Saturday, April 30, 2011
Cletus, Ricky and Elrod were lifelong friends. Born and raised in rural Oklahoma, not one of them had ever even ventured outside the county let alone the state. When they weren’t at work, they spent nearly every waking minute together, usually camped out on Ricky’s porch. Though they (probably) weren’t related, they were closer than brothers, and they fought like it, too. Once their daily case of beer was about three-quarters kicked, they’d start to argue. And the question they argued about was always the same: which of them was the best at ‘noodling.’
For the uninitiated, noodling is “hand fishing,” usually for very large and ornery catfish. It’s as basic and raw as fly fishing is subtle and complex. You strip down to your shorts, jump in the river, and shove your arm into whatever underwater crevasse you come across. If there’s a catfish inside, especially an angry one guarding eggs, it’ll bite down on your hand, or even half way up your arm. Then you just haul it in…if it does drown you first.1
Noodling can be dangerous at times, because there’s lots of things that inhabit underwater holes besides catfish, like big snapping turtles, water moccasins, razor-toothed beavers and even alligators. More than a few folks have given fingers, hands or even half and arm for the love of the sport.
Cletus, Ricky and Elrod were evenly matched. Although Ricky held the record for the largest fish, Elrod was always the one who’d discover the small caves that no one else had ever found; he’d even lost the pinky on his right hand two years ago to something that lurked in the river. One Friday afternoon, those three knocked off work early and knocked back a few. True to form, they started arguing about noodling. After a while it got out of hand and they nearly came to blows. So they piled, half-drunk, into Cletus’ truck and sped toward the river.
Throwing off their shoes and shirts, each of them swore they’d prove, once and for all, which of them was the best. It wasn’t long before Ricky hauled up a nice thity-pounder. Only fifteen minutes later, Cletus caught hold of a 50-lb monster than darned-near drowned him. Just then, Elrod, true to his talent, reached his arm into a new hole that he’d never found before. And with a splash and a gurgle, Elrod was gone. It happened in a heartbeat; something had consumed Elrod. Cletus and Ricky locked arms, and Cletus reached into the mysterious darkness. Ricky’s arm was almost pulled out of its socket as Cletus, too, disappeared into the murky deep.
With a drunken cry of rage, Ricky hurled himself toward the hole and instantaneously felt his entire body engulfed in the maw of something huge, unknown and immensely powerful. The great fish swirled and rolled Ricky around in his mouth, stripping him naked and scraping his flesh. Inexplicably, Ricky felt himself being vomited out, and landed face down on the muddy bank.
Blinking away the mud, Ricky’s eyes locked on the eyes of the great fish, a fish unlike anything he had ever seen. With just a glance, Ricky knew the fish had spared him on purpose. It had stripped Ricky of absolutely everything, right down to the suit God gave him; he felt utterly powerless. As the fish swam up the great river, it glanced back at Ricky with a look that said, unmistakably, “I will come back.”
At three o’clock on Friday, Jesus breathed his last. Drunk with their victory, Sin, Death and the Devil decided to knock off early. They’d certainly earned a little recreation time. But, seeing as though they hadn’t actually done anything fun in, like, forever, they couldn’t figure out what to do. So they went to hang out on the Devil’s porch.
Now, even though these three hung out a lot, they didn’t really like each other very much. In fact, Death had really been having a rough time dealing with Sin and the Devil. Ever since this guy named Lazarus had busted out of Death’s prison, Sin and the Devil had teased him mercilessly. Quite frankly, Death was feeling pretty bad about himself. And since nothing made Death feel as good as working, he decided to make his rounds at the graveyard. Sin and the Devil, thoroughly bored by now, tagged along.
They had never really watched Death go about his business; he was good. Really good, really quick. He had mastered this technique of reaching his hands into the tombs and, without even looking, would deftly snatch what was his. Sin thought it looked kind of fun, so he asked if he could give it a whirl. Death pointed to a tomb, “Try that one. It’s brand new.”
But as soon as Sin reached his gnarled hand inside, he vanished. One second he was there, then…gone. The Devil looked alarmed, but Death reassured him, “Don’t worry. He might have latched on to a prophet or something. They can really put up a fight sometimes. But just in case, lock arms with me so I’ve got some more leverage.”
Death reached inside and felt himself engulfed…consumed….swallowed up. He felt like…nothing. The Devil, too, was encased in an unbearable, blazing light. It pummeled him, stripped him, rolled him around then spit him outside the tomb, naked, beaten and very afraid.
1600 years ago, the brilliant and eloquent St. John Chrysostom preached in his Easter sermon,
“[Hell] is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.”2
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and giving life to those in the tomb.
And he will come back.
1 The world record for noodling catfish is 123 lbs. 9 oz,caught in 1998 in Independence, Kansas. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/young_naturalists/monsters/index.html
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Monday, April 18, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
In our best understanding that means something like 'live normally, among normal people; but don't be corrupted by the values of secular society."
in other words, do the stuff everyone does but do it differently. let something other than materialism or fame or lust or whatever animate you as you live.
i think, however, that many christian people have gotten this exactly backwards. we often try to live OUT of the world, but find ourselves still living ACCORDING to the values of the world.
on a recent trip to florida i saw a large bilboard that said "christian actors and singers and musicians wanted...this is what everyone in hollywood is after."
if i'm honest, i really really really hope that this bilboard means
"hollywood is presently open to the gospel in a new way"
but i'm quite certain it doesn't.
i've noticed a saddening trend among christian people - not only in the performing arts, but especially there - to emphasize their christian identity while chasing after the dreams of sex, money, and power. the christian music industry seems to be among the worst offenders, with pop princesses and boy bands galore, each trying to find a way to cross-over into the secular marketplace.
to be clear - i don't think it's bad to want success, or even want to be an artist with a large audience. i just think we ought to acknowledge that when we [a] isolate and segregate ourselves from the rest of the population by signing with 'christian' labels to do 'christian' things we're no longer being obedient to be IN the world; likewise, when we [b] use our 'christian' stuff to try and be famous, get rich, search after outside validation, etc then we must acknowledge we are now OF the world.
i have lots of grace for people who fall into this trap, but i would like to point out that this is, in fact, a trap. and that, by falling into it, we're disobedient in at least 2 directions.
we've got to think critically about who we are and what we're doing, and we've got to recognize that jesus' instructions about "in" but not "of" aren't meant to only be a warning, but also a mandate.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad