15. Crucigedden

The congregation of Israel walked carefully through the valley of the shadow of death. Thick clouds suspended over the world darkened it as dusk. Neither manna nor water had passed through pilgrim lips for three days. Their strength came from the Lord who prepared them for the battle ahead.

Zeporah and Mary walked hand in hand. Little David followed close behind them. Only the sounds of their footsteps were heard by stray dogs they encountered on the way. Even Ben and Asa stopped chattering so they could listen for instruction from the Lord. They feared no evil.

Shame and humility walked with them. Those on the edges of this great mass of holiness were spat upon and mocked.” You fools!” shouted a stray man, “You think your God has prepared a home for you. Watch yourselves fall off the cliff ahead. Be gone and be damned!”

The pleasure of criticism spread and the band turned into a battering ram, entertainment for the arrogant. “Crown yourselves with thorns you kings of nowhere and no one!” Prostitutes passed out pornographic flyers to entice the men with their juicy services. A dapper suited man with a bullhorn broadcast to pilgrim and townspeople alike, “Hate and power for sale, it will make you feel good. Hate, hate the enemy! Hate your family; hate your neighbors; hate the rulers! Only two cents. Everyone can afford what I offer. Buy my wares. Feel good, feel strong. Hatred for sale!”

The earth had become a dwelling place of demons that tormented the people of the Way. Man, woman, and child were their own gods. They mimicked truth and love when it served them best, and repaid kindness with the same but they did not hesitate to use slander as a mighty sword to separate themselves from each other.

A tribunal of government officials blocked the travelers on their way. Their spokesperson shouted, “You must turn back immediately. We will not allow you to proceed any farther. Disperse and depart by royal command!” Armed soldiers flanked the officials. When the people refused to obey, they raised their swords.

“I demand to know our crime!” Moshua quickly moved to the front to face down the resistance. “You have no authority over us; step aside so we may reach our destination by nightfall. A skirmish ensued in which the armed soldiers and the strongest of the band wrestled each other to the ground. The officials moved out of the way. Their soldiers were killed with mighty hands. Out-numbered and overpowered the governors cried that they would return with a larger army and slithered away.

The somber road-warn travelers arrived atop the mountain Golgotha before sunset and fell to the ground for rest, heads nested into laps or on the cool earth. Sitting in groups nostalgic pilgrim-eyes surveyed the lands below from whence they came.

With only a teaspoonful of rest to lean on one by one the congregation of Israel stood to observe the Lord’s battle. Those who were given vision saw the angels, others saw the effects. A loud voice from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher told seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God. His patience and tolerance, His long suffering has come to an end.”

So the first angel went and poured out a bowl of foul and painful sores that fell upon anyone who was not on Golgotha which had become a place of refuge for the people of God. Then together the second and third angels poured their bowls into the seas and rivers and springs of water turning them to blood just as in the days when Moses first pried the congregation of Israel away from Pharaoh’s grasp. Then, the fourth angel flung up his bowl which made the sun scorch the earth with fire and the people in the valleys could be heard cursing the name of God and they did not repent and give Him glory.

The congregation of Israel atop Golgotha banded tightly together, small and tall stood hand in hand face to back, should to shoulder forming a union of life, a spit of peace in darkness. When the fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, immediately the sun was darkened and the moon did not give its light; the stars fell from heaven, and the powers of heaven were shaken. The kingdoms of man below Golgotha were plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony, and cursed the God of heaven and each other because of their pains and sores, and still they did not repent and give Him glory.

The sixth angel poured his bowl into the river Euphrates that at one time nourished flowers and trees in Adam’s garden. And its water was dried up like the parted Red Sea. The days of baptism ceased. A great thirst came over the pilgrims and they drank not.

Blessed were the pilgrims on Golgotha, because they stayed awake and were clothed and were not exposed to shame. Each person stood in swirling flames of angel-wrath but remained untouched.

The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher saying, “It is finished.” And there came flashings of lightening, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake, such as had not occurred since people were upon the earth, so violent was that earthquake. Death feasted richly on human flesh.

Ben and Asa, Zeporah, David and Mary looked and saw the fury of God’s wrath upon the cities and nations below as far as eye could see. They trembled and clutched hands tighter than before. Hailstones, larger than those that fell on Pharaoh’s Egypt, hundred-pound heavy hailstones dropped from heaven on the people below holy Golgotha. The victims cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague.

Then those who had ears to hear heard the voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people so that you do not take part in her sins, and you do not share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven and God has remembered her iniquities.”

Alas, alas the great city clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels and with pearls! Alas, precious electricity empowering minds and eyes, separating food from time, and mobilizing man, precious electricity stopped flowing around the earth. For in one hour all this wealth had been laid waste, the day of the Lord came like a thief in the night. The journey had trained our athletes for this moment. Ben and Asa, Zeporah, David, and Mary were ready.