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Reboot and Restore: Resurrection in Progress April 9, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Theological Reflection.
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RESURRECTION: it’s the very core of the Christian faith, the belief — reaffirmed by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Easter sermon yesterday — that Jesus came back to life. Not that he recovered from a near-death experience, as some have attempted to claim, nor that someone else such as Judas Iscariot was crucified instead, as some Muslims have claimed, but that Jesus himself died, was buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day.

Nor is this a throwaway belief, an added extra for addled minds: it’s the essence, the kernel, the central tenet without which the entire edifice falls apart to become nothing more than a pick & mix set of Cameronesque common-decency values that “people of any faith, or no faith, can also share in, and admire” as outlined in our beloved Prime Minister’s Easter Message. Not that there’s anything wrong with such values, of course, but without the resurrection they’re values without power that those with power can ignore as they please, which is, of course, precisely what Mr Cameron does as he cites Jesus — “Do to others as you would have them do to you” — then presses on with his welfare and health service reforms regardless of their impact on those at the bottom of the social ladder, trampled underfoot by those eagerly clambering to get to the top as they live out that twisted version of Jesus’ words — Do unto others before they do unto you — that seems to resonate so much more with so much government policy in practice.

Enough of Mr Cameron and his ilk, however. For me, this Easter weekend, belief in the resurrection has taken on a whole new significance as I’ve been forced to think about what a reboot means:

Reboot and restore: my ankle

Reboot and restore: my left ankle

Every morning, I have to reboot my left ankle, literally, strapping this contraption in place to hold it together to give the broken bone a chance to restore itself whilst still allowing me to get about on it. The medics say it’s going to take at least six weeks, then I go back for an X-ray and reassessment and hopefully — hopefully — get to ditch the boot and the crutches.

But with Jesus we’re not talking about a slow recovery, nor even a rapid one: we’re talking death, total shutdown and complete reboot into a whole new way of being human: new bioware configuration, complete mindware rewrite-and-restore and a brand new Resurrection-OS install that takes him to another level of existence. He doesn’t come back as a ghost or a disembodied spirit or even as an undead zombie but as a living, breathing, eating, drinking human being throwing beach parties for his disciples, upgraded. Here’s how I expressed it recently in another post:

[Jesus] dies and — the ultimate coup — suckers Satan into doing the dirty work of killing him: God’s biggest ever fart, right in Satan’s face, and Satan doesn’t even realise until it’s just too damned late. Once again, God does what Satan can’t: he dies, and he dies horribly with all the wrath, agony and hatred of humanity poured into his soul, into his very self. Satan, the one who hates humanity, delivers the death blow that finally nails God into the human story with no way out — and nails the lid onto his own coffin, for ever. The deceiver, deceived; the usurper, usurped; and whilst Satan throws a party in his fantasy world where he thinks God is no more, Jesus throws a party in the underworld, kicks down the gates of hell, breaks the chains, heals the wounds and sets every captive free — then returns, reboots his wreck of a body with a brand new Resurrection-OS, and throws a beach party for his confused disciples.

This is Christianity at its best, at its most basic and its most glorious: completely down to earth with the God who undermines every rule of religious propriety, turns every dogma and social norm on its head, tears down the walls and raises the dead. God with us, God incarnate, God one of us; and it doesn’t stop there: once God has written himself into the story, the story itself is rewritten with the promise of the same Resurrection-OS reboot for the entire universe. Quantum theology: time and space explode, ripping the old order apart as the Jesus Event reverberates backwards, forwards and every which way in time, rewriting history and writing an even better future. New creation, new beginning, new everything. The old dividing line between spiritual and physical, between heaven and earth, becomes nothing but a line in the sand, washed away by the tide: everything becomes sacred, gender distinctions are wiped away, the first become last, the last become first and in God’s new creation there is neither slave nor free, rich nor poor. Jesus becomes the point at which creation begins and the anchor holding it in place.

