Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent 23: Isaiah 65: 17 - 21

The New Jerusalem

It will not be like this.
Not the uphill battle
That slides downhill;
Not the mingled sweat and tears,
The words that tear our hearts out, piece by piece,
The sullen cold of the betrayer’s kiss.

It will not be like this.
Thorns shall dance into flowers,
The old hurts shall depart to another country,
And our blindness be undone.
All the broken things are mended,
And the world made shiny-new.
Fear shall have no shadows left to lurk in,
And our doors shall be unbarred.

It will not be like this.
We will not huddle apart, fearing the stranger,
But the nations shall stream in,
One in their joy,
And we shall drink of peace till we are quenched,
And smile together in wonder.
When death and his minions go, we shall be so changed,
We must learn each other new.

It will not be like this

It will be like Him.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lent 22: Luke 18: 9 - 14

The Pharisee and the tax collector

Until Yourself become my prayer
I swing in the wind like a broken gate:
A leafless branch against the window
Susurrating in the night.
I am become the emptiness between the stars,
The loose sail swinging wide,
The smoking lantern in the hour of need-light.
I am become the wild tempest
That barely stirs the puddle,
Mouthing futile words to my unknown self.

Breathe me Your truth.

Let me know as You know,
Past the gilded scarecrow
That postures on its pedestal
In some imagined place.
Let me see again the broken child
Whose life-sums don’t add up,
Whose fingers break the beauty that they touch;
Who must learn again to weep.
Let me take off the grown-up clothes,
Uniform of the marketplace,
Self-deception’s foil.

Let these lame feet stagger
The straight road to Your arms,
Tottering in folly
To the place where I am caught

And held (yes, held!) forever!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Surrender

He was the King. From all eternity he was absolute ruler over all things – the one who was in control. Nothing existed except what he willed and spoke into existence, and all things were dependent on him. And it was his good pleasure to create the world, and when he created the world, a world which he declared to be very good, full of rich green forests, deep rivers and springing grasslands, he added one more thing – freedom! He could have created a world that was completely as he willed it, without a thought or action anywhere outside of his sovereign control, but, even with the foreknowledge of what it would cost, he chose something very different, and declared it to be good. And this was the morning of the world, shining clear and beautiful.

But the clouds gathered and the world became dark. The man and the woman used their freedom to turn away from his love into darkness and death, and his beautiful world became a grim and painful place, full of thorns and thistles and bitter labour. And his children walked away from him, and continued to walk further away, into nightmare and horror. But still he sustained the world in being, and the sun shone and the rain fell, and blessing and promise took root even in the midst of their misery. And some sought to turn back towards him, and follow the hope and the promise, but others saw no substance in promises, and preferred the solid earth beneath their feet to the hope of an unseen land. But even the best of them could not overcome the darkness and destruction of death to get there.

And the centuries passed, and the long sorrow that men call history unfolded, and there was no relief from darkness except the promise that still hovered there. But the King had no intention of leaving them desolate, so when the appointed hour arrived, he came into their world himself, not in his might and overwhelming majesty , not to take control, as he could so easily have done; but he came as one of them, as the least of them – he came as a tiny child. And most disregarded him.

The years passed and he grew to manhood, and he was not as other men (for all power and authority was his) and yet he was as other men, with no beauty or riches, splendour or prestige to distinguish him. He spoke truth into their confusion, and lovingly healed the hurting and the broken; yet many hated him for his love and truth demanded that they change. And he, the king from all eternity, let them take control, and surrendered himself into the hands of his enemies, and they decided to destroy him. So they went through a kind of legal proceeding, for they prided themselves that they were a civilised people, and, having duly sentenced him to death, they proceeded to kill him in the most barbarous way that they knew. And he surrendered to every pain, horror and indignity and did not resist them, even though there were legions of angels ready to obey the least of his commands.

