Letters from a Hospital Bed is a series of reflections by Jim Houston, now entering his 100th year, in which Jim seeks to capture and reflect new insights of his ever-discoverable God, revealed through his own hospitalization, for the encouragement of all care givers.
May 5, 2022
It is a few weeks past Easter. Now, for most of us, only a past date in our calendar. Easter was a passing moment, a then. We think of it as an event, historical, a commemoration, something past. In our packed and racing lives in which we so often turn “being busy” into a badge of honour, Easter is already long fading into the blur of our rear-view mirrors. Yet, Easter is more than just a noun, it is also a verb, an action, capable of being past, present and future. Not that we think of it that way…but we should.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his epic poem ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’ in which he commemorates the death of five nuns at sea, ends his intricate recounting of a tragedy with a prayer…
Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east,
More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our hearts' charity's hearth's fire, our thoughts' chivalry's throng's Lord.
Hopkins captures my attention with his plea, “let him easter in us…be a day-spring to the dimness in us”. It is as if as we race through our calendars away from the event of Easter, we need to let the resurrection moment, miracle, marvel, triumph, not to fade but to stay with us, to catch us in our fleeing down the months and burst forth day-spring in the dimness of us. We are eastered by the light bursting over the horizon before us, of an east that we never reach but yet run toward. For the resurrection of Christ has created an unimaginable present and future for us. To be eastered is to enter a new heaven on earth, to live not only in the past event of the resurrection but in its triumphant future. Our being eastered is not only past, but it is also now, and it lies ahead.
On another ship, at another time, a slave trader was ‘eastered’ and in response, that man, Isaac Watts, wrote this poem.
I'll praise my Maker while I've breath, and when my voice is lost in death, praise shall employ my nobler powers. My days of praise shall ne'er be past while life and thought and being last, or immortality endures. Happy are those whose hopes rely on Israel's God, who made the sky, the earth and seas, with all their train. This truth for ever stands secure: God saves the oppressed, God feeds the poor, and none shall find this promise vain. The Lord gives eyesight to the blind; the Lord supports the fainting mind, and sends the troubled conscience peace. God helps the stranger in distress, the widow and the fatherless, and grants the prisoner sweet release. I'll praise you while you lend me breath, and, when my voice is lost in death, praise shall employ my nobler powers. My days of praise shall ne'er be past, while life and thought and being last, or immortality endures.
As you may notice, I am finding great comfort in the companionship of those that have gone before, in the ‘communion of saints’. Some weeks ago, I told Chris, my son, that I felt as Pilgrim, from Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, now standing on the banks of the river, looking across at the celestial city. So much, nearly all, of my journey lies behind. I have but a short way to go and Chris asked me to describe the view ahead that was mine through these eyes that have peered forward for nearly one hundred years. I find it hard to describe, but perhaps one sense is this gathering of God’s people, in worship, through these hymns that I have shared. Perhaps I am letting the event of Easter that I have so often raced past, catch up with me, embrace me, allowing myself to be ‘eastered’, to be so infused with the wonder of Christ’s resurrection that it shapes my view of everything and praise, joining the ‘communion of saints’, is my inevitable response.
My friends, I cannot know the events of your days, yet, in the midst of what seems urgent, I pray that you may find space to allow an Easter that now seems past, to catch up with your busyness. May you allow the resurrected Christ to easter you, to draw you into the wonder of his forever presence, and so to bring your hearts to praise.
With my blessing upon your eastered hearts;