Living Among the Wild Beasts

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Samuel Clemons (“Mark Twain”) wrote in his autobiography words akin to the Gospel of Mark’s briefest description of Jesus’s 40 days and nights in the wilderness:

“With the going down of the sun my faith failed and the clammy fears gathered about my heart. Those were awful nights, nights of despair, nights charged with the bitterness of death. In my age as in my youth, night brings me many a deep remorse.

None of us is ever quite sane in the night. Our faith fails. The clammy fears gather in our hearts. Despair descends. It is into this primitive night of the soul that Jesus enters when Mark describes Jesus’s wilderness temptation with one line:

“He was with the wild beasts, and angels ministered to him.”

Christ in the Wilderness -Kramskoi

Christ in the Wilderness -Kramskoi

In Mark’s Gospel there is none of the later Gospel’s three temptations. Jesus simply enters that frightening solitude Gerard Manley Hopkins described as a miserable soul “gnawing and feeding on its own miserable self.”

The wild beasts of Mark and of the Hebrew Scripture are symbols representing the violence and arrogance of nations and empires: the lion that threatened David’s sheep; the lion with wings and a bear gnawing insanely on its own ribs in Daniel’s dream; a leopard and a dragon with great iron teeth destroying everything in its way. The beasts of Daniel and the Hebrew Scripture symbolize the deepest threats, threats to human wellbeing and existence itself. In Daniel’s dream, when the Ancient of Days takes his judgment seat and gathers the nations (wild beasts), they are as nothing before him, but “of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Like Samuel Clemons, with the going down of the sun [our] faith fails and the clammy fears gather about my heart.

In his book Man Before Chaos Dutch philosopher-theologian Willem Zuurdeeg argues that all philosophy and religion is born in a cry. Whether the great philosophies of Plato or Aristotle or Hegel, whether Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity or what we arrogantly describe as ‘primitive’ religions; whether the political philosophy of Western democracy or Islamic theocracy or one or another economic theory – capitalist, socialist, communist, or communitarian – all philosophy and religion is born in a cry for help. It is the primal cry of human vulnerability, our  contingency, our finitude, our mortality. It is the cry for order, protection and meaning in the face of the chaos without and within.

Separated from all social structure and from all the answers that express or muffle the cry, removed from civilization and all distraction – no computers, no video games, no reading material, no play stations, no TV, no artificial noise, nothing unreal to distract him – in the wilderness of time, “he was with the wild beasts.”

“He was with the wild beasts” is a kind of cliff notes for Jesus’ entire life and ministry. He would dwell among the wild beasts – the unruly principalities and powers that defy the ways of justice, love and peace.  He lived and died among the wild beasts that mocked him at his trial – “Hail, King of the Jews!” – stripped him of his clothing, plaited a crown of thorns believing they had seen the end of him. But after the beasts of empire had torn him to shreds, he become for us the crucified-risen King whose love would tame us all.

There are times for each of us when the beasts are all too real, moments when faith falters, nights in the darkness when despair gnaws and paws at us, and hope has all but disappeared.

A young woman sits in the Atlanta airport. She is returning home from a year of study abroad. All flights have been delayed because of a storm. She is anxiously awaiting the final leg of her journey home. But home as she had known it no longer exits. Her mother and father have separated. Her father has entered treatment for alcoholism. She has entered a wilderness not of her own choosing. The beasts are tearing her apart. Her ordered universe has fallen apart.

She goes to the smoking lounge to catch a smoke. A stranger, her father’s age, sits down. He jolts her out of her fog. “Do you have the time?” he asks. As strangers are sometimes wont to do, they begin to talk. Unaware of her circumstances, he tells her that he is a recovering alcoholic, a former heavy drinker whose drinking was destroying his marriage until his wife became pregnant. The impending birth of his daughter snapped him into treatment and sobriety. “I thought I was going to die,” he says, “but it was the beginning of a resurrection, a whole new life.”

The young woman begins to feel a burden lifting. The stranger finishes his cigarette and disappears. She never gets his name.