And he surrendered to death and hell, and they buried his body and imagined they were free. But there, in a deep mystery beyond human understanding, he overcame death and hell, and they had to surrender to him. For he was in control the entire time, and bent all things unto his will, so that there should be nothing in all creation that could separate his children from his love.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lent 21: Hosea 14

Return to the Lord

The path back home is always uphill,
Facing back the way you came.
The path back home seems infinitely dreary
No pleasures line the streets.
The path back home may be washed with tears
Or dry as the last, stark desert.

The path back home is the path of the desperate –
Everything else has been tried;
Or perhaps the path of the small child
Who found a monster out of doors.
But, for most,
The path back home is the path of the weary,
World-weary with the long, slow pain of life,
Weary of breath, but afraid of dying,
Too tired to argue any more.

The path back home is a slow unwinding
Of the winding sheet about the inmost corpse,
Facing decay, yet fearing resurrection,
Unless Love changes all.
The path back home is the final acknowledgement:
We die outside of Love.

The path back home is a path of splendour,
Where angels tread with awe.
Cherubim and seraphim
Watch the miracle recur:
The stumbling, broken failure

A beloved child come home.

Lent 20: Psalm 39

Show me the number of my days

Alien time predominates
The landscape of my days
The hard swift passing of the years
Undoes my striving ways.

I feel its numb taste on my tongue:
My cold mortality;
How shall I measure these short days
Against eternity?

I am a breath You breathed O Lord,
Let me not be a fool
To spend my hours heedlessly
And waste this precious jewel.

My life is Yours, my tongue is Yours,
Oh tune it to Your praise
That I might rest upon the love

That measures my brief days.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lent 19. Hebrews 10: 32 - 39


Beginnings are easy in the rush of passion.

The bride and groom
Radiant as the daystar, shining
In mutual adoration to affirm their love.
Superfluity of vows in bright-eyed moment
When ‘forever’ is ‘for sure’.
The heavens dance with them in their delight.

The man and wife.
Life’s labour, life’s demands, frustrated tears,
‘Forever’ is a sentence, not a word.
Time, dreary, dreary, drags our bodies down.
Love’s crucible: the sweating of our brow
Where the Refiner shapes a better thing,
With vows made holy by the choice they bring.
This love has learned to work, this love has bones,
This love is real, this love will bring them home.

The soul born new
Raptured excitement, willing to endure
Anything, all things for a love so pure.
Here, in the ragged breath and wonder’s tears,
Thrill to be part of Heaven’s work on earth:
Knight of the kingdom, with faith’s banner high
In shiny armour, ready to ride forth.

The life-worn saint
Scars, tears and soil and toil – the whole heaped thing,
Time, dreary, dreary, drags the bright faith down.
The sword is dulled, the armour dented sore.
The burnish lost, the heart less starkly sure,
The faith annealed through nights of asking why
Is washed in tears dear-bought, stands and will stand
Held by a love so real, a truth so true

To shine more glorious in a world made new.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lent 18. Isaiah 7: 10 - 14

You will call his name Immanuel

God of the distant galaxies,
Of tsunami and volcano and the mighty tides,
God of the sweep of history
And the weight of years which crushes us,
God of subatomic particles
And those strange electric forces that hold us all together,
God of mystery and majesty
 And knowledge far too wonderful ...

God of holiness and greatness,
God of the trees in the Garden,
God who is truth and justice
And spoke the impossible law,
God of the thunder and the darkness
And truth like a consuming fire,
God who spoke worlds into being
And saw the nations rise and fall …

You are the God of the whisper,
And the tiny turnings of the heart.
You are the God who sought consent from a teenage girl
And guided one special star.
You are the God who wept.
You are the God who knows us each by name
And counts the hairs upon our heads.
You are our God.

You are God with us, not against us,
And with us for eternity.
You are the God who holds us
In the palm of Your nail-scarred hand forever.
You are there with the broken-hearted,
And You name the poor Your brothers.
You have walked the dark roads of our shame

And You lift us up to You.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent 17; Luke 4: 24 - 30

Jesus rejected at Nazareth

We may speak courageous speeches,
And believe we’re speaking true;
We may claim a holy motive
For each single thing we do;
But the while we seek for honour
We will never walk with You.

