Sunday, 12 April 2009

Immeasurable surprise

I wouldn’t be too hard on the fearful, slow, hesitant, doubting disciples. It is hardly as if they could have expected this: ‘they could not grasp it if they knew what soon will wake’.

The friend with whom we stayed on the side of Clee Hill near Ludlow over the Palm Sunday weekend has the most glorious and covetable view westwards, and also these sheep outside her window. She asked whether there was a short passage I might suggest she use at an Easter service in an Old People’s Home. The lambs led me straight back to Philip Larkin’s First Sight. Neither author nor poem is explicitly Christian, but it always seems to do the trick for me. And it doesn’t do it with some ‘isn’t Spring wonderful and resurrection-like’ pap, but with phrases like ‘immeasurable surprise’ and ‘they could not grasp it if they knew’.

‘Lambs that learn to walk in snow... all they find... is a wretched width of cold. As they wait beside the ewe... hidden round them waiting too’ is something they have no frame of reference to enable them to suspect.

I’m always puzzled by some plodding sorts of evangelical who think the empty tomb simply shows that Jesus got up and walked again. I’m equally puzzled by some sorts of liberal who aren’t bothered to begin plodding because they think other aspects of the story show it instead to be merely a profound spiritual experience of the disciples. Why should we think that our existing frames of reference (whether physical or spiritual) are going to help us cope with this new thing?

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