A Paschal Celebration

Out of the darkness the Light brightly shines,
As death itself is swallowed up in living Life
Breathing in the wicked halls of dark Hades
With walls lined by chained, mournful spirits,
But there are no shackles to be worn by you,
O Beloved, for you have born the very worst
And you have overcome, coming victoriously
Into the very throne room of groaning Sheol
To snatch the keys of death and hell
To be cast in your living well of Life;
And already the bell tolls the coming of dawn
As your tomb yawns in an awakening sunrise
That will be the greater surprise of all history
For death itself cannot hold in your bold Life
Just as the stark dark cannot overcome Light;
Yes, you are like that fabled phoenix, Beloved,
Rising from ashes with healing in your wings!

To one and all: Happy Easter! Blessed Resurrection Day!


Love of the Beloved

In Celebration of Easter

How can it be that I should see the love you have for me?
That you would take me in your arms away from all harm
With no need for alarm is a charm no money could buy,
And freely I sing gleefully of your passionate compassion
That you do not ration but give liberally that I might live
So peacefully within your bright light, my saving Knight!
And so my very heart takes flight with no fight or fright
As your love takes me higher and kindles fire in my soul
Where there was a gaping hole until you stole me away
On the day I was lying and dying, crying at my loss of life;
Yes, you found me bound to the nefarious angel of death,
Breathing my last breath, then you gave me your breath
That I might live again and forevermore with you, in you,
By you and for you, O Beloved and holy lovely Shepherd!
. . .
O how can it be that I would see the love you have for me?

Passing Clouds Along the Sky

Passing clouds along the sky, who would veil the earth from distant light, hear me now hail the night in promise of the dawn of yet another day. No tear will be shed in mournful loneliness underneath your dark forebodings and ill-promise of storm and terror. The Sun will rise with piercing ray and power breaking dark, speeding gloom far away … and I will rejoice and laugh again.

Death comes now, but as passing friend, not remaining foe ~ no bolted gate, no! an open door ~ and we embrace and exchange the kiss of peace, so long ago did the din of war cease at the mouth of an empty tomb, where once lay the dead-now-risen One. And so it is the Reaper now comes with promise, not plague, in sweet anticipation of the never-ending day when ends his work, and he too shall rest.

Passing clouds along the sky, who would shut out all light and make assault in storm upon the world, would you have me cry? Would you have me beg you disappear, and what with the rain would matter my tear? Would you have me hide in dark from the darkness you bring, when so soon from the Sun everlasting light will spring? And would I myself deny the dawn of joy and never laugh again?

Look east, dark clouds, along the line! Even now shows faint promise round the distant Mount, as black gives way to the golden ray! Dawn is birthed from the womb of night, and hope is cradled in the coffin ~ yes, there if life! For some short season we may bid farewell but you, clouds of doom, are passing; the Sun will appear and we will rejoice and laugh and never again will you veil this earth, for the night will be forever done!

Passing clouds along the sky, who would veil the earth from distant light, hear me now … The Sun of Righteousness has risen with healing in His wings!

Note: First published in June 2015, now republished especially for Eastertide. Blessings to one and all!

And Now Do the Shades Rise Up To Praise You

Note: Written five years ago in April 2012, this personal account is still largely true today. Coming quickly now to the celebration of Easter, it seemed appropriate for me to share this testimony with reader-followers of this blog in hopes that you find both joy and inspiration. A half-decade may have passed, but the answer to the title-question still remains the same for me. Blessings to one and all!

Knowing and not knowing. Knowledge without understanding. Wisdom trampled beneath the arrogant feet of folly, led by the blind man I was born, groping along the wall, waiting for the next fall. No not a man, not half a man, but only a shade of what I was meant to be, the image-bearer of God, lovingly created in his likeness.

Feeling my way along in the darkness, surrounded by multitudes of blinded men, I was alone existing in my unlife, haunted by numinous dreams of otherworldly communion, struggling to forge hearts out of stone, draw water from desert sands, and cover the night in unseen light born of imagination desperately searching for some façade behind reality.

And I flew in a thousand directions to escape the anguish of my own haunted soul, dreaming worlds and wars, making love and peace in perfectly controlled imagination, writing my own laws and standing high priest in my own holy temple, all as vacuous as the furtherest reaches of coldest outer space.

Man by birth … Shade by slow death.

So much less ~ so terribly other ~ than what I was meant to be, and why? And I have fought and scrambled for so many shallow honors and recognitions, for power, prestige and popularity. Vainly do I scurry to fill my life with toys and trinkets, grasping at suave success and material gain, gasping for the breathe of life in the dark shadows of a dying world.

And my heart cry is lifted in the awful realization that apart from the Author of Life there is no life ~ authentic life ~ but that I am and ever shall be wholly destitute. No matter how much I shift and change, no difference how many different parts I play or people I become, I am nothing. I am the Shade.

But now stripped bare, blindfold removed, and all fantasy blown away like thin wisps of lingering smoke. Now awakening to the awakened world, and released from the confines of the medical ward back into the streets of asphalt and concreted buildings, flashing lights and delivery trucks, schools and churches and middle class homes…

Now what? More alive and awake than ever I have been before, I am frightened. What now? Fantasy feels safer, dreams more secure. No matter how agonizingly unrealistic, and no matter how disappointing … how shattered. But I hear the whisper in ancient tone, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ And so, ‘awake, o sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ And he who has now begun this good work in you is faithful and he himself will bring it to completion, for he came not only to give you life, but life abundantly!”

What else but to bow down in humble adoration and thanksgiving? After all, did the Light not shine to rescue me from Darkness? Did the Voice not speak for me to hear? Was the Story not told to fill my emptiness with Meaning? Did the Arms not open wide to embrace and hold one so alone and forlorn? Did Life not die and rise again that I might die no more, but live? Live?

The great psalmist, David, once asked, “Will you show your wonders to the dead? Will the shades rise up and praise you?” And the answer is given…

Yes, the shades do now rise to praise you! Lord, make me whole.

Proof of the Resurrection in the Fruit of Faith

icon_resurrection_of_christ2Something new had appeared in the universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into ‘ghost’ and ‘corpse.’ A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?

—  C. S. Lewis, “What Are We To Make Of Jesus Christ?”

“He is not here, for he has risen!”

Those words have echoed down through the centuries. Those words changed the entire course of the history of the world. Those words have transformed countless millions of lives. Those very words are celebrated by billions of individuals around the globe.

“I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen!” So declared the angel to the women at the empty tomb.

This event quite literally turned the world “upside down and inside out.” This one event shook the very foundations of the netherworld. This single, monumental event put death itself to death and gave birth to life everlasting for all who believe. As C. S. Lewis said, “that is the story,” the central narrative of Christian faith.

And this is what the Easter celebration is all about – that is, it is nothing less than the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate every day, really, but especially each year on Easter, or Pascha, Sunday. As the distinguished Yale professor, William Lyons Phelps, on one time said:

In the whole story of Jesus Christ, the most important event is the resurrection. Christian faith depends on this. It is encouraging to note that it is explicitly given by all four evangelists and told also by Paul. The names of those who saw him after his triumph over death are recorded; and it may be said that the historical evidence for the resurrection is stronger than for any other miracle anywhere narrated; for as Paul said, if Christ is not risen from the dead then our preaching is in vain, and our faith is also vain.

But, of course, as comforting as evidence may be to those who believe, faith is still faith and provides the only key to understanding the story, to embracing the truth of the resurrection and living in the light of this event and the steadfast hope it brings in the face of darkness and death.

This is central to everything we do, think, say and feel as Christians. After all, if Christ had not been raised, would there even be the Church? And if so, what would the Sacrament of Holy Communion really mean, if anything at all? For that matter, what would the blood of thousands upon thousands of martyrs be worth?

If Christ had not been raised, what comforting words would the priest or minister possibly speak to someone dying in the hospital? Or to some family facing tragic circumstances? What hope would there be beyond the grave? Would there be any assurance of life everlasting? Some other religion might provide answers of some sort … but not Christianity. In the Christian faith, the resurrection is  the answer, the only  answer.

No, the day of Easter, our Paschal feast, encapsulates everything – literally everything – we do and say and believe as followers of Jesus Christ. “He is not here,” the angel said. “I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen!” Triumphant over the tomb, defeating darkness and death, reconciling God and humanity in everlasting life.

And because he was not there in the grave so long ago, there is not only hope of everlasting life after temporal death, but resurrection to life in this time, in this world following so many deaths of many kinds. Resurrection life after the death of my marriage; life after the death of innocence and my own naivety; life after the death of youth. Life like the phoenix arising from the ashes of who and what once defined my life to live again, renewed and free and filled with hope.

I know all of this because I believe and have experienced the glorious truth of the resurrection in my life. The proof of the resurrection is found in the fruit of faith born and continually growing in my life, so that with the women returning from the empty tomb I, too, can say, “he has risen! Where once death reigned, life has now been crowned lord of all forevermore! And, indeed, light shines in the darkness, and the darkness is not powerful enough to overcome!”

And is there really any greater hope, any profounder truth than the powerful, terrifying, joyous message of that angel so long ago? “He is not here! He is risen!” And if he triumphed over death then he surely is the Lord of life. And as the Lord of life, he has the power and authority to give life … and hope, always hope.

This singular truth, really, is proof of everything he taught, every miracle he performed, every promise he made. This is the confirmation of purpose in creation, of meaning in our existence, of divine intention for our lives. No, Christ is not in the grave. He is not dead, cold and lifeless in the earth. He is not there… He has been and is the risen Lord and Savior, enthroned in my heart by faith. And despite what evidence there may be, however comforting, this fact is the unassailable fact of faith, not science … and for that reason, the more evident and rewarding.

In the simple words of Watchman Nee, “Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection,” by grace through faith. And so it begins here and now, in this life in this world. “He is not here, for he has risen!” Alleluia!