11 MILES / 11 PHOTOS — people and things that caught my eye while trekking through Chicago one sunny morning.
Last summer, the city of Chicago unveiled a new piece of public art: a statue of Marilyn Monroe created by the sculptor Seward Johnson. Marilyn, who died in 1962 at the age of 36, stands twenty-six feet from toe to head; her aluminum and stainless steel body weighs in at seventeen tons. This is one impressive woman!
Public sentiment, however, has been mixed. Two months after Marilyn became larger than life, vandals tossed a bucket of red paint over her legs. An online tourist site named the sculpture one of the ten worst displays of public art in the world, claiming that her only redeeming value is the cover she provides pedestrians in a rain storm. I can personally report that she also provides adequate shelter from the noonday sun.
To the relief of some and to the disappointment of others, the statue is scheduled to be taken down this summer; Marilyn’s three-story, larger-than-life frame will move to another locale, or possible storage.
On Easter Sunday many of us sang songs and heard sermons proclaiming, “Jesus is risen!” “He lives!” The biblical storyline is this simple: on Friday Jesus was killed; on Sunday he came back from the dead, larger than life.
As with Marilyn’s rising, public sentiment about Jesus’ resurrection has been mixed. Did it happen exactly like the gospel writers describe? What about the details on which the gospel writers don’t agree? Was the tomb really empty? Did the disciples actually see and touch the flesh of a post-Easter Jesus? Is a literal resurrection at the heart of Christian orthodoxy?
It’s my blog, so I get to answer as I want. Here’s what I know for sure. Years ago, in a hospital room, I sat with an aged man who was waiting for his wife to die. He was a retired minister who had faithfully served congregations for over forty years. In the preaching biz he was known as a “big gun.” In his prime, and even beyond it, the guy was a powerhouse. I don’t know for sure whether Jesus actually walked on water, but I’m pretty sure this guy did. And now his wife was hours away from breathing her last. His eyes were teary pools.
Easter Sunday was a few days away and he asked how my sermon was coming. I don’t remember what I said, but I’ll never forget what he shared, “At my age, I’m not so sure any more that I believe the so-called facts of the resurrection story, but I believe more than ever in the truth of the story. And the truth of the story is that the last word is always God’s, and God’s last word is always good.”
To me, that’s better than Marilyn Monroe at any height.