Turn Aside and Look: To Move a Stone

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I owned a slope full of stones.
Like buried pianos they lay in the ground…

What bond have I made with the earth,
having worn myself against it? It is a fatal singing
I have carried with me out of that day.
The stones have given me music
that figures for me their holes in the earth
and their long lying in them dark.
They have taught me the weariness that loves the ground,
and I must prepare a fitting silence.
~Wendell Berry from “The Stones”

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What does it take to move a stone?
When it is an effort to till the untillable,
creating a place where simple seed can drop,
be covered and sprout and thrive,
it takes muscle and sweat and blisters and tears.

What does it take to move a stone?
When it is a day when no one speaks out of fear,
the silent will be moved to cry out the truth,
heard and known and never forgotten.

What does it take to move a stone?
When all had given up,
gone behind locked doors in grief,
and two came to tend the dead,
but there was no dead to tend.

Only a gaping hole left
Only an empty tomb
Only a weeping weary silence
broken by Love calling us
and we turn aside to greet Him
as if hearing our name for the first time.

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a stone pinecone, environmental art by Andy Goldsworthy, rural Scotland

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Wax and Wane

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Out in the rain a world is growing green,
   On half the trees quick buds are seen
       Where glued-up buds have been.
Out in the rain God’s Acre stretches green,
   Its harvest quick tho’ still unseen:
       For there the Life hath been.

If Christ hath died His brethren well may die,
   Sing in the gate of death, lay by
       This life without a sigh:
For Christ hath died and good it is to die;
   To sleep when so He lays us by,
       Then wake without a sigh.

Yea, Christ hath died, yea, Christ is risen again:
   Wherefore both life and death grow plain
       To us who wax and wane;
For Christ Who rose shall die no more again:
   Amen: till He makes all things plain
       Let us wax on and wane.
~Christina Rossetti “Easter Monday”

 

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On this day after Easter, this Easter Monday, we can too quickly settle back to routine as if nothing special happened. This was not the case when Jesus would appear in a room of people, joining others walking on a road, cooking breakfast for His friends by the lake.

So we look for Him to make things plain to us: we watch the waxing and waning of the seasons, of the living and dying around us, indeed, our own waxing and waning, living and dying. The transformation from death to life yesterday is everywhere we look, if we look.

The huge chestnut tree in our front yard is filled with such chrysalises of metamorphosis, from bud to green-winged butterfly leaf.

We are waxing on in Christ who shall die no more.

Amen and Amen.

 

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Between Midnight and Dawn: His Flesh and Ours

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Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6: 8-10

 

So what do I believe actually happened that morning on the third day after he died?
…I speak very plainly here…

He got up.  He said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Love is the victor.  Death is not the end.  The end is life.  His life and our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the wildest visionary has ever dared to dream.  Christ our Lord has risen.
~Frederick Buechner

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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.
~John Updike from “Seven Stanzas at Easter”

 

Since this moment (the resurrection), the universe is no longer what it was;  nature has received another meaning; history is transformed and you and I are no more, and should not be anymore, what we were before.
~Paul Tillich

 

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Our flesh is so weak, so temporary,
as ephemeral as a dew drop on a petal
yet with our earthly vision
it is all we know of ourselves
and it is what we trust knowing
of Him.

He was born as our flesh, from our flesh.
He walked and hungered and thirsted and slept
as our flesh.
He died, His flesh hanging in tatters,
blood spilling freely
breath fading
to nought
speaking Words
our ears can never forget.

And He got up,
to walk and hunger and thirst alongside us
and here on this hill we meet together,
–flesh of His flesh–
here among us He is risen
–flesh of our flesh–
married forever
as the Church:
a fragile, flawed
and everlasting body.

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During this Lenten season, I have drawn inspiration from the new devotional collection edited by Sarah Arthur —Between Midnight and Dawn

God Among Us: Shiver at His Passing

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He asked her,
“Woman, why are you crying?
Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said,
“Sir, if you have carried him away,
tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

John 20:15

 

A lily shivered
at His passing,
supposing Him to be
the Gardener.
~Margaret D. Smith “Easter morning, yesterday”
from A Widening Light -Poems of the Incarnation

 

So ordinary, so like one of us~
in the manger or later in the garden,
just another baby
just another man
but more, much more
than we ever could have imagined.
The fields of our hearts, bare and dead,
spring back to life again.
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Sing we now of Christmas
Sing we all Noel
Of the Lord and Savior
We the tidings tell
Sing we Noel
For Christ the King is born
Sing we Noel
For Christ the Lord is born
Angels from on high
May shepherds come and see
He’s born in Bethlehem
A blessed family
Glory to God
For Christ our King is born
Glory to God
For Christ our Lord is born
Sing we now of Christmas
Sing we all Noel
Sing we now of Christmas
Sing we all Noel
Sing we all Noel
Sing we all Noel
~Noel Nouvelet (French Carol)

 

 

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

In the grave they laid Him, Love Whom we had slain,
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again,
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Up He sprang at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain;
Up from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green.

