Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is R. S. Thomas’ poem “Resurrection” from Selected Poems. Thomas was an Anglican priest and a leading Anglo-Welsh poet of the 20th century.
Easter. The grave clothes of winter are still here, but the sepulchre is empty. A messenger from the tomb tells us how a stone has been rolled from the mind, and a tree lightens the darkness with its blossom. There are travellers upon the road who have heard music blown from a bare bough, and a child tells us how the accident of last year, a machine stranded beside the way for lack of petrol, is crowned with flowers.
Death is something we all must face and all, in one way or another, fear. There is a finality to it that is shocking and feels unnatural to us. Even though we understand and experience the breakdown of our bodies, even “natural” death feels wrong, not to mention the death that feels untimely. We all grieve over loved ones who have passed away, and someday others will likely grieve over our passing. One of the most important aspects of our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is the way He turns the tables on death in the most dramatic of ways. Jesus dies on the Cross but is not held in death. He burst forth with life, thereby destroying death. As the Apostle Paul writes, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). The flip-side of death’s destruction is the promise of resurrection to all who have faith in Christ Jesus. In his painting, The Resurrection at Cookham, Stanley Spencer depicts the wonder of resurrection in the churchyard of Cookham, the village where he lived many years. Up from their tombs rise Spencer’s family members and local friends, as well as those from faraway lands. Right in their midst are biblical figures, like Moses, and all are under the gaze of God on the church porch. There is a wonderful mixture between the ordinary and the extraordinary in this painting. We are reminded that the most glorious work of God in Jesus’ resurrection touches ordinary lives in ordinary places both in our present time and at the end of all time.