Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 29-32

Flimsy as plastic,
We are blown by the wind,
Swirling through filth,
Unable to control our path
The stain of our falling is indelible;
We will always be outside.

How the “holy” ones despise us!

We are the never-good-enough,
The ones your eyes pass over,
The ones you were warned about,
The bearers
Of moral and social contagion.

How the “holy” ones despise us!

We wear our sin on our sleeves,
Some people can see it for miles!
It had never occurred to us
That their purity was fragile.

How the “holy” ones despise us!

They have labels for us,
They would arrange us in careful jars:
To deny we are human as they.

How the “holy” ones despise us!

But he came
Eating and drinking, even laughing with us!
And when they warned him,
He looked at them amazed!

He was the Holy One.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 27-28

I watch and wait and count them carefully,
Silver and gold are my security.
With them I build the walls that keep me safe.
Then Jesus comes, commanding, “Follow me!”

My name is Levi, son of Abraham,
My people have been conquered, are unfree,
What should I do but make the best of it?
Then Jesus comes, commanding, “Follow me!”

How can a poor man prosper in these times?
Rome is the master, can’t we all agree?
I sit and count my coins because I can,
Then Jesus comes, commanding, “Follow me!”

How can I own that I am sick of heart?
My careful choice is now my slavery.
My tax booth seems a prison, not a hope.
Then Jesus comes, commanding, “Follow me!”

Where is that voice that spoke from Sinai’s height,
Terrible glory of eternity
Calling us to a holy nationhood?
Then Jesus comes, commanding, “Follow me!”

Like the old dam that breaks and water flows
I rose and left that killing stagnancy
To learn to walk with heaven on this earth;
For Jesus came, commanding, “Follow me!”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Palm Sunday Thoughts

He entered the city alone.
Nobody realised that; everyone else saw the disciples who trailed him and the noisy crowd that enveloped him and acclaimed him, but he was alone.
He had set his face towards Jerusalem, and he was alone.
He was utterly alone, for no one else knew why he was there, or what he had come to do, and those who loved him best had the least idea.
He sat on that donkey alone. When the crowd cheered wildly, he did not laugh and smile with them; when they called him by one of his rightful names, he knew that they did not know who he truly was.
He rode alone, feeling the hatred of the scribes and Pharisees, the priests and all their ilk, burn against his skin with the fervency of their malice.
He rode alone, feeling the ignorance of the crowd. They did not know that they were the very ones he had come to die for.
He rode alone, feeling the power of Rome that beat down and oppressed the city. They trampled people with their iron-shod feet; in just a few days they would crucify him with their iron nails and call it justice.
He rode alone, feeling the bewildered, helpless love of his friends. They wanted to declare that they would follow him anywhere, but they had no understanding of where he was going, or how dark a battle and how terrible a foe he would fight on their behalf. They were not strong enough or brave enough to follow him there … not yet …
He rode alone, in humility, on a donkey. He who had called stars into being and carried the government of all things upon his shoulder. But they didn’t see that. All they saw was a man.
He rode alone, and the angels marvelled that such a thing could be.
He was alone, as one can only be alone in an uncomprehending crowd.
He was alone, his face set unflinchingly towards the horror of the cross, never doubting that this terrible road was worth the taking, moving steadily towards that unthinkable place where he would cry out his forsakenness.

He was alone so that he might be with us forever.

reflections Luke 5: 20-26

Like spring rain on bare soil,
Like clean, pure water for the parched,
Like fresh air after choking fumes
Forgiveness comes
Bringing life.

We have walked the desolate highways of the heart
And found no resting place.
We have walked the chattered streets
And found no peace.
And we could not walk on water,
For we drowned.

We are the outcasts of the universe,
Sin-specked flotsam,
The broken bits revolving endlessly
In the vortex of our shame:
The scapegoats of ourselves.
We cannot climb the mountain of the Lord
With dirty hands and impure hearts.

But he will wash us clean.
He speaks, and it is so
And his words remake the universe.

