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Monday, December 08, 2008

The Incarnation and the Resurrection

It's interesting to me, curious, in fact, that we spend Advent, Christmas and most of The Epiphany focusing in on the humanity of Jesus. When it comes to his resurrection, however, we get mystical and mysterious, even though the evangelists want us to see him in the flesh, put our hands into the wounds in his side, watch him eating breakfast. . .

Brian Doyle, editor of Portland Magazine, has been musing about the meaning of a bodily resurrection. He penned this poem which appeared in Christian Century, December 2, 2008. I found it a provocative meditation for Advent.

Some thorny questions about the resurrection

And I don’t mean theological or ontological or scriptural or hermeneutical questions.
I mean real questions, like did He have to pee like a racehorse after three long days?
And what’s the first thing He said when He woke up, did He say where’s my wallet?
Or did He say sweet mother of the Lord, that is absolutely the
last time I drink wine?
Or where is my posse? Or who are these two men in white at my head and at my feet?
Are they hospital orderlies or nurses from the nuthouse or navy midshipmen or what?
And when Mary of Magdala didn’t recognize Him, and though He was the gardener,
Did He want to say, My God, Mary, the
gardener, do I look like a shaggy botanist?
And did He think, boy, I would give my left arm for some fresh grilled fish and bread,
Or man, when a guy gets wrapped for the tomb do they use
enough linen and spices?

And between you and me I am sure that there are also many other things Jesus thought
The which if they should be written every one I suppose that even the wild world itself
Could not contain the books that should be written. Like where did He get a decent cup
Of coffee that morning? And who paid for it? And why was He razzing Peter so much?
And when He saith unto Mary, woman, touch me not, was that a personal space issue?
Or was she one of those people who when they tough you it tickles even if they do not
Try to tickle you? You know what I mean? And when He appeared along the lakeshore,
And on the road to Emmaus, had He, you know, borrowed a shirt and a pair of pants?
Of all the hints and suggestions in the Gospels that Jesus may have had a few brothers,
That’s the tiny hint that seems revealing to me, don’t you think, that He might’ve swung by
His brother’s apartment and nicked a shirt and left a note: dude, I’ll make it up to you . . .


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Me too. One of the things I have realized in the last few Advents is I need the assurance in my mind that there is a degree of humanity behind Advent in Jesus that is no different than my own.

It took me years to get to a place that, rather than struggle to accept the non-scientific details of things like the incarnation, resurrection, transfiguration and ascension, or to find an "explanation" for them, to accept the power behind the concepts and how these things can affect my own "transfiguration" as a child of God.

Advent becomes the opposite. It is a recognition that I need something more human than ceramic baby Jesus or more human than iconic Mary with a yellow circle behind her head. I need the idea that this little family in Bethlehem had fear and doubt and dirt and a placenta to get rid of afterwards.

I am thinking that the interplay of these two poles of "my spiritual spectrum" is illustrative of the big picture of humanity's interplay between this world and God's world, and it is the interplay that becomes important, not just the words in the stories themselves.

Bill said...

I’m not sure I appreciate Brian’s attempt at humor, if that was his purpose. Maybe I’m one of the oddballs, but when I go to a wake, I don’t usually crack jokes. Now I must admit, that I have had a few good laughs at various funerals, but never at the expense of the bereaved and in this instance we are more or less, the bereaved. If however, his intent was to force us to look at the humanity of Christ, then that is altogether different.

Do I believe that Christ died on the cross? Well the answer is yes. The ancient Romans were if nothing else, quite expert at killing people. You could almost say they had a flair for it. When you nail someone to a cross, let him hang there all day and then stick a spear in his side, then yes, they did kill Him. If you ask me, “Did Christ rise from the dead”, I have to be more precise. Christ died and was buried. That is and will be what happens to all of us whether we like it or not. It is what is required of humanity, just like paying taxes. Did He physically come back to life? Did He wake up after being tortured, killed and buried for three days? My brain says no. So, how then did He come back to life? The answer is through His teachings and legacy. The answer is through His Church. He has broken the bounds of death through His life’s work. He lives on through the Gospels. If we believe that there is a life after death then we must also accept that life is but a small part of the more “total” concept of existence. We exist and mortal life is a brief interlude. The mortal wrappings we call flesh and blood are only a temporary aspect of the totality of existence. So in that light, I say yes, Christ did rise from the dead.

I am now prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fungelicals. But there are so many of you, so please call for an appointment.

marnanel said...

It's beautiful. Thank you.

JCF said...

Did He wake up after being tortured, killed and buried for three days? My brain says no.

If I may offer a correction, Bill, I'd say a part of your brain says that (Yup, I have that part, too)...

...but if you turn down the volume on that part, maybe you could hear the funny better? ;-)