Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Invitation to sleep

Body, be at rest,
Day’s doings done!
The world will turn without you.
Lay you down.
And let the great eternal forces
Carry you to morning.

Busy mind, be still!
Your thinking can’t
Change the world on its own.
It’s time to stop,
To trust,
To let your smallness carry you
To dreams of wonder and another day.

Soul, let go!
The mountains and the valleys and the heights
Will stand without you;
Whirling stars will dance
To their own music,
They require you not.
Remember who you are,
Remember whose,
And let go and lie down.

For this you know,
You know this certainty:
You sleep and wake in safety.
Day and night
Are written in the fabric of the world,
And in their rhythm teach a greater thing.
For death will come
A falling into dark,
To fall through to a morning bright and fair,
To fall through to the Love that always holds,
And holds forever.

Rest, and be content.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

To the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

What do you think as you stand there,
Under the deep blue sky and the hammered heat,
Moving with machine precision
Giving honour to the dead?

What do you feel, standing there
Under the gaze of strangers
Whose motives you cannot guess?
Eyes straight! Stay focused!

What do you know, as you stand there
Of the pain of your traditions,
The doubts that pursue the dying,
Questioning your cause?
What have you suffered?
What made you?
Do you know the grace that holds you,
Promising a glory
That no war ever brought?

Where do you go when you stand there
Before the unnamed dead;
And, just beyond you,
The stretching fields of tombstones,
Where the dead
Have nothing left but names?
Do you wonder
What name, what lasting heritage,
Is yours?

When a man keeps company with death
What does he return to tell the living?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sheila's Cardamom Bread (for Communion)

Blessed be the hands that made the bread,
That gather, mix and knead. 
Blessed be the hands that bore the nails
To meet our deepest need.

Blessed be the one who adds the spice
And subtle sweetness gives.
Blessed be the one who took on death
So that his body lives.

Blessed be the faith that baked this bread
And gave it back to God.
Blessed be the faith that went through hell
To claim us by his blood.

Blessed be the hands that baked the loaf
Through which our souls are fed.
Blessed be the hands that took the cross
To be our living bread.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dream Train

Dream train

Oh the train is sweetly rolling and there's twilight in the air
And the new ploughed fields wear little shoots of green
And there's water by the wayside and the clouds are turning pink
And restfulness embraces everywhere.

And the nights are softly dreaming to the rhythm of the rails
To the soporific music of their song
And the passengers are bound into a night they cannot see
As darkness starts to gather all around.

There's a soft sort of contentment when there's nothing to be done
Save to rest upon the turning of the wheels
And remembering and forgetting seem an effort far too strong
For this dreaming place at rest between the worlds.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Windy city

Windy City

And the lake it sings its own song mid the sparkle and the shade
And the rain and bitter wind notes come and go
And the music that they're making is a tune that I can hear.
Windy City.

There's a melody of seasons, there's a painted change of light
There's a rustling of squirrels in the trees
And clouds are wrapped like scarves around the shoulders of the towers.
Windy City.

And the waters are a mirror to the twists of history
And the lake has gathered in a million tears
And the groans of pains uncounted lend their bass notes to the breeze.
Windy City.

And there's striving and there's growing and there's struggle and there's loss
And the turning pages may be dark or bright
And there's mystery and longing and the strange smell of success
Windy City.

For they came, they came, the dreamers and the hopeful and the lost
Sheep and wolves like every place that man has trod,
And the fire is burning ever and the guns blaze in men's hearts.
Windy City.

But the waters still sing gently and the works of man still stand
And the promises are certain as the day
There's a welcome word of kindness and a wonder takes your breath
Windy City.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Autumn Twilight

The sun burns low upon the western sky
And winter draws its cloak around it, tight.
And, in this life of waiting and of love,
I sit and watch the dying of the light.

Time is the only rhythm that I know,
By heart and breath and clock to measure pace.
But always, just beyond the senses’ scan,
Eternity wears quite another face.

Those moments beyond time when stars stand still,
Or dance before a beauty we can’t see,
When love enables soul to touch with soul,
And we are stilled from our cacophony.

Therefore I walk this small and earthly span
In hope of glory far beyond my guess;
For every chill of cloud and fall of leaf
Recalls to me the great eternal Yes.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Man with a Burden

He had always believed that his shortness of stature was a horrible burden to bear. As a child he had been laughed at and picked on by boys who were bigger than him but no older; as a man he had been disregarded and overlooked until he found a way to make them take him seriously. In his world there were two things that made everyone sit up and take notice: money was one and the power of Rome was the other. And there was one way a rather clever nobody like him could use both of those to his advantage – become a tax collector for the Romans! Nobody would dare despise him then (or, at least, not to his face).

And it worked, well, mostly it worked. Nobody dared openly offend the man who set their taxes. And he gained wealth, much wealth. Of course by the standards of Jewish law it was dishonestly gained wealth, because Rome set the amount they wanted for the district and then he collected the actual taxes from people, setting them at levels that gave him a nice little excess he could keep for himself. Alright, to be completely honest (which he never was), it was quite a large excess, and he enjoyed all the privileges of wealth. The fact that people possibly liked him even less than in his bullied childhood was something he took care not to think about. Wealth and power certainly had their compensations. But somehow they hadn’t freed him from his burden, and he was no longer childish enough to blame his lack of height. It was like having an itch that he didn’t know how to scratch.

Then one day he heard a rumour that the Teacher, the strange new prophet called Jesus was coming to town. Normally such things were of little interest to him, but for some reason he felt he had to be there. But so, apparently, did other people; the roadside was already crowded and he couldn’t see over their heads. He knew, from bitter experience, that while no one would dare be openly aggressive towards him, there were one hundred and one ways they could passively express their disgust of him by just pretending they weren’t aware of his presence. There was no way they would let him through the front so that he could see anything.

But then he saw the solution – there was a large sycamore growing by the roadside. He was agile enough, he could easily climb it, make himself comfortable on one of the big branches, and peer out between the leaves. He would be above everyone else, and no one would even notice him. The thought pleased him and he climbed the tree.

And just in time, for Jesus was coming now. He was surprised at how excited he felt, but even more surprised when, a moment later, Jesus stopped, looked straight up into his hiding place, and called him by name. “Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” The Teacher knew who he was and wanted to dine with him? Nobody had ever wanted Zacchaeus before.

He hurried out of the tree so fast that he almost fell. He realised that this was so important, so precious to him, that he didn’t want to give Jesus time to change his mind. Suddenly all his gold and silver didn’t seem so important. He did not yet know it, but his real burden, the burden of being despised and rejected, was about to be taken away forever. Still less did he know yet how Jesus would ultimately carry that burden for him. But he already felt like dancing.