Saturday, March 31, 2018

Holy Saturday


This is the grey place,
Grief’s kingdom of despair:
Even the stars do not speak.
Here, together, we are alone,
Turning from each other’s’ eyes
Lest the pain should overwhelm us.
The horror of yesterday
Carved a place in our souls,
Desolate, hollow,
Nothing there except died blood
Where our hearts were ripped apart
In a land too dry for tears.

Is this where hope goes –
Slashed down by Roman swords
Pierced by nails and spears,
Harried by the hatred of his own.
Till nothing’s left but death?

So few days ago
We sang the songs of ascent
Climbing towards Jerusalem.
We saw the crowd,
Delirious with welcome,
Waving palms for all they’re worth.
Did it all mean nothing?
Do they turn on the whim of a moment,
Seeking only earth’s largesse?

It is only now we know
How much we loved him

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Under the Olives

for Maundy Thursday


The full moon hangs a searchlight in the sky
The shadows of the olives squirm and twist
And one man kneels in desperate agony
And tastes the horror lying under this.

Death breathes on him: negation and decay
Roil through his blood in all their rottenness.
And how shall he, whose every breath was life,
Resign himself to utter emptiness?

This is no posture, this is love laid raw
Fully to know, fully to comprehend,
And yet to choose the darkness terrible
Into the maw of evil to descend.

This is the pain. This is the heart that breaks
To take upon him all we are, have been,
And still to love us. Here the heart of God
In all its beauty is most clearly seen.

“If it be possible …” but it is not.
The night descends more deep, a lone bird’s cry
Counterpoints to his pain. Less than a day
Remains before the Life himself must die.

“Nevertheless!” The dreadful choice confirmed,
He holds the promise fast, for which he came,
To take our place, to drink what we could not;
This was his choosing. Holy is his name!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Strange Love

an Eastertide oldie



So strangely, o Beloved
You show your love to me
You did not put on beauty
To win my loyalty
You did not show your power
To dazzle my dim sight
You dressed you as a beggar
And drew men’s scorn and spite.

Ah yes, you came to woo me
For my sake you did fight
Against the fiends of darkness
You were my faithful knight
My wretchedness to ransom,
You, Lord, were wounded sore
Your very life surrendered
In that strange silent war.

O public was your shame Lord
But quiet your victory
In silent dawnswept morning
From depths of mystery
You triumphed there, Beloved,
You overwhelmed the grave
And, gift beyond my dreaming,
To me your life you gave.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Curlew

another oldie


Wary-eyed bird, walk at the edge of nowhere;
Slender-foot, delicate, on shiny sand,
Seeking for sustenance in this strange beauty.
Lonely your wings lift o'er the cold wet strand.

Shy of the voice of man, shy of his footfall;
Shy of his fingers, which can twist and clutch,
Squeezing your life, moulding it to the dreary;
Freedom you name not, yet you flee man's touch.

Child of the wild wind's yearning, dabbling in shallows,
Walk solitary, from our paths apart.
Wing through the lonely spaces, shores forgotten;
Cry out the freedom of the lonely heart!


Monday, March 26, 2018

One Candle

another "oldie"


If but one candle burns against the darkness;
If but one candle takes its stand where night
Lies thickest; then, though flickering and timorous,
The darkness is defeated, there is light.

I fear, but fear shall make me burn the brighter.
My trembling draws my wick upon my God;
Molten and made aflame by lambent glory,
Called into flame, that He might light the world.

If but one candle, then is laughter shining,
In the sharp joy transcending darkest pain.
If but one candle blazes forth its witness,
Proclaiming light has everlasting reign.

I shall be undefeated by the darkness;
Not of myself, but He who makes me burn.
He shall sustain that which Himself has lighted;
And, for His glory, shall to brightness turn

All of the darkness' worst - it's but His fuelling.
If any candle burn, it is His grace.
And this one candle, by that grace aspiring,
Shall be consumed in light, shall see His face.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Prophets

In between when I post new writings, I am going to start putting up some of my work from my pre-blogging years


Out of the deserts the prophets come,
With visions in their eyes;
And the townsfolk lift their bleary gaze
In manifest surprise.

