Wendell Berry, if you are not familiar with his work, is known for discussing and practicing environmental care and cultural criticism. He largely criticizes societal breakdown in a post industrial-revolutionized world. Berry is also know for writing Sabbath poems every Sunday. I read a poem of his recently titled “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” In no direct relation to the title, Berry freely versifies the society’s robotic rhythm and our part in it:
“Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer.”
Following this, he gives examples of living contrary to automation. Instead of autopilot lives, swept up in the false fix of convenience, he offers contrary examples of active living. Here are some chosen excerpts:
“So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it ….Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. Ask the questions that have no answers ….Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”
He continues with unique ways of saying the same, ending the entire composition with “practice resurrection.” I thought that final statement was simple and profound. What does it look like and mean to “practice resurrection,” and why do we believers not speak of this more often?
Well, after reading the Biblical account of the resurrection this Easter with some friends, I opted to read Berry’s poem aloud. I did this because as we sat around reflecting popcorn-style on the Biblical passage and its meaning/application, I figured it would be helpful to ponder how we might “practice resurrection” in our lives.
His resurrection, in my opinion, deserves the most emphasis when we talk about the Gospel. This is where death was defeated, and life everlasting became a human reality. This is where a journey began of empowering humans toward Godly action on Earth by the power of the Holy Spirit, in order for us to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth.
If we follow Jesus, we certainly do not find fun and convenience. There is a necessary and holy discomfort for us in the truth of the gospel. we will find ourselves extremely inconvenienced by truth, conviction, and ensuing growth. Discipleship is hard, which is maybe why we don’t practice it in fullness in most modern churches. But what does discipleship do? It fosters new life, a life brought from death, a new way of living according to true life in contrast to the world’s version. discipleship is a practice of resurrection.
As I interpret Berry’s statement and seek to peel it open for all its practical meaning, practicing resurrection looks like living actively and intentionally despite the temptation to flow in the motion of a world of distraction and autopilot. If we pay attention to what exists around us, notice the world as it moves by, and rest in the God-given shade of the natural beauty we so often neglectfully leave for social feeds and Netflix documentaries, we can’t help but foster life. If we take part in our neighborhood, garden and till the dirt of life, growing things with our hands despite the tediousness, we will be practicing resurrection. We will also be accidental contrarians to our modern world.
If we realize, in opposition to what is purported, that distraction and convenience are not solutions and are not the highest goods, though most of our money goes to these commodities, we will be free to live in the joy of creating things that last. There is no such thing as instant joy, life, or growth. These are inconvenient things to foster, but they are worth it. I once heard a pastor say something like, “the purest form of love is when we meet another’s greatest need at our own great expense.”