Fully dressed in cassock and collar, looking like Morpheus I traveled into what some mainstreamers would call the underworld to proclaim the Gospel by means of Spoken Word poetry. You could sense the shock. Matter of fact, the shock was made clear. Several times I was asked: “is that (i.e. cassock) real?” And, “are you really a priest?”
So when I finally approach the stage for my turn on the mic, I survey the astonished looks throughout the crowd and say, “let me begin with two things: first, yes – I am really a priest…this is not just a costume.” Then, looking at the ladies with the captivated stares I follow with “and second, ladies, I am NOT naked under there!” I flash the crowd to show my long pants underneath to riotous laughter.
Then, I begin my piece: “If I Could But Touch Him.” It’s a piece where I interpret the encounter of the woman with the issue of blood, who fights through the crowd so she could touch the hem of Christ’s garment (Mark 5:21-43).
This passage and poem provide an example of how we should approach Jesus. The woman here knew she was in need of healing. She had appealed to many different outlets for help, to no avail. She appealed to doctors and spiritual healers. She appealed to the Temple and the religious leaders of her day. She obeyed the social/religious laws. But none of these things brought her any relief.
So, she appeals to Jesus. She had heard of Him. She had heard that many others had been healed by Him. What He said made sense to her…what He said was relevant to her condition. But more than what He said, unlike the religious leaders and institutions of the day, He was present. And, in in His presence He had demonstrated His compassion and awesome power.
Knowing all she had suffered and knowing her frustrations with the established order that not only couldn’t heal her but had also ostracized her, she appealed to Jesus by simply saying to herself: “If I could but touch Him…then I would be made well!”
But, I ain’t a poet…I just slam a bit!
The real poets did an amazing job. Chief Keesh stated it well when she recounts how Ali won the show that night. These poets had smooth flow and interesting wordplay. Several of them had great stage presence. While I was up there trying to read my piece from my iPad.
See…I ain’t a poet, I just slam a bit. And, I did so because that’s what Jesus would have done. I am reminded that Jesus wasn’t in the Temple. Jesus visited the Temple but spent His time among the people…among those who were authentic enough to admit their frustrations with all things status quo.
And, that raw authenticity is exactly what I found @THEBOHEMIAROOM on Wednesday night. In the face of that witness, I was reminded exactly why Jesus spent His time with those who were not in the Temple. Many in there had been disenchanted with the Church and expressed as much. One brother went as far as to assert that given the choice between his gun and his Bible, he preferred his gun as it was more practical.
Time and again there were lines strewn across the room that made my heart break – for I could see how the Gospel had been misrepresented such that people had no use for the Church, and subsequently for Jesus.
Yet, all of us have that need to be made well. We’re still searching…hoping for a change (hence Obama 2008/12). And, it was this longing for change that I feel is expressed by the woman with the issue of blood. She is spent…tired of the status quo that promises her something better yet leaves her with nothing but dreams deferred. She is spent…exhausted of all resources by those fat cats who siphon the economy of the disinherited. But, if she could just touch Him…then she would be made well.
In Jesus she found something real – something worth reaching out towards. Yet, the religious establishment hoped to stifle that in an effort to maintain the status quo. And, maintain it they have – for thousands of years. Now, folk send forth their cries of exhaustion and frustration searching for that real presence exhibited by the authentic Jesus.
I ain’t a poet…I just slam a bit. And in doing so, I hope that just a few might acquire that desire to touch Jesus. Like St. Paul said, “I am all things to all people that I might win some (1 Cor 9:19-23).” In this sense, I am a spoken word artist.
I don’t think I won many that night, however. But I did win a few…thanks be to God. In my first slam, I went out after the first round. But, I’ll be back. Until then, I leave you with my rendition of that woman’s appeal…of our appeal, that we might touch Jesus and be made well!