Jesus in our time – 2

Jesus in our time – 2

We were surprised by a knock at our door. I had been surprised that Susan had come home early. She was surprised to find me smoking a cigarette. I was not surprised when she did not believe me when I told her that it was the first cigarrette I’d smoked in years. We were surprised by a knock at the door.


He was a young man, shorter, slight of build but sturdy and with a strong posture, clean shaven, with tidy short haircut. He wore fresh denim jeans, blue running shoes (canvas, the kind that are designed more for everyday than for actually, you know, running), and shy smile. His eyes shone forward into our living room.


“You might wonder why I’ve knocked at your door.”

I gave a little side-shrug/head-tilt. Susan smiled wide. Both gestures were meant to say, “Well, now that you mention it, wouldn’t mind hearing what this is all about.”

“I’m a traveler. I come from afar.”


“I am not sure from how afar. I can tell you that where I come from, we do not dress like this, nor speak like this.”

“Do you want to come in and rest while you explain? It’s a lazy Sunday morning. We were just going to make some pancakes with bananas, served with coffee and the New York Times crossword puzzle.”

“We’re not going to church,” explained Susan.

“I’ve been briefed on the customs of this time and place,” the stranger assured us as he followed my lead towards the small square wooden table that we keep in the corner of the living room next to the kitchen and then, as now, I pull out a little bit so we can fit chairs around all sides and feel like we’re having a real meal at the table like a family like tradition like the generations flowing seamlessly into one another chatting and chortling across time and space at one grand table stretching from here back to the dusty savannas of prehistoric Africa.

The stranger laughed. “An interesting image!”

“What’s that?, a sparsely furniture hardwood floor living room?” said Susan.

“No, the table stretching through all time and space, binding all generations together as an active, chatty family.”

Susan looked around for something like that image. The walls were mostly bare, with a couple scenes of the Foothills that Susan had painted, and one I’d taken a picture of, that had stray cat holed up in a little cave under a basalt ridge, a little gray stray cat pretending to be a puma or some other wild thing.

“You read my thoughts!” said I.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve been doing that. It’s a new thing. I sometimes get mixed up about what people say versus what they just think. The people who were briefing me said that I did it before as well. They even had a book full of things I’d done, some of which I’d actually done, at least kind of. And they showed me a couple parts where I seem to know what people are thinking of without them saying it out loud.”

“So then it’s not a new thing.”

“Well, I don’t know. I’m not really sure what to make of the book. It’s pretty good, though, on the whole. And then, the funny thing is, they bundle it together with the scriptures, and make one big book, and say it’s all one story, the greatest story ever told, which is flattering, since, you see, I’m like the headliner.”

“Ah, so you’re Jesus Christ. But you still haven’t explained to what we owe the pleasure of this visit in the eager morning sunlight of forever-summer here in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains.”

“I came as soon as I heard.”

“Heard what?”

“I came as soon as I heard you praying for God to help you save the country.”

“But surely lots of people, with all kinds of crazy ideas about what ‘helping’ means, are praying for that.”

“Yeah, and Amble doesn’t even have any very concrete ideas how the country can be saved, nor does he have the discipline to get off the treadmill of work, work, work, work, work, lounge, drink, lounge, drink, lounge, work, work … ”

“Susan! You don’t have to say that to Jesus! He already knows my failings. And he showed up anyway. So clearly he thinks I’ve got potential.”

Jesus laughed and shook his head, “No, not really. I mean, yes, of course, in a spiritual sense, the Kingdom is available to all and I’m glad to help you renounce folly and rest upon and draw strength from the Pure Love exploding infinitely beyond being and nonbeing — as you’ve put it. But I’ve had a look at the country and I’ve had a look at you, and I don’t think you can save the country. Not unless … well, look here, what if I were to tell you that you weren’t really all that gifted as an author, that you’re better in the fray, in the conversation, that you’re best at organizing, communicating, at creating a living, moving community.”

I sighed so deep my shoulders collapsed through the floorboards and are still echoing as they crash through miles of stone towards the molten center of this curve-balling earth.

