Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
I am excited about this Easter Sunday. There are 3 things I want to mention in this newsletter. They are under the titles of “suffering of the son”, “evil for good”, and “the bodily resurrection in its completeness”.
The first is a brief synopsis of a story I told 10 years ago and an experience I had on St Stephen’s Ave in Calgary early one Summer evening. I came across a young man who looked remarkably like my son: tall, lean, nicely turned out. He was hanging out with friends. I thought to myself, “That is just like Andrew.” Not half an hour later I was returning to the place where I had seen this young man but saw him instead through the windows of a dimly lit police prison wagon, handcuffed, sobbing and howling in despair, and banging his head inconsolably against the steel wall of the van.
Someone’s son… Someone else’s son… Looked just like my own son…
And like the Father to Christ on the cross I wanted to save that son… the one who looked like mine and felt like mine… who for all intents and purposes was kith and kin to me.
I was 51 years old when this happened. It had taken most of my life to fully apprehend on an emotional level even a small pale reflection of what the Father must have felt in the suffering of the Son on Good Friday.
I realise now that Christ’s abandonment was so viscerally painful because the Father could not bear to look on the suffering of the Son. Christ was understandably distraught as his Father did just that.
The second theme this Lenten Easter week is an oft-sighted piece of a note attached to a dead child in the Nazi concentration camp of Ravensbruck. It is almost obscenely in error to try to identify with the suffering that happened in that place; a death camp solely for women and children. However, if the feeling cannot be fully mined then at least the intention, most especially in this Passion prelude to Easter Sunday, must be mined for me to be fully in Christ. It is as follows:
O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us:
Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering—our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.
When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
Over a dozen years ago Jonathan Wilson introduced me to that famous piece by John Updike entitled “Seven Stanzas at Easter”. In all the syncretistic nonsense of our day and age to revel and celebrate that poetically powerful declaration of the bodily resurrection is something that profoundly thrills me every day of my life. Here is that poem:
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule 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
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-mache,
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 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.
This Easter has at its powerful, churning centre the bodily resurrection of Jesus where the living Lord is plucked out of the chaos of suffering and death. He has made me new though that is indeed the reason he has also made me glad.
Christ is risen this day and even forevermore. Amen.