Saturday, February 28, 2015

Reflections Luke 2: 1-5

Man does and God fulfils. Time after time
We stretch ourselves into necessity
Doing what we think needful. All the while
God’s promise comes to pass. We, small and weak,
Of little wisdom, wind our little way
From one day to the next with our small plans,
While the stars smile at us, the sun looks down
The wind blows where it will. Things shift and turn
With logic that defies us, yet we act
With such free will as bonds of space and time
Allow us – and the will of God is done!

Caesar Augustus, there in far off Rome
Made his decree, a census sentenced he,
And never knew the prophet long ago
Had said that Bethlehem would be the place
Wherein the child of wonder would be born.
He never knew that one of David’s seed
To David’s town must travel for his birth
As God had said it would be from of old.

Nor do we know, in each day’s little span,
What reach our hands may have, what they may touch,
What wings our words are given, by God’s grace,
What ordinary things may serve their turn,
What vastness of eternity’s design
Hinges on us unknowing. Or what prayer

Moves a great mountain which we never see?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Reflections Luke 1: 67-80

Let me not be defeated by the night.
Open my eyes to gaze upon your light.

Let no sorrows overwhelm me,
Or the whispered brush of fear;
Let no anxiety
Make me oblivious to mercy,
Give me stars to lift my vision
And a torch to light my way.

Let me not be defeated by the night.
Open my eyes to gaze upon your light.

Let me not turn aside
From the studied path of faith,
Let no discouragement
Drain away my courage.
May the shadow of death pass over me
And the light of heaven shine.

Let me not be defeated by the night.
Open my eyes to gaze upon your light.

Let me know your tender mercy
Is not banished by men’s words;
You made us and you know us
And your promise is fulfilled
Through bitter cross and empty tomb
Your promise is fulfilled.

Let me not be defeated by the night.
Open my eyes to gaze upon your light.

You have visited and redeemed your people
We will be with you forever.
You have bought us back and paid the price
We will be with you forever

Let me not be defeated by the night.

Open my eyes and let me drink your light.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Reflections Luke 1: 57-66

The forerunner is born. The tongue once dumb
Is loosed again to speak with glory-praise;
And all around must question, “What is this
That God has caused such wonders in our days?”

Lord, in this hour, loose my silenced tongue,
My “tact” that is nine-tenths all cowardice,
That measures words to match the social cloth,
And never says a sentence out of place.

Let me admit my fears, my shames, my fails:
All the forgiven things that show your grace;
But let me also say how you have healed,
Have lifted up my head and washed my face.

Let me proclaim you are the only God,
And no created being shares your throne.
Infinite mercy? Yes! But still the Lord,
And every knee must bow to you alone.

Let me admit your kingdom’s shearing truth
The sword that cuts through to the very heart
The measure that you measure we must own,
And walk in light and bear our faithful part.

But let me speak, first, above all, supreme
Of Jesus and the death he died for me,
Died in my place so I might live in him.

Lord, take this craven tongue and set it free!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reflections on Luke 1:46-56

And this is holiness.
The turning round
Of all our expectations,
The undoing
Of every single potentate and power
By which we build our small securities.

Only the humble,
The broken ones,
The ones who have no faith
In the works of their own hands
Can enter in
To the cataclysmic kingdom.
Mercy comes
To those who know they need it.

Come then, Lord,
Shatter the old, fond idols once again.
Let me see them as illusions,
Let me know
That they do not collaborate with you.

Come to the place of tears,
Come, fill the empty,
Let your miracle flow forth for those
Who know their need of you.
Help us become small enough
To enter the tiny door of the looking-glass kingdom
The door that leads
To the garden of your glory.

Take away our falsehoods

For Holy is your Name.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reflections on Luke: 1:39-45

When you meet with me
In the way of my wayfaring,
May my heart leap up with joy.

When I drink the silences of evening,
Seeking to be comforted by beauty,
May I see your name writ large across them,
May my heart leap up with joy.

When I see the rain fall softly
And the parched earth drink it in;
May I know how tenderly you bless me,
May my heart leap up with joy.

When I see the needy and the broken,
The lost the lonely and the suffering;
When I kneel and seek to bring them mercy,
May I see each wears the face of Jesus,
May my heart leap up with joy.

When I face my neediness and failure,
Know how large the sins of my omissions,
Know how great my need of your forgiveness,
Know again, your name to me is Saviour,
May my heart leap up with joy.

When I face the end of all my wandering,
When the cup of life’s last dregs are emptied,
When the darkness falls across my eyelids,
And my evening prayer falls into silence:
May in see you, arms outstretched and waiting,
May I know you, dearer than my dearest,

May my heart leap up with joy.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reflections on Luke 1: 26-38

Lord of the great simplicities
Still the whirring wheels of thought
And the noise of their confusion
Which drowns out your quiet voice.

Let my faith rest, limpid, clear,
Like Mary’s faith: not fully understanding,
But content to do your will.
Accepting always
That you, not I, are God.