The loudspeaker announces her flight’s departure. She boards her flight, and as the plane rises through the clouds, she finds herself momentarily sandwiched between two sets of clouds – one below, one above – and the space between is filled with rainbow light, a world whose grandeur and grace exceed all reasons for despair. She is strangely calm in the face of what lies ahead. A sense of peace descends. She is sure that the man has been given to her as a gift. She has been with the wild beasts. An angel has ministered to her.

During these 40 days and nights of Lent we live more consciously with the wild beasts, praying that the angels of our better nature will minister to us in the wilderness of time, dreaming with Daniel and Jesus of the Ancient of Days taking his judgment seat and gathering the nations. They are as nothing before him, but of his kingdom there shall be no end.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 14, 2016.

A Verse for Easter

Readers unfamiliar with Christian scripture will find it helpful to learn that the original Gospel of Mark ended abruptly and curiously, not the way one would expect good news to end. Upon discovering the stone rolled away from the tomb and the tomb empty, Mark ends not with triumphal joy but with fear. “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for fear and amazement had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Here’s Steve’s verse for Easter:

The Short Ending of Mark

Most scholars think that first came Mark,
then Matthew, or perhaps St. Luke,
but Mark is shortest of the three
and it takes work for brevity.

The empty tomb is found in Mark,
but in the first draft of the book
no resurrected Christ appears–
his followers are left in fear.

The Gospels four all tell the tale
of thousands fed by miracle,
but only Mark will tell it twice–
this Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Young Mark assumes from Chapter One
that Jesus is the Son of God
the Christ-Messiah, Holy One.
His faith was fed by wine and bread.

Mark must believe that doubts and fears
can turn to trust when he appears.

[Mark 16:1-8]

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, April 5, 2015

The Man who Knew

He knows who he is! He is not ignorant; he’s smart. He knows the visiting rabbi is both “the Holy One of God” and the one who has “come to destroy us”.

It is because he knows this that he ends up shrieking. He knows better than those around him, all the others who have come at sundown to observe the Friday Shabbat and Torah study.

He takes his customary place among his neighbors in the Capernaum synogogue. He does not expect much to happen. Everyone, including he, knows that he’s a little strange. Off balance, as the kinder of them say.  Not the norm. Both they and he know his place. None of them yet knows Annie Dillard’s advice that worshipers “should wear crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” [Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper and Row, 1982, quoted here from Wikiquote.]

They have no need for crash helmets, life preservers, or signal flares. Like the ones who are better balanced, he likes his safety. He is safe in his customary place among the customary people expecting a customary teaching from a customary teacher who teaches like a copy-editor (a scribe). He expects to leave the same way he has come: bored and boring in the daily-ness of it all.

They look at him. He looks at them. They all yawn.  Until the guest rabbi takes his seat to teach and says nothing. Jesus just looks at them, reading their faces, reading their minds, looking into their hearts. They are uncomfortable with the long silence. He is reading them like a book he’s read too many times.

When finally the rabbi speaks, he astounds them. He reads the Torah and the prophets as living texts, not history. He is alive and expectant. He is not bored or boring. He teaches with authority. He commands the attention of everyone in the room. They want him, but do not want him. They haven’t brought crash helmets. They’ve come for safety.

He catches the eye of the man who’s a little off balance whose frequent uninvited outbursts   long ago placed him in the back row of the assigned seating.  Although the rabbi’s eyes are working the room from left to right and back again, seeing all the faces there, it is as though he is staring at him alone. They are all a bit on edge now, drawn to his voice and the content of his teaching, his unparalleled authority, but they are also becoming nervous that he is messing with them in ways they had not expected.

The man in the back senses this. He knows this, and he begins to twitch and make strange sounds. He is agitated, disturbed, out of his comfort zone, like everyone else.

His face twitching with the familiar tic, he struggles to his feet from his back row seat, shoving from his shoulders the hands of the ushers stationed on either side of him to prevent the man with Tourettes Syndrome from disturbing them and making a fool of himself.

