This statue is ambiguous. It’s a statue of Jesus. Thanks to angalmond’s comment on this bloggage I now know that it represents Jesus weeping and is in St Joseph Old Cathedral in Oklahoma City. It is opposite the Oklahoma City National Memorial and is a response to the bomb that killed and injured hundreds of people in 1995.
But to me it also looks like Jesus is doing a face-plant of incredulity. Both seem to be fair responses to my flawed attempts at being a follower of his. The Bible makes it clear that our actions affect God: we can cause him to experience sorrow.
I believe that when I get things wrong it doesn’t just affect me and those I love, it also creates a fracture in my relationship with God. It causes God distress. Jesus weeps because of it. I believe that there are times too when Jesus must do a metaphorical (or maybe literal) face-plant with some of the things I get wrong: responding like Homer Simpson: “D’oh!” or Victor Meldrew: “I don’t believe it!” (sorry if these culturally bound references don’t make sense to you).
Now, let’s be serious for a moment because I am not trying to trivialise this and I am sorry if you feel I have. The stuff that we call ‘sin’ is awful and has at its root a selfishness that elevates ourselves, our wants and our ambitions above those of God. It’s a subversive act that is a reversal of the true order of things. Whatever you think about the Garden of Eden narrative with Adam, Eve, a serpent and an apple* at its heart is the heart of the problem for each of us… it’s our story too – we displace God.
If I asked you to name the Ten Commandments I wonder how many you would get…
Adultery, murder, lying, theft… yes they are all in there.
Coveting, honouring parents.. yes there’s something about that too.
Keeping the Sabbath (ie resting once a week) is in there.
and then there are the ones about not making idols, not dishonouring God and having no other Gods.
If you analyse them they are all about putting ‘me’ before others and before God. I have boldified the first person in my explanations below to try to illustrate the point I made earlier:
Adultery is about satisfying my desires rather than honouring my commitments
Murder is saying my life is more important than someone else’s
Lying is based on the assumption that truth is less important than the reason why I lied
I steal because I want something that someone else has
Coveting (envy in action) happens because I am dissatisfied with what I have
Dishonouring parents happens when I consider myself more important than them
Not keeping a Sabbath is saying that I know better than my Creator about what my body and mind needs
Making idols is an act of rebellion against God to give myself or something else credit that is due to God and saying that in my opinion something or someone is worth more than him
Dishonouring God is more than being disrespectful, it’s a statement that I don’t consider his reputation or character to be worth anything and by extension I consider that my opinion of him is the one that matters
More often than not the breach of the ‘no other gods’ is because I have put myself in that place – I am in charge of my life thank you very much: an expression of the ‘I know better than God’ syndrome
So, if the Top Ten can be expressed in this way I reckon all other things that are sins have the same root: the first person singular. Me, myself, I…
Sin causes such sorrow to God because it’s a distortion and subversion of the way things should be – the optimal way in which he created things (and what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have redeemed) which is us in a relationship with him. It’s a denial of the relationship between me and him – the thing that he prizes more than anything else in Creation. And astonishingly we find through Jesus and his teaching that if we seek a ‘You’ relationship with God where we put him first he responds by making it an ‘us’ relationship with him.
So does Jesus weep and face-plant? Maybe not literally (or maybe so) but I can certainly create that response in him. But unlike the statue that represents that effect it doesn’t need to be the end of the story. Although statues remain static and unchanging the Good News is that we have another statue (Christ the Redeemer in Rio di Janeiro) that represents the open arms of God that long to embrace us when we return to him and reminds us of the extent of the love and what he did to restore the relationship that we have sullied. If we recognise that we have caused the first statue he offers to replace it in our relationship with the second one if that is what we want.
Be blessed, be a blessing
*Yes, I know that it’s not specified as an apple