The Friday Report: And the Lord taketh away
July 15, 2010
Last June 14, in a stroke of divine irony, a bolt of lightning struck the immense “King of Kings” statue that sat just outside the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, a bit north of Cincinnati. The statue, a torso of Jesus that rose 62 feet into the air, was constructed of 16,000 pounds of wood, steel, fiberglass and Styrofoam. The upraised hands of the statue had been likened to that of a football referee indicating a touchdown, hence the irreverent moniker, “Touchdown Jesus.” Firefighters were astounded at how quickly the icon was immolated.
The face of Jesus is all around us. He’s been spotted in clouds, in dental x-rays, in the bumper of a car (until somebody turned off a nearby porch light), on a scorched cheese sandwich, on a dead priest’s shoe, a Google Earth map, a McDonald’s billboard, on a brick of a North Carolina home, on the back of a turtle, a tombstone and a tortilla. His visage has even been found on the door to a Men’s Room in an Ikea store in Glascow.
For a surprising number of people that comely caricature in the cumulus is unquestionably the face of Jesus. Apparently one of God’s mysterious ways is to play peek-a-boo in the clouds. I suppose people see what they want to see and interpret it in the same way, just check out the nearly seven million Google hits if you don’t believe. Me, that is.
It’s mysterious even if you don’t stop to think about it, why God would want to plant his visage on a crumpet? That’s what He did last November for Shaun Garrod of Ashby, England. When he pulled the smoking crumpet from his sticking toaster, Shaun fell to his knees and shouted two of my favorite words, “Lo and behold!”
The divine image of Jesus had been scorched into his pastry. An argument broke out because his brother thought it sort of looked more like the Bee Gee’s lead singer, Barry Gibb.
The breach was healed when Shaun made the theological argument that two weeks earlier a grilled cheese sandwich with a blackened effigy of Jesus sold on ebay for $28,000.
Possibly the most famous apparition of all occurred in 1977, in the small New Mexican town of Lake Arthur, not far from Roswell. Weird things happen in the desert. In preparing her husband’s breakfast one morning in October, Maria Rubio noticed that the flour tortilla she was about to serve him contained a spot that had been blackened on her grill. As she stared at the spot, she realized it was the face of Jesus smiling back at her. Skeptics scratched their heads but over the next two years more than thirty-five thousand faithful followers knelt to behold (and lo) at Maria’s “Shrine of the Holy Tortilla.”
Not to be outdone, the following year, Ramona Barreras of Phoenix cooked up her own tortilla bearing the Savior’s icon, this time the image was embellished with the accompanying letters, K, J, C, and B. This was an acronym, Ramona declared, for the phrase, “King Jesus is Coming Back.” The sacred snack rests today in a Plexiglas box in a kitchen drawer. Visitors still occasionally drop by for a glimpse but even Ramona admits the image has faded into a brown wiggly smudge. Sic Transit Gloriam.
In 1983, Paula Rivera, a Hidalgo, Texas housewife claimed the image of Jesus appeared in a corn tortilla she had made and went on to charge admission to thousands of visitors for a viewing in her “Shrine of the Holy Corn Tortilla.”
Countless Christians can’t be wrong, but I confess to a bit of confusion. Photography wasn’t very far along back in the year zero and no portraits have survived the millennia, if you don’t count the Shroud of Turin, which even the devout will admit is just a bit fuzzy around the edges. So my confusion is this: suppose the face of some bearded guy pops out of my toaster oven on a bagel or maybe a piece of raisin toast. How would I know it wasn’t the beer-drinking, hell raiser, Dusty Hill, the bass guitarist for ZZ Top?
Then again, what that would fetch on ebay?