Sunday, September 19, 2010

Arresting Jesus

"Someone's following us! Can we come in?"

The other afternoon while visiting a neighbor, one of her friends hurriedly comes to the door with children in tow. She describes an encounter with a man at the nearby park. He approached her, said he was Jesus, that she was Mary and that the child in her arms was theirs. Apparently he was vague as to whether he thought she was Mary, his virgin-mother or Mary Magdalene, his not-so-virgin lover. We conclude the later.

A moment later, he is at the door and we stop joking.

"Can I come in?" he asks.

"No!" says my neighbor. I come to the door. He is walking away. He stops. He turns and comes back.

I step in front of my neighbor. "Hi," I say. "What's your name?"
"I am Christ."

Oh. Okay. I quickly run the "what to do next" analysis in my head. Most likely he is mentally ill, needs help, and could be a threat, especially to the moms and kids here and at the park. But what if he really is the Christ? Would this be how he presents himself? What form of ID would I accept as proof? The Jesus of the gospel spoke often in parables, some confusing. Maybe the reference to "Mary's" child as being his was not some creepy, sick, come-on. Maybe it was the truth. After all, aren't we all God's children? What if I really were approached by Him, he introduces Himself, and I send him off as so many in the Gospels did?

"I think you better leave. Now," I say.

He turns, walks away and sits down right in the middle of the street.

Hmm. Messiah or not, he clearly needs help of some sort. He at least needs to get off the street.

I go up to him as ask if he needs help?
Can I call someone?
Is there someplace he can go?

Okay, then.

So the three of us - my neighbor, "Mary," and I - caucus briefly. I need to leave, but not with Christ sitting in the street.

"I'm calling the police," I say. No, that would be a hassle, they never come, he's just a poor crazy guy, I'm told.

I call the police. This is not an emergency, I say, but Jesus Christ is sitting in the road. It's near a dead end so he isn't a threat to himself nor is he blocking traffic, yet. But he did scare a mom with kids, etc. No, I don't think anyone was assaulted sexually or otherwise. I give a physical description, they thank me and say they'll send someone over.

Judas. I am Judas. But how could I know? I am a Doubting Thomas of sorts. Would I actually start believe Jesus is Messiah, Son of God, etc., if I saw him? If he introduced Himself to me? I sense how weak is my atheistically-leaning-agnosticism.

I shake my head and talk myself back. This is a safety issue. He probably has mental health issues and getting him off the streets can help. And worse case, he can minister to the others in prison. Jesus is good at that, after all.

Then off he goes. Jesus heads back into the nearby park and up the trail. Just like that. And isn't that just so like Him to wander off like that? Then the police arrive. I wave them down.

Yes, I placed the call. No, no one is hurt but a mom and kids are shaken up. I described what happened and that he had just wandered off. Thanks, the police say, they'll check it out.

So my neighbor, "Mary," and I kibitz briefly, and conclude it's safe. A neighbor asks what's going on. I give the whole run down then leave.

And as I'm driving off the thought returns. What Would Jesus Do? What would Jesus do if someone came to him saying he was Christ? Minister to him? Invite him in and feed him? Cast out his demons? Call the cops? I need to review my scripture to see if Jesus ever called the cops. My recollection is that it was mostly the other way around.

This is just silliness. He is a sick man, he made unsettling comments to a mom with kids, and acted erratically. There was only the one option. That's when the text arrived on my phone:

John, police came back to tell us he was wanted in next county for 2nd degree assault and fighting police. They are arresting him!

I exhale a sigh of relief.

Then reconsider.

Of course. This is how it went down the last time! With trumped-up charges against The Messiah. First it was the Romans, now Montgomery County. Typical.

I'll just have to wash my hands of this.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Street Ball

Nine years and one week ago, I learned that I would become a father. Nine years ago, people flew planes into buildings and a field in Pennsylvania. Like many of us, I learned something terrible was happening while at work. With reports and rumors of more planes coming towards DC, a strange new type of worry settled in. My wife worked in an office not far from the Capitol building. Not my wife, my pregnant wife.

