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Intersections On the Way

Tom Sturch

Rocks in Water 1.

There is a cruciform linkage at the point of the Sabbath in the Decalogue that, try as I may, just will not be reduced to a graphic of the cross. What a teaching tool that would make if I could just figure it out. It's an intriguing, if daunting puzzle. If you want to play along, then imagine the first three commandments as the vertical pier of our our relationship with God, and the last six as the horizontal beam of our relationships with mankind. They hinge at the point of the fourth commandment, the Sabbath. Please, try it for yourself and let me know how it goes.   


The Rule of Three is an actual thing and innately human. The Latin phrase omne trium perfectum says how three is intimate perfection to us. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Liquid, solid, and gas. The three bears, Stooges, blind mice and Musketeers. Three outs per inning. The list is endless. God describes Himself with this same three-ness in revealing his persons, and so, created in his image, we identify with it in creation. While reading in Matthew, I became aware that chapters 12 through 14 say who Jesus is: Lord, teacher, and healer. So, maybe Christ is symbolized best in triangles. Or maybe the sign of the fish, the ichthus: mirrored arcs that break the reflective plane and cross at the end, a symbol of story and reversals. But Jesus, also in Matthew, said the sēmeion, or sign, was Jonah's three days in the whale, and that all of Nineveh repented.


I have a friend, a lover of etymology, who has created his own vocabulary with homonyms that reveal the true derivations of words we dumb down in common parlance. “Conversation” in his language is “converse-action”, which reveals the potential for conflict in the word we've come to associate with pleasantries. The Latin versus means “to turn” as com means “with.” The literal result is “to turn with” and connotes a struggle, mutually enjoined.


Another friend sent me the photo above and suggested I write a poem about it. This happens on occasion. People intuit poetry. They feel something true about the image, where the material and ephemeral intersect, but they need the words. The trick to poetry is less about the object than revealing the relationship between the image and the one holding it. It's in the transformation as they enter into conversation that is never really finished. So that is what I wrote: Say more, said the little girl / to the frozen lake / about time and desire.


The Temple at Jerusalem was an intersection. In a scene as unsettling as the opening of MacBeth, Mary and Joseph are confronted with prophecy when arriving at the Temple. Instead of priestly ceremony, they encounter Simeon, a righteous Temple loiterer given to divine oracles, who worshiped God at the sight of the baby. Then, an eighty-year-old prophetess, Anna, emerged and praised God, and spoke of the child to all who longed for the redemption of Israel. Simeon pronounced that the child was set for the “fall and rising again of many in Israel,” and “a sign which shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” For one who was said to be looking for the consolation of Israel, Simeon's words sound a portent of conflict.


We live in days where hopes for reconciliation, the potential for resolution, seem fleeting. Jerusalem at the time of Christ, the historians say, was just such a time, when the Pax Romana rose to put down the conflicts of east and west. I'd like to think that the Christ could be shaped into a compelling graphic that crosses the barriers of cultural suspicion and gets to the matter of peace. But he confounds our simple forms and gives us relationships – face to face, with conflicted minds and fragile hearts – where he keeps residence as the only form that transforms.


And on the fortieth day after his birth, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, the place where heaven and earth kiss.