Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Father

He waits. Leaning from the window, he watches the road with a gaze that pierces through the dust to search the distance. One day, very soon, it will be his child stumbling along there, and he will be the first to see.

He waits. He bears the unkindness of time and distance, knowing that they are part of the process, part of the story. Some children need to leave home in order to truly come home. It is in the pain of the journey that they learn to see what has always been there for them in their Father’s heart: the love that cannot be measured or contained, the mercy that can never be deserved. It was always there, but only eyes washed with many tears learn to see it clearly.

He waits. All the supplies for the banquet are ready, and the fatted calf is penned apart. The ovens are heated and the table is set. All he is waiting for is the coming child.

He waits. The seasons do not dim his eyes or erode his patience. The time when his child arrives will be the right time, the perfect time. There will be so much joy that the pain of waiting will be forgotten and put aside, like a dream is put aside when you awake. And his joy and his child’s joy will be one and the same.

He waits. He knows that there is muttering in the background, raised eyebrows and dark looks.  His love is a scandal, and the horrified gossip doesn’t go away. Shouldn’t love be only for the deserving? Shouldn’t there be a boundary, a limit, a line drawn in the sand? Shouldn’t the ones who break the rules, who dare to walk away, have to suffer? Shouldn’t the father’s bounty be reserved for those who work in the Father’s house? He shakes his head sadly. Don’t they know that it is sons, not slaves, to whom the inheritance is given? It is the tie of blood that holds his children to his heart, they were born to be his, and his love will never leave them.

He waits. Yes, there are other things he does, for his house must be kept ready and prosperous, but that is only the means to an end. His child is the passion of his heart.

He waits. And one day it happens, a stumbling speck appears in the distance, so hunched and broken that only the eyes of love could hope to recognise the Father’s child. Now, surmises the watching household, it is time for the Father to stand upon his dignity and demonstrate his authority. But the Father cares nothing for that, only for his child. He doesn’t wait for the struggling one to come and humiliate himself.  Instead, caring nothing for his own humiliation, he gathers up his robes and runs! He will wait for nothing more, no apologies or arguments, there is only one thing he wants, one thing he has been waiting for: to gather his lost child in his arms and bring the wanderer home. Nothing else. His wait is over.

Saturday, June 23, 2012



It was when they left the garden that they learned about stones. It was hard labour for them to grow food now, for the ground must be cleared before the crops could be sown, and they must remove not only thorns and thistles and every kind of weed, but also the stones. They learned that rocky ground was poor ground, where seed would sprout quickly, and fall away fast. Then they learned that stones were useful for building. They needed shelter from the weather – from scorching heat and piercing cold and soaking rain. And with stones they could build an altar and make sacrifices to God, and Abel’s offering was acceptable to the Lord, and Cain’s was not. And out in the fields Cain picked up a stone in his hand, and murdered his own brother, and as they soaked up the innocent blood, the very stones of the ground cried out in protest.

The centuries passed. The stones of the earth were covered with water, they were built into a mighty tower and, as men spread out across the world, one man put a stone under his head for a pillow, and in a vision he saw the very angels of God ascending  and descending on a ladder to heaven. More time passed. The family of the promise had gone down into an alien land and become enslaved. All through the day they toiled to make bricks without straw, imitation stones, for the futile monuments of a godless king.

Then God sent a deliverer, and with mighty signs and wonders, and great fear, they were brought out of the land of slavery and brought to the place of God’s appointment, where the mighty stone of Mt Sinai rose up in the desert.  And He called them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, but they were afraid. So He gave them the Law of his covenant, written on tablets of stone, as bitterly hard as their own stony, enslaved hearts. And for those who broke the law? Stones would be thrown at them.

And they settled in the land that they were given, and their relationships were based on boundary stones rather than love. And they had kings, and one king, while still a boy, killed a giant with a single thrown stone. Stones can be deadly. And God sent forth prophets among them, and the prophets told them that one day their hearts of stone would turn to hearts of flesh, and their stone idols would be cast down. But who believes prophets?

