–I just can’t stop thinking of the question, “What story do I live out of?” In all the areas of my life. In my exhausted parts, in my broken-hearted parts, in my confused parts, in my angry parts, in my terrified parts. All those parts are a bit closer to the surface lately than I usually want to admit. So here, on Maundy Thursday, the day when we celebrate how Jesus washes clean our dirty, tired parts, when we remember this shared meal that gives such deep welcome but we don’t really have a clue how it is all going to play out–today I want to think about this.
If I dedicated blog posts, which I always want to do, I would dedicate this to my dear friends whose questions have not been answered how they expected. Please lets keep telling the story to each other. I know I need it. Maybe it will help.
This is the 3rd part of my Book of Love rambling. The story we live out of–
And then this story, of us and God, of God and this world, comes to a crux. We get to a still point. One day, unbeknownst to all those hearts, a girl woke up in the middle of the night. Terrified, but also able to see something that had that sheen of hope. That young, uneducated girl was able to conceive of something completely unexpected. She woke up and said yes to that call. She was afraid but still showed her face. And she was filled with all that part of Love and all that part of God that the world was made with. She was going to bear a baby. And it was at once miraculous and prosaic. God – so big, so everywhere, so much more than us became so small, so located only in one particular spot, with those particular parents, siblings, cousins. And the So Much More of the UNIVERSE became at ordinary, common baby strapped to his mothers back as she gets her water for the day. This is the power of the universe – the power we crave so intensely – the power of all the creative love furled within one small dark boy.
This storyteller – I tell you. Not only does he consistently choose to work in ways that surprise and confound our proper and dignified sensibilities, but this storyteller once again, and always, does things in order to bring himself and his creation back together. Reprised, remembered, recapitualated, reconnected in ways that cannot be undone. Not by anger or hatred or shame or fear. That baby was in our world, deeply intertwined with the whole of creation – just as we all are.
That same part of God that folded himself into the creation of the universe, our world, our star and all the stars and all the worlds, en-folded once again, that part of himself that grows and learns and draws life from the ground into a small jewish displaced boy to parents who had nothing to go on but snippets of dreams and intimations they got in the night and what felt like swords piercing their deepest hearts.
And this is the still point in our story. This enfleshing of God himself. This incarnating of love into specific ways of language, culture, religiosity, spirituality. Love, now in flesh appearing.
From here the story moves fast. Time is different for the duration of this story. It is full and it is urgent and it is growing. One story among millions, this story, His own story, has bloomed out into a thousand different takes, like the sides of a crystal.
Remember the words Jesus said, the spit he rubbed, the water he changed, the fish he provided, the storms that calmed, the skies that grew dark, the mountaintops that changed in his presence. The tears he wept, the laughter he let loose, the sticks he picked up, the tables he overturned. Conversation after conversation showed bit by bit a fuller picture of the LOVE THAT MADE THE UNIVERSE. He told stories. He challenged. He forgave. He welcomed the unwelcome. He made new bodies that had been torn apart. He brought into the fold those who had been cast out. He knew that the peoples bodies were important – he fixed them, he fed them. He knew that peoples minds were important – he asked questions, he told stories, he listened, he made connections to the stories they’d heard their whole lives. He knew that people’s spirits were important – he forgave them, he let them go, he released them, he gave them new life, he unbound their hearts. And they imagined that their own lives could be a part of something, an unfragmented story that at its root was not fear and was not death and was not anger and hatred. But was love.
He both pointed to, and created a time, a kingdom, a reign, where the last were first. Where those, that in no way would ever win in this world, were the Kings. Where peacemakers were the children of God. Where those with no one and nothing were brought in and given people and given everything they needed to live. Where those running from violence and oppression and everything that diminished the image of God in them, could come and be at peace. In ways that were very immediate, he showed that love, that same love that desired this world to grow and flourish, the same love that we read about at the beginning of this story. That same love that devoted itself to the long, long story of God-With-Us that has become our faith. That same love that at every point and every turn in the story aimed to bring back together that which was torn apart.
