Friday, April 18, 2014

Maundy Thursday: Jesus as Homeless, Jesus as Servant

This past week, I heard a gripping story on NPR.  You see, an Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina commissioned an artist to create a statue of Jesus close to their downtown, fairly affluent church.  This would not be newsworthy except the statue they created was of a homeless Jesus lying on a park bench.  The only indicators that this man was indeed Jesus were the wounds on his hands and his feet.  The reaction to this statue has been very mixed--one passerby even called the cops on Jesus before they realized this man was hewn of bronze rather than flesh.  While some may say that such a portrayal of Jesus is inaccurate, I would posit that it is indeed a matter of how we perceive Jesus.  Jesus was indeed a homeless baby as he was born in manger and later was a refugee in Egypt.  Scripture makes reference to Jesus having no place to lay his head.  Jesus' mission took him all around Israel as he became an itinerant teacher, preacher, and healer.  Maybe the idea of a homeless Jesus is not too much of a hyperbole at all.

On the night Jesus gathered with his disciples, he gathered for the Passover.  Remember that the Passover meal was celebrated every year.  This meal marked the night Israel was set free from Egypt.  It was the night the people of Israel found a new identity--a new purpose.  They were quite literally no longer slaves.  They were now free people.  The Passover was the meal that solidified the identity of the Israelites  as people who had been set free by God.  In that meal, Jesus changed how his disciples perceived him.  He went from King to servant in the span of a few hours.  By candlelight, Jesus stooped over, bending down on one knee, and washed his disciples' feet.

I have always had vivid images in my mind of this night.  I picture Jesus and his disciples reclining around a long table.  I see shadows splashing across the terracotta walls. I see the flickering of the candlelight revealing bits and pieces of the look on Jesus' face.  And I see the hard, mud floor from which their feet are raised as they prepare to eat and recline.  And I remember that from this point of the story of the Gospel of John all that is revealed is called the Book of Glory.  And just before this amazing story is enacted, lived, and then told,  Jesus says to his disciples, “So what I say, I say as the Father told me.” 

Yes, Jesus is clearly about the task of revealing his identity as the One who has come.  In fact, he says, “From now on, I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.” If we can glean anything from Johannine theology it is that John wants us to know that Jesus is the Messiah and that Jesus knows that he is the Messiah.  Jesus is not only preparing himself for what is to come, but he is preparing us by revealing as much as he can about his true identity before his Hour comes.

John notes that  Jesus removes his outer robe.  The word remove in Greek is the same word used to describe Jesus laying down his life.  Jesus then wipes the disciples feet, dries them off, gets them clean.  The same word for wiping is used when Jesus’ body is anointed.  And, of course, ultimately as Jesus washes and wipes, we who know the end of the story know that the body of Jesus will be taken down off a cross.  That same body will be washed, wiped, and anointed.  Jesus is brilliantly drawing the disciples to him, and into him, by washing their feet.

Peter protests Jesus’ request.  There is no way that he wants his Lord to scrub under his toenails and to rub down his calluses.  His Lord is not his slave—and washing feet was usually the work of slaves and servants.  But, Peter doesn’t get it.  And why should he?  This is strange behavior.  Having your Lord and leader pushing a basin around a crowded table in the middle of a special meal. Squatting at Peter’s feet.  It just doesn’t seem right.  But, Jesus tells him, “Peter, unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”  Jesus tells Peter that he must become Peter’s footwasher so that they can share fellowship together.  The master must become the servant so that a true relationship, a true intimacy will follow.  Jesus does not symbolically wash Peter’s feet.  He gets down between the speckles of dust and the bruised toenails and he washes.  He develops an intimate relationship with Peter in his self-giving bath.

While none of this would make sense in the midst of the Passover Seder and supper, it is another piece of the true identity of our Lord, Jesus.  Tonight as our Eucharistic supper comes to a close, we will begin to see this place begin to fall apart.  The altar will be deconstructed piece by piece.  Chaos ensues as kneelers and candlesticks are removed from the place where we expect to see them.  Another identity of Jesus becomes clear.  Jesus soon will be going to the cross.  His hour has come.  And while John says it is his hour to be glorified by God the Father, the rest of us mostly see betrayal, tragedy, and pain.  We may see the victim. We have come to that hard spot in our Holy Week where we look over the abyss and the only thing we see is the cross.  All these scattered garments and stolen coins lead us to the cross of Good Friday.

