Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

So begins William Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”, a reminder of the importance of listening carefully to each other and sharing our stories with each other. It never fails to amaze me at how little effort we make to really get to know one another within our church family. Most of us prefer to keep our masks on, all the while proclaiming that we are brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Stafford closes his poem with these stirring words:

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

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Lately I have been very restless: in my job, at home, in church life, and just my life in general. Though I rest secure in my identity “in Christ”, there is a deep longing for something more. Part of this restlessness is due to our finitude and our desire to transcend the mundane and connect deeper wtih God; and yet, at the same time, I’m still enticed by and entangled with the cares of this world, and engulfed by the ennui of earthly existence.

I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me–
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire–
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

George Gray
Edgar Lee Masters


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Mystery and Marvel

In his book, Miracles, C.S. Lewis writes  that the “Central Miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation. . . . Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this.” And yet, Christians—perhaps because of familiarity, but also perhaps because of ignorance—seem to take the miracle of the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth for granted. Part of this may be due to the safe, superficial, and sentimental telling of the Advent narrative.

From the virgin’s womb, the eternal Word became flesh. How can we not marvel at such a profound mystery?

No wonder that church history is replete with heretical notions concerning Jesus and the Trinity. The Nicene Creed was hammered out in response to modalism (Sabellianism), adoptionism, and Arianism. Later, the Council of Chalcedon gathered to refute Apollinarianism, Nestorianism and Eutychianism. Such battles for doctrinal purity and precision were not motivated by mere academic nitpicking or dispassionate intellectual inquiry; no, these heresies struck at the heart of who Jesus is in relation to the triune Godhead.

Perhaps one of these advent seasons we shall be treated to more substantial “Christmas sermons” to stir us to marvel more at the mystery and majesty of the Miracle of the Incarnation. In the meantime, our hunger will find some satiation from our poets if not our preachers.

They sought to soar into the skies
Those classic gods of high renown
For lofty pride aspires to rise
But you came down.

You dropped down from the mountains sheer
Forsook the eagle for the dove
The other Gods demanded fear
But you gave love

Where chiselled marble seemed to freeze
Their abstract and perfected form
Compassion brought you to your knees
Your blood was warm

They called for blood in sacrifice
Their victims on an altar bled
When no one else could pay the price
You died instead

They towered above our mortal plain,
Dismissed this restless flesh with scorn,
Aloof from birth and death and pain,
But you were born.

Born to these burdens, borne by all
Born with us all ‘astride the grave’
Weak, to be with us when we fall,
And strong to save.

— Malcolm Guite, “Descent”

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In a Deep and Dark December

Splitting from Jack Delaney’s, Sheridan Square,
that winter night, stewed, seasoned in bourbon,
my body kindled by the whistling air
snowing the Village that Christ was reborn,
I lurched like any lush by his own glow
across towards Sixth, and froze before the tracks
of footprints bleeding on the virgin snow.
I tracked them where they led across the street
to the bright side, entering the wax-
sealed smell of neon, human heat,
some all-night diner with its wise-guy cook
his stub thumb in my bowl of stew and one
man’s pulped and beaten face, its look
acknowledging all that, white-dark outside,
was possible: some beast prowling the block,
something fur-clotted, running wild
beyond the boundary of will. Outside,
more snow had fallen. My heart charred.
I longed for darkness, evil that was warm.
Walking, I’d stop and turn. What had I heard,
wheezing behind my heel with whitening breath?
Nothing. Sixth Avenue yawned wet and wide.
The night was white. There was nowhere to hide.

—Derek Walcott, “GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN” (The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013)

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pews as prisons

What life have you, if you have not life together?
There is not life that is not in community,
And no community not lived in praise of GOD.
Even the anchorite who meditates alone,
For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD,
Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.
And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,
And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor

T.S. Eliot, “Choruses from The Rock”

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Sound of Silence

I was blessed by Darryl Madden’s reminder of the importance of silence in our spiritual journey:

We need to find God
He cannot be found
In restlessness
And noise that surrounds

God is a friend
Of silence, you see
Let now this thought
Rest within me

Let us align,
Surrender, our goal
We all need silence
To touch our soul

Nice thoughts to wind down the evening!

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Welcome to Church

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– e.e. cummings (from 95 poems, 1958)

This poem captures how I felt this past Sunday.

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