Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Being human...

I did not sleep much, between the pain in my body from helping to clean up last night and the wild, disastrous thoughts my brain kept producing about the back porch.  Firewood Man was to be here at noon, so I set my alarm for then.  He had a much more difficult time with a job his mom's boss asked him to do, so he rolled around 2:00 PM.  That was okay with me because this arrived just after I dragged myself out of bed.

The funny thing is that I had also just received an email with a shipping delivery date of next Thursday!!

The cushion came, too.  Amos and I tried out the chair and very promptly fell asleep.  The back adjusts to different angles, but I've yet to figure that part out.  I was to busy enjoying how comfortable the chair is.

After our short nap in the steamer lounge chair, Amos and I lugged it and its boxes outside to seal it.  Well, I lugged and Amos kept wending his way around my feet as I walked.  To seal the chair, I started on the bottom side first and then flipped both pieces over.  With three coats on it, I believe the chair shall fair well outside.  I need to let the sealer dry for two days, so I will be experiencing forced will power as per not hanging out on the airing porch.

Firewood Man did all the wood shopping and then got his truck unloaded (there are some huge posts on my upper sidewalk at the moment).  Really, that was about all the work he could do after wrestling his first job this morning, but Tim set about digging the first of four holes for the porch supports just to feel as if he accomplished something.  He is hoping to get the posts all in on the morrow, if he works the entire day.  Since I am not interested in seeing my porch "jacked up a bit," I might just try to sleep through the entire thing and join Tim outside in the afternoon.

My neighbor told me that she just about fainted last night when she came home from late shift work and saw my bare back porch.  When she was leaving for work today, she stopped to admire the airing porch and the chair I was sealing, declaring that I was near responsible for an ER trip for a cardiac event.  I told her that I was in still in shock myself.  She wondered if I might start a trend in the neighborhood of restoring airing porches, because so many of the homes have the doors on the second floor, but almost all of airing porches have been re-roofed so as to render them unusable.

I admit that I wonder which company insured those houses because my first insurance company dropped me in the first month of coverage after laying sight upon a door with no railing in front of it and my current insurance company has been rather strident about my addressing that safety issue.

For me, just as I have enjoyed seeing other folk on their front porches enjoying the rain storms when I go out there, I would like to see my neighbors out on their airing porches enjoying the fireworks, as I have twice already (both times without the railing finished).

Consensus has been that if I am going to leave the front wall open of the back porch open and just have a railing there, then it should not be a lattice railing, but rather a baluster one, matching that of the airing porch.  I think that I like that idea.  However, two sets of support posts have to go in before any sort of permanent thoughts about the front wall are needed.

I will say that, without the front lattice wall, my back porch light really brought light to the kitchen and the back porch, instead of merely flooding two-thirds of the back yard.  I liked that.  When I came down for ice packs whilst it was still dark, I had an easier time navigating my way to the freezer.

I was showered and snoozing by 5:30 this afternoon, so exhausted am I.  There I went and broke my promise to myself about not continuing to do things that are beyond me, especially since I pay the piper for days (or weeks) on end.  But if you could have seen the pile of broken bits of lattice all over the place, you might not be so quick to chime in on that admonishment.  Still, the end result is overwhelming pain and deep exhaustion after spending days recovering from last Wednesday, when all I really did is a few too many trips up and down the stairs.

Before he left tonight, I asked Firewood Man to go down to the basement and admire my now-functioning, GREEN utility room door.  Being Firewood Man, Tim threw himself at that tiny section of wall between door and stairwell, whilst I shouted at him.  He laughed.  "I'm just checking it out!"  I think he's a bit pleased my wall doesn't wiggle anymore, even if he did drag his feet on this tiny project for over do years.

For the record, Tim threw himself at the balcony railing, too.  All four sections!  His way of "checking things out" can be a strain on the heart.  Me?  I merely sat in each of the two front corners and leaned back with my whole weight to see if they would hold.  Solid.  No movement.  Even upon wildness hitting them.

[Can you tell I'm itching to be up there??]

After remarking about how well I have transformed this home for the next generation, someone actually suggested that I sell and start over on another house.  Uhm.  No.  For one, I am ever so much weaker than the first year when I was here and did copious amounts of labor about the place.  But, more importantly, why would I want to sell my dream home??  Now, if folk wanted to ask my advice about taking a lovely old home and bringing it into the modern world whilst retaining its original charm on a shoe string budget, I'd be happy to give advice.

[Becky will tell you that I am never short on advice.]

Along the theme of having daring thoughts about leaving my back porch wall wide open, I dipped my toes in the waters of Mark chapter 14.  My friend Mary gave me permission to skip the Last Supper and the crucifixion if I wanted and start my next commentary.  I admit that I was rather relieved to receive that, to know that she wouldn't see my doing so as some failure or terminal weakness.

