Poetry in the Face of Power

poetry in the face of powerSeveral people asked me for a reprint of the poem I quoted last night, so I thought I’d offer it to everyone.

Creating is a sure way to reveal the Creator; the Creator is revealed in our creativity. By re-imagining the world for everyone whose imagination has been re-organized by the domination system, we help restore the broken image of God we carry.

The poem is a “targum” by Brian Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat from their book Colossians Remixed based on the following “poem” by the Apostle Paul (or one of his friends) included in his letter to the church in Colossae.

Apostle Paul

He is the image
of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers
or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him.

He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head
of the body, the church;

he is the beginning
and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Colossians 1:15-20

Walsh and Keesmaat

Here is the expansion on Paul’s poem, designed to help us re-imagine with him for our time. I’ve made a few edits.

In an image-saturated world,
a world of ubiquitous corporate logos
permeating our consciousness
a world of dehydrated and captive imaginations
in which we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted
to be able to dream of life otherwise
a world in which the empire of global economic affluence
has achieved the monopoly of our imaginations
in this world
Christ is the image of the invisible God
in this world
driven by images with a vengeance
Christ is the image par excellence
the image above all other images
the image the is not a facade
the image that is not trying to sell us anything
the image that refuses to co-opt us

Christ is the image of the invisible God
the image of God
a flesh-and-blood
in time and history
with joys and sorrows
image of who God is
the image of God
a flesh-and-blood
in time and history
with joys and sorrows
image of who we are called to be
image-bearers of this God.

He is the source of a liberated imagination
a subversion of the empire
because it all starts with him
and it all ends with him
all things
whatever you can imagine
visible and invisible
mountains and atoms
outer space, urban space, cyberspace
whether it is the Pentagon, Disneyland, Microsoft or Comcast
whether it be the institutionalized power structures
of the state, the academy or the market
all things have been created in him and through him
he is their source, their purpose, their goal
even in their rebellion
even in their idolatry
he is the sovereign one
their power and authority is derived at best
parasitic at worst

In the face of the empire
in the face of presumptuous claims to sovereignty
in the face of the imperial and idolatrous forces of our lives
Christ is before all things
he is sovereign in life
not pimped dreams of global market
not the idolatrous forces of nationalism
not the insatiable desires of consumerist culture

In the face of a disconnected world
where home is a domain in virtuality
where neighborhood is a common “like” on Facebook
where public space is a shopping mall
where information technology promises
a webbed-in, reconnected world
all things hold together in Christ
the creation is a deeply personal cosmos
all cohering and interconnected in Jesus.

And this sovereignty takes on cultural flesh
And this coherence of all things is socially embodied
in the church
against all odds
against most of the evidence
In a “show me” culture where words don’t cut it
the church is
the flesh-and-blood
in time and history
with joys and sorrows
embodiment of this Christ
as a body politic
around a common meal
in alternative economic practices
in radical service to the most vulnerable
in refusal of the empire
in love of this creation
the church re-imagines the world
in the image of the invisible God.

In the face of a disappointed world of betrayal
a world in which all fixed points have proven illusory
a world in which we are anchorless and adrift
Christ is the foundation
the origin
the way
the truth
the life
In the face of a culture of death
a world of killing fields
a world of the walking dead
Christ is the head of the resurrection parade
transforming our tears of betrayal into tears of joy
giving us dancing shoes for the resurrection party

And this glittering joker
who has danced in the dragon jaws of death
now dances with a dance that is full
of nothing less than the fullness of God
this is the dance of the new creation
this is the dance of life out of death
and in this dance all that was broken
all that was estranged
all that was alienated
all that was dislocated and disconnected
what once was hurt
what once was friction
is reconciled
comes home
is healed
and is made whole
because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things
all things
whatever you can imagine
visible and invisible
mountains and atoms
outer space, urban space, cyberspace
every inch of creation
every dimension of our lives
all things are reconciled in him.

And it all happens on a cross
it all happens at a state execution
where the governor did not commute the sentence
it all happens at the hands of an empire
that has captured our imagination
it all happens through blood
not through a power grab by the sovereign one
it all happens in embraced pain
for the sake of others
it all happens on a cross
arms outstretched in embrace
and this is the image of the invisible God
this is the body of Christ

3 thoughts on “Poetry in the Face of Power

  1. Poetry in the face of power seems so ridiculous, so naive, and so fragile. And yet, there is underlying, subversive truth, tenacious as a flower growing from a rock. Hearing the voices of those who read last night, telling us this story again, was a much-needed antidote to what I’ve been hearing incessantly all week. Thank you, Rod.

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