Now we rise up and walk.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 17-19

None is more helpless than I,
I who am bound to a bed,
I, who cannot move at all,
From whom all power is fled.

I, who am stuck in the rut
Of my unwieldable flesh
And, while my muscles freeze still,
All my thoughts desperately thresh.

Where is relief for my need?
Where is the end of my pain?
God, who can make all things whole,
Give me my life back again!

Yet, though the tears of despair
Fall from my eyes in the night
My friends will yet lift me up
Claiming the burden is light.

They carry me where these legs
Are far too useless to go.
Bypassing these jostling crowds
By the one method they know.

Carrying me from despair
Into the presence of hope
Love reaching out like a prayer

Lowering me by a rope.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 15-16

The furthest reaches, dark side of the moon,
The places deepest and most solitary,
Are echo-chambers for my skinted heart
Are my mind’s madness merging maximally.

Unless alone is truly not alone,
Unless the silence is to hear your song,
The love song you are singing over me
And have done so through all the ages long.

The solitudes can be a fairground maze
Of crazy mirrors, each to self-deceive,
Unless your truth shines brighter, bright on bright,
Lighting the way to what I must believe.

There is no lonely where your love shines down,
Bringing new beauty where my heart saw less;
Peace from the great confusion of the crowd,
Sweet restoration for my weariness.

Here is my plenty, where worlds fall away,
Here in your arms – no labour but to know.
To worship is to find that central point

Of stillness while the rampant rivers flow.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 12-14

We are the ones with leprosy, whose hands
Are marked by our corruption. Men avoid
Our taint, would rather cross the other side.
We are a bitterness to them and us.

We are the ones with leprosy. Our sin
Worn on our flesh for all the world to see,
Despising what they fear. Themselves writ large
We are the scapegoats of their secrecy.

We are the ones found out, forever shamed.
We are the ones who don’t look as we should.
We are the ones who smell a little off.
We are the ones who didn’t make the grade.

We are the ones whom God has cast aside.
We are the ones who walk a living death,
The object lessons of the universe.
We carry mortal failure on our breath.

We are the ones with leprosy. Our fear
Makes sunlight dark, makes rain burn us like fire.
We have no hope less than a miracle.
Where is the mercy for our slavery?

And yet he comes, he who is unafraid
Of our worst darkness. Reaches out to touch
Our vast uncleanness, and we are remade

Given, by love, a glory we can clutch.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 10-11

To follow Christ is to walk into mystery
Where everything is changed
And all your old systems fall away,
Fall away,
Fall away
As old horizons vanish,
And the solid ground is gone.

Here we must learn to walk on water,
To laugh at impossible things,
And be remade
Into someone learning love.

Scattered things
Are brought together
And we find that they are beautiful.
But the old beauties,
Solid stone,
Are torn apart and scattered.

We are not the same.
No longer is it enough
To fish for fish.
No longer is it enough
To plan our daily bread
And to build our habitations.
Now we must fish for men
(With what strange bait?)
And catch them

So that they can be set free.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 6-9

Your Law beats down upon me
Like harsh rain,
Like pelting hail,
Like a wind with bitter teeth.
I draw around me,
Tightly as I can,
The ragged, dirt-splashed cloak
Of my self-righteousness:
All the defence I have.

But then I raise my eyes
And see your smile
And my world is torn apart.
Your largesse flows over every rampart
Into the secret places
Where you wash my sight
Free from blinding pride.
Alpha and Omega,
There is no place left
Protected from your love.

Your mercy
Makes me cry for mercy.
Your grace
Makes me cry for grace.
Across impossible skies
Your nail-pierced hands
Reach to lift me from myself.

It is too much.
I cannot comprehend,
And I no longer know myself.
A tumult of forgiveness
Before I can confess
Leaves me without foothold.
I am drowning now in Life,

And I fear that it will kill me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Reflections Luke 5: 1-5

But mine is such an ordinary boat,
Battered about by waves and inner war
Staying afloat, but really only just,
What could the Lord of Heaven want it for?

