fringe in Gennesaret: a trilogy

The Fringe in Gennesaret

 

Recognition

“After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret.  When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed.  They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.” (1)

In a region called Gennesaret, the recognition of Jesus led to a collective response. Given how much difficulty we have arriving at any type of corporate decision, the fact stands out to me – noteworthy – that upon recognizing Jesus, the people of the region brought all their sick. They didn’t debate, they didn’t do a feasibility study; they didn’t vote, they didn’t even question. They, according to Matthew, went through all the region, and brought all of them. Their sick. Matthew was reportedly a numbers guy, so his use of the word all, seems significant. Given how much attention, how much press, how much tax and NGO money is given to both figuring out how we should care for the sick, and then attempting to execute it; this universal response in the region of Gennesaret, is astonishing to me.

“And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.  And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” (2)

So deep was their recognition, that they brought; but they also assumed, presumed, hoped –  that if the sick could touch even the hem of Jesus’ garment, they would be healed. Matthew offers a picture of the keepers of society, the civic leaders recognizing a power larger than themselves. Upon our moment in history, when the presumed integrity of civic leaders – those entrusted with the care of societies and peoples – is fractured nearly beyond hope by broken promises at best and cruel and vicious intent at worst, this is a startling picture. All at the recognition of Jesus

I’ve been a caregiver on multiple fronts for many years; not formally of society, but in vocation, with family and friends, amongst the terminally ill. There is no one-size-fits-all to the healing arts we call medicine. Desperation might cause one to take risks for oneself; to grasp at an unproven alternative when all the reasoned approaches have failed. But caregivers do not take risks with their loved ones lightly. Those risks are taken with yearning for the salvation of the loved one’s dignity firmly lodged in the caregiver’s throat. Which means the people of the region, bringing their sick and begging Jesus to allow them to touch his garment, were bringing their sick wrapped in the fabric of their hearts.

And then we read…all. All of them were healed; as many as touched it. There is nothing in our society that heals all; not chemo, nor psychotropic drugs, not naturopathy. At our house we don’t even use the same anti-inflammatories. What was it in Jesus’s garment, stirring the dust of Gennesaret as he walked, the fringe caught, and caught again; that healed the sick, and some of society’s ills as well. What is it that one grasps, fingers tangling in the fringe?

(1)”Matthew 14:35 (NLT) – When the people recognized Jesus.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/mat/14/35/p1/s_943035&gt;.

(2)”Matthew 14:35 (ESV) – And when the men of.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 8 Jan, 2019. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mat/14/35/p1c/s_943035&gt;

~ ~ ~

Dust

PICRW level2

 

flepht, flepht, flepht…the footfalls of Jesus stir the dust that lines the streets of Gennesaret. Dust stirs again, the sweep of his robe whorling small puffs of sand. Pebbles trickle across the path. Grit. Soon footfalls crescendo, as the message sweeps throughout the region, “Jesus is here!”

The sick, borne along the path on the strength of the townspeople’s mercy, now lie in the dust. Able voices plead for the broken, “Let them touch your robe – even that will heal them.” Their pleading falls to the earth, echoing in desperate cries, “Help me walk, help me breathe, help me to see. The sick one’s position on the path, is a plea for mercy, for all those who would see him well; those who long to witness a miracle – any miracle; those steeped in compassion; those weighted by life’s inconsistencies. “Help us, Jesus” The sick are not the only ones gasping for air…

So the blind bring the blind, all to finger the dirt and dung and blood threaded through the fringe of the garment worn by Jesus. The dried brokenness of the stiffened hem scratches, serrating each palm. Such an earthen journey – that of Jesus – his robe gathering up the dust of temptation and loss, the sorrowful mucous of dead cells and dead dreams, the crumbled decay of sin. Yet he does not flinch. Rather he waits, eyes of compassion; until one can reach to finger his wounds – those he enlisted on our behalf; his body, his cells, that we might be healed.

~ ~ ~

Traveler

There was a time when, unknowingly, I was afraid to get too close to the path; I feared to touch, for dread that the brokenness would somehow infect me. Unknowingly – because I did not yet know how well I reside among the broken. I don’t think I was afraid of being cut exactly, by an errant jagged edge. I was afraid that I would not be enough – that I would lack the strength , or the necessary wisdom, to pull together shattering pieces, and yet remain intact. Looking down at my palms, I see that I was right. In and of myself, without the love of Jesus flowing through the arteries there, I never will be.

But something has changed. How fully I belong among the broken, crying out to Jesus, presuming, hoping, that He is enough. I had not realized that Jesus could walk by to see me groveling in the dirt, his tangled fringe grasped in both begging hands, and yet, with eyes of compassion, find himself reflected there. I did not know that under his loving gaze, one can be broken, and still be whole.

