By Kathleen Staudt
Verna Dozier is known for saying that every Christian should be able to tell the story of the faith in 10 minutes or less. Sometimes people call that out of us. Recently more than one friend has asked me some version of the question “What does the Crucifixion mean? The question was asked in an email (I can’t actually remember from whom, now – and I never answered it.) Stumbling in prose, but haunted by the question, thought I’d lean imaginatively into the question, see what would come out in verse – with line-breaks providing space to ponder. I’m not really sure about the quality of what follows as “great poetry,” but it does offer a crack at the that question, one which perhaps other Café readers have been asked at one time or another. Here’s my try at a response.
(lines written in response to a friend who asked me, as if she thought I would know, “What does the Crucifixion mean, anyway?”)
The world is broken: there’s no doubt
About that part. People are cruel and violent
And the ones who are in power
Religious or imperial – they know
Their power rests on privilege, and fear
And yet there is, beneath it all, a love that is for all
That calls us home to ancient faithfulness
And gives the dispossessed a voice, a place, a grounded life.
It seems such love cannot prevail, when those in power
Who profit from the broken world, create a reign of fear.
But when that love, which has a human face
Cannot endure to see how people harm each other
He comes to be among us, shares the fate
Of those the most oppressed and says –
You are all God’s people: rich and poor, in and out
You are all so greatly beloved.
So stop this now. Repent, he says to all
Change your way of life. Love one another, and resist
The rule of those who lord it over others. Refuse to fear.
Such love, it seems, cannot survive
In this broken world
Where love incarnate comes to live among us
So his own leaders work together with
The rulers of the age. Call him a traitor
Kill and torture him,
And crucify: the punishment of traitors.
They can crucify the man, but they cannot kill
The love he bears and is, nor can anything
Blot out this love,
The Love that has has suffered
The worst that power and rage could then inflict.
The suffering is real. The love persists, And so
He rises from the dead, to say
Look: you canot kill it.
He comes back to his closest friends, and says again
I am the way – follow me, and I will set you free
In this world, love is bound to suffer
But bear it, and love will teach you to live
Together, be my people – my friends, and I
Will do great things for you.
Do not be afraid: Sin will not stand. The victory
Has already been won.
It is possible to live another way: follow me.
Do not be afraid
The work I brought is already begun
There is a way, it is still real
The promise that this broken world can be made whole
Available to love.
There is still a Way.
Dr. Kathleen Henderson Staudt keeps the blog poetproph, works as a teacher, poet, spiritual director and retreat leader in the Washington DC area. She is the author of two books: At the Turn of a Civilisation: David Jones and Modern Poetics and Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture.