Mostly Dead?

The Princess Bride is one of the pinnacles of human achievement.  If you are not on board with this basic fact, I am not sure we have too much to say to each other.  (However, I am only going to talk about the movie for about 1 more  short paragraph, so I hope you will make it through.)


There comes a point where the protagonist is thought to be defeated.  But it is explained  that all is not lost… He is only “Mostly dead.”  Our hero is revived (sort-of) and goes on to win the day.

The humor of this scene, of course, pivots on the fact that death is a binary condition; in other words, we either are dead, or are not dead.  There is no ‘mostly dead.’  Or at least it appears that way.  I am beginning to suspect that this scene, like much great humor, actually has a bit of wisdom running around beneath the surface.

I think that Jesus is a good illustration of the point.  It is not at all that Jesus was only “mostly dead.”  In fact, I think that Jesus was very, very dead.

There is of course, the physical aspect of it.  Sometimes (ok, most times) I suspect we Christians are a morbid and unhealthy group, and we spend too much time in grizzly love with the details of his execution.  On the whole, I don’t spend much time and energy pondering this aspect of things.  But I believe that they are true.  And they are relevant to the point at hand.  So consider, with me, the physical:

The number of lashes he was assigned to was nearly equal to the number given for a death sentence in the first place.  So he begins the whole process, “mostly dead.”

He is beaten repeatedly, forced to carry a cross large enough to nail him to.  His sentence is carried out.  Crucifixion is a diabolical, brilliant, despicable punishment.  But when he does not die fast enough, an impatient soldier finishes the job with his spear.

But the physical portion is just one aspect of the whole thing.

Jesus was dead politically.  Crucifixion was the worst that the Roman’s had.  It was reserved for the bottom of the barrel.  Subjecting him to this kind-of death was a way for him to be set apart by the authorities, marked as the worst among them.

Jesus was dead religiously.  The Hebrew authorities, who claimed authority over all aspects of his people’s lives, are the ones who turned him over because they did not have the ability to punish Jesus in the ways that they wanted to.

Jesus was dead socially.  He had invested in Judas, and in Peter.  There betrayal was only the most obvious.  Because the rest of them all scattered when things fell apart.

Jesus was dead idealogically.  He had made grand claims around who he was, and how things were changing.  And yet, it seemed like his drama was going to end just like all the others.

Jesus was as dead as dead could be.

The guy in the Princess Bride who brings back Wesley is named ‘Miracle Max.’  And bringing somebody back from physical death (even if it is only mostly dead) is a pretty cool miracle.

Yet…  Jesus’ return is a whole different thing.  It is not only a physical return.  His ressurection is also political, and religious, and social, and idealogical.  This is a pretty cool thing for lots of reasons.  But this morning, the thing I am thinking about is how this is something I get, too.  No matter how dead I am, no matter what ways I am dead, there is something more.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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