Sunday, October 7, 2007

Homework - 2004

So I’m sitting on my living room couch and in walks Jesus. He’s snapping his gum. He looks a lot like Johnny Damon, center fielder for the Boston Red Sox. You can tell he’s got things to do but he’s willing to make time for me. I’m the only person in the room for him right now. That’s obvious. He flops down on the other couch and kicks off his sandals.

"So. What can I do for you?" he asks.

"Geez. I mean, Jeez. You’ve kinda caught me by surprise here. I was just daydreaming."

"What were you daydreaming about?"

"Don’t you know? Being Word made flesh and all."

"Well, yeah. But I want to hear you tell me. It’s how I operate in this mode."

"I was just wondering if it is all true. This Gospel biz. This Church biz. Having thrown my whole lot into it for the last 30 years, I’d feel pretty silly if it weren’t true. Still, sometimes at quiet moments like just before you walked in, it all seems so absurd and unbelievable – especially considering how the Body of Christ conducts its business in such a trying manner much of the time."

"Do you think it’s true?"

"Hey," I say, "I thought I got to ask the questions."

"You do, but I do too. That’s part of the deal."

"What I need is for you to stay with me for awhile. A couple of weeks, maybe. Let’s you and me go on vacation somewhere...away from diocesan work, family, school board, laundry, dinner making, lunch box packing, website construction, email, phone calls. How about it? That’s what I need of you, I need you to talk to me and explain things to me. Let’s go hiking in Acadia. You can have the good tent and the air mattress."

"You think a time-out with me would help you decide if it’s all true?"

"Yeah. I really do."

"You’re sure?" He asks.

"I’m really sure."

"Get up, Sweetheart."

"I’ll go get the tents and the sleeping bags." I say as I leap to my feet. This is great. Camping with Jesus: mysteries of the universe solved and boiling water in two seconds flat.

"No, come out of this dark living room to the other side of the house."

So Jesus slips on his Birks and we walk through the hall, dining room, and kitchen to our new porch. It used to be a three-season caving in affair, but we tore it down last year and built a sunny, year-round room.

"Nice," he says.

"Yup," I say. "I never get immune to the beauty of the view."

"What do you see?"

I look out to placid surface of the mill pond, our huge late-coloring maple, the hammock and the stacked faux-Adirondeck chairs that need to come in for the winter, at the water’s edge our dock and swim ladder, and, on the deck just outside, the shards of a broken terra cotta pot that smashed in a recent wind storm.

"What’s the most important thing you see out there?"

"The shards of the pot."


"Because there’s some lesson for me in the broken pot, right? You’re going to tell a story that begins ‘The Kingdom of God is like a broken pot...’ Right?"

Jesus laughs. It’s the kind of laugh that makes me laugh too even though I don’t have a clue about what’s so funny. "No," he says, calming down. "I would say that broken pot is exactly what it seems to be, a pot the wind swept away and ruined. Usually when things seem to be something, that’s what they are. We made the world pretty simple that way."

"Okay," I begin again. "The most important thing is..."

And suddenly I get it. Sitting down near the water on the picnic table are some shards of pottery and old broken bottles that my sons and I dug up from the bottom of the pond this summer. Colin and I had done an archeological survey of the bottom of the pond over the course of several days, i.e. we lay on a big tube side by side while he peered into the shallows along the perimeter looking for artifacts and I gently paddled with my fins and made course corrections at his command. When we found something, Martin, his twin brother, would paddle out in the other tube and serve as the salvage team leader.

What is important about those shards and broken old medicine bottles isn’t some profound truth about beauty or nature or God, but about wonder and curiosity and adventure and partnership with these boys who, at ten, still crave my company and attention. I am responsible for them, and it is holy work. It is the Kingdom of God. And it tells me, though I never saw it at the time, that every hunch I have about the life of faith and the Gospel of Christ is true true true.

"Do you still want to go to Acadia and hike?" Jesus asks me, scratching his beard. "I’m game."

"No, that’s okay. I have a lot to do here. Maybe another time." I say, "But maybe you can take a minute and walk down to the pond and help me date those bottles. It would mean a lot to the boys."

Copyright © 2004 All rights reserved.

- This is an assignment for a Celtic Spirituality class at Bangor Theological Seminary. We were asked to write about how we would respond if Jesus stepped into the room and asked, "What do you need of me?" It was published in the December 2004 edition of The Northeast and TOTALLY slammed by a meany Polly Bond judge. I apologize for the Johnny Damon reference to any offended Red Sox fans. I wrote this in the post-World Series glow.