He points at the rabbi and shrieks at him: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Jesus moves from the center to the back row. He tells the body guards to leave him alone. He stands eye-to-eye with him. “Be silent,” he says, “Come out of him” as though speaking not to the man himself but to others who torment him from the inside.

The whole synagogue is on their feet watching. They know that the Tourettes man with the tic and uncontrollable speech has spoken for all of the normal ones as well. “Have you come to destroy us?”

The man screams and convulses, but it is not the man who is convulsing; it is the hostage-takers whose powers are being broken that are convulsing: the fear of losing one’s assigned place, the customary despair and despairing comfort that robs him and all of them of the joy of the extraordinary in ordinary life.

Perhaps the story of “the man with the evil spirit” comes so early in the Gospel of Mark because it is the story of us all. The Holy One of God does come to destroy us as well as heal us. The next time you go to the synagogue for Sabbath rest or to church on a Sunday morning, take a crash helmet and expect something great to happen!

Click Gospel of Mark 1:21-28 for the story on which this sermonic reflection is based.

– Gordon C. Stewart, St. Augustine, FL, February 2, 2015.

 

Keep Awake – Undelivered sermon #1

KEEP AWAKE!

First Sunday in Advent, 2014
Texts: Isaiah 64:1-9
Mark 13:24-37

“And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” [attributed to Jesus, Gospel of Mark 13:37].

It’s hard to stay awake in times like these. To be conscious means grief, helplessness, anger at the state of the world.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” is supposed to bring comfort but it doesn’t, unless the heaven and earth of which Jesus speaks are the ones our pride has created. The imaginary ones. The heavenly and earthly projects that rise out of human insecurity as in the Genesis story of Babel, the story of what never was but always is, according to which the building of the ideal city is interrupted and the tower “with its top in the heavens” is “left off”.

But the word – the story about it – has not passed away. It endures. As fresh today as it was when first shared around a campfire as a way of telling each generation the respective places of God and man (humankind).

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel.

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel.

Fourteen years after the World Trade Towers collapsed in NYC, a new tower, “One World Trade Center” – taller, stronger, bolder – stands where the old towers fell on 9/11.

One World Trade Center, symbolizes a resurrection of the crashed myth. Standing a few blocks from Wall Street, where the global economy is reconstructed every day, One World Trade Center re-erects the myth of national supremacy, benign goodness, and the virtue of the American economic system. Which is different from a resurrection.

We could have left Ground Zero empty, void of monoliths and phallic symbols. We could have turned it into a plaza, a memorial to the error of pride, a turning away from global arrogance. A repentance from the economic-military-religious complex that expropriated the oil fields in the Middle East, assassinated the elected President of Iran in 1958, installed the Shah in his place, ignored the human rights of Palestinians, supported and installed western-friendly oligarchies and strong men in Saudi Arabia, Iraq (Saddam Hussein), Libya (Muammar Gaddafi), and Egypt (Hosni Mubarak) until, except for Saudi Arabia, they turned against us.

Instead of listening to the word that does not pass away, we Americans, to the sorrow of New Yorkers like Michael Kimmelman (” A Soaring Emblem of New York, and Its Upside-Down Priorities, NY Times, Nov. 29, 2014), opted for the old words and worn-out scripts that have failed us.

The Arab Spring in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia did not do what the NeoCon exporters of Western democracy had imagined. It unleashed a seething volcano of anti-American resentment. Meanwhile, Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Syria, have become desert quagmires – Vietnams without jungles.

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

Eisenhower’s last speech to the nation warning of an emerging military-industrial complex is all but forgotten as One World Trade Center stands like a phoenix raised up…and up…and up from the ashes, the world’s tallest building, symbol of global dominance re-erected from the horrifying deadly collapse of 9/11.

Words and symbols are everything in this world.

As Mr. Kimmelman put,

“…[The World Trade Center Twin Towers] never really connected with the rest of Lower Manhattan. There had been talk after Sept. 11 about the World Trade Center re-development including housing, culture and retail, capitalizing on urban trends and the growing desire for a truer neighborhood, at a human scale, where the windswept plaza at the foot of the twin towers had been.”