Out of the deserts the prophets come,
Aflame with what they've seen;
Broken, rebuilt by the largeness of things,
Bigger than small men dream.

They have seen the heavens blaze with stars,
Have walked the night alone,
Acknowledged a sun too strong for them,
Reaped what the wind has sown;

Heard, in that dreadful loneliness,
The Voice which could not be;
Suffered the words that burn the soul,
And touched Reality.

Then, from the deserts, the prophets come,
Clothed in transcendent zeal;
And the townsfolk label it "lack of taste,"
"Such passion can't be real!"

Back to the deserts the prophets go,
To weep their bitterness.
While the townsfolk chatter through their days,
With nothing to express.

Back to the deserts the prophets go,
To be tempered like a blade;
To learn more wisdom from the One
Whom they had first obeyed.

Then from the desert they shall return,
On the wings of truth they ride;
And the flame of their passing scorches men,
And deceit is turned aside.

And where Plenty weaves her sorcery,
And the hearts of men grow dull;
Their words shall awaken the elsewise dead,
Sharp as a trumpet call;

And roses shall bloom in the wilderness,
A glorious song be heard;
When men shall awake from enchanted sleep,
And heed their BurningWord.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Place


Here you must take your stand
Here on the edge of things.
Only when you step out
Will you discover wings.

Here, where the fear is strong
And leaden feet so slow,
Here is where you belong,
Here is where you will grow.

Walk where the monsters live
Till you learn lions have chains:
Stripped by a bitter wind,
Facing your primal pains.

And, though you fall apart,
Even this – do not fear,
For there are hands of love
Waiting to hold you here.

Love, beyond measure vast,
Calling you on to fly:
For you shall fully live
When you have learned to die.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The World Turned Upside Down


How little we understood at the time! We loved him, as far as we were able in the smallness of our understanding, he touched places inside us that no one else had ever touched, and there was the tang of deep truth and wisdom in everything he said. But half the time (alright, to some extent most of the time) we simply didn’t have a clue what he really meant. Every time he turned our world upside down, we tried, with ridiculous futility, to turn it back the proper way and then figure out where his words fitted in. I still remember the look in his eyes when we missed the whole point yet again and again and again. But he never gave up on us, and showed us that God is patient with us beyond our wildest dreams.

And this, of course, was the most topsy-turvy night of all, and I am still moved beyond tears when I remember any detail of it. It was the night that began with God kneeling at our feet.

It was Passover, and we were there in an upper room in Jerusalem. The food and wine were on the table, and we had begun the familiar ritual, the recalling of God’s great act of liberation, when Jesus rose from the table and took off his outer garment. He had our complete attention, but none of us were prepared for what happened next. He tied a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin, and commenced to work his way around the table, washing our feet – the job normally allotted to the lowliest servant, a slave’s job really. And he was the master! We should have been washing his feet, not the other way round! (So why didn’t we? That question was to haunt me for a long time afterwards, because I already knew the shameful answer. We were far too concerned with trying to score points in some obscure competition to prove which of us was the greatest. None of was willing to demean ourselves. But he, who was our Lord and our God, had no hesitation at all.

We were embarrassed, no, ashamed. With one simple action he was laying bare the hidden places of our hearts. Of course, I had to be the one to put it into words, to cry out, in the arrogance I mistook for humility, “Lord, you shall never wash my feet!” But when he told me that I had no share in him if I did not let him wash me, I backed down, extravagantly demanding that he wash my hands and my head as well! When would I learn to simply obey, to know that what he gave was just exactly right?

I understand now, as much as I can while I walk this earth, and, yes, I weep with the wonder of it. Yes, he meant us to learn servanthood from his example, and that is true forever, but there was something even more. We had to humble ourselves to accept his gift, we had to be prepared to accept the cleansing he would bring us by humbling himself beyond even servanthood, becoming nothing and dying, in our place, as an outcast and a criminal. We are the servants of God, and the servants of one another, because God himself first became the servant of us, and truly turned the whole world upside down.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Befriending Job


In the places grief has hollowed out
We will tread with silent reverence
For God has been here first.
We will shed tears unashamed,
For all buried seeds need water.
In the divine devising
The tomb and the womb are one.