And then he died. He was killed. He was punished and hurt and so many people were confused. And we think about it all the time. Why did he die? What did it do? How did this show love? How did this bring the world, bring us, back together, back to God, back to the whole that we long to be?
Centuries of this question go before us here now. And just like those people, who, when they were physically touched by Jesus from Nazareth, knew that something MORE had occurred in them, just as something deep in their core leapt when he talked about God and them, just as they re-member-ed something of the deep reality of their lives when this man was around and was talking, so too, when he died, they knew. They knew something had occurred that went beyond what they saw.
The Love of the Universe, distilled into three days of real life. A Friday of tortuous injustice and of unimaginable loss. A Saturday of numbness and grey confusion.
And then a Sunday, a daybreak, like the millions of days broken before it, rising anew on an old, blood soaked and weary piece of land.
The Love of the Universe, distilled into the calling of one woman in the garden that surrounded the houses of the dead – Mary, Mary, don’t you know that its me. Mary, Mary, don’t you see that its me. The one you have been looking for.
The Love of the Universe, bringing back together that which was torn apart. Bringing together that which was kept apart. Opening doors to an inner temple, opening mouths to speak of grace and of reconciliation, opening hearts to live for it and to die for such a grace. GRACE! LOVE! Not power but the exact opposite – the giving of oneself for the glory and beauty of another. And the Resurrection –giving people, all those loved people, a way into the re-member-ing of the universe. Redeemed, Remembered, Recapitulated, Reconnected, Reconciled.
And just as the pattern of Creation was that of the long story of love, the pattern of Incarnation was the long story of love. Because the part of God that made the world with love was the part of God that fleshed out what that love looked like, in a real human home, in a real human voice, in a real human life of hope and need and body and death. With real stories and real tears. And he made love all anew.
And then, in classic God style, Love told us to keep at it. Keep telling the story, keep making the love, keep creating it. Keep being that embodied bit of love in whatever home we found ourselves in, on whatever piece of land we found ourselves planted in. He gave us His body and then made us His Body, his very self of Love. Growing, learning, all parts working together, as all bodies learn to. He is continuing His work of bringing the world back together, in every generation, welcoming every heart as if it was the only heart he ever cared about, welcoming all of us into his heart. He has brought us into his creating work, just as at the beginning. Without fear but with communion. With that sense that each of us can know, know as we know the back of our own hands, the way of the universe, the way of love.
The book of love, its been said, is long and boring. It’s a tale of a thousand ordinary invitations, a thousand ordinary open doors and a thousand ordinary choices.
Here, in my brown house with big draughty windows and decrepit doors, with toys and crumbs strewn about in literal drifts, here, the book of love is writing its next chapter. With my family and my friends and my church budgets and meeting minutes and bank appointments. With every one that comes across my path – alike and very unlike. It is in the welcome of these into the space of my heart that this story of love keeps being told. And in your house, with your people, and your mess and your joy and your deep fear. And in every house on every street. This book is being fleshed out, it is being written and filled out.
What story do you live out of? What story do I live out of? One where love is grown into the very DNA of the world, where there is enough, where we have hope, where Grace stops retribution in its tracks?
Or do we live in one where we have to fight and scrabble and defend.
Do we live out of a story of bringing together, of bringing us together? Or do we live in a story of tearing apart?
Of love or of fear—in our own hearts?
We choose our stories, we can choose the next words; what story do you live out of? What would be different if the story was indeed one of such a love? A love that re-member-ed its very nature back to itself.
Write your story and know it is the story of His body. It is a chapter in the big story. Tonight, keep choosing to write it, knowing that it is written in the big book of Love, it is woven into the story of this world. Your story and the bits of love within it, no matter how twisty the plot, has a place in God’s Big Story. Keep reading The Story, keep writing The Story, keep being written. Just keep being written into that Book of Love.