Christpower – thoughts of Spong in verse

Lucy Newton Boswell Negus puts in free verse the thoughts of Bishop John Spong. (Spong’s explanation follows after the poem)


Far back beyond the beginning,
stretching out into the unknowable,
unfathomable depths, dark and void
of infinite eternity behind all history,
the Christpower was alive.

This was the
bursting, pulsing,
generating, creating
smoldering, exploding
fusing, multiplying,
emerging, erupting,
pollenizing, inseminating,
heating, cooling
power of life itself: Christpower.
And it was good!

all things that we know
began their journey into being.
light separated from darkness.
Christpower began to take form.
life became real,
and that life spread into
emerging new creatures
into ever higher intelligence.

There was a sacrifice here
a mutation there.
There was grace and resurrection appearing
in their natural order,
occurring, recurring,
and always driven by the restless,
life force of God, called the Christpower,
which flowed in the veins of every living thing
for ever
and ever
and ever
and ever.
And it was good!

In time, in this universe,
there emerged creatures who were called human,
and the uniqueness of these creatures
lay in that they could
this life-giving power.

They could name it
and embrace it
and grow with it
and yearn for it.

Thus human life was born,
but individual expressions of that human life
were marked with a sense of
and a hunger
that drove them ever beyond the self
to search for life’s secret
to seek the source of life’s power.
This was a humanity that could not be content with
anything less.

And once again
in that process
there was
sacrifice and mutation,
grace and resurrection
now in the human order,
occurring, recurring.
And it was good!

Finally, in the fullness of time,
within that human family,
unique and special human life appeared:
at one
at peace
at rest.

In that life was seen with new intensity
that primal power of the universe,
And it was good!

Of that life people said: Jesus,
you are the Christ,
for in you we see
and feel
and experience
the living force of life
and love
and being
of God.

He was hated,
he was never distorted.
For here was a life in which
the goal, the dream, the hope
of all life
is achieved.

A single life among many lives.
among us, out from us,
and yet this power, this essence,
was not from us at all,
for the Christpower that was seen in Jesus
is finally of God.

And even when the darkness of death overwhelmed him,
the power of life resurrected him;
for Christpower is life
without beginning,
without ending.
It is the secret of creation.
It is the goal of humanity.

Here in this life we glimpse
that immortal
most blessed
most glorious
almighty life-giving force
of this universe
in startling completeness
in a single person.

Men and women tasted the power that was in him
and they were made whole by it.
They entered a new freedom,
a new being.
They knew resurrection and what it means to live
in the Eternal Now.
So they became agents of that power,
sharing those gifts from generation to generation,
creating and re-creating,
transforming, redeeming,
making all things new.

And as this power moved among human beings,
once more separated from darkness.
And it was good!

They searched for the words to describe
the moment that recognized the fullness of this power
living in history,
living in the life of this person.

But words failed them.

So they lapsed into poetry:
When this life was born,
they said,
a great light split the dark sky.
Angelic choruses peopled the heavens
to sing of peace on earth.
They told of a virgin mother,
of shepherds compelled to worship,
of a rejecting world that had no room in the inn.
They told of stars and oriental kings,
of gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

For when this life was born
that power that was
and is
with God,
the endless beginning
was seen
even in a baby
in swaddling clothes
lying in a manger.


Jesus, you are the Christ.

To know you is to live,
to love,
to be.

O come, then, let us adore him!

~John Shelby Spong


Spong writes about the origin of this poem:

Many years ago, in 1974 to be specific, for the sermon at the Christmas Eve Midnight service at St. Paul’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, I sought to redefine Jesus through the medium of poetry.  I could, even then, no longer see him with credibility as the incarnation of a supernatural being who lived above the sky.  That image to me made the relationship between Jesus and God somewhat like that of Clark Kent to Superman.  I had come to understand Jesus both as something more than that and at the same time as the essence of what life itself is all about.

The God I met in Jesus was not an invasive divine power who entered this world from outer space.  I rather experienced God as the primal life force that surges through all living things, but which comes to self-consciousness only in human life and was somehow uniquely seen in its fullness in Jesus of Nazareth.  I also experienced God as that power of love that always expands the levels of consciousness in which all of us share and into which we evolve as we become more deeply and fully human.  This was for me a breakthrough into a new religious understanding.  That understanding came to a new intensity when I wrote my book: Eternal Life: A New Vision – Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell.

After that service a very gifted poet from Richmond, Lucy Newton Boswell Negus, laid my words out in free verse.  Then she took my sermons over the previous three years, lifted the essence or climax from each and put that into the same free verse form.  Ultimately, Thomas Hale Publishing Company published that project in a coffee table size volume entitled Christpower.  I was elected bishop in Newark some three months later and this book all but disappeared.  In 2007, however, this volume of theological poetry, was discovered, revised, updated and republished by St Johann Press in Haworth, New Jersey, and is now newly available in a paperback version from Amazon or directly from the publisher.  Encouraged by the response of my readers I have used this new version of this Christmas sermon as my column every year since 2007. ”



, , ,

  1. #1 by Juliet Hale Hills on January 4, 2012 - 5:54 pm

    This poem is very interesting, as I have been wondering how to express my awareness that spiritual energy is not substantive. I was thinking about it being an emanation, or an inspiration – implying that it might be described as some kind of “ruah” or breath. I know it is instant and can heal. It is not connected to any human experience such as the sense of self or ego, or any action, thought or word. Perhaps this will be the year we find many of us coming to an understanding of this power. We are so used to power and energy manifesting as light, warmth, sound, irrepressible feelings, or even as glossolalia, but I prefer to recall the still, small voice of calm of Whittier.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: