Thursday, December 16, 2010

Phosphorus

Has it bothered you, in the Cosmic Jewish Zombie statement below, the phrase "...to remove from your soul an evil force"? I was so startled by the images of Christ lurching forward wanting to devour brains* that I almost missed it. Such a long, complicated sentence, but the verb in the predicate is wrong.
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He didn't remove anything, not even darkness; he added light.
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I've been thinking about Jack London. I read "To Light a Fire" when I was about 10. I read it, ironically enough, in the coldest place in our house; a tiny room always closed off from the heat of the wood stove. I sat hunched over the book with knotted muscles, too sucked in to leave the room where I found it. I remember the passages about his frozen hands shaking, trying to light a single match. How he eventually, in one great gasp of hope, grabbed all the remaining matches by the fistful and lit them at once. They went out. Man versus nature; I didn't think it got any better than that. But oh it does, it does. Man versus himself is infinitely more painful.
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He didn't die to take evil from our hearts; he died because forgiveness has a mechanism. Justice demands a price be paid**. He didn't need to compensate his holiness or his goodness; at the cross, he was beautifully, shockingly, horrifyingly both. He demanded death and then he died. Torn and stabbed, not even recognizable as a man. And what of us? I don't know. He chose to leave us human, oh so human. Hearts that grow cold. A flesh that pulls, always pulls, away from him. But at the same time, within us, the flame of God. He himself. Sometimes he's a roaring fire; sometimes we feel only the faintest flicker. He watches us. I think they all watch us: the demons and the angels alike***.
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We want the predicate of the Christianity definition to be true, to have ugly desires removed from us, to be victorious as we would understand victory. But gave us something better: the chance, every single day, to bring honor to his name. To choose him over sin. To walk through life crippled and nearly blind to his presence, and yet loving him, loving him desperately.
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We are nearing now the fifth week of Advent. Jesus -consuming fire, light of the world, the one who doesn't snuff out a smoldering wick- I give you my weakness. May you make it something lovely.




*Do you remember when that Danish newspaper ran 12 cartoons of Mohammad and those riots broke out? As many as 100 were killed; people marched holding signs with variations of the phrase Behead/Slay/Massacre/Butcher/Annihilate those who insult Islam. (The glaring irony, of course, is that much of the anger stemmed from the fact that Mohammad was depicted as a violent man.) I think it's interesting that Christians are almost completely nonreactive to mocking images of Christ. There's a website that sells t-shirts with the phrase Jesus f---ing Christ and then an illustration that is the most horrendous thing I've ever seen. It brought me to tears. Let it rile you; let your heart churn. The person who drew that, he died for them. Again, it is a love that defies all understanding.
**I love that one of the names for Jesus, in the book of John, is Logos: most commonly translated as The Word but also a the term from which logic is derived.

***1 Peter 1:10-16 is incredible. Romans 6-8 also. You might as well pick up a copy of The Screwtape Letters, too.

2 comments:

erin said...

what a post! (this and yesterday's.)

but more importantly, what a Savior!

The Goodfellas said...

an excerpt from an email to a friend about this:

i believed in Christ long before i understood how his death actually accomplished anything.
i remember when i heard it and understood ---i was floored and so joyful and so relieved.
that it made sense.
that something actually -happened- there.
my sins were punished in the most literal sense, heaped on his poor naked body, and beaten.
the cross was not a metaphor, it was.
it just was.
it didn't stand for anything. and God, being in time and out of time, could let one act by one man be enough for all men for all time.
i think that's beautiful.