Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finding Dory

Follow the trail of shells,
Follow them home,
Where love’s long labour marks the way.

Though you forget,
You are remembered.
In my Father‘s house there is a place,
Marked with your name,
And no oceans can divide you
Anymore.
Love waits.

We drift into strange places
And the pilgrim path is long.
Our memories grow dim,
Our hearts benighted,
Confused by distraction
In our many-coloured world.
Love waits.

And in the hour we remember
When we come unto ourselves
Love waits

To guide us home.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Stranger

It was late afternoon when we set off on our walk back home. The sun was in our eyes as we walked westward, away from Jerusalem, but our heads were so bowed and our eyes so tear-fogged from the sorrow in our hearts that we scarcely noticed it. All we could talk of was our great grief, still trying to fully understand the sequence of events, still baffled as to how the destruction of all our hopes could have taken place so swiftly and absolutely. We felt as if death itself had taken up residence in our spirits.

Later, when we had discussed it over and over again between ourselves, we still could not pinpoint the moment when the Stranger joined us. There was no shock, no moment of making room for him to walk beside us, he was simply there, and had been already there with us when he asked us what we were talking about.

Cleopas, though surprised, was carefully polite, “Are you a visitor to Jerusalem, that you don’t know what things have just been happening?”

“What things do you mean?” asked the Stranger.

Well, we needed to talk about it, so we did. We told him about Jesus and his greatness, (oh, the irony!), about His capture, sentencing and crucifixion, and even about the confusing stories the women had told of an empty tomb and visions of angels who said He was alive. But when some of the men went they had seen nothing. So what were we to think?

To our amazement he rebuked our unbelief. (Were we supposed to have believed the unsubstantiated testimony of women?) . Then followed the most amazing conversation we had ever been part of. We listened, rapt, as he laid out for us, from the scriptures we had known all our lives, the plainly revealed truth that the Messiah we had so longed for, and believed that we had found,  had to suffer before he entered his glory. The one who was the Salvation of Israel (and not only Israel) was the same who would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The one who would crush the serpent’s head was the one whose heel would be stricken. How could we not have known that? Yet still we were blind.

We could not get enough of his words, so when we reached Emmaus we urged him to stay and share the evening meal with us. It was only when we sat down to eat that our whole world was utterly changed. For the Stranger took up the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and as he handed it to us in the ritual that went as deep as life and breathing, our eyes were opened at last and we saw him at last for who he was – the risen Lord Jesus, the Christ of Israel and the Saviour of the world. And, as we recognised him, he vanished from our sight, and for one fleeting, all-transforming moment, we felt as if we breathed the very air of heaven.

We looked at each other, seeing each other, too, in a whole new way. “Didn’t our hearts burn inside us as he spoke to us along the way?” There was no thought now of finishing our meal or settling down for the night. Instead, energised with wonder, we returned to Jerusalem to tell our story to our brothers there.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Shalott Reprise

(putting words in the mouth of Tennyson's Lady of Shalott)

I lived too much in shadows, the warp and weft of time
I have watched through the castle mirror, and hid my heart in rhyme,
I have walked in other’s rhythms, and never seen the crime.

I have yearned another kingdom but never bowed my head
To shoulder life’s deep burden and speak life to the dead
And I embroidered daisies, when the hungry should be fed.

I have yearned another country but have not blessed my own,
And the years went to the locusts, and my heart went to a stone
But sometimes it grows weary to always be alone.

I have hungered other mornings, be-mirrored in my dreams,
Have clenched with silent violence and schemed a thousand schemes
But never crossed the threshold, or left what only seems.

But now I have beheld him, Beloved of my soul!
The least of all his beauties betrays I am not whole.
One glance, one fatal moment, and all my peace he stole.

And I? I will have done now with vague dreams of desire.
My breath is changed to dust now, my veins scream out with fire.
Twixt one death and another, to life I will aspire!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

On Reading "In This House of Brede"

Like lilies,
Heads too heavy, bowed
And the fragrance rises like a prayer
Too strong for mortal sense.

Head and heart , learning
To track together with the Word
Made Flesh. The discipline of silence
Reveals the trembling will,
The unquiet vacillations.

I too must yield me,
Less blind but less united,
Joined to the distracting present
By a multitude of mercies
And a slowness to learn thanks.

Let me cup my hands,
Receiving this day’s measure,
Of bread, the Bread of Life,
Giving thanks, giving thanks,
Forever.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Walking in a Miracle

I still remember it like a waking dream. A strange day (it isn’t every day that you see thousands of people fed from one lunch basket of food) followed by an even stranger night. If it were not for the very prosaic experience of ending up wet and cold, I would think that I had imagined the whole sequence of events. For they were anything but prosaic.

We were surprisingly tired that evening. Organising a crowd, distributing food to them so that everyone was included and then gathering up the leftovers (yes, crowds make a mess, but how do you get twelve baskets of leftovers from one basket of food???) took more energy than we would have expected. And it was a rough night to take the boat out; the wind kept trying to blow it back towards the shore. That’s hard work by anybody’s reckoning!

