Thursday, May 26, 2011

missing Jesus, tollbooths, and the temple: the pursuit of the normal

Once, in Solomon's Box,  we actually did it via graffiti on one of the church walls (one that was due to be painted, anyway).

Once, in another church location, we did it with colored markers on posterboard.
Photos here, click twice to read and weep...and laugh!:

But most of us do it less officially, and more often, prayer, even if unarticulated/wordless.

Complaints/laments/questions have to surface somewhere.  So we might as well be honest and elevate them. pray them post them, sing them....prophetically write them on subway walls or church halls.

movement, let along the psalms of lament,

suggests that an outlet must be found, and can be not only threrapeutic/healing, but evangelistic/missional.

"The "Wake Up Dead Man" prayer (complaint/demand/honesty) is sometimes all we have...
and all we need.

The "where were You?" question-prayer may be unanswerable.
But  that we must ask it is unquestionable.
(see  "Sixpence and God both sneak a smoke").

The "Where was God at Panda Express?"questions must also be asked aloud..

SO It hit me last night, as Rabbi Adam was talking about the Jewish homesickness for the temple,
that no non-Jewish person can know what that feels like.
As he was speaking to our class, I quickly found and projected  this photo  of some of us in front  of the Temple Mount, and it nearly brought him to tears.


The rabbi has not yet been to Israel.
(but Israel has been to the rabbi).

He misses a place he's never been.

With one exception, I  can only miss places I have been.

I have been all over the middle of  the Connecticut Turnpike.

Along with Spidey P. and gang, I was a toll collector for a couple of summers.
Not the most exciting job on the planet, but the memories collected are priceless,
and the ground there was  therefore hallowed.
Here we are:

But that toll booth complex no longer exists.
It was torn down, and the whole toll system discontinued years ago.

Which means, on a visit the spot where they were, I once felt I had to reach down and actually feel the pavement where so much of my life once happened.

No words for what I felt.
Not even a song of complaint.

But the words of St. Bruce Cockburn do come to mind as I remember my wordless touch of the pavement prayer:

"Those who know don't have the words to tell
And the ones with the words don't know too well":

Are there any places in your past that  are simply...and  longer there?

I realize my stories (and yours) may sound trivial compared to "missing" the Temple and the Shekinah..
but they are our stories, and windows into The Story.
They are overheard stories....and all are hallowed.

Though most of you will laugh when you learn that I am the one on the right in this pic,

...There is no way this photo will not evoke wordlessness and/or tears for my cousin:

That wagon may exist somewhere, but our grandparents home, where this was taken, does not.

That's not fair.

No one asked my permission.

But I do know that:

 Every place I have set foot is holy ground.

The Temple Mount included.

St. Jamie, in an amazing blog post found here, even found Jesus in the most "unlikely of places":

For a class I teach adjunct at Fresno Pacific, we orient students to the "three worlds" of the Bible.  To illustrate the "historical world" of the Bible,  and the crucial insight that places/geography matter big time in Scripture... common memory of places the disciples may have been to in the past, or more notably, not literally been to....Exodus and Exile in Babylon , for example.

As part of my teaching, I take students on a field trip of the campus, to show them MY "historical world," as I was a student there only yesterday;  a quarter century ago.

Recently...for the first time in 25 years, I entered  our old dorm and stomping ground on this tour: Module E By the Sea.  I had stories to tell.

But I was a bit floored when we entered my brother's old dorm, in adjoining Module D.

It wasn't there.

Torn down to make a lounge.


Where was the historical marker here, where my brother and I, and Spidey T.  held prayer meetings soundtracked to "Supper's Ready"?

They paved paradise to put up a lounge with cable TV?

At least our dorm's holy "phone booth" in the closet (where you see SQ here) was still in tact.............minus the phone.

Don't even get me started on my petition for landmark status for the spot I met Jesus and my wife:

And then, walking back to class, i remembered that I couldn't take the "usual route" my memory and feet wanted to...a someone build a building right on top of this sacred amphitheatre, where you see us in 1983:


(More photos:

Module E By the Sea 82-85)


Back in class,  and in real reality,we read from our textbook that :
"There are no sacred places..The altar in a church building is no closer to God's heart  than a rest room" (p. 163)

I want to both amen and amend that...when i miss places and people.

