A week ago today during prayers I suddenly felt grateful for embodiment. First, for my own body. Even when it feels pain, I realize it’s the body’s alarm system that something has gone wrong. And when it feels pleasure, ecstasy lifts me onto a different plane of reality, and I know what’s good and true and beautiful.
I did not stop at thanking God for my own body, but began a stream of “thank you’s” for the embodiment of others. For my parents: my mother’s body growing me, my father’s body making love with my mom, together conceiving me. Then the bodies of my partner, family, friends, pets, as well as lovers of times past. And nature and community and the cosmos. It was becoming an American-Psalmist-Walt-Whitman-style song of praise. I thanked God for their touch, their warmth, their holding me, their smiling at me, their crying with me.
But as quickly as gratitude flooded my thoughts, a stream of confessions followed: times when I mishandled or demanded or exploited or ignored or judged or passed by bodies, including the earth’s body, the Body of Christ, and my own body. The elevation of Paradise is never far from the Fall of human mismanagement.
Then I remembered Becki Jayne Harrelson’s painting, Judas Kiss, and its discomfiting, tender, and sensuous depiction of Judas handing over a nearly naked and thus vulnerable Jesus to suffering with a kiss. We most often hurt those we love, and they us. Many of us have been “handed over to suffering” by a kiss in various expressions, from the kiss of baptismal waters, to the kiss of the laying on of hands, to the kiss of promising relationships. And our own bodies have handed us over to suffering through artificial pleasures that seemed good and true and beautiful at the time.
The eroticism of Becki Jayne’s painting cannot be missed, the eros that impels us both to another’s body and to another’s spirit, and to God’s body and Spirit. (For more about the artist and painting, see below.)
The day after these revelations, I found myself praying that I wish I could see God, who evolved a wondrous world and whose creative work also evolved you and me. I opened my eyes as another realization came—I was seeing God. Pictures of family and friends and ancestors on the credenza, the tree outside the window holding a nest of baby birds, the fuchsia-colored orchid flowering in the other room after a long dormancy, our dog Hobbes snoring on the sofa, the furniture and rugs and the people who crafted them, my own arms and legs. And again my gratitude was followed by confession: for betraying, denying, abandoning, and doubting this face of God.
As if that were not enough, the next day on the front page of the newspaper appeared an image of the cosmos as it looked 370,000 years after the Big Bang, looking like an elongated speckled Easter egg in blue, red, orange, and yellow. Inside the paper I read the article associated with the picture, reporting that the age of the universe has been upgraded to 13.8 billion years old. As I turned back to the front page, the unfolded paper revealed again the colorful cosmos, but this time juxtaposed by a full page ad on the back page featuring a model—and all I could think of in that moment was, “from this (the universe) to this (the human being).” God’s countenance is constantly lifted upon us, no matter how much we look away, turn away, are blinded by tears, have doubts, or simply fail to see.
“Judas Kiss” image Copyright © 1993 by Becki Jayne Harrelson. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
“Judas Kiss” words Copyright © 2013 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Suggested uses: personal reflection, contemporary readings in worship, conversation starters in classes. Past posts are available in the archive in the right rail on the blogsite.
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Becki Jayne Harrelson painted “Judas Kiss” during Lent and Easter 1993 “in response to the verbal gay bashing that Congress was doing” over then President Clinton’s attempt to rescind the ban against gays and lesbians serving in the military. It is part of a series of Christian iconography intended to serve as “a narrative about sexuality in harmony with spirituality.” For further explanation, click here.
See another in her series in the post, “Faggot” Jesus.
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