He wants to use it as a place to teach?
Sure, that’s just basic hospitality,
I can make room for him to stand right there,
It’s just a platform, nothing about me.

But then he wants to go out in the deep
In my boat! Lord, I’m such a little thing,
I have no skills, no gift to carry you,
Others are better for your ferrying.

And yet, I go. His word compels me on
Into those places deep, alone and wet,
And when I falter in my weariness,
He tells me, calmly, to put out my net.

What! Don’t you know that we toiled all the night
For nothing? There are no fish to pursue!
And yet, and yet, his word compels me still,

So this, confused, obedient, I do.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reflections Luke 4: 38-44

We are the weak ones
Broken on the wheel of life
Lacking strength of will or body to stay out the course
Finding hope too heavy to carry
Jesus, heal us!

We are the blind ones
We cannot see the way forward
Light and darkness are alike to us
And we cannot see what is true or beautiful
Jesus, heal us!

We are the deaf ones
No song enfolds us
No words allure us
And the word has no purchase in our hearts
Jesus, heal us!

We are the lame ones
We cannot walk in your ways
We are always the last ones, pushed aside,
And falling over our own feet
Jesus, heal us!

We are the lepers
Always calling out “Unclean!”
Avoided and despised,
Our selves a creeping horror
Jesus, heal us!

And your arms are open
And the cross still stands
There is healing for the broken

In the mercy of your hands

The Empty Place

The hot sun beat down, and shimmer of heat and relentless light dazzled his eyes. All he could see as he gazed around was endless sand and rock with just the occasional thorn tree dotting the landscape. It was a pitiless place, and, right at that moment, it seemed to him like the emptiest place on earth. Was it odd that the first deliberate act of his ministry was to depart from everyone into the cruel Judean wilderness? No, in order to be fitted for the task he must be tried and tempered like the finest of swords; in order to re-enact Israel and be all that she had failed to be, he too must spend a symbolic period of time wandering in the wilderness being tempted as she was, yet not falling into the sins she had so readily embraced.

 At least a little water could be found, enough to keep a man alive, but after a few days he was dizzy, faint and tormented with hunger. It was then that the tempter came to him; stealthy in attack and sibilant in whisper. “If you really are what you claim to be, you could make these useless stones into bread! What good will it do you to starve to death?”  It was not an academic question, he felt as if every inch of his flesh cried out for food.

But no, God hadn’t sent him out here to satisfy the flesh. He must walk the road of the least of these, through hunger and physical lack. There were more important things at stake. With great effort he replied, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God.”

But there were other torments. He was so ordinary, so nondescript. He felt the irony of Isaiah’s words, that he should have “no beauty that we should desire him”. Would he be enough?

And there was the tempter, yet again. It seemed that they were in Jerusalem, standing at the highest point of the temple. “Cast yourself down, and God’s angels will rescue you!” Now wouldn’t that get everyone’s attention? He would be in prime position to really work the crowd.

But no. The only way to go was the way of humble obedience. He would not manipulate anyone. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test!” he replied, quoting the scriptures once again.

But he knew there was one last area where the tempter could torment him. There was one end to everything he was called to do – a hideous, torturous abandoned death. Was there no other way to get there except through the horror of the cross? Flesh and blood recoiled from it. And then the tempter took him to the top of a mountain, and showed him all the glory of the earth and the brightness of men’s kingdoms. “All this can be yours, so easily, if you will just bow down and worship me.”

The struggle was real, the stakes were beyond price. But he knew that he had come from God, and was returning to God, and with him would come, at the end, a great company of the redeemed who no man could number. So, with every effort his wracked flesh could muster, he cried out, “It is written, worship the Lord your God, and serve him only!” And, renewed in purpose, he ordered the tempter to gone.

And the empty place was empty once again. But forty days and forty nights had passed in his great struggle, and now it was over. And the empty place was filled with a sweetness of angels.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Reflections Luke 4: 31-37

Humanly, we have so little power,
There is much arrayed against us
That we neither see nor know.
We grow crops on the sides of volcanoes,
Paddle in the paths of tsunamis,
Build our vainglorious shelters
'Midst earthquake, fire and flood.
Calling ourselves masters of an earth
Whose inward fires would melt us,
As we hurtle through vacuums of space.

