Are limericks suited to Lent?
Yes indeed, in both form and intent:
They’re a well-designed ploy
To bring insight and joy
With a final, uplifting event.
That’s not bad, methinks; it comes from a book by Christopher Brunelle (The Church Year in Limericks), via a column by Peter Marty in the Christian Century, passed on to me by an old friend over brunch.
A perfect limerick has 39 syllables, so it’s nearly the length of Lent. And the twist at the end—the witty revelation in the final line—brings a smile that is a smallish anticipation of the greatest plot twist of all.
It seems right to say that God enjoys creation. Of course, we have no way of understanding what it means to be God (we can really understand only what God is not). Still it is clear that he did not have to create anything. Robert Farrar Capon, in his theological essay disguised as a cookbook, The Supper of the Lamb, says that the universe is like an orange peeling hanging on a chandelier in God’s kitchen. It doesn’t do anything for the kitchen; God just likes it.
Did Jesus enjoy being human? Here we are on solid ground, and can unambiguously say yes. The Father willed for the Son to be incarnate; the Son in perfect obedience became human in the fullest sense. Being free of sin, there would be the complete awareness of integral being. He also suffered, to be sure, not only in his own flesh, but also in his love for others who endured possession, disease, and the consequences of human wickedness.
But the greater reality is, I think, the joy. Chesterton asks why Jesus had to go off alone to pray. He thinks it was in happiness: that he needed to share with his Father the sheer laughter of life. (And he went off alone because we, in our sinful state, are not ready to see the joy of God or the joy of perfect humanity.)
So in the meantime we have hints. We have, for instance, limericks.
Out & about. Sunday, March 18, I am to preach at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, 5100 Ross Ave., Dallas. At 9:30 I will teach on the deadly sin of pride. If you’ve been wondering what pride is, I hope you’ll come join me.
On Wednesday, March 21, I will speak on “The Resurrected Friend” at St. Matthew’s at 7 p.m. You may come then, or earlier (6:30) for soup and salad (no reservation needed), or earlier still (6 p.m.) for Stations of the Cross.
On Friday, March 23, I am to give the “FaceTime” meditation at 6 p.m. at Church of the Incarnation, 3966 McKinney Ave., Dallas. The topic I’ve been asked to speak on is “Entering into the Sabbath Rest of God and the Rest of Christ”—appropriate for a Friday evening, the beginning of the weekly Sabbath.
Are limericks suited to Lent?
It was supposed to rain all day, sometimes heavily with wind, but outside the window were snowflakes gently floating, some of them taking sideways turns, others moving up a bit before continuing down, light and gravity-defying like ballerinas. I was on the seventh floor. I was warm. I appreciated the show.
But it did rain a lot, and heavily, so that one premeditated every movement carefully. I had an appointment a mere half-mile away, a distance that on any other day would be easily walked. But instead I took a quick duck into the subway, waited for a train, went one stop, walked quite a bit underground, waited for another train, went one stop on it, then came up and had two blocks to walk. I had taken twice the usual time and paid for a fare . . . and was grateful not to be wetter than I was.
It was, I told them that night, a lovely gift for this erstwhile New Yorker now exiled to Dallas. I got to see snow. I got to feel wind and rain. But to indicate that I was not, as some of them were persuaded I must be, a downhearted exile, I wished them a happy Texas Independence Day.
As a boy, I longed for snow, for scenery like one saw on Christmas cards, for sleigh-bells and snowmen and shovels. Once at seminary about two feet of snow fell on New York City. For half a day there were no vehicles on the streets, just beautiful white stuff and people walking through it. But it’s followed by a week of dirty slush: the beauty hardly lasts.
Then I got ordained and in due course had a parish. Snowfalls became expensive events: we’d have to pay for the driveway and parking lot to be plowed. They also tested the roofs and gutters. Snow was a strain on the buildings and budget; it was no longer fun.
But now I live in Dallas. I can visit places where snow falls. Like a grandparent getting the joy of having children without the everyday responsibility, I drop in and soak up the beauty. Snow is fun again.
In the resurrection, Aquinas speculated, we will all be about 30 years old, about the age Jesus was at his death and resurrection. It is an encouraging thought. The burdens that come with the years will be lifted, and all things will be made new. Life, one might say, will be fun again. Or perhaps one should say, life will be fun as if for the first time.
Out & About. On Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m., I will give a talk on Jesus as the friend on the cross. This will be at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, 5100 Ross Ave., Dallas. You can come early at 6:30 for a light supper (no reservations; no charge), or at 6 p.m. for Stations of the Cross.