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Category: Theology

Stories of Origin

Every culture has its mythos or stories of origin.
 
The Efik people of Nigeria, for instance, hold that God allowed a human couple to settle on the Earth but forbade them from working or reproducing that they might not grow in wisdom. Mugasa, the sky-god of the Bambuti in eastern Congo, had human children and dwelt among them in a paradise-like land until they angered him, causing him to forsake them. In the Pacific Northwest, a trickster god, named Yehl, created the earth and the sun and the moon before gifting mankind with fire. There’s the Jewish mythos of the God who created a garden paradise in which he took regular walks with a man and wife, enjoying the beauty of his creation. And of course, there’s our own culture’s origin story – a tale that tells of primordial ooze, the cradle of all life.

 
These stories – true or not – are our attempts to answer questions of purpose and existence. Why are we here? What are we here for? But cultural mythos don’t answer these questions (and can’t). All they tell us is that we’re here.
 
Right here.
 
Now.
 
The question that can be answered, however, is one of morality. How ought we to live? And in this, the fact that we’re here is the only answer we need.
 
Integrity, for instance, means being completely and consistently myself, wherever I am, whenever I’m there.
 
Simplicity means being satisfied with my situation – nothing less and nothing more.
 
Humility is being honest about who I am, about where I am. Pride is dangerous, then, because it denies weakness. False humility is destructive because it denies the self.
 
Finally, there is love. If I know myself – who I am and where I stand – then others provide no threat to my identity, and I am free to accept them as they are.
 
Whenever I find them. Wherever they are.

Humility is being honest about who I am, about where I am. Pride is dangerous, then, because it denies weakness. False humility is destructive because it denies the self.

In the Garden

It was morning in the garden, and the Master had stopped at the garden’s edge where the blue-green grass grew right up to the place where the earth fell away. The Master looked down into the depths where a river of fire roared through the narrow gorge, and the Master spotted Ahab, blistered and burned, crowded with the others on a narrow shelf of rock above the flaming torrent.

It was true that Ahab deserved his fate. He had murdered some and stolen from others, but the Master remembered a single act of kindness. Ahab, lifting his foot to crush the head of a snake, had stopped, convinced that the snake was harmless. To kill it would be thoughtlessly cruel.

Remembering this, the Master felt compassion. There was a snake at his feet, casting off its skin. With his walking stick, the Master gently lifted the end of the dead skin and laid it over the edge. The snake wriggled and twisted, and its skin slowly descended into the abyss.

Ahab, crushed by the constant shifting of bodies on the rocky ledge, looked up away from the fiery river and saw the snake skin, slowly descending.

“If only it would stretch far enough,” he thought, “I might pull myself to safety.”

As the snake skin came closer, Ahab reached until he touched its tip. He grasped tightly the slippery scales, and in spite of his pain, Ahab climbed, hand over hand, higher and higher. At first, Ahab climbed quickly, but he soon grew tired, and the cliff’s edge seemed so far. As he looked back down to the river, however, Ahab was encouraged by how far he had come. But Ahab saw something else. There was a man beneath him, climbing the same snake skin. And beneath him, another man. And beneath him, another man.

Ahab let out an anguished cry. For how could the dead, slender skin possibly hold the weight of all those eager to escape the flames of the abyss? Ahab felt fear’s sharp sting, and then he was angry.

“Get off! Go back!” he shouted to the men below. “This is my skin!”

With that, the skin broke, and Ahab fell to the rocks and fire below. The Master looked on with sadness. Ahab’s greed had destroyed him (as well as the rest).

The blue-green grass swayed gently in the breeze at the cliff’s edge. It was about noon in the garden.

With his walking stick, the Master gently lifted the end of the dead skin and laid it over the edge. The snake wriggled and twisted, and its skin slowly descended into the abyss.

I Saw Jesus

I saw Jesus today. She drove up in front of my house at 6:35 this morning, jumped from her smoking Ford van, and ran over to hand me my newspaper. She wanted to tell me a story about my dog. I listened and nodded without hearing a word. But I remembered to wave before driving away.

I saw Jesus today. He was ringing a bell outside the “B” entrance at Fred Meyer. He had a moustache and a denim jacket. He asked about my day. I walked away.

I saw Jesus today. He stood on the corner of 6th and Burnside, holding a sign: “Visions of a hamburger.” He’d grown a beard, and it was graying. I thought about buying a burger when I saw him smile, but I kept walking.

I saw Jesus today, and I was too busy to stop, too embarrassed to care, too indifferent to offer help.

On the day that baby was born, covered in rags and placed in a feed trough, shepherds came to worship. But I went shopping.

I was too busy to stop, too embarrassed to care, too indifferent to offer help

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