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1981RE: [John_Lit] The use of FG in times like these

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  • Staley, Jeffrey
    Oct 2, 2001
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      Bob MacDonald writes:

      "Destroy this temple"

      According to G John, Jesus has just finished cleansing the temple. "Destroy
      this temple"

      Jeff Staley writes:

      Is this in fact a "cleansing of the temple in John?" It seesm to me that of
      all gospels, the "destruction" is more the theme here (cf. Jn 11:48-50).
      Perhaps even the use of "ekballo" is the closest FG comes to Markan

      For class entitled "Hollywood Jesus," today I re-viewed the film "Godspell"
      and was immediately struck by the opening image of the film: John the
      Baptist crossing the Brooklyn?? Bridge, with the WTC twin towers in the
      background. In case you have forgotten, that entire film was shot in
      NYC--most of it with an empty city, except for the beginning and end, where
      crowds abound. At the end, as Jesus' corpse is carried through NYC, the
      disciples sing the refrain "long live God"--and the city comes alive--pretty
      moving image in light of last month's events.

      Although the following poem is long, it evokes many biblical metaphors of
      buildings, and eventually you will find one powerful image drawn from the
      textually suspect Jn 8:1-11. My point of sharing it with the Johannine lit
      group is that one sees here a poet's recent attempt to bring biblical
      metaphors to bear (pun intended) on the heavy burden of the events of Sept.

      Jeff Staley

      This poem / reflection was written by a member of St. John's in
      West Ealing, England. Godfrey Rust, who wrote it, is a
      gifted poet and musician, who is often in New York on business trips.

      September 11th, 2001

      What kind of story is this?

      Is it the Tower of Babel?
      Men said Come, let us build a city,
      with a tower reaching to the heavens,
      and make a name for ourselves.
      From all nations they came to build the city
      thinking nothing was impossible.
      Today, they said, we will go into this or that market,
      carry on business and make money.

      Oh? said James, You do not know what will happen today.
      What is your life? You are a mist
      that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

      Is that it?
      Or is it the beginning of Judgment?
      Four aircraft of the Apocalypse
      coming like thieves in the night,
      the henchmen of some AntiChrist
      making a few practice runs
      to raze the new Jerusalem to dust.
      And all of this permitted by the Lord,
      for he has said
      I brought you into a fertile land
      but you defiled it.
      You have as many gods as you have cities.
      So flee for safety now without delay!
      I am bringing disaster from the north,
      even terrible destruction.
      Where then are the gods you made for yourselves?
      Let them come if they can save you.
      Was it a slaughter of innocents?
      Which of us is innocent? Eighteen people died
      when a tower fell in Siloam, and Jesus asked
      What, do you think they were greater sinners
      than anyone in Jerusalem?
      No, but I tell you, unless you repent
      you will all likewise perish.

      Is that it? Or is it the story of Job?
      An honest man trying his best
      when all of his hard-won security
      is brought down in a sudden calamity
      the hour a building fell on all his family.
      His servants break the news to him by email.
      Job watches, disbelieving, on TV
      his life unravelling in front of him.
      Weeping in the ruins of his city,
      distraught, bewildered, desolate, enraged.
      We rush to comfort Job, and so
      we should be careful of our feelings,
      not to confuse sympathy with
      the substance of the lasting grief
      of those who will be living from now on
      on the legacy of an unthinkable change.
      Of course it summons up
      the ghosts of our own grievings, whether real
      or from our worst imagining; but this
      is suffering by proxy: it will have
      no answers when God asks his dreadful questions
      out of the whirlwind of Job's despair.

      Is that it?
      Or is it Nehemiah,
      who would not be defeated
      while everyone else sat in their living rooms
      watching the TV pundits play I told you so
      and prove that nothing could be done?
      Nehemiah went out to rebuild the walls
      with courage and shrewd management,
      armed guards on every corner
      keeping watch against a new attack ­
      and out of so much ruin and despair
      he forged a new community
      stronger and wiser than it ever was before.

      Is that it ?
      It is all of these stories, and something more.
      For after the accounting of the dead,
      when the insurance claims are settled,
      and the markets are back to their normal jittery selves,
      we have all seen what Hell looks like. In future
      we will avoid tall buildings, slowly move away
      from cities, fly less often, view
      our fellow passengers with circumspection,
      seek refuge in more virtual reality and trade
      within the safer evils of the Internet.
      We listen doubtfully to our leaders' words
      as they struggle to fill their own shoes.
      Four planes just flew out of Pandora's box:
      and when men armed just with razor blades can bring
      the whole wide world up to a juddering halt
      we know too much and care too little
      to believe that this will be the last time.
      The big game of Monopoly is over.
      The losers' tantrums have become too dangerous.
      Even before our anger cools we see
      the moral high ground is just
      a pile of smoking rubble. Jesus kneels
      and writes with his index finger in
      the white dust of Manhattan:
      Let him who is without sin
      launch the first missile.

      Who is our enemy
      and what can we fight him with?
      Where are our allies? Where was God
      on September the Eleventh? He was begging
      in old clothes in the subway
      beneath the World Trade Centre.
      He was homeless in Gaza,
      imprisoned in Afghanistan,
      running the gauntlet to her school in the Ardoyne,
      starving in Somalia,
      dying of Aids in an Angolan slum,
      suffering everywhere in this fast-shrinking world;
      and boarding a plane unwittingly in Boston,
      heading for an appointment on the 100th floor.
      When the time came he stretched out his arms once more to take
      the dreadful impact that would pierce his side.
      His last message on his fading cell phone
      once more to ask forgiveness for them all, before
      his body fell under the weight of so much evil.
      We bring our cameras to his massive tomb
      for any chance of resurrection, now we know
      the kind of story that it really is ­
      united by this common enemy,
      sin's terrorism, that we never dreamed
      could bring such devastation. This is war.
      We line our weapons up: faith, hope, obedience,
      prayer, forgiveness, mercy; the explosive power of love.

      © Godfrey Rust 2001
      May be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes.
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