Emily Dickinson, “A Day! Help! Help!”
by Emily Dickinson
A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!
Your prayers, oh Passer by!
From such a common ball as this
Might date a Victory!
From marshallings as simple
The flags of nations swang.
Steady — my soul: What issues
Upon thine arrow hang!
Easter celebrations and Easter sermons at Grace and amongst us this season, as Stuart said, were eagerly awaited and long overdue after a shadowed season of heavy Lent for us and for our community. As Stuart said, he couldn’t wait to get to Easter at last! And so the same for many of us out of our shared and particular sorrows.
And so Easter came, but did so in a fog. On Easter Eve and then Easter morning I walked to church, a mile from our house in what used to be the orchard of General James Longstreet when he lived “out in the country”. I risked the rain and was refreshed by a sprinkle or two, tossed from a cloud or a tree in the breeze, I couldn’t tell.
The music and the company and the readings and the shared peace of all the Easter services in so many different ways lifted me up and also settled me into a quiet, from trumpets and tympany to the silence in the midst of the prayers, Easter came upon me and within me, whatever Easter is.
The sermons of Alan, Cynthia and Stuart all opened up the tomb of Good Friday into different ways of meeting and following the resurrected Jesus. Each sermon resonated about anew with the next — Easter was all Trinity in motion. A demonstration of Trinity life offered and shared.
Emily Dickinson’s poem, “A Day! Help! Help! Another Day!”, doesn’t recommend itself immediately as an Easter poem. Nor does Dickinson recommend herself as a Christian or religious author. While her whole family went forward to be saved in Evangelical Awakening Amherst, Emily stayed behind.
Our Easter sermons called us to remember and renew our stories, to blow open in the winds of creation, to speak out from the winds of creation in us, to listen and respond to being called aloud and alive by name, to discover that with Jesus death is not a defeat, and life begins anew in the lens of the resurrection. And so much more in each of the three sermons.
Still, I can’t help thinking or wondering, how did Jesus feel on what came to be called “The Eighth Day of Creation”, the day of Resurrection? How did Lazarus feel when called forth from his grave by Jesus? Or, after all, when the alarm went off early this Easter morning and I was called back and out of radiant dreams into this day, how did I feel? What was this day I had to enter?
What relish is waking up? Dying in suffering like Lazarus, what is it to be called forth into life again, only, as the early Christian legends say, to die a martyr in Southern France? And as to Jesus — he escaped to the right hand of the Father, so perhaps it is different for Jesus? But he also said he would continue to be near in the ongoing drollery and duties and dismays of our everyday life together in this world. He would die with us again and again.
Paul in his letters to early Christians emphasizes how the communion life of Christians is a sharing in the suffering and dying of Jesus. We remember and indeed celebrate that proclamation of Paul, that we die with Jesus, and so will be resurrected….
Is Resurrection the point of the Gospel of Jesus? Or is the point the Incarnation of God in flesh for communion and company with us, dying ever again and again? What is Easter about?
Dickinson wakes to another day in the midst of the uncertainty and storms of Christian stories and practice and tellings. And what Easter rises to mean is yet another day, a day of calamity lounging and leaning, a day of beginning again. Every Sunday, every waking, the Gospel of Easter asks us to wake like Dickinson, and to pray for one another in all our Passer-by, instead of all our daily eclipse of each other in Easter amaze.
The Resurrection of Jesus breathes into us as best a waking to begin again. Another day. This day. Emily Dickinson woke ever to such days and the honesty to say this, to ask our listening to her beginning such days. To ask our prayers, as we ask of each other.
The dark rising of yet another day — A Day! Help! Help! Easter is such a reckless cry. And so we pray and need each other to wake and rise and face — Another Day!