Noel Nouvelet (French Carol for Easter)

Opening the Closed

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each of us has known the pleasure
of spring, the way it feels for something closed

to open: the soft, heavenly weather of arrival.
~Faith Shearin from “Geese”

 

This season of opening and emptying:
from cloistered tight
to reaching beyond our grasp.
Or what’s a heaven for?

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In the Midst of Joy: Everything Sad Becomes Untrue

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Just after the climax of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee discovers that his friend Gandalf was not dead (as he thought) but alive.
He cries, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself! Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
The answer of Christianity to that question is – yes.

Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.

Embracing the Christian doctrines of the incarnation and Cross brings profound consolation in the face of suffering.
The doctrine of the resurrection can instill us with a powerful hope.
It promises that we will get the life we most longed for,
but it will be an infinitely more glorious world
than if there had never been the need for bravery, endurance, sacrifice, or salvation.
~Pastor Tim Keller in Reason for God

 

And so we awake, rush to tend the dead and find death emptied out.  He is standing, walking, eating, calling us by name.  What He came to us to accomplish is done: nothing is the same and everything is changed.  We need no longer hide in darkness, fear death,  dwell in loneliness,  starve and thirst, despair in impossible situations because only He can do the impossible.

Because everything sad has become untrue by His bravery, His endurance, His sacrifice for our salvation.

All is fresh and made new.
Christ, yes God become man, Christ is risen indeed!

 

Awake, thou wintry earth,
Fling off thy sadness;
Fair vernal flowers laugh forth
Your ancient gladness:Christ is risen.

Wave, woods, your blossoms all,
Grim Death is dead;
Ye weeping funeral trees,
Lift up your head.
Christ is risen.

Come, see, the graves are green;
It is light; let us go
Where our loved ones rest
In hope below.
Christ is risen.

All is fresh and new,
Full of spring and light;
Wintry heart, why wearest the hue
Of sleep and night?
Christ is risen.

Leave thy cares beneath,
Leave thy worldly love;
Begin the better life
With God above.
Christ is risen.
~Thomas Blackburne  An Easter Hymn

 

 

Prepare for Joy: Blown Away

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It has been a relatively warm wet week in the northwest, so it seemed reasonable after finishing up farm chores last night to leave the large rolling north-south doors wide open in the barn where the horses are housed.  Then I woke suddenly at midnight hearing powerful gusts of a southerly wind buffeting the house.  Knowing what havoc a wind can do inside an open barn, I went out in pajamas and muck boots to roll the doors closed before the storm could reach inside, a true barnstorming as has happened here before on Holy Week…

 

An unexpected southerly wind hit suddenly late Sunday night, gusting up to 40 miles an hour and slamming the house with drenching rain as we prepared to go to bed. Chores in the barn had been done hours before, but as we had not been expecting a storm, the north/south center aisle doors were still open, and I could hear banging and rattling as they were buffeted in the wind. I quickly dressed to go latch the doors for the night, but the tempest had done its damage. Hay, empty buckets, horse blankets, tack and cat food had blown all over, while the Haflingers stood wide-eyed and fretful in their stalls. A storm was blowing inside the barn as well as outside it.

It took some time to tidy up the mess after the doors were secured but all was soon made right. The wind continued to bash at the doors, but it no longer could touch anything inside them. The horses relaxed and got back to their evening meal though the noise coming from outside was deafening. I headed back up to the house and slept fitfully listening to the wind blow all night, wondering if the metal barn roof might pull off in a gust, exposing everything within.

Yet in the new daylight on Monday morning, all was calm. The barn was still there, the roof still on, the horses where they belonged and all seemed to be as it was before the barnstorming wind.

Or so it might appear.

This wind heralds another storm coming this week that hits with such force that I’m knocked off my feet, swept away, and left bruised and breathless. No latches, locks, or barricades are strong enough to protect me from what will come over the next few days.

On Sunday he rode in on a donkey softly, humbly, and wept at what he knew was coming.

Yesterday, he withered the fruitless tree and overturned the tables in his fury.

Today the plans are made to betray him.

Tomorrow, he teaches the people to prepare them, then rests in anticipation.

On Thursday, he kneels as a servant, pours water over dusty feet, presides over a simple meal, and then, abandoned by his friends,  sweats blood in agonized prayer.

By Friday, all culminates in the perfect storm, transforming everything in its path, leaving nothing untouched.

The silence on Saturday is deafening.

Next Sunday, the Son rises and returns, all is calm, all is well, all set to right.  He calls my name, breaks bread with broken hands, my heart burns within me at his words and I can never be the same again.

Barnstormed to the depths of my soul. Doors flung open wide, the roof pulled off, everything I was before blown away and now replaced, renewed and reconciled.

So shall his spirit storm within us as he has said, again and yet again.

 

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