Michael Card points out that the chapter begins with another bookend device; this one was the scheming and plotting against Jesus with a center of the story of the woman who anointed Jesus.  Besides thinking that really it should be called the "sandwich" device, I was distracted by something I did not know, did not remember being taught.

I think the easiest way to put it is that my known version of the story ends with Jesus telling his disciples that the woman has done a great service for Him and that whilst the poor will always be around, He will not.  But that is not the full text.  Jesus says that she has anointed His body "in advance for burial."  Here Jesus is speaking of His death as if it were imminent ... so soon that He is in need of anointing.  Yet there is no mention, in Mark, of the disciples protesting His claim.  The story is merely followed by Judas going to the chief priests to offer his services in the arrest of Jesus.

From the commentary on this section itself, I learned just how expensive that jar of perfume was.  But the jar itself was also expensive.  That is was broken, never to be used again, is part of the significance of what the woman did.

I did find one part of Michael Card's commentary thought provoking, one of his informed imaginings:

I imagine Jesus turning to the woman as he speaks to the disciples, saying, "She has anointed My body in advance for burial!" (Mk 14:8).  I can see her breath being taken away at Jesus' words  She has done more than she realized.  Next, Jesus does something unique.  This  story and its parallel in Matthew 26 contain the only reference to him doing anything remotely like it; he memorializes her gift: "Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her" (Mk 14:9).  The extravagant gift of an unnamed woman who acted out more perhaps than she knew—she is being integrated into the story of the gospel!  Her story has become part of his.

What came to mind was:  "What about Nicodemus or Zacchaeus?  I know a song about Zacchaeus.  Are they not also a part of Jesus' story?"   I think, though, that Michael Card's point is that Jesus proclaims this woman will be, as opposed to all the folk mentioned throughout the Gospels, as the story of Jesus is recorded.

Well, crap.  That doesn't make sense.  It does in my head.  Anyway ... I did not know about the mentioned of burial and I did not know that this was the only time Jesus declared someone's actions be memorialized.  But on to the interesting bit.

In contrast to the remarkable charity of the woman, Mark points a picture of Judas leaving and going to the chief priests.  The final phase of the dark bookend pictures Judas actively looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over.

For most of my life, I've assumed it was the washing of the disciples' feet in John 13 that drove Jesus over the edge and into his betrayal of Jesus.  The more I look at the story of the generous woman, and the more I listen to Jesus' words memorializing hr actions, the more I realize the Twelve never did anything up to that point deserving such commendation.  And I think it might have been this anointing that drove Judas—jealous, deceitful Judas—to do what he finally did.

That would make sense to me, given how often self-centeredness factors into the disciples responses. After three years of sacrificing for Jesus, battling crowds and needy people all the time, this nameless woman is given the glory the disciples desired.  That could easily be a tipping point, a trigger for betrayal.

One of the things I have struggled to follow is Michael Card's commentary on possible locations.  I do not believe this is because he is doing a poor job of it, but because I cannot keep straight in my head who is who.  At least not any more.  I mean, sometimes I find myself thinking John the Baptist is the John of the Gospel of John.  Then I think, "Myrtle, John the Baptist is dead.  He cannot be that John."   Seriously, it is like the elevator buttons.  You would think knowing which one to push would be easy for me, but often I am left riding elevators up and down, clueless as to which button I need to put in order to get where I need to go.

Michael Card posited that it was very likely Mary and Lazarus' house where the donkey was found because of the specific directions and the use of the phrase "the lord requires" and the lack of protest.  Here, with the Passover meal preparations, again Jesus gives very specific instructions, which are met unquestioned.  Adding to the fact that Peter is left out of the story—Michael Card posits that the lack of Peter at times is evidence that Mark's telling the story as related to him by his good friend Peter—and that it is not likely Jesus had intimate relationships with very many wealthy households, the house with the upper room could have been Peter's, which was were Mark stayed, too.  Peter, the generous one who opened his home to his widowed mother-in-law, is opening his home once more.

It is not that it matters so much that is it or is not Peter's home, but the interest lies in the detail.  Go here and....  Searching through the fragmented braincells of mine, I think that is something God does several times in the Old Testament.  The details matter, the specificity, even if we may not know the why of them until we cross over.  Jesus spoke; His words became true.

I did like this note:

Once again we receive the detail that the Twelve are "reclining" with jesus.  This is a formal meal. Mark's account is characteristically brief.  He does not tell us all he knows, but all we need to know.  Jesus sets a somber tone for the evening by predicting that one of them will betray him.  For the rest of the meal—indeed, the rest of the night—the Twelve remain unsettled by Jesus' prediction.  In the garden they will be "exhausted from their grief" (Lk 22:45).