Oh we hunger from the cradle
For the word that says “well done!”
And we seek the crowd’s approval
And the praise of everyone;
But despised, scorned and rejected
Was the fate of God’s own Son.

For the prophet was rejected
In the town that was His own;
For they cannot see the holiness
Of one who’s so well-known;
And if we would walk with Jesus
We must shun the ego’s throne.

We must hold fast through the darkness
We must bear their bitter scorn
Holding fast to him who loved us
Even when our hearts must mourn;
For beyond the night of weeping

Comes the glory of His dawn

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lent 16. Psalm 103: 1 - 5

Praise the Lord O my soul …

Lord, let me learn Your praise
Let me learn You.
Let me see Your reality always;
Through the trembling curtain of my flesh
Let me see my Lord
Always present in His world.
Let me see You,
And let me learn to sing!

Let your praise spring forth from me,
Let every fibre
Sing of the wonder of my God!
Let the skeins of Your light
Liberate me to dance in delight to You,
Free as the dust motes dance in the least of sunlight.
Let these clumsy fingers
Build to Your praise;
Let these stumbling feet
Tread to your measure;
And these dry lips
Whisper Your Holy Name.
Let me learn to sing!

I am more than the dust motes:
Of Love.
Though my poor touch turns all to lead.
In the great economy of Grace
I weight as Christ. No lack
Is found. Oh sing!
Sing paltry flesh, slow mind!
Sing, tongue a-tangled!
Sing, morning light, evening star,
Sing storm and rainbow!
Sing of redemption! Sing of the love of a Father,
Deeper than deep, wider than vast horizons!
Sing of a hope and a future!
When the stars cease spinning,
His love will burn the sky
With a tenderness that wipes away each tear.
Let me learn to sing!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Marriage

She was an outcast and a nobody – her own family wanted nothing to do with her, and the day that she was born they didn’t even bother cutting the cord. Instead, they left her, still covered in filth from the birth, exposed and abandoned to die by the roadside. She wasn’t even a person to them, just a piece of detritus for the carrion birds to deal with. Other babies might be tenderly cleansed and wrapped, but no one had enough compassion on her to care if she lived or died.

He was the Almighty one, the King of kings, and when he passed by he saw the filthy infant lying there, and bid her live. He cleansed her with his own pierced hands, cared for her tenderly and saw that she thrived. All that could be done for her was done, and as she grew she became truly beautiful. And the time came when he passed by again, and saw that she had become a woman. But she was still naked and no one had covered her nakedness. She was alive and she was lovely, but she had absolutely nothing.

So he took her to himself, and became her husband. He clothed her and covered her nakedness, and adorned her with the richest of jewels. There was nothing she owned that was not his gift to her. And then he took her, in all her glorious beauty, and made her his bride, committing himself to her with a solemn oath, and entering into covenant with her. She became the object of his care, and his delight was in her. The finest food, the finest clothing, was given to her, and she became a queen, and the nations of the world acknowledged her beauty.

But she was faithless. She put her trust in her own loveliness, rather than in the one whose love had gifted everything to her, and turned away from her one eternal true love to commit adultery with others, even using his gifts to bedeck the bed of her infidelity. Her body was given to every kind of lust, and her heart indulged in every possible idolatry, even to the sacrifice of her own children. And he declared the sentence of his wrath upon her, and her suffering would be as dreadful as her sin.
But this not the end of the story, for her lover is her Lord and her Redeemer, and she will be restored. And, she will be transformed. For he took her place and suffered for her, and just as the first bride came from the first man, so she is reborn from his pierced side. In this world she struggles, sometimes forgetting her true identity and falling back, sometimes oppressed by the cruelty of others, sometimes weak and confused. But he holds her to her course and sustains her with the hope that is to come, the marriage supper that will be the fulfilment of the ages. She will be clothed in fine linen, clean and white, his radiant bride for all eternity. Upheld by the joy of that anticipation, she awaits his coming.

