Last week I spoke in favor of both Peter Rollins. I really am a fan of what he is up to and what people think that he is up to.
But there is also something that concerns me. It only shows up once in a while, but when it pokes through – I really get uncomfortable.
In this latest podcast, it shows up in minute 39.
He is talking about the moment during the the crucifixion story that the curtain in the temple is torn in two. We find out what was in there … nothing. No ‘god gas’ comes out. It turns out that we are separated from nothing.
This is the moment of discomfort. I am uncomfortable with where he is going. I don’t like this at all.
I have always been led to think that in the rending of the curtain, that the Glory of God came out from containers made by men and came out into the world. This was a foretaste of what was to come in the gift of Pentecost. God’s spirit was poured out on God’s daughters and sons and the glory was no longer located in any one place but had come to the nations. God’s glory was then loose in the world and God’s glory was to be known in every place and in every nation.
I suppose that I don’t actually need the glory behind the veil in order to have that reading of Pentecost. Its just that the two have always been connected for me. The rending of the veil is the moment when God’s presence is no longer contained in one location.
What happens to the narrative if the veil is torn in two and we find out that there was nothing in there after all? Is Pentecost then a replacement of real for what was not? Is it a continuation of the imagery? Is it a succession? and if so, is it of the same type of emptiness?
Admittedly, I don’t like where this is going. But here is the thing – there is something noticeably absent from the the text of scripture. It does say that the veil was torn in two but noticeably missing is the next sentence. The one that describes the impact or implications of that event. There is no follow up. No ‘and people died’ or ‘and somebody saw this’ or ‘so God’s glory….’.
So as much as I am made uncomfortable by how comfortable Peter Rollins (in his new book) is pointing this out, I have to struggle with the fact that he has pointed out something I had not seen before. Did I not see it because I already had my replacement explanation ready to plug into the gap.
This is part of the appeal of a person like Peter Rollins. He says things I have not heard before or don’t want to hear again. Those same things are observations or insights that I probably need to hear – for that very purpose.
It’s the reason that I have not heard them before that bothers me the most: I already had a prepared interpretation in place that allowed me to miss what was right there in the text – or more accurately – what is not in the text.
We need both prophets and priests, both poets and practitioners if we are going to be healthy.