We are easily overturned.

There is another world,
World immaterial
With powers that disdain us
As flimsy specks of dust.
Powers of such malignance
Minds break to comprehend.
Powers of such horror
Tormenting for their pleasure.

We are easily overturned.

Then he comes,
Human, frail as we,
And speaks with the authority
That could stop the stars in their courses.
Not effort nor spectacle,
As one man speaks to another,
He speaks
And the demons obey.

And the world is overturned.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reflections Luke 4: 20-30

This is the country of unfaith,
The country of over-familiar.
Here, seeing, we see not,
Hearing, we hear not,
Thinking we know, we know nothing.
We have turned off our souls.

The Christ, himself,
Stands in our midst,
And we only see the guy from down the street.
(As if our neighbour,
Every neighbour,
Was not fearfully and wonderfully made!)

What will it take to wake us,
To make us aware again,
Or to see wonder for the first time?
We yearn the spectacular,
The strange,
The exciting,
The thunder and the lightning,
The fire and mighty rushing wind.

Lord, give us the courage
To turn aside and see
Your glory in the commonplace;
To believe again
That ordinary prayers are answered,
That ordinary actions weave divine love,
That ordinary people

Are the dwelling place of God.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Reflections Luke 4: 14-19

He comes with dear compassion
To set the captives free,
To open wide our dungeons,
And give us liberty.
God’s Spirit is upon him:
He makes the blind to see,
And brings the richest blessings
To those in poverty.

And still men walk in blindness
And groan beneath their chains
And grind down one another
Until no joy remains.
Or locked in self-made prisons
And drowned in self-made night,
They do not hear his promise
They do not see his light.

But Christ has fully vanquished
Death, darkness and the grave.
He died beneath our sentence
And rose again to save.
And he would lead us onward
To fullest liberty
For those who own his Lordship

Alone are truly free.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Reflections Luke 4: 9-13

The way of holiness is not the way
Of showiness
Of great, grand posturing,
It does not say, “I am!”
It says, “He is!”

The way of holiness is not the way
Of posing for acclaim,
Seeking applause,
Or glitzy miracles that feed no hearts.
It does not point attention to itself.

The way of holiness is not the way
Of camera-flashing smiles,
Designer suits,
Mansions of ostentation on the earth,
With gated premises and private guards.

The way of holiness is the quiet way
The laying down of everything we are
Before a coarse and ugly wooden cross
Choosing to die,
Knowing that thus we live.

The way of holiness, the way of love,
Gives and forgives,
Prays, and then rises up,
Forever giving thanks with thankfulness

That Jesus chose the cross and not the show.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reflections Luke 4:5-8

Oh hungry heart, behold! Here stretches forth
Village and city, mountain and bright plain,
And shining seas, and countless human lives,
And all the splendour and the might of them,
And all the adulation and the fame,
And all the praise to soothe the ache of you …

Picture it, dare! All the celebrity
That makes you feel important and worthwhile;
And power, (oh sweet power!) yours, all yours,
And all the world your plaything and your toy,
And never need you bow to any man,
Nor lower eyes, nor ever stand aside,
Nor have to take your turn! All yours! All yours!

What would it cost? The least, the littlest thing,
One small obeisance, one last bow-the-knee
One tiny gesture to the world’s dark prince,
And magnitude of majesty is yours!
The kingdoms of this world at bargain price!

Or maybe not. Christ scorned that offering.
He chose a cross, the bitter gall of death,
Hunger and thirst and weariness and pain,
The servant’s towel, the whips, the biting scorn,
Our tomb of darkness and our crown of thorn.
And, beyond that, the joy of Easter morn!

And he shall reign for ever, ever more!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reflections Luke, 4: 3-4

Stones, stones, nothing but stones!
And the weight of dereliction bearing down,
The broken places crushed, crushed down to sand,
And sand slips through our fingers, weighed with loss.