There we gaze at Jesus.  Another image of Jesus.  Another identity.  Homeless as homeless can be hanging there in the desert sun with his hands nailed to splintery wood.  Feet nailed together as the blood rushes out of his body.  Cruciform without a place to lay his head.  This time, however, he is real flesh and real bones, not bronze lying on a park bench.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Living it Up in the Big Apple

About a week after the incident at Eli's school, Adelaide and I had a wonderful day heading to the Big Apple.  As we were readying ourselves in the early morning, I donned a new pair of Ugg boots.  (I had treated myself for my birthday.)  She quickly commented that I looked like a teenager.  Then she hastened to add, "Except for your skin.  You have old skin."  There is nothing my daughter won't comment on.  Being with her on this day, was true joy.  We chatted on the train, searched out the biggest soft ice cream in all of Central Park, had lunch with two American Girl dolls and Addie's dear friend.  We then made our way to a park in Central Park and the girls basked in the sun as they climbed the rocks on the Southern tip of the park.  I gave thanks for a break from the tension, the phone-calls, the emails, the worries, and the constant monitoring of emotions and behavior.  Addie and I were all alone together; and it sure felt good.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Diagnosis By the Time We Leave the Office

As I tucked Elias into bed, a few weeks ago, he complained of feeling "gloomy like Eoyore."  My heart lurched.  A few days later bedtime was paired with sadness.  As I tried hard to acknowledge those feelings, but not wallow in them, I wondered where this was coming from.  It seems everybody was feeling that way--snow days, lack of physical exercise, and, of course, the dark days of winter.  I was hoping for a reprieve. Unfortunately, we have been dealing with some epic meltdowns instead.  The long and short of these meltdowns is great bursts of anger often paired with throwing things and turning furniture over in the house. When I tried to encourage him to bring his anger outside in the form of throwing a ball against the wall, he protested saying, "But, I want the universe to know I'm angry."  Poor guy.  He has even said to me, "I just don't know how to get my anger out."

One of his meltdowns happened in an unfamiliar environment when we were in Virginia.  We had had a full day with lots of fun, but at the end of a day waiting in an arcade, Elias had a sensory overload.  It took him about an hour to recover from the meltdown.  I was sharing with my friend how I hated the fact that his meltdown could ruin a perfect day and she had an amazing insight.  She said, "If he was a diabetic and had needed insulin, would that ruin your day?"  She was trying to remind me that a child with sensory issues has a meltdown in certain situations not as a behavior issue, but just because his body can't take it any more. Since that day with the blinking lights of the arcade, after a full day of swimming, I have been keenly aware when overload might be creeping up on us.  What a gift for me to be given such insight.

In the meantime, I have been working diligently to get Elias what he needs to move forward.  On the school front, we have been granted the right to a full re-evaluation.  So, I have been filling out forms and questionnaires in preparation for the district testing.  I have also got him reconnected with Theraplay so he can resume his occupational therapy.  I have been on the phone with his pediatrician and she met with us and recommended to the school that he eat lunch in a quiet area because of his sensory overload.  While that has not worked out, he has been using earplugs and muddling through lunch better.  This week, we see a developmental pediatrician.  They have promised us that we will have a diagnosis by the time we leave the office.

On the one hand, that sounds rather dramatic and a bit foreboding.  But, on the other hand, it sounds comforting.  It has been made clear to us by those who have authority and experience that our child needs a "diagnosis" in order to get the services he needs at school.  Because "Sensory Processing Disorder" is not in the DSM-V, he really can't get help without finding another label for him.  A year ago, I would have cringed
at the thought of my child being labeled by one of the BIG labels of our time--autism or ADHD.  Now I just want the door to be opened for him so that he doesn't have to struggle so hard.  Elias will always be our Elias--tender-hearted, creative, passionate, and sweet.  If a label accentuates the positive and minimizes the negative, label away.

I know this: This past week Elias got spoken to in the cafeteria with a couple of other boys.  Because he is a child who is a rule-follower and overly sensitive, he burst into tears and later went into the bathroom and pinched the ridge of his nose so hard that he developed scabs the next day. ( I don't know what he was thinking or feeling to do that, but it is obvious he has a hard time being corrected.) I have been saying all along all year, everything is not just fine. Our son needs coping skills and it is terribly unfortunate that this had to happen.  However, I now see a response from the school.  I am no longer the mother crying wolf.  The wolf has been lurking in the shadows all year long.

at the toghtat the label he wou