The Meaning The Minister Attached To “Leaving One’s Body” Caused The Problem

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St. Ignace Church

Aug. 3, continued

The next morning, while enjoying my campfire coffee, I couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation I had with the minister. It was intriguing for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that the guy appeared to be struggling with something that he wanted to talk about but couldn’t or wouldn’t. He appeared depressed, too. I began to think seriously about attending his church service. After all, it was a beautiful morning, and I had to wait around for my parents anyway. “Why not,” I thought, “it sounded like a good way to end a good bicycle trip.”

I went downtown on my bike, and got directions to the church. In another 15 minutes, I arrived at a small, wooden building with a white steeple. While chaining my bike to a tree in front of the church, I started to wonder why I was there. Sometimes I acted impetuously, and when it dawned on me that this was one of those times, I found myself too embarrassed to leave. Some of the congregation had already greeted me, so I took a deep breath and went inside. There were probably forty or so people waiting for the service to start. The place was about half full. Two old ladies had cranked their heads around to look at me. They were smiling, so that’s where I sat, in the pew next to them. The ladies were quick to make sure I had my hymnal and bible in hand, and after I thanked them, the service began.

It began with the “robbed ones” parading down the isle swinging a canister of burning incense. I guess the incense was meant to bless, or possibly purify the congregation. It was my first time, so I wasn’t sure what was going on. The smell of incense was especially pleasant, though. As the minister walked past me we made eye contact. I was right; his eyes betrayed his feelings. He grew tense when he recognized me. Upon reflection, though, I am not sure if his tension rose on account of me, or if it was already there in anticipation of his sermon, which I would be a witness to. I’m not a churchgoer, but back when I was attending Bill’s Methodist church with Carin, my girlfriend and his daughter, I got a feel for how far a minister could stray from the “party line”–Christian orthodoxy. What I was about to hear stretched those limits.

His sermon began simply enough. He spoke of the time when Jesus told his disciple, Peter, that the time would soon come when he would have to leave his body. It was the meaning the minister attached to “leaving one’s body” that, perhaps, the congregation had a difficult time with. Forget about St. Peter and the pearly gates. According to this guy, you didn’t go anywhere. On second thought, maybe that’s too strong of a way to put it. It might be more accurate to say that leaving one’s body was like “stepping into God’s house.” You still didn’t go anywhere, but, in a manner of speaking, God came to you. The Christian church preached that Jesus was sacrificed for the sake of the rest of us, to save all the sinners, but this minister wasn’t saying that. Rather, he was saying that Jesus was not a sacrificial lamb, he was a messenger, and, as was common among sinners confronting disturbing messages, they, the sinners, murdered the messenger. In this case, the message, “love thy neighbor,” was just too threatening, not to mention the horrifying idea of seriously considering the possibility of unconditional love. “Messages promoting love are grudgingly received and never, or hardly ever practiced,” said the minister.

At that point in the sermon, it was as if the lady sitting next to me had reached over and pinched me because in that instant I realized that if I had been living at the time of Jesus, I probably would have been one of his accusers. I probably would have called for his execution. It was so easy to condemn, especially if one felt afraid or threatened. It was next to impossible to love under those same circumstances. Jesus knew that he would die for love. That’s why he taught that death transcends the particular. The Christian church teaches something similar—that the good go to heaven, go to Jesus.

The teaching of the meaning of the death of Jesus was a uniquely Christian teaching, but that meaning was not what Jesus taught. Sitting in that congregation, totally absorbed in the words coming from the pulpit, I felt a sudden change in my disposition. I no longer felt like a particular. My sense of separateness began to dissolve. When Peter approached Jesus and heard the words, “The time is coming when I must leave my body,” Jesus was not talking about “stepping out of life,” rather he was talking about “stepping into life,” into the whole birth-death process that sustains life and divinity. “Leaving,” for Jesus, meant that a door opened—a door into the body of Christ, into the body of all people caring for each other, into the body of all divinity that makes love possible. Jesus died so that a more vital love might be shared—a love for each other, for life, and for the divine. For that one brief moment I felt at peace, really at peace. I felt whole. I felt love.

I don’t have any more words for what happened to me while I listened to that sermon, except possibly, that there is a whole lot more to say if I only had the words. Walking away from church I was overcome with yet another feeling, one that said, “It’s all right, everything’s going to be okay.” At the start of this bicycle trip I was curiously aware that I should not expect any new insights. The simple fact that I was going on another bicycle trip was success enough. It affirmed my chosen lifestyle and living that lifestyle was all the reward I needed. No further contentment was necessary. So why, on this, the very last day of my trip, did I get this feeling of wholeness while sitting in a completely unfamiliar Christian chur
ch with total strangers. It’s funny how some things work out differently than planned–and better.

About this trip — it’s been good. It’s that simple. The one thing that did go wrong — my knee, I accepted with no hard feelings. I took a totally relaxed attitude about this trip and it paid off. Even in the rain, and there was plenty, I did not let myself get to down. When it got bad, as it did in northern British Columbia, I boarded a train–a good choice. On many occasions I was so high from the scenery that I felt like I was going to burst with joy. All of life came together in those special moments, in those very special moments. On a more negative note, I was definitely the odd man out among the more adventurous youth. Youth has its place, and so does age. It is too bad they rarely find a comfortable place to coexist. That separateness is not irreproachable. Responsibilities go with each, and both are to be valued for their potentialities. I think its time to leave. I see my parent’s coming to pick me up.

End Part Two Of Journals, Begin Part Three–Judgment Day

Most people do not live in an emotionally moving, warm universe; rather, they live in an indifferent or a hostile one. If more people lived in a non-threatening and emotionally warm universe, I believe more good would get done, more compassion produced, and less violence would result. In part three of my story, I will describe, either directly or indirectly, the universe I now live in. I believe everybody, in his or her own way, already lives in this universe. For the few who do not know about this universe yet, it is probably only a small perspective shift away, but for some others a major change in perspective may be required.

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2 Responses to “The Meaning The Minister Attached To “Leaving One’s Body” Caused The Problem”

  1. subra Says:

    Welcome part three.

  2. NBM Says:

    Abundant life… “eternal aliveness”… altered state of consciousness? Bliss.

    Look forward to hearing about the dimension you now live in!

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