Here where the vulture soars, mocking our weakness,
And the carrion sun beats down on alien flesh,
And the heart is parched and aching, aching, aching,
And the dust dance dazzles our eyes into white-hot pain…

Here, there are only stones.

And the tempter comes, sibilant, subtle, softness,
Promising quick rewards, a sated heart,
Promising easy answers to our hunger;
And the soft flesh whispers yes, while the heart cries no!

And all around are stones, bitter, bitter stones!

‘Step out of the narrow way!’ he whispers, whispers.
‘Dance, dervish dance into power, take what life owes you.
Why would God wish you to starve, in this miserable desert?
It’s your own fault if you die, when the remedy’s in you!”

And they lie there, mocking our hunger, pitiless stones!

Christ, Son of Man, was mocked by the stones of the desert.
Christ, Son of Man, choked on the ash of our hungers.
Christ, Son of Man, learned how the flesh weakens, wavers;
And he declared he would not live by bread alone!

Still, they are merely stones.

Under the thorn tree, where the grit breaches our eyelids,
Raising up helpless hands, prayerful and empty,
Waiting on God’s own word, fast in our weakness,
Tear-emptied, vulnerable, trusting the Father;

For, if we ask for bread, will he give us stones?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reflections Luke 4: 1-2

This the domain of demons
This is the lowest place
Desert of desperation
Darkness devoid of grace.

Here is the soul stretched tighter
Than soul knew how to be
Wilderness draws on empty
In utter nullity.

Here is the place we tremble
Here is the place we fear
Uttermost desolation
Cuts through us like a spear.

This would be our avoiding
The nadir of our dread.
What if it is obedience
Drawing us there instead?

What if the Spirit leads us,
Where devil-laughters sound?
What if God’s calling makes it
Utterly holy ground?

Jesus himself was tempted
Jesus himself was tried
Sent by the Holy Spirit
Where empty sands stretch wide.

There in the desolation
We must abide to know
The gloried God who calls us

Who will make rivers flow.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reflections Luke 3:23-38

He has woven through the generations
A pattern finer than we see
He has woven through the generations
The patterns of eternity.

Here it is, complete, entire we see it:
Son of God and Son of Man
Christ, come down from everlasting glory,
Planned before all worlds began.

Doubting priests could read it in the temple
If they had the eyes to see:
He was the son of Adam, son of David
There is the genealogy.

But beyond the surface and appearance
A deeper truth is shown there:
Christ incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
God, our mortality to share.

Men thought him to be the son of Joseph,
Men didn’t see the greater thing:
More than just a Galilean preacher,
He the Christ, he th’eternal king.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Reflections Luke 3: 21-22

Our God, he has come down,
Further than men can guess;
Into our shaking pain,
Into our wilderness.

He who had known no sin
Into the water goes,
Being at one with us,
For his love overflows.

Being at one with us,
(We all befouled and torn).
He, who is holy God,
Into our race was born.

He who was wholly God,
And is now wholly man,
Makes this descent for us
(This his eternal plan).

Into the Jordan’s stream,
Taking our human load:
Washed, who was always clean,
The perfect Son of God.

Oh, hear the Father’s word
To the beloved Son:
The whisper of his joy
Showered upon his own.

Those tender words of grace
Given to all his own.
We, the baptised in Christ,

We shall hear his “Well done!”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reflections Luke 3: 19-20

The truth will set you free? Yes, so they say.
Sometimes it leads to prison dark and grey.

To leave behind the comfortable falsehoods
That make civility a flowing thing,
The smiles correct and calibrated nicely,
The careful words obliterating sting.

To leave behind the masks put on precisely,
And barefaced brave the tearing human storm,
To tread on ice too thin for social standing,
To speak bold truth defying every norm …

The truth will set you free? Yes, so they say.
Sometimes it leads to prison dark and grey.

