Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 4: Naked Lazarus flees at Jesus’ arrest

Jesus is Arrested (from The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision)
A queer version of Christ’s Passion is running in daily installments this week from Palm Sunday through Easter. Each daily post features a queer Christian painting and an excerpt from the novel Jesus in Love: At the Cross by Kittredge Cherry.

After supper all my disciples went with me to Gethsemane, even though it was late, the night was cold, and the olive garden was a long walk away… Lazarus was waiting for us inside the garden. He managed to look stylish even though he was wrapped in the kind of linen sheet worn during religious ritual. He spoke with unaccustomed seriousness. “I’ve been keeping a prayer vigil.”

“Good,” I answered. “I want all of you to stay here and continue the prayer vigil.”

“But—“ John caught himself and held his tongue. He and Lazarus fixed a pained, plaintive gaze at me.

“But what?” I spat out the words impatiently.

“I was going to baptize Lazarus tonight.”

“Baptism!” I snorted. “You want to drown your old self so you can unite with God? You want to lose your life so you can gain it? Do you think you can take the baptism that I’m about to get?”

“We can,” John and Lazarus chorused, as if my questions were just part of some ritual.

My lips tightened. “Don’t worry. You’ll have your chance at a real baptism tonight—and so will I.”

I looked around at the whole group. “I’m sick to death about what’s happening. Stay here and keep awake. I need to go pray by myself.” ...

[Jesus’ prayers end when a small army arrives and arrests him.]

My captors began goading me toward Jerusalem. We hadn’t gone far when we heard footsteps behind us. The soldiers and temple police tensed in alarm. I turned and saw Lazarus. Some of the men grabbed him, but Lazarus wriggled out of their grasp, leaving them holding only the ceremonial linen cloth. Lazarus sprinted away stark naked, his buttocks gleaming in the full moonlight.

The whole squadron burst into laughter. “Why, it’s just a boy-whore!”

“It looks like we spoiled the king’s evening entertainment!”

“Too bad—pervert!” The insult was directed at me, along with some blows.

(Continued here tomorrow)
F. Douglas Blanchard is a New York artist who teaches art at City University of New York and is active in the Episcopal Church. Much of his art explores history, including gay experience.

Note: Judas kissed Jesus to identify him to the soldiers for arrest. Click on the following titles to see art that explores the homoerotic aspect of Judas Kiss:

Judas Kiss by Robert Recker

Judas Kiss by Becki Jayne Harrelson


Trudie said...

Doug Blanchard's work is extremely powerful, and adds that glimpse of reality to the even of Jesus' arrest. I have noticed in myself a tendency to distance myself from those events, as if they couldn't or haven't happened in the present. Also, I've always been fascinated by your inclusion of the idea of the baptism of Lazarus as part of the Passion, Kitt. It really focuses the difference between the apostles' understanding of what was going on, and what Jesus was trying to communicate.

Kittredge Cherry said...

One reason to include the baptism of Lazarus is because many churches now baptize new members on Easter.

There's another artwork that made Jesus real for me in the context of a contemporary police arrest. It's in the “Jesus is my Homeboy” series by David LaChappelle. Here’s a link to it:

It’s not the arrest of Jesus, so it wasn’t right for this series, but it’s unforgettable. It shows a prostitute being arrested with Jesus present -- an updated version of the “woman taken in adultery” where Jesus says, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Too bad nobody said those words in Gethsemane when Jesus himself was arrested.

pennyjane said...

at 7am on monday morning i hiked up the hill in front of mt san raphal's hospital in trinidad, colorado, to the little chapel there. "ava maria", our lady of gaudalupe.

the hike was demanding, the air thin...i was exhausted as i sat on the steps...out of breath. i'd come for a ask Jesus to drink from my cup. would i die, i wondered, or be resurrected?

"don't put God to the test."
"all who believe on me will not die but have everlasting life."

i really didn't know. was i putting God to the test or was i submitting to His will?

i really didn't know. was i submitting to a profound act of narcissism or was i cutting off the limb that offended my God?

was i asking God to bless me, or to bless His obedient servant?

was i serving my master or The Master?

i sat and i prayed. and i felt all around me the thousands of women who'd sat right there, right my time...all of them...asking the same questions.

"God, is this to be a miracle or a horrible perversion of Your temple?"

i sat and i prayed. a jogger came by. she stopped at the box just down the steps form me...crossed herself and slipped a bill in the slot.

"you here for your surgery?" she asked.

"yes i am, at 9am"

"well, Godspeed," she smiled and jogged off down the hill.

so, Jesus drank from my cup and promised me that when the time came, he would give me the faith and the strength to drink from His.

i strolled down the hill, across the parking lot and into the main entrance of the hospital. my family was waiting...they went with me to the pre-op area and said goodbye.

"Godspeed," i told them all, "i'll see you in a few hours."

Kittredge Cherry said...

