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Show Don't Tell



Last supper 2.jpg

Seder Meal

In an upper room,
twelve join Him for Seder meal.
He washes their feet
then breaks bread and shares a cup
and asks to be remembered.

One will be the rock
upon which a church is built.
One will turn his back,
choose coin over faithfulness.
He will be nailed to a cross.
                   ~~~Judi Van Gorder



The best poetry is communicated through thoughts condensed into concrete images.   Show don’t tell. The poet’s mantra.     Today is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, celebrated by most Christian churches around the world. One might say, for this day, the Gospel writers record one of the world's finest poems sharing the accounts of the Last Supper.   

The account is condensed into five concrete images: 

  1. History and tradition:  Unleavened bread, bitter herbs and a cup of wine.  It is not just an everyday gathering.  This holy day reflects on the Seder meal Jesus and his disciples shared just days before He was crucified. Seder, meaning “order”, rooted in the traditions of Judaism, recreates the meal served on the night of Passover, the celebration of the delivery of the Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery to freedom. The specific foods of the Seder meal are meant to nourish both the body and the soul. 
  2. Friendship and loyalty:  Twelve men attend the meal with Jesus.  Each character shows strengths and weaknesses.  They call Him master or Lord, they are clearly His followers.
  3. Commandment: The bread broken, the cup passed, and a command.  The word maundy is from the Latin word mandatum meaning "commandment".   This holy day is the beginning of the Christian ritual of communion, the sharing of bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus, in remembrance.   This commandment is practiced in ritual daily in some denominations.  It has continued through the centuries.
  4. Servant leadership: Jesus on his knees washing the road dust from the feet of his disciples. A leader serving those who follow him.   This image may have had the greatest impact on my life. I've tried to model my own leadership role after this image.
  5. Betrayal:  Judas walks away from the gathering to betray his Lord for a few pieces of silver.  There is another theory, the betrayal was out of fanatic zeal, believing the arrest of Jesus would begin a revolution against the ruling Romans, but scripture doesn’t show this second image.   Whatever the reason, walking away, the pieces of silver, concrete images that show, that even in the most holy of settings, evil lurks ready to destroy. 
    Upon seeing Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper

    They are assembled, astonished and disturbed
    round him, who like a sage resolved his fate,
    and now leaves those to whom he most belonged,
    leaving and passing by them like a stranger.
    The loneliness of old comes over him
    which helped mature him for his deepest acts;
    now will he once again walk through the olive grove,
    and those who love him still will flee before his sight.                                        

    To this last supper he has summoned them,
    and (like a shot that scatters birds from trees)
    their hands draw back from reaching for the loaves
    upon his word: they fly across to him;
    they flutter, frightened, round the supper table
    searching for an escape. But he is present
    everywhere like an all-pervading twilight-hour.
                                ~~Rainer Maria Rilke

    The Bread I Break

    This bread I break was once the oat,
    This wine upon a foreign tree
    Plunged in its fruit;
    Man in the day or wind at night
    aid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
    Once in this wine the summer blood
    Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
    Once in this bread
    The oat was merry in the wind;
    Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
    This flesh you break, this blood you let
    Make desolation in the vein,
    Were oat and grape
    Born of the sensual root and sap;
    My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
                                 ~~Dylan Thoma

Every faith has its own stories of inspiration told in concrete images we can relate to.  Honor this day with a poem of your own inspired by a faith- based image and show don't tell.  

Happy writing. ~~Judi


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