I sat in the nave in quiet recollection. In twenty minutes, I had a meeting with the rector. The sexton came in with a ladder and nodded a hello. The organist looked through hymnbooks and tried out tunes for Sunday. I flipped through the prayerbook, landing on the canticles, great songs from the bible that I pray each day as part of the Offices. The Surge, Illuminare appeared between my hands.
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.
For behold, darkness covers the land;
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.
But over you the Lord will rise,
and his glory will appear upon you.
Nations will stream to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.
What a beautiful song! I close my eyes as the words roll over me. Arise, shine! and Over you the Lord will rise and Nations will stream to your light. O God, I prayed, let your light shine through me; I don’t care about kings and nations for myself, but let those around me see your light and be drawn to it.
Your gates will always be open;
by day or night they will never be shut.
They will call you, The City of the Lord,
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Violence will no more be heard in your land,
ruin or destruction within your borders.
You will call your walls, Salvation,
and all your portals, Praise.
My heart and mind still unsettled, I took a deep breath, and then I took another. My mind recollected the phrase open your heart, and I felt the gates of my heart open wide to God. I sat and breathed, and tried to use centering prayer techniques. Listen, spoke my word of recollection when my mind began thinking. Listen.
The sun will no more be your light by day;
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.
The Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
My face felt warm, as if a light was shining upon it, and my eyes opened briefly to see the glorious backlit stained-glass window behind the altar. There Jesus stands, hands outstretched in greeting or blessing or both. My eyes closed again; there Jesus stood, hands outstretched in greeting or blessing or both. My Lord! my mind cried out to him, and I fell to my knees at his feet. Tears flowed freely from my eyes, and I wanted to wash his feet as the sinful woman had during that dinner at the Pharisee’s house. I brushed the dust from them, looked up into his face, and said Jesus, what do I do? I don’t have enough hair to wipe them dry! Jesus laughed.
How to describe the laugh of Christ! This is a man who has seen the very best and the very worst of mankind. This is a man, who was and is a God, and who had to live with such indignities as itching bug bites and sand in embarrassing places and the hilariously embarrassing sound of flatulence.
Jesus laughed joyfully, with his entire being, until he plopped onto the ground next to me. He wiped tears from the corners of his eyes, put an arm around my shoulders, and gave me a squeeze, like you would to a guy friend — casual, fond, knowing, human.
I laughed out loud, too, right there in the nave with the organist practicing and the sexton hammering. My eyes opened and I looked right into the face of Jesus in the stained-glass window, and I laughed with him.
You don’t have to have hair, you know, he said to me.
I know. I just…
I know. I’m glad. You’re a good kid.
And that was all. I was left still chuckling, and I smile now whenever I look at the window behind the altar. See, Jesus has a wonderful sense of humor. He’d have to, you know, to deal with all of us! I know, when I see Jesus and get smart-aleck attitude or joy or downright hilarity, that the vision is true.
The shortest verse in the bible happens when Jesus arrives in Bethany to find his dear friend Lazarus dead: Jesus wept. How is it that Jesus laughed never made it into holy scripture?