I did not expect Michael Card to address the Lord's Supper as a Sacrament.  So, I was not disappointed or surprised when he did not.  I did appreciate that he stated that Jesus said the bread is His body, but I ignored where he said Jesus said the wind represented His blood.  That should have read is, not represented.  Instead, I followed the focus of Michael Card words in considering the particulars of this abbreviated telling of the Last Supper, especially the bit where he notes that at the Last Supper, which was concluded with the singing of psalms, "is the only time in the course of Jesus' life when we read of Jesus singing."

My beloved Psalter is in the story of the Last Supper!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I wonder which ones were sung/prayed/shared....

It is odd to me, reading through this commentary, just how many details have been left out of the re-telling of the Bible I received over the years.  It made me think of the egregious error of moving from actually reading the Scriptures aloud in the service to merely summarizing them to teaching concepts one believes are in the Scriptures.  So, how great is the Lutheran liturgy that is filled with the Living Word and has time carved out for reading aloud three portions of the Living Word, as well.

Of course, now knowing that Jesus sang psalms the very last time He shared Himself with His disciples before His death, my belief that services ought to include the reading of an entire psalm each week is renewed.  Too many Christians are missing the wondrous solace and joy that is the Psalter, that is reading words that show so clearly how intimately they are known by their Creator.  And, for lack of a better way to put it, are missing one of the greatest "devotionals" ever written!


What occupies three chapters in John's Gospel (Jn 15-17) Mark covers in only five verses.  Before the meal Jesus said one of them would betray him.  Now as they move among the shadows [Mk 14: 27-31], he tells the Twelve that all of them will fall away, quoting Zechariah 13:7 to substantiate his prophecy.  In the next breath Jesus speaks of his resurrection and of their meeting again in Galilee (see Mt 28:16; Acts 1:11).  But Peter has stopped listening after the first statement about them falling away.  He does not seem to have heard about Jesus rising or meeting them in Galilee.  After the resurrection, the angel will make a special point to remind Peter of the Galilee appointment (see Mt 16:7).

This will be the most difficult day of Peter's life.  Repeatedly he will make what he believes to be the proper assumptions:  that Jesus should not wash his feet, that he will not fall away, that he will willingly die for Jesus.  Each time Jesus will rebuke and correct him.  When he is ready to fight with his sword he will turn and see Jesus surrender.  His world will fall to pieces.  But Jesus has a better world waiting.  Peter's last hope will die.  But a better hope will be born.

If you join this with the quoted section above, you see very, very, very human disciples.  You see them distressed and distracted with grief.  And you see Peter distressed and distracted to the point of failing to hear the good news.  These bits—and the Scriptures which they cover—stood out to me.

It is as if they are a ginormous "IT'S OKAY."  I mean, it is not a good thing to miss hearing the gospel, Jesus' victory over the cross, but it is okay to be human, to grieve, to be distressed and distracted.  These things happen.  They will happen again.  Soon, actually, because they are on their way to the garden of Gethsemane.

I found it interesting that only Peter was mentioned in Jesus' rebuke, as if the sting of failing his Lord remained with Peter as he was helping Mark record the gospel of Jesus.  The other two disciples who also fell asleep, who also failed at keeping watch, were not singled out.  Just Peter.

I note, here, a bit of a shift from Jesus being the centrality of the story, His mission and His ministry, to those who will remain behind to continue that ministry.  If I were the one imagining, I would imagine that is, in part, because Peter knows his sin and his fallibility.  Even the Twelve were sinful and fallible, not only with each other and others in the church, but with Jesus Christ Himself.  After all, the end of verse 31 isn't with Peter saying he would never deny Jesus, but with all of the disciples saying they would never deny Jesus.

It is hard for me to note everything, not that I ever set out to write my way through this commentary.  But I did start trying to capture things I wanted to remember.  Much of what I have failed to capture are the passionate Jesus Mark presents.  The human Jesus.  The feeling Jesus.

"He took Peter, James, and John with Him and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified.  Then He said to them, "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death.  Remain here and stay awake." (Mark 14:33-34)

Well, if that's not an emotional Jesus, what is?  

[Holy cow!  Jesus was distressed and horrified and swallowed up with sorrow.  Who does that sound like??]

I know the point of the garden story is that Jesus struggled with what was to come and yet chose God's will over His own.  Only ... only I think the emphasis on God's will has driven out the sweetness of the garden story.  Jesus Christ, Son of God, basically tells His friends that His sorrow is killing him.  Jesus Christ, Son of God, says that He is horrified.