To speak out of the Spirit’s stark compulsion,
Stand before kings declaring they are wrong,
To call out wickedness within high places,
To stand and to be trampled by the throng.

To hold God’s smile more precious than men’s plaudits,
To count no thing as dear as His “well done!”
Speak without fear, for all they can take from you,
Is nothing to the glory that was won.

The truth will set you free? Yes, so they say.
Sometimes it leads to prison dark and grey.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reflections Luke 3: 15-18

This is only the beginning, the going down,
Into the darkness that feels like death,
The place where our breathing stops
And he must breathe in us.

This is the preparation, to acquiesce
In the presence of man
And God,
To admit we are helpless,
To admit we were born estranged from Life Eternal,
That we must be born again.

This is only the start, the heart’s surrender,
Letting go,
Letting go,
Letting go
Of self-justification
Of the life that was lived in the self,
From the self,
For the self,
Letting go forever.

Then he shall come
With the Spirit’s unquenchable fire,
With the Love that burns us
Free from the dross,
From the gross,
From the bitter ashes
Of our lost selves;
And the power,
The power that frees us,
Shall sweep us up into his will,
The life that is light,
The love that embraces and carries.

But first we go down.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reflections Luke 3: 7-14

Do not presume on the past to secure the future
Do not presume on your family for your faith
Do not presume that you are where you have not entered.

Come away, come away, from the old assumptions.

The bloodline will not save, only the blood,
And the bloodstained hands are guilty.

Come away, come away, from the old assumptions.

Remember your forefathers, remember they said
That Jerusalem would be spared for the sake of the temple,
And Jerusalem was not spared,
Nor the temple left standing.
Can it not happen again?

Come away, come away, from the old assumptions.

Abraham is your father?
What does it matter,
Unless you have Abraham’s faith?

Come away, come away, from the old assumptions.

Come be washed clean, enter the river again.
You have not kept the Law, nor kept the commandments;
Come be washed clean, enter the river again,
Be prepared, be prepared, for the Kingdom is coming!

Come away, come away, from the old assumptions.

Monday, March 09, 2015

This I will choose

This I will choose: Your Kingdom and Your love,
Above all other gain, all other choice.
This I will choose: the loss that finds in You
A fairer beauty where I can rejoice.

This I will choose: to leave the clamoured path
For the dear stillness of another way,
The silence where Your love speaks loud to me,
And tells me what no dollar sign can say.

This I will choose: this learning to forgive,
To lay aside all vengeance rightly mine,
Submitted to the mercy of your cross,
The grace that is my daily bread and wine.

This I will choose: this best first precious thing,
This love that holds me, and will ever hold,
Safe in Your nail-pierced hands, till worlds shall cease,

To love and be loved still in realms untold.

Reflections Luke 3:3-6

This is the way of repentance:
To let go
Of all the twisting paths my heartstrings trace,
The valleys of my vanity’s despair,
Heights of desire which spurn a milder grace.

This is the way of repentance:
To accept
The limitations of my mortal frame,
My weakness and the smallness of my reach,
Yet not deny the power of Christ’s name.

This is the way of repentance:
To abjure
Ambitions which would seek prestige and power,
Instead to wear the servant’s towel in love,
And joy to see another grow and flower.

This is the way of repentance
To give up
The easy path of shrinking shame and fear,
The choice of smallness which is an escape
From faith’s demand for courage, sharp and clear.

This is the way of repentance:
To lay down
Self’s ever-grasp for ego’s swift reward.
This dying which is precursor to life,

And joy to be a highway for the Lord.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Reflections Luke 3: 1-2

To every man there comes a time,
The time,
God’s time.
The moment,
The intersection of his life and time,
Between the time before,
And the times that shall come after,
Caught on the cusp of history.

Is time
A wave,
A particle?
The thing that flows
Over us like an ocean?
Or rather, moments
Discrete and separate,
Punctuate points we reach?

Perhaps instead
It is the hand of God,
Guiding, directing one thing to the next,
Each in its proper order,
Beautifully planned
To dovetail with a perfect artistry,
Building a kingdom till all time shall end,
Into the Kingdom’s fullness.

John went forth,

An arrow shot so battle can commence.

The True Sabbath

After a while, they took no further notice of him. Occasionally someone  who had  extra good fortune would give him something for charity’s sake, since everyone knew it was right to be generous to the poor, and a man with only one right hand couldn’t work very well, but, mostly, they took no notice of him. The poor were everywhere, after all, and had obviously done something wrong for God to punish them with extreme poverty and the loss of the ability to work. So, if they thought of him at all, it was most likely to speculate on what he (or perhaps his parents) might have done.

But, in spite of everything, in spite of the useless, withered hand which flopped so annoyingly at the end of his right arm, he hadn’t given up on God. He had lost everything else: his job, his livelihood, his position in society, and most of his friends. The parents of the girl he had planned to marry had broken it off, there was no way they were going to give their daughter to a man who couldn’t provide for her. Some of his friends had vanished quickly, they wanted nothing to do with a man whose bad luck might be contagious; and some drifted away over time, because they had nothing in common with him anymore, with no money and no work he wasn’t one of them.

But God was different. God made promises, and kept them. God sent his sun to shine on them, and his rain to fall on them, and God had restored them to the Promised Land. So, Sabbath, by Sabbath, the man with the withered hand would make his way to the synagogue, and pray for his hand to be restored and his time of suffering to be over.

And then, one Sabbath, when the tides of his hope were running low, and habit rather than faith had brought him along, the itinerant preacher called Jesus was there. For a moment a crazy hope rose in his throat. This Jesus was reputed to be a healer, maybe, just maybe, he would choose to heal this useless hand? But no, it was the Sabbath! The Pharisees would never allow such a thing, and surely this man, being so holy, would never dream of breaking the Sabbath?

Imagine his dismay when one of the Pharisees stopped and pointed at him, demanding “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

 He wanted to shrink out of sight, but Jesus’ reply caught his attention. “If your sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you pull it out again? And isn’t a man worth more than a sheep? So it must be lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

He had never thought of it that way before. It seemed to make sense. But before he had time to ponder the implications, there was Jesus asking him to stretch out his hand. It didn’t make sense, but there was a deep kindness there and he wanted to respond to it. And when he did, he found that his hand was restored!

It was only later, in the peace of his own home, picking things up, touching them for the sheer pleasure of it, that he remembered the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Is this not the fast I have chosen? To loose the chains of injustice...” Perhaps, contrary to what the Pharisees taught, God cared more about justice, kindness and generosity than he did about empty rituals?

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Reflections Luke 2; 40-52

Always the confusion
Busy, busy,
Busyness: the cold, competing voices,
Calling, alien, strident,
Calling me
Calling us
Across the bitter tundra of uncertainty,
The guilt that we are never quite enough;
Calling …
Calling …

Did you not know I must be about
My father’s business?

Here our troubled eyes take pause,
What is our father’s business?
What would he
Have of us?
What should we
Do in the sight, in the light,
Of given grace,
We who wear his name?

And how do we discern
His clear call from the clamour of our oughts?

Take us into stillness,
Let us hear again,
Your tender love,
The clarion call of faith:
That we may see again,
Under the clamour and the drama,

The face of Jesus everywhere we look.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Reflection Luke 2: 36-39

Through the full years and the sere
She has waited.
Through the turnings of the stars and the seasons of the sun
She has waited.
Through the cycles of birth and death,
The bitter and the sweet,
She has waited.
She has cried and dried her tears,
She has smiled, and heard her laughter fall away,
She has sat through both the words and the silence:
She has waited,
She has waited on her God.

For him she has fasted and prayed.
For him she has bound herself
To the temple of his former glory.
For him, for him she has waited
While her years stretched thin
In the purpose of his timing.

Her eyes have strained so long
Into the mercy of his giving,
They have truly learned to see.
This child,
This child,
This one among so many,
Is the promise come to flesh,
Redemption made visible,
His mercy in her hands.

