John David Kudrick

putting words to work for you

Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 2)

“Evangelical Jesus on the Cross”

A Good Friday Short Story

Black clouds billow across the bleak sky. Distant thunder rumbles beyond Jerusalem. The sun dies overhead. Spiked through, Jesus hangs, bleeding, chest heaving, gasping forgiveness to the murdering ilk gathered round beneath him.

Bitter laughter erupts to the left of Jesus. A thief’s hoarse voice says, “Save yourself and us, Messiah!” The last word oozes sarcasm even as another rivulet of blood drips down the nose of Jesus.

“Enough, Uzzi—you blaspheming fool!” This strained voice comes from Jesus’s right—the other thief. “Death deserved is ours, not his.” A deep breath, then, “Jesus, my name … is Asa. Please …” Another breath. “Please remember me!”

Messiah’s eyes creep right, find Asa there—a thief, yes, but penitent, grasping forgiveness. A surge of life swells within Jesus, and he parts blood-wet, ragged lips. Words come, haggard, whispered at first, unheard by either thief, but then Messiah’s voice strengthens and smooth-spoken syllables follow:

“Asa,” says Jesus, “you are a sinner, yes?”

“Eh?” says the penitent thief, yet reaching for hope.

The Christ-man shakes his head, sighs deep, then goes on: “A sinner? You’re a sinner. Because Adam and Eve chose to eat some God-forbidden fruit in a garden centuries removed from us, yes? And because of your own poor choices throughout your life? As in, all this sin that has created a great gulf between you and God, with no way for you to get across? You understand, yes?”

“What in Hades does he go on about?” mutters the first thief, Uzzi the blasphemer, still hopeless in heart.

Ignoring that one, Jesus says, “Asa?”

“Oh … I …” says the hoping thief. “Yes … Yes, of course. I am a … sinner, as you name me.” He heaves for another breath. “But what is all this you say … about a gulf between God and me? This I do not understand. Did God … Did God not make me … in the divine image?” Another thick breath. “Did he not call humanity … call me ‘very good’ at creation? … Am I not yet … yet a reflection of God’s image … despite my sins?”

Jesus purses his lips. “Mm, a reflection, yes … now horridly marred—by sin.” Messiah shakes his head, so sharply that drops of blood, sweat, and spit spatter off the tangled hair of his upper lip. “Sinner. That, I am afraid, is your label, Asa—not ‘very good.’” Jesus swings his face leftward. “You as well, of course, Uzzi.”

A mumbled curse from that thief, and so Messiah’s head swivels back to Asa, who can only stare at Jesus, eyes blank, mouth hanging half-open, raspy air emitting as he scrapes deep in his soul to find words in reply.

Finally, as Jesus gazes onward at him, Asa whispers, “I … I only want you to remember me … when you come in your kingdom.”

Those ragged red lips of Jesus slip down into a grim frown. “Sorry I am, Asa. Yet hope remains. Listen carefully and hear me well. First, you must know and admit your sinfulness and how only the Savior—who I am—can bridge the chasm between you and the salvation that will allow you to live with God forevermore in paradise.”

Now Asa’s eyes close—clamped down like a carpenter’s vise, so tight that surely he sees a glittering rainbow of stars behind his dirty, drooping lids. Does his head—nay, his soul—ache at the words of Messiah, causing this barely breathing bag of bones more pain than even the Roman dogs have inflicted upon him?

“Much to mull, yes,” Jesus whispers. “Our time, it is short. Rather than lead you down some twisting ‘Roman Road’ to salvation—heh—let us take a shorter trail, then.”

A grunt from the left, Uzzi growling: “What the—”

“Ah-ah-ah,” Jesus interrupts, eyes drifting to the mean-mouthed one. “Want you to add to the ledger of your sins, man? Plenty long enough it be already, eh? Much parchment and many buckets of ink used for your account, so silence your slivered tongue and let Asa hear the good news of my gospel.”

“Good news, you say?” Asa ventures.

Jesus looks back on him. “Yes. Yes … of course it is. So the short version, as I said: Firstly, you are a sinner separated from God because of your sin. Secondly, you require a Savior to deliver you from these sins and to allow you to be forgiven by God, lest you find yourself damned by Yahweh for all eternity. Thirdly, I am said Savior, the very Divine Essence itself, sent from beyond by God with the purpose of being slaughtered upon this cross to save sinners like you from the wrath of God and—”

“Hold … Hold a moment!” Asa cries out, then pulls in a throaty breath. “You are saying that … God sent God to save sinners from … God?”

