Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Different Drummer

All of my life I heard
The rhythm beneath the word:
The call and the music,
The dancing the singing,
The march into truth
And the one clear note ringing.
All of my life I heard
The rhythm beneath the word.

Always I heard its call
Reaching to me through all:
Reaching through seasons
Of falling and fumbling
The din and the chatter
Of all the world’s mumbling.
Always I heard its call
Reaching to me through all.

Always I heard its song
Showing the world was wrong:
Flapping and fussing
And rushing and turning
Selling its soul for
A momentary yearning.
Always I heard its song
Showing the world was wrong.

Always it spoke my name
Having the greatest claim:
Starlight and moonlight
And sunbeams a-dancing
Truth like a sword blade
Direct and not glancing.
Always it spoke my name
Having the greatest claim.

Always I heard its beat
Calling my awkward feet:
Kicking and tripping
And scuffing and sliding,
Till every part of me
Moves to its guiding.
Always I heard its beat
Calling my awkward feet.

Always a step beyond
The path familiar, fond:
Taken in trembling
To unknown places,
Finding my foothold
In alien graces.
Always a step beyond
The path familiar, fond.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The First Time

I think there were 72 of us (though someone made the count only 70). The Master summoned us to himself and gave us clear instructions. We were to go out before him into the towns and villages of Judea who had not yet heard of him. We were to travel light with nothing to fall back on, not even a purse or a spare pair of sandals in case the strap broke. That sounded ridiculous until I remembered what Moses said to the people in the wilderness, that though they had spent 40 travelling in that barren nowhere, still, by an unnoticed miracle of God their clothes had not worn out in all that time. For a moment my attention wandered, when had they realised that this was not normal? After 5 years? Or 10? Or 20? Or had they simply forgotten that clothes wore out until Moses brought it to mind? It would have been something to see their faces when they found out! I could just imagine the dawning amazement as they ran critical eyes over the state of the cloth and the strength of the seams!

But no, I must pay attention now! I didn’t want to let him down by ignoring his instructions. I figured that if we weren’t to take anything for backup, it was because God would see to it that we wouldn’t need it. So I was clear on that, though the “lambs among wolves” bit was a little concerning.

The next part seemed straightforward enough. We were to wish peace on anyone who welcomed us, we were to depart from anyone, or any place, that didn’t.  I was happy with that, it was a workable approach, and I liked having clear instructions to follow. And to eat what was set before us was just good manners. We weren’t some privileged group of people to demand special food and special treatment! (Actually, we were incredibly privileged, but I only dimly grasped it then, because our privilege did not come from the honour other people might bestow on us, but from the wonder of knowing, and being known by the Master, and being called into his service.

But what was this? “Heal the sick and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near you.’” We had seen the Master heal the sick, oh, it was one of the things that first drew me to him, as much, if not more, for his compassion as for his power! But now we were to do the same? Who was I that the healing power of God should flow through me?

I trembled. The audacity of such an idea was overwhelming. But the strange thing was that when I looked at Jesus, such an Idea didn’t sound wickedly presumptuous, but merely a simple act of obedience. Perhaps that’s where all true miracles are found, not in any exaltation, but simply in the willingness to keep on obeying in the place where only faith can carry us. So we went forth, two by two, in his blessing and returned in wonder and rejoicing.
 That was then. So much has happened since: his death, his resurrection and the coming of the empowering Spirit. That first time I went forth battling fear, doubt and uncertainty. Now, though there is still so much I do not fully comprehend, I go forth with one great certainty: I am wrapped in his love, I am called to his service, and he who once died for me now lives and reigns forever.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Annunciation 3


The angel brings a lily.
What does she need of this,
When Gabriel’s words shall hurl her
Into a strange abyss?

The angel brings a lily
And brings a word so vast
This step is the beginning,
It shall not be the last.

The angel brings a lily,
Its scent is sweet and strong,
And thoughts and dreams and wonders
Surround her in a throng.

The angel brings a lily
Though frosts still grip the ground.
For only in bright heaven
Is such a flower found.

The angel brings a lily
More white than the new snow
Purer than her heart’s yearning,
For anything below.

The angel brings a lily
Can she decline such gift?
When the world’s hope is offered,
She answers clean and swift.

The angel brings a lily
And in that moment’s span
She glimpses the great marvel
Of God becoming man.
The angel brings a lily
As fresh as morning air;
Her faith borne up like eagles
She bows her head to dare.

The angel brings a lily
She is the chosen one.
She marvels, all-consenting,
The mother of God’s Son.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Annunciation 2

Suddenly she feels
The concavity of darkness
Pushed back by perfect light.

Suddenly she feels
Her mundane hours
Transfigured by eternity.

Suddenly she feels
Undreamt possibilities
Dancing before her eyes,
And chooses simplicity.

Suddenly she feels
All immensity gathered
Into one small space,
And choosing smaller yet.

Suddenly she feels
Herself-and-not-herself
With a calling that questions identity,
An identity still uncalled.

Suddenly she feels
She knows
Accepts
And wonders,
As impossibility becomes her flesh.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Annunciation

She stands in the silence,
Beyond the rage of nations,,
Stands on the hinge of history,
And an angel waits her answer with respect.

Why her?
Her hands are too small to hold the world,
Her life too ordinary for glory,
And the silence folds her in,
Heaven hanging breathless for her answer.

What thoughts spin through her heart?
She stands, breathing through the breathless moment,
And feels her world shift, change,
Caught by the love in an angel’s eyes,
Choosing love, not fear.

In her consent the pain and promise meet
And the wind that blows where it will
Wraps the still point of her womb
 And life joins hands with death.

Let us enter into her yes.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Child

“Begone with you! Get out from under my feet! Useless brat, you’re always in my way!”

These shouts, and more besides, which she didn’t stop to hear, pursued her down the street as she fled from the home she shared with her father and stepmother and her stepmother’s two very young children. It was always the same these days. Since her father had remarried she was constantly told that she was a “useless lump of a girl”, and “no help to anyone.” She tried hard to be a help, she really did, rocking the babies when they cried, fetching things she was asked to fetch, but somehow, the minute she felt her stepmother’s eye upon her, it would suddenly turn into disaster – something would be dropped or spilled or knocked over, and it was all her fault. She never seemed to get things right, and was obviously a bitter burden to the woman who was her new mother. Gone were the long days playing in the streets with her friends, or the gentle lessons with her mother; her mother had caught a sudden fever and died within two days, and, after a period of desolation, her father had been talked into another marriage. She felt like she had lost both her parents, since her father seemed to drift along these days like an empty man, and hardly seemed to notice her existence.

But there was bustle and hurrying in the village this afternoon. She had no idea what was happening, but she followed the crowd to find out. Any excitement was better than sitting down in the dust feeling sorry for herself. She had learned the hard way that it was better not to ask adults too many questions. That only led to being noticed when she didn’t want to be. So she listened hard and learned that somebody called Jesus was just down the road and people were going out to meet him. She had no idea who he was, but figured he must be someone important if half the village thought it worth stopping their daily work to see him. She noticed some of the mothers snatching up their littlest children and taking them along. She trailed after them, keeping out of the way as best she could, but making sure she didn’t get left behind.

But it seemed it was all for nothing. When they reached the crowd up ahead and some of the women rushed forward with their babies, as if they specially wanted the man to see their small children (why?), a group of burly fishermen stepped forward and told them, quite roughly, to go away and leave the master in peace. He had better things to do than be bothered with a bunch of little kids!

It all felt so horribly familiar that she felt the tears stinging at the corners of her eyes. She was about to wipe them away with her grubby hands when another voice cut through, and the crowd was suddenly silent. She would spend the rest of her life wondering whether that voice was heartbreakingly sad or so full of joy that it felt like the very stars were skipping. Maybe there was a place where deep pain and deep joy met together? “Let the children come,’ he said, “and don’t try to stop them. The Kingdom of God belongs to ones like these.”

At those words the men stepped back and the women pressed forward with their children in their arms. And the girl stood where she was, trying to see what was happening, but too scared to come any closer. Then the crowd started to clear in front of her. She looked up and saw him, and he saw her, and beckoned her forward with a gesture.  Not stopping to think about it, she ran forward straight into his arms. He held her close, and she had never felt so loved, so safe. He looked up at the crowd and said softly, “Truly I say to you, unless you receive the Kingdom of God like a child, you shall not enter it.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

Stable Song

Here in this place of darkness
The Hope of the World is born
And the night is a shrouding silence
From all man’s grandeur shorn.

Here in this place of darkness
Only a man and a girl
The beasts for a poor man’s living
And the glorious Light of the World.

Here in this place of darkness
While the clattering town grows still
Comes the Desire of Nations,
And only the angels thrill.

Here in this place of darkness
Wrapped in the cloak of night
The King of all Kings is swaddled,
Safe from the mad king’s sight.

Here in this place of darkness
Love has come down to earth
To bear our sin and sorrow,
Subject to human birth.

Here in this place of darkness
Where all earth’s powers grow blind;
Here he is born to heal us,
Saviour of all mankind.

Here in this place of darkness,
Ordinary stable place;
Here lies all heaven’s glory,
Here lies all heaven’s grace.