Learning Father

800px-Rembrandt_Harmensz_van_Rijn_-_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Google_Art_Project
Rembrandt van Rijn, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, c.1661-1669

History has few exemplars to be proud of.
The Greeks did well with Priam, at least,
willing to face “iron-hearted,
man-slaying Achilles” for the sake of a son.
My own culture’s replete with absent men,
“bronze Anzacs” taught from birth not to cry.
The Biblical witness, too, leaves something to be desired:
most too busy with wives in multiples to see
sons ganging up on sons, hurling into ditches,
covering many-coloured garments with blood.
Some simply could not hear, over
the chewing of fruit, the sound of the older
saying to the younger brother, “Come for a walk.”
One king learnt too late that all
the years at war, or watching rooftop baths,
did not teach a son to trust or respect his old man.
Only this cry rings out as a lesson: “Absalom,
my son, my son! Would that it were me instead of you.
Absalom, my son, my son. Absalom, my son!”

Perhaps the polygamists, war-mongers and liars
have this to teach us: the insufficiency of one
man of dust to be the all, the end, of the home.
In his frailty and deceit he clears the way
for another tale, another sight:
the wealthy man embracing pig-stained rags,
the fattened calf killed,
the Father’s arms stretched.
This witness alone can teach the twisted tongue
the meaning of our faintly-voiced, “Father.”

Broken Syllables

We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense.
(Richard Baxter)

Al-

In the beginning was the Word.

Pha

And we too were words,
the sounds of breath from His lips:

Adam
Let us make
Image
Likeness
Be fruitful
Increase

All sounds consonant with
the cosmic sentence,
no clause displaced.

In the beginning
was Alpha.
The whole DNA code begun
with A,
the chain of being linked
phoneme to phoneme.

And then
the dislocated sound:
the will punctuates the purpose.
Image becomes willful noise.

O

Return to purpose, man.
Return to the endless string of perfect sense.

O
Sing the perfect word, the song.
O me.
You were made to speak, to be
Between the A
Between the grace of Alpha and
Omega.

Pink Cotton Promise (Glenroy Lent #10)

Even in new homes, morning has old narratives
formed by other mornings,
by schedules, by delays.

So I approach the day as though it’s been before,
as though
its parameters are fixed,

its possibilities known.
Adam beheld the first sunrise,
called himself inventor. I

almost ignore the miracle, too entangled
in strands of ground to see sky,
until

a scattering spool
of morning-pink cloud-thread
entwines my eye.

Not a word, as such,
but a message nonetheless,
a promise in this time of dust:

If this is how I hold the clouds,
then how much more…

And I am caught:

a moment between ash and new birth.
New Adam knows dust
and I am consoled in this knowledge.

20 Contemplations #6: At Creation

dc4fd837acc33da77416f59eb803c67e
Anselm Kiefer, “Heaven on Earth (Himmel auf Erden)”

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
(John 1:3)

First birdsong and flight; new heavens groaning;
These things we cannot see. They precede
Sight, consciousness. All we know, he exceeds:
The Face behind the flame and the foaming.
Nothing made without Him: He moves across
Astronomy and microscope, photon
And planet, from star-studded sky to cross.
Is all this beyond us? Yet He is known;
Takes first steps, like Adam; like Adam, bleeds;
Descends to the stable, ascends the Tree;
Comes to His creation; it knows Him not,
Despised, rejected, a thing forgot.
No fanfare: behold the silent babe
In whom all things were made that were made.

 

Catechism 45

Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
No, only the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit can cleanse us from sin.
(New City Catechism)

    God, no water is enough.
Stains worsen when washed deeper in;
this is the deepest, from Adam to now.
       Only blood
    can wash away blood;
      only pure Breath can restore breath.
Nothing giving; the remedy hurts worse than the ill.
    Yet grace gives us this:
       gentle water as symbol,
    another’s death as the price,  impossible signed
    in this simplest plunge,
       the stain
   taken right back to the source.

image
Masaccio, "Baptism of Neophytes", Wikimedia Commons

Lent: Enough 5

What warmth I hide in will soon grow cold.
All Peter’s false fires, Adam’s cloak of leaves,
will burn out, fade, and leave nakedness in ash.
Clothe me. My shame is always before me.
Nothing hides from Your sight
what should be white, yet’s stained like blood.
O God. I stand –
naked, dust.
You are enough. You are enough.

Catechism 30

In Christ Alone large-500x500

What is faith in Jesus Christ?
Faith in Jesus Christ is acknowledging the truth of everything that God has revealed in his Word, trusting in him, and also receiving and resting on him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.
(New City Catechism)

 

Price paid – rest.
            The promise lies in deepest past:
Adam’s offspring crushes heads
            of serpents
                        with his heel.
 
Rest, receive:
            the Word tells all a soul must know.
Adam’s stain to stainless death,
            many sons
                        brought glory.
 
Trust the truth:
            though sin clamours at our ears,
better words are spoken in
            the blood which
                        pleads for us.

Family Tree

100_4901

…and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

(Revelation 22:2)

 

 
 
 
What a father did once when an apple looked sweet
            sent tremors shaking through the earth,
                        breaking roots, severing limbs,
            sickening soil and bruising leaves,
                                    life uprooted from its Tree
                        and grafted into death.
 
What a brother did when he walked through a field
            and Hell crouched at his flapping tent
                        made the earth cry out for blood,
            while knotted roots, turned inside out,
                                    craved curse like twisted blessing which
                        seven times avenged.
 
What Son once climbed a skull-bound tree
            outside garden or city walls
                        took the deadened soil and sprinkled
            cursed roots with the flow of blood,
                                    injected life in deadened leaves
                        and grafted family in.
 
What life, what family, grown in Him
            now where death should hold the sway
                        of wind and trunk, and roots declared
            too dead to be of any good –
                                    now spreads, now heals, now spreading heals.
                        What life has won the day.

Catechism 20

Who is the Redeemer?

The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself.

(New City Catechism)

 

From Adam’s flesh

the perfect Man:

God, human, redeeming what

the apple’s curse has eaten.

 

Who else? Our kinsman,

yet not like us:

stands firm where we falter,

lives not by bread alone.

 

Unflinching before the snake,

He bows where we exalt,

obeys where we hide in leaves

and stands unashamed.

 

Truth astonishes;

determinism lurks in cracks

but light shines life where death should be

and silences the night.

From Ashes: Sonnet

Though fearfully and wonderfully made,

There are abscesses where my dirt is stored:

See here, the time I learnt to cry, to wade

In mud and mire, and hurt of my own accord.

Though Grace has breathed its breath in me, I still

Retain the sick fruit of Adam’s broken soil;

In pain, in guilt, in deeds of death I till

What many days will buckle at my toil.

Distorted are the instincts of my breath;

Upended are the ways I read my years.

Reorder, Grace, and open up what death

Has stultified, now brackish from these tears.

Take heart, poor soul; the future comes in flood,

Revivifies the past with mercy’s blood.