Stained Glass Round

Message from the Pastor
from the Bethel Beacon

            Bethel Lutheran Church       Bemidji, Minnesota

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April and May 2019


“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”

-1 Corinthians 15:19-20

In 1961, “The Death of God” by Gianni Vahanian was published. (I was born in 1963!) He concluded that for the modern mind, “God is dead.” Theologians from every stripe were convinced that Vahanian was right, and so they went about trying to make the Church relevant to modern ears. They felt it necessary to modernize the claims of the Bible. They took great pains to avoid the embarrassing claim that God raised Jesus from the dead, so they spoke in metaphor, parable, symbolism, anything but. And to this day many modern theologians do the same.

However: John Updike, (an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic, who died in 2009), during this same time underwent a profound spiritual crisis. Suffering from a loss of religious faith, he began reading Søren Kierkegaard and the theologian Karl Barth. Both deeply influenced his own religious beliefs, which in turn figured prominently in his fiction. Updike remained a believing Christian for the rest of his life. He had this to say about those who were offended at the resurrection:

“Make no mistake; if he rose at all it is as his body; if the cell's dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the church will fall.

It was not as the flowers, each soft spring recurrent; it was not as his Spirit in the mouth and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles; it was as his flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes, the same valved heart that pierced died, withered, paused, and then regathered out of enduring might new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor, analogy, sidestepping, transcendence; making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages; let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not paper mache, not a stone in a story, but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb, make it a real angel vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous, for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty, lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed by the miracle”

"Seven Stanzas at Easter," from Telephone Poles and other Poems,
by John Updike 1961


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Last modified March 29, 2019