Updike on the Resurrection of Christ

Seven Stanzas at Easter

by John Updike

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-mache,
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.

What do you do when you don’t have to do anything? (#5)

More from St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Baptism of our Lord Sermon by Rev. James Douthwaite:

And not just any ol’ life do we now live, but as St. Paul said, a new life. His life. A Christ life. Not because we have to, but because what do you do when you don’t have to do anything? For, child of God, you do not have to do anything! You are forgiven. Your salvation is secure. Jesus’ death and resurrection is your death and resurrection, and there nothing you can add to that! Nothing.

So what do you do when you don’t have to do anything? You don’t do nothing – you live the Christ life. For that is who you are. Confessing your sins and receiving your Saviour’s forgiveness. Eating not locusts and wild honey, but the true body and blood of your Saviour, given and shed for you. And living for others as Christ lived for you. Such an honor we do not deserve. But what a privilege has been given to us. To serve, to speak, to live as the new creation that you are as a baptized child of God.

Perhaps others will think you crazy. No matter. Your Father is delighted, for [baptized into Christ] you are His beloved son, and with you He is well-pleased.

Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit (#4)

More from St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Baptism of our Lord Sermon by Rev. James Douthwaite:

And all of this He now gives to you. Did you hear? It is what John said right before he baptized Jesus: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Again, do not let the brevity of the words obscure their importance for you. For they tell us that just as Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized, so He comes here, and to every place where His Word is combined with water, to baptize you. The hand may be mine, or that of another equally unworthy pastor, but it is your Saviour who baptizes you.

He is still in the water with sinners, for sinners, saving sinners. With you, for you, saving you. Not ashamed of you, but washing your sins off of you, and giving you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who descends on sons of God, which by virtue of your baptism is what you are. Through the heavens torn open at Christ’s baptism, the Father looks upon you and sees not the sinner, but a forgiven, resurrected, dearly loved son, with whom He is well-pleased. Not because of anything you have done or will do, but because of what Jesus did for you. Because Jesus in the water means that this water is for us a life giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. (Small Catechism) And so here we are a new creation. By water and the spirit, the old has gone, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17-18)

The Spirit of God hovered over the waters (#3)

More from Pastor James Douthwaite’s sermon at St. Athanasius Lutheran Church on the Baptism of Our Lord. Here he makes a connection between the gospel lesson, in which John baptizes Jesus and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and the Old Testament reading for that same day from Genesis 1, describing how in the beginning of the creation, the Holy Spirit also hovered over the waters:

And so no wonder the Father is pleased! And no wonder that “the Holy Spirit descend[s] upon [Jesus] like a dove.” For in, with, and under the baptized body of Jesus, the world is being re-created. For as we heard, the Holy Spirit hovered over the water in the first creation in Genesis 1. Now in Mark 1 the Holy Spirit is again over the water. It is no coincidence. For just as in the beginning the Word of God spoke and brought life and light to all, so now the Word of God made flesh acts to bring life and light to all. In Him is a new beginning, a fresh start, another Genesis. A resurrection. In Him everything is again very good, for He is taking away the sin of the world.

I love the unity of the Bible and how Scripture interprets Scripture.

The Heavens were torn open (#2)

More from Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon on the Baptism of our Lord Sermon. He is expositing Mark 1:10: “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove”:

Now that’s quite an unusual word to use there [the word for "torn open"]. But remember, Mark, the man of few words, chooses his words carefully, and so here uses a word he uses only one other time in his whole Gospel – and that was right after Jesus died on the cross, when Mark reports, “He saw Heaven being torn open.”“the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mk 15:38)

And so with this word, Mark connects the beginning of His Gospel with the end. He connects Jesus’ baptism with His crucifixion. That we may know that in Jesus taking our sins upon Himself in His baptism, and taking them to the cross, that the division that separated God and man, that closed Heaven to us, is abolished! With our sin on Jesus, and with His death for our sin, Heaven is open again! We are right with God. Our sins are forgiven, washed away.

Church removes crucifix for being too scary

As a coda to our series on the Theology of the Cross, consider this story about a church in England that removed the outdoor crucifix below because it was “too scary.” Says the story, quoting a museum curator who ended up with the sculpture, “the powerful image portrayed by the figure was that of Christ in pain. ‘That today isn’t an image which a lot of churches want to follow.’” Why is that, in light of our series on the Cross?