The threads of fringe cross my palm. “Look at my hands,” this traveler exclaims, as in detail she examines the stains. No nail holes here… instead I encounter his suffering, all the suffering that Jesus will carry to the cross. In Gennesaret I am healed, fingering the world’s brokenness. For suddenly, I am free to grasp my own – to measure its width across his garment, stain upon stain, stiffened red. My soul is transformed, his palm laid upon my brokenness, and returning “Life.” I watch as his palm is laid across the sorrowful heap of another, roaring, “Hope.” There is another, quivering with fear, who upon his touch, begins to inhale the blessings of “Peace.”

Until I was among people who nearly all had some form of apparent brokenness, I was unable to fully examine my own. Nor could I allow Jesus to touch my wounds, whether self-inflicted or otherwise. In bringing the weary pain of others to God, I have often experienced that while I might think myself helpful in their rescue, it is God who is undoubtedly, in some regard, rescuing me.

Jesus…healer, I do not want to underestimate the power of your resurrection, made manifest, as you restore the image of God in us. Our brokenness, our return to simple dust, is a trail that you have walked, gathering up sorrow upon sorrow, braving the shards of our jagged edges, and holding our secrets; exchanging them all for your holiness. You have found us on the path, whether running, or carried there; the hem of your robe a grasp on the new life you offer. Our grasp is a plea, embodied, that you would heal us; even as you have embodied our sin. We confess our brokenness, and our sin. We are dust. But we are your dust, borne by you, in sorrow and in love to the cross of our making. We cling to you in hope – forever. Amen;

jfig   1/19

scripture reference: Matthew 14:34-36

You might also like to contemplate Matthew 27:32-54; Hebrews 2:10-18

 

longings…

longings

 

The seraphim cover their eyes.

I wonder – do they peek

between their bony fingers

stripped lean for flight?

 

And Moses the cleft conceals

yet you can see, his feet,

as breathless,  he waits

while You walk by.

 

My heart sighs

neither, then, should I

surely – neither should I.

But oh, the longing is there

whispered …

Oh, God, I would love

to ‘see’ your face..

even a trace, fingered blind.

 

You replied.

 

 

 

jfig   1/19

 

photo 1/24/2019  Whatcom County, WA

 

One duck…

one duck pic

 

I thought it would rain this morning… but at bus time, the clouds folded in, holding their breath, for one duck. One duck, center stage, danced across the canvas of the morning, the clouds holding their applause, while he plowed a wake.

We – woman, man,  child- so want to make a difference; our clumsy attempts often piling up like refuse; sometimes leaving scars and scrapping our  vows to ‘do no harm.’

The lake is near 400 ft deep in places, places right out there under the duck. It should take a dam; so it seems startling that one duck could  plow such a wake, turning it at will. Apparently there is power in webbed feet and winged prayers.

Spirit of God, hold up my winged prayers. Lift them to the heavens and stretch their weight along the trajectory of your leaning. Only for you, do the clouds hold their breath. Only for you. Amen

photographer’s note: I left the power lines…one duck.

jfig/11/18

 

Transfigure

sunrise 2

 

Today is day 2 of ‘springing forward;’ which usually feels like ‘dragging, one-step-at-a-time,’ in order to adjust to a new schedule.  As I accompanied my daughter, on her distracted and dawdling way to the bus, I marveled anew, that in spite of her profound array of special needs, she can pretty much daily  show up with a cheerful attitude and not too much coaxing and cajoling. The ‘pretty-much-every-day’ is what gets me.

As we trundled our way to the bottom of the hill,  dawn crept up the sky; this dawn, unedited and extravagant, delivering a message.  I was struck dumb, and continue struggling to find words. Even after the bus had come and gone, I stood still and let the majesty and the magnitude of God’s unspoken words wash over me.

I am here. Every day. Showing up.

Though the air is unseasonably warm this morning, there is a brisk wind out of the southeast – that too, an atypical direction. I could feel it picking up as God continued to paint the sky.

I am here in the storm. I was here BEFORE the storm.

I’ve been in what feels like a crop-flattening storm lately, so those words are ponder-worthy: What does it mean for God to have been here, displaying His Glory, before the storm? And why, today, does he deliver a message, not quietly on paper, but painted and wind-propelled,  across the whole sky? In one instant, the sky was 157 degrees of pink, from southeast to west-northwest. Before the day even started…

If God can paint the sky east to west, can he not then paint a life, my life, a different shade of storm-cellar grey? Can he not at least ‘brighten up’ my perspective? Can he not transfigure the bleak questions of this season; questions of fear and unknowing and loss, into some realization of the beauty of his goodness? Some realization of who he is, starling though it is against that stark grey backdrop?

