What's going on?

Naomi came running over. “Jesus Christ, Ruth. What’s going on?”

Jesus looked into Naomi’s eyes. “Are you calling my name?”

Naomi was confused. Ruth poked her in the hip. “That’s Jesus, you ninny. You’re not supposed to swear. Mom told you!”

Frowning, Naomi lowered her head and looked through her eyebrows at Jesus, and said in her most adult-like voice, “If you’re Jesus, why is Ruth crying?”

Noah's answered prayer

(Third in a series on the return of Jesus Christ)

IS 49:8-15
JN 5:17-30

Noah’s grandchildren had gone off to the park with Saint Basil. Not the Basil of the 4th Century. Noah's new friend lacked the notoriety of St. Basil the Great.  As you might imagine, almost all of the saints who returned with Jesus bore little historical significance. Basil, a huge man at 6’6”, 300 pounds, insisted on taking up residence in Noah’s garage. He showed up about 6 days ago, and only agreed to use the spare bedroom, which Noah wife, Angela, had given him, if he could turn it into an aviary. He loved birds. 

Basil harkened back to the 1830’s where he was a blacksmith from Virginia. He had met Noah struggling last Saturday to clean out his garage. Basil’s fascination with even the smallest things had made the now two-man chore into an apparent never-ending treasure hunt.

Noah’s wife left for a retreat with five or six hundred women at the Mount St. Francis property north and west of Colorado Springs. The falcons who lived in the valley had begun putting on air shows for the women. "Basil would love it," Angela told Noah over the phone. Several resurrected nuns from the monastery there had congregated to lead the women on retreat. “I swear,” Angela told Noah, excited, “they are conversing with the falcons.”

Noah, finally back to work, sat reading the transcript of the latest recording of Jesus that he downloaded as a PDF. Jesus was talking to a group of people, this time from the town of Assisi, Italy. Noah was fact-checking a television report claiming that the text of Jesus’ words were taken directly from the Gospel of John. Noah had his NABRE bible open to the proposed section, Chapter 5, where the words seemed to be sourced. 

Noah’s TV, now on almost constantly, displayed a news reporter from the BBC hinting, jokingly, that Jesus was plagiarizing himself. “Unless there is a statute of limitations on quoting yourself,” Andy Rimiter, the BBC reporter asked, straight faced.

“Yes,” replied the woman who joined him at the BBC desk. “It’s 2,000 years, so he’s got at least 10 years to go. Guilty.” The two of them laughed at the notion. 

The teasing reflected an emerging jocular attitude regarding Jesus’ many daily appearances, now into week five of the return of Christ. But while most journalists and analysts had begun having some healthy fun, others were just making fun. And yet, Jesus and the saints didn’t seem to care about their media representation. The fine line between teasing and meanness, though, had Noah on edge. 

More and more publications and broadcasts had gingerly begun to take a skeptical approach, claiming that this Jesus might be dangerous to follow. His believers were still dying, even at a higher rate, they claimed, than the doubters. Two people earlier healed by saints had just died, sparking doubt about the effective results of the meaning of Jesus' return. 

This past weekend a “Come Again, Jesus?” skit on Saturday Night Live had crossed the line. The skit showed believers falling down dead in the wake of a Jesus parade. But no comment came from Jesus. Saints, approached by reporters, completely ignored their questions.

NBC offered up a response to appease what was feared as a reprisal from the followers and saints with a series called “Worth the Wait.” They chronicled how the timing of Jesus’ coming seemed better than the failed predictions of the past few hundred years. 

Noah returned to the Assisi transcript, trying to stay on point, and refrain from getting spun up by the media's obvious worries and speculative fabrications. Sure enough, Jesus quoted John's scripture word for word:

“The Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.”

And then, 

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here. 
The dead hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.

Noah hesitated over the words. He looked for the big picture, digging for the both philosophy and the politics behind what Jesus said, wondering what the news would do with it. Basil had waved off Noah's concerns as he left with the children. "This chatter in the air bellows on cold rocks," he said. "Jesus' words fill everything with life. Look at the birds! The critters and children are next. Your eyes are blurred by invisible things, Noah!" He left laughing as Noah's grandchildren skipped at his side.

Admittedly, Noah hadn’t turned himself fully to the Jesus phenomenon. Something was holding him back. 

He whispered, “OK, Jesus, I'm used to my news sources, but can your engagement with us, your infrastructure, and your communication be real?” Noah understood at a deeply personal level the flippancy of the newscasters, and the reticence of so many. 

He was no different. He said the first thing in his head, “Sure, you're here to take over, but do you know where my wallet is?”

He shook his head at his disrespect. “I can’t just let it happen,” he muttered, embarrassed. He walked to his front door and leaning against a porch post he watched the wooden playground equipment just a few houses, across the way, along the mountainside where his grandchildren played. 

He watched a man on one knee talking to Ruth and Naomi, 5 and 9. Just a few weeks ago, he would have been horrified at the prospect of such an intimate encounter. The saints, though, numbered among every crowd. This man seemed one of them. Noah didn’t see Basil, though, and he wondered what might be transpiring. 

“Hello, Ruth,” the man said. He dropped to one knee, so that he was face to face with little Ruth, Noah’s granddaughter. 

“How do you know my name?” the bright little girl asked.

“I am Jesus,” he said. “You know me, don’t you?” Jesus held out a baby Jesus figurine in his hand.

“Oh,” Ruth said, pushing the back of her left hand against her cheek. She frowned and lowered her top lip almost down to her chin. She started to cry.

Naomi came running over. “Jesus Christ, Ruth. What’s going on?”

Jesus looked into Naomi’s eyes. “Are you calling my name?”

Naomi was confused. Ruth poked her in the hip. “That’s Jesus, you ninny. You’re not supposed to swear. Mom told you!”

Basil sat on a bench, nearby. He was fast asleep. Frowning, Naomi lowered her head and looked through her eyebrows at Jesus, and said in her most adult-like voice, “If you’re Jesus, why is Ruth crying?”

“Well, first, saying my name is not swearing. I listen every time you call me. Did you mean to call me?”

“Nnnooo … Yes.” Naomi said, looking off to the upper left hand side of her forehead.

“And second, Ruth stole the baby Jesus, and she’s feeling bad about it,” Jesus said. Ruth cried some more, nodding.

“How did you know?” Ruth asked through her tears.

“What?” Naomi hoisted her hanging arms quickly to her hips. “It was you! You little liar!”

Jesus slowly held out his hands, and the girls quieted. They placed one hand each in his. Naomi was still angry, stiffening her legs while holding Jesus’ left hand. Jesus handed Ruth the little wooden baby Jesus from the family Christmas creche. Ruth had taken it Christmas Eve and kept it hidden for months.

“How did you find it?” Ruth asked. “It was in a secret place.”

“Oh,” Jesus said. “Maybe I have the wrong one. Whisper in my ear where you hid it, and we’ll know for sure.” Ruth reached to Jesus, holding onto his right arm and lifted her lips up to his ear. She said something that Naomi, still frowning, couldn’t hear.

“It’s the right one, then,” Jesus said. 

“Did you read her mind?” Naomi asked? 

“No, I don’t do that. You have to ask me before I’ll listen in.”

“It doesn’t look like you,” Ruth said, rolling the baby in her palm. Jesus took it and dragged his finger over the nose to lengthen it, like his own, blew on the body, darkening it a bit, and then he rubbed his thumb on the head, making some hair. He held it next to his face.

“How about now?”

“Wow,” Naomi said. 

“Give it to your mom,” Jesus told Ruth, “and you explain what happened. Oh, and Naomi, give this to somebody who asks for it.” He put something into Naomi’s hands. She took it, surprised.

"How do you know my name?" she asked. Jesus looked at her blankly. "Oh, yeah," she said.

Noah had begun walking to the park. Jesus had stepped away from the girls by the time Noah met up with them. He waved back at the girls and Noah as he left the park. Basil was with him, walking one stride to two of Jesus.

“Look!” Ruth said holding up the baby Jesus to her grandpa. Noah took his eyes off Basil and his friend.

“What is that?” he asked, taking it.

“It’s the baby Jesus that I stole. Jesus found it, and fixed it too. He told Naomi that shouting his name is not swearing.”

Noah stood still, alarm and confusion wrapped together. He held the baby figurine. The details in its face were stunning. It felt warm in his hands. He looked at his other granddaughter. “Are you crying, Naomi?”

“I cried first,” Ruth explained. “She cried second.”

Noah wondered if he should go after the man, and Basil too. “That was Jesus? Really? He was just in Italy a few hours ago. Are you two sure?”

“Yeah, pretty damn, uh darn, sure,” Naomi said, wiping her eyes on her shirt sleeve. She blew through her lips, right after taking a deep breath.

“He said he loved us,” Ruth said. “Naomi said she loved him too, and then she took over the crying. I stopped. I’m fine now.” She put her hands on her hips, mimicking her sister’s previous pose. 

“Now I’ve gotta go tell mom Jesus found the baby Jesus, and tell her I stole it.”

“Wow. That’s a lot to take in,” Noah said, trying to take it in. “I shoulda checked to see if he found my wallet.”

“Oh, here,” Naomi said, handing her grandpa the thing Jesus had given her. “Now that makes sense,” she concluded waving her hand as Noah took it, astonished.

“Jesus Christ,” he said. Ruth nodded, approvingly. Noah checked in the wallet. It was his. Then Noah cried, and his grandchildren hugged him.

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