I need a hero

“Great heroes need great sorrows and burdens,
or half their greatness goes unnoticed.
It is all part of the fairy tale.”

Peter S. Beagle

“Even death is going to die!”
― Sally Lloyd-Jones

animalsweaters18_3
(a sweater wearing little goat jumps from a hay bale as seen on the Weather Channel from Farm Sanctuary image 2014)

Look up, in the sky…
It’s a bird…
It’s a plane…
No….
it’s Super…. goat??!!

Well… maybe that’s not exactly the hero you were hoping for….
albeit…it’s a pretty darn cute one…

For who among us hasn’t, at some time or other, longed for a cape crusader who would
come flying into our lives… ready to save the day…
Or perhaps even more aptly…
save us from ourselves…

“I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight”

Song lyrics by Bonnie Tyler most recently heard and seen used in the KIA car commercial
showcasing Melissa McCarthy being called in to come save the whales, then the rhinos, etc
…with all calls being met with dire consequences for the heroine McCarthy…

Yet who among us hasn’t at some point in life looked up hoping to see someone, anyone,
swooping in who would have all the answers…
all the solutions…
the one person who possessed that magic bullet…that remedy, that saving hope…

Someone who would come to the rescue and who could stop all the craziness…
stopping all the bad guys,
stopping all the hurting,
stopping all the madness….

And it just so happens that we may have to look no further than to a small mountain bald
outside of the gates of old Jerusalem…

looking no further to….
Gagultâ… in Aramaic
Golgotha… in Greek Γολγοθᾶς
Calvariæ Locus… in Latin
Calvary… in English…

Otherwise known as simply ‘the place of the skull’…

For it was here on this bare outcropping of desolate land,
known to locals as the cap of the skull,
that just a little over 2000 years ago, a real hero,
nay the only true hero who has ever lived,
was put to death.

But, as most would imagine,
our hero’s story was not merely finished with his being put to death.
Absolutely far from the end….
Because the story was truly only beginning…

For it was in the death of this hero that our own endings, our own loss of life,
our own deaths….
were defeated…

Meaning, death would be no more….

No longer would death be a forever closed ending…
of which we have all so imagined things to be…
A permanent ending of a black hole sucking in all life…into the aphotic void of total
impenetrable light or hope…

But rather…in this death of our hero…
was to be found…
a beginning….
our beginning…
and a beginning not just for our hero, but for all who so choose….

And so it is to the cross where we are look in order to find our hero…

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“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict.
In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands;
not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness;
not by force but by sacrifice.
Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win;
He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by
allowing death to conquer Him.”

― A.W. Tozer

And the sheep were silent…

“The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision.
It is a silent acquiescence to evil.
The Tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction,
while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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(a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Where does one begin…
Where does one look when attempting to sort it all out?
From whence has it come?
What was the root cause?
What was the catalyst?
How did it ever come to this?

Standing in the center of the raging maelstrom
Silent and dumbfounded…
Only a remaining handful are left to sort it out.

As the majority silently chooses to ignore it…

We choose to turn our heads.
We refuse to call truth by its name.
While hoping it all just goes away.

We don’t want to get labeled.
We don’t want to lose our businesses, our jobs, our positions.
We don’t want to be taken to court.
We don’t want to be disliked, unliked or disconnected.
We don’t want to be shamed…

All the while we are being told we’d best accept things or otherwise shut-up.
We are told to get on board or get out.
We are vilified,
We are hated
We are deemed ignorant.
We are considered backwards.
We are called all manner of vile names
We are stalked by the shadows…

That is unless we recant, we back down, we reconsider,
we change our minds, we accept the once unacceptable…
as the bitter taste is no less palatable, yet we swallow for survival.

And it is because of one thing and one thing only…
We carry the name Christian or Jew.
We support the cross, we support Israel and we hold the word of God as just that…
The Truth.

Yet even under that banner there are those who toil
at rewriting and altering ancient words and law in order to
“modernize” them.
“God didn’t mean that, He actually meant this instead….”
As we don’t like thinking about sin and Hell, so let’s
just throw the blanket out covering everyone…as in
it is all indeed good…because we are all about feeling good.

We stand before the manger feeling all warm and fuzzy,
as we look upon that peaceful nurturing scene of Mother and Child…
All the while we throw up our Christmas trees as the media screams at us,
telling us what we must have and actually need under those trees
in order to be forever happy…
never mind what we really need or want….

…simply to love and be loved….
as in forever…

We want our God to be all loving, all caring, all good, all giving
all about us….
He loves everyone no matter what, right?
He tolerates everything right?
He accepts us no matter what right?

Cause if that’s not right, we don’t want Him.

Cause and effect.

Have we forgotten?

For every cause, there is an opposite reaction or effect.
Up, down
push, pull
lift, drop,
climb, fall….

