Bamboo

Years ago I came across this story, a retelling of a traditional story by an unknown author. As you read it, give it time to talk to you about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection . Then maybe read it again, and see what it has to say about the way you experience life.

Bamboo gardenOnce upon a time, in the heart of the Western Kingdom, lay a beautiful garden. And there, in the cool of the day, the Master of the garden used to walk. Of all the plants in the garden, the most beautiful and most beloved was a Bamboo.

Year and year, Bamboo grew more noble and gracious, conscious of his master’s love and delight, but modest and gentle with all. And often when wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would cast aside his grave stateliness to dance and play, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the great dance of the Garden and delighting the Master’s heart.

One day the Master drew near to contemplate his Bamboo and Bamboo, in a passion of adoration, bowed his great head to the ground in loving greeting. The Master Spoke: “Bamboo, Bamboo, I would use you.” Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which he had been made, the day to which he had been growing hour by hour, this day in which he would find his completion and his destiny.

His voice came low: “Master, I am ready. Use me as you wish. The Master’s voice was grave: “I need to take you, and cut you down!” A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo. “Cut me down? Me? Cut me down? No, not that! Use me for joy, but don’t cut me down:” The voice of the Master was graver still: Beloved Bamboo, if I do not cut you down, I cannot use you:”

The garden grew still. Wind held his breath; Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. Then in a voice full of pain bamboo said, “Master, if you cannot use me except by cutting me down, then, do your will and cut me down”

The Master said: “Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and your branches also.” Bamboo pleaded: “Master, Master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust, but do not take away my leaves and my branches!”

The master whispered: “Bamboo, alas! If I cut not them away, I cannot use you!” The sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, and then whispering low, said: “Master, cut away!”

With a crying voice the Master added: “Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cleave you in two halves and cut out your heart: for, if I don’t cut you I cannot use you!” Then Bamboo bowed to the ground and softly whispered: “Master, Master, then cut and cleave: I’m yours:”

Bamboo water pipeSo did the Master of the Garden take Bamboo and cut him down and hack off his branches and strip off his leaves, and cleave him in two and cut out his heart. And lifting him gently carried him to where there was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of his dry fields. Then, putting one end of the Broken Bamboo in the spring and the other end, into the water channel in his field, the Master gently laid down his beloved Bamboo.

And the spring sang welcome and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down of channel of Bamboo’s torn body into the waiting thirsty fields. Then the rice was planted and the days went by and the shoots grew and the harvest came and hungry mouths had their fill. And the master was happy and the people rejoiced.

In that day, Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, was yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility. In his beauty he was life abundant, but in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life.

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Judith Scully

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A nameless woman

You’ll remember this story – a lone woman surrounded by a circle of finger pointing males, a handy pile of stones – and Jesus. I first heard it in Grade 4 and spent the grammar lesson that followed wondering what Jesus might have written in the dirt. The rest of the story went straight over my head, as did the rules of grammar.

Shame

Why did the writer of John’s Gospel tell this story in such detail? It doesn’t get a mention in the other three Gospels.

Someone reading or hearing it for the first time might assume that it was about sexual morality, a preoccupation of the institutional Church for a very long time. Older, more conservative Christians find it hard to accept that the rules of sexual morality they have lived by are disregarded by the younger generation

Was Jesus as focused on sexual matters and their morality or otherwise, as some of us have been taught to believe?

As we struggle to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, how are we supposed to handle the anger and disillusion we feel about clergy who have sexually abused the young and vulnerable?

Then there’s Jesus’ attitude to women. Jesus stuck his neck out for women. He gave them respect, he valued them for themselves. It’s hard to understand why the Church leadership today works so hard to keep women out of things.

Is it about entrapment? The trap section of the word says it all. We trap mice for a variety of reasons and it’s not a pretty process however it is done. The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus, to trip him up, to lead him into a compromising situation that would turn out to be religiously illegal. As an added extra it would serve to blacken his good name with the crowd.

Is it about hypocrisy? It’s a hard word and we apply it to the scribes and Pharisees because they were so focused on the letter of the Law that they quite forgot about its spirit. It must be difficult to be in a position of authority and not feel hypocritical at times. Occasionally it is said of someone: “What you see is what you get”, but not many of us are that transparent. We’re more like an adolescent who is moody and difficult at home but an angel of light elsewhere or a tough and unyielding boss who is a loving father.

Is it about discrimination? Well, of course it is. Where was the other party to the adulterous act?

Discrimination could be seen as a buzz word of the decade. We’re legally bound not to discriminate on the grounds of age, gender, nationality, culture, religion – and probably lots of other things too. The words of Jesus come to mind, ”Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

Is it about forgiveness? There’s a gentleness in Jesus’ forgiveness of the woman contrasting with his steely response to the stone throwers slinking away as he doodled in the silky dust. He didn’t condone the harm that the adultery had undoubtedly done, but neither did he consider it an occasion for stone throwing. One can only imagine the gratitude of the woman. I wonder what her partner thought about it?

A story like this is a bit like an onion – layers of meaning. That’s the mystery and wonder of the Gospel. It was written a long time ago from the first hand memories of those who knew Jesus but its themes are timeless and as fresh as today. So, what is this story saying to you – today?

Judith Scully