Sometimes a man hangs from these interlocking beams, naked all but a loincloth. And his eyes watch you as you pass.
I see Jesus everyday as I cycle along these roads, Sometimes he is made of stone other times from wood, he is large and small, painted and sculpted. sometimes red paint mimics blood trickling down his arms and feet. But he is always there. The silent statue on the side of the road.
I have gotten quite used to these encounters, so much so that I often pass by with out a second thought... But it was as I cycled through the back roads of Hungary, through the forgotten towns that no tourists ever visit. That I saw him. Crudely painted on a piece of very thin old hardboard, his arm was broken and was hanging limply from the wooden cross he was stuck too. No gold or precious stones, no beautiful carvings.
A flat, lifeless, old and discarded Jesus hanging on the side of the road.
Initially it shocked me, even offended me that this precious act could be portrayed in such a way. But the irony struck me that this was possibly the most honest and telling statue of them all. It stood out because of it's poverty, but it was no different from every other replicated image of the cross. A symbol so brutal, and yet so pure and full of love. Mass produced, cast in stone, hung around our necks, and lost in a maze of familiarity.
The thing is as I cycle may way through these winding roads I realise that so much of my life is just like these replicated images, I have become so familiar with Christianity. With it's language, traditions and habits, like a camilian I fit in, saying and doing the right things. Sometimes I wonder if my words and prayers realy come from the heart, or if i'm just painting the tomb of my super spitual ego. Being seen to have all sorted when really I don't have a clue.
The thing is though that I have come to realise a second irony. This cardboard Jesus, was poor in every way. It had no pretence to hide behind, no beauty of its own, or value in it's materials. But the reality was, that, so were the people who he belonged too, the children ran around in dirty clothes and no shoes, and the houses looked like they might fall down at any moment.
When it comes to the cross, to the unconditional, furious love of God. We are all increadibly poor, we will never really get it, understand or accept it fully. Our faith will always be small in comparison to the faith God has in us. And our love for Him and for each other is like a drop in the ocean. We are broken, selfish, messed up and so beautifully human. But if the message of the cross that this cardboard Jesus so poorly depicts, is really true then the reality is that it's OK... Our father is under no illusions about our poverty, No matter how hard we try to cover it up. And he loves us completely, unconditionally, always...
Even as I write this I'm not even sure if I believe what I'm saying, life if full of questions, hurts and disappointments, and sometimes I wonder if this could really be true. But what if it is? What if Jesus really is who they say he is? I doubt, I hope, mess up, make up. And some how keep coming back... To Him.
So maybe are offerings are weak at best, and our motives selfish even. Our worship repetitive, and faith learned. But maybe that's ok. We give what we have, and no need to pretend that it's any more.
So this is my cardboard Jesus...
My faithless prayers, my empty promises, my foolish words, my self-serving love, bad habbits, addictions, flaws, fears, passions, loves, questions, masks, desperate cries. And all the other bits inbetween...