EASTER SUNDAY 2002
A good day for the resurrection
a half-empty moon, white in
a crystal pool of blue, the tulip
bulbs snug in their new pots
Forty-two years ago you stood
in the pulpit at Kaitangata, miners,
farmers, wives in the Sunday best
& a sheepdog in the doorway.
You spoke of the stone rolled away
while distrust lurked in your heart
that still-thumping lump of muscle
that can weep tears at a sentimental
story, leap into the throat at
a horror movie, beat rapid with
joy or anticipation and has allowed
one to see the bloodshed down the years
May we have peace O Lord
but may it not come in our lifetime.
Humanity may have walked on that scarred
moon-face but we fail to control our own hearts.
So the poem’s seven years old and it’s forty-nine years since I preached in that South Otago pulpit. I stayed with a delightful farming family on Inchclutha Island.
This morning we discussed a newspaper columnist’s use of the Easter theme. Anne produced a striking sentence. ‘God is a sort of celestial ACC.’ It fits the theme of my last stanza. Several people have criticised the poem’s message there. I argue it’s sound theology. St Augustine would agree, even if Calvin might not have. The doctrine of the ‘elect’ is a dangerous one.
It was the second-to-last time I lay preached before leaving Knox College. My faith had been steadily eroding before I went to Dunedin. I enjoyed preaching, the rituals, the authority, the music and the community. I consider I have a sympathetic ear and would have enjoyed the pastoral work. The theology proved the sticking point. Stevie Smith has a striking poem about ‘the beautiful lie’ It summed up my dilemma.
After Knox on a Teachers’ College trip to the West Coast I preached in Franz Josef Chapel – a striking setting - and while teaching at Morrinsville I lay-preached quite often. But my beliefs were ebbing. After I left there I accepted the label agnostic and there I have settled. I am now core in a very secular society. There are regrets and a vague hovering feeling that we’ve lost some glue for community. Or maybe in the past that was merely a façade for abuse and unreported mayhem. Meanwhile the elect continue on their merry way.