You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card authors are:
and the book:
Varzara House (January 4, 2011)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ever since a child, Bill Pursche was fascinated by the question of how people would react if Jesus were to appear again. What would people do? What would they believe?
This was the catalyst for The Eternal Messiah. Bill spent years researching ancient texts such as the lost gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and also spoke to many theologians, ministers, priests, rabbis, pastors and religious experts, trying to answer the question: would the message of the 'future' Jesus be any different?
Bill is also the author of the popular book Lessons to Live By: The Canine Commandments, about life lessons we learn from dogs. All of the net profits from that book are donated to animal rescue groups. The Eternal Messiah is a continuation of his exploration of how religion and spirituality can lead to a more fulfilling life.
Bill lives near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with his wife, two rescued orphan horses, two dogs, and a cat who can’t seem to remember he was feral. He writes and continues his quest to understand his place in the great universe God has created. Work is already underway on the next two books in the Eternal Messiah series.
Michael Gabriele is a professional musician and artist. For information about Mike's music, please visit www.myspace.com/michaelgabriele
Visit the authors' website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Kalinda Prentiss is a renowned expert in her field of cultural anthropology. In her work with indigenous cultures she begins to see amazing similarities in their path to advancement -- similarities based on their acceptance of a religious Messiah. Yet when she documents her work and presents it to the scientific community, she is ridiculed for her belief that societal advancement could in any way be connected to God.
Treb Win has left his home and joined the military to escape the memories of the loss of his life mate. Bereft of purpose, he tries to lose himself in his work, his goal of achieving personal enlightenment now an impossible dream without the support of his mate and his people.
Prentiss is demoted from her prestigious position and sent to work on Win's obscure research ship. Though convinced of her theory of the link between religion and technical advancement, she vows never to trust the scientific establishment again to have an open mind toward her ideas.
Win and Prentiss become embroiled in a secretive military mission neither of them want any part of. They end up on another planet searching for a missing freighter carrying illicit government weapons which, if discovered, could start a cataclysmic war.
Here they witness something extraordinary: a religious preacher named Jesus appears. He brings a compelling message of faith and sacrifice, encouraging the people to break free from their meaningless lives. His gospel threatens both the local religious leaders and an oppressive occupying power.
Win knows little of Jesus but is curiously drawn to this preacher, kindling a spark in his long lost sense of purpose as he listens to Jesus' gospel. Prentiss believes she has the ultimate proof of her theory, but as she witnesses events unfold which are eerily similar to what happened on Earth, she must make a desperate choice between her work, her faith, and trying to stop what she fears may be the final outcome for Jesus.
List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 310 pages
Publisher: Varzara House (January 4, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The path to Paradise is lined with the sacrifices of love, not of fear.
—The Teachings: 2:2
“What’s going on?” Prentiss asked. “I thought this is where Symes said Jesus was going to be speaking.”
“They seem to be making a lot of noise for an audience,” agreed Win, as he led them up the back side of the temple. They had spent much of the day searching for Garrick, to no avail. As the day wore on the locals began moving toward the arena, leaving the crew vulnerable in the deserted streets. The frantic Symes kept looking over his shoulder until I’Char told him to leave and go ahead separately. But it was only after Prentiss explained to the old man that it was for his own safety had he obeyed.
At the edge of the clearing around the temple they had immediately entered into a throng of people who all seemed intent on something in the opposite direction from the grand temple portico. The noise of the crowd was loud and incomprehensible.
Prentiss, her hood pulled tight, forced her way through the crowd, not waiting for Win and I’Char. Win tried to keep her in sight; he could sense I’Char right behind him, intent on any possible threat. But it appeared to be just an excited group of K’Turians; there wasn’t a Lemian in sight.
Yet Win’s gheris sense threatened to overwhelm him. He staggered, recognizing it as the same sensation he had felt when they had first landed. That feeling had never really left him, but he had muted it. Now it was back, even stronger than before; it could not be muffled. Whatever it was, it surpassed even the emotion of the crowd.
Without warning Prentiss stopped and spun around, colliding with Win. She grabbed his arm. “My God, I saw him!”
“Where?” asked Win, as he was jostled by someone. They were in the midst of it now.
She did not answer but pushed forward, only stopping at the edge of the knoll, blocked by the mass of people filling every inch of the stone amphitheater.
“There!” She pointed down into the arena.
* * *
To Prentiss, the figure of Jesus was both simple and awe inspiring, even from a distance. She had not expected Jesus of K’Turia to look like this at all, and yet she could not imagine Jesus looking any other way. From him emerged a force that she could not describe, a power she knew must have some scientific explanation, as she had long argued. But right now she was unable to think of science and fact gathering but was only able to watch in wonder. Never before had the sight of any single person moved her so much. Her body reacted without her conscious control, trying to move closer.