A raspy, clipped sigh from the Savior and then, “Asa, time is short! I must needs preach this gospel to you before your breath or mine expires. So … again, thirdly, I am said Savior, dying for your sins by bearing them all as a sacrifice here on the cross this very moment, in keeping with the picture of the Law’s requirement for blood to atone for sins, like the plaintive Passover Lamb you’ve heard about since boyhood. This all fits together neatly and well, like a perfectly cut mortise-and-tenon wood joint, yes?”

Asa’s empty eyes ogle Jesus, mouth again hanging half-open, no words forming.

“And then …” Jesus declares, lifting his eyes to the stygian sky, threatening a storm of unknown fury. “Confess you are a sinner in need of a Savior—again, I am he. Then repent, as in turn from your wickedness to the pure ways of a righteous God—also me, but let us not split trinitarian hairs now. Time is indeed short, and it sounds as though you do not know your eternal destiny if your life were to cease this very day. Likely so for us all, eh?”

A snarl now from foul-mouthed Uzzi, but on Jesus goes: “Next, declare that I am Lord in your life even as you believe that I will die on this cross. Oh, and I will also be resurrected to life, which you must also believe, but as it has not transpired yet, I will offer a pass to you for that part.”

Now a grunt from Asa, then he mutters, “Jesus Christ!”

“Yes?” Messiah says, but his tight smile proves recognition of Asa’s meaning. “So, finally, all that done, you simply receive me into your heart as Lord and Savior—and saved you will be.” Jesus drinks in one last, great breath, then cries, “Now … it … is … finished!”

Uzzi snorts out a bitter laugh, even as Asa’s head lolls low.

“I just …” Asa whispers. “I just wanted to be with you … in your kingdom.” He gulps for air. “I believe! … I do believe … you are more than man, but I … I don’t know what you just said about some … some magical moment of mental assent. … My heart—it only burns with desire … to be with you. Please … Jesus … please.”

Asa’s eyes slide to his left, take in the bloody pulp that is the Corpus Christi draped from meat hooks on the cross. Messiah’s head has sagged to the side, eyes unblinking and fixed heavenward even as crackling bolts of light serrate the sky overhead, booming thunder on their heels.

Another snort of laughter from Uzzi, who says, “Dead … Dead he is! And so are we, Asa—you fool!”

As Asa looks on at the lifeless eyes of the one called Messiah, he feels a tear slide down his cheek. “I …” he whispers. “I only wanted … to be with you … in your kingdom, Jesus … in paradise with you. Was that … Was that … so hard … so much to ask?”

Another jagged flash rips the sky’s fabric. Deafening thunder follows as heaven’s only answer to the penitent thief.

That’ll Quote: War and Jesus

The waging of war is incompatible with following Jesus.

Brian Zahnd

From “Brian Zahnd: Postcards from Babylon”

Newsworthy with Norsworthy podcast — Jan. 14, 2019

Worth a Read (and a Second Read) …

Extracts from a Thomas Merton essay,

“We Have to Make Ourselves Heard,”

first published in the June 1962 issue

of The Catholic Worker

 

It would be legitimate and even obligatory for all sane and conscientious people everywhere in the world to lay down their weapons and their tools and starve and be shot rather than cooperate in the war effort. If such a mass movement should spontaneously arise in parts of the world, in Russia and America, in China and in France, in Africa and in Germany, the human race could be saved from extinction….
Continue reading

In Honor of MLK Day and a Daughter’s 16th Birthday

Resentment unites anger, fear, and sadness in a kind of closed-circle, scissors-paper-rock game. In the absence of resentment, anger, fear, and sadness tend to heal each other. Anger can act like scissors, cutting through fear–the fear that like an enveloping shroud wraps itself around and threatens to smother the rock that is sadness. But that very sadness, which rises from the realization of our own transience and the ultimate futility of our human efforts to control, is the only tool we have to blunt anger–to forestall the resentment that anger becomes if it is nourished even after our fears have been quelled.
Anger and sadness butt against each other, steel against stone. But just as scissors “take” paper and rock “takes” scissors, sadness will finally take anger–if we let the sadness through. For sadness, shared, can heal. Anger storms in the hard passage between fear and sadness; cultivated, it turns into a jagged resentment that tears rather than trims and that resists healing. Denying fear and scorning the sadness that is shared, resentment refuses the possibility of going through and beyond the anger into forgiveness.
The danger of anger … lies not in anger itself, but in resentment, the clinging to and prolonged attachment to anger. Resentment is the refusal, out of fear, to cross the bridge of sadness and let ourselves back into the impermanent world of relationship. Anger as resentment refuses relationship, slashing at everything and everyone that comes close. But our pain can be healed only by some kind of closeness, some kind of connection with others. Sadness opens us to the need for unity and community.

