Easter Week: March 27-April 2
Reflection: Jared Ayers
This past summer, I met John Updike. Not literally, of course (he died in 2007). But I met his writing on a sticky summer day when I walked into a neighborhood bookstore near Liberti’s offices and walked out with Olinger Stories, a collection of poignant short fiction he wrote for the New Yorker about life in a fictitious Pennsylvania town. That town, “Olinger,” bears a morethan-passing resemblance to where I grew up. Since my time in Olinger last summer, I’ve meandered through some of Updike’s other work. (He was a wide-ranging, Pulitzer-winning 20th-century author who wrote novels, essays, short stories, and poetry.)
One of my favorite poems of Updike’s is his Seven Stanzas at Easter, birthed during an angstridden time in his twenties:
“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 …
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.”
I appreciate this poem because Updike maps out the staggering – even “monstrous” –dimensions of the Easter announcement: that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth was raised bodily by God’s power to launch God’s remaking and renewing of the whole cosmos. This is a scandalous claim; several years ago, there was an uproar on the campus at Yale University because, during Holy Week, someone put up a cross with the acronym “ROFL” (“rolling on the floor laughing”) at the idea of resurrection.
But, this is the good news that snuck up on those skeptical, perplexed, and hopeless people, and that has been ambushing skeptical, perplexed, and hopeless people: “He isn’t here – he’s been raised!” I pray that this Easter you join Mary, Peter, John Updike, and a world of people in being staggered, and renewed, by this surprising hope: “He’s been raised!”
To read more Lenten reflections, visit our Lent/Easter page and download our Lent Prayerbook to follow along with us this season!