“Spring is like a perhaps hand…” So says early 20th century poet e.e. Cummings.
“Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and
hanging everything carefully
spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
and fro moving New and
Old things, while people
moving a perhaps
fraction of a flower here placing
an inch of air there) and
without breaking anything.
But broken is how we come to find the ground in Matthew’s gospel. An earthquake, and then not a gentle perhaps hand, but a forceful angel - so strong it rolls back the tomb, then following its labor sits atop of it. The soldiers tremble and then freeze. The women stare frightened, but remain, with an inkling that something wondrous is about to happen. And then, the angel goes on to utter truth.
The truth that Christ is not contained in the tomb. The truth that Christ is risen, and will meet you again. Wonder of wonders! The truth of the tomb, is that it has emptied itself, just as Christ emptied the Self, to be born again out of the dark tomb’s womb, into the new day’s light. The truth – not necessarily concerned with the facts so much as the meaning.
The soldiers and priests were concerned with the facts - so concerned that when they learned that Christ had been given a grave by Joseph of Arimethea, they thought they could stop the truth by posting guards, so that none could steal the body and claim incorrectly that Christ had risen. If they could control the reality, manipulate and fix the circumstances, then Christ could really be dead and forgotten. But the miracle of the resurrection and the life lies not in facts, but in truth, and truth cannot be contained or erased or forgotten. So much so that they didn’t understand – even if that were the case, even if the disciples did come and take the body, if those were the facts – it would not have change the truth of the resurrection. The truth and miracle of the resurrection cannot merely be observed as a series of facts, a tidy arranging of narrative elements, but is revealed in the wonder of the good news that a love born of sacrifice will always be more powerful than death.
We see this difference in the way the Good News is received by the soldiers and the women. The soldiers observe the resurrected gospel. They see the fact of that which is impossible happening, and in response, completely shut down from what the psychologists like to call cognitive dissonance. “This can’t happen in reality. The facts are these: we’ve been here, no one could have taken the body. This isn’t happening.” Freeze! - as ones who are dead.
The women are seeing the same thing that the soldiers see. They don’t freeze, but we know they are afraid, because the angel’s first words are to soothe their fears. Even so, they remain. Why? Why did they remain by Christ through the agony of crucifixion? Why did they remain as he was laid in the tomb, until close of day when sabbath began? Why did they return first thing in the morning - notice in Matthew, unlike other gospels, there is no mention of anointing him for burial – but they return, as they angel says, “looking for Jesus, who was crucified.” Why did they not also become as though they were dead, or immediately run away?
Perhaps they were brought to the tomb for more than a sense of the facts, to do more than simply observe. Perhaps they knew there was more there to be revealed than what simply meets the eye. Perhaps they went already feeling there was a way to still be connected, impossible as it may seem, to the Love they felt. Driven by relationship and their desire for meaning, they went with a different intent than the guards. They weren’t controlling the narrative or focusing on fixing a particular part. These women came seeking that connection to what Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor calls “the luminous web”, the sense of wonder that comes when truth is revealed to us, and not just observed as a mere happening. The wonder of remaining in relationship even when death has claimed us. The wonder of going to a tomb, remaining there to reconnect, and then going out again, remembering the love which remains also in us sends us out again. Calls us to find it in sharing Love with others.
In this, we can appreciate the cheek of e.e. cummings likening spring to a perhaps hand. The “perhaps” hand is only a fraction of spring. Spring is more than an arrangement of flowers carefully placed in a window. Spring is always breaking ground, literally, with new growth from when those flowers come. Spring is always changing our surroundings drastically from a dull gray world to one bursting with color and brightness. I was just having a conversation about how suddenly it seems in the past few days the blooming has begun. Spring is an occasion for wonder, not mere observation. Not simply, “oh the shoots are up a quarter of a centimeter today”, not only the careful placement of fresh cut flowers for others to observe. I think, too, e.e. cummings offers us an invitation: to rearrange the way we come to the window – to stare at the flowers in wonder of the deeper meaning of their beauty, rather than staring at the parts being moved. There may even be a hint of the “perhaps hand” moving things around not so much to “fix” anything, as to increase the sense of connection, of getting more folks to the window to wonder and share in the awe.
We have an angel this morning, offering us wonder with a perhaps hand. It is revealed to us, death will never conquer love. Always love remains, and we are invited to be renewed by it, to be sent out again into the world with this wonder-full (full of wonder) news. Perhaps because Christ lives, the impossible has occurred - because it has been revealed to us that love cannot be silenced or contained. Perhaps, because Christ lives, so, too, may we!
Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash