Your home for the music of the church: hymns, anthems, spirituals, and sacred classics.

I guess you could say I’m a sucker for a well-crafted turn of phrase. I’m not a poet, so maybe it’s something of an envious wish that I could be a cleverer wordsmith myself. But whatever causes lie behind it, when I hear a well-turned phrase, it can make its way deep into my psyche.

That’s why I think preachers should be poets. One of my former pastors, though he might deny it, was something of a poet. No, he didn’t preach in iambic pentameter, nor did his homiletical phrases rhyme. But he could craft a sentence in such a way that you not only understood the theological truth in the statement, but you felt that truth deep in your soul. It was a gift that he shared with his congregation Sunday by Sunday.

It was from that preacher that I first heard of John Updike’s poem Seven Stanzas at Easter. As I recall, I don’t think the poem’s title was mentioned, and I’m certain that my pastor didn’t quote anything like the entire seven stanzas. But as the poem took up the theme of the resurrection, here is what struck like an arrow to my soul:

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.

Easter can be such a sweet, even syrupy holiday. It comes at a time in the year that many of us are ready for the warmth of spring, the return of flowers, and the rejuvenation that comes with the end of long, cold winter months. It’s easy to associate Easter with these welcome changes. Something similar can happen when we think—even as Christians—about Christ’s resurrection. Isn’t it wonderful that God raised Jesus to life (just like the appearance of these beautiful flowers poking up from the hard ground). He lives! He lives! He lives within my heart! And if we aren’t careful, that cry, good as it is, can become the sum total of what we believe about the resurrection. And taken to its logical extreme, Jesus’ resurrection can be more like a spiritual happening in our lives, than a real, embodied event in history.

And so Updike’s poem assaults us with the warning to not make Jesus’ bodily resurrection anything less than what it was: a dead man who got up and walked out of a tomb on a particular Sunday morning two millennia ago. To make it anything less than that is indeed to mock the God who raised Jesus by shrinking the shocking reality into some sort of metaphor of spring rejuvenation.

And so it remains for us to walk through the door. To let this dazzling reality so assault us that we begin to understand the apostle Paul when he says: “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are unseen are eternal.” Yes, eternal. Yes, unseen with the physical eye. But no less real for that. And to live with the certain hope that, on that Sunday in Palestine, a real man, who was also God's Son, who had been really dead, really did rise and walk out of his tomb. Believing that will change everything!

Install the Phone Apps!

badge app storebadge play store