Let your truth drop
Like living light
Into ordinary days,
The darkness that my ego’s shadows bring
To everything,
The striving that turns backwards
In upon itself.

No angels come here
But your spirit wraps me round
With tenderness like tears,
Like falling rain,
Bringing life where I was dead.

Remind me your salvation
Is the most real thing I know.
I carry no Saviour in my womb;
But in my broken heart he builds his habitation
And I am blessed as she
Because I know

His name is Saviour.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reflections: Luke 1: 23-25

We walk in the empty places
Under skies that magnify deficit
Knowing ourselves inadequate:
He has taken away our shame.

We sit alone with our mocking mirrors
We dare not own our tears:
Creatures of shadow to avoid all confrontation,
He has taken away our shame.

We are the sullied ones
We didn’t go the distance
Fell in the mud by the wayside:
He has taken away our shame.

We feared the sun by day,
Avoided the moon by night
Asked for the rocks to hide us:
He has taken away our shame.

Bullied, reduced, uncertain,
Victims of humiliation
Shredded by mocking laughter:
He has taken away our shame.

We stream to the place of forgiveness,
He lifts up our shame-bent faces
Washes us in pure water:

He has taken away our shame.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reflections. Luke 1: 18-22

Life grinds us down to doubt, and doubt to dust;
We can see angels and yet fail to trust.

There is no accounting for the moments of God
Thrusting through the walls of our expectations
Tearing down our flimsy habitations
Exposing the small lies by which we live.

There is no preparing for the time of confrontation
Finding we have rebuilt our own foundation.
The desert wind blows hard through lonely places
We speak mere irritation.

There is no equivalent in imagination;
No theory that will give true preparation
The moment comes, our truth leaks from our heart
Revealing our deflation.

There is no cheating this examination
Faith whittled down, reveals its limitation,
The voice that spoke too soon is silenced now,
Until fulfilment brings its re-instation.

So must it be, for every revelation
Calling forth faith can show our alienation
From mercy’s sureness. Words of painful doubt
Are not mere aberration.

In the moment of the angels, let one truth be on my tongue,

“Your will be done.”


Here in the cave, here in the darkness, I sit alone and wait for God. He is my glory, my hope, the Lord of my life and the master of my destiny. He is the creator of all that is, and the only true source of joy. And now I sit alone in the darkness and wish that I could die.

It has been an amazing experience to walk with God through the thunder and the terror, judgement and vindication, yet, even after all of that. I am utterly alone.

I have seen the judgement of God fall upon the land, when for three years the heavens were shut up and no rain fell. And while the people of Israel cried out in their terrible thirst (but still did not see that the linchpin of life is not the thirst for water but our soul deep thirst for God, without whom we cannot live a single breath), for all that time the Lord sustained me in a hidden place, by a secret stream and fed by the birds of heaven: the ravens men scorn were my lifeline. The king had the land searched for me, and they could not find me, I had vanished from men’s sight like the caterpillar vanishes into the darkness of its cocoon, only to re-emerge transfigured by wings when God’s time is right.

Oh I felt like a winged creature up there on Mount Carmel. The power of God was strong in that moment, and I felt his spirit coursing through my words and actions. I challenged those presumptuous priests of Baal, and those perverted priests of Ashtoreth, and I knew, before any words had left my lips, that the hour of their undoing was at hand. They could perform all their grotesque rituals, cry out their prayers, demonic and pathetic, and it would avail them nothing. The fire would not fall from heaven for them, no matter what lengths they went to beseech it. I laughed at them, for I could afford to laugh that day.

Then, when I had finally had enough of their antics, it was my turn. The people were subdued by then, and probably a little bored, they had been waiting all day and nothing had happened. There were questions hanging in the air. But when I called for water to be poured over my sacrifice, they started to pay attention again. This was the total opposite of what they had expected, the total opposite of what their false priests had done. And then I prayed, simply and explicitly and all Israel knew what was at stake.

And then the fire fell. The glory of God broke through, and there was wonder and much fear. And all those false heathen priests were put to death in the fervour that followed.

But I had not reckoned with the malice of Jezebel. The demonstrable greatness of God which brought fear and renewal to Israel, brought no repentance to her wicked heart. Instead of triumph, I have been forced to flee for my life. Are all my efforts for nothing? Am I the only one left in Israel who truly worships the Living God? Is my victory only the passage to a darker and more terrible defeat?

Yet I am now in the very place where the Lord appeared to Moses and Israel were born. Perhaps if I plead my case here he will appear again to his servant and Israel can yet be renewed.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Reflections on Luke: 1: 14-17

Sometimes the gift comes
In wrappings of camel’s hair
And no one signed the card.

Sometimes the gift comes
Past the end of all our waiting
When we grow too tired to pray.

Sometimes the gift comes
When we’ve closed the doors
And packed away our hope.

Sometimes the gift comes
Delivered in a way we did not choose
And we’re not sure it’s for us.

Sometimes the gift comes
With dizzy suddenness, and aching fingers
Can scarce take hold of it.