It’s hard, very hard, to get your head around that when you’re on the outside looking in, when you’ve got friends and family battling all sorts of illnesses, mental and physical; when you see nations tearing themselves and their neighbours apart in bloody warfare, missile launches, terrorist atrocities, roadside bombs and security cordons; when you see natural disasters, earthquakes, avalanches, famine, fire and floods; when you see road and rail accidents, ships sinking, aircraft crashing and senseless shootings, bigotry, hatred, inequality, injustice, unfair trade, sweatshops and slave labour, child abuse, adult abuse, sickness and disease raging out of control… the list goes on and on… and even the church, the very community that should know better, just as wartorn and divided as the world around it…

But when you’re on the inside looking out, then it’s another story. You’ve still got the same problems, the same fears as you face the same world; you break and bleed just as easily as the next person; but inside you, you’ve got this kernel planted: the complete package downloaded. You won’t find it with a surgeon’s scalpel anymore than you’ll find a software download on a computer with a screwdriver. In the Bible, it’s called the Holy Spirit: God’s guarantee, the down payment, the deposit; and at times it’s like a fire in your bones, like lightning in your veins, an explosion in your heart waiting to happen; other times, it’s a quiet presence, a calm in the storm, a voice that whispers; and sometimes it’s an ache, a void, a gutting absence. But you know, you know that no matter how shitty it gets out there, no matter how much shittier it gets inside or outside, when the shutdown comes — and it will — there’s a reboot waiting.

That, my friends, is what the resurrection is about: death defeated in a transformation that puts every science fiction writer’s dreams of nanotech upgrades into the shade. Why? Because it’s already happened. And because it’s available, gratis, to anyone who wants it. Which brings me full circle back round to the Archbishop’s sermon:

How do we know that it is true? Not by some final knock-down would-be scientific proof, but by the way it works in us through the long story of a whole life and the longer story of the life of the community that believes it. We learn and assimilate its truth by the risk of living it; to those on the edge of it, looking respectfully and wistfully at what it might offer, we can only say, ‘you’ll learn nothing more by looking; at some point you have to decide whether you want to try to live with it and in it.’

Or as the people who run the national lottery say, you’ve got to be in it to win it. Only in this lottery, every ticket’s a winner.

That is what gives those values summarised in that statement of Jesus their power: when you’ve got the full download, when you know there’s a reboot waiting, you don’t need to trample everyone else underfoot to get to the top. You can give yourself away and you can give yourself away and you can give yourself away.

And I’m not talking about dying and going to heaven or any of that wishy washy nonsense. I’m talking about God’s kingdom come, here on earth, living it now: do to others as you’d have them do to you. Get the download and join the revolution.

If you dare.

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Maundy Thursday and Good Friday: Reflections and Refractions April 6, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Lent & Easter, Poetry.
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LORD OF LIFE, Lord of Light, Lord Christ:
You who washed your disciples’ feet,
stooping so tenderly —
setting aside your outer garment,
taking up a towel,
washing away the dirt,
the grime…

Stepping
so tenderly
amongst the fragments of shattered lives,
picking up the pieces
and wondering why…

Why? The eternal question.
Why did you bother?
Why did you come?
Why did you die?

We take the scriptures and hammer them
home. like. nails.
into unresisting flesh:
God hates fags:
God HATES fags:
HATES fags;
and God hangs,
suspended,
crucified by hate.

My God, my God, why?

The blood flows freely into famished ground,
life poured out
like water…

and fags go free:
Grace:
God,
whose radical action changes everything.
Time. stands. still.
Infinity unfurled,
love explodes:
new creation:
acceptance,
welcome.

May we, like you, set aside our outer garments,
our self-righteousness,
our convictions of others’ sins,
and take up that towel instead,
drying the tears
of those desolate years…

We look back,
amazed,
into betrayal’s gaze:
a kiss,
a sword,
a healing touch
and a riven side.

Truly this man was the Son of God.

I saw camels dancing on Satan’s grave March 8, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Life, Theological Reflection.
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7 comments

And lo, I looked, and I saw camels dancing on Satan’s grave. And I spoke to the angel standing beside me, and I asked, “Who are these camels and why are they dancing?” And he replied, “When camels dance, the universe roars with laughter: for behold, these camels, they’ve got soul, and Satan, he’s got no soul, therefore these camels dance and the universe rejoices. Blessed shall be the ox who gets the yoke.”

— Recently discovered fragment of an early MSS of the Book of Revelation

Have you ever seen camels dancing? No? Then believe me, my friend, you haven’t lived: dancing camels are an absolute must-see phenomenon — and as this ancient writer discovered, they rock the universe with laughter. Total hilarity. Especially when they’re dancing on Satan’s grave.

