Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, December 30, 2011

There is a River

Happy New Year, and I promise this is the last poem I will inflict on my gentle readers in 2011.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.  — Psalm 46:4

I am drawn to water
To dark pools glowing in the depths
To bright riffles that never slept
Oceans solemn with secret bones
Languid birthright and limpid home

I am drawn to water
With ships rocking on endless waves
Treasures hidden in coral caves
Tides rising by the lunar clock
Life rolls on as we rest at dock

I am born of water
And to it stinging sweat returns
Though our toil be on desert rock
Though living fire within does burn
Though red plowed field the rain may spurn

I am living water
Beneath the sands green rivers flow
Scorners drily deny and mock
Though the course of streams they may know
By life above its path does show

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It Could Be 'Verse

They hatch cockatrice' eggs,
and weave the spider's web: 
he that eateth of their eggs dieth,
and that which is crushed
breaketh out into a viper.
  — Isaiah 59:5 (KJV)

Knotty truth to be firmly grasped sometimes
Calls on language Shakespearean, 1611
Sounds right when we utter syllables time-strained,
             Reality caught

In the spaces of our cleverly woven
Linguistic web.  The translators for good
King James saw words as more than handy software
            Aptly to employ.

Even the best of intentions are too apt
To bite us in the ass like Cleopatra's
Asp which we think to crush in vitro under         
           Cobwebby boot heels

Not calculating additional adders
In the eggshell unleashed, wrapping and snapping
Consequential consequences intended
            Never not at all.

Who ever thought that sowing such thoughts so small
Would amount to cloud seeding spiders and snakes?
Not me nor the people who raised me from dust
            Knew what serpents eat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Risk

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. — Hebrews 2:14-15

Surely the Creator, the One who created man in His image and likeness, knew what it was like to be human.  God dwelt within the world all along.  Yet the Incarnation is different for it is more than some stirring of God's empathy.  In Christ, God invests Himself totally in man.  

This is the meaning of Christmas.  God put Himself into the hands of man, specifically a woman and a man.  There was no backup plan.  If Joseph failed, if Mary failed, if Herod succeeded, it was all over.  The entire history of humanity — which means the whole of creation, hung upon one man doing the right thing under pressure.  We can understand, sort of, Jesus coming through for us, but before He could, He had to trust entirely in the love, the strength and the wisdom of two "regular" people.  God chose well, no doubt.  He poured His grace into their lives, certainly.  Still, history pivots on a hinge so frail and insignificant that we wonder how it could bear the weight. 

God came to know what it was to be flesh and blood, to be weak and helpless and to have someone risk everything to bring Him into the world and to protect and provide for Him once He was here.  Through the Incarnation, we learn of God's love for us, but He learned of our love for one another.  He knew our weaknesses and our sins.  He learned of our hopeless courage, our remarkable ability to endure, our almost stupid joy when a new one of us shows up. 

We get frustrated with ourselves and with those around us.  We see addictions and abuse, neglect and ingratitude, greed and violence.  We wonder sometimes what God sees in us, or how He could love us, or how a loving God could even have created such hapless and sometimes despicable creatures. 

But then comes Christmas. 

People remember that once a very vulnerable baby came into the world, and stars shone, and angels sang, shepherds marveled, and wise men traveled far.  We have made a lot of mistakes since then, but, once, we did the right thing.  Not all of us, not all of the time, but Christmas is a reminder of what we are can be, what we are at our best, and of where we are headed.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thy Kingdom Come

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. -- Matthew 4:17

Before Jesus was baptized, His cousin, John the Baptist, came in the spirit and power of Elijah calling on his hearers to "repent for the kingdom heaven is at hand".  After the resurrection, Jesus gave instructions to His disciples and "to them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3 -- emphasis added).  Many of the parables we read relate to the kingdom, and Jesus spoke often about it, as if were vitally important. 

If a person didn't know better, he might get the impression that the whole of history, the Incarnation, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and the establishment of the Church was intimately related to the kingdom of God.  Of course, that is silly since no one ever talks much about the kingdom.  No, the important doctrines have to do with whether or not we can dance and drink beer.  The kingdom is heaven or something.  It's all in the sweet by-and-by -- or maybe the sweet buy-and-buy.  Or maybe not.

