Friday Photo – Smoke

“Good Friday” filters our sense of suffering and death. Christians talk about the meaning of the death of Jesus in every era. John Owen summarized the meaning of Jesus’ death as, “the death of death.” But, in effect death was swallowed up in resurrection. Tony Jones wrote a series turned ebook looking for a “better atonement.” Andrew Perriman responded by suggesting Tony may have been adding furniture to the collection of theological meanings for the atonement. His contention – tell the story.

Death occupies our consciousness. We wonder how it will come and when it will come. In the United States we experience some insulars to death other cultures and contexts don’t. I still have Guatemala on my mind, specifically San Cristobal Verapaz and surrounding villages.

On our final day in San Cristobal, John and I, hiked up a very long street to a large Catholic Church. From the steps and courtyard we could see for miles. I began working through some of the photographs and found them exceptionally hazy. My first impulse was self-criticism. “What a hack amateur!” Riding and taking in the scenery from San Cristobal to Antigua I noticed the same haze. Bill and Linda told me it was “burning season.”

Villagers grow corn twice a year. Just before planting their next crop, they burn off the stalks. Here in the United States we would plow them under rather than burn them. Bill and Linda noted this is a long tradition. Even if they could be convinced it would be better for the soil and the next crop to plow the old stalks under, tradition would likely be so powerful they would continue to burn.

Sometimes I think that we hold on so hard to a particular vision or meaning of an event we cannot see the benefit of a broader understanding. It seems those on the left and right miss this in their respective attempts to win the day. Each short-circuits the breadth of meaning in the event of Jesus – his life, death, and resurrection. The Apostle Paul seems to radicalize the meaning of the event of Jesus when he considers God expressing the manifold wisdom of God in Jesus. No one owns the meaning. To argue one does have the singularity of the event is to control its implications. The move for me oversteps our finitude.

And this is my interpretation for this Friday’s Photo. What are your thoughts this Good Friday?

"Smoke" - Copyright 2012 Todd Littleton
  • Frank Gantz

    For what it is worth: 2 of my pastorates were amongst the fields. Wheat fields in Oklahoma and rice fields in Arkansas. I am a bit fuzzy as to which, but one of these sets of farmers burned their fields.

    • Todd Littleton

      I have pastored amongst the fields in Oklahoma and Texas. They grew cotton, wheat, corn, mung beans, peanuts, maze, and varietals of hay. None burned their fields. Maybe the rice farmers burned theirs. Most, however, plow the remains under. I am told it is better for the soil to turn the remains over rather than burn the stalks.

      How is that for two city boys talking about farming crops as though we know what we are talking about! 😉

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