Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Infinite Eternities

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John 1:1-3

If I were to do a drawing, colorfully inscribed prayers, of the advents, how would I do it?

Images of Jesus aren’t difficult. The first advent and the life it heralded, was intended for depiction. That was the point. The infant. The carpenter. The teacher. The friend. The example of a sinless life, lived among men, ordinary people.

The Living Word spoke through flesh to His creation in words of love and forgiveness and tenderness.

Images of Jesus the Messiah, the Risen Christ, are more difficult.

The first advent He came as one of us. He came disguised. He slipped into the party through the servants’ entrance. He was a regular guy... a carpenter. He had calloused hands, His sweat splashed onto the wood He was shaping, jobs paid for by neighbors.

Not the advent we are in now. Adventus... The Coming. The Second Coming.

The first time He was here He wasn’t so scary. He was a man.

The next time He is here He will not be a man.

He will be The King of Glory.

He will be here as The Living Word. Creator of the world. Creator of Worlds.

He will be more than we can know, the One who holds the universe within a greater reality.

Artists have been able to depict both Jesus’.

The first three centuries after the life of Jesus, He was the Good Shepherd, the ordinary man.

After the conversion of Emperor Constantine, His image, in Roman basilicas, was the enthroned Christ. Power, majesty, glory. A man's form transformed into the Trinity upon The Throne.

This is probably where folks have a little trouble with faith.

Christianity isn’t so difficult when it is Sunday morns with a bunch of neighbors, singing a few songs, listening to some guy talk, writing a check.

Even believing in an afterlife isn’t difficult. Why not believe in being happy forever?

What is difficult is looking at that image of the Second Coming and seeing Truth.

In 1961 I sat in a pew in a small church, in a small town in Northern California, my feet swinging above the floor. I was looking at the stain glass window of Jesus. The kindly pastor was giving a long forgotten sermon. Jesus, in the window, had a lamb around His shoulders.

There were two frames within the illuminated image of glass. They divided the picture into thirds, keeping the jig saw pieces of silica in place. The pieces of glass had been painted to provide greater details, His face, his robe, curls in an animal's wool.

The walls faded. So did the metal frame. The jig saw pieces of glass blended together, and the chest rose and fell in slow breaths.

I saw The Shepherd.

It was the summer between kindergarten and first grade. In that small white church with the bell in a tower, I saw a man standing above me, an animal over His shoulders. He turned. He looked at me. He smiled.

It felt very, very good.

The glass returned. The walls returned. The voice of the pastor delivering his message returned.

That week I asked my mother if I could take communion.

She told me I was too young to understand what it meant, that it was more than juice in a little cups, and I would have to wait until I was older.

That was when I realized my mother could be wrong.

I knew communion was a powerful symbol that connected people to eternity.

Two times I felt eternity. Twice instants of my life blossomed out of my narrow soul and expanded into experiences that connected me to a reality that not only accompanied me ever after, but I recognize as a part of reality I have always felt. 1976 and 1992.

I say “times” because they occurred in discreet moments I can date.

But they didn’t occur just within those moments.

I truly mean eternity. Eternity isn’t a time in the distant future. Or rather, it isn’t only a time in the distant future. Eternity is outside time. Or perpendicular to it. Or both. I suppose it is within time, more inclusive than the thin line of time mortals are comfortable with.

I picture the thread of one dimension time lying upon the heavenly floor of austere, joyous, two dimensional time. One end the one dimensional string of our universe anchored at the bright spot where God allowed His might and power and glory to blossom from an infinitely small point to the expanding and cooling universe we know.

I imagine the four forces of physics, gravity, electromagnetism, strong atomic, and weak atomic, expanding in the eternity contained within a billionth of a second when matter leapt faster than the speed of light, out racing the separation of those four laws, and inflating to more than 26 billion light years across. Matter raced outward ahead of the separating forces which would soon govern it.

I imagine our universe constrained into that thin line, and the powers, dominions, principalities, all the august residents of eternity, marveling as they moved about that thread, eternal immortals watching as God Himself reach into that thread, and became, for a brief span, mortal.

The coming advent... The Return of the King that goes beyond the imaginations of any film maker, is a terrifying reality that will happen... is happening... has always been happening.

It will always be happening because it is an action taken by divinity.

Divinity dwells in eternity.

Those two moments... I know they were the brief intersections of one dimensional time with two dimensional eternity... I know because those events echo. I feel them still. The joyful, glorious, terror of knowing that the eye of the Creator is falling square upon me.

I believe they are happening still. I believe that’s eternity. I believe everything God does happens always. It happened then. It is happening now. It will always be.

Those two moments reverberate into the time of my earlier life... They echo into my future, accompanying my life, helping me to understand.

Anytime my heart opens enough to sense my Master, those moments ring a little louder.

I believe the crucifixion happened and is happening and will always happen. I believe the crucifixion is the most observed event of all human history, for no one could truly enter into eternity and not be drawn to that supreme act of love by the Supreme Being of Love.

We will all spend eternity there. Then.

Every spirit which steps into eternity will be drawn to the center of eternity, and the act of self sacrifice He provided. Every spirit will witness His bloodied act of love, tremble, and fall to its spiritual knees.

We will go on to experience more eternities... more moments when the actions of God reverberate through all the dimensions of time. Every act God does exists in every moment in and beside time as we understand it.

There are, and we will experience, infinite eternities.

So... what of the Second Coming?

It is a moment of joyful, glorious terror.

It won’t be Jesus the carpenter. It won’t be Jesus the mortal. It won’t be the guy who lived in a neighborhood and fashioned porch posts and tables and chests.

It will be the coming of a king.

I live in a democracy, a form of government in which we pretend we have more control over our government than we do. It makes us feel independent, gives us the gift of freedom...

I think that makes it a little hard for me to imagine what it is like to have a king.

When I was a kid no one spoke ill of the president.

That has changed, but there is still the respect the office garners.

How much stronger might be the emotions of someone who believes their leader is greater than the office? What does it feel like to revere a king?

I’m not sure. But when I think about His return...

How might I create such an image, one that conveys the sense of power and love and joy moving and working in a framework of time that always exists?

How does one depict the two advents in any way that is even a hint of the reality?


Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT. I would love to see what you would do with your own painting of what you just described in your post. Go for it and share it with us!

terry said...

I think about things like this all of the time. But I cannot even begin to verbalize them. I appreciate what you have written. It gives voice to my sense of what is real and true.

wilsonian said...


the tentmaker said...

I visit your site often. In fact, I visit your site evertime I go to my blog, to see where you are in your journey. I have great respect for you and the way you are dealing with your life. You are open and honest. You admit your mistakes. You are not afraid to express your feelings even when they are negative. I could go on, but won't. Just suffice it to say that I have your link on my blog because I'm proud to know you are out there.

Be well,