Seven Stanzas at Easter :: John Updike

Resurrected Christ
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

[Written for a religious arts festival sponsored by the Clifton Lutheran Church, of Marblehead, Mass.]

of enemies and evasions :: truth and consequences

As much as we expect him to, Jesus never discards the category of “enemy.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; Invite your enemies to the table; go and be reconciled with your enemy” etc. I’m sure that many other people have reflected on this with greater depth and insight than I will be able to. Nevertheless, here come a few brief meditations.

Jesus had enemies. There were people who wanted to harm him, wanted to take his life. There were people in Jesus day who knew what he stood for (or thought that they did) and couldn’t stand him. He had a program, an agenda, a point. When he said, “follow me” to his disciples, it was because he was going somewhere, and he thought it was important that they come along. Having enemies means standing for something definite, something concrete, something that cannot be denied even at the cost of alienation. Living in the tension between truth and sinfulness, humanity lives in enmity. Continue reading “of enemies and evasions :: truth and consequences”

theology and poetry :: truth and beauty

I thought I’d start this thing off with a journal entry from June :: a particularly good day…

This afternoon, I found a truth worth starving for. It sometimes happens like that – in an afternoon. Driving along, I was hijacked by the announcement of a trailhead off the side of the highway – a path leading into the woods, across streams and up into mountains. Being a rare and fortuitous “day off,” I allowed myself to be suckered into a u-turn, drove back over my thirty seconds of deliberation, and parked my rig. I abandoned the “mineral drops that explode to drive my ton of car” for the propulsive power contained in my own two legs. For all that, I’ve had nearly a perfect day.

Theology that has lost its connection with poetry has lost its connection with truth. The simplicity and depth contained within that a priori aphorism could fuel a lifetime’s thought and teaching. Poetry is the art of condensed meaning. Words contain whole worlds of reference. They sit in place on a page, but point to a thousand things beyond themselves. To enter a poem means to follow one of its manifold paths into the world it describes. A poem knows more that what appears on its page because a poem is a question, and we are all unique answerers. Theology that has lost its connection to poetry inhabits a world where truth can be divorced from beauty. This is not our world. Continue reading “theology and poetry :: truth and beauty”