Seven Stanzas at Easter by John Updike

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.

Friday morning ruminations

This is an excerpt from CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce, where an embittered ghost is arguing with the redeemed spirit of her brother:
‘It’s a lie. A wicked, cruel lie. How could anyone love their son more than I did? Haven’t I lived only for his memory all these years?’
‘That was rather a mistake, Pam. In your heart of hearts you know it was.’
‘What was a mistake?’
‘All that ten years’ ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he’d left it; keeping anniversaries; refusing to leave that house though Dick and Muriel were both wretched there.’
‘Of course they didn’t care. I know that. I soon learned to expect no real sympathy from them.’
‘You’re wrong. No man ever felt his son’s death more than Dick. Not many girls loved their brothers better than Muriel. It wasn’t against Michael they revolted: it was against you—against having their whole life dominated by the tyranny of the past: and not really even Michael’s past, but your past.’
‘You are heartless. Everyone is heartless. The past was all I had.’
‘It was all you chose to have. It was the wrong way to deal with a sorrow. It was Egyptian—like embalming a dead body.’
‘Oh, of course. I’m wrong. Everything I say or do is wrong, according to you.’
‘But of course!’ said the Spirit, shining with love and mirth so that my eyes were dazzled. ‘That’s what we all find when we reach this country. We’ve all been wrong! That’s the great joke. There’s no need to go on pretending one was right! After that we begin living.’
Bitterness is a prison house you lock yourself in while you curse those who beckon you to use the keys you have in your hand. The keys aren’t labeled but they look a lot like repentance unto joy.

Reading through the Institutes

I got pointed to a “Read Calvin’s Institutes in a Year” schedule about 3 months ago and it is proving itself very refreshing. Here’s a great quote I ran across this morning:

For each man’s mind is like a labyrinth, so that it is no wonder that individual nations were drawn aside into various falsehoods; and not only this–but individual men, almost, had their own gods.  For as rashness and superficiality are joined to ignorance and darkness, scarcely a single person has ever been found who did not fashion for himself an idol or specter in place of God. 

Another great quote from CS Lewis

I don’t know how he does it.  His seemingly casual analogies and metaphors just cause a page to explode, driving home the import of whatever he’s talking about.

To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?’ Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world- shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else— since He has retained His own charger—should we accompany Him?” – from Miracles

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Baptismal Prayer of a Father

Yesterday, I had the privilege of baptizing another covenant child, and as I have done on many occasion, gave the child’s father an opportunity to pray for his son after the waters of baptism and the Triune name were applied.  The prayer that I post below is the prayer that father prayed (with names removed).  Even now his prayer for his son moves me to tears.

Father, I thank you for the opportunity to witness, firsthand, your kingdom moving forward. For we believe, in faith, that you have marked [our son] as one of your people, a part of your Church. I know we have yet to see the faith in his life, but we are trusting in you to take his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh. I pray that his faith would not be one born out of crisis, but that his trust in you for salvation would be like the air that he breathes… that long before he can express it, your saving grace would work in his life.  We look forward to the day he can put into words the great work you have done in him.

Father, I thank you that children are truly one of life’s greatest blessings, not life-accessories for selfish adults, not burdens to be endured by exhausted parents, but blessings in the purest sense.  For they are blessings that can, in turn, be a blessing to a dark and dying world.  So, to that end, I pray for [our son’s] physical health, that you would keep sickness and injury from him so that he may care for the sick and the dying. I pray for his strength, that you would make his body continue to grow strong so that he may be a defender of the weak and the abused. I pray that you would continue to fill his life with those who love and care for him, so that he may be an advocate for the unloved and the forgotten.

Lord, your word tells us that to whom much is given, much is required, and, as parents, we have been so richly blessed. So, I ask that you enable us to be the mother and father that your word calls us to be – that we would not neglect to teach our children your word, to discipline them according to your law, and to love them as you have loved us.  Also, as I have just asked you to bless [our son] with great blessings, so I trust that you will use him in mighty way to advance your kingdom – that everywhere he goes the darkness would run and hide for fear of your bright light that shines through him.

We are trusting in you to do all these things. I pray them all in Jesus’ name. Amen.