All at once the yelling and pushing stopped. Prentiss pulled her eyes from Jesus to see what had happened. Four richly dressed men stood at the top steps of the amphitheater. A small space had cleared around them, the people averting their gazes.
Prentiss heard whispers: “Priests!”
One of the priests, his voice haughty with command, yelled out, “Why have you come here?” and his voice echoed through the amphitheater. “Beware those who would confuse you, and distract you from the Way. Go back to your homes!”
No one moved, and the crowd began to mutter. Across the amphitheater, far away from the priests, someone called out, “We only want to listen!”
“Listen to what?” demanded the priest, his voice filled with disdain. “You should listen only to the Pertise, and those who speak for the Temple. What does this Jesus know of the Way?”
Prentiss sensed the unease in the crowd as people turned back toward Jesus, awaiting his response.
But Jesus said nothing. He seemed neither disturbed nor rebuffed. His quiet strength encouraged the crowd. A few called out, “Leave us alone—we have done nothing wrong!”
Prentiss could see that the priests were taken aback, apparently not expecting such open resistance. Emboldened, the crowd grumbled, the noise increasing to a clamor. The people closest to the priests crowded in.
Jesus raised his hand, and the crowd quieted. He slowly walked across the arena and began climbing the steps of the amphitheater toward the priests. The people opened a way for him, some reaching out shyly to touch him. As he drew near, the priest who had spoken took a step back, drawing his robe about him. Jesus stared at the priest, who looked away.
“Would you like to join us?” Jesus asked. His voice was not threatening or angry, but calm and welcoming.
The priest laughed, but no one joined in; instead, another wave of muttering broke out. Jesus again held up his hand for silence. “The people would like to know why you have interrupted them.”
The priest stepped forward and said sharply, “We don’t have to explain anything to you. Do you know you could be banished for your words?”
“Banished?” Jesus seemed slightly amused. “Why? This is a place of public assembly, is it not? Have I broken a Temple Law?”
The priest turned from Jesus and addressed the crowd. “Do not listen to him! Those who do not keep the Way will be punished!”
Instead of cowering the crowd reacted with a tumultuous noise. People began to climb over the tiered seats toward Jesus and the priests, pressing against each other. “If this is wrong, why do the Pertise not come here and say so? Can we not listen to who we please?” In their whispered questions, Prentiss heard anger, frustration. Fear.
Jesus raised his voice, quieting the tumult. “I have come in peace, to speak about love and of the Sacrifices of the Way. Do the Pertise say we should not speak of love and sacrifice? Or that we cannot speak of the Way?”
The priest stared at him, but said nothing.
“Come, come,” said Jesus. His voice was soft, yet incredibly strong, carrying clearly to Prentiss across the large amphitheater. “Tell me what Law I will break, if I speak of peace, what tenet of the Way I will taint if I speak of love and Sacrifice in one breath?”
Still the priest said nothing.
“Love and peace are equal parts of the Way,” said Jesus. “And so, if you wish to keep the Way, as these people do, stay here in peace with us, and listen.”
“Who are you to tell us about the Way?” responded the priest, his voice full of scorn. “You should watch your tongue.” His voice rose to a yell. “No one but the Pertise can translate the Way! No one!”
The priest turned and pushed his way through the crowd, the other priests following, the people quickly moving out of their way, shouts of anger following them as they climbed the temple steps and disappeared inside.
* * *
“Now that we are alone . . . ,” said Jesus, as he made his way back down the steps. The crowd laughed. His tone became more serious, but a certain gaiety still lingered as he continued. “Let me tell you a story.”
At this the crowd became animated again, the tension gone. They clapped and yelled, “Yes, a story!”
“One day, two farmers who lived near each other woke up very early in the morning, preparing to go to the fields. When they met in the street outside their homes, they looked up at the sky, which was dark and foreboding. One of the farmers said, ‘I think we will have a very bad storm today. We should not go to the fields, for tonight is the eve of the worship day. If the storm becomes so bad that we are unable to return from the fields, we will not be able to make it to the temple for prayer.’
