Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seven Stanzas for Easter

This poem has been one of my favorites ever since it was written by John Updike -- the year I was confirmed by Pastor John Braughler at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Monroeville, Pennsylvania. The faith of my childhood has since been sustained, renewed and shared by gifted and generous writers, artists, friends and family members over the years. I am grateful.

It was humbling to begin Holy Week this year at Rondo Retreat's Good Shepherd Chapel in Kakamega, Kenya, and to read inspired sermons while there: "Suffering, Celebration and The Rest of the Story" by Father Rob Hensley of Grace Episcopal Church, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. My life came full circle, somehow, just halfway around the world.

Asante sana, John, John and Rob, and to all of you (especially Bob, Donnel and Steve) between!

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.

(from Telephone Poles and Other Poems)

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