Jesus Loves Bread and Ashes

God loves doing things that surprise us.

…Not in that creepy stand behind doorways “gotcha” sort of way, but in that way of being asked to dance by someone who you imagined would never want to dance with you…when you’ve given up all hope and find yourself leaning against the wall in an outfit it took two weeks to perfect wondering if it would be a better use of your time watching the ice ring in the punch bowl melt. But then, the miracle is that God wants to give us everything, even taking what seems to us to be nothing, and creating something new.

Some might argue that a miracle is doing something surprising, a shift from our ordinary reality. But what if our reality is not God’s? Because if you were to look at this miracle from the point of view of the Trinity, a relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit that overflows with such an insistent love and offers us hope and faith, then you might say the real surprise is how we keep to our old ways. The ways we find sin more trustworthy than grace, the ways we believe death is the final curtain rather than resurrection being the opening note of our collective, heartbreaking sonata. What if God’s way is reality, though it is not our reality at all, a way bigger and wider and more profuse than we can ever imagine?

The miracle is how God took only a longing for us and ex nihilo, shaped light and flesh and even abstractions like hope. Mud was breathed into, a rib was pulled away, flesh of my flesh. It was a beauty so elemental that to the unforgiving it might appear coarse. Then God went on, to angel visitations, to free cucumber-loving captives and to befuddle scruffy prophets who pull out their hair and walk in canyons of bones.

Then, God entered this world in Christ, hardly anything, a child in a wooden cradle, ashes to ashes, light unto light, God now embodied, incarnate. And then, the cross, where God and wood and darkness entwined and hope bubbled up unimpeded forever. After the absolute, devastating nothingness of the cross, it was a bit of a surprise, out and out, that something so vivacious could come from something as ugly as that. But in the beginning, hadn’t God said that such life was intended for us all along?

And now, even now, Christ, his body, worn away by the penances of our love, still asks us to bring him what seems to be nothing. Surprised we do, hardly comprehending how these lost things will return, as a gift, for us. So, we gather string and barley, fish with gray bones, our sins and failures.

We gather old arguments, and sweat-stained sheets, and a loved one waving to us from a rearview mirror. We gather the shells that sing of the youthful longing and foreign seas and the letter still stained with red regrets. We gather the memory of being lifted as a child, we bring light through an open window. We gather the dry brambles of one hope, a recollection that awakens our breath. We gather our ignorant and self-important diatribes, we gather our old desires, worn yet precious embers. We gather it all: the whispers, the winter air, the rhythms of love, the tiny things that aren’t anything. And we give it all to Christ.

And in one last, surprising eternal note of this grace, we find that we too, have been gathered in, where we circle and rest, now caught up forever with forgiveness, redemption, resurrection, reality. Here, beauty has no enemy. Here, God makes morning. Here, nothing is lost.