Aug 18

A Story for Finley

A Story for Finley

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you…

1 John 1-3a NRSV


You ask me when I first knew he was God? I can tell you the day and the hour. It was in the Spring of that third year. We were in Perea across the Jordan, on our way to Jerusalem. We had begged him not to go. But he just looked at us, and said, “You still don’t understand, do you?” and turned around and walked on. So what could we do? He was the Messiah after all, odd as that seemed on the surface, and we, ragtag bunch that we were, were going to be his government officials. We would show those Jerusalem bigwigs something – maybe.

About the third watch of the night, I heard him get up. He was doing that a lot those days. He told us he was praying, and I thought I would follow him and try to find out what he was praying about. But the next thing I knew, my eyes popped open and the sun was just about to come up over those eastern hills. I looked up and there he was, sitting on the little knoll just above where we had stretched out to sleep. So I got up as quietly as I could and crept up the hill until I could lay behind a bush off to his side and see him in profile and maybe hear whatever he was saying. But he wasn’t saying anything. He was just sitting there.

Then I became aware of a little bird hopping along the ground, going from bush to bush, until finally it was right at his feet. He looked down at it, and a little smile crossed his lips. Then he held out his forefinger to it, and quick as a flash, the little bird hopped up onto it. It looked at him for a moment, and then opened its beak wider than seemed possible and began to sing at the top of its voice. It wasn’t a very melodious song; the little thing didn’t have the greatest voice, but as it sang the smile on Jesus’ face got wider. Finally, the song ended and the two just looked at each other. I was too far away, of course, to actually see the look in the bird’s eyes, but I knew without any doubt at all that it was a look of absolute adoration, the adoration of a creature for its Creator.

Then Jesus slowly lifted his hand with the bird still perched on his outstretched finger, and raising his eyebrows, nodded. I knew what he was saying. He was saying, “Thank you; now go do what I made you for. Go and fly!” Slowly, almost reluctantly, the little bird raised its wings. Then it leapt into the air and soared away, singing as it went.

Without looking at me, Jesus said, “Good morning, John.” He knew I had been there all along! I got to my knees and looked up, and there on his face was the same little smile that had greeted the bird. I fell on my face. “Dear God, this rather ordinary-looking man, who spoke in the country accents of Galilee, with whom I had talked and laughed, from whose dirty, dusty feet I had sometimes untied sandals, whom I had seen tired, frustrated, crying – was God!” Then I felt a hand on my shoulder, and he said quietly, “Get up, my son.” As I rose to my feet I saw that smile again and on either side of it outstretched arms. I threw myself into his embrace, and in that moment felt the arms of Life about me, and more than that, the arms of Love—Eternal Love. Oh yes, I knew.

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