(see Ezekiel 16)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lent 15. Matthew 21: 33 - 46

The Parable of the Tenants

I have builded the fortress of self
Around and around and around,
And there is a fortified place
Where all Your good giving is found.

In secret I count out my wealth
In this hiddenmost treasury
And there, in that dark gloating place,
I claim it as all part of me.

But say You, my God, should call claim
And ask Your investment’s return,
Then how should I lay it all down,
From my dragon-ed ego’s dark yearn?

I fluster, I flap, disengage,
Resenting to pay this small price.
My eyes on my store, blind to all
The glorious riches of Christ.

Have mercy my Lord and my God,
Lest I, in the folly of me,
Choose foolishly that well-marked road
The broad path walked by Pharisee.

Not master but servant I am,
Indentured to glorious grace,
In freedom to give from Your heart,

And know You my only safe place.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lent 14; Luke 16: 9 - 31

The rich man and Lazarus

It is not enough to be part of the system;
It never was.
It is not enough to see the rich food at the table
If we cannot see the poor man at the gate.
It is not enough to say we think it’s true;
Even the demons do that.

It is not enough to sling forth good intentions
If our soft hands never do.
It is not enough to bow in holy silence
If we do not heed our brothers’ cries.
It is not enough to whisper the right sentiments
If we never cry out for justice.

It is not enough to say the proper creeds
If our lives do not make the proper responses.
It is not enough to seek to know God more
If we ignore what we already know.
It is not enough to acknowledge His kingdom and glory
While intent on building our own.

It is not enough … no, nothing is enough.

Yet He (Thank God!) is more than everything.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lent 13: 2 Samuel 7; 4 - 16

David would build a house for the Lord

These are my hands, my heart, my deep desire ..
These are the great things which I would aspire
They turn to ashes in Your Spirit’s fire.

I bring You, Lord, my eagerness of heart,
My deep excitement, charged in every part.
You bid me lay me down, then we can start.

I am confusion, guilt and fear and shame,
Yet would build for the honour of Your name
(And, yes, raise for myself a crumb of fame).

You, in Your mercy, turn another way,
To a bare hillside and a darkened day,
Where all my prideful longings fall away.

There, on that hill, between my tears I see
God, in His mercy, dying there for me,
Rising again, to reign eternally.

Not, not by any works of hands of mine
You build Your house. Yours is the bread, the wine,

You wash my feet and bid me come and dine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lent 12: Luke 13:1-9

The barren fig tree

Let not these hands stretch empty to Your sky.
Let not the tender nurture be in vain.
Let not neglect let these strange roots run dry.
In gracious season Lord, send me Your rain.

Let me not be that ugly-sounding gong
As all my crafted words fall into space.
Be Yourself, Lord, before, behind, along,
Let all my utterance reflect Your Grace.

Let me not shrink from love to sentiment.
Let these my hands reach out as Yours first reached
Until Your very scars are evident,
And the dark fortress of my self is breached.

Let me be true to Truth, Your will be done,
Through my own feeble being, hour by hour.
Resting in You until my race is run,
Loving the broken by Your Spirit’s power.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lent 11: Psalm 25

Do not let me be put to shame

 Lord, I have been stretched against Your skies,
My folds unfolded
To reveal what I would hunker down and hide.
The arc-lights of Your searching truth
Burn sharp through my pretence.
Why should there be victory here?

But You will re-fashion me
Till my clouds become as rainbows;
As You shine Your love and rain down mercy.
You will put behind me yesterday’s dust-storms,
And the pointless bending of my breath
Into so ill a wind.

Let me soft to Your shaping,
Humble as the soil wherein You plant Your garden,
As You dig me over so, so many times ..
When will Your truth take root?

You lift me, ah! You lift me
From the place where I am caught between the rocks.
The chains of death become filaments,
Snapped by the breath of Your Spirit.
You lift me into Christ.