Schools sent students home. We closed our office, then I headed home. It was a stunningly beautiful day. One of those cool, crisp, pre-autumn days with clear blue skies. Just like today. If you live in the mid-Atlantic, there are a few weeks in the Spring and a few weeks in the Autumn that are without compare. The beauty of that day a stark contrast to the unfolding calamity.

I drove into our little inner-suburban neighborhood of circa 1940 brick capes and colonials. We play a lot in our street. Soccer, hockey, wiffle ball. We walk our dogs and jog. On that day, that incongruently gorgeous day, children threw a football to each other in the street. Passing by them I thought, no matter what else, all will be okay. It will be okay because kids play ball on my street. My wife arrived home soon after. She layed in bed listening to NPR while I fixated on the images from CNN.

It's been nine years almost to the hour when that image of playing football in the street forever etched itself into my memory. Since then I've been blessed with a son and then another son. I've been so fortunate in so many ways: family, friends, career. I've also lost my wife. And without commenting on the state of affairs within our nation and the toll taken by the loss of so many brave lives to war, I wonder how I can hold fast to that memory? All has not been okay. Not even close.

As I contemplate the nature of god, life, and chaos, re-incorporating playing ball in the street now becomes very important. I've never prayed for kids to play ball in the street before. Today I will.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Looking Back; Peering Forward

Dear friends,
Last night Amy was posthumously awarded the American Association of Birth Center's (AABC) annual award for Community Service. I received the award on Amy's behalf at the AABC's Annual Meeting. There were about 160 in attendance. Midwives, directors and owners of birthing centers, students, vendors, and friends. I was warmly welcomed. Amy received a standing ovation. It was a special, night. I had prepared remarks, but didn't use them at all. The introduction to the award and biography read by the AABC president Christine Haas was comprehensive and I would only repeat much of what she said. So I kept my thanks simple, but did share how I felt Amy died in childbirth, of sorts. She had brought the vision to an infancy, and now it was our charge to nurture this newborn to adulthood.

As I sit here at John Wayne International Airport (free wireless!), awaiting our boarding for the flight back to Maryland, via Houston, I feel encouraged. Amy embodied of life and energy. Her desire for the advancement of women in general and for a midwife-run and staffed birth center specifically is a legacy that I and others will push forward. For the first time, really, since her death, I feel a sense of calmness. Last night's event, while reflecting back on Amy's works and deeds, had a strong sense of the future. And can their be anything more fittingly symbolic of the future than a newborn?

For the record, I'm including below my remarks that were never read.

Peace and Love,

AABC Annual Meeting
Newport Beach, CA
September 2, 2010

Thank you. Thank you all. I’m not even sure who all to thank on behalf of Amy. But there are two others I will thank. I’ll get to them shortly.

This is bittersweet for me. I’d rather be in Takoma Park Maryland with my two boys while Amy accepts this award. But it didn’t work out that way. For me, this has to be another reminder of the great body of work Amy left from her brief time with us. And it is through our collective memories of Amy, and the works and deeds she accomplished, that she lives on.

Amy’s dream of creating a birth center in our home town came about because of her passionate frustration and anger with the state of affairs that led to the closing of nearly every birth center in our state. In the past few years she brought us to a point where a new birth center in our town is a very real possibility. Though work remains, what she set in motion will allow us to realize that dream on her behalf. I’ve mentioned this to a few, that in some ways, it is as if Amy died in childbirth. She labored and bore the Seasons of Life Birth Center, then was taken from us. And now it’s up to us to raise this infant as she would want.

For me, I hope I can live as Amy did, and instill in my boys the same ethic – not to sit idly by when something is troubling, but to take real action and confront the trouble. That was who she was. It is an important lesson for us all, I believe.

And now I'll get back to those whom I'll thank. Two special women: The two midwives who attended at the births of our two boys, Adam and Bryan. The shared experience Amy and I had, and the frustration that came knowing others couldn’t have that experience, is what moved Amy to action. And that is why I am here.

Thank you all.