Susan said, “He’s a good editor! And he and Bartleby do the philosophy pieces together. And I, for one, remain convinced that what this world needs right now is a Something Deeperism founded on Pure Love and tempered with years facing the loneliness, the Hurt!”

Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior nodded politely. A plate piled high with fresh seven-grain flapjacks with banana slices and blueberries embedded in their soft underbellies appeared, along with pasture-raised butter, organic crunchy peanut butter, real maple syrup, and organic applesauce on the side, cinnamon there too. And coffee and tea in clay carafes that looked like they came out of a museum shelf from the ancient lost but now dug up Middle East, and the table set with the finest china and silverware.

“Well, shall we eat?”

“Do you always do this?”

“No, but I’m very hungry. The people briefing me said they expected I’d want to fast for forty days and forty nights. I didn’t understand the logic. Something to do with the same devil but new temptations. I for one, know only one true evil: Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, by which I mean contradicting me.”

Here Jesus cracked up until a stray-spray of coffee went down the wrong pipe and he started coughing and had to open-handed thump his chest — demonstrating via this merriment both a knowledge of the Christian Bible and a sense of humor.

“You should consider the things they say. They’ve spent their lives studying you, I imagine.”

“You can’t study me anymore than I can study you. To know a person, you break bread with them. Or pancakes.”

“I feel like that underestimates the power of the biblical literature, and completely skips over the possibility of a spiritual union with the Living Christ, which I’m sure your briefers have long believed they possess.”

“Are you going to argue with Jesus Christ?”

“Maybe, if I think he’s being flippant and more interested in pancakes than the Truth.”

Susan, who had started gathering the ingredients for pancakes, and who now, smelling the Miracle of the Lazy Sunday Morning Pancakes, was tucking into the table, touched Jesus’s right forearm, and said, “I’m so glad you’ve come to visit! Amble only ever spends time with me and Bartleby, and neither of us now how to heal the Hurt. … Did you (looking now at me) tell him about the Hurt?”

“He doesn’t have to tell me. If there’s one thing I know, it is every affliction of every sort in every human! You’d think such intimate association with the suffering of those around me would drive me mad, or make me callous. But (Jesus raises here a finger next to a stern eye, head turned slightly towards the finger near the eye) that’s not how it works: for the Truth, Amble, is that we are all One, joined in the Love that Knows; and so compassion is not just a nice thing to do: compassion is the path through and to the Truth of the human condition.”

“I know that! I could’ve written that! I think we did write that. In an essay somewhere. Take that, Haters!, or, I guess, Ignorers! Jesus Christ is quoting me! So, who’s worth reading now?! I humbly ask you to consider.”

Susan said, “It was more Bartleby’s phraseology. I remember, because you’d been jealous of it. You took me out dancing to show him up, since he’s always so alone like you used to be until you found me and now we’re alone together except I of course have my girlfriends, who are a source of comfort, companionship, and a happiness that I believe is more shared-joy than shared-frivolity. Anyway, it was mean what you did. Although I don’t think Bartleby noticed. He had, if memory serves, taken the form of a great albatross and drifted far out to sea, earlier that same afternoon. So, I guess it was a self-contained temper tantrum, and not so bad. We had a good night dancing.”

“Don’t listen to Susan,” I said,”She’s always wanted to make me look bad in front of the Savior of Humankind.”

“That’s not true!,” said Susan, though garbled because she’d started chewing some pancake with melted butter and running syrup.

“These are good pancakes,” I added, “Right up there with milk and honey.”

Jesus agreed with a little laugh. Almost a giggle, really. Like a small child’s belly laugh that giggles out with unrestrained and completely innocent merriment. A kind, generous, open laughter. Compare that, if you will, with the jeering, mean-spirited, us-vs-them, name-calling laughter that fills so much spacetime of late. There is such a thing as a kind humor, one that opens the heart, rather than closes it, one that relishes and frolics in the brother-, sister-, yeah even them-hood of all: There is such a thing as kind delight, and it is not the same as a laughter that accepts only those who rub your fucking belly right you bunch of babies forgive if for a moment I lost the merriment of the up and down turning porcelain-painted-horse-reeling merry-go-round.

