Thursday, October 30, 2008
Jesus: Home at last!
There He is - in a place of prominence on one of the end tables in my office.
You'll notice a few personal flourishes: The rosary bead necklace. A frog figurine with peppermint candy, in case He needs to freshen His breath. A small Jesus birthday candle for His birthday cake which we'll give Him on December 25.
There's a picture of one of the baptisms I've done so he'll know I'm working in His name and a clock to know what earth time it is. There are also a few votive candles so He won't have to be alone in the dark.
There's a prayer book (He only knew one prayer, after all, and the disciples named it after him which I'll bet gets embarrassing, after a while, to have to say a prayer with your name on it. Sort of like being Lou Gehrig and dying of your own disease. What's the likelihood of that?) and a little meditation abacus of the Sorrowful and Joyful mysteries (it's quite a little gem - given to me years ago by a nun who told me it would be helpful at the Dentist Office, saying, "Think about all He suffered for you and any dental pain or discomfort you might have will not be so bad.")
Oh, and a little clay storage pot for any guilt He may still be carrying around.
I know. He still doesn't look very happy, but really, I think He's settling right in. Things will be much better when I finally (if I ever) get my mother's statue of St. Teresa, which, of course, will go right next to Him.
One of my parishioners came by the office after yesterday's Confirmation Class and, after we giggled wickedly, asked, "So, what's up with you and all this?"
Well, I had to think about it for a minute.
You know, one part of it is a nostalgia for my beloved Grandmother who had little shrines in almost every corner of the house. Her bedroom bureau was an altar to her favorite saints, and she kept a Votive Prayer light in front of each one of them.
Above her kitchen table hung two portraits, one of what I call "Jesus' High School Graduation Picture" - you know the one - the 3/4 profile to accentuate his long, flowing hair and the back lighting halo. Right next to it was a picture of John F. Kennedy. Before she ate her breakfast, she would always bless herself by making the sign of the cross with the crucifix of her rosary beads, which she always kept at the ready in the pocket of her apron. Because, you never know when you might have to break out the beads and say a round of prayer.
I never knew to which portrait she was addressing her prayers: Jesus or JFK. I don't think it made much difference to her. She loved them both and saw them both as martyrs to their faith.
So, one part of me is clearly nostalgic for the simplicity of my Grandmother's faith.
I will admit, however, that another part of me is just flat-out uncomfortable with that kind of piety. The Jesus I imagine bears absolutely no resemblance to that bust. I'm not knocking anyone who does think of Jesus in that way, but I just don't understand that kind of spiritual devotion which, in my estimation, comes pretty darn close to idolatry.
That's not an accusation. It's a personal observation. What works for me in my relationship with God is not to spend hours in prayer in front of religious schlock - which, I hasten to add, is very, very different from Religious Icons or stained glass windows or other visual expressions of faith.
Rather, it is important to me to spend time in my own creative religious imagination with God, and then to put any insights I've gained into the work of ministry.
So, I suppose part of why I keep statues around is the same dynamic inherent in the observation of Halloween. Frankly, there's a part of me that's horrified by religious schlock, and the best way I've found to work out one's horror - on any level - is to keep my sense of humor.
I'm laughing at my own discomfort when I giggle at a schlocky religious statue. It reminds me not to take my own religion too seriously, lest I miss the whole point of spiritual devotion and adoration - which is not to become frozen solid in one part of my walk with Jesus, but to embrace the entirety of His Life.
So, there you have it - two reasons why I collect all this stuff. Well, let me amend that statement. Jesus is staying with me for the year - until the next Clergy Retreat when I'll bring him back to be auctioned off again. The bidding will begin at $35 and I hope it will go up - WAY up - from there and make LOTS of money for the Episcopal Relief and Development's participation in the MDGs.
That will not change the permanently pained look on the bust of Jesus, but I'm thinking that Jesus is smiling broadly, even now, at the thought.