We’ve been reading the book of Mark during this pre-spring.

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
"Mark 9:1 (NIV) - And he said to them." Blue Letter Bible. Web. 13 Mar, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/mar/9/1/p1/s_966001>.

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him” This after Jesus has told them he must suffer and be killed and rise again. Can you imagine the questions in their minds? ‘Listen to him’…after his stark announcement of impending suffering, even death?

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him.” This… after the radiance, and a sighting of Elijah and Moses. Wouldn’t that still one’s run-on of questions just for a moment? Storm and light, juxta-positioned.

I feel like God completely transfigured the sky this morning. Midst the dismay of surveying what I have presumed to be ‘Crop damage’ from the storms in our life, I feel a bit like Peter,  I’ve experienced a great sense of loss and some hyper-anxiety. What to do, think, feel, say??? So when Peter suggests doing something…ANYTHING…I can relate. But perhaps I should still the questions, and listen…

sunrise transfigure

I was here, before the storm. “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

And from another story, I am here, in the storm; “Why are you so afraid?”

Jesus Calms the Storm
35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
“Mark 4:35 (NLT) – As evening came Jesus said.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 11 Jun, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/mar/4/35/s_961035&gt;.
“This is my son, whom I love… listen to him…”
Lord Jesus, the proclamation of the dawn, has left me speechless. Speechless enough to feel a burble of hope shift, and rise above the questions in my soul. Will you unfurl this hope – like the dawn, and transfigure me?

 jfig 3/2018

 

 

 

 

Fissures

Sometimes life quakes, unsettling all our ground, even destroying things we thought were safe. This is a reflection for those times. jfig

fissures 1

 

Fissures

 

My earth splits and shifts

Gaping at awkward angle as splinters race along the fracture lines.

From aerial view, it might look like arteries

On my heart, if the lines rived in anatomical places.

 

What will grow in these at-first unnourished places?

What will grow?

Drip, drip, drip – water oozes into the painful space

left by what blade knifing into my hope and expectation?

What will grow?

In what fertile valley shall I plant my next hope, and the next, or next?

How many plantings will it take?

What will grow?

 

As I let the fissure breathe, moss grows green against the someplace rusted stone.

I can only breathe a few days at a time.

Let it breathe…

Living water trickles, chill lavage

Rearranging mineral deposits

In the rust and stone and green of my heart.

 

Oh, God, that I could feel the green

And somewhere in a far-off spring, the moss spring forth a gentian bloom

Feel the spring: the water spring… and the growth

The widened fissure breathes. New life. New hope. Altered sculpture of my dream.

Breathe

fissures 2

 

jfig 2015

Isaiah 30:19-26

 

Soil

What if…

(audacious thought)

all the toil of Genesis 3

is wrought

in the soil of grace

What if?

 

What if

all the thorns and thistles

briars and invasive species

cannot withstand

this organism

called grace?

 

What if…

outside the gates

of Eden

(and Jerusalem)

the hills are alive…

in the colors of grace?

 

What if, all the toil of Genesis 3, were wrought in the soil of grace?

 

jfig 5/18

RW soil pic

The question that stops me in my tracks this morning, suspending motion, is this: What if God knew all along, that as Adam and Eve, and you and I spaded our way through the clay that sucks at the soles of our muck boots; what if God knew we would keep turning over… grace? That as we scratched out a living, and healing and hope down in the harsh dirt of living, we would turn over… grace? Not in the garden – in the warmth of Eden’s sun- but in the hard, cracked soil of all the desolate places outside? What if at Golgotha, skulls decaying in the margins of error and shame, one man amended the fields forever with blood-red grace? What if he knew that as we turned over life, clumps clinging, weighting the treads of our toiling steps, that this dirt would be good, not just for vegetables, but for journeying souls. What if Jesus allowed himself to be led outside, because that is where we are?

What if the fields of grace are ALIVE, breathing with organisms, to decompose the stench and misconceptions and broken ideas of sin; lies about who God is; lies we’ve propagated? What if this toil down on our knees, troweling through the dirt, painstakingly weeding the small creepers, rooting out this…and that which holds back fruit; what if all that dirt under our fingernails, turned over rich one day, and scratched out painfully the next, what if ALL of it… is grace?

Scripture references:

Genesis 3:17-19   And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19 By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”
“Genesis 3:17 (NLT) – And to the man he.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 28 May, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/nlt/gen/3/17/p1/s_3017&gt;.

Luke 23:26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:32-34a Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“Luke 23:26 (ESV) – And as they led him.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 28 May, 2018. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/luk/23/26/p1/s_996026&gt;.