“The second farmer said, ‘But it is harvest time. If we do not go to the fields the crops will die, and all our work will be in vain. Does not the Way teach us that such waste is wrong? Yes, we may be caught in the storm. But that is a small hardship, compared to the loss of what we have sown.’ The first farmer replied: ‘No, we cannot risk not being at the temple, for if we are not there others will notice and say we have not kept the Way. How will you explain it if other farmers make it to the temple, and we do not?’ The second farmer shook his head, and said, ‘If we cannot return we can still hold the worship day, and pray in the fields. We can face the temple, and in our hearts we will be there, not in the fields.’ But the first farmer gathered his things and would not go to the fields. And so the other went by himself, and he was caught in the storm, and was unable to make it to the temple. Yet instead of being angered, or saying, ‘I should have listened, for now I cannot be in temple with the others,’ he simply stopped his work and began to pray, and in his heart he kept the worship day holy.”
Win could sense the emotions of the others around him as they listened, mesmerized. What he had not expected was how much he himself would be affected by Jesus. Jesus spoke with an intimacy that made Win feel he was being spoken to personally, as if no one else was there. Even the movement of Jesus’ hands, gesturing as he spoke, seemed to reach out to Win. His hands seemed to have an acute awareness of their own, as if they were a part of his communication, an added dimension of his speech.
Win made a deliberate effort to pull his eyes away.
He whispered to I’Char, “I have never felt anything like this before.”
“This man is very powerful,” said I’Char. “Even I can feel his energy.”
Without fully entering the heightened state of nore, Win turned his focus inward, trying to separate his own emotions and reactions from that which his gheris was picking up from the crowd. He felt nothing wrong, but the entire sensation was totally new to him. It was more—powerful, more direct, than anything he had ever sensed. He tried to think of a scientific reason. “Is it possible he is doing something to us, manipulating us in some way? Crowd control, perhaps? Some kind of mass hypnosis? It is far more than just his voice, it’s him.” He touched I’Char’s arm and indicated Prentiss, just ahead of them. She appeared to be awestruck.
“Look at these people, they’re all enthralled.” The K’Turians around them seemed unaware of their conversation.
The crowd waited for more, but Jesus had stopped speaking. Someone called out, “Jesus, what does this story mean?”
“Before I answer that,” said Jesus, “let me ask you this. Why do you go to the temple to pray?”
There was a hesitation, as if no one wanted to be the first to speak. Then a young boy in the front row called out, “So that we may keep the Way!”
Jesus smiled at the boy. “It seems you have been well taught! But how does praying in the temple keep the Way?”
After a moment, a timid voice called out, “Because that is the Law, as explained to us by the Pertise.”
“Ahh,” said Jesus. “Let me see if I understand. The Law says that to find the Way, you must pray in the temple, and only by praying in the temple can you stay within the Law?”
Win sensed the confusion in the crowd. Someone said, “It is the Law, that is why we pray in the temple.”
“And which is more important, obeying the Law, or finding the Way?” asked Jesus.
Some of the people called out, “The Law!” while others cried: “Finding the Way!”
“You see, the Law is supposed to be the clear guidance for you, and yet you cannot answer this simple question. You are confused, just like the farmer in the story, the one who will not go to the fields. He has confused the Law with the reason for the Law, which is to find the Way, the road to Paradise. He worries about not keeping the letter of the Law, but he does not understand its spirit. But the other farmer—he sees. He understands. He knows that as long as he keeps the Way in his heart, it will be right to pray in the fields, and he does not have to be in the temple.”
There was a silence as the crowd digested this, a few heads nodding.
“To reach Paradise it is the Way which is important; the Laws are just rules that have been created. Living the Way requires much more than just following laws.”
From the top of the amphitheater, on the knoll, a tall man stood and called out, “The Pertise have long told us that the Law and the Way are one and the same, that we cannot find the Way without following the Law exactly. And the Law says that we must keep the Order, and make our Sacrifices, so that stability and harmony will be maintained. We have been taught that this is how we reach Paradise, and how we avoid suffering in this life, and in the next. Are you saying this is wrong?”
“You have heard,” said Jesus, “but you have not yet understood. You have heard my story of the two farmers, but you have not understood that the Way is more important than the Law.
“Let me tell you another story. A rich builder is walking along a road. Behind him come the farmers who work his land, pulling a cart laden with food. Now a poor village woman happens to be walking on the same road, just behind the farmers, carrying a very small sack. Sitting along the side of the road are two invalids. The invalids call out to the rich builder, ‘Please, share with us some food!’ The builder stops and sees the farmers and the old woman watching him, and he puts on a great show of giving the invalids a large basket of food, and then he goes on his way. As the poor village woman passes the invalids, she stops and empties her sack at their feet, and two shriveled pieces of fruit tumble out. ‘Here,’ she says, ‘you can have this fruit.’ And she picks up her empty bag and walks away.
“Now I ask of you, who has made the greater Sacrifice? The rich builder, because he has given them a large basket of food, or the old village woman, who has given away her only two pieces of fruit?”