Yet we decide that the law of physics will not apply to us.

We will live as we choose, with a God who we demand will
abide by our choices and our will…or else…
We will simply rewrite Him…

…or deem Him ill suited, outdated, or better yet…
the product of mere myths…

We deem marriage is not just between man and woman.
We decide boys can be girls and girls can be boys.
There is no separation, no division, no balance…
We don’t like results so we kick and scream until we get the results we like.
We don’t like the flag so we burn it.,
We don’t like religion so we ignore it,
We don’t like those over there cause
we are paranoid and think they don’t like us over here….

We are so busy being us and loving us…as in me, myself and I…
that we are failing to see what is happening all around us.

We are so afraid of offending anyone and everyone that we can’t call terrorists what they are.
We can’t admit that radical Islam wants to annihilate us so we instead invite
them to all come live with us.
We bend everything about us…
until we break, all in the name of acceptance and equality.

And yet we still just don’t get it.
We can’t see it.
We don’t want to admit it….
We’d rather just stare at the crib feeling all warm and fuzzy…
as we forget that the road to Bethlehem, and it’s inviting manger, leads directly
to the Via Dolorosa…

Cause and effect.

Birth and death
Life or not…

If we claim to be Christian or Jew.
If we believe in morality as a guiding principle.
If we believe in cause and effect
If we believe that God is God and we are not…

Now is our moment to be silent no more….

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(a sheep being sheared at a sheep farm outside of Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Acts 18:9-10

the tangible and the wonder of the intangible

“One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman:
two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad;
ten men sharing an idea begin to act,
a hundred draw attention as fanatics,
a thousand and society begins to tremble,
a hundred thousand and there is war abroad,
and the cause has victories tangible and real;
and why only a hundred thousand?
Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth?
You and I who agree together,
it is we who have to answer that question.”

William Morris

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(memorial cross inside St Patricks Cathedral / Dublin Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yesterday my good friend Color Storm, over on the Lion’s Den (https://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com),
offered a beautiful reflection to the last line of my day’s post…
“onward and upward”…
His was a comment in response to the topic of loss and to my choice of carrying on and turning upward.

I’ve always opted for the act of carrying on and the upward momentum in life…
with the alternative of stopping, stooping, becoming stagnant and eventually spiraling downward, not an acceptable nor pleasant option.

I try avoiding downward spirals at all costs.

CS threw out a latin phrase that I had not thought of in a long time…

Sursum Corda

Sursum corda, is the opening to the Eucharistic prayer in many churches…it was, and is still, very much a part of the Rite of the Holy Eucharist in both the Episcopal and Anglican churches…as I suspect, it is still in use in other liturgical based worship services as well.

The Sursum Corda, is Latin for: “Lift up your hearts” or literally, “Hearts lifted”

The service follows as such with the celebrant / priest addressing the congregation:

The Lord be with you.
People: And with thy spirit.
Celebrant: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up unto the Lord.
Celebrant: Let us give thanks unto our Lord God.
People: It is meet and right so to do.

(Then, facing the Holy Table (altar), the Celebrant proceeds)

It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should
at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord,
holy Father, almighty, everlasting God.

(Here a Proper Preface is sung or said on all Sundays, and on other
occasions as appointed.)

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the
company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious
Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,

(Celebrant and People)

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts:
Heaven and earth are full of thy Glory.
Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.

(Here may be added)

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

(as taken from the Book of Common Prayer)

I watched each Sunday as my godfather, the Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral I attended growing up, would turn to those faithful gathered and raising his arms with a sweeping upward motion, began the ancient and holy ritual that had been said and done for over a millennium prior…

A literal and figurative lifting of voice, heart, soul, body and being….

For there within the heart of celebration of the Holy Eucharist, also known simply as the Communion Service, lies a most holy, sacred and mystical meeting.

That of the tangible joined with the intangible.

That which can be seen and touched colliding into that which cannot be seen nor touched…yet…
which is as present as a beating heart.

Odd how the mere mention of a long forgotten word or phrase can evoke a powerful recollection.

The recollection becomes but a reminder…
A reminder which becomes a window opening to the transcendence of both space and time.

There has been much debate throughout Christendom, ever since Jesus first conducted his own last supper, over the offered body and blood, which was done with the breaking of bread and the passing of a cup of wine.

Is the bread, the wafer, the host and is the wine, the blood, the offering the true mystical body and blood of Christ…
or
are they mere representations?

Transubstantiation—the actual changing of bread and wine into that of Christ’s actual body and blood.

How can that be ask both the believing as well as non believing…?
How does earthly tangible bread and wine turn into heavenly intangible body and blood?