For me, the pressure of the suffering saint is proclaiming God's will over one's own, as did Jesus, without acknowledging that does not happen in a rosy environment.  It happens in a place of agony, a place where no one in his right might would want to be.  It happens in a place where friends fail and disappoint you.  It happens in a place of loneliness.  It happens in a place that feels unendurable, insurmountable, unendurable.

Going still farther into the darkness, Jesus collapses on the ground, pleading that the hour might pass from him.  He enters the garden in effect telling the Father, "If you can get me out of this,  I want out!"  I have heard it said that this was the one moment when Jesus fought against the Father's will, but I take his humanity more to heart.  Throughout his life, Jesus struggled, as you and I struggle, with conforming his will to the Father's.  Clearly this moment of all the others was the most intense, the most costly.

I very much dislike icons and paintings of Jesus.  I very much dislike just about every lifelike model of Jesus I have ever seen on a crucifix.  I dislike the flowing locks of lighter brown hair, the manicured, short beard, the pale skin, the almost patrician beauty.  Jesus' skin was not white.  Jesus was not a caucasian.  If you want a lifelike Jesus, make him a middle eastern man, darker in skin tone, perhaps olive tone.  And if you want him to have a beard, make it a bit wild and bushy.  Since the Psalter tells us that Jesus was not remarkable in appearance, please stop making Him so handsome with a noble brow.

And if you want to talk about the suffering saint, point to the One who suffered for us.  Talk about being horrified and swallowed up in sorrow.  Talk about him being upset that the people He asked to help him endure His suffering failed Him, even after He asked them a second time for help.  Talk about how, in the face of such suffering, His closest companions had no words to say to Him.

Michael Card points out that, again, the importance of Mark showing Jesus speaking in His native tongue.

From out of the shadows we hear Jesus' voice, speaking his own native tongue as only Mark provides for us.  It is the voice of a desperate child saying "Abba."  It is the infant's intimate name of the father, Ab, in Aramaic.  At no place in the ancient literature is God referred to by that intimate name.  As far as we know, Jesus is the first person to ever reach out to the Father as "Abba."

So amend that suffering saint further, reduced to whimpering like a child, crying out for help.

Thinking about Peter and his disastrous night, while in Mark the person is unnamed, we know it is Peter who cut off the guard's ear.  Michael Card points out that Peter was mostly likely trying to behead the guard, not clip his small lobe.  He couldn't even do a good job of protecting Jesus with his sword, much less his prayers.

With humanity so much on the mind, I think about Peter's denials.  Again, the story I knew was truncated.  Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed twice.  Yes, Peter did that.  But Peter was already struggling with grief and guilt and a mob comes and takes away his lord.  He is frightened.  Frightened for his life.  And, when reflecting upon his rather non-suffering-saint-like actions, Peter weeps.  It wasn't that he merely denied knowing Jesus, he began to swear, to make a oath upon that lie.  Were I Peter, I would rather forget what I had done than remember.  But the irony of this world is that we do not always get to choose what we forget, what we remember.

I am not sure I have ever noticed (or been taught) that Peter had sought the comfort of a fire, after his disastrous day and seeing Jesus arrested.  I would imagine that, given all that had happened, he was very cold at heart.  Not hard hearted, but cold hearted.  Numb with grief.  Numb with disbelief.  Numb with self-disgust.  Then fear raised its might against Peter and he failed Jesus again and again and again.  Who would not weep??

In private confession, once, a less-than-compassion pastor told me that God didn't want my tears, he wanted my repentance.  That stung.  I was accused even of weeping "crocodile tears."  But being human means being a sinner and being a sinner means being hurt.  Hurt by others. Hurt by ourselves.  It is normal and natural and very, very, very understandable to weep.  Jesus wept.  Peter wept.  Suffering as a human hurts and being a hurting human can (and often does) mean a being a tearful human.

The Christian Book of Concord has huge swaths of writing devoted to Jesus being fully human and fully God.  I do not think we appreciate enough or mediate enough what that means.  Maybe another way to say it is that, in reading Michael Card's commentary, the glorification of Gethsemane was replaced with reality ... and to extrapolate a bit, I think I would say that it was replaced with the theology of the cross.

I think the theology of the cross need be raw and honest, need include the God Man weeping like an infant, overset with sorrow and frenetic in His anguish, begging to be spared ... the God Man disappointed by and frustrated at His friends ... the God Man lonely and horrified.  And yet is still obedient.

And I think the theology of the cross in a believer's life need be raw and honest, need be an inevitable focus on self and self-preservation, on remorse and self-recriminization.   The believer whose grief blocks his ears at times, whose fear overcomes his faith at times.  And yet is still forgiven precisely because the very human God, who struggled, too, with His humanity, was obedient for all who are not.

Even those who battle fear, fear so massive as to cause them to go so far as to swear an oath of rejection, an oath against knowing Jesus Christ.

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