CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)
HED:John Armistead:The wilderness is always a place of decisions
Nemo, Dio Genes, Lit Turgy and the Rev. Bubba Voltaire helped me cut back my crape myrtles the other afternoon .
“They only bloom on new wood,” I said, lopping a six foot long limb.
“When’s it going to get warm?” said Nemo. “This wind is knifing right through me.”
“March is a tough month,” said Dio. “You’ve got cold and hail and wind, not to mention tornadoes.”
“But March also has tulips and daffodils blooming, and forsythia and redbuds,” said Lit.
“And rain,” said Dio, looking at me. “Your backyard is rotten with water.”
Lit laughed. “We sure don’t have much of Chaucer’s ‘droghte of March’ that April rains pierce to the root.”
“What’s a droghte?” asked Nemo.
“And it’s a murderous month,” continued Voltaire. “Remember what the Soothsayer said to Julius: ‘Beware of the Ides of March.’”
“They say March drives hares mad,” I said, lopping another long limb.
“It’s a good time to have Lent, then,” said Lit. “You keep hoping Spring and Easter will hurry up and get here.”
“Why does Lent have 40 days?” asked Nemo. “In fact, why are there so many 40 days and nights and years in the Bible?’
“Lent is patterned after Jesus in the wilderness,” said Lit. “It was a time when he had some soul-searching to do. In particular, he had to wrestle with what kind of Messiah he was supposed to be. And he struggled with temptations to do this or that.”
“I thought the Hatter was mad,” said Dio. “Are you saying the March Hare was mad too?”
“This is what I don’t understand,” said Nemo. “What was wrong with changing the stone into bread? Does it anywhere in the Bible say you aren’t supposed do that? I mean, Jesus was hungry, wasn’t he? It wasn’t like he was stealing the stone.”
“Maybe it was a temptation to use his power selfishly,” Dio said.
“In part,” said Voltaire. “But, it also had to do with the restoration of the miracle of the manna. The people expected the Messiah to do that.”
“I vote for selfish use of power,” said Dio. “Think about it. He only used his power to help others.”
“A couple of times are marginal,” said Voltaire. “Take the cursing of the poor fig tree because it didn’t have any fruit and it wasn’t even the time of year for fruit.”
“Or when he made the water into wine,” said Dio. “That wasn’t exactly an act of compassion.”
“It was a mother thing,” said Lit. “His mother was concerned about the problem. Whenever people we love ask us to do things, we usually do.”
“Like whenever my granddaughter asks me to do something, I want to do it,” I said. “Nothing is too big or too small.”
“What about the jumping off the roof of the temple?” asked Nemo. “You reckon he really could have done that?”
“The people expected the Messiah to make a dramatic appearance at the temple,” said Voltaire. “What could have been more dramatic than to jump off the top of the temple and live?”
“But that was to tempt God, wasn’t it?” said Nemo.
“That’s what Jesus said,” answered Voltaire.
“I don’t think God would have let his son get hurt,” said Nemo. “The angels would have leaped out of heaven and snatched him up before he fell two feet.”
Voltaire shrugged. “Who knows? But, Jesus definitely knew that splashy stuff wasn’t the way of the Kingdom.”
“Then why do so many churches do so much splashy stuff?” asked Lit.
“What do you mean, ‘Who knows?’” Nemo said to Voltaire. “No father would let his boy get hurt.”
“No father would want his child to get hurt,” Voltaire said. “However, sometimes it can’t be helped. And, in cases like that, the father feels the pain his child feels.”
“I still think God would have saved him,” asserted Nemo.
“Actually,” said Voltaire, “you have to remember that on a particular Friday afternoon, he didn’t.”
John Armistead is Daily Journal religion editor.