Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Brother Sun, Sister Moon

For some reason I drove from Greeley to Loveland, 35 miles or so across the flat land at the foot of the Rockies in Colorado, to see "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" when this movie came out. I still remember the day, bright and warm, and I remember my tears.

I wanted the simplicity. I wanted Francis' connection with the natural world, but there I was, stuck in traffic, with all this modern machinery around me. I wanted the beauty. I could see it, smell it, almost taste it, but it was out of reach. What was I doing wrong? I didn't figure it out, and the magic receded into the fog of years.

The magic is now back. His name is Jesus.

Amazon offered the DVD of "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" cheap, so I bought a copy. I watched part of it last night and the tears came back, especially in the last scene. I don't know how much of this movie is true, but it has great images.

The Pope comes down from his throne to bless Francis and his ragamuffin rabble, which scandalizes all the well-dressed grandees in the sumptuous room. When the Pope kisses Francis' foot, the muttering becomes loud. Innocent 3 remains kneeling until his attendants pull him up, and then back to the foot of the throne, and then they wrap him up in his heavy vestments. He becomes smaller, entrapped in this church machine. Francis' friends pull him to his feet and they straggle out.

Whence came all the entanglements of the established church? How was it transformed from the living immediacy of Acts into this deadly worship of ritual?

Did I really have to spend 31 years wandering around in order to learn how to recognize, and appreciate, the Holy Spirit when I was again introduced to Him? He was there in 1971, 1972, 1973, but I wasn't paying attention. He was knocking on the door, and I could hear Him, but it seemed impossible so I didn't open the door far enough. I was too concerned with making mistakes, with angering the God I knew with my petty stupidities. I was more concerned with looking like a Christian than with actually being one.

The problem with looking like a Christian is that the necessary rituals are dictated by whatever group is in power. I live by their assumptions. Maybe it took me 31 years to get shed of that habit, to learn that no one has it together, that I can learn from their mistakes but responsibility for my life is mine. I didn't learn sand sculpture by reading books and watching other sculptors. I went out, made mistakes, watched sculptures hit the ground, got rained out and all the rest.

Being a Christian by experience was against the rules. I was supposed to read the Bible and follow the rules. There are lots of rules in there. Impossible. Rather than ask God for clarification, I just decided the whole thing was impossible and went on to live life my way.

I wish I'd asked, back then. I wish there would have been someone I could trust. Where was Eric Bryant when I needed him? Not born yet, for one thing. When I did meet him, the first person I contacted at Mosaic, I looked at his life and saw something different from anything else I'd seen. My memory of "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" was too deeply buried for it to come back then, but the way I expressed it after having breakfast with him one day was to pray at the bus stop "If this is what people who follow You look like, I think I can do this."

A year later this is still true. I can follow Jesus into a life that resembles in its purity and charm the scenes in the movie. Following Jesus is very simple. All you have to do is ask Him for help.

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