I can only be thankful for the vision I had of Jesus on the cross (described on 1/10/08) because after about a year of wrestling with its meaning, it become the core of my faith, my understanding of suffering, and my calling to be a spiritual companion with the marginalized. It was at times hard to talk about my vision because I worried people might think I was nuts. At the same time the vision was harmless enough because its themes fit nicely with liberal thinking. There was the theme of Jesus’ compassion for the poor, and my vision allowed for Jesus just to be another really “good guy”.
The other vision I had of Jesus on the cross was much more challenging. By this time I identified myself as a Christian, though I still find it hard to say what I mean by that. My faith was a “crucifixion faith” – it was Jesus’ suffering and compassion that resonated with me. The next vision was different, though it started with Jesus on the cross. Here’s what happened:
During Meeting for Worship at the Earlham School of Religion one spring day soon before I graduated, the words of the Taize chant, “Jesus, remember me” kept coming to me. Then I remembered that those were the words spoken by one of the two men crucified on either side of Jesus. Suddenly I was at the crucifixion again, and this time I was being crucified, and Jesus was on the cross next to me. I was the one saying “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Though the vision was real enough to me, mercifully, it was not accompanied with sensations of physical pain. Still, I don’t have words to describe the horror of it.
Then just as suddenly Jesus was standing in front of me at the foot of my cross. With great tenderness he lifted me down and carried me to a safe place where he set me down. Very gently he washed my injured and bloody hands and feet. As he washed the blood off me, I saw that there were no wounds underneath! Then he said “Go in peace, sister. Your faith has saved you.”
Dear reader, not many others have heard this part of my faith experience before today, and I write with this great trepidation. This vision speaks of a resurrected Jesus, of miracles, healing, and the saving power of faith. There is great joy, hope, and promise in it.
It gives balance to my faith life. The first vision planted in me the sorrow that as long as anyone suffers in this world, Jesus continues to hang on the cross and suffer. The second one doesn’t contradict the fisrt one, but it adds in joy, hope, and promise in the midst of suffering. When Jesus said that my faith saved me, he seemed to be saying that my persistence in hard times and my trust in God truly made a difference to the outcome (he didn’t mean “faith” as a magic formula that allows me entry into the kingdom). It means more, too, but that part is inexplicable. It is mystery.
When I take a step back and philosophize about these two visions, it is plain to me that it is the one that gives hope, joy, and encouragement that is the hardest to talk about. Resurrection hope is a harder thing to talk about among liberals, whereas it was relatively easier to speak about crucifixion and suffering. When I speak about the first one, I feel like I get Brownie points from listeners for compassion, but I’m afraid to speak about the second one for fear that I will be mistaken for one of those intolerant and irrational fundamentalists.
My perception is that it is easier to speak among liberals about suffering, injustice, and scarcity than it is to speak about hope, forgiveness, and joy. Yet it is my experience that generosity arises most easily in those who experience abundance: those who forgive despite injustices done, who hope in the midst of adversity, and those whose faith truly is “trust in things unseen”.
Sorry I can’t make the following thesis more pithy: “In order to be generous, we need to experience spiritual abundance in our lives. In order to experience spiritual abundance, we need to believe that God can take care of us. In order to believe that God can take care of us, we need to trust in things we can’t see.”
Query for prayerful consideration:
What does the resurrection mean to me?