TRIPTYCH FOR RUDOLF BULTMANN
Dedicated to Father Stanley Marrow, S.J.
I. I HAVE A BULTMANN STORY, TOO
It starts like this.
I'm thirty years old.
Returned GI from Panama, from Viet Nam.
Finish school on the GI Bill.
Married. Three small children.
Forty years ago I found that man
who took on those questions.
Me. A protesting protestant.
Stanley Marrow, S.J. Iraqi.
Living in community with priests and nuns.
Three summers. Three years.
Stanley rolled away every stone.
He took every question.
He took every security.
Every turning point.
It all happened.
Over and done with.
It all began then.
Then I came home. That was 40 years ago.
This will take some time. I still have six days
before I turn the two books back in
come from Interlibrary loan. One came
from George Fox University in Portland--
the thesis of the young man from Princeton.
A thousand pages and a hundred bucks.
One paragraph from Christian Century--
a starting point. The other one,
Other, bless your heart,
the biography of the man come to me
across cultures and closed doors--
closed, if not forbidden. Six days.
I promised myself, given the chance,
my devotion and waking hours for the time
I have the books, if they came at all.
Their notice of arrival comes when I'm on the road,
costing me the first two days totalling twelve.
This is crisis. Deciding makes me smile. A president on a battleship.
No time for insider joking in code.
The yes and the no.
I was young and back from the war. The one in Southeast Asia.
During the bad time. To be fair here, I already belonged to literature.
I don't know. I was Medevac Sergeant at the Evac Hospital. In personnel.
Everybody counted, and we counted them sending them out.
I can't say to safety, because most of them were going home,
back to the States. Round the clock new year. This way home, GI.
In those months. That time. Those poems came years ago.
GI bill. Following literature.
I found Amos. Hosea. Couldn't find Jesus.
Before Bultmann, before Stanley,
the Icelandic pastor hounded me. Both of us with North Dakota roots.
Rural. Small town. Town family among farmers.
Diaspora on the front end.
Diaspora on the front end.
Him, into the beyonds. Beyond psychology, beyond religion,
wanting to write it. He wanted what the poem gave me.
I found Merton and C.S. Lewis from others.
He gave me Heschel and the prophets, he couldn't get me to Jesus.
First blush. Euphoric. Post-Bultmann. Pretty cool dude.
I'm the one liberated. Oh yeah. Look around. I try to tell it.
I try to say what happened. What I know.
I try to say where I've been. What happened.
I knew better coming home from Viet Nam.
I knew to shut up.
This was so much bigger. This was given to me.
Not a pastor now. Not anybody in pews either.
Sounding his name. Tongue explosion. A bolt of the blues.
The best that ever happened became the worst.
Name recognition. Oh. Yes. It turns out he doesn't matter.
The librarian calls. Both books, Spanking new. Never been opened.
Bultmann's eyes on the cover of the biography
dominate--the right eye directed at someone not identified,
the left eye in shadow. No attribution for the image.
Konrad Hammann. Marburg credentials. Translated
into English by Philip Devenish. This book presented
to The Guesman Collection for Biblical and Ministry Studies
at the Beverly Library, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.
A Lutheran convert to Vatican II.
Let that one play out.
I've been with the Chinese poets. The ancient ones.
And others. So many beautiful ones.
Always asking about Stanley.
Stanley says he talks with children to learn the language.
Bultman's name under my breath.
It's been, well, it's been good, it's been,
what it still is, a wonder walk.
And now, the surprise of these books.
1 July 2017--11 July 2017
II. LETTER TO KONRAD HAMMANN,
AFTER MY GRAND DAUGHTER'S LITTLE LEAGUE GAME
--and to Philip Devenish, English translator
American Christians here have POTUS' back
in Germany this week at G-20 talks.
A starting point of sorts. A context
for my reading of your Bultmann.
Delights come early countering depression.
Yesterday Donald Trump says three times,
Nobody knows for sure. Kerygma?
Early delights, Professor Hammann, as I said.
I expected treasure, but to be giggling on page 11!
You first, Emancipation from received tradition,
followed by Bultmann: Deliverance without compromise.
Stanley Marrow, four decades ago, my teacher,
in an auditorium of nuns and priests: We swoon
imagining Jesus on the cross for three days,
not seeing those on crosses for thirty years.
My context. A married Lutheran. Aversion
to traditionalism myself? I write from arrested
development, your book a medicinal purge.
The way you bring us Bultmann: Faith
not making truth claims, but personal experience
making contact with unconditional power.
Back and forth of dance. Compatible daring.
