[Today is the Sunday before Passover and Easter. Here’s the last chapter of my forthcoming book: Putting the Bible in Its Place. Off the Pedestal. Out of the Trash Can. Back on the Table.]
* * *
Is Jesus coming back?
No. No more than Elijah’s coming back. (Or Elvis.)
Yet Jewish people keep setting an empty chair at the Passover Seder meal for Elijah. Just in case. But it’s been 3,000 years, and still no Elijah.
The gospels present Jesus in the guise of Elijah. Like Elijah, Jesus fed the hungry and raised the dead. Like Elijah, Jesus was raptured into the heavens. Like Elijah, Jesus is coming back.
Christians can set a chair for Jesus if they’d like. But he’s not coming back.
We’re on our own.
But we are not alone.
We have each other.
We live and move and have our being with creatures great and small in a vast and wondrous community of life. And we live and move and have our being in something we can’t put our finger on. It’s a mystery. It’s unknown. We can give it a name or just let it be.
Of course, we don’t know everything. We’re in the dark half the time. But we keep reaching. We want to know more. We’re unapologetically curious. Unknowns bug us.
But we do know some things. We know we’re resourceful, ingenious, and resilient. And we know we’re capable of great good and great evil. We know hubris brings us down; humility lifts us up. We know we are finite; our days are numbered. We know our planet is finite; its days are numbered.
We can fuss, fume, and fret. We can eat, drink, and laugh ourselves into oblivion. We can wait for deliverance. Or we can spend our mortal days working to make our shared home as beautiful, peaceful, just, whole, and sustainable as we possibly can.
There’s enough for everyone’s need. There’s not enough for everyone’s greed.
Living for self alone is hell. Living for others is heaven.
Jesus said that. He doesn’t have to come back to say it again. But if it takes an empty chair to remember what he said, set an empty chair.
The way that leads to life is no secret. We all know the way. Love is the way.
No, it’s not easy. We lose our way. We stumble. We fall. But we can get back up. So offer your hand to another and take the one offered to you.
Life is hard. But grace abounds.
We’re on our own.
But we are not alone.
See Paula’s “Peaches & Daffodils” on the home page. Posted March 26, 2023
Oh, he returned yesterday.
“EMIRATES STADIUM – Arsenal were a week early. They approached April Fool’s Day for the frenetic first 30 minutes, but Mikel Arteta’s eleven disciples were redeemed by the return of Jesus.
Gabriel Jesus’ first two goals since October, a Ben White shot from close range and a late header from Granit Xhaka ensured the Gunners reclaimed their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League.”
A glorious and gracious expression of the beauty and mystery of Creation.
Years ago I saw a poignant poster in a Sunday school room. It showed a beautiful NASA shot of Mother Earth in the midst of vast space. Underneath were four words: “We need each other!” Perhaps the image of this magnificent globe would be more appropriate than an empty chair, for it speaks of our interdependence. All things are bound together. As G.K. Chesterton remarked, “We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
What a remarkably brilliant testament which I so thoroughly needed! Thank you.
I can’t wait to read your book. Beyond all the science great mysteries still remain. Out of all timeless eternity and universe beyond space, how did this rock become a place of life? The Divine is with us. We get lost and fight wars over the nature of the Divine. The Bible says the Divine is love. Jesus was the embodiment. I don’t pretend to know much more.
It’s not that he hasn’t returned, it is that he has returned so many times and in so many ways and still the Word is not heeded. So many prophets, mystics, saints, teachers, writings, philosophies have and continue to be given to us with only a few heeding their message. As you wrote, “we are on our own but not we are not alone.” Rudolf Steiner wrote that the gift of Christ was that he enabled us to achieve enlightenment on our own and that Mystery Schools, Masters, Initiation were no longer needed. You write that Grace abounds and that we should embrace the Mystery. To me that implies, that there is something that is beyond what our material senses perceive and that is the foundation of our Universe. There is something in each of us, dormant or awake, that is pulled by trying to understand “what it is that we are apart of, and what is that we are.” (from the song Maya by Robin Williamson and sung by the Incredible String Band). After all, who doesn’t enjoy and love to solve a good Mystery.
“There’s enough for everyone’s need; there’s not enough for everyone’s greed.” You’ve put it so succinctly. “We’re on our own, but we are not alone”… nuggets to ponder & digest…love, human kindness, & grace abound… we are in the dark half the time; and the light shines on us all.Thank you for my spiritual breakfast this precious day!
Isn’t it astonishing how little understanding our Christian conservatives have of Jesus’ teachings? From personal experience, hatred is not Love’s nemesis–Fear is. Are the FL DeSantis/legislative laws of late, for example, based on anything resembling Love? No; fear-based, all. They ought to ask themselves how Jesus plans to save them from their fear, ignorance, and intolerance. “Love?,” they ask. “How do we do that?” Readers [of this blog] will be happy to demonstrate.
May each of you experience the profound symbolism of Good Friday and Easter Sunday: Death of your old selves and (Re)Birth of the new, a reliable but not guaranteed gift of the human journey, as Love is requisite. And community is here for you! 💜
The Passover Seder reportedly ends with a third glass of wine, a door opened for Elijah, a glass of wine for him and a glass of water for the prophetess Miriam. The door is closed, songs are sung, and some end with “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The gospel according to ZZ Top has Jesus leaving Chicago for New Orleans, stopping off in Mississippi to turn muddy water into wine, and heading out to California through the forests and the pines. Set a plate if you must, but this gospel suggests that you might never see him, but he will see you all the same. No worries, as “taking care of business is his name.”
Amen, and pass the glazed ham come Easter.
Late response …
I have eaten, over the years, at various dinner tables where the empty chair was for the stranger, the person who might unexpectedly come to your door while a meal is being prepared and served. Best empty-chair explanation ever.
What a wonderful and thoughtful message. I loved the phrase “There’s enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.” As usual your words bring me a ray of hope. Thanks my friend.
Could it be that he’s already here? Ted Lasso, anyone?
Once again in few simple words you have answered the question many ask. Why are we here. To CARE!! To care about those who we come in contact with and those we don’t. To care about this spacecraft we call Earth. To love!! Not the empty chair.
Spirit is already here. — in every one of us! We need to wake up.
We do not set any emply chair for Elijah at our Seders. However, we do set a cup of wine for him. While in over a half century of attending Seders I have never seen Elijah, I have observed that the wine in the cup set out for him almost miraculously disappears. Which, now that I think about, is the point — people can make their own miracles occur.
I read this last night (5/13/23) in a book by Harold Kushner about the 23rd Psalm.
Kushner writes about the views Harvey Cox, a Christian married to a Jew, and the Jewish practice of opening a door to welcome Elijah near the end of a Seder. Cox, writes Kushner, is well aware of the divide between Jews and Christians over the question of whether the messiah has come or is still awaited [and] sees the search for Elijah from a fresh perspective. When we open the door every and and Elijah is not there, Cox suggests that we should finally realize that Elijah is not coming. And the messiah is not coming either. We have to be the messiah. We have to act together to clean up the mess we have made of the world. No one else is going to magically appear and do it for us.”
“The Lord is My Shepher,” Harold S. Kushner, pp. 142-143.