Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lent 40: Psalm 114

“Tremble O earth at the presence of the Lord”

This vigil is the slack point of the tide.
All is withdrawn, an emptiness profound
Waits for its filling. All creation hangs
Waiting, and utters still its groaning sound.

Earths dreadful grief packed tight into one place,
Earth’s dreadful longing caught up in His cry.
Now, all is silence, yet, the echo hangs,
Tight in the void, awaiting God’s reply.

Surely He comes! The mighty Lord of Hosts
In His almighty mercy bends to save,
Taking upon Himself our sin, our pain,
Bearing it all, then ripping up the grave.

These are death’s death-throes in this slack-tide hour,
Waiting God’s coming, for He will, He will!
Tremble indeed before Love absolute,

For He is near, His promise to fulfill!

The Women in the Shadows

We were there on that black and dreadful day. The word had spread quickly that he had been arrested, so we came, waiting in the shadows as women do. Nobody notices or cares about the women in the shadows; we are so unimportant that nobody notices or cares. Except him, of course. That was part of the wonder and the marvel, he always saw us, and honoured us by his seeing. We were not invisible creatures of the night to him – he saw us, he named us, he knew us. That was why we loved him so very much, because he gave us back our reality. With him we felt whole, and strong and valuable; to the rest of the world we were only shadows.

And so we followed him, painfully, on that last dreadful journey through Jerusalem, the journey to his death. It was agony to see his agony, his body already slashed and torn by the dreadful Roman whip, those terrible thorns causing blood to trickle down his face and into his eyes, his whole body stooped and struggling beneath the burden of his cross. Watching his pain was like being confronted with an obscenity so extreme it was almost beyond our ability to take in, numbing us with horror. So we followed in the shadows, as women do.

We stood there, on that anxious, dread-filled hill, wanting to be with him in his suffering. We could not take one iota of his pain away, but at least we could be there with him. It is what women do. We have no power to take the suffering from the world, but we stand with those who suffer: the crying child, the dying man, the woman racked in the hour of birth. We are there. We are there for the bereaved and the broken – when you live in the shadows you notice the pain of the world which the strong and the mighty overlook. So we stayed there, at the foot of the cross, and we wept for the pity and the horror of it until our eyes burned dry and we could cry no more. And the Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders ignored us; we were just women weeping in the shadows, and that’s what women do.

And we stayed there watching him die, and our shadows seemed a darkness so vast that the whole world was swallowed up in grief. And all through the next day we lived out the most bitter Sabbath of our lives – so bitter that, in comparison, dust and ashes would be sweet as honey. And we huddled in the shadows and we mourned, on that grey, grey day when there was nothing left to do but feel the enormity of our loss. We had forgotten that it was when darkness covered the face of the deep that God said, “Let there be light!”

The whole world knows the story now, the story of that still-dark shadowed morning when we went to anoint his body as our final gesture of love, and found instead an empty tomb and a risen Lord. But it was our story, we were there, and we drink its gladness and wonder all our days. We were there when the morning broke and the shadows fled away, when our tears were turned to laughter and our sorrow into joy. We did not need our shadows any more.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lent 39: Isaiah 53

Silence before the Lamb,
The broken Lamb of God!
Silence before His pain:
The whip, the nails, the blood!

Silence before such hell
No words of ours express!
Silence before the love,
That bore it all for us!

Silence to know that He,
In weakness was despised.
Silence to own that we
Rejected God’s own Christ.

Silence, for here all words
Fall short and fall away.
His light our darkness bears,
And darkness blots out day.

Silence to see such love
That would the stoniest break
For all that He endured,
He suffered for our sake.

Speak then, shout out His love,
Whose depth cannot be said;
For Christ was crucified,
Now death itself is dead!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lent 38: Colossians 2: 8-15

We stand between truth and falsehood,
At the junction of the way,
And remember You are the way.
The rules of man lead only to the end of man:
An end called death.
And the screeching sound of our own confusion
Is the screeching brakes 9of those who turn around.

Do not embrace the lie.

He is not the whispered story
That the wind blows to oblivion;
He is not an archaic system
That our wisdom has outgrown;
He is not the foolish credulity
Of the ones afraid to say no!

He is more real than the sun that burns you,
The earth that upholds you,
The sea that encircles you,
The atoms and the cells.

His life is no illusion.

He will cut away from you,
With surgery most crystal and precise,
All things that are not life.
You will become scarecrow:
Ragged, mocked, alone:
In the field, hanging in the rain,
Wondering and afraid.
And it will be for gladness,
Such gladness as the morning stars
Sang together to proclaim:

A masterpiece of glory.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lent 37: Hebrews 12: 1-3

Let us fix our eyes

They have gone before and they show the way
Making a trodden track through world’s dark woods
Showing how it is done by mortal men.

Suffer us to walk on as they have walked
Suffer us to accept this other path
Suffer us to embrace the faith-found way.

Let us be shining-sure, the while we walk
Through doubt-tossed valleys, scrambling broken rock,
When all else falls away, He still is there,
Author and finisher of this strange path,
He will perfect this flawed fragmented faith
Into a beauty that will sing of Him.

Let us then toss aside what weighs too much,
For this strait journey: petty rules of men,
Fears of the flesh, the cravings of our pride,
The dragging burden of entitlement
That pulls us backward from love’s dizzy path,
And trust instead the Spirit and the Word.

Suffer us to keep eyes fast-fixed on Him.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lent 36: John 12; 20 - 36

Except a grain of wheat …

This is a strange, strange road to glory.

Not here a trumpet, nor the sweet applause
Of angels rank on rank in dear acclaim,
Nor victor’s sword, nor crowds that seethe and roar
For joy, nor here the high and golden throne.

Here is the bitter moment closing in.
Here is the crowd that does not understand,
The futile crowd that scorns a path so dark,
And will choose bread and circuses instead.

Here is the forerunner walking the way
Called cruciform. Here is the life laid down.
Planting must come before the harvest rich
And here the seed is sown into death.

And He who would to depths of darkness go,
Down to the uttermost of death’s despair
Tastes here, before that day, the agony,
And bids us all walk forward by His light.

He tastes before Him, in His shuddering flesh,
The nails, the whip, the tortured crown of thorns,
And chooses still, and chooses us as His
And chooses thus to draw us into life.

This is a strange, strange path to glory.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lent 35: Exodus 10: 21 - 11: 10

The final plague

God so much greater than all Egypt’s might,
God of the desert stars and desert sand,
God who has called Your people to be Yours,
Under the lamb’s shed blood we take our stand.

God who has watched the nations rise and fall,
God who is ruler over history,
God who has heard our slavery’s harsh cry,
You have called out Your people to be free.

God who has loved us since before all time,
God, calling us to know You as our Lord,
God, who brings justice like the rolling sea,
And judgement sharper than the sharpest sword.

God, You, Yourself, our sole deliverance,
God of all righteousness, and of all grace,
God, You, Yourself, our stricken, dying lamb,
God who will bear all judgement in our place.

God of our exodus from death to life,
God, whose sure word is our amen, and yes,
God of the Resurrection and the Life,

God who has lavished us with love’s largesse.