The Poet’s Poet: Another “Well, DUH!” Moment

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These days I am very deliberately reading and listening to Scripture as though it were my first time. This is made easier by my leaky memory.

Yesterday, listening to Acts 10, I got to the part where hungry Peter is given a dream that involves “unclean” animals being lowered to him from Heaven in a large lunch sack. The purpose of that dream—as Peter learns—is to instruct him that, “I should not call any person common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28 ESV).

Here’s the “Well, duh!” epiphany: the Holy Spirit uses metaphor to communicate truth. In this case, he uses lunchmeat as a metaphor for people. The Holy Spirit is the poets’ poet.

Another Poet’s Poet
I was thinking about how Emily Dickenson’s “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” is related to this realization. Dickenson comes to mind because she was also referred to as “the poet’s poet.” Poetry relies heavily on metaphor. It also relies on an artful, thoughtfully-timed presentation of the truth as opposed to blunt propositions. I see that in Dickenson’s poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant:”

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Truth is sometimes dazzling, sometimes dreadful. In either case, it must be conveyed artfully.

Since my [thinking in this post] was suggested by my reading of Acts 10, let me apply more of this thinking about the Holy Spirit as poet to an earlier passage….

The word “slant” has been on my mind as I spend time observing Stephen’s speech in Acts 7. He’s recounting history his listeners would be familiar with. But he’s telling it in a way that makes troubling points. He’s putting a “slant” on it. It is largely by discerning the slant that we get his message. It is by his artful telling that he persuades those who are willing to be persuaded.

Stephen wasn’t your run of the mill talker. Rather, he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” He would naturally “sound” like the Holy Spirit, our Poet’s Poet.

— Brad Hepp, September 2, 2023

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