Soon, soon comes the day of the trumpet
And the reckoning of the ages,
When, weighed in Your balance,
I am no more lead;
But float, light into light.

You have raised me up forever.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lent 10: Deuteronomy 26: 16 -19

Thus the great covenant stands,
Both sides are signed by blood:
We bring our mortal mess,
He is the Son of God.

To keep the matchless Law
How simple it should be!
But we cannot walk straight,
Stumbling continually.

Yet how He treasures us,
Far past our mortal scan!
He took on all we are
He is the Son of Man.

Come now and walk with Him,
Come and walk in his will,
Stumbling yet unafraid,
For he will keep you still.

We are entire and whole
Sealed unto him by blood.
His covenant ever stands,

He is the Son of God.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lent 9 -- Luke 12: 22 - 34

If I were a lily of the field
Would I fear the bees?
Or the shriveling heat of the sun
whose light is life?
Would each raindrop represent
A terrifying flood?

If I were a bird, would I consult
The textbook on wing disease?
Would I think this flux of insects
Meant a dearth tomorrow?
Would I be afraid to sing
Because I’m not the best?

But because I know abundance
I live in fear of lack,
I have forgotten God’s enough.

I have juggled my accounts,
Heavenly and earthly,
And the sums will not add up.
In the divine arithmetic
We multiply by subtraction,

And the answer comes out ‘YES!”

The Fortress

He had loved God’s law from his earliest youth, it was sweetness to his heart and supremely desirable. He had no desire to kill or to take another’s wife, and the Sabbath was a glad break from the routine of running his business. He sought no other gods, and could not imagine making a false accusation. When it came to the ritual law he conceded that the priests were the experts, and he did exactly as they instructed him. The thought of stealing or coveting was laughable – he already owned more than anyone else he knew! He was honest enough to recognise that he was privileged way beyond most men, and humble enough to ascribe it to the blessing of God and not his own intrinsic superiority. Life was full, life was beautiful – so how could he feel so empty at the same time? He was sincerely puzzled, and when he broached the subject with the rabbis he knew, they were equally puzzled: he obeyed the commandments, he was living the blessed life, surely any remaining discomfort of soul must come from his own emotions?

But then he heard of a new rabbi, some said a prophet, whose teaching was different and who did works of healing wherever he went. This was his last chance to make sure he was doing everything needful to obtain God’s favour, so when he learned the rabbi’s whereabouts he ran to him (forgetting his dignity), fell on his knees before him, and surprised himself with the words that came from his mouth, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Now all the rabbis he had known would be flattered by this form of address, but this one, apparently, was impervious to flattery. “Why do you call me good?” he said. “Only God is good.” Those words sat oddly on the young man’s soul, disquieting his expectations. Apparently law-keeping was not enough to earn the accolade of goodness. But the rabbi continued, asking questions like a doctor checking symptoms, and to these the young man could answer in the affirmative. Truly he had kept all these, truly he loved God’s law. And as they spoke he felt a warmth from the rabbi, a vast kindness that would draw him in to wonder beyond his imagination.

But then came the words that devastated him:  One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Was this really the answer, that he should relinquish the very things that he had been taught were the signs of God’s favour, leave his whole life behind and follow an itinerant rabbi instead? How could he even answer this? He turned away, dejected, considering, faced with a dilemma he had never considered before. He had always seen his wealth as a fortress, his safe place against the vicissitudes of life. His wealth shielded him from both pain and temptation and gave him status as a man favoured by God’s blessing. But what if, in this fortress, he was not a comfortable guest, but, instead, a prisoner? What if, instead of being the way towards God, it was locking him away from the truly blessed life? Was it really necessary to walk away from that shelter and stand naked beneath the rain and wind of heaven? Did a man truly have to lose his life before he could find it?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lent 8. Psalm 35: 1 - 17

Under the slanderer’s tongue
Something inside me died.
Under the slanderer’s tongue
You, Lord, were crucified.

You my defence and shield
In the dark flailing storm.
You hung without defence
And for my sake were torn.

