No Ordinary Sundays

Before you lies my strength and my weakness; preserve the one, heal the other. Before you lies my knowledge and my ignorance; where you have opened to me, receive me as I come in; where you have shut to me, open to me as I knock. Let me remember you, let me understand you, let me love you. Increase these things in me until you refashion me entirely.

Saint Augustine of Hippo, The Trinity

We do not call these Sundays ordinary:
transfigured by revelation, by mystery,
they stand apart.

By these days we set
our calendars, and, in the old days, we said,
In Hilary term, or, Before Trinity.

Order is set by extraordinary.
Order in all things,
and yet, in all ordinary things –

some unexceptional people gathered,
music played, some prayers prayed,
some words spoken, some soon forgotten –

extraordinary creeps in, is always the silent witness.
What Augustine knew, we often forget:
community right at Godhead’s heart,

found, reflected, in our meagre parts,
a knowledge too rich for understanding,
coming, and standing,

where we stand. O hold us now;
for nothing else
makes sense unless You remake us.

How we wait

The taste of hospitals and airports says:
You are here
under whatever circumstances,
no doubt stressed.
Have a coffee.
Sit down.
No-one will care if you cry;
everyone is going somewhere different
sometime soon.
Everyone is crying or dazed,
on edge yet kept
in secure wards
or waiting gates,
volatile, yet
in comfy chairs.
Anything could happen, and
everything is happening. This
is the taste, the smell
of hospitals and airports, just
like churches should all be.

Damascus Road: Cradle, Body, Light


Your garments glisten, my brethren, as snow;—and fair is your shining in the likeness of Angels.
(St Ephraim the Syrian, “Hymn for the Baptised”)

You are the light of the world;
you are the body of Life.
The persecutor kicked you;
you kick within yourself,
yet you remain – kept, preserved;
you cannot be hidden.

You are the beaten body.
Yet the body shines more for being broken;
more like the Head with every thorn,
you live because your foes assault you.
Hold up the Body by the crown
and it will radiate before all men.

Glisten with water, with blood,
Child of God.
Your cradle is pillaged;
the persecutor walks your roads again.
Over seas, the body binds itself,
strikes and licks its wounds,
kicks its own goads.
Yet you are the child.

Glisten and radiate –
let the earth see and know.
Your roads stood firm beneath the Zealot’s feet;
your foes became your brothers. Shine:
though the cradle may fall, the life remains.

Shine, broken body, and stand.

Catechism 49

Detail from "Christ ascends to heaven before his disciples", Melchior Küssell

Where is Christ now?
Christ rose bodily from the grave on the third day after his death and is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling his kingdom and interceding for us, until he returns to judge and renew the whole world.
(New City Catechism)

And where
if the body stands
is the head?
And where
if the family follows
is the leader?

No bad faith. Though we wait,
this is active:
for I have felt the hands,
though never touching skin, hold on,
and I have heard the voice (no sound)
speak my name and plead.
And I have seen these foes gather as one
united by a merciful head.

And I have heard heaven’s call say, Come up.
Though it tarry,
it won’t delay.

Catechism 48

What is the church?

God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.
(New City Catechism)

Washed and waiting,
fed by Word, by bread, by Spirit –
a body, planned
from beginning, bought
by blood, crafted
by grace, grafted
by cross –
we wait, and show
the kingdom which stands
when nations fall, when bodies crushed
beneath the heel reveal the weight
of Now – we wait,
washed and purchased,
broken, glorious,
scattered, stained
and one.

Transfiguration Sunday


These are the words of the One who burns
with all the fire of the morning star,
who shines much whiter than the day
in tabernacle flame.

These are the words of the risen Son
who was, who is, will ever be,
the One who sees, who knows, who calls,
the first, the last, the king.

These are the words of the One who shone
bright, radiant, on the mountain top,
the one who climbed another hill,
and was crowned upon a tree.

These are the words to the bride who yearns,
who strays, who cries, who prays, who strives.
Hear the words that search through hearts:
hear, stand, and overcome.

Psalm: Chorale (The Cornucopia of Heaven)

Early on Saturday morning, the fire brigade was called to my church – a 150-year-old heritage-listed building on the corner of one of Melbourne’s most iconic streets, and the building which my fiancée and I recently booked to celebrate our marriage. That day, the Bible reading my church family was looking at in our devotional times was Luke 12:22-34, a passage which I, by pure coincidence, found myself writing about in my poem for that day. No-one could possibly have known how pertinent that passage would be to us. Our church still stands, but we will not be able to worship together there for a year at least. It is a time of mourning for all of us. Yet, when we gathered together yesterday as a whole church community in St Paul’s Cathedral and read Luke