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.”
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
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.
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.
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,
taken right back to the source.
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 –
You are enough. You are enough.
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
with his heel.
the Word tells all a soul must know.
Adam’s stain to stainless death,
Trust the truth:
though sin clamours at our ears,
better words are spoken in
the blood which
pleads for us.
…and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
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.