Jesus Gave me a Hammer for Christmas.
And a Bell, Too.
by Jay McDaniel
Several years ago -- perhaps about two thousand -- Jesus gave me a hammer for Christmas. I had wanted a new laptop but it wasn't in the offing.
Hammer of Love
I had read stories about him in the Bible, so I knew how to use it. The first thing I did was to hammer out danger and warning, all over this land, about how crazy we had become. All the guns, all the violence, all the greed, all the selfishness.
But I knew criticism is only half the story. Jesus explained that he was giving me a hammer of justice and freedom and love. So I started hammering out love between the brothers and the sisters, all over this land.
God Needs Me
At first I wasn't very good at hammering, so I learned as much as I can from others, from Mohandas Gandhi and Martin LutherKing, Jr. for example. I learned a lot from Sojourner Truth and WEB DuBois, too. And course I learned from Jesus, a mastery in carpentry.
I knew all the hammering would be a lot of work on my part, and some trial and error. After all, even Jesus's Abba,, even the one by whom he was called, cannot do things alone. God needed Jesus, and God needed me, too.
I'd read a little process theology so I kind of expected this. God and the Universe are co-creative, so they say. God hammers by giving us fresh possibilities for justice and freedom, and we hammer by responding. It takes a village to build a community of love and even the divine Villager -- the relational God -- cannot act unilaterally. That's one reason there's so much injustice in the world.
I asked Jesus how long I needed to hammer and he said "For a whole lifetime." I didn't like this; I wanted results. But he added that I shouldn't be too attached to results. "Even if you can't see the fruits of your efforts," he said, "keep hammering for love. Or for the one who sent me." I began to wonder if he'd been reading the Bhagavad Gita, but I realized it hadn't been written yet. I think he got this idea from his own Jewish roots.
Then he gave me a bell. At first I thought it was meant to go inside a church. Maybe he wanted people to ring bells in his honor. He rejected this idea right away. He said something like: I come to serve, not to be flattered. He was a little worried that people might begin to worship him instead of the basileia tou theou.
I asked him what a basileia tou theou is, and he explained that it is a community of people who dwell together in freedom and justice, living in creative harmony with themselves and others, including the natural world, and with the oneness of abba at the center of their hearts. "Do you mean something like a spiritual democracy?" I asked. He said "Yes."
"And will it be multi-religious?," I continued. He said: "Of course. I am Jewish but we Jews never expect to be a majority. The diversity makes the whole of Abba richer." I think Jesus had been reading a little process theology, too.
I liked the bell a lot, but truth be told I was kind of hoping I might use it as a meditation bell, helping quiet my soul. He explained that he had nothing against soul-quieting, but this bell was for something different. It was a bell of justice and freedom, he explained.
"And what do I do with the bell?," I asked. He said that I could turn it into a song: a song that sings out all the time, in many ways, with musicians and artists helping. He said that one way or another, when anyone sings they are expressing a kind of yearning for harmony, and thus they are singing hope.
He went on to say that the whole of creation is singing all the time, if we have ears to hear. "Consider the lilies of the field," he said, "even Solomon in all his glory is not clothed as these."
I asked: "So we are to sing with creation, which in its own way is groaning in travail, too?" Yes, he said, "Groaning and praise, lamentation and celebration, they often to together. No need to think in terms of binaries." I wanted things to be more sharply separated. He wouldn't let me be so simple-minded. "Just keep singing about love between the brothers and the sisters, all over this land," he said. "And keep hammering."