Thursday, March 26, 2009

What is salvation? Ask a poet

We soon enter into Holy Week, with the events of betrayal, crucifixion, and entering into Hell itself. At the end comes the startling celebration and declaration of Resurrection, new life, Easter. And as Dan Edwards, the bishop of Nevada, suggests on his terrific blog, these events raise the question: What is salvation?

The apostle Paul attempts to answer that question in his many letters, but even Paul admits we "see in a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Many a theologian has since tried to define salvation and/or the mechanisms of grace. Complicated scholarly constructions and volumes of paper are created in the task. Thomas Aquinas finally admitted that his efforts amounted to little more than a "stack of straw" and he never wrote another word.

I rather think that the poets may have a better grasp of this, or at least a better grasp at expressing the meaning of salvation (regular readers just knew I'd end up at a poem, didn't you?). And so it is that our friend Karen in Tennessee sent a poem yesterday that took my breath away. Here it is:

by Lynn Ungar

By what are you saved? And how?
Saved like a bit of string,
tucked away in a drawer?
Saved like a child rushed from
a burning building, already
singed and coughing smoke?
Or are you salvaged
like a car part -- the one good door
when the rest is wrecked?

Do you believe me when I say
you are neither salvaged nor saved,
but salved, anointed by gentle hands
where you are most tender?
Haven't you seen
the way snow curls down
like a fresh sheet, how it
covers everything,
makes everything
beautiful, without exception?

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