Redemptive. Eternal forces revealing themselves
in temporal events. Do you ski? Professor Hammann,
you and Bultmann descend through snow
on alternating edges. The right sort of foolishness
and high spirits. Trouble reveals divine strengths.
Alone in the pew, this was my time of testing,
but I couldn't see it. Crisis of the bourgeois world.
The faithful person, never the natural person, always
the person killed and brought back to life by God.
The two of you together crossing time.
Free from every entanglement. Sitting with your book
I say to myself, I'll be funny, exploding in tears.
Across time, I held on to Stanley and Vatican II
as doors closed daily. Reading poems, writing.
Tracing sources to their source in primitive form.
Whose voice here, authentic? What has been redacted?
Who are these fools? There is no 12-Step Program
for Bultmanians in America. After the euphoria,
I begin asking pastors about Bultmann. Who?
Oh. He doesn't matter. Young theologians
at the Master Narrative workshop? No.
A perverted state is at enmity with God.
Persecuted Jews, Gospel of John, the Demythologizing Lecture.
I spend three of my 12 days with your book here.
How many hours looking at photographs?
Can I thank you again without condescension?
Muzzling decrees and the confessing church, No.
At Eucharist once, in community, common cup
turns into a vineyard at harvest, with wild dancing.
Years later in Lutheran marriage encounter
the pastor takes the bread from my mouth.
The Catholics tease me relentlessly.
Ask Jim, Lutherans know their Bibles.
Word encountered in proclamation.
Crisis occurring in the moment Jesus comes.
P.S. Baseball game tied: 13-13.
3-8 July 2017
III. AFTER READING DAVID W. CONGDON'S BOOK
[951 PAGES] IN THIRTEEN DAYS, HIS PH.D. THESIS,
THE MISSION OF DEMYTHOLOGIZING:
RUDOLF BULTMANN'S DIALECTICAL THEOLOGY,
A LETTER TO THE AUTHOR FROM YET ANOTHER EDGE
Blue Bultmann painted by Oliver Crisp is a good start.
Sunrise hues on forehead and under the left eye, reach
beyond paint and into text. Promise of light to come.
Mission to modernity. It's about time
someone from your generation writes this thesis.
After 12 days, your big book on interlibrary loan
on its way back to George Fox University Library.
What is the condition for a modern theology?
Be sure and run it by those suffering in pews.
They're waiting, David Congdon, Dr. David Congdon,
Welcome. Here, everything fabricated
is banished--Bultmann at 28.
Mission turned towards interpretation.
Wave to your friends. This will take awhile.
Tension and pull, back and forth.
Paradoxes testing metaphors to breaking points.
The poem gets to yes only after saying no.
Tergiversator they called him? Tergiversator.
We know that one without looking it up.
Resurrection occurs identically with faith itself.
Hidden, you say--the Bultmann appeal.
A word clear in itself Bultmann says, asking Barth in a letter:
How do I say this to my children?
Dr. Congdon bringing the next two:
How do I say this to myself?
How do I hear it to myself?
Entanglements, ideologies, and guarantees.
Free of these, the word clear in itself,
beginning. I write from the pew,
liberated 40 years ago, by an Iraqi Jesuit,
who took every false teaching he could find
before giving me back to Luther. My wait?
40 years-plus, from Fr. Stanley Marrow to here.
I write from the edge of gratefulness,
a garden, mostly poets, but this weekend,
a pastor, in his 70s, low bullshit tolerance.
Cooking Mexican. Corn on the grill.
Chiles--de arbol, pasilla, habanero,
with Nopales, scored, like fingers.
Once you start telling people the secrets,
they sit up in their chairs. Isn't keeping secrets
sin as much as the fear? Who carries more fear?
Laymen or pastors? The pastor remembers
Arthur Võõbus, in seminary. The Estonian
carrying manuscripts on his back.
Every seminarian killled. Looking at him,
Mr. Dean Stewart, I am very disappointed in you.
I expected more than a book report.
Only being open, not created, self-revealing.
The unnumbered dead never counted in pews.
Laying out the Bultmann program. How big, this wait?
Some of what's remembered isn't remembered right.
What froze changed in the storage. What took root
grafted itself seamlessly. How it gets heard
reveals the eschaton. No guarantees
in the poem, walk the image to the abyss,
I can be wholly other, only when the dream
is wholly other also. How many times do we die?
How do I tell you this is real?
Time to soften up under an aging crust.
Your companion Bultmann's on the shelf.
When God arrives, he's already here,
been here forever, already beyond.
God's word is money that doesn't spend.
I'm reading my margin notes
inside the art of understanding.
May we, in your words,
take this strange world seriously.
From here, I find Hammann's biography,
one way only, love, perpetually beginning.
10 July 2017