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Essay

O, Holy Shit

By December 26, 2013 11 Comments
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A guest post by my partner and fellow minister, Jim Kast-Keat. A poem he wrote reflecting on the gravity of Immanuel – God with us. 

 

 

If someone tells you about a newborn baby who does not cry

You know without thinking that it is a lie.

Except as a child this is the story we take:

“The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.”

Wake a baby up with a cow’s loud mooing

and that baby will cry, wail, and probably start poo-ing.

Jesus is no angel, he doesn’t shit golden nuggets.

He screams and he cries and he wails because it’s

A manger he’s in, no crib for a bed.

And so the little human Jesus screams off his human head.

He’s a baby boy and he is human fully,

born in crap, this holy of holies

With feet made for walking and eyes made for seeing

this Jesus is the true human being.

His feet on the ground he declares this world holy,

embracing it all, shitty and lowly

He lets go of heaven only to find

that it been here with us the whole entire time.

The goal, he shows us, is not to escape

but to dig your toes deeper until they feel the shape

Of the shit that we live in, the mess that we are,

because its Holy and broken and full of laughter and scars.

Divinity is not a qualitatively different reality;

quite the reverse, divinity is fully realized humanity.

The goal of life, then, isn’t to become something we’re not

but to become what we are: human, full of holy shit and sacred snot

It is in the crucifixion of our self-images idealized

that we discover our true being, humanity fully realized.

And in Jesus we see what it means to be human,

to embrace life to its fullest, to know that it is more than

A rat race to the spaceship we’re told to call heaven,

because life is for living, not an otherworldly obsession.

So we live each day, full of shit and sunshine,

discovering it to be holy, a night divine.

Jim Kast-Keat is the Associate Minister for Education at Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village of New York City. He is a divergent thinker, an ideation specialist, and an aspiring minimalist. Prior to working at Middle he helped lead ikonNYC in New York, NY, worked as a Product Designer with Sparkhouse in Minneapolis, MN and was a pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI. Jim has more ideas than he knows what to do with, most of which come to life in thirty seconds or less as one of his daily podcasts. To listen to Jim’s thirty second rantings go to thirtysecondsorless.net or follow him on twitter at @jimkastkeat.

Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.

11 Comments

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    I am embarrassed (and disappointed) with this, and not by what you might think, and not because of anything shitty about this post. So it goes, and maybe appropriate for St. Stephen's Day.

  • Mike Weber says:

    I too am disappointed with this not because the frequent reference to excrement, but simply because it isn't very good poetry.

  • Mike Weber says:

    An alternate poem that suggests the earthiness of the incarnation from Mary Hart, Sinners Welcome, p. 9, HarpersCollins, NY, NY, 2006. Note he vivid and unexpected reference to the babies crying (screaming) in the last line.

    Descending Theology: The Nativity
    Mary Hart

    She bore no more than other women bore,
    but in her belly’s globe that desert night the earth’s
    full burden swayed.
    Maybe she held it in her clasped hands as expecting women often do
    or monks in prayer. Maybe at the womb’s first clutch
    she briefly felt that star shine

    as a blade point, but uttered no curses.
    Then in the stable she writhed and heard
    beasts stomp in their stalls,
    their tails sweeping side to side
    and between contractions, her skin flinched
    with thousand animal itches that plague
    a standing beast’s sleep.

    But in the muted womb-world with its glutinous liquid,
    the child knew nothing
    of its own fire. (No one ever does, though our names
    are said to be writ down before
    we come to be.) He came out a sticky grub, flailing
    the load of his own limbs

    and was bound in cloth, his cheek brushed
    with fingertip touch
    so his lolling head lurched, and the sloppy mouth
    found that first fullness—her milk
    spilled along his throat, while his pure being
    flooded her (Each

    feeds the other.) Then he was left
    in the grain bin. Some animal muzzle
    against his swaddling perhaps breathed him warm
    till sleep came pouring that first draught
    of death, the one he’s wake from
    (as we all) do screaming.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Thank you Mike Weber. And, of course, as any father of newborns knows, babies really don't poo their first couple days. And what they poo is not what we'd call shit. And not all verse is what we'd call poetry. Poetry is more than breaking things into lines and making rhymes, even when they're halfway decent rhymes. Language is precious, poetry is precious, images are precious, and bodies are precious. I think the posting, at its best, wants to affirm that.

  • JVS says:

    I must be on my guard to not take offense at this posting. But please, Jim, you must be on guard to not GIVE offense. You run a very high risk of doing exactly that.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Some times the gospel does give offense. And we often back off, in our translations, from the real shit of the Bible. That's not what embarrassed and disappointed me, for one. I guess it's a question of the maturity and direction of the offense.

  • Mike Weber says:

    Daniel, I agree that the poem is well intentioned and that there are some vivid and appropriate images in it–e.g., " human, full of holy shit and sacred snot" has some potential to my mind. However, as a whole the poem preaches instead of describing–e.g. "Divinity is not a qualitatively different reality; / quite the reverse, divinity is fully realized humanity." Further, the rhymes are cute and too obvious, while the sing song meter feels like "Twas the night before Christmas" and tends to trivialize the subject matter.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Mike Weber, I think you're right.

  • Debra Rienstra says:

    Thanks, Mike, for providing an alternative poem. "Descending Theology: The Nativity" is by Mary Karr, though, in case anyone wants to look up more poems by her (which is always a good idea–Sinners Welcome is a great collection).

  • A couple thoughts:

    1) This poem, as is, is meant to be whimsical and attention grabbing. This isn't part of the Christmas Classics of poetry and nor will it ever be. I read it more as a prayer and one person's reflection on the incarnation from his words.

    2) Jim was asked to share this poem on another site that was shared multiple times on Twitter. The direct and offensive nature of the poem is deliberate because sometimes we get too comfortable in our neatly organized liturgical words that lack authentic expression.

    3) I wonder if there may be a generational difference going on here? This type of "real talk" speaks to me and I find his honesty refreshing. Perhaps I am being too simplistic in categorically making this about generational differences…

    4)I like the poem you provided, Mike! Thank you.

    Peace – Jes

  • Let me take offense to one thing I said in my point 2. Not all carefully crafted liturgies lack authentic expression. Personally I prefer carefully crafted liturgies! Sometimes I desire room for unscripted, raw, and messy words in worship.

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