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“The Lord says I must help you. The Law says I can’t. What do I do?”

“That is your question,” I replied.

I fully expected the man who said that to kick my sorry ass out of his office. I was, in fact, counting on it.

The year was 1970. I was twenty-four. That January I had gone to Hollywood, California from Toronto at the invitation of a friend who, when I arrived, said, “I’m going back to Toronto tomorrow.”

Story of my life.

The house I was staying in in Hollywood was a brothel with male and female sex workers. I was told I could either join them or look for work. An ad in a Los Angeles newspaper had taken me to the front door of a mission. Wanting nothing to do with them I turned to leave.

As I did I reflected that I had had nothing to eat and would have nothing to eat. I figured they had to have coffee and doughnuts. I went in, filled out their forms with the truth knowing they could only hire me if I lied. I told them I was Canadian. I added I did not have a working permit.

What happened next shook me to the core. The man whom I expected to kick my butt out the door said instead, “I guess I have to hire you.”

In that instant I realized there are two laws. There is the Law of God which says I am your keeper. There is the law of the land which states that I am not.

It is impossible to keep one without breaking the other.

In plain English it is impossible for me to be a Christian without also being an anarchist.

I am not talking here of our TV variety Christian who points a finger at the world while ignoring the fingers pointing back at them.

I am well aware of the log in my own eye. So aware am I of it that I have no time to harangue anyone for their lack of faith in my eyes. My eyes see as through a glass darkly.

Paul wrote in Romans, “The good I would do I do not. The evil I would not do that I do.”

Boy, there was a man who was honest with himself. He is so honest with himself it is scary.

I aim for that degree of self honesty. I have no time to fault others as I am only too well aware of how much I miss the mark, which, by the way, is what the word “sin” means. It is an archery terms. It means “to miss the mark.” Beginners shoot arrows that miss. No shame in that. The shame lies in giving up.

We’d never know that from the many who call all of us sinners daily from their television pulpits, street pamphlets and more.

From the way they present him Jesus comes off as the biggest pain in the ass ever.

That is why it helps to know the material. In the gospels the only people Jesus called sinners were those busy calling other folk sinners.

“Those forgiven much love much. Those forgiven little love little.”

My friend Barrie Schwartz from whom I obtained the authorized Shroud of Turin replica which hangs in my hall turned his back on orthodox Judaism after his Bar Mitzvah because he saw hypocrisy around him everywhere.

Boy, do we find it in Christianity as well. TV preachers ask folk to give them money constantly. Jesus never asked for a dime. He was dirt poor. He was also of the land which means he was of the people who remained when the multitude were taken in captivity to Babylon. When those Babylonian Jews returned they had nothing but contempt for people of the land. On top of that Jesus lived in Galilee of which there was a saying, “Can anything good come from Galilee.” I know that one as I am from maritime Canada of which folk in Ontario long have said, “Can anything good come from there?”

Actually, a lot that is good in this country has come from there.

And I will wager that many Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems and the like find many hypocrites among them. Who cares? I have enough trouble with my own life.

One of the most prolific writers on The Shroud of Turin is Ian Wilson. I have all of his books. Wilson was commissioned by the BBC to help do a documentary titled THE EVIDENCE FOR JESUS. A book was published to go with the documentary.

If you know the story you know that Jesus told Peter he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed twice on the night Jesus was arrested. Peter said, “No, I won’t.”

Well, he did. The third time he did it a woman in an inn said to him, “Yes, you were with him. I recognize you by your accent.”

Peter again said, “No. I do not know the man.”

Then the rooster crowed. Peter wept.

That is why Peter was given the keys to the Kingdom of God. He fell as low as a man can fall. Only a man who knows the depths of his own failure can be trusted with such a charge.

It had never occurred to me to ask what a Galilean accent sounded like. From Ian Wilson’s book THE EVIDENCE FOR JESUS I learned Galileans dropped their aitches.  They sounded like English Cockneys.

How many learned people would give five seconds of their time to a dusty, sun burnt dirt poor carpenter from the farthest reaches of the provinces who dropped his aitches when he spoke?

Forget about them. How much time would I give? Unfortunately I know how much time I would give that man. So, here again, I am not here to fault anyone.

We can’t spend our lives tearing ourselves down. There are more than enough people around who will do that for us free of charge.

The letter of the law kills. Jesus submitted to the letter of the law. It killed him. The letter of the law nails us to our cross just as it did him to his.

One of the many interesting things about the Shroud of Turin comes from what forensic scientists have learned from it. Gilbert LaVoie is one such. Studying the way light hits the body La Voie was able to see that the image was formed on the cloth by some means unknown to us (thus making it not a graven image) not when the corpse of Jesus was lying flat on a slab in a tomb but rather when that corpse (for it undeniably is the image of a dead man) was hovering vertically in the air.

Impossible? Yes. Certainly it is impossible. Nonetheless the evidence speaks for itself.

That team Barrie was part of was composed of around forty men only three of whom thought of themselves as Christians. Says Barrie, “We thought we would go to Turin, give it fifteen minutes, walk out laughing and get on with our lives.”

That is not what happened.

What happened is that most of them wound up giving The Shroud of Turin the rest of their lives.

That man I met in Hollywood whom I expected (and hoped) would kick me out of his office broke the law of the land. He put me to work.

When he did that he got me staunchly on the side of all that is good in this world against all that is not.

In the LAST JUDGEMENT Jesus says to those damned to Hell, “You saw me homeless, hungry, naked, sick, and in prison. You passed me by.”

The Damned say, “When did we that to you?”

Christ replies, “What you did to the least you did to me.”

There I have it.

My Jesus has not been some guy in Heaven. My Jesus has always been and will always be found among the least of these.

Right now in this moment I am passing through the hardest trials I have yet passed through.

From the look of things it is dark, very dark. I haven’t got a prayer in Hell.

What I do have is a houseful of people who love me because I have given them love. Some of them were among the least when I brought them in.

I also have five cats which is wild because when I was a kid the last things I wanted around me were cats. I got my first cat because a person who stayed briefly left the cat behind.

Two of my cats were furious when they came here. Both bit me. Zorro, the latest one, bit me several times. My hand puffed up as a result. I had to take medication for it. The last time he bit me (about a year ago now) I said to him, “It’s okay. I understand.”

In that moment something wonderful happened. His personality changed completely because I had not struck back in anger.

Would that people responded as cats do from my experience when they receive love.

We can count on people to hammer in the nails. Then they say, “Just following orders. Just doing my job.”

When the men and women who worked in the concentration camps said they were just doing their jobs during their trials in Nuremberg they found that answer hollow.

THE SHROUD OF TURIN has a lot to say to those who will listen.

What it says to me is, “Look. See what the world did to me. Expect the world to do the same to you. Expect to sweat blood as I sweat blood. Expect to be beaten. Expect to be mocked. Expect to be numbered with the scum of the world. Expect also to rise up as I have risen. Have Faith.”

Faith is not an easy thing to have. Were it easy it would not be worth having.

Perhaps I am talking to myself. Perhaps I am deluding myself. Then again, perhaps not.

What I am certain of is that at 71, turning 72 on June 12, my clock is running down. I have no problem with death.

It is life that presents the problem.

“Have no fear you little faiths. Look to the birds of the air. They neither toil nor spin yet your Father feeds them. How much more so will he feed you?” said Jesus to his apostles who were men who witnessed the things we read about. If they witnessed the feedings of the multitudes, the healings of the sick, the raising of Lazarus and so much more and yet had little faith I do not wonder that I find myself missing the mark.

Yet, as in archery practice makes perfect and the mark can with patience be hit again, again and again so I know in life that though I stumble that is not a fault.

The fault only lies in not getting up, in not trying again, in giving up.

“You have the wrong attitude,” my high school principal, an old army man given the job at the end of his career told me. He added, “If you leave this school today you will starve in two weeks.”

Had I not left I would have starved.

People with Faith I think always have the wrong attitude.

People with Faith also I think don’t march around calling other folks sinners.

I have not seen many people with that kind of Faith but now and then I have seen a few.

They were walking up the hill to Golgotha with their cross on their shoulders. They were singing silently a song only a few can hear.

They are the most inspirational people I have seen.

It is not so much that they believe in God or Jesus but that they believe in themselves.

Jesus said, “What I have done you can do and more.”

We are about to discover the more.

Anyone who wishes to is welcome to come and view The Shroud replica which hangs here. Perhaps it has something to say to you.

Some say, “That image could be anyone.”

Well, yes, it could be anyone who sweat blood, was beaten to a pulp with Roman flagrens, had his nose broken, his beard plucked, his face bruised, nails driven through his wrists and feet, a cap of thorns plopped on his head and a spear driven through his side just below his heart.

Yes, it could be anyone who had that done to him.

Science tells us what was done to the man on the Shroud. Science can not tell us that man was Jesus. Science does tell us that pollen found on the Shroud came from the area around Jerusalem during April/March (Passover/Easter).

History tells us that while many men and women were crucified only one man was crucified like the man on the Shroud was crucified.

Faith shouts that that man is Jesus of Nazareth.

In his day he was the lowest of the low. The one place he was least welcome was in a temple. For that reason we should not look for him there. Why would he be today where he was not welcome yesterday?

I see him all around me in the homeless, the hungry, the naked, the sick and among those found in prisons.

I also see him in the prison guards. They do their job and do it well. They know the hypocrisy that placed these men and women in their care. They do take care of them.

Barrie Schwartz has never become a Christian. Many who see themselves as Christians pray that he will.

I pray that he won’t. The word “Christian” was first used as an insult. Now, it seems to me, the term “Christian” has become an insult to Jesus.

Anyway we are called to something harder than to merely be a Christian. We are called to be ourselves. What is that? Truth be told, I have not got a clue. As I said, as Paul said, “For now we see as through a glass darkly.”

Keep the faith. My landlord is a Jew. His property manager is a Jew. Jesus was a Jew. I’m not about to demand they become Christians. I’m not about to demand anything of anyone but myself.

One of my favorite movie moments comes when Rene Falconetti in Carl Dreyer’s THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, as Joan being bound to the stake for the fire that will consume her picks up the dropped rope and hands it to the man binding her.

But then, as has been said, Carl Dreyer’s films start where most people’s films end.–06, 12, 2018.

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