Though I do admire all the brave folks who step into greater light and truth regarding their sexuality, that’s not what I’m talking about.
But like any good coming out, this one has been in the works for a while.
At first I decided privately.
Then I thought “I’ll just be chill and not rock the boat”.
Then I thought “Screw it. This is where I’m at. Might as well make it public and deal with the fallout.”
Can we talk about Hell?
Good. I want you to be comfortable.
The day was September 27th. The year was 1994.
I was five years old.
Me and my brothers were lined up for spankings. I don’t remember what we did, but my older brother went first, and when I didn’t hear any screaming from the other room, I figured he was dead.
I was up next. The walk down the hall was one mile. I glanced at my dad who was clutching wooden spoon. I scooted to him.
Things didn’t look good.
“Son, do you know what mercy is? Your mother thought it would be good if I taught you.”
0 for spankings.
1 for eternal truths.
I can’t help but think Jesus wants to give every single person this feeling.
The “end” isn’t some terrifying thing. This story turns out good. For everyone.
That would be Good News for people with concerns about eternity. That would be Good News for people who invented a God that torments people for a long time after they’re dead. That would be Good News for people who’s little blip of life isn’t making sense.
“But Joshua! There’s conditions! You have to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ and...”
I know, I know.
I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do: go toe to toe slinging Bible verses back and forth. If you already know where you stand and you don’t agree with me, good.
Let me bow, take a knee. I’m in the minority. I’m not alone, but there are more Christian folks that think there’s a crucial fork in the road the moment you die.
You wake up burning or you wake up very relieved.
Kind of like having spicy Mexican food, am I right?
“We’re talking about eternal souls! Joshua! How can you joke right now!?”
And what’s ‘eternal’ mean? A long, straight line of time? You lost me there.
“But how can people have freewill and also God redeem everyone!?”
I see! You’re uncomfortable with paradox. Things like...
God is sovereign within chaos
God is one person and several persons
God is just and merciful
Jesus is human and divine
Paradox is just part of this whole weird Life thing. Sooner you get over it, sooner you can get on with more important stuff like: “what do I do with this one moment I have?”
Anyway, let me be clear. I want to make sure everyone is at least a little upset.
A) Jesus is not the only way.
B) Jesus is the only way.
I like them both, thank you. Please pick the one that upsets you and feel that as much as you can. It’s probably the one you need.
I think we need people who say the idea of God is insane. They balance us out.
I also love people like preachers and nuns who have the audacity to try and describe God.
I think this whole mess shakes out in way that is so far beyond life and death and time and space that it’s absurd that I’m trying get the point across using a tiny glass box and pixels.
But still if I’m honest, like staring-at-the-ceiling-alone kind of honest, I think we’re all going to end up in the arms of Jesus, which I know is a sappy metaphor.
Maybe I could say he’s like some kind of interdimensional black hole that we’re all getting pulled into, the path and gate.
However you describe him, Jesus was a dynamic, eloquent dude. He came declaring:
“Hey, see all this insanity? Let me teach you how to dance in the midst of it. The dance looks like love and light. It looks like powerful people serving. It looks like finding the outcasts of society and treating them with dignity, like braving the darkness in your own soul, calling out religious bullshit, knowing you can’t do it all, but resting anyway. It looks like trusting the divinity within yourself. If you dance this dance long enough, eventually you’ll forget you are dancing at all. Your bones, your marrow will know the cadence. You’ll see it wasn’t about the dance, but the essence underneath. This essence is you and will always be there for you leading you in the ecstasy of an unfolding, loving universe.”
“Cool, Jesus. But if I say a prayer can I maybe not burn forever?”
“Are you kidding me? Someone crucify me, please.”
But maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps there is a place that is a permanent Auschwitz for the damned.
Well, no worries. If there is one thing we can gather from the life of Jesus, it’s that Love is limited and death is unconquerable.
I’ll end with a fable.
God, a whispy genie, stood between two streams. A traveler approached and God spoke.
“One stream represents desire, one prudence. One leads to me and one leads to Hades.”
After much deliberation, the traveler chose prudence. At the end of the stream was God.
“I suppose I chose the correct stream,” said the traveler.
God cackled, “I am the space in between the streams! But of course both streams lead to me.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me?”
“No fun in that! And did you not know I am in Hades as well?”
Perplexed, the traveler sat in silence. After some time, the traveler blurted out, “then you are in each moment!”
God smiled. “I am you, yes.”
Jesus, thank you for being the way. Amen.