I will call out Your name:
“Come, Lord and rescue me!”
You hung alone, alone,
And no one heard Your plea.

You will my surety be
Against the cruelest foe.
You took and drank my cup
Drained the last drop of woe.

You will raise up the poor,
You will restore the crushed;
You who gave up Your bliss
You who became like us.

I, who cry out “How long?”
Under my mortal thrall,
I put my trust in You

For You have borne it all.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent 7: Luke 11: 29 - 32

Asking for a sign

There is only one way through to glory-grace
Faith’s satisfaction on glad eagle wings,
Green pastures of abundance for the heart.
There is only one way.

There is only one way for the pilgrim path:
Humility, relinquishment and trust
Dressed in their foreign garb must be let in
There is only one way.

There is only one way: up a lonely hill
To kneel there where the One who died for me
Stretches his arms in blessing to the world.
There is only one way.

There is only one way through death into life
To yield the clamorous me, to be content
With the long silences between great words.
There is only one way.

There is only one way home, to know Him who
Is all my refuge and my hiding place
To rest for now, forever in his grace.

There is only one way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lent 6. Matthew 6; 7 - 15

And when you pray …

Yes, Lord, You know my need, but Lord, do I?
It seems I must confess my needlessness,
My tightly woven, vast indifference.

Do I just take for granted all Your care,
Without a turning thought, an aching prayer?
Deliberate submission to Your will
Is something that my heart is needing still.

I am called to walk with God.
I am called to stretch my heart to hold Your word
Called to the joy of utter adoration.
The wonder-joy to know Your majesty
The glory-praise that sings eternally
God-ness of God in Your infinity.

And then to learn
Such love for all Your children near and far
Such burning passion that they may know good
That Your love holds them fast, as I am held,
And that they taste love’s treasure day by day.

And then Lord, let my heart be so truth-riven

That I forgive as deep as I’m forgiven.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lent 5: Matt 25: 31-46

Let me not rest in comfort.
Let the stars
Pierce me with purity!
Let the long wind’s sighing
Bring me the broken music of my kind,
And let my heart break with them!

Always the body!

These soft hands, educate in tenderness!
These weary feet
Must learn audacity, they must learn
To walk the darkness:
Brothers stumble there.

Yes, these hands
Must learn to give away instead of take
Must learn to open doors and not to shut
Must reach that place where they are torn by nails
Because they look like Yours!

This tongue must still
Until it learns to speak Your blessed peace.
These eyes must learn to see the pain that’s there.
These ears be open to Your Spirit’s voice
Saying, “Go here, go there, go one more mile!”
Saying, “Yes I am with you where you go!”

Yet above all
This heart must break, this heart must break again,
Becoming flesh, not concrete.
Letting You
Germinate life within it till it splits,
And tender shoots of glory touch the world

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent 4:: Luke 11: 5-13

This all my offering Lord, these empty hands
Borne as the hollow basket of my need.
Here, in Your light is no disguising me
Poor, naked, blind and pitiful indeed!

Oh, for the asking! But, my throat is dry,
My mind a whirlwind where denials scream.
I know, yet know not. Must I once again
Suffer my eye to take out its great beam?

You bid me come in utter nakedness,
Not knowing all but willing to be known
To here divest from my sufficiency:
Beggars are always welcome at Your throne.

Gladly to make me freeman of Your love;
To give the Bread of Heaven vast and free.
Offering the blessed wine of Paradise
Joy of the angels for my misery.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Lent 3: Psalm 69

Out in the deeps, my God,
Utterly overthrown.
Out in the seething deeps
Utterly on my own.

Hatred and guilt make war
On my defenceless soul;
War mongered by myself,
Bitterly far from whole.

Oh that Christ’s cause may take
No darkening shame through me;
It was my very zeal
Brought this extremity.

All my confession brings
Only relentless scorn
Beating my torn heart down
Lashing with twisted thorn.