I once wrote:

I never planned to be an idolater when I grew up.
And I never became one full-blown until I became a pastor.
Full and explicit confession; I like form too much.
By default we tend to focus on …and thus inevitably worship …forms instead of norms.
Without (literally) divine intervention we wind up unintentionally at (if not autobahnning our way on purpose) our destination:
idolatry of form.
Not our destiny:
the norm, normal and normative Great Commisional lifequest.
“It’s good for us to be here, Lord.”
Uh, oh. Sounds good and spiritual. After all, it is technically a prayer.
And often it would be an appropriate response.
But in this case, it is death.
The well-meaning (?) saint who uttered it was well off the mark.
In fact, he only said it out of his personal ignorance; and the corporate systemic fear of the group/church he was hanging with.
(That's a fascinating assessment of why he misspoke. So hold on to it for a few minutes; it may indeed be the only reason believers ever misspeak and land off the mark,;and thus an incredibly handy hermeneutic for self-diagnosis).Personal ignorance.
Corporate fear.
At least that’s the twofold interpretation of Peter’s “It’s good for us to be here, Lord.” quote/prayer/idolatry of form in Mark 9:6:
"He said this because he (as an individual) did not know what to say; and because they (as a group) were so frightened."
But Jesus seems to show up on Mounts of Transfiguration only to commission-kick us into the demon-infested valleys.
For the next verse (14) and vista after the mountaintop experience was just that.
Pete and the disciples were to apply what they had seen and heard on the glorious mountaintop in the "real world" marketplace. To backtrack and look back would be not only "idolatry of the form" but "to shrink back into destruction" (Hebrews 10:26).
Not to mention missing the fun and form of ministry that awaits any that "tear the curtain down and bring the Altar to the ground." (lyric to the 77s classic bombblast: "What was in That Letter?")God is on the move, out task is to move with the movement.
But I'd rather stay "in church" (a "place" Jesus never commanded us to go), and "build three shrines: one for Jesus, one for Elijah..."
More often than not, Jesus is subversively moving us into the valley to give away life; to heal demonized kids;
to be missional in the marketplace and not (just on) the Mountain.
But wait, is there no place to just be "in worship?" the Scripture says to “Be still and Know that I am the Lord."?
Of course....but in that contract and context of that Quietist comamnd is the activist second half of that same sentence (Isaiah 46:10)...“so that My Name will be evangelized in all the earth."
The only reason God takes us to mountains of glory is to "glorify" the valley.
The real glory, which we seem to want, is not "in the church," but in the world:
"The whole earth (not 'church') is full of his glory."
We can take the mountain and prayer closet with us, you know. They are portable.
             continued here :
Idolatry of Form, Worship of Norm: Ignorance, Fear & St. Dogbert Wisdom

I know all that.
And that rabbi admitted that we live in great days, as we the Body are the temple; and the Presence is no longer limited by real estate, bit our real ESTATE (See" My Real Estate Isn't as Big/Sexy as Yours")

But he still grieved.
And I grieve that I don't grieve enough
Do I love or know Jesus?.

There is an classic rabbinic  tale from the aggadah, retold in Rabbi Pearl's "Theology in Rabbinic Stories,"  as "Clothes for the Messiah," (Jer. Ber. Sa; Lamentations Rabbah 1:51). about a Jew being told the Temple had just been destroyed.  It turns out that, inevitably, the Messiah  is born that same day.

The point being that
 Messiah always arises and appears when grief ascends.

And that:

"The proper course of action for the Jew is to continue working--even in the apocalyptic times of the Messiah...Only on that basis could they hope that the tragic national experiences would be overcome and that the Jews would face the future with the courage and determination whuch would eventually bring them to a happier period...the emphasis is on the
pursuit of the normal...-Pearl, p. 150

So I go back to class, and to reality and life in the here and now where I belong,
...trapped in, and blessed with, the struggle, sweat and gift of the "now and not yet;"
praying "on earth as it is in heaven."

One stop on our campus tour reminded that more than places, I miss people,
like Michel  Bucci (far right, in this vintage pic in his campus apartment).

He died on the operating table several years ago.

But because he knew Jesus,
and knew that the temple is no longer a where, but Who...

I will see Michel again.

He'll have no wheelchair
(and Dack will not have AIDS)

And I honor his memory by living
 Kingdomly now
wherever I am,
whatever and I miss.
And Whoever I miss missing

PS: Bono misses Jesus here and here,,, as does Chris Martin here.

"What's holy is holy because we touch it, not because we don't touch it!"

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