A wide spot in my imagination.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pulling Teeth, the Rutter "Requiem" and Good Friday

When I was a child, I hated having my baby teeth pulled out. I was much happier with a bloody, gnarly, hanging-by-a-sinew mess than I was with the brief ounce of agony it took to make way for a new tooth to sprout.

Tonight, my eight year-old daughter pulled out a tooth as our church choir sang the last movement of John Rutter’s “Requiem.” In the instant of the gentle instrumental interlude as the piece segues from a soloist singing, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,” to the chorus singing, “Lux aeterna luceat eis Domine,” (“Light eternal shine on us, God”) my daughter quietly pulled out her lower right canine.

Then she held it up and grinned.

Thanks to a miracle of life that I understand biologically, but am amazed by emotionally, the new growth pushed aside the old.

It’s funny how we people hang on to old ways. I was at a meeting of school parents last week to talk about a new program for kids. The main objection many parents seemed to have to the new program is that it’s not the old program.

Ain’t that how life is, though? I don’t like asparagus, a child whines. How do you know, the parent asks, you’ve never had it?

And far worse are the old ways to which humanity at-large clings: Killing, war, violence, retribution, neglect, gossip, greed. Soul-killers, all. That we crave.

Once upon a time, a new voice sang out with hope. The powers of the old ways thought the tried-but-probably-not-true path was best. “Kill the new kid,” the empire shouted. “Hammer him up to an old fence post outside of town, then stick him with a butcher knife strapped on a broomstick.”

And they did. And he died.

But something happened. And some of the people standing around saw something even newer. In vulnerability and weakness, they saw the pathway to new life. Some of the people, not all, saw that suffering love offers a transformative power that outweighs the fence posts and butcher knives of crucifixion. Some of the people saw that forgiveness outweighs fighting. Some of the people saw a new kind of power—the old kind of power says that the best you can do is to stomp on everybody and everything that troubles you; the new kind of power loves the stomped-on, the standers-by, and even the stompers.

Somewhere about the time somebody sang, “Blessed are the dead,” an old growth gave way to new life. That’s Good Friday, the instant of the gentle segue, just before the angel chorus, or some such group, burst out with, “Light eternal.”

I’d like to think that God held up a tooth and grinned.

Note: The third paragraph from the end owes much to some writing by Walter Brueggemann.