I sit at the kitchen table on a Saturday morning in Lent with a copy of the lectionary and the Gospel of Mark before me. I am waiting for the soup to boil and wondering what to write for this blog. Will I write on Mary or Lazarus? When I study the story of Mary pouring the perfume over Jesus’ feet, I see how Mark’s telling morphs into Judas’ story which leads into the story of Lazarus.
My seven year old son sits beside me drawing unbroken lines in his doodle book. I decide to ask him for help. Here is a child before me. Which story does he need right now? I ask him which of these stories should I start with.
I could focus on Mary or I could focus on Lazarus. I could try and pull out the most salient point. But the way in which he understands anything I try and write ultimately depends on him and the time and the place in which we both sit—here in our squeaky kitchen chairs with the buttered bread between us.
There are more ways of understanding the Gospels than there will be noodles in our soup. Understanding will change as time changes. My son’s knowing will transform depending on where he hears the Gospel story next. Over the years, if my son chooses to keep reading and listening to the Gospels, the exact time and place in which he finds himself will affect the meaning he can give to any Gospel story. The first story of any story is the time and place in which it is told.
I have read the story of Mary and her perfume to my son before, he knows about Lazarus. But, just like that Northern Manitoba Shakespeare tour I did oh-so-many years ago, every day the words reveal something new. With every second that passes meaning can show itself in another way. Nothing reminds me of an ever-transforming reality like an unplanned Saturday with my son.
The soup is starting to steam. Above the stove, I glance at the crucifix I put there. The crucifixion is an account told endlessly since it occurred. Those two familiar lines—one crossing the other. Today when I look at the cross I see one line that represents time, the other that shows me place. The truth of Christ meets us in the exact time and place in which we find ourselves. So, the way to understand the Gospels deeply is to read them and read them again.
I ask my son, “which story should I start with?” He answers, “The one I have not read yet.”