Today’s Gospel passage contains Jesus’ parable about the two houses, one built on rock and the other built on sand. The house with the good foundation is the person who hears the words of Christ and acts on them.
I used to think that this meant that if we listened and behaved in the way Jesus taught, we would be able to meet all life’s challenges with strength and equanimity. We could put Christ on like a shield, and we would be protected and safe. That is a young person’s illusion, of course. Life teaches us that no matter how we live there are plenty of experiences that rip our hearts right out of our chests and jump up and down on them.
As I write this, we are reeling from another mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas. It underscores that we are all, at every moment, at the mercy of terrible forces over which we have no control. When a single man can take the lives of so many and leave so many more severely injured, all for no reason other than the convoluted workings of a disturbed psyche, it is maddening and terrifying. It makes me want to stay home behind barricaded doors and windows, keep my kids and grandkids where I can see them at all times, buy a weapon.
Those of you who have lost loved ones, or who have been wounded or know someone who has been wounded, I am so very sorry.
I am writing an icon of the crucified Christ. Sitting with the image day after day, I find I am being informed by something just a little beyond the grasp of words. It has to do with the terrible and profound paradox, that the glory of the Son of Man comes in his tortuous dying at the hands of ignorant mortals. God, God’s self, hangs on a cross in a profound anguish that transforms all the moments there are, from the beginning of the Cosmos.
The rock foundation that is built in hearing and acting on the word of Christ is another one of Jesus’ upside down images. It is not some inner steel that keeps out the floods and wind. It is instead a profound vulnerability. The storm blows in, knocks everything down, tears up everything precious and moves on – and we are not destroyed. For crucifixion is never the end of the story. Pain and death are not the end of the story.
It is in our meekness, in our mourning, in our poverty, and hunger and thirst for righteousness that we are grounded in the transformative power of God. We can leave ourselves wide open. In fact, we must leave ourselves wide open. Surviving the flood and wind intact happens only in giving into it completely, for God, for Love. The Son of Man comes in glory in the very moment in which, utterly overcome by pain and darkness, he is obliterated and he dies.
We join him in his kingdom when we go and do likewise. When we speak truth to power, work to end oppression, companion those who suffer, we live the deeply vulnerable Way of Jesus. It does not keep us safe in the ways that we would like. But there is a different truer safety in the service of the Son of Man.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer who lives with her partner of 30 years and her sister in Fort Collins, Colorado. Some of her icons can be seen at http://everydaymysteries.com/, and check out her novel, a progressive Christian story, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074G137V8/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
Image: Icon by Laurie Gudim