Sometimes the gift comes
Tingling with wonder
Now is the perfect time.

He will be prophet, bursting on men’s sight,
And yet, to you, a joy and a delight.
He is the longed-for son, your heart’s own child
Though, for all others, wondrous strange and wild …

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Luke 1: 8-13

The smoke went up, the Living Flame came down
The priest before the incense altar stands
And sees God’s promise here made visible
Bringing such truth he barely understands.

The promise and the prayer – see how they weave
One beauty of the Father’s great design;
Yet he, who has been trained to holy things
Finds fear and doubt towards the holy sign.

I have not met with angels (that I know)
Yet I, too, offer prayers past my belief
And stand on Holy Ground with careless feet,
And my presumption is my faith’s great thief.

Have mercy, Lord, to us, the called-in-Christ,
To whom a royal priesthood has been given,
That this small faith, this trembling mustard seed,

May joy in hope for that for which it’s striven.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reflections on Luke: 1:5-7

For Lent this year I will pick up the project I began late last year (and only got as far as the first one) of writing reflective, responsive poems working systematically through Luke's gospel

These are the barrens.
Here the crow caws wide
Across interminable loss;
The heart hangs low
With longing unfulfilled.
Here raindrops dance
Only to stir the dust.

The priest, his wife,
The sorrow and the struggle,
Falling short
Of their own normal;
Leaking out long pain
In slow deflation;
Striving after joy
In little things, to heal the gaping wound.

Does great God hear the prayers of unslaked dust?
Does he bend down to those whose failure haunts
The margins of their ordinary lives?

Does mercy fall to shatter quiet despair?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Because The Skies

Because the skies flare golden, here we walk
In glory, long before our given time;
And own the wonder that we are so blessed.

Because the skies stretch blue, infinite blue,
No cloud, no vapour breaks that purity,
We gaze and know ourselves to be so small.

Because the skies loom purple, pending storm,
We face the mundane without qualm of fear
Knowing that wondrous mystery breaks through here.

Because the skies can blaze with sunstruck fire,
We know our longings can to ashes fade
And be relit, and hope can burn anew.

Because the skies can hush to twilight’s balm
We dream of peace, so plenteous, so calm,
The benison that says God holds us still.

Because the skies grow pink as softest blush
We pause from all the flurry and the rush
Remembering the holy touch of grace.

Because the skies … because the Spirit breathes
Through all creation, touching all that is
With His great beauty, whispers, “More than this …”

Sunday, February 08, 2015


I had always thought that having enough money would solve all my problems. I hadn’t grown up in a rich family, and I was always aware of the things that other people had and we didn’t. My deep resentment was fertile soil for avarice and envy to grow. I wanted all the comforts that wealth could bring, to live not only knowing where my next meal was coming from, but that it would be delicious and just to my taste, and to know that no one could evict me from my home, and that this same home would be filled with beautiful things that gave me pleasure. My family owned no land, and had no wealth for me to inherit, nor had I been trained for any lucrative trade. I would have to work out my own path to wealth.

I am not a strong man to engage in big physical tasks, I am a small man – oh, let’s be honest! – a very small man. Not a fine upstanding figure in any sense. As a child I was mocked even more for being small even more than for being poor. That does something to man’s sense of self as well (ok, I mean his pride) and I was always looking for some way to make people take notice of me, some way to assert my power so that everyone would have to take account of me. It took me some time to realise that I could gain both wealth and power by becoming a tax collector for the Romans.

So I did. It was a ridiculously easy way to make money for anyone skilled enough to read and write and count. The Romans told me how much tax they needed from the area, I collected from people as much as I could get away with, and after paying Rome the allotted amount, the rest was mine. But it certainly didn’t make me any friends. To my fellow Jews I was both a thief and a traitor. Happiness continued to elude me. The very wealth and power I had sought had become a dragging burden.

Then, one day, when I was feeling at a particularly low place, I heard that the celebrated teacher, Jesus, was coming to town. Acting completely out of character, I decided that I wanted to see him for myself. I knew that no one was going to make room for me in the front of the crowd, and I couldn’t see over them, so I decided to climb a big sycamore tree. Peering out from between the leaves I would have a really good view, but no one else would notice me.

It didn’t work out quite as I had planned. True, no one in the crowd noticed me, but Jesus did. He looked straight up into that tree, as if he had always known I would be there, called me by name (how did he know?) and told me to come down because he wanted to eat at my house. I was astonished (so was everyone who knew me), but the invitation was irresistible. I had never climbed down from a tree so fast, and didn’t even stop to consider that, in that moment, I was also climbing down from the high and lonely perch of unlawful wealth, misused power, and deep, deep resentment (which can be the most self-righteous choice there is). I simply looked in his eyes and saw that he loved me, that he was glad to meet me, and suddenly all the things I had held onto so tightly seemed like dust and ashes by comparison, and the embrace in which I had held them seemed like prison chains which bound me to misery. I could give it away, I could be done with it all, I could be free.

And Jesus smiled at me and said, “Today salvation has come to this house.”