Wait, wait for the promise!

We shall not deploy the pebbles
Of our well-digested clich├ęs
Lest we insult the truth
With our shallow, easy words;
Lest we deny the dignity
That every sufferer bears;
Lest our mouths should drip futility
And blaspheme the name of God.

Learn to stand in the silence!

Let us own only one small arc
Of the terrible path of justice
Is shown in this world
And we cannot see the whole.
All that we know
Is the one who stood at the brink,
Hands scarred and bleeding,
And bent back its shape to mercy.
That is enough.

Be still in his presence!

And, till the dawn shall break,
Weep with those who weep …


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Resistance

An attempt to use the French resistance in WWII as a metaphor for resisting temptation

Evil strums in the blood
It stalks the streets,
Beats down defences with its banal face
Becomes our ordinary
Just a shrug
The simple act of look the other way
The simple act of grabbing what you can.
There is always a reason
For the dumb collaboration of the weary heart,
The weak one step too far.

There is another way,
Gritty, alone,
Compelled by love,
The courage that is born
From deeper fears:
The life that dares to live.
Here, beating hearts
Acknowledge both the terror and the stakes,
And calculate
The worth that’s past all price,
The love that makes all other loves look pale.
Blazing against the ancient lie that says
There is a middle ground,
A compromise,
Between two kingdoms utterly opposed.


Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Test


He never did enjoy that steep, uphill climb from Jericho back to Jerusalem. But sometimes a man just has make the journey and attend to his affairs. It wasn’t really a choice for anyone who valued wealth and status. So he had spent a couple of days down in Jericho, doing what had to be done, and now it was time to make the journey back. He would make an early start, it was going to be hot today, and besides, he had overheard a Samaritan merchant in the inn talking about moving on to Jerusalem tomorrow, and he didn’t want to be stuck anywhere near him! The man was everything he most despised: a mongrel Jew who would claim to be an heir of Abraham despite his mixed race, a despiser of the true Temple (the Samaritans had their own centre of worship), an offender against all that was most holy, against all that gave his own life, as a priest, meaning and purpose. He shuddered, realising that he hated the Samaritans even more than the Romans.

And so he set off, pondering why God allowed both the Romans and the Samaritans to continue in existence. Surely it was time for the Messiah to come? And if He delayed, was that because Israel was falling short of keeping every syllable of the law?

He had been going for three or four hours when he saw what looked like a heap of rags lying by the side of the road. As he drew closer, he realised that it was a man, badly beaten, with torn clothes and crusted blood. Not a pretty sight.  Despite the heat, he drew his cloak around himself tightly, a reflexive gesture of self-protection. The bandits must be active around here, he thought to himself. The Romans did patrol the road (yes, they were definitely not as bad as the Samaritans), but in those steep and rocky cliffs were a labyrinth of caves where those who knew their way could escape pursuit, and where Roman armour was a disadvantage.  Momentarily he wondered if he should help the traveller, but then he shook his head, disappointed in himself for ever considering such a silly, sentimental idea.  There were robbers around, this was not a place where it was safe to linger. And there was always the possibility that the man was not hurt at all, but merely faking it as a bait to lure other travellers, and went they bent down to assist him he would leap up and grab them while other robbers swarmed out from their hiding place to attack them. Definitely this wasn’t a safe place. Besides, and this was another thought, if the man was a genuine victim, he might be dead, and touching a dead body was a source of ritual uncleanness. Much better, much safer, to hurry on and pretend he’d never seen him.

He did not know that he had failed the test. He did not know that love was the fulfilment of the law. He did not know that the despised Samaritan, coming along later, would do everything he had failed to do, and more. He did not know that it was the Samaritan, and not himself, a priest of Israel, who would be commended by God himself. He returned to his barren piety, his pettifogging rules, and never guessed that even then the longed for Messiah, Saviour of Jew and Gentile alike, was walking in their midst, the glory of God in human flesh.