Cosmos

Cosmos once meant order –
universe meant a single turning point.
We were bounded by the spheres,
the eternal turning stars,
where wanderers made their way alone,
bright Venus, dull red Mars,
and others that we named for gods.
– Cosmos once meant order.

Now we have found infinity,
like turmoil of a dream
of love and hope and yearning.
tossed in an unknown stream,
Galaxies, stars, planets, dust,
spread with wilder turning,
dark energy’s pull,
dark matter’s thrust,

Now in our infinity
all we see is just
a hundredth part or more
of a far darker shore.
Are we cast there alone,
faithless, hopeless, loveless, lost?

See.
Hear.
This vast turning sphere,
dark energy, dark matter and dark fear,
is smaller than a hazel in my hand.
A multiverse infinity of worlds
would be as hazel-small and sweet
as this round which my fingers curl.

And I so loved it that I entered
as My own Son to bring you life;
became your brother, servant, friend.
I, you thought so other,
so high above, so Godly-grand,
loved so much I died
at my lovers’ hand.

There is truth and turmoil in your dream,
the unseen dark, a flowing stream,
of love and loss.
Matter is energy, dark and light.
Those who love the light,
who believe in Me,
flow on to light.
Those who love the dark flow into dark,
lost in the passing of this age.
Yet I did not only come to earth to save,
I descended into hell,
and seek you there as well.

The Road to Emmaus

I was on my way, responsible,
duty bound, committed,
not knowing why;
lost.

They would be waiting, the room prepared,
Bitter herbs, wine, bread,
but I asked why;
lost.

I turned away,
rootless, bruised and scared.
I walked by, all I trusted, dead.
I knew not why;
lost.

Lost, the meaning of my life and hopes,
my faith,
and she I loved, behind me,
tearless, crying,
lost.

Six steps behind me, dutiful,
priced above rubies,
the wife of my youth,
weeping, hopeless,
she and I,
lost.

We should have gone in,
the final feast day called,
Torah, the living Law,
but I asked, ‘Why?’
Lost, lost, lost.

Ah! Wife of my youth!
Priced above rubies,
six paces behind me, dutiful,
how can I tell you your duty is nothing,
nothing.
Lost.

I walked behind him,
six paces behind, dutiful,
a dutiful wife.
It was all I had left.
He needed me more now
than all the years from our youth.

A woman learns to keep on.
Love may be lost,
trust may be false,
hope abandoned.
We keep on.
The harvest fails,
the men despair,
children die,
we do not know why.
Keep on.

My tears mingled with his on the road.
He slowed,
hand stretched behind
to me.
I took it.

At some deserted spot we stopped.
Home far ahead,
hope far behind,
hands clasped.
He asked,
‘Why? How? What now?’

‘Keep on,’ I said,
‘if hope is lost, home is still ahead.’
He let my hand fall, weeping.

I could not see him through my tears.
I felt for his hand and felt mine grasped,
Strongly, firmly, flowing with life.

A stranger stood there holding us both.

‘What are you saying to one another
as you walk along?
Why are you so sad?’

The Resurrection

Many years ago I heard of a man who found his faith from reading the Book of Numbers – you might think this unlikely. So did I, until one day I was given an insight into what might have caused his epiphany.

Numbers is a bureaucrat’s delight: census results, rules, instructions and lists of squabbles, infringements and penalties. Plus a few slipped in joke-over-a-pint-extras like Balaam and his talking ass. But in all this it conveys a sense of individuals, families and groups doing the best they can and often getting it wrong. It lists who went where and who did what. There is something very ordinary about it, and a sense that they were, like me, making their own personal journey. Not always getting it right – not even Moses, Aaron and Miriam.

In a similar way I came to understand the resurrection through an account in which the event itself is hardly mentioned. Mark, who among other things was Peter’s interpreter in Rome, wrote an action packed account of Jesus’ ministry and execution about thirty years after it happened, but with very little about the resurrection.

According to Paul, Jesus’ resurrection and later appearances were witnessed by over 500 people. Quite a few were named. Most were still living when Mark wrote his gospel, and still living when John’s writings were put together at the close of the century. Long before John’s account the number of children, grand-children, friends and acquaintances of first-hand witnesses would have been in the thousands, assuming only moderate family sizes and sharing the news. Where are the ones saying, ‘ My grandfather/boss/mother etc. was there and it didn’t happen?’

There were some. Matthew’s account of the ascension says some doubted, but nevertheless the consensus confirming it was overwhelming. In spite of that, knowledge of Jesus’ earlier life and ministry would have been limited outside Palestine. Mark’s account, written in the mid-first century, was addressed to Christians in Rome who, however convinced they were by the resurrection, would have known little of what lead up to it.

Its opening words read like a title: The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Some manuscripts, including two of the most respected, end at the eighth verse of chapter sixteen with the empty tomb. This is usually regarded as its last verse. Others have marginal comments pointing out that earlier Greek copies ended there, and some indicate the extra text as spurious. Verses from other manuscripts with extra endings are included in most bibles. They read differently to the rest of Mark and seem to be later additions. In any event these extra endings, even the so-called ‘longer ending’, are very short.

It is unlikely the Gospel was let unfinished, or that an ending was lost before it was copied (the end of a scroll is harder to come adrift than that of a book). The author appears to have stopped here deliberately, feeling no need to add something already well known to his readers. The extra endings are almost certainly later additions, not by the author and not in his style, and do not fit with his stated intention in his title of presenting an account of the beginning.

People in Rome, like those in the Book of Numbers, were much like you and me but something, perhaps the large number of astonished eye-witnesses, convinced them. For me Mark’s Gospel, filling that desire for more background and yet needing no further evidence of the resurrection is strong evidence in itself.