It’s all about human scale. A plaza. Not a tower with its top in the heavens.

Staying awake is hard. Being attuned to what is not passing away takes faith. It takes hope. I takes courage. Maybe even love.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.” [Mark 13:28]

Jesus often seems to have said that the word we need to hear is spoken by nature. Learn from the fig tree. It waits through the dormant season to become tender again, to put forth its leaves toward summer when it produces its sweet figs.

Nature is calling. Nature is our home. Nature is what is – the real heaven and earth – the word that will not pass away, the word that will survive when we are gone. We need to love nature again. Awaken to nature. Re-imagine ourselves as part of nature, “creatures” like all the other creatures. Our words will pass away, even the best of them. Our Creator’s word will not.

During Advent – this most puzzling of seasons, the season of wakeful, wait-ful anticipation of a Coming in fullness – I find myself crying out like Isaiah. “You have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.” [Isaiah 64:7]

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations [the ‘ethnoi’ in New Testament Greek, i.e.” the peoples”] might tremble at your presence!” [Isaiah 64:1-2]

The “nations” have always been God’s adversaries, closed in on themselves, puffed up, defensive against intruders foreign and domestic, plunderers of nature and other nations, hostile to the foreigner, both human and Divine.

In this season of “economic recovery” when the poor continue to get poorer, the rich get richer, and the middle class shrinks, I pray “Good Lord, deliver us, from ‘the hand of our own iniquity’. Remember, ‘O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.’ [Isaiah 64:8]”

This word is the only word that lasts.

Stay awake, my soul. Stay awake to the whole of it, all of it – the sorrow and the grief of it, the loneliness of it, the anger in it, the guilt of it, the finger pointing out and away and the finger pointing back at me, a nation to myself, and the presence of the Potter – and my soul will be well.

Wilderness – Carl Sandburg, Jesus, and Us

Boundary Waters Canoe Areas Wilderness, Minnesota

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

Once upon a time a pompous nobleman paid a call to the English Embassy in St. Petersburg, Russia. He walked into the office and demanded to see the ambassador immediately. “Pray, take a chair,” said the young attaché, “the ambassador will be here soon.”

The visitor took exception to the off-hand way he had been treated. “Young man, do you know who I am?” he demanded, and recited a list of his many titles and appointments.

The lowly attaché listened, paused and said, “Well then take two chairs.”

Pride, vanity, greed, self-deception, and illusions of grandiosity are part of the human condition.

We are creatures of the wilderness, wanderers and sojourners in time who have here no lasting city to dwell in. And so, as in the legend of the Tower of Babel in The Book of Genesis (chapter 11), we (humankind) come upon the Plain of Shinar . . . or some other version of it. . . and settle down to rid ourselves of anxiety . . . and we settle there as though we could build something permanent that would be a fortress against the uncertainties of the wilderness and the knowledge of ultimate vulnerability and ultimate dependence. We build our own societies and towers of Babel.

Yet there is something about us that still loves a wilderness. Something in us that knows that refusing the nomadic wilderness – “and as they journeyed, they came upon the Plain of Shinar, and settled there” – is fraught with greater danger and social peril. Something in us knows better than to settle down on the Plain of Shinar to build something impervious to the dangers of the wilderness and time. Something in us knows that the brick and mortar will crumble, that the projects of pride, vanity, and greed will fall of their own weight, and that the high towers we build with the little boxes at the top that presume to house and control Ultimate Reality (G-d) are little more than signs of a vast illusion, the vain act of species grandiosity. For in the Hebrew tale of the tower of Babel with its “top in the heavens,” the joke’s on us. The narrator speaks truth with humor: God has to come down to see this high tower.

Every society and culture has its own version of the city and the tower of Babel. Equally so, in every society there is at least the memory of the wilderness, a sense of call to recover our deeper selves as mortals whose destiny is only found by traveling beyond the politics and religiosity of pride, vanity, greed, self-deception, and grandiose illusions.

