T. S. Eliot, “East Coker” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is stanza IV of T. S. Eliot’s poem “East Coker,” which is from Four Quartets (1943). Thomas Stearns Eliot is probably the most famous twentieth-century English-language poet, renowned for his groundbreaking work typified in poems like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1911) and The Wasteland (1922). Eliot was born in the United States but resided in England for most of his adult life.


The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

    Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

    The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

    The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

    The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus

Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing

Good Friday 2021: The Real Sacrifice of Christ

Join with us for worship this Good Friday at Eastbrook Church as we remember Christ’s crucifixion and sacrifice with in-person and streamed worship services. We will have two identical services at 12 pm and 7 pm. RSVP for in-person services, or join us online at Eastbrook at Home. You can also download a companion “Good Friday at Home Experience Guide” put together by the Eastbrook Church staff.

The basis for our engagement with Jesus’ passion this year is through Matthew’s Gospel, taking us to Matthew 26:31-27:66 for Good Friday.

The Glory

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there. (Luke 23:32-33)

without fanfare, the King of Glory is pinned
with gory force upon the beams of wood.

the people watch with voiceless stares.
the sneering rulers speak their fears.
the soldiers mock with maiming force.

overhead the notice speaks sharp
truth: this is the King of the Jews.

with no apparent human heroism,
His snapping skeleton – bloody body –
hangs heavy as God’s heart becomes a wound
opened wide with welcome for all who wash
their weary selves within its messy flow.

but now He hangs at God’s cross purposes
as holiness and grace collide with fire.
the vulture views the spectacle and waits,
as all earth’s air is drained out of God’s lungs.


This is the fourth in a group of seven original poems composed for Holy Week, including:

Senior Pastor Video Update in the Time of COVID-19 (April 8, 2020)

Here is my latest video update for Eastbrook Church as we navigate the time of COVID-19. I will continue to re-post these weekly video updates here at my blog for those who have not seen it or who are not part of our church but could use the encouragement. You can watch it here or at the Eastbrook Church Vimeo channel.

In my video update, I mention Eastbrook’s Holy Week services and experiences for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. You can access it all here, and I encourage you to look at some of the resources and experiences ahead of time so that you can utilize them at home on that day.

For Maundy Thursday:

  • resources for older and/or younger children
  • recipe for unleavened bread and communion service
  • foot-washing ceremony
  • simple seder meal  instructions

For Good Friday:

  • resources for older and/or younger children
  • fasting
  • observing silence from 12-3 pm
  • experiencing the Passion

You could also participate in an online “Way of the Cross,” a virtual walk through Jesus’ final moments..