Joy’s ascendance

This stuff could get you in trouble

by Ken Sehested

“For Jesus, there are
no countries to be conquered,
no ideologies to be imposed,
no people to be dominated.
There are only children,
women and men to be loved.”
—Henri Nouwen

Yes. This. Of course. No doubt about it.
I stake everything on this claim.

However, some employ this credo
as warrant for quietude and passivity
in the face of threat:
      when conquering stalks the land;
      when imposition is frequent and flagrant;
      when domination is the organizing
            principle of public policy making;
      when fortune’s rise depends on
            squalor’s increase.

In such an age
(ours is hardly the first, nor will be the last),
truthful words are hitched to connivance;
trustworthy ideas are poached and sold on corrupt
markets as collector trinkets; righteousness is
muzzled and paraded in circuses for the glitterati;
faith is traded on Wall Street’s big board.

In such an age,
a certain kind of insolence is required.
A scrupulous disrespect is called for.
A principled nuisance needs be made.
A distinct discord sown,
      a discomforting voice raised,
      a troubling undertaken,
      a disturbing cry wailed.

Levitation from history is not an option.
None are exempt from making painstaking
choices amid contested and morally-
ambiguous terrain.

This stuff could get you in trouble.
Faith in the Manner-of-Jesus does
not cultivate placid circumstances
but insurrection against the world’s
disarray, informed by and conformed
to the beatific vision of the Creator’s
purpose, the Resurrector’s promise,
and the Animator’s presence.

The Beloved’s intent strikes terror
in the hearts of every merchant of misery.
They will not retreat without a struggle.
Travel through the narrow gate, along
the rugged road, is beset with bandits and
desperadoes armed with pious impunity.
Hardened hearts invent gods to match.

But sustenance is promised; manna will
descend; thirst will be slaked by water
springing from barren rock. Beauty will be
disclosed in our scars; healing, from our
wounds;  direction, from our dismay.
In that Day-to-Come, every creature,
mount and meadow, sea and fountain
—human and humus alike—
will rejoice and disclose Earth’s
exaltation at the news of Heaven’s
betrothal with Incarnation’s yearning.

The Word to people of the Way is to
abandon love-in-general in favor of
compassion-in-particular—to move
from history’s rhetorical grandstands,
from courts of impartiality and generic
prescriptions—turning instead into
unsettled circumstances with (potentially
and personally) hazardous results.

The night of crying endures, and the storm’s
dark turbulence may continue for as far as
mortal flesh can tell. But joy’s ascendance
(admittedly, at times, sorely dark and faint)
provides buoyancy and guidance for those
      with eyes to see,
      with ears to hear,
      with hearts large enough to shelter an
      other outside one’s own kin and skin.

As ancient Isaiah exhorted: Go out in joy and
be led back in peace, the hills bursting in song,
the trees in applause.* The only Adoni worthy
of adulation is approached in the darkness, is
encountered in the storm. For God is the storm,
and has incendiary designs for the storehouses
of human arrogance and greed. Cling to this
blessed assurance despite brutal prospects.
Oh, what a foretaste of Glory divine.









©ken sehested @