No one answered, and Jesus continued, “There is nothing wrong with Laws, but they cannot become more important than the Way. And the Way is one of Sacrifice, not because the Laws demand it, but because love demands it. The Way is about love and compassion. Sacrifice is about helping others, as you are able, to the best of your abilities, no matter what your place in the Order.”
Jesus pointed at the temple steps. “Those steps lead into the temple, where they continue on, up and up, to the altar. When you are there, the rich sit closest to the altar, and on the steps behind them and below them come those lower in the Order, all the way down to the traders, who have to strain their necks just to see the priests.”
He pointed at the people in the front rows. “You here, you are builders. And you back there are craftspeople, and behind you, the caretakers, the farmers, the traders. You have sat according to the Order! Yet here in this amphitheater, the rich are down below, and the poorest are above. Who is to say which Order is right?
“Wake up! You must not be willed to sleep by the rituals of the Laws. You live as sleepwalkers, blindly groping in the dark. Before you can see, you must awaken! Do not allow the Laws to trap you in a life of stagnation. You have so come to rely on those who tell you what to do that you no longer think of what you need to do yourselves!”
Someone called out, “But Jesus, if we do not follow the Order, how will we survive?”
“By not letting the Law become an empty ritual. If you do, you will live only out of habit or out of fear. If you live out of habit, you simply expect everything will fall into place for you. There is no sacrifice in this. You must do more than what the Law tells you to do. You must think of what you are responsible for, and what you need to do for others. And if you live out of fear, you will not be making true sacrifices. A sacrifice is not a payment of a debt or a tax, it is an act of love and compassion. Sacrificing because you want to help others is what will keep you alive! It is what will keep you in peace, and show you the Way to Paradise.”
The crowd was silent. Finally the tall man spoke again, almost beseechingly. “But if we do not make the Sacrifice as we have been taught, how will there be anything ready for us in Paradise?”
Win’s gheris surged as Jesus replied, “The sacrifices of the Way are not about things! Your life is about who you are and how you act, not what you own. Those who covet possessions, who keep what they do not need, who dress themselves in finery—none of these people will find the Way, for you will not need things in Paradise! Material things are a sign of greed, not sacrifice!”
There was a shocked silence. People shifted uneasily and cast wary glances toward the temple.
* * *
Prentiss turned to Win and I’Char and whispered, “No wonder they don’t like him.”
“Excuse me, my friend, I did not hear you.” It was Jesus.
At first Prentiss thought he was speaking to the tall man, but Jesus seemed to be looking right at her. Or was she imagining it? He was in the arena far below; how could he have heard her comment?
“Yes, you, my sister,” said Jesus.
Now Prentiss was sure Jesus was speaking to her. For a moment she remained silent, and then, almost as if the words were drawn from her, and she was speaking to no one else, she said, “I’m sorry. I was saying it is no wonder that the Pertise do not like you.”
Someone grabbed her arm, and she knew it must be Win or I’Char, but she did not turn around, she was not sure if she could have taken her eyes off of Jesus. She felt the crowd around her move away.
But Jesus smiled, and said, “I noticed that you and your friends were speaking before. Is there something troubling you?”
How could he have noticed us speaking? They were but faces in a multitude. She heard Win whisper, “Careful,” and squeeze her arm in warning, but she ignored him, and said, “Don’t you ever worry that the Pertise might do something to you for preaching as you do?” Then she caught herself, becoming aware that everyone was staring at her, and she felt as if she were one of the crowd, watching herself, and knowing what they were all thinking.
Who was this woman?
“I will leave that up to the Pertise!” exclaimed Jesus, without a trace of anger in his voice. He laughed, and this seemed to calm the crowd. Then his voice turned very serious, more serious than he had been before. “I see your concern, and it is a generous thing. I say to you: you must have faith, and believe that all who hear my voice will come to see the Truth. For you, the truth of sacrifice is to help those who are lost, for only with your help can they find the Way, and only thus can you yourself find the Way. For while even one is lost, there can be no true peace in the universe.”
Prentiss felt a jolt. It was as if Jesus had seen through them, and especially her, their purpose discovered. She looked around, suddenly realizing their risk, but the audience was already once again absorbed in Jesus, who was answering another question. Prentiss turned and stumbled away, as if in a daze, back through the crowd, trying to get free, free of the people and the bright light shining into her very soul.
© 2011 by W. R. Pursche & Michael Gabriele
disclosure: I received this book as a member of First Wild Card in exchange for posting about this book on my blog. No other compensation was received. All opinions on this blog are my own.