The following will be published as The Rector’s Reflection in the April 2015 issue of The Epistle, the newsletter of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, where Fr. Funston is rector.
One of my favorite poems is Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry:
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
I love that poem for its critique of modern society, but mostly I love it for that last line which summarizes the whole poem: “Practice resurrection.”
Another is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ 1918 poem The Wreck of the Deutschland a very long elegy in honor of five Franciscan nuns killed in 1875 when a German passenger liner, the SS Deutschland, sunk off the coast of England. At the end of the poem Hopkins wrote these wonderful lines:
Remember us in the roads,
the heaven-haven of the Reward
Our King back … !
Let him easter in us.
I love that use of easter as a verb? “Let him easter in us.” God eastered Christ after three days. Christ easters in us. It’s the same as Wendell Berry’s admonition to “practice resurrection”! We often say, “Easter isn’t just a day; it’s a season!” These poets show us that it isn’t just a day or a season; it’s a verb! An activity! – Resurrection isn’t just something that happened about 2,000 years ago, or something that will happen sometime in some distant, unknown future; it’s an on-going reality, happening now; a joyful, laughter-producing, cosmic turning of the tables on death in which we are all invited, encouraged, and empowered to participate!
Easter is a verb! “To easter,” to “practice resurrection” is to join in a decision, a decision God took in not giving into the Crucifixion, a decision we can each take every day not giving into the forces of death and despair. To easter is to do all the things Wendell Berry set out in his Mad Farmer Manifesto: loving the Lord, loving the world, working for nothing, planting sequoias, lying down in the shade, willfully losing our minds, and looking forward to the end of the world with laughter!
To easter is to engage in the spiritual process of not giving in . . . not giving in to negation and death . . . not giving in to meaninglessness and despair . . . not giving in to isolation and fear . . . not giving in to powerlessness and incapacitation. Easter is an act of brave human existence. Not just a day-long holiday of bunnies, bonnets, and bluebirds, Easter is an every-day reality, a decision Christ’s Resurrection empowers each of us to take when faced with the inevitable difficulties of life, a decision to “practice resurrection” and refuse to surrender our essential humanity even in the face of death itself.
In the final days of Lent and Holy Week, we look forward to the focused celebration of our God-empowered commitment to practice resurrection as we celebrated the Christ who has eastered in us!
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.