Now unto us
Grant in your mercy,
Her hands, her heart, her eyes,
Her certainty

Of grace more real than any earthly thing.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Reflections Luke 2: 33-35

This, the upside-down kingdom,
Is not birthed easily.
(Not, at least, in the kingdoms of this world).

Every position reversed,
Every pride undone,
Every doing undone
(That which we call repentance).
The revealing of hearts is at hand.

There is a promise of sorrow
In the foothills of everlasting joy.
A time for breaking,
And a time for being remade.
A time of hope crushed,
And a time of hope fulfilled.
A time for a piercing sword,
And a time for the mending of wounds.
A time for death,
And a time for resurrection.

Give us wisdom to measure our days,
That we may know our time,
And know that it is not all time.
Remind us that shadows pass,
That the cost of the kingdom
Is everything and nothing,
And the price is small.

May we lift up our hands in acceptance

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Reflections Luke 2: 25-32

In the arid lands,
Spaces between the spaces,
The interstitial wildernesses of our sojourn,
We wait for consolation.

In the dry heave between the tears,
The not-yet not becoming,
The broken shells where no life blooms,
We wait for consolation.

In the cities of our lost identities,
The howling horror of our maybes,
The perhaps that blows away,
We wait for consolation.

Shall we recognise its face?

Our prayers are more than dust upon the air
Only because you hold them.
Our hopes are more than candle flames gone out
Only because you hold them.
Our faith has wings to rise above the night
Only because you hold it.

We see your promise and it is enough

Because you are ‘I am’.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Reflections Luke 2: 21-24

 Only a pair of doves
The most they could afford.
No lamb was offered up
In payment for the Lord.

No lamb was offered up.
They brought the Lamb of God,
The Shepherd of the sheep,
Who came to shed his blood.

No lamb was offered up
Before the altar there;
They brought the spotless One
The Lamb beyond compare.

Come to fulfil the law
Come to die in our place
To end all sacrifice
All other lambs replace.

Only a pair of doves,
No lamb for him was given:
The perfect Lamb of God

The saviour come from heaven.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Reflection Luke 2: 8-20

This place where angels can’t contain their joy
Is not the habitation of the great
No priest proclaims this wonder, and no king
Welcomes God’s messengers in high estate.

Outside the city, on the lonely hills
Where Israel’s outcasts watch the temple flock,
In the deep dark, the sleepy, half-dazed hour:
It is bored shepherds whom the angels shock.

To them, and them alone, the news is given.
Unto the least is shared the wonder-song
Of highest heaven: God has come to earth
And he is worshipped by the angel-throng.

Not by our pious platitudes will we
Posture ourselves to stand where angels hymn.
Not by the merits which we seek to earn
Do we gain favour with the seraphim.

Christ did not sit on a religious throne
But, torn and bruised, went out the city gate,
And on a bitter hill salvation wrought,
Bearing our sin, our death, our hell, our hate

And in the darkened silence of the tomb
Death was reversed, and glory, glory came.
These are the places where men meet with God,
These are the places where we learn his name.

And like the shepherds, we must rise and go
First to behold him, and then to proclaim.
Speaking with wonder of the Christ we know
Who met us in our silence and our shame.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Reflections Luke 2: 6-7

Always the outsider God,
The one we have no room for.
Our plans are full, our diaries marked
With heavy expectations, (ours and theirs).
The scheduled life denies
All serendipity.
The grindstone grinds us down.

What does it take to move us from the hellish bent
Of mortal fullness?
Where are hands outstretched
In empty supplication?
To forget
Our least-ness is to hurtle down to beast-ness.

Lord, interpose
Your sword-sharp glory slicing through our days,
Shearing away the dross of mindlessness,
Cutting a path to worship once again;
Making a way back home.

Let us make room for you;
Relinquishing the paltry to make room for grace,
Seeing you where we’d rather turn our backs,
Turning again, again,
Returning to the place we should have been,
To kneel in wonder on the stable floor.

And see god’s glory there, amidst the straw.