By Rev. Anna Blaedel
In Luke’s account of the Resurrection—of Life emerging mysteriously, defiantly from Death—a group of women, some named and some unnamed, show up to the tomb with spices to tend to Jesus’s tortured and murdered body. When they encounter an empty tomb, they tell the apostles these holy and wholly unexpected messy truths: life persists even in the face of death; the Divine dwells and draws near even in horrific violence and pain; possibility emerges even when everything seems lost.
The apostles fail, here, in the sacred art of listening, hearing, bearing witness. They write the women off as telling idle tales, and refuse to believe them.
We know how often truths are discredited as idle tales. Truths of violent systems and legacies of supremacy. Truths of power manipulations and unmet needs. Truths of police brutality and US imperialism. Truths of crucifixion forces, still raging today. And, too, truths of resurrection emerging. Truths of healing beyond our wildest imagination. Truths of the subtle joys encountered in showing up for the collective labor of liberation. Truths of pleasure sharing tangled roots with pain. Truths of people tending to broken heart, broken bodies, and broken dreams with tenderness and creative care.
Stories, songs, and poems are sacred when they bear witness to the truths of life and death, of pain and healing. Stories, songs, and poems can stir our imagination, and untether us from the habit of writing off wild dreams as impossible.
Nelle Morton writes about the healing and holy practice of “hearing one another into speech.” A deep hearing happens before speech, she insists. A bearing witness that enables withness, that enables the telling of truths that need to be told and heard and tended, together.
Audre Lorde names this power as the necessity and power of poetry, how we “give name to the nameless so it can be thought.”
Pádraig Ó Tuama insists our stories can be sacraments meant to be shared: “Every possibility of a person putting words to something, especially something that’s been difficult, is in itself a sacrament…Words are the way to put narrative onto something, and to turn an experience — and especially, I suppose, thinking of conflict situations — to turn an experience that you would rather not have had into something where you can say, at least I’ve had the capacity to tell a story about it, even when that story is painful and unfinished and unresolved, nevertheless, there is a way in which to have words for it. You’re crystallizing it. You’re sacramentalizing it.”
Claudia Rankine writes, “Words work as release—well-oiled doors opening and closing between intention, gesture. A pulse in a neck, the shiftiness of the hands, an unconscious blink, the conversations you have with your eyes translate everything and nothing. What will be needed, what goes unfelt, unsaid—what has been duplicated, redacted here, redacted there, altered to hide or disguise—words encoding the bodies they cover. And despite everything the body remains. Occasionally it is interesting to think about the outburst if you would just cry out—To know what you’ll sound like is worth noting—”
Andrea Gibson writes, “For me, truth-telling is a physical experience. I feel into my body and search for what is true beneath my defenses and stories and learned narratives. Very often, I’m startled by my own truth, and how often it changes. What’s important to me is to have an unyielding commitment to listening for my own truth, and to notice any barrier I or the world erects in its way.”
Hozier sings of putting emptiness to melody, and broken hearts to song, finding remedy in singing, singing, singing.
Ted Loder prays, “Deliver me from just going through the motisions and wasting everything I have which is today, a chance, a choice, my creativity, your call. O persistent God, let how much it all matters pry me off dead center so if I am moved inside to tears or sighs or screams or dreams they will be real and I will be in touch with who I am and who you are and who my sisters and brothers [and siblings] are.”
What truth, dear ones, do you need to cry out?
What story do you bear, as unoffered sacrament?
What song do you long to sing?
This Easter season, may we practice the sacred art of hearing one another to speech. May we hold truths told that startle us, and unsettle our sense of privilege and dominance. May we be moved to real tears, signs, screams, and dreams. May we sing our songs, and share our stories, and give name to the nameless, and lean into believing the truths survivors and healers and life&death-tenders tell…