And then God himself came down to dwell among them, and some met him with love and adoration, and some hardened their stony hearts against him. And he trod the stony roads and walked among them, offering them a way back to God, but they preferred their own way, so finally they plotted against him and killed him. And on that stone hill, shaped like a skull, they crucified the Lord of Glory. In agony he died and in sorrow they buried him. And his body was encased within the stony tomb.

But when the women came to the tomb, on the morning of the third day, a great wonder had occurred. For the great stone of death and finality had been rolled away, forever; and the stony law had been superseded. Life himself had risen from the dead, and behold he was alive for evermore.

Now everything has changed, for the Spirit Himself has come to indwell God’s people, changing their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, for they themselves are now made into living stones, built together to be the dwelling place of God. And Jesus himself is the chief cornerstone, the foundation and measure of all they are called to become. And the curse will be undone. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Dance

It was in the mind of the Creator before worlds came into being, and it was written into the very fabric of Creation. For the dance was of Himself. And He, Himself, had danced in His triune glory before there were any others to witness, and now he was calling them, not merely to witness, but to join with Him in its rhythm of beauty and learn His steps, for the name of the dance was Love. And the morning stars sang together to rejoice in what He had done.

He made the visible world in all its loveliness, and then He made the Man and the Woman, marrying together earth and spirit in their making. And He called them into His dance, and they moved their tentative, new-made feet to learn. But there was one who refused to dance, who preferred to slither into chaos and darkness, and he, the Serpent, taught his terrible discords to the woman and the man, so that their ears were no longer tuned to the melody of heaven. Their feet learned to kick, and to stumble; and their eyes learned how to cry. There was blood and there was pain; and into sorrow and dreadful labour they brought forth their children. They no longer moved with the loveliness of the breaking dawn or the reaching trees, and, struggling and awkward, polluters of all they touched, they wrestled their way down into the long defeat of death.

And the centuries passed, and their steps grew more evil. And the Creator called out a people to Himself, and some were faithful, and tried to move their gravity-bound flesh to the choreography of His passion, though their steps were feeble and inconstant; but others turned aside, preferring the indulgent discords of the serpent. They claimed that the music of heaven hurt their ears, and they devised formalised, disciplined styles instead, where their feet never needed to leave the ground. And the world wept, and Death was its master.

Then there came a new movement in the dance, for the Creator Himself entered Creation, and God became Man. Totally in tune with the Father, He demonstrated how mortal flesh could move in the eternal dance, and every step was total Love. In the Serpent’s world these steps led Him to the cross, and, moving slowly to the music of unbearable sorrow, He danced forward into death, changing it forever, and weaving its jagged and terrible movements into a new choreography of triumph. For death did not stop Him or contain Him, He moved through it and transformed it so that it became, not dark finality, the shattering discord at the end of things, but the passage back to unending resolution.

And the world was changed, for the Creator now indwells His own creation, and those who hear His call are summoned to dance in His arms, learning anew the steps of glory. But they no longer do it alone, for He will come and live within them, moving their limbs from the inside, and teaching them His loveliness, while He waits the culmination of the dance . For one day the discords will cease, and all brokenness will be resolved, and He will bring in a new heaven and a new earth, and the former missteps will be no more. And the mortal shall put on immortality, and the children of men will take their full place in the eternal dance, and their joy will be beyond measure.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Final Enemy

High are the rocks of Shadow,
Deep is the cold, cold stream,
Weary the heart that wanders,
Silent the swallowed scream.

Time, that erodes our dreaming,
Wearing our comfort down.
Leads the resisting body
Down where our last hopes drown.

Eyes far too dry for crying.
Lips that grow tremble-weak,
Memory for our confusion,
Songs that no longer speak.

The vital flame of being
Burns down to bitter ash:
What was the use of loving
When it all turns to trash?

