Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

What does Jesus remember about us?

The cartoonish angel up at the top of the Rev. Edward Taylor's gravestone isn't the only oddity in the life of one of America's first accomplished poets. Taylor nurtured a penchant for eccentric lines in poems he never intended anyone else to read. When Christ's attributes are deliberately described via earthy earthliness, the results can be startling. As here, a couple of lines from the first stanza of Preparatory Meditation 38:
And judge him [man] wilt thereby too in Thy time.
A court of justice Thou in heaven holdst
To try his case while he's here housed on mold.
Mold? The whole idea of Judgment Day isn't news, but I never saw this world as a house of mold coming. Wow.

I couldn't get Meditation 38 out of my mind during Sunday morning worship last week. I remembered it when the preacher talked a bit about the Judgement. I thought about #38 because it offers an idea I'd never considered in the bizarre fashion Taylor does in that poem: the idea of Christ as a public defender. 

And not just anyone's but ours.

Taylor's "Preparatory Meditations" are spiritual calisthenics. Because nothing he ever wrote was intended for publication, this odd series of poems allows us a view of Puritan piety that isn't, like some others, meant for display in downtown store windows. What the old preacher does is tease out his own thoughts, in #38 reminding himself that divine justice has none of the "blemishes" that mar our court system in this "house of mold." Thusly, he says, he shouldn't equate God's court with our own. 

Soft; blemish not this golden bench, or place.
Here is no bribe, nor colorings to hide,
Nor pettifogger to befog the case,
But justice hath her glory here well tried.
Her spotless law all spotted cases tends;
Without respect or disrespect them ends.
Taylor is literally preparing himself for Holy Communion by considering God's divine love for us sinners. In #38, his joy rises from his conviction that in that court of divine law, get this!--we have the most high-powered attorney in the cosmos because Jesus Christ himself is our lawyer.
Is Christ thy advocate to plead thy cause?
Art thou His client? Such shall never slide.
He never lost His case: He pleads such laws
As carry do the same, nor doth refuse
The vilest sinner's case that doth Him choose.
But, pray tell, what kind of Calvinist would The Reverend Mr. Taylor be if there were no grovelling? At the end of the poem, he just can't help himself, literally, poetically, and, of course, spiritually. He's a sinner, after all. Watch the way he does his summation.
My case is bad. Lord, be my advocate.
My sin is red: I'm under God's arrest.
Thou hast the hint of pleading; plead my state.
Although it's bad, Thy plea will make it best.
If Thou wilt plead my case before the king,
I'll wagon-loads of love and glory bring.
Wagon-loads is just priceless, isn't it? I certainly didn't see that coming either.

But then Taylor wasn't finishing an MFA. All he was doing was thinking long and hard about sin and redemption--his own particularly. Like all the others, #38 is a personal meditation.

Here's what I was thinking in church last week. If Jesus Christ is our lawyer, what does he "get" about us? what does he understand, having stood on the same ground we do? What bits of his own humanness did he carry with him back to glory? Does he have a scrapbook? PTSD? Seriously, what does he know that he didn't before he pulled on human flesh?  

There he is today on the right hand of God. There he reigns, right?

But what does he remember about being human? what can't he forget? what makes him shutter? what makes him smile? What part of his character was shaped by that 30-year pilgrimage onto this house of mold?

Did he learn anything in Galilee, in a woodshop, out there in the desert, on the cross, shouldering away that stone?

I wonder.  
That's what I was thinking in church last Sunday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heck, when I was a kid I used to count the knot-holes in the pine boards that comprised the ceiling. I never got them all counted.