Perhaps that is why John the Baptist heads out to the wilderness – “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” – away from delusions and distractions of the city of Babel. Perhaps that is also why, as scripture tells it, the masses also went out to the wilderness and the Jordan River to go under the muddy Jordan waters to rise to the hope of a fresh beginning on the other side of the formative influences of Babel-ing nonsense.

After the authorities imprison John, Jesus asks the crowds what had drawn them to John in the wilderness. “What did you go out to see? A reed shaken by the wind? A man clothed in soft raiment? No. Those who wear soft clothing live in kings’ houses. What then, did you go out to see?”

Jesus begins his ministry in the wilderness. He partakes of John’s baptism, and when he did, the Spirit grasped him and called him further into the wilderness, “drove him into the wilderness” – away and apart from all distractions and illusion – back to the place where humankind lives before it “settles” to build the political-economic-religious tower, the impervious fortress and monuments to itself in the Plain of Shinar.

Those who would learn from the Genesis legend and those who wish to follow Jesus are called into the wilderness to restart the long spiritual journey that stopped too early.
For the fact we deny is that underneath all our steel, glass, and technology, we are still animals – mortals subject to the most primitive yearnings, vulnerable creatures who possess nothing.

In his poem “The Wilderness” American poet laureate Carl Sandberg realized a great truth long before it came into vogue.

There is a wolf in me . . . fangs pointed for tearing gashes . . . a red tongue for raw meat . . . and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me . . . a silver-gray fox . . . I sniff and guess . . . I pick things out of the wind and air . . . I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers . . . I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me . . . a snout and a belly . . . a machinery for eating and grunting . . . a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me . . . I know I came from salt-blue water-gates . . . I scurried with shoals of herring . . . I blew waterspouts with porpoises . . . before land was . . . before the water went down . . . before Noah . . . before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me . . . clambering-clawed . . . dog-faced . . . yawping a galoot’s hunger . . . hairy under the armpits . . . here are the hawk-eyed hankering men . . . here are the blonde and blue-eyed women . . . here they hide curled asleep waiting . . . ready to snarl and kill . . . ready to sing and give milk . . . waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.

Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians call The Christ, walked in our wilderness to live authentically and faithfully as a human being among all the beasts of the menagerie that were part of his nature and are part of our nature. Immediately after he had gone down into the waters to die to the worlds that would fool and twist him, and just as quickly as the voice from heaven declared him “my beloved Son in whom I take pleasure,” the spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. As the Gospel of Mark narrates the story, he was there for forty days among the wild beasts, and angels ministered to him.

By God’s grace and power, may it be so also with us.

Sermon preached by Gordon C. Stewart, Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN.

Sermon on the Sane Man

This sermon was recorded Sunday, Feb. 17. It was delivered to the congregation of Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska where we had concluded regretfully that a second scheduled community program on gun violence in America would not serve the purposes of constructive dialogue.

Two texts interact in this sermon. The first is the traditional First Sunday of Lent account of the temptations of Christ in the wilderness. While two later Gospels, Matthew and Luke, tell the story of three temptations in the wilderness, the earlier Gospel of Mark describes the entire wilderness temptation with one curious phrase: “he was with the wild beasts.” The second text (Mark 5:1-20) is the encounter of “Jesus, the Son of the Most High God” with the insane man living alone among the tombs, “possessed” by the “Legion” (a Latin word in a Greek text, the word for a unit of the Roman occupation forces). The story ends with the man who had been possessed/occupied by the Legion “sitting there, clothed and in his right mind” to everyone astonishment.

Whitney Houston, the Leper, and Us

Two news stories caught my eye this week: The death of Whitney Houston and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s visit to the Hospital for the Criminally Insane in St. Peter, Minnesota. The New Testament Gospel text for this morning was the story of Jesus and the leper (Mark 1:40-45). The title of the Sermon was simply “THE LEPER” preached at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church, Chaska Minnesota, February 12, 2012. Here’s the text of the sermon:

Just another leper,

the better left unseen.