“Take, eat, this is my body…
Drink, this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

“For in the night in which he was betrayed, he took bread;
and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to his
disciples, saying,
“Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”

Likewise, after supper, he took the cup; and when he had
given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,
“Drink ye all of this;for this is my Blood of the New Testament,
which is shed for you, and for many,
for the remission of sins.
Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”

(taken from the Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucharist)

To take,
to consume,
to allow that which is of Him to become a part of us…

Our faith is rooted in the mystical mystery of…
Heaven and earth,
Creator and created,
Sinless and sinful…

For our God transcends mortal comprehension

In an age when seeing is believing,
more is better than less,
everything and anything goes…
When everyone worships at the altar of self,
reality is worse than fiction
and humankind embraces death over life…

Lifting hands and hearts upward, away from the gravity laden death grip of an earthly life,
lifting and reaching from the tangible upward to the intangible…
yearning for our release from here below,
we are mystically transformed, as is the bread and wine…and are never to be the same….

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an angel,
may by his passion and cross
be brought to the glory of his resurrection.
Through the same Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

taken from the Angelus

The distance

“Oh, marvelous omnipotence of love!
But God who creates out of nothing, who almightily takes from nothing and says,
“Be,”
lovingly adjoins,
“Be something even in opposition to me”
Marvelous love, even his omnipotence is under the sway of love!”

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

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(the details of a hibiscus / Julie Cook / 2016)

“Of the links between God and man, love is the greatest…”

We so often speak of God as in the Heaven, somewhere up and above…
or that He is in the very air we breathe…as in all around us.
Yet we know, all too painfully well, that there is a divide, a division…
For He is there…wherever there may be…
and we are here…as in this present state of living and being.

The fellowship, the union, is in a constant state of flux…
With sin creating the friction that keeps the reunion from being complete.

“It [being love] is as great as the distance to be crossed.”

That fateful day in the garden,
the day that both man and woman chose to disconnect,
severing the binding tie,
a chasm deep and wide was torn across the dimensions of both space and time…

We created the difference and the distance between here and there.
And try as we must, there has been nor will there be a rejoining…not in this realm… now yet.

“So that the love may be as great as possible, the distance is as great as possible.”

That was to be our fate until the day complete Love could no longer bare to be torn from the beloved.
The cost, as great as it was, had to be paid…

“That is why evil can extend to the extreme limit beyond which the very possibly of good disappears. Evil is permitted to touch this limit.
It sometimes seems as though it overpassed it.”

Prisoner of sin…
Shrouded by a penetrating evil,
A sacrifice had to be offered…
Love sought the beloved with all that it had to offer.
A cross bridged the distance
And Love was reunited with its own…

(bold quotes by Simone Weil / excerpted from “The Distance”

But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

So justice is far from us,
and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness;
for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord.
“My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you,
and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips,
on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—
from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

Isaiah 59:2 / 9 / 21

Not alone

God is not in heaven: he is hanging on the cross.
Love is not an otherworldly, intruding, self-asserting power—
and to meditate on the cross can mean to take leave of that dream

Dorothee Sölle
On This Gallows

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(blooming wild shrubs / Julie Cook / 2016)

There is a sobering reaccounting of a tale by Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz turned author and activist, taken from his book Night.

The tale is found within Dorothee Sölle’s reflection On This Gallows and is here, paraphrased…

Mr. Wiesel recounts one of many tragic episodes…of how several SS guards rounded up the camp’s prisoners and hung three of their members in front of them…for no apparent reason but that they could.
Two of the victims were grown men and the third was but a boy.

Mr Wiesel notes how quickly the two men died but not so for the young boy.
He struggled and suffered for nearly thirty minutes before succumbing to the slow torturous strangulation.
As Mr Wiesel stood, witnessing this numbing atrocity in a long line of atrocities, he hears a voice from behind him coming from the assembled crowd…
“Where is God? Where is he?”
As the boy struggles, he hears again…
“Where is God now!”

Mr Wiesel and the other prisoners were gathered to witness another round of senseless deaths.
But this time it all seems so much more barbaric, completely incomprehensible.
A boy slowly and horrifically dies…
A single vocalized lamentation, representing the silent question screaming in the hearts of all those gathered…how, why, where…. is offered up to the empty void of hopelessness…
As the single answer is heard echoing within Mr Wiesel’s head…

“Here he is—He is hanging here on this gallows…”

And so He is…
He is here now…just as He was then…

God is indeed in the midst of each and every horror and atrocity.

He is present in each and every lonely pain filled moment of agony and emptiness.
He is every bit a part of our struggles as we are ourselves…

He is not watching coldly from some remote vantage point as so many imagine.
Not as some maniacal puppeteer who finds sick and twisted pleasure watching the suffering of those so far removed.
He is not far removed…

Quite the contrary…

He is in the unimaginable
the unspeakable
the horrific
the sorrow
the agony…

He was given up…
to suffer
to share alongside us in our suffering
to hang on a cross
to die along side each one of us…

As we in turn, are now allowed to rise with Him…
In His final vanquishing of death…

I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

Psalm 118:17

what shall we suffer

I pray that we may be found worthy to be cursed, censured and gunned down, and even put to death in the name of Jesus Christ, so long as Christ himself is not put to death in us.
Paulinus of Nola

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(Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

The Christian must not only accept suffering: he must make it holy.
Nothing so easily becomes unholy as suffering…

Merely accepted, suffering does nothing for our souls except, perhaps harden them.
Endurance alone is not consecration.