From The Spirituality of Imperfection

By Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham

Continue reading

Commemorating Armistice Day’s 100th Anniversary: Day 11 of 11

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Jesus of Nazareth

From the Book of Matthew,

Chapter 5, Verse 9

Commemorating Armistice Day’s 100th Anniversary: Day 10 of 11

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Jesus of Nazareth

From the Book of Matthew,

Chapter 5, Verses 43-44

“Broken people with deep wounds …”

Great line that echoes an idea I continue to share with authors wanting to craft novels with visceral characters who are more than cardboard clichés (since none of us are):

 

The older I get, the more I’ve come to understand that there are no real villains, only broken people with deep wounds who cannot help but to bleed onto others.

Jamie Wright

 

(And the entire blog post is well worth reading too!)

A Different Way

From “The Gospel of Luke” in the book God Is Disappointed in You, by Mark Russell (writer) and Shannon Wheeler (cartoonist):

As he slowly bled to death, it seemed like the whole world had gathered to ridicule Jesus. As he hung there dying, they beat and mocked Jesus for being so naive as to waste his time on pathetic and misguided ideas like forgiveness. For which he forgave them.

 

“What If…?”

Speculative fiction that reimagines the president’s “9/11 Address to the Nation” from 2001:

Good evening.

Today, humanity’s foundational pillars of existence—love, peace, mercy, and compassion—came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives suddenly came to an end because of these attacks. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, and huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. While anger is a natural reaction to such aggression, we must resist the desire for revenge. These extremists intended to stir up a hornet’s nest and further fan the flames of war and hatred in our world. But they have failed. Rather than seek vengeance out of bitter anger, our country will link arms with every willing nation to counter evil with the love, peace, mercy, and compassion I’ve already mentioned.

Today, our world saw evil—the very worst of human nature—but the world also saw some of the best of humanity: with the daring of the many rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could, with the joining of hands and hearts here and all over the globe.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect humanity against further attacks here and around the world. Beyond this, the functions of our government and economy will continue without interruption.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and unity in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

But this war will not be won with the typical weapons of this world: guns, tanks, missiles, and military personnel. Fighting fire with fire only creates a more dangerous blaze. Meeting violence with violence only produces and perpetuates more violence.

Rather, keeping in mind humanity’s pillars of love, peace, mercy, and compassion, we must learn the truth of what it means to turn the other cheek—not to roll over and shrink away from this brutal assault, but rather to practice peaceful, nonviolent resistance, as modeled by so many great figures throughout history: Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, just to name a few.

Nearly every religion has had its extremists who attempt to justify evil in the name of their god. The history of my own Christian faith has seen horrible acts committed in the name of a supposedly loving, peaceful God: from the bloody mass murders of the Inquisition overseas to the oppression and subjugation of the Native peoples here in our own land, and of course our justification of slavery and treating an entire race as less than human—continuing even years after slavery officially ended, with the ghastly, nearly incomprehensible slaughter of African Americans by lynching, burning, and torture at the hands of domestic terrorists.

And so, in response to these international terrorists, I am thankful to have already talked to peace-loving Muslims who have decried these attacks. Like me, they want to see a new world order of peace and unity regardless of race, religion, gender, or anything else that we have allowed to fracture humanity. So we will join with any and all who desire this as well.

Together, we will respond with love: seeking ways to bring real, relevant humanitarian aid and help to those suffering around the world, no matter where they reside. We will respond with peace: seeking ways to build bridges in every corner of human existence rather than build walls that divide. We will respond with mercy: seeking to offer empathy and restorative justice rather than vengeance and retribution to those who hurt us. And, finally, we will respond with compassion: seeking always to look for ways to be a blessing to others, remembering that we are all part of the great global family called “humanity,” and in doing so that we might live out those well-known but too often unpracticed words of Christ: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

In closing, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of peace has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Let this day be remembered as a day when all people on this earth unite in our resolve to be peacemakers. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to bring about a world that can more powerfully experience the reality of a global community of love, peace, mercy, and compassion.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless humanity around the world.

Note: Watch and/or read the original address here.

Turning Cheeks … or Stomping Them?

At Pittsburgh Mennonite Church yesterday morning, Matthew 5:38-42 was one of the focal points throughout the service:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (New Revised Standard Version)

On my way home from church, I stopped at a grocery store and saw someone wearing a T-shirt that had this on the back:

On the journey of life, and in regard to what we believe and hold dear to our hearts, we are all where we are. Yet what a striking contrast between the words of Jesus and the words on the shirt.

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