Lord, in Your saving hour
Turn towards me Your face.
One glimpse of Your great love
Overrides all disgrace.

One glimpse of Your great love,
You who have done it all:
You wore my crown of thorns
You drank the dregs of gall.

And while I wait Your dawn
In this defeating night;
I will sing forth Your praise,
I will believe in light.

I hear it now (by faith):
All upon earth and heaven
Shouting my Saviour’s praise,
To whom all glory given!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

A Second Chance

I never expected another chance. Forty years before it had all been over. So many hopes, so many dreams ... I used to daydream back then, in that other life of mine, and imagine myself as the great liberator of my people. Surely I was uniquely placed to do so, the only one in the whole land of Egypt who could? Nobody else that I had ever heard of had a despised slave for a mother, and a princess (Pharaoh’s daughter, no less!) for a foster mother. I knew, and really cared about, the oppression of my people. I had dried the tears of my sister and my mother; I had seen the lash marks on my father’s back; I had the desperate prayers and pleas of their friends. I had been there, in the huts of the detestable slaves, and I had seen their lack compared to their neighbours. I had turned away in sorrow from the pain in the eyes of women whose children had been thrown in the Nile. It was a shameful and horrible thing that the inheritors of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should have no land, no hope and no future.

Yet I had such privilege. As an adopted son of the palace, all wealth and learning were mine, and with privilege comes power. But for all my learning, for all my high ideals, when the moment came, I proved to be a fool, and threw it all away.

It was, you might say, just another day in Egypt. The sun was hot and tempers were short, and the pain of my people ached in my breast as if I had swallowed a massive stone. Less and less did I feel at home amongst the shaded rooms of the palace; and so, like a man who cannot resist scratching an itch, I would wander down to the construction site, where the latest draft of Hebrew slaves were bending to labour under the bitter lash of their masters. It was not the first time I had seen a slave beaten, but for some reason, in that moment, the cumulative injustice pushed me over into blind rage, and, seeing there was no one around to notice, I struck down and killed the Egyptian, and hid his body in the sand. I thought myself undiscovered, but that delusion lasted less than 24 hours, before I found out that it was known and not much longer before I found that I had to flee the wrath of Pharaoh if I wanted to preserve my life.

And so I dwindled. Dead to my hopes, dislocated from my dreams, I became just another nomadic shepherd in the wild country of the desert. I thanked God for my wife, for my sons, for the gift of freedom, but somewhere deep inside me the ache of my people’s pain remained ... until the day when I met my God in the bush that would not burn away. It is hard to believe, after so great a silence, so long a dearth, that God himself should resurrect the innermost longing of my broken heart. Yet so it is, He has heard, he has seen, He has called me and I must go. Once I went forth in confidence, believing myself a chosen instrument of justice, and everything I tried went horribly amiss. This time I will go in fear and trembling, not believing in myself at all, but responding only to God’s irrevocable call. Maybe this time the miracle will happen.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Lent 2: Luke 9: 22-25

“If any man would come after me ...”

Like eating unripe fruit, sharp on the tongue,
And bitter to the belly, sitting sour:
A dark discomfort faith would fain deny,
The thorn that pierces those who reach the flower.

“If any man …” We turn the phrase around,
Looking for loopholes, searching Google maps
For an alternative; forgetting what
It costs to squeeze through eye-of-needle gaps.

Somewhere, in some dark valley of dry bones,
There comes the moment, choice that is no choice,
My smallness cannot stretch the widening breach,
I must renounce my ego or love’s voice.

I must be stretched as He, my God, was stretched,
To learn, from finitude, Love’s height and breadth,
Drown in those tears His blessed touch turns to wine,
And learn there is no limit to its depth.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Lent 1 -- on Psalm 51

for Lent this year I want to do something a little different.

 When possible, i want to write a short poem or meditation 

in response to one of the lectionary readings. We'll see how 

many I manage!

The first one is on Psalm 51

Baring his soul, the bent king bares us all
Here is the Lenten journey to our need:
The cold, bare hunger at the heart of me.

