Hebrew is now being “striked/beaten”.

The story starting out this way would mean starting with a lot of motion, a lot of action, a lot young-man energy. I find myself resisting the story, wondering about the mixed messages. Moses didn’t like the Hebrew being beaten, didn’t like what he saw of the forced labor, identifies with the people despite his upbringing. Yet he is hiding, tricky, and lying (acting as if he didn’t kill anyone). He looks this way and that…if he had seen that he was observed, he wouldn’t have acted. There’s something mixed up going on, it isn’t just freedom fighting or hot headed anger.

What do you think? How do you feel about about this passage? Would we act if we saw a child hit? an older person? a person our age? if we thought it was unfair? Now a days with a camera in every phone, perhaps the light shines more easily! What if what we saw wasn’t the “real” story? How do we know a story from seeing?

Maybe I’m just completely over-thinking an exciting story!