Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)
TITLE: In and Out (ii)
By Noel Mitaxa
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The grassy slopes are being lightly brushed by a gentle breeze as the crowd’s numbers and anticipation grow. Clusters of trees are being quickly taken for shade by those restricted by age or infirmity.
A new teacher is on everyone’s lips. He’s come to the district from a carpentry business in the nearby western hills, and he’s creating a lot of interest. The odd miracle hasn’t harmed his reputation either...
A handful of disciples are right up close, eager to catch his every word above comments passed between any curious first-time hearers.
There are hundreds waiting now; some from as far south as Judea; looking like a colorful swarm to those far below in the towns and villages that hug the shoreline of their beloved Sea of Galilee; as it was called before the Romans took over.
“Lake Tiberius eh?” Hotheads quietly fume among themselves; longing for the Promised One who will drive those Romans into the Great Sea; unaware they are fuelling the ambition of the next messianic wannabe. With more blood waiting to be shed to satisfy yet another blinkered ego ….
The pragmatists present know that a new name hasn’t altered anything.
Violent storms still erupt without warning whenever dry westbound winds, baked by the Arabian Desert, collide with cooler, moisture-laden air that swirls upwards from the lake and the river valley thousands of feet below.
These storms aside, Galilee still provides fish; and waters enough crops, pastures, orchards and olive groves to keep the economy going. And growing, for with those new Roman roads, customers can now come from much further away...
But imagine the lung-power of this teacher - with absolutely no acoustics in the open air - to catch and to hold the crowd’s ear as he begins …
And what a beginning: “How blessed to be poor in spirit!” and more blessings: “…to grieve … to be persecuted … to be first to forgive ... to know the aching hunger for justice … to build peace … and to keep your motives pure!!!!”
A few queries quietly waft around the crowd’s hungry silence:
“Oi vey! These are blessings?”
“Now he says if a Roman soldier ‘invites’ me to be his pack horse for a mile, I should smile and ask for a second helping?”
“I should love my enemies?”
“A second-look is bad as adultery?”
“Does this carpenter-rabbi have anything helpful to say?”
“And yet his carpentry is good quality… we know of his family … his voice is calm … his eye is clear … his hands are honest … But how could the unapproachable, eternal, Holiest One become our Father????”
Jesus’ disciples know these feelings. Yet, as part of his in-crowd, deep down they also sense something more: “He’s inviting us to see that God, whose name is too holy to pronounce, wants to be ‘in here,’ not ‘out there.’ Like a Father!”
This faith has a new dimension: intimately relating with the infinite God who invades our problems, exhausts their power and reaches out through us so others can discover that he is also there for them.
Some hearers are beginning to begin internalising their faith as well, towards higher goals than physical, financial or political comfort; and above public or private rituals.
Nothing said in the centuries since that day has improved or reduced Jesus’ integrity and clarity.
Private power-trips are still no-go zones, for his grace keeps revealing our need for forgiveness, and the harmony and mutual respect which have even caused persecutors to wilt, can only come through forgiving others.
He sows his comfort into our grief, for he personally knows what it is to die, so we may extend his comfort to others who mourn.
As we release his mercy, even among those who don’t deserve it, downward spirals of injustice and revenge begin lifting towards hope. Not producing Galilean-type storms; but rather generating the kind of peace that invites adversaries and cynics into his grace; a process that most famously began as St Paul switched from Christian persecutor to Christian persuader.
For when God moves in, he starts moving us out.
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