Yes, that Satan: the ancient enemy of humanity, the betrayer, the deceiver, the usurper, the Father of Lies, the Whisperer of Dark Thoughts, and any other unpleasant and nefarious title that you can think of. The one who wants you, above all else, to believe that he does not exist — because once he’s won that little battle, he can get away with anything, from murder to rape to theft, even to the point of you taking your own life without you realising that yours wasn’t the hand that took it. Satan sucks, and given his way, he’ll suck you dry, drink your soul and leave you feeling like an empty husk wandering the empty pathways of despair.

Why? Because he exists; because you exist; and because God doesn’t. He hates that, because he wants to be all in all and he can’t be. Oh, there was a time when he was nearly there: top dog amongst the angels; but top dog wasn’t good enough for him: he wanted to be top god. But God — and how I love those two words, But God — put a stop to those satanic ambitions, simply by creating you. Yes, you: the you reading this and wondering what on earth that nutjob Phil Groom is on about this time.

Prepare to be amazed: he’s on about you. Because you, like the dancing camels, have got soul. Which means you can dance too, with or without the camels, and all that damned Satan can do is rot in his grave and fade away. True, he’s a pain in the butt right now: lop off a chicken’s head and it’ll run around flapping and spurting blood and making a right mess for a minute or two before it drops; and Satan’s one big headless chicken who’s gonna be running around for a while yet. But up there in the future, the camels are dancing on his grave: it’s just a question of laughing in the meantime, along with more than a bit of weeping, sure; but God’s promise is that damned devil is done for, finito, for ever.

How? One word: Jesus. In Jesus, God steps out of the realm of the Almighty into what might be and makes all things possible. The non-existent God steps into human space-time and takes on existence: the author writes himself into the story, the artist paints himself into the picture, in a way that Satan simply cannot copy. Oh, Satan and his pathetic bunch of minions can possess, certainly; and as we all know, possession is nine tenths of the law. But as anyone who has ever faced a Compulsory Purchase Order knows only too well, that final tenth has more power than all the other nine put together — and that’s all God needs, all God has ever asked for and all Jesus needs to send Satan packing into that empty no man’s land where the camels dance on his grave.

Proof? You want proof? Simple: God farts and Satan flees. It’s right there in the Bible: Jesus went into the wilderness, where he farted for forty days and nights; and when the forty days were over, Satan fled. Ask Martin Luther: fart and the devil flees. The Christian God is a God who farts, and this — one of the most profound parts of the Christian message — terrifies Satan, because it’s something he can never do: he’s full of wind, but he can never fart. Try to imagine what that must be like: for ever flatulent but unable to fart. The best he can do is fart by proxy when he or one of his minions manage to possess a human being that they’ve sucker-punched into submission; but he can never fart himself. But God can: because God didn’t simply take over someone else’s human body, he grew his own and suffered all the indignities that went with it — alongside all the joys and pleasures. Seriously, you don’t think Jesus turning water not merely into wine but into the best possible wine was a one-off, do you? Practice makes perfect: Jesus knew his wine because he enjoyed the stuff, and if it had been a wedding today you can be sure that at least one of those water jars would have become Guinness, as well as maybe a flagon of champagne. Go ask his mum: she understood.

Our God farts. He also sings, dances, drinks, laughs, weeps, bleeds, parties, loves camels, tells stories, tells the bigots to bog off and makes friends with prostitutes. This is life in all its fullness. This is Jesus, God with us, one of us and loved and hated in equal measure by those who meet him.

He also dies and — the ultimate coup — suckers Satan into doing the dirty work of killing him: God’s biggest ever fart, right in Satan’s face, and Satan doesn’t even realise until it’s just too damned late. Once again, God does what Satan can’t: he dies, and he dies horribly with all the wrath, agony and hatred of humanity poured into his soul, into his very self. Satan, the one who hates humanity, delivers the death blow that finally nails God into the human story with no way out — and nails the lid onto his own coffin, for ever. The deceiver, deceived; the usurper, usurped; and whilst Satan throws a party in his fantasy world where he thinks God is no more, Jesus throws a party in the underworld, kicks down the gates of hell, breaks the chains, heals the wounds and sets every captive free — then returns, reboots his wreck of a body with a brand new Resurrection-OS, and throws a beach party for his confused disciples.

