99% of my personal library consists of reference books. As a pastor, I’m required to bury my nose in commentaries, theologies, and cultural studies; and that’s just fine. I happen to enjoy that kind of reading. But we become like what we read and pastors who only read non-fiction reference material begin sounding like textbooks. For that reason, I always have a mixture of other types of literature in my reading diet. I listen to novels on audiobooks, and I typically have a book of poetry on my desk or bedside table. In this series of posts I am sharing some of my favorite sacred poems. I hope they inspire you to search for more.
This is “Seven Stanzas at Easter” by John Updike
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.
—John Updike, “Seven Stanzas as Easter” (1960)