And Jesus Said, “What?”

Story of the Day for Friday July 8, 2011

And Jesus Said, “What?”


                Along the way, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?”  

                                                            Mark 8:27

 T. S. Eliot captured the Nobel Prize for literature, and you should keep that fact in mind when I tell you I don’t have much use for him. In an effort to cultivate my image as a man of sensibility and refined tastes, I pulled Eliot’s Four Quartets off the shelf. I’m not going to give away the ending to his poem for the simple reason that I never made it that far. Truth be told, I never made past the first page.  Here are the first eight lines:


Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.


Eliot is a man of renown, but I don’t understand a thing he’s saying. You may be thinking that the fog will lift if I keep reading to the second page, but I’m doubting it.


Over sixty-five years ago, Madeline Utter taught a class of rambunctious kids in a one-room schoolhouse on Pinkham Creek. She, along with her husband, Lee, still live up here on Pinkham Mountain.

Madeline writes simple poems, but her writing never fails to charm me:


A lonely little Pinkham privy

Sits alone out in the woods

It is a one holer just waiting

For someone to drop the goods.


I have waded through theology books so thick they could crack your toe – should one fall on your foot. Although I have learned much, I’ve always had to resist the impulse of viewing God as the answer to a question on a trigonometry exam.

Over the years, I have found a perverse encouragement in a scrap of graffiti scratched on the wall of a college dorm:

Jesus said unto them, “Who do you say that I am?”

And they replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the keryma in which we find the ultimate meaning of our existential Sitz im Leben.”

And Jesus said, “What?”

                                                               (copyright by and by Marty Kaarre)