They demanded and even forced your labor, offering no or little wages. Silly me; I assured myself I was doing comparatively well, and somebody had to be at the bottom, mostly glad it wasn't me. They took your dignity, with images and cultural narratives painting you as lesser, or airbrushing you out of the picture altogether. Foolish me; I looked in the mirror and saw the right shade and shape, assuming I still had shreds of my own remaining. They kicked you out by banning and deportation, as if culture, language, and religion were legitimate wedges. Trembling me; I fell for scapegoating, ignoring the malignancy of systemic dis-ease. They broke your spirit, kicking you in the gut with insufficient opportunities, boot on your throat with charges of laziness. Ignorant me; I thought I could prop mine up with consumption and dogged pursuit, not of my dreams, but of what they told me to desire. They're here to steal your soul, and it slices through my own, clearly awakening me to our eternal tether. Now, I realize I've been a part of "they" all along, with my blind eye, my silence, my privilege, my vested interest votes. Maybe we can't go back, but I know that, wherever we must go from here, it will have to be together. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Painting by Rosalind Golden Saline
Surely light years beyond wildest hopes and deepest imaginations, he is raised, not just from the tomb, but also from the debasing of mocking, the torture of scourging, and the excruciating execution of crucifixion. Was his appearance nearly incognito because of the impossibility of it all, or because transcending death alters persona far beyond human fathomability? Perhaps it was both. His face, tilted skyward, eyes closed, no longer in agony, now in serenity. His skin at one and the same time ashen, yet fully thrushed with life; its shading defies ethnocentric limitations. His lips, resting in a fashion best-described as tranquility. Completely antithetical to terrestrial powers that sought his demise via violence, his presence exudes a gentleness only love can elicit; right hand lowered and open, both revealing a lack of animosity and weaponry, and clearly displaying still-fresh wounds, beckoning us toward our own deepest healing; his left hand pointing heavenward, living water flowing from it, new life springing up from a parched desert floor; light bursting from above, revealing creation’s eternally-held dream. Last, but also perhaps first, the robe; swirling transfiguration's glow with stone-rolling angel's ensemble; but even those two foreshadowings are inadequate descriptions of its hope-infused cloud. Sit with the elements; letting life's river wash over you, divine wind swirl your heart, and corpus of unconditional love carry you into the grace of each tomorrow's resurrection. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Anne Shurley
So many stories surrounded with 'splainin’ on all sides, to help us engage senses, mind, and spirit; historical and geographic settings, names and titles, details galore. Did you ever notice how little detail is provided for the gospel accounts of resurrection? How the women arrive in the garden – always the women – with their minds set on one thing, when their hearts are taken aback both by the presence of angels and the absence of a body? How no one – neither narrator nor character nor angel – wastes any ink or breath to tell us how? Nothing but active verb in present tense. He IS risen. That's what we need to know. From there, we follow, letting the IS of resurrection bring us straightforward into the world's active presence. Metaphor and poetry may be the heart of our God-speak, as no vocabulary or alphabet are capable of capturing the divine self; but faith's foundational eruption from the tomb simply IS. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Matthew’s gospel has a whole lot of quaking going on. I want you to think about this quaking. Why is it here in the story? What does it mean?
27:50-53 …&……. 28:2
Sometimes it takes a little quaking to get us out of our ruts and our comfort zones, but our quaking differs considerably from God’s. Power’s shaking can’t hold a candle to love’s quaking.
I was going to race to the tomb, but the women beat me to it. I would have tried to roll away the stone, but the angel-quake took care of that. I might have raced to tell the rest of the disciples, assuming I wasn't among them, behind locked doors, quaking with fear. The problem is that most of these opportunities are 2,000+ years gone.
Here’s the question I think both supersedes and surpasses our fascination with “Some bright morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” It’s this:
“In the big scheme of things, if death doesn’t have the last word, what does this change about life?” That is, “What difference does resurrection make in your and my here & now?”
28:7 The great hope & promise of resurrection is “he is going ahead of you”. Where would we be willing to go, what would we be willing do to, and who would we be willing to become if we really believed that he is still going ahead of us?
28:8 Resurrection sets us free from having to be God & from the burden of keeping ourselves alive. THAT’s the bizarre combination of “fear and great joy” that the women feel as they leave to keep moving toward the place to which the risen Christ is calling them.