“Surely it is their own fault

for not keeping clean.”

Just another AIDS case

now hidden well away,

“They must have brought it on themselves

promiscuous or gay.”

 Just another boat person

sponging on me and you,

“They’ve only got themselves to blame

by trying to jump the queue.”

Just another drug addict

shooting up behind the shed,

“Don’t waste your pity on such trash

they’re better off dead.”

Just one determined Jesus

coming through our lands,

welcoming all the unclean mob

with warm, saving hands.

–      Copyright B D Prewer 2002, “Lepers, Jesus and Us”

Who is the leper?  Could he be me? Could he be you?

I’ve spent a lot of time with the leper.  I live inside his body. The sense of nausea with my own sorry self, and I’ve met him a thousand times in the same sense of leprosy I’ve experienced in the lives of others.

This disease is part of the human condition itself. The sense that there’s something wrong with us, something that doesn’t belong, isn’t worthy, needs to stay hidden, closed off from the rest of the world, a leper kept at arms length from full participation in the fullness of life.

Sometimes the disease is so clear it slaps you in the face.  We see it clearly in others.

Whitney Houston, that beautiful soul – the god-daughter of Aretha Franklin and cousin of Dione Warwick – is found dead somewhere in Beverly Hills. “Cause of death unknown.” But what we do know is that she struggled for years with the horrors of addiction, this sense of isolation and self-accusation that was the lot of the leper who came to Jesus that day.

Some of the lepers are people of fame and apparent success, like Whitney.

Others are people of infamy. Like the psychotic mother who took the life of her nine-year-old son when the voices told her to kill him. As we did at The Legal Rights Center, we took her case not because she was innocent, but because she was a human being – the most obvious of lepers, a decrepit sinner who had stabbed her son more than a hundred times. She had gone off her medication, and the “voices of the Devil” had taken over. After rhe State had committed her to the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ Hospital for the Criminally Insane, a sorry place, if ever there was one, I visited her. I listened to her sobs. I watched the tears streaming down her face, looking through the glass of the prison visitation room tha t stood between us. The walls of her inner prison were thicker and higher than the walls of the hospital that housed her. Back on the medication that put her back in her right mind, she was inconsolable, a leper who could never undo what the voices had told her to do.

But it’s not just the likes of Whitney,whose sense of leprosy was hidden by success, or the likes of Mary, the pitiful victim of criminally insanity, who is the leper.

We all are.

Listen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the great heroes of the Christian faith, in words of Voices in the Night, preserved from his prison cell where he was imprisoned for his participation in a failed conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He is alone in the middle of the night, restless, ill at ease, in dis-ease, you might say, with the dis-ease of spiritual leprosy, lying there, listening in the night for the sounds inside and beyond the prison.

         Night and silence.

Only footsteps and shouts of the guards.

Do you not hear it in this silenced house,

Shaking, breaking and collapsing,

As hundreds kindle the glowing ember of their hearts?

Their songs they hide,

My ears are open wide.

“We who are old, and we who are young,

We children of every tongue,

We who are strong, and we who find it hard,

We who sleep, and we who guard,

We who are poor, and we who have all,

         Together into failure fall, (italics mine)

We who are good and we who are unclean,

Whatever we have been,

We…with scars we cannot hide,

We witnesses of those who died,

We who are defiant and we who are bemused,

By long isolation, sorely abused.

            Brother, we seek and call for thee!

            Brother, do you hear me?”

Who was the man who broke the rules to force his way through the clean crowd, shouting “Unclean! Unclean!”  while he coveed his face until he got to Jesus?

Could he be me? Could he be you?

“If you will it,” he says to Jesus, “you can make me clean!”

And stretching out his hand with great compassion, he touches the untouchable, and says, “I will!  Be clean!”

“Just one determined Jesus coming through our lands, welcoming all the unclean mob with warm, saving hands.” And the cleansed man ran and told everyone what Jesus had done for him.

How about you?