It is April 4, 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly, two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:1-6)
To which the Christian Church responds today, “He is risen indeed!”
Welcome to a special Easter edition of the Christian History Almanac. It’s a different kind of show. Hang on until the end for a special announcement about the future of this very show.
In 1960, John Updike was a Harvard student attending the Clifton Lutheran Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts. This year the famous future author submitted a poem for a Christian Arts Festival. His poem won; he gave the $100 prize money back to the church. The poem was “Seven Stanzas at Easter.” The poem is a brash but poetic defense of the Resurrection as fact and as flesh. Today I will read the poem in its entirety for this special episode of the Almanac.
The 4th stanza begins with the line “Let us not mock God with Metaphor,” this is the heart of the poem. The final lines that read, “embarrassed by the miracle, and crushed by remonstrance,” will refer to the sad case of those who, for their own convenience, reject the “monstrous” crucifixion and death.
This is John Updike’s “7 Stanzas At Easter.”
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.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for April 4, 2021, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. Christopher Gillespie produces the show. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.