Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Garrison Keillor of the Gospels

This Lenten season, I have come to appreciate John as the Garrison Keillor of the Gospel writers (for those of you unfamiliar with him, Keillor is a radio host here in the States of a radio program called "Prairie Home Companion" which is filled with stories of the human condition.

At the very beginning of his gospel, John tells us that "the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (1.9). And how do we know this light has come into the world? John tells us stories to show us.

Jesus begins his ministry at a wedding. And at the worst possible moment of this wonderful, joyous occasion, the wine runs out. And in the midst of a social disaster for an entire village gathered to celebrate, Jesus starts to build his new community. And on Good Friday, the community watches him transform death into life.

Then a wise man, someone who has studied the Bible back and forth, and who has served numerous times on the governing board of his church comes to Jesus with his questions. He wants to believe that what Jesus says and does is true, but since what Jesus says and does goes against all that he has learned and believed, he comes in the shadows of the night and of his soul. And goes away with the light of new knowledge. And on Good Friday, all wise people will discover the truth of the One who comes to save the world.

Jesus then goes into "enemy" territory and has a conversation with an outsider, a non-believer, a woman! They talk about worship, about God, about water, about broken relationships. And the woman goes away, her emptiness gone, her thirst for relationships filled, her despair turned into hope. And on Good Friday, women will stand at the foot of the Cross, as the Living Water cries out, "I thirst."

Jesus meets a man born blind from birth. He refuses to get into a theological or medical discussion about why this happened. He simply makes a muddy paste from the dust of the earth and his spit, coats it on the man's eyes, and tells him to wash it off. And while everyone runs around wanting to know the details, all the man can say is "once I was blind, now I see." And on Good Friday, our blindness is wiped away as we see the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Jesus stands at a sealed tomb. And what does he do? He weeps. Imagine that! The Word who called forth all creation into being weeps; the One who flung the stars into the night sky, cannot see them because of his tears; the God who breathed life into humanity cannot catch his breath because of his sobs. And just as on the first morning of eternity, he calls forth life out of the chaos of death and grief.

And on Easter morning, from a shadowed tomb, the Light of the world comes forth, to bring us new life, new hope, new sight, new wisdom, the new kingdom, the new creation of God.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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