Witness to Sarah
To begin with, thank you for reading and participating. It is the dialogue that I like best about blogging. I apologize for the lateness of my reply but my commitments to the real world have kept me away from here.
My point is that we must not mistake the building for the Body. It is our fellowship that brings the Holy Spirit, not architecture; however, I think you get that.
How many ways are there to Jesus? Even the most obtuse zealot among us must acknowledge there are four different Gospels; I have heard the witness of many Christians who all told me they found their way to the foot of the Cross along crooked paths. Sitting in a pew leads one to Jesus the way looking through a telescope leads one to the Moon; the telescope is useful for planning the journey but not everybody that looks through a telescope will make it to the Moon. This is not a perfect metaphor, nor do I want to be heard as saying that churches are useless; far from it, but no church matters the way people matter.
Sarah, I will share my sincere testimony with you because I want you to understand me better. I was a fervent child in a way that seems unusual to me now; I was tossed out of Sunday School for arguing with the teacher. I must have worried my parents. Luckily I had a grandfather who enjoyed talking over spiritual matters with me; he was a Catholic who had become a Born Again Baptist in the Billy Graham Crusade. I loved my grandfather but by the time I was eighteen or so I was an atheist.
By nineteen I had lapsed into agnosticism. I had always been a seeker; when I was in high school I had sincerely inquired of a friend who was a very observant Jew about his religion to the point where he thought I was considering conversion. I may have been. I still have the book he gave me. Around the time I got divorced I realized that I was pretty much a wreck of a human being. That’s when I went seeking.
I found the teachings of the Buddha. I sorted through a vast tradition of writings to find the Dhammapada, or the actual sayings of Guatama Buddha, and found the Golden Rule there. This began a long period of study where I compared Buddhist and Christian Scriptures and engaged in lively debate with a wide variety of people. This period is still in progress, actually.
I had an epiphany in Rome. I found myself there during the Jubilee year as a tourist. I walked under Trajan’s Arch, which depicts the sack of Jerusalem, then from there into the Colosseum, and after that stood amongst the remains of the Senate and Imperial Palace. Right near there is an ancient pagan temple that was long ago converted for use as a Christian Church; it contains Michelangelo’s ‘Moses’ and the chains that bound Peter and Paul. Then I went to the Vatican. Beholding the sublime beauty of the Sistine Chapel primed me for the staggering majesty of St Peter’s Tomb, and in between I walked through the Porta Sancta, the Holy Door, which, according to Catholic Doctrine, erased all of my sin. On my way out I stopped at the gift shop for souvenirs.
I had lunch in a small outdoor cafe’ across from the Pantheon where I had prosciutto and mozzarella with a glass of Chianti. Over a cigarette I had daydream so vivid it bordered on a hallucination. I saw Augustus Caesar, restless in the night, calling to a slave to talk to him until he felt drowsy. The slave was a skilled storyteller from a distant land with a musical voice that soothed like a lullabye, but this evening Caesar wanted conversation. He asked the slave who the most important person in the world was, and she answered, ‘a newborn infant.’ When he asked where the most important place in the world was, and she answered, ‘the backwater Judean stable where that child was just born,’ Caesar found himself confused. He asked why the child was important, and she said ‘some day, a very long time from now, all this, the palace, the Senate, all of it, will be stripped of all the marble…’ ‘Why? Where is it taken?’ asked Caesar.
‘Across the Tiber.’
‘All the way over there? Why would anyone do that?’
‘To make a tomb.’
‘A tomb? For that child?’
‘No. One day, the governor of Judea will execute the man that child will become. In a few hundred years one of your successors will retroactively declare that man was the incarnation of God. On the day of his execution his closest disciple will three times deny even knowing the man. That’s who will be entombed in Rome’s marble.’
Seriously. It really was like a movie that played itself out; I know the difference between making up a story in my head and a hallucination. Believe me, I’m familiar with both and this was a lot closer to the latter. In any case, I surely saw Jesus in a very different light than I did ten years earlier. I found focus and purpose in my life. It’s late and I need to sleep but it has taken more then long enough for me to get back to you. I apologize. I hope this wasn’t too incoherent.