Poetry in the Face of Power

Several 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 reveals himself in our creativity. By re-imagining the world for everyone whose imagination has be 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.

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

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


About Rod White

Pastor for Circle of Hope. Graduate of Fuller Seminary, PhD in MFT from Eastern University.
This entry was posted in 3 The Mission, Poetry, Theological Help and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Poetry in the Face of Power

  1. Liz Einsig Wise says:

    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.

  2. John Vicario says:

    This was not only intellectually delicious but, more powerfully, spiritually uplifting. Thanks – didn’t know you had it in you like that, whoa!

  3. Benjamin White says:

    This poem is brilliant! This is why we do what we do. This is who we’re called to be!

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