“. . . he was carried up, and a cloud took him.” Acts 1:9
Gravity, they say, is all about mass. Big attracts Big sucks big pulls big, like death, won’t let go. Still, We worship those who try: “Lucky Lindy,” St. Michael Jordan. Leonardo, bless him, forever plotting how To fly, or assuage the general jowliness of time.
Jesus was taken up, and Mary. St. Teresa of Ávila Had to cling to the rail during prayer to keep from Floating skyward—the Assumption being that things Sometimes fall up. But, come on, which way is Up? That is to say, which way isn’t? If Teresa was
A person of such faith, why didn’t she just let go? Like The man I knew who, after being told he had “maybe Six months,” immediately signed up for swimming Lessons. “Well,” he said, “I just felt that if I could learn How to float, I could learn how to die.”
Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds churns up an emulsion of suspense and horror that engulfs you with the gray relentlessness of a low-grade fever. This is not the kind of thrilling, soaring adventure Spielberg created in Jaws or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; it’s a cheerless piece of visceral manipulation.
And the graves were opened; and many bodies . . .     which slept arose, And came out of the graves after     his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and     appeared unto many. Matthew 27:52-53
When asked, “Just what is night anyway?”     Coyote closed his eyes,     Placed his burden basket over his head     And began making the sounds of hoot owl.         “The Burden Basket,” Elderberry Flute             Song, Peter Blue Cloud
What do you think of the little rumblings, the discontents, the warpings of fault lines and fissures? What seems to be said takes some thinking. He led captivity captive.¹ Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower part of the earth.² What could it have been to descend into the earth: the magma and lava the dark heat nearly sweat lodged there? Was it where he wandered with his ash bucket, his firepans and shovel after Calvary, after the graves were opened? What did the dead do the three days he was in hell preaching on last chance to the unchanced? Did they look at one another and didn’t quite know what to do? Maybe some saw their families on the street and weren’t recognized. How had they changed that they didn’t know them? It would have been too much anyway for the families to know their dead were only waiting on Jesus and had three days to kill and would have to leave again for a second parting while the families were still grieving from the first. Still others hid out, pulling their tunics and cloaks and head cloths about them, holding their little angers, the mistreatments, the rapes, the robberies, and waited on the edge of town for him to return from hell and take them in the air.
Here’s your Ash Wednesday story. A mother carries her tiny daughter With her as she gets ashed and the Girl, curious and wriggly, squirms Into the path of the priest’s thumb Just as the finger is about to arrive On the mother’s forehead, and the Ashes go right in the kid’s left eye. She starts to cry, and there’s a split Second as the priest and the mother Gawk, and then they both burst out Laughing. The kid is too little to be Offended, and the line moves along, But this stays with me; not the ashy Eye as much as the instant when all Could have been pain and awkward But instead it led to mutual giggling. We are born of dust and star-scatter And unto this we shall return, this is The Law, but meantime, by God, we Can laugh our asses off. What a gift, You know? Let us snicker while we Can, brothers and sisters. Let us use That which makes dark things quail.
Between 1990 and 2010, Iowa lost over 500 churches. The numbers reflect migration from rural to urban areas and the fewer number of people who identify with a faith community. The decline in churches is having a direct effect on the social fabric of the state. According to research at Iowa State University, nine out of ten rural people said they rely less on their neighbors than they once did. Surviving churches have gone back to older patterns to find leadership, engaging itinerant pastors or lay leaders. Some are surviving through cooperation with other denominations or with ethnic Christian groups (Pacific Standard, January 20).