This Easter, I'm praying for the courage to set aside all the shoulda, coulda, and wouldas of my life. Then, the only things left to do are to: look for him among the living; & reflect his light into the pain, suffering, and grief of others; & believe I'm forgiven so I can practice forgiving others; & step aside so grace can expand into the places I'd rather it didn't; & share my broken-hearted love in broken ways, with other broken people; & take a pinch of bread and a sip of wine, believing that sacraments make him real in ways beyond my fathoming; & practice the laying on of ears, listening to both the entombing and the untombing stories of others. & finally, to breathe – just breathe – when I cannot muster the wherewithal to do anything else; This is what I'll do, trusting it will be enough. Yes, the reality of resurrection comes to pass, not just "Some bright morning, when this life is o'er..." but also each day in the here and now; not by my own acts or righteousness, but by the love of God in, through, and around us all. Easter’s quake keeps trembling, raising the hair on your arm and the back of your neck, raising hope in your heart, raising your capacity for compassion, raising you and I to levels of love we’ve never imagined. By the grace of God, Easter's not our burden to prove. It's our gift to live. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
What did they do, on that first Jewish Sabbath following the Thursday of arrest and humiliation; following the Friday of trial and mocking and scourging and flesh-piercing? Promises for the third day were long-tossed out with the other rubbish, their possibility extinguished by the agonizing gore of public crucifixion. Perhaps that Saturday was one when sorrow's adrenaline gave out, leaving them motionless on the floor, dry tears invisibly streaming down the gullies grief had gouged in their cheeks. Maybe they drifted off into exhaustion disguised as sleep, only to bolt upright at random intervals, wishing for slumbering dreams of hope and waking nightmares of memory to exchange places. You would think, whatever else was done, said, and felt, they could easily be convinced that celestial bodies were frozen in the sky, if not backtracking. It appears as if rehearsing the pedantic ritual for burial and body preparation may have been their only respite, its numbing repetition requiring just enough mental and emotional capital to hypnotically rock them toward tomorrow. Will our Saturday ever end? © 2017 Todd Jenkins
The kiss of death (KOD) only cost 30 pieces of silver back in the day, but it was intimate. Today's KOD can be so impersonal, dropped from above, droned from afar. But let's be clear: these measurements we're kicking around come from the top of the heap – the green side of the grass. From below, the price is an altogether different unilateral; it is ultimate – not once-and-for-all, but once-and-nevermore. What do you suppose resurrection will look like now? John 11:50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed. (high priest Caiaphas) © 2017 Todd Jenkins
“Give us something to cheer about!”, the crowd cajoles. “We are in need of hosanna – of being delivered on the spot – so let’s get moving!”
“Look what I have for you.” the voice trembles at first, then crescendos, “I have attacked an enemy with brute military might!”
“Is there gore, and blood? Can we do a victory dance?”
“Yes! Stomach-turning violence and rivers of blood. Let the spoils of celebration be gathered!”
“Let the banshee cry! Let reveling be unleashed!”
“But earlier in the week you had a different master; one who healed the sick, fed the hungry, invited the uninvited, and loved the unlovable. What of him?”
“His ways are arduous, expecting our abundance to feed the hungry, calling us to love our enemies, asking difficult questions of our choices and allegiance. Who knew being neighbors would be so complicated?!”
“I would never ask such challenging things of you. All empire asks is your unquestioned allegiance, your willingness to join and support the force, and a few other minor details in the fine print. You’ll learn about them later.”
“We are in!”
“The one you paraded into town on Sunday; do you know how dangerous he is? He’s a threat to all we’re trying to amass. As long as he’s around, you’ll always struggle, not just with how to treat your neighbor, but also with how far your neighborhood extends.”
“Ah, we see what you mean. In that case, by all means, let’s nip it in the bud, once and for all.”
“And by that, you mean?…”
The crowd roared, “Nail him to a tree! String him up! Give him the needle! Pull the switch! Ready, aim, fire!”
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Deb Kruger
In some ways, it's an off-the-grid path showing up where the trust highway fades into the night. You move forward, feeling your way through the woods, because standing still or going back are unacceptable options; hoping against hope there's somewhere worth going, someone worth finding, or someone who's already found you; hoping you'll eventually get there. All the while, the wind whispers through the trees, as you strain your ears, begging to hear your name, or a plausible facsimile thereof. Sometimes you're desperate enough to change your name to whatever sounds the waving branches make, with their dysrhythmic clack-clacking. Other times, you pick up your name, clear as a bell, just like the last time a loved one stood on a moonlit porch and gathered you in by casting your multisyllabic pattern into the wind. Somewhere beyond this forest lies a place and time you've only visited in your heart; a place that must be home, because nothing else could hold you under a spell of such mystery and magnetism. This – all of this – and then some more that you'll figure out along the way, is what we call faith. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Liberation, like grace, when advocated by humans, always has limits. At some point in the story of our history and community we all draw a line; a mark in the sand to which we are wholly oblivious, until someone on the other side points it out. Christianity attempts to follow the narrative of the God-Human; the only one whose love was unlimited; the one who drew expansive circles, instead. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
I watched a male Eastern Bluebird sit on our deck rail, his eyes askance and body shifting side to side in search of predatory danger. When he took to his wings, it was as if an iridescent stream of shimmering blue flame traced a launching rocket. As he faded from my sight, I wondered if my own leaving of a place – any place – would ever generate such a brilliant trail to follow. Deciding that the answer was, "No." I resolved, again, to desire less the sparkling beauty of bluebird in my eye, and more the steadfast reflection of poetic hope simmering in my marrow. © 2017 Todd Jenkins