This is Christianity at its best, at its most basic and its most glorious: completely down to earth with the God who undermines every rule of religious propriety, turns every dogma and social norm on its head, tears down the walls and raises the dead. God with us, God incarnate, God one of us; and it doesn’t stop there: once God has written himself into the story, the story itself is rewritten with the promise of the same Resurrection-OS reboot for the entire universe. Quantum theology: time and space explode, ripping the old order apart as the Jesus Event reverberates backwards, forwards and every which way in time, rewriting history and writing an even better future. New creation, new beginning, new everything. The old dividing line between spiritual and physical, between heaven and earth, becomes nothing but a line in the sand, washed away by the tide: everything becomes sacred, gender distinctions are wiped away, the first become last, the last become first and in God’s new creation there is neither slave nor free, rich nor poor. Jesus becomes the point at which creation begins and the anchor holding it in place.

Following Jesus is not about some airy fairy pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die afterlife where we’ll all be floating around on clouds playing harps or cellos or whatever musical instrument takes your fancy with occasional breaks to laugh at the torments of the damned. Following Jesus is about life on earth now, in a world where Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Christianity is firmly rooted in reality and reality is rooted in Jesus who makes all things possible; and the future hope Jesus holds out to his disciples is reality rebooted.

Earlier I said you’ve got soul; I was wrong: you are soul. Be careful how you say that, but don’t be fooled by anyone who tries to tell you you’ve got an immortal soul that’s going to heaven or hell or some place in between; you haven’t. You are soul, body/spirit/mind synched together in imperfect harmony, but in God’s reboot the imperfections get the boot, your hard drive gets defragged and you get the upgrade that Apple, Microsoft and all the other computer geeks out there can’t even dream of, even in their wildest flights of imagination. Doesn’t matter if the original hardware’s rotted away, been incinerated or recycled because Jesus saves and he backs up too. Which means there will be cats and dogs in heaven because heaven will be here on earth; and for those with eyes to see, it’s already arrived.

God farts, Satan flees, camels dance, heaven, earth and humanity are rebooted and in the words of the hymn writer, Jesus sets our souls ablaze: be careful how you sing that; and I don’t know what was in those mushrooms I ate last night, but the shop assistant told me they were a special purchase from Patmos: blessed shall be the ox who gets the yoke.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

Revelation 21:1-4


Acknowledgements: Post inspired by my good friend @narky, who apparently believes there won’t be cats and dogs in heaven; and I owe the ox who gets the yoke gag to Kruppe, a character in Steven Erikson’s ‘Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen’ … everything else, apart from the bits I made up, is true.

Howling at the Moon and a Failed Messiah April 22, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Short Story.
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I AM WOLF. I howl at the moon:

Look-look-look! Look-at-the-moon — the mooooon! The moooooooooon!

Your sheep hear my voice: they know me, and they tremble. As they should: they are easy prey by moonlight, their white coats highlighted against the darker fields, picked out by the moon — the moooooooon! They are as stupid as they are woolly, crowding together, heads inward, no lookouts, the strong pushing towards the centre, the weak exposed. Easy prey — I dash in, seize a haunch, a quick toss of my head, she flies high, I catch her by the throat: she is no longer sheep, but meat. I drag her away for peace and quiet, away from the incessant bleating and the smell of fear. Once I am gone, they quieten down.

It was easier then ever that night, brighter than ever, and the shepherds had gone, leaving only a hireling and a dog: both fled at my approach as the moon lit my path.

She is a harsh mistress, the moon. She knows no compassion in her endless rounds; and when she is full, we are lost, dazzled, beguiled, unable to hunt. Who can hunt by moonlight? We live by scent, not by sight: by moonlight our prey see us coming and they scatter to their holes, to their dens, to the air. Give us darkness, a new moon and silence — we pass you by, a whisper on the wind: you don’t know where we’ve come from or where we’re going and we ignore you. Have you any idea how disgusting human flesh tastes? Or how you smell, with your soaps and perfumes and the moon only knows what else you cover yourselves in?

When she is full, we are frustrated, we raise our heads and we cry:

Look-look-look! Look-at-the-moon — the mooooon! The moooooooooon!

