One evening, ten years after arriving in California, one particular memory of our early days in California returned. It was a lizard which appeared TV (a Bearded Dragon) which prompted the memory.
"You know," I said, "we had those kind of lizards in California."
"One day, I caught my sleeve on iron railing near some stairs and an embankment. Just as soon as I realized I was caught, an ocean of those two-foot-long Bearded Dragons came charging out from under the bushes like I had awakened them from their lair. I screamed and cried and screamed like the world was ending until my mom ran out and unhooked me from the railing. I think I thought they were going to eat me or something."
As I finished the story, my parents gently interjected to help clarify the story. It turns out, the only place I would have seen a Bearded Dragon other than on TV is in a zoo. Bearded Dragons, as you may already know, are not native to North America. In fact, the only place a Bearded Dragon might be spotted "in its natural habitat” is Australia. Nonetheless, I stood my ground: Bearded Dragons.
My protest was brief, and despite my distinct memory I came to accept that the lizards I encountered that day are called “common side-blotched lizards.” Common side-blotched lizards are two inches (not feet) long. These lizards are are more likely to walk on two legs and speak with a British accent than devour a 4 year old child in Lafayette, CA.
Thankfully (and despite my embarrassment), we all had a good hearted giggle about the matter.
While the story amuses me, it leaves me somewhat perplexed. Common side-blotched lizards are almost as common as houseflies in the East Bay of San Francisco and I never feared them. I chased them and learned to catch them without pulling their tails off (the lizards can “shed” and regenerate their tails to protect from predators...and elementary school kids).
What strikes me all these years later about it is the poetry of the event.
Record scratch. Poetry and event. I heard the needle dragged across the record. Twice. One for each word: poetryand event. I promise I will get back to this shortly. Bear with me.
Before I go any further, I want to try to make my intentions as clear as I can. We preachers have earned our reputations as silver tongued, sharp tongued, and even double tongued. Duly noted. I lay my cards and plead guilty and on the table in the name of a cause I wish to take up together. I want to keep in mind my preacher’s propensity for pretension and peddling panaceas.
My intention, my cause, my audacious ambition is to rescue the resurrection.
Jesus’ resurrection is in dire need of rescuing. It has been hijacked. It needs rescuing from the clutches of a group who has kept it to themselves in order to save their livelihood. It has been commandeered and lives may have been lost. My ambition here is to rescue Jesus’ resurrection from the guilty party - the professionals - the "teachers of the law," the historians, the philosophers, the theologians, the Biblical scholars, and the clergy. These people, "forgive them for they know not what they do,” bear a resemblance to some of the people who were the most threatened by Jesus. Those who were threatened by Jesus were those who profited most from prevailing structures. Simply put, these structures divided people into “insiders” and “outsiders.” Jesus had a particular interest in challenging (to put it mildly) these structures. At the very least, Jesus taught that the “Kingdom” (the realm, the economy, the commonwealth) of God was within each of us, not within hierarchies and rituals.
In the last few hundred years, an additional line has slowly emerged and embedded itself into structures. Over a few hundred years, a translucent line turned opaque, then finally solid. This line gives the impression that, again, there are “insiders” and “outsiders.” In this case, the insiders are those who “believe” and the outsiders are those who do not “believe.” The believers and the non-believers.
As I point a finger at “the professionals” I am aware that I am simultaneously pointing three fingers at myself. I, myself, stand as one of the guilty party. Together, we have kidnapped Jesus’ resurrection and held it hostage for ransom. The professionals have been given (and willingly accepted) the power to decide who “gets it” and who does not. The professionals have had the power to decide who is on the inside and the outside in the realm of belief, but no longer. They have been relieved of their power. They have had their day and now it is dusk.
I am one of the professionals. I know I need to work extra hard here to earn and keep your trust. I want to be transparent, or at least as transparent as any “professional” can be while playing with the very combustibles which got us into this predicament in the first place. My ambition at this moment, is to neither embrace nor rejected any orthodoxy but to participate in, to become aware of, an event, a happening which is contained in this word: Resurrection.
I will articulate my ambition this way:
To resurrect the resurrection as poetry and event.