Repurposing the Body

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This morning, I’m on my way to Boston to speak at Theology on Tap sponsored by Church of the Advent, Brimmer St, and my friend Fr. Sammy Wood.  I gave a talk there over a year ago in which I abused the audience with pictures of Miley Cyrus and the Rock (as well as St. Francis), so I was surprised that they wanted to have me back.

Tonight, I’ll give them a spin on an article I published last Spring in Anglican Theological Review entitled “Repurposing the Body: Sacramentality and the Poetics of Discipleship.” It was a fun article to write… at least initially. But perhaps the one bit of the article that I felt the most self-conscious about at the time, and continue to struggle with – especially in my pedagogy – was the section on the Anglican priest-bards, Donne and Herbert.

George Herbert, most of all, offers his readers a sacramental outlook that is at once breathtakingly gorgeous and sparse. The allusions and imagery are plentiful, sometimes even so rich and architectural that it’s easy to get obsessed with them. But then, I find that there’s also this efficiency to his language that I don’t always know what to do with. He can be honest with his audience about his own frustrations, and then within a line shift completely to a theological or pastoral sentiment. These shifts can be so quick that they’re easy to miss, as I and my students often do.

I love his poems, but don’t always know what to do with them.

Anyway, tonight I’ll share Love (3) with the Theology on Tap audience. So I’m pinning it here as an offering to you.

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

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