A kingdom is a realm of dominion -- a place where a king has authority and rules by edict, statute and decree. A kingdom has subjects or citizens, those who are born into the realm and live under the king's rule.  There is no better system of government than a monarchy -- provided, of course, that the monarch is wise and good.  I believe I was first offended by a similar statement somewhere in Dune, but I have come to accept that it is true.  The reason we have turned from monarchies is because anyone wise enough and good enough to do the job probably has sense enough not to want it.  We are then left with the merely clever, the ambitious, the warped, the weak, the wicked, the greedy, the domineering, and the foolish -- but enough about Congress.

The first qualification for a king, having primacy even over wisdom and goodness, is that he love his kingdom and his subjects.  Though a monarch be foolish and vile by nature, if he truly loves his people and his land, when the weight of responsibility is laid upon him, he will strive to become wise and good.

We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.  We travel through this strange land as pilgrims and adventurers, and, like Jake and Elwood, we are all on a mission from God because scattered across this world, sown like seeds upon the wind, there are others of the kingdom.  They are our brothers and sisters, separated at the first birth, destined to be reunited in a second one.  We all need to be found and told us who we are, to have the veil drawn back and to comprehend that our sense of unease and alienation makes sense for this world is not our home. Once we have come to recognize our citizenship in the kingdom, we realize that there are many more like ourselves to be found.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”   The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.  -- Mark 1:9-13   

The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness.   This happened to Jesus after He was baptized and declared to be the Son of God.  Something similar happened to you and to me.  God said, "I am going to plant this child of mine in the world."  The Holy Spirit caught you up, and you were sown into a time and place, into a family and a situation that He chose for you.  For many of us, it was a period of being lost in the boonies.  It happens once in the flesh.  But then we are awakened, and, like Jesus, it happens again as we are born of the Spirit. 

I have been out here in the desolate places, harassed by the enemy and by the non-kingdom forces and entities that run wild in this world system.  But there are those who come around, messengers from my Father, to remind me who I am, to assure me that I have a purpose, that this wilderness is merely a trial that I must pass through.

The desert places will cleanse our vision and open the doors of our perception to the realities of the kingdom, putting us back in touch with our Lord.   And then we, too, become messengers, agents of awakening that the children of the kingdom might be born from above.   Everything is about the kingdom, about the restoration of God's sovereign rule over His own chosen ones. 

When the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ, how will that kingdom look and how will it operate? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Wings of Gravity

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -- 2 Corinthian 3:17

There is nothing more important than freedom.  Life itself is an expression of freedom, of God’s freedom in the universe.  It is a breaking away from the determinism of matter, acquiring and utilizing energy through choices and for choices that run counter to an elemental force like gravity.   When a man walks or a bird flies, the rules of gravitation are not broken but superseded.  There are laws of motion and aerodynamics and thermodynamics that allow a living creature to work with gravity, to use forces of friction and inertia which would seem to hold it in place in order to move and go where it chooses.  

If there were a creature that could survive in a weightless vacuum somewhere, perhaps in a potential space where there was no gravitation or anything to impede movement, that creature would be unable to move.  We need resistance.  We need something to drive against in order to propel ourselves toward our goals.  Our imaginary creature in our imaginary space would, in one sense, I suppose, be absolutely unhindered, but in reality it would be perfectly imprisoned. 

Evil may not be the right word here, but it is a convenient one.  We wonder why there is evil let loose upon the world.  Evil may be a function of spirit or morality as gravity is a function of matter.  Evil is not meant to conquer us any more than gravity is meant to chain us to one spot.  Evil enables moral freedom in the same way that gravity enables an eagle to soar or a plane to fly across the ocean.  It is in our resistance against evil that we learn the truth of the law of life and liberty in Christ. 

In my better moments I understand that not only is it pointless to ask for an easy life free from labor, suffering, sacrifice and pain, but the truth is that it would not be much fun.  Of what value is a life without challenges, a life without failure as well as success?  What would freedom mean in a world where a person never had to conquer, if nothing else, his own fears and faults?  I should say, especially my own faults and fears. 

Being in Christ gives us the power to overcome, but we must live for a while in a world where there are things to overcome in order to understand that.  Even the Lord Himself had to come to this earth, to be incarnated, to be limited and subject to the darkness that His light might be seen.