But take the boat out we did, because the Master had told us to, and after seeing that miraculous feast, which for some reason brought to mind the story Moses tells, when seventy elders of Israel went up Mount Sinai and ate and drank with the Lord, we were in no mood to argue with anything he suggested.

He himself had gone up the mountain to pray, as he did now and again, though what he prayed for was beyond our comprehension! We had no idea when he would re-join us, but we certainly didn’t expect what happened next. It was sometime in the deepest hour of the night, a while before the first stirrings of dawn, when we thought we saw something (someone?) approaching on the surface of the water.  At first we didn’t believe it, with the wind and the waves and our sleepless night we rubbed our eyes and looked again: “can you see that?” we asked one another.

After a few minutes, as the figure grew closer, our doubts were vanquished, but gave way to fear. “Is it a ghost?” we were now asking.  And as the wind rose, and the waves slapped hard against the side of the boat, we, grown men that we were, were trembling.

But then the Master’s own voice called out across the water, “Don’t be afraid! It is I!”

At the sound of his voice my fear was transmuted to something else, a wild longing to be with him, though all the waves of the world should rage between us. “Master,” I cried out, without stopping to consider what I was proposing, “if it really is you, bid me come to you on the water!”

He did and I came, for one impossible minute, as if entering another world, I, Simon Peter, just another low-born Galilean fisherman, walked on the waves just as Jesus did. With my eyes fixed on him I did what could not be done. Then I realised that this was an impossibility, turned my eyes to the waves around me, and started to sink. The cold, cold water froze my bones like terror.  But before I could do more than cry out, “Lord save me!” he was by my side, lifting me from danger.
 “Why did you doubt?” he asked me. It will take me all my life to know the answer.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Satisfied

Death is a fearful thing, but to be dead and alive at the same time is surely worse. He had always thought so, and now his experience confirmed it. To be a leper was to be dead to your family, your friends; your place in society and the trade you had lived by. You were dead to the Law of Moses and the worship of God. There was no place for you in home or synagogue or temple. Even here in Samaria, where some rules were far less strict than Jerusalem, that remained a constant. The horror ascribed to leprosy was universal  You were an outcast from everything that made life sweet and good, condemned to have no fellowship with anyone except your fellow outcasts, and they, living in a world without hope or kindness or any rule of law except the one that demanded that they name themselves “unclean”, were not always generous or caring. And the while, even as you endured these things, your body rotted away inch by inch, and your self-loathing grew in proportion. You were feared and despised by all, and all joy was fled from life.

But, even among lepers, rumours travel and news is shared, especially news of a man who worked miracles of healing. When you have no other hope such a possibility, however remote, is potentially the most exciting prospect in the world. Of course, not for everyone. Some had turned their backs on hope, preferring a cynical pragmatism to protect themselves from further disappointment. But he had not yet fallen so far, and nor had some others. So, when they heard that this Jesus was travelling in the border lands between Samaria and Galilee, well, why not give it a try?

They waited in hope by the roadside, and there were ten of them. And strangely, as he waited, the hope of healing tore his heart wide open. All the suppressed pain and longing rose up inside him, and he discovered that his leprous eyes could still cry. He kept his face averted, ashamed of his emotions.

They heard the sound of people coming, and gazed anxiously down the road as a group approached. The lepers did not dare to come close, so they stood at a distance and cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”

“Go and show yourselves to the priests,” he replied, and somehow his bare word was enough for them. They knew the law, they knew that only a priest had the authority to declare them free from leprosy and allow them to re-enter the community . So, obediently they set off, hardly daring to think about it.

But while they were walking, they discovered they were healed, and their pain and fear was turned to joy. He stopped, he looked at the flesh which had become his disgusting prison and saw that it was new and whole. Every mark every disfigurement, had vanished, and he was overwhelmed with wonder. Forgetful of his companions, he turned and ran back to Jesus, shouting to the world his praise of God, for he knew that nothing less than the power of God could have done this. He came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pouring out his broken, stumbling words of thanks. He was complete, he was whole; his world, his life had been remade by the mercy of God. He heard Jesus comment on the fact that he was the only one to return with thanks, but that was not his concern. He had no room left for anything but wonder and joy.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Perhaps ..

Perhaps I’m not the artist but the art,
The one you shape and mould and colour in,
Carve and smooth out, retouch relentlessly,
Infinite patience whittling me within.

Perhaps I’m not the singer but the song,
The music that Your mercy loves to play,
The theme resolving sorrow into hope,
Anguish to wonder, darkness to new day.

Perhaps I’m not the dancer but the dance,
Your choreography positions me
Lifted to heights I never thought to reach
And plunged with grace to rise exultantly.

Perhaps I’m not the writer but the tale
You tell again, the story old and new,
The wonder that we weep for every time,
The marvel that is gloriously true.