Suffering is consecrated to God by Faith–not by faith in suffering but by faith in God.

Suffering, therefore, can only be consecrated to God by one who believes that Jesus is not dead.
And it is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good,
not because they have meaning,
but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.

Thomas Merton

The quickest and easiest way in which a hurting world will dismiss God, and especially the love of God, can be found deep within the black pit of suffering.

Suffering verses the embodiment of God as Loving Creator are each at the juxtaposition of comprehension.

The human mind cannot grasp, let alone digest, that there can be both suffering as well as a God who espouses to be Love personified existing within the same universe of both space and time simultaneously.

And yet the faithful hold tightly to the single fact of truth… that God hates suffering.
How can this be?
Why then won’t He simply wave a hand freeing us mere mortals from Suffering’s both evil and horrific grasp?
“Make it stop, please…”
pleads and begs the anguished, broken, pain ridden heart of the one so deeply wounded by the merciless hold of Suffering.

And Suffering, with its law of averages, and as painful as the reality is, will visit each and everyone of us at some point during our lifetime.

It will visit us up close and intimately personally…
or
it will visit those whom we love and hold dear
or
it will descend upon others… and it will be only thorough our deep empathy for humankind that we will in turn rage against it there as well.

Or even worse….
It will, void of all mercy, descend upon us on all fronts of our lives…relentlessly hammering us and appearing almost sadistically calculating, until we beg to be released from this life…

And yet there is but one explanation for suffering…

It is found in the cross.

That damned cross…

The cross of both death and damnation

Yet that same cross of both Grace and Salvation…

That same cross worn around my neck.
That same cross that is our bridge…mine and yours…
Our only hope,
The only way…
Which will lead us finally Home…

And as difficult as it is, that same saving cross is the raw epitome of Suffering…

We must all face the cross…
Just as we breathe a breath, we must face the cross…
There will be no avoiding it, no getting around it, no denying it.
It is the impassable road block to our journey and it must be dealt with,
by each of us, on our own individual journey home in our own unique way.

We simply cannot believe, live or profess that Jesus overcame death if we cannot, in turn, face the cross.
As hard and as painful and as difficult as that will be, we must each face the cross and all that it entails.

Many of us will spend a lifetime running from it, hiding from it, denying it…

It will be the hardest and most difficult thing any one of us will ever do,
but it is something we will all have to do…
if we are to share in the conquering of death by God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:4-5

The cross

The whole life of Christ is the cross. And the more spiritual progress you strive for, the heavier will your crosses become, for as your love for God increases so will the pain of your exile.
Thomas à Kempis

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(Bonaventure Cemetery / Savannah, GA / Julie Cook / 2016)

There will always be many who love Christ’s heavenly kingdom,
but few who will bear his cross.
Jesus has many who desire consolation, but few who care for adversity.
He finds many to share his table, but few who will join him in fasting.
Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him.
Many will follow him as far as the breaking of the bread,
but few will remain to drink from his passion.
Many are awed by miracles, but few accept the shame of the cross.

The cross, therefore, is unavoidable. It waits for you everywhere.
No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it,
for wherever you go you take yourself along.
Turn where you will–above, below, without, or within–
you will find the cross.

If you willingly carry the cross, it will carry you.
It will take you to where suffering comes to any end, a place other than here.
If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load,
though still you have to bear it.
If you try to do away with one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one.
How do you expect to escape what no one else can avoid?
Which saint is exempt?
Not even Jesus Christ was spared.
Why is it that you look for another way other than the royal way of the holy cross?

Thomas à Kempis

The choice in decision…for it is indeed a choice…stands before you each and every day you open your eyes to each new morning…
Will you forgo your comfort, your smooth road, your ease for which you prefer living…
all in turn to heed His beckoning, His calling, His desires for you?

You want to say yes.
Your lips easily and readily form the word…
Yes
And you want to follow, really you do…

Sorrow verses joy
Hardship verses ease
Pain verses suffering
Culling verses gathering
Isolation verses abundance
Emptiness verses fullness
Denial veres accepting
Uncomfortableness verses comfort

The road less traveled…

You stand in the middle of the decision, the choice,
as you continue staring straight ahead to the cross.
The overwhelming obstacle that cannot be circumvented or ignored
It stands between you and Him
You and Eternity

Are you truly willing to give everything up for Him.

Chances are you are not.