Wow, PennyJane, this is so dramatic! What happened next? Please share more of your Holy Week journey here. Since you’re making comments now, I assume that the surgery went well. Surely God is with you.

pennyjane said...

thank you kitt, and yes.

having been found guilty of the crime of convolution, of serving two M/masters...Christ assumed my sin...paid with His precious blood and resurrected me, white as snow..knowning full well that i would fall again...before the cock would crow on the very next morning.

at the count of 99 i jumped off the cliff. the die was cast. it was now all in His hands. both guilty and innocent i no longer awaited my fate, it was finished. in my absence the way of the world did it's work, the way of magic, it's transformation and the way of God, His mystery.

in my lack of faith i felt my guilt, but it didn't hurt. in my faith i felt my innocence, but it didn't help. i felt and i knew nothing else, not hope and not fear...subjucated to emptiness.

a clean slate, with a box full of sharp, new crayons...a coloring book with no lines to color in waiting for me in the light. would i ever see the light again, or had i chosen darkness?

at some point the darkness itself began to transform. without lines or light the face of Jesus appeared in it. i searched His face and i knew fear first. fear, afraid that justice might have been done. am i here to face judgment or am i here to receive mercy? God, please don't offer me justice, i have lost the arrogance it takes to want justice. i know i have not been true...i knew i couldn't be true. "who can know the mind of God, who can give Him advice?"

and then there was this tiny pin prick of light somewhere way up high. and then i felt sick...i felt my throat go red, it was dry as the bones in the desert. but, it was was my throat. and then the light shot out from it's tiny apparation into full screen mode. bright as the sun up form...just light.

and the face of Jesus took on it's lines and it's form...and her name was annie, my annie. and her face showed no fear, just kindness and love....with just a sprinkle of faith.

yes...the surgery had gone well, but right couldn't prove it by me, but my faith was clean...pure as the driven snow.

Kittredge Cherry said...

PJ, your account is leaving me speechless. I am particularly moved by the part where the face of Jesus transforms into the face of your own beloved partner Annie. It reminds me of a blessing we sang to each other at a church retreat:

I see the face of God in you
The face of Christ comes shining through
And I am blessed to be with you
O holy child of God.

Let that be my blessing to you tonight.

pennyjane said...

oh, kitt. thank you so much for that wonderful blessing...and may it return to you a thousand fold.

holy week is just so intense. it's so hard to stay focused on anything. i can say, too, that as a church secretary it is only magnified. at 11:15 this morning our pastor stopped by my desk to ask a favor.

"could you come up with a dozen or so scripture lessons between the last supper and the resurrection, get the page numbers in the pew Bibles, print out a hundred copies and have them in the pews for the contemplative period after the noon good friday service?"

sure, nothing to it....what else would i be doing with this last forty five minutes. it's not like we were hosting all downtown congregations for this service today....not like my office isn't a perfect representation of grand central station today.

"yes, sir," i said, "i'll get right on it."

my mind went right to gethsemane. it's really about all i've been able to focus on of late. when The Son of Man asks the Father, "if it is Your will, take this cup from me."

isn't that what we all say when we are unsure of our right to be where we are? do you think Jesus, rather than expressing weakness in that hour might not really be feeling i really the right choice for this? do you think it could be, that at that time, knowing the moment of truth was at hand...might He have had doubt about His place? might He, Himself have been asking the Father, am I truly Your Son, or have i deceived Myself and all these wonderful believers?

pretty radical thought, but then the mortal Jesus was a pretty radical man. it's hard for us to think of Jesus as unsure, but then...wasn't He all mortal? wasn't He maybe more mortal at that moment than ever before? isn't it possible that us...had to wonder if He had been deceiving Himself...i mean...what mortal man could think of himself as worhty of this: take the sin of the world on your shoulders, suffer it to the cross and take it to hell? the divine Jesus must have known what it was and how it was going to happen....that remarkably mortal Jesus of gethsemane must have been terrified.

and that's why it is so. that when we each hold out our cup of gethsemane, Jesus knows, and He will drink...fully aware and more than willing to take our cups for us. God the Father has made Him worthy, and through Him, we too can be worthy.

but, it can still be a scary old world out there.

much love and hope. pj

Kittredge Cherry said...

PJ, you’re already back at work!? I thought you needed more time to recover from surgery. Now I’m wondering if you were writing about a surgery that happened in the distant past.

Your story about preparing for the Good Friday service reminded me of when I worked in a church. We sometimes called it “Holy Hell Week” because there was so much stressful work involved in planning and leading the many extra services. Meanwhile, many church members were stressed out and placed extra demands on us. For church staff, the time for spiritual reflections tends to be AFTER Easter.

pennyjane said...

hi kitt. hmmmm...i guess i did make it sound like real time. i'm sure that's because what inspired the writing at all was your postings from "Jesus in Love."

but, my surgery was three years ago. it's just...holy week...what else can you do but just immerse yourself in Jesus. everything is about Him, everything reminds me of something He has done, for me or another, for crowds or for those already in the grave. that was just a time in my life when i so desperately needed His blessing, and of course...He was there for me...holding me in His arms, carressing my soul and making me whole.

"praise God from whom all blessings flow
praise Him all creatures here below
praise Him above ye heavenly Host
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

i am so excited. tomorrow is the the morning we will gather in the rose garden at our chruch and we will sing praises, we will worship His coming and His sacrifice and His blessing...we will be with Him and He will be with us....more than ever, closer than ever

(giggle) a kid at christmas...or an old christian at easter...what's the difference?

May His blessings flow from this your ministry onto all who come here, all who read and contribute and share His love with us all. may the hope of His resurrection fill us all to overflowing, with His spirit, His body, His blood. and may we each love one another for just what we are....the beautiful Image of the One who created us.

much love and hope. pj