- "Bo" Crowe
Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, “I’m thirsty.” A jug of sour wine was standing by. Someone put a sponge soaked with the wine on a javelin and lifted it to his mouth. After he took the wine, Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.”
- from John 19
In the beginning – or even before the beginning if that makes sense – there was God. That’s it; God. There were no stars to adorn the night sky… indeed, there was no sky to be adorned. There was no sun to rise above the world’s horizon signaling a glorious, new day, and no world to greet this divine herald. But that was okay, because God was perfectly content, complete, and whole. God’s heart, you see, burned with a Light that warmed and illumined from the inside out, and God’s Spirit swelled with Joy.
And that’s where it all began, with God’s Joy; because it eventually - and inevitably - overflowed its source. Some say that God breathed Spirit into the void; others that God spoke into that void. But if we had been there we would know that God laughed; God’s Spirit overflowed with a rich, divine laughter that left life in its path. God’s laughter echoed through the void and a universe sprang forth, a universe full of songbirds and sailors, mountains and mystics, daylight and darkness, rivers and raccoons, black holes and maypoles, damsels and their heroes, thunder and wonder, and all was marked by joy!
God gazed on this marvelous creation and laughed again… woops! More life. God couldn’t help it – God can’t help it – for God to be is to create; to laugh joyfully again and again into any void that appears, filling it with life. God gazed on this marvelous creation and was strangely attracted to one group of creatures that seemed very much like God; made in God’s image, perhaps. So God befriended these creatures - women, men, and children alike – and even allowed them to stand in for God, charging them to care for the rest of the creation.
If all this sounds too good to be true, it was; for God’s chosen creatures, like God, were free, and in freedom chose to abandon God. Foolish as it may seem, humankind turned from the light to walk in darkness; women, men, and children covered their ears to block the sound of divine laughter, the very laughter that alone could fulfill their lives and fill them with joy.
Was God angered by this choice? No. Was God tempted to end it all right there and show them just who was boss? …Well, maybe for a moment; but when all is said and done God is God, and God’s heart was broken. All of the creation, you see, including those special creatures, represents God’s own family; all of the creation is made from the very stuff of God. So God wept at the sight of all the carnage called forth by humankind from the underbelly of creation: estrangement, exile, greed, anger, hatred, violence… was there no end to this malady, no end to this empty parody of life?
It seemed that there was no end… that there could be no end, unless God ended it. So God watched and God wept. For eons it seemed, God watched and wept; but through it all continued to love these creatures, and strove within for a way to regain their trust, a way to demonstrate clearly that Divine Love knows no limits, and will settle for nothing less than fullness of life for each one of them. Finally, in a flash of insight God exclaimed, I will become as my creatures; I will share their fate, regain their trust, and above all demonstrate that my love is theirs now and for always.
A novel idea, this. A novel and, perhaps, dangerous idea; for God to become human, sharing its risks, its frailties! So God called together heaven’s brain trust – rank upon rank of angels - and ran the plan by them. An excellent plan, so far as it goes, one angel remarked. But it’s too dangerous; it has no safeguards. What if something goes wrong? What if you are rejected, or worse assaulted by these ungrateful creatures? No, we angels cannot recommend that you follow through with this plan.
But God thought otherwise, and as if to avoid a change of heart, swiftly left the assembly, shedding divine robes in haste; rich, blue robes whose stars – all save one - were strewn helter-skelter on the floor. Before the angels could respond, however, before they could block the door and reason with God to stop this foolishness, the stars burned holes in the floor, and the angels, peering through in curiosity, looked down on a pasture shrouded with darkness and scattered here and there with sheep, and on a small band of shepherds warming themselves by a fire. Sensing their fear the angels spoke gently to the shepherds. Don’t be afraid, one began, we mean you no harm. In fact, another chimed in, we bring good news, joyful news; for this very night a savior is born for you, your - oh, what’s their word; oh yes - your Messiah. Turning in fear to flee this dreadful apparition, the shepherds froze in their tracks at the sight of one last star shining in the night sky illuminating their village; and then they heard, drifting on the night wind from somewhere in the village, the sound of a newborn baby… laughing.
The angels watched anxiously as this vulnerable infant grew to be a man; for some thirty-three years they waited; watching with baited breath the life of– oh, for God’s sake! A Galilean peasant! Jesus of Nazareth. How could such a bumpkin command a hearing, how could this peasant Jesus convince anyone of the profundity of God’s love? So they waited and they watched, with little hope that the light of God become human would long shine. And their despair deepened.
The angels watched and waited, and as the Passover began in his thirty-third year, God was praised as a liberator, while the one who frees was taken into custody, swiftly tried, driven like a beast to the place of a skull, and nailed to a tree. And the heavens wept.
Unable to contain their grief, rank upon rank of angels descended through the clouds to hover above the cross, their tears washing the blood from the limp, lifeless body of Jesus. The light has gone out, one angel said. God gave everything there is to give, but nothing could withstand such brutality… darkness has overcome the Light. So the angels wept - lost in darkness - the day God died.