Scrabbling on barren hillsides desperately
The broken thing inside me grabs and grabs,
Breaks and is broken, bitterly to fall.

You are my God, still, in the empty place,
As you were, (ah, so gloriously!) his
I, as an after-echo, mouth his song.

You do not leave me on that empty hill;
You trod (my God!) you trod those broken stones
And You will gather up my broken bones.

I am re-fashioned, and re-fashioned still,
Until you have laid bare my deep-hid heart
And into deepest joy drowned every part.

Monday, March 03, 2014

On holding the hand of the dying ..

Here, now, we enter in the narrow strait,
Where wide seas falter. Here no words prevail
Against the great pulsations of this birth.
And yet it matters not if our words fail.

Speech sinks to silence, love flows forth as tears.
In this soft, holy moment we are still.
Struggling yet unafraid, cornered at last
By the relentless mercy of ‘until’.

Through this tight channel, forth from love to Love
We cannot steer, he voyages on alone.
We cannot follow yet. We wait. We pray.
For, short or long, this voyage shall bring him home.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Three viewpoints, one journey

We are men who do what we are told. We have always believed that by serving the High Priest we are serving God. We go where we are told to go, we guard whom we are told to guard, we arrest those whom we are told to arrest. So what are we supposed to do when it all changes? We knew Saul, we knew he really hated those Christians, and the way he talked about them as we journeyed, he had us quite convinced that they were hateful and dangerous people who must be stopped and removed at once – a poisonous tumour on the body of Israel. And then, there we are, on another hot, dusty day on the road to Damascus,  when we suddenly hear a loud sound and there is Saul on the ground, crying out something, while we stand around with no idea what to say or do. We had had no orders about such things. Then, the moment passes, he rises to his feet, but his eyesight was gone! We continued on our way, very carefully, since a blind man’s horse must be led, but it soon became obvious that Saul had completely changed his mind about these people, and no longer wanted to pursue them at all. Instead he wants to join them now. Seriously, we wonder if he has gone mad!

The wiser a man thinks he is, the more a fool he turns out to be! I was so, so sure that I was right, that my hatred for these followers of Jesus proved what a godly, zealous man I was, and that my zeal would win God’s favour just like it did with the Levites who stood with Moses against the immorality in the camp. How little I really understood anything about the God I claimed to be serving! In the instant between one breath and the next my whole world turned around, for I encountered the very Jesus I had been persecuting, and learned that he was my God!  A man needs silence and darkness to process such things, and darkness I was given. In broken penitence my body now wore the blindness that had so characterised my arrogant spirit, but it was no longer terrible. The same God who had sternly rebuked me had drawn me to Himself in tender mercy and let my eyes be darkened for a space so that I might know that He was no fever dream, no delusion brought upon me by the heat of the day, but my only life and hope and joy. It is hard for a strong man to yield himself to be led and tended by others, but even in that humbling there is relief and joy, for in my darkness I am beginning to see truths that I never guessed before.

What is a man to do when God asks him to take literally the command to love his enemies? Well, he obeys, but with much doubt and fear in his heart! At least, since I cannot speak for all men, that was my experience. God Himself came to me in a vision and called me to go and restore the eyesight of Saul of Tarsus! How could such a thing be? This was the man who had been our foremost persecutor! Could I trust him? And also (for we who follow Jesus are already only too aware that God make call us to martyrdom at any time) what of the issue of justice? Surely Saul must be punished for the way he had treated God’s people? Yet God was calling me to bring him healing! It took me much wrestling in prayer before I understood, but when I did I was stunned afresh by the depths of God’s grace. Of course Saul must be healed and restored, for isn’t this exactly why Jesus died? A mighty work of reconciliation was done upon the cross, so that god might restore us to Himself. Saul is just one picture of the way this works for all of us, as God turns us around towards Himself, so that we may see his arms are open wide in love and forgiveness. With gladness then, instead of fear, I went out to find him, for Saul is no longer my enemy, he is my precious brother.