Dark is our mortal darkness,
Dark beyond human ken,
Falling into the silence,
Can there be life again?

See the hilltop stretching rocky,
Outside the provincial town;
While the crowd, with shock-turned faces,
See their midday sun go down.

See the tortured bodies hanging
Stark on sticks twixt earth and sky:
All creation holds its breathing,
For the Life of Life must die.

See the twisted thorns that crown him -
Adam’s curse upon his head.
See the darkness close upon him
As he hangs there in our stead.

See him crying out completion,
Yielding up his desperate breath.
See him locked in fatal conflict
Dying to o’erpower death

There is dust upon the centuries,
The long defeat of ages,
And to dust we shall return.
Fragile flesh that clothes us,
Evanescent mystery;
As we cling to the known
It slides from out our grasp.
What can contain us?
All our devisings,
All our bartering,
Our wildest efforts and our futile dreams,
Come to this one thing:
That we may live.

For the last enemy
Is death.

Here behold the glorious morning,
New creation’s primal day.
Now has come the long night’s ending,
Death itself is done away.

Now behold him, oh behold him!
He has overcome the tomb,
He has pierced the deepest chasm,
Burned across the deepest gloom.

Born a man as man to suffer,
Born a man as man to die:
Death itself he has defeated,
Death itself was turned awry.

Now behold him – risen, glorious!
Come back from that alien shore.
Now the final foe is vanquished
Death itself shall reign no more!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

David's Great Idea

It seemed such a wonderful idea, that he couldn’t understand why he hadn’t thought of it sooner. Here he was, raised up by God, his enemies overcome, and living at ease in his palace of cedar.  It was a long journey from the day when he had been called in from the fields to be anointed by the prophet, and the path had not been easy. He had stood against Goliath and seen the giant that terrified Israel defeated by a single stone thrown in faith, and his fingers had grown sore and weary playing music for a tormented king. Then had followed the long, frustrating, desperate years when he had resorted to one stratagem after another to escape the king’s paranoid enmity. And now he had the throne, and peace.

But who did the glory for his position really belong to except to the Lord who had carried him through everything and raised up an ordinary shepherd to be the King of Israel? It was God, and not any scheming of his own, that had taken him from the pasture to the palace, and lifted him so high above his expectations. And yet, while he, David, lived at ease in his cedar palace, the tabernacle of the Lord of Glory had no better dwelling place than a tent! This was when David had his great idea. Shouldn’t God have his own palace in Jerusalem too – a temple which reflected His great glory? And when he initially spoke to the prophet, the reassurance was beautiful – to go ahead and do whatever was in his heart, since the Lord was with him.

But the next day brought a different answer – one that turned his heart inside out with wonder – for in the night the Lord had spoken to the prophet Nathan. God’s answer to his great idea was “no”,  but it was a ‘no’ without any power to discourage, because it was swallowed up in a so much greater ‘yes’.  It would not be himself, the man of war who would build God’s house, but his son,. In a settled time, when they had rest from their enemies, it would be time for the Lord to inhabit a settled house. It would be a time for building, rather than fighting.

And  God’s answer was even greater than this. At the heart of it was a promise so enormous that David’s heart was undone in wonder and worship. It was not for him to build God a house, but for God to build one for him. This son of his, the one who was to be the temple-builder, was assured of God’s love, no matter what. The throne would not be taken away from him as it had been from Saul; rather, instead, to the family dynasty of David’s descendants would be granted an everlasting throne!

There are times when a man can do no more than sit in the presence of God, while the awe-struck tears fall from his eyes, and the broken words of worship tumble from his lips and he nails his fragile, human heart firm fast to the promises of God. So David sat there, soaking in mercy: not understanding all the implications about the everlasting throne that would come to his family line, but knowing that he had been given a glimpse of something so vast that the God of the whole universe had irrevocably given Himself to this promise of blessing, nailed Himself to the mercy that was to come. David had had a great idea, but God’s idea was immeasurably greater.