Are your human minds truly as dull as your senses? You slam your doors, you lock them and double lock them, shuttering the windows to keep us out. Only your shepherds have the sense the moon gave them: they know we cannot hunt and so they gather their flocks in folds and lay themselves across the entries. True, they do not stink as the rest of you, they smell only of their charges, but still we will not cross their bodies. We know they are armed and that they will kill.

So we howl, louder and more insistently. And we remember: we remember the world as it was before you humans took it from us, when sheep were wild and the hunt was free — when a ram would charge us, enraged as we threatened his flock. But now, even the rams are tamed, pathetic creatures fathering runts on pathetic bundles of fear. You humans — you have all but destroyed our world, your world, and the closest most of you will ever come to us is a fox. Oh, what an insult, to be likened to those vermin! But that’s what you have done to our world.

Silverwind draws alongside and whispers to me: on with the story, he says, on with the story. I am too easily distracted nowadays as I await my homecoming.

You humans fear death, don’t you? Even your failed messiah sweated blood as he cried out to his father, surrounded by the sheep he had gathered around him. Human sheep, there for the slaughter as human wolves gathered around them. You are a strange breed, you humans: you fear us but you harbour far worse within your own community. I guess it’s a part of your aloneness: that none of you truly knows another or is truly known, isolated within your own minds, with your faulty, selective memories.

We wolves are never alone, even when separated from the pack; and we do not forget. We are one: one heart, one mind, one pack, one purpose, a unity stretching back through time to the first wolves who gave us birth. We inherit our ancestors’ memories as our memories are in turn inherited by our descendants, and we cannot die. True, our bodies grow old and frail, our bodies can be captured and butchered by you or your hounds as the whim takes you; and like you, we fight to survive: we do not surrender our bodies easily. But nor do we fight death when we know that our time has come: death holds no fear for us, for life is rooted in death, in rhythm and tide, in the balance of seasons.

Your failed messiah understood this, despite his fear: he knew where he came from, where he was going. He knew the power of memory, knew that his father would not forget him, and he put rituals in place to help his followers to remember. He came from a people of memory, he remembered his forebears, their fears and hopes and follies; and he lived in those memories, reawakening those fears and hopes but countering the fear with love, building on the hope with golden possibilities, with stories of enemies becoming friends. “Follow me,” he said, and they did, in droves.

This was his undoing: his popularity with the poor, with the outcasts, the weak and the lame. He welcomed them all: enemy collaborators, prostitutes and pimps. He turned no one away but bade them all to follow his way, his way of questioning and challenging the accepted way, of revisiting ancient memories and asking what they meant, where they pointed, what they could lead to.

We knew him. He loved our hills, our empty places, away from human company. He too howled at the moon, cried out to his father, wept with frustration, desperation, anger and grief. We mocked him at first: a god in human clothing. Ah, he laughed at that one and took his revenge: beware, he told his followers, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. That made us laugh more than ever and when he returned we danced, running rings around him as he dipped and dived and tried to keep up.

Failed Messiah, we called him, and he accepted the name — the name, the shame and the blame. He knew that he could not succeed: too many opposed him, too many had invested too much in the system that had brought them their wealth and status. But he refused to back down, to walk away: memory and hope drove him forward.

So you killed him. “He dances with wolves,” they said, and one of his own sheep, a wolf in sheep’s clothing but without a wolf’s honour, brought the dogs and the sheep ran away — all but one, but your failed messiah had seen the end from the beginning and told him to leave too.

We howled that night, howled as we had never howled before, howled until the cock crowed and the blood flowed and the human folly played itself out and he breathed his last, a failed messiah. One of the sheep found his courage and rescued the body. We gathered there that night, licked and pawed at the blood-soaked ground as his ghost moved amongst us. Silverwind, we named him, ghost of a failed messiah, who led us back into the desert and taught us to find ourselves.

We watched and we waited and his memory played true: his father remembered him and we knew, long before his followers found out. “Walk with me,” he said, “and remember the ancient paths.”

To those who remember, the ancient paths are still there, will always be there. I have walked them, I walk them still: but will you? Will you dance as he danced and risk your all to be free? Or, like so many of your kind, will you simply panic like sheep, the strong trampling over the weak as you force your way to the centre of your meaningless flock, forgetting that one day you will be the weak one pushed to the outside?

Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, he said, but be warier still of sheep who think only as sheep and of their own fortunes. There can be no life without the shedding of blood and much of it will be your own: the life that he offers is a blood-filled life; but it is a rich life if you will only learn to give it away.

Dead Gods and Butterflies April 2, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Theological Reflection.
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“We done ’im in,” the crowd all said,
“We nailed the bastard,
now the bastard’s dead”

Jesus, bastard of Bethlehem, dead and buried. That’s the way to deal with a god: nail the bastard. All this talk about love and peace and forgiveness: get real.

And the tears flow down my face…

Pain. Is there no end to this pain? Not my pain — I’ve had a relatively painless life; but my friends’ pain … the endless torment, the inner screams, the scars of abuse and self-harm and self-hate… and blood, so much blood…

And his blood flows down his side, drips from his feet, soaks into the ground…

But now: just a corpse, wrapped in a cloth, hustled into a tomb…

Darkness.

Is this really humanity’s hope? How old was he? About 33, they say, but he spoke like someone who’d lived a thousand years.

He was ready to die, and he did. Did he know what it would be like? Did he really know?

Empty now, a husk … a shell…

Dead. No light in his eyes, only pain…

“One of you will betray me,” he said; and I did. He washed my feet anyway, though he knew.

He washed my feet and I walked away.

Into the darkness…

Here is love will tear us apart April 12, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Music, Theological Reflection.
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Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

— William Rees

When the routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And the resentment rides high
But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways,
Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again

Why is the bedroom so cold
Turned away on your side? 
Is my timing that flawed,
Our respect run so dry? 
Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives
Love, love will tear us apart again

Do you cry out in your sleep
All my failings expose? 
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold,
Is it something so good
Just can’t function no more? 
When love, love will tear us apart again…

— Joy Division

When Time Stood Still: Simon’s Story April 10, 2009

Posted by Phil Groom in Lent & Easter, Short Story.
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It was a day I’ll never forget.

I was coming in from the country for the festival with my two lads, Rufus and Alexandra. As we approached the city I could see that there was some sort of commotion around the gates, but there always is around Jerusalem – nothing new about that.

As we got closer I saw what it was – the Romans had got someone again, another rebel I guessed, and they were dragging him out to be crucified. Only the Romans could have dreamt up such a vile way to kill someone. I told the boys to hang back and moved in a bit closer – then I saw who it was!

They’d got Jesus – Jesus, the miracle worker, the teacher who’d been through our village just last week, who’d healed the boys’ mother from a fever. That’s why she wasn’t with us – she was fine, but I’d told her to stay home anyway. She didn’t like it but eventually she agreed, and I’m well relieved about that now.

I couldn’t believe it: Jesus! I could hardly recognise him – they’d shoved a twisted crown made of thorns on his head and there was blood running down his face, and where there wasn’t blood his face was bruised. Somehow – and I know this sounds crazy – but I remember being relieved that they hadn’t broken his nose. But they were going to do worse than that.

I looked back to see that the boys were okay then shoved my way to the front. This couldn’t be happening. Jesus! What had he done? He was struggling under the weight of the cross – the Romans made their victims carry their own crosses – then he lost his footing and collapsed. It was some sort of miracle, I guess, that the weight of the cross didn’t kill him then. The soldiers started to kick him.

I shouted – and then suddenly I was too close: one of the soldiers grabbed me and laughed viciously. “OK, you carry it then!” he shouted. I looked at Jesus – and suddenly the whole world froze. Time stood still. I hated the Romans: we all hated them. They were filth, evil, no better than swine. But Jesus, he looked at me – and everything was upsidedown. He felt sorry for me. He pitied the Romans. But more than that, he loved us. All of us.

He loved us. I don’t think I can say that loud enough so I’m going to shout: he loved us!

I was scared for the boys, of course I was – then I saw Jesus look across to them and I knew they were going to be okay. It made no sense – here was a man about to be killed telling me everything was going to be okay.

Then the soldier shoved me forward and everything started moving again. I put my shoulder under the cross and helped Jesus to his feet. He didn’t smile. No one would under those under those circumstances. But for just a moment, in the midst of all that cruelty and darkness, a light seemed to shine. And no darkness was ever going to put it out.

Previously published at stmatthews-yiewsley.org.uk/whentimestoodstill.htm

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