With


A clay icon called “with” by the author in bas relief

I’m not convinced that Jesus would have made a very good priest.  I’m actually not sure He would have even chosen to be one.  I mean, when we read about Jesus, his encounters with the clergy of his day did not go very well.  He encountered the powerful “clergy” and they were always battling with him about boundaries.  When you may and may not heal people. How you may or may not heal people.  If you do or do not heal people. What titles clergy and spiritual leaders should be called. His relationship with God. Ours. What his mission was and if it had been approved by power. There’s a list.

Jesus stood with lepers, touched eyes with fingers and spit, arrived inappropriately late and at a time of funeral mourning, raising a friend from the dead. He led two men up into a mountain-top, alone, unchaperoned in the dark. He held a deeply theological and nuanced conversation with a woman at a well, alone, unchaperoned and lacking in usual mysogeny and racist disregard.  He met a woman in a garden, alone. He even let a close, male friend lay his head on his chest at the last supper and fall asleep there, later suggesting that eternal life might be his departing present to him.  Would a priest let an acolyte do that at a parish dinner?  Would a Bishop do that at a diocesan convention?

I understand that boundaries protect people.  I’m not stupid, just objectionable.  But I do wonder about following a savior who did not drive an SUV like so many church leaders do while spouting religious aphorisms about poverty and chastity.  I wonder about following a homeless savior while gathering to discuss Him at a resort or four star hotel. I wonder about following a savior who wore no clothing to signify his power or lineage.  I wonder about following a savior whose office was not a corner one. I wonder about following a savior who had no ring, no cross, no staff of power and no wax seals even at all.

I used to think that abuse, from any human source, was an act of terrible violence and it is.  But I am learning that abandonment is also an act of violence – an act of abuse.  I could not see it when I was a child and suffered parental abandonment.  I could not see it as an adolescent either. And that makes it hard to see at all – because one is used to it one cannot see it easily.  But now, in mid-life, I can see that authority which abandons is as egregious as authority which abuses, if slightly more cowardly.

So I am grateful to have a God which neither abandons nor abuses but is radically “with.”  And I am grateful for a few friends like that too.  And Kai-the-dog who seems to embody boundary-less-ness and presence with reckless abandon.  I am grateful to love and be loved by a God who keeps bursting in and showing up in strange and sneaky ways – in people, in music, in liturgy, in curious coincidences, in still-small-voices, in darkness.  I wish God was someone into whose lap I could climb.  But I have friends for that. Sometimes boundaries protect.  Sometimes they are just excuses to abandon and disregard.  Not a day goes by when I do now wonder what Jesus thinks of the church or if He even does.  It seems, most days, He is busy with prostitutes, lepers, children, weak, homeless and sick people; and people who ask too many questions.

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