“But seriously, JC, if you can help me help the country, I’ll do whatever you ask of me. What are you thinking? You gonna run for president?”

“Yes. And you will be my campaign manager. And Susan will be in charge of data analytics. And Bartleby will run my letter-writing campaign.”

“Okay, sure, I’m in. Susan?”

Susan nodded sagaciously, took a sip of black coffee from a white porcelain cup with thin blue figures tumbling and dancing around its midriff. (Susan’s midriff, by the by, is perfect: taut, but soft and supple; ready and discerning, but not pushy or spiteful, rather yielding and forgiving. Of course, if I may be permitted one by-upon-by, it couldn’t be the gently bending respite it is were it not bookended by such opulently maternal considerations.) Susan then nodded sagaciously some more, “Bartleby will definitely want the letter campaign. (After a pause, a sip of amazing and, due to its miraculous origins, eco-footprint-free coffee, and another sagacious pause) He’ll make Amble help him, though.”

Jesus smiled. Jesus of Nazareth smiled and gave a little forward shoulder shrug. “It’s going to be a team effort.”

“We’ll have to run as Independents. It is too late to get on either the Democratic or Republican tickets. Normally I’d be worried about splitting the ticket and helping Trump hammer democracy — possibly into the ground, never to spring back up into the joyously-efficient (he said joyously, meaning spiritually) system where mortals duke it out in honest words and within and for the law, not with lies and in and for brute force and mindless power: I swoon here for democracy: a grand arena slash performance hall where we all win because we together seek and find win-wins and so at the end of the day go home wiser and better and as friends; a shared platform atop which we as-one weave a government and society based on the understanding that we are all in this together and when you win, I win too. Where was I? Yes, normally I’d fear that running an Independent who put sharing and serving ahead of bullying pride would split the anti-Trump vote and possibly, world-historic-ironically hand the victory to the very scoundrel that we wish — for the good of all, even his own wayward heart and thought — to defeat. But, if Jesus Christ is running for president of the United States of America, well, Jesus Christ is going to be the next president of the United States of America. No questions asked.”

Susan looked down at her half-eaten pancake, warm and soft, holding and contemplating both richest softest creamiest butter and sweet sweet syrup (Yes, Susan! I am thinking of you while I describe your breakfast. So sue me already!). “I worry … If Jesus isn’t the Jesus they expect, they might not vote for him — whether they believe he’s Jesus Christ or not.”

“Good point,” and I took a sip of darkest coffee, beamed from Heaven down into my lonely hair-schemed life; “Good coffee. But, Jesus, do you have a plan for this? For letting everybody know that you’re Jesus Christ and we can all trust you to do what’s best for everyone, and for the systems, organizations, laws, and norms wherein we three hundred million and more shelter, and with which we would if we could do more good than harm in the wider world? After all, last time you were not very political. At least not overtly. ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ and all that.”

“We won’t tell them.”

“Then you’ll lose. And we’ll split the ticket. And Trump will win. And democracy for by and of the People will suffer a perhaps fatal blow, at least here in this grand experiment of democracy on a large, continent-sprawling scale — and bundled now with the most dangerous weaponry the world has ever known. Is that your goal?”

“No. My goal is to win the presidency. I aim to steer the nation towards a healthy, sustainable liberal democratic republic. My goal’s first and foremost defeating Donald Trump and those who would pervert truth, justice, and the American way with lies, bullying, corruption, cheating, misdirection and confusion. My purpose is the same as always: To love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength, and myself and everyone else with the love appropriate for a child of God, for a ray of the One-Light that Eden saw and every nook-and-cranny since then has seen play, and play well — play a life overflowing. Susan, could you pass the peanut butter, apple sauce, and cinnamon: This is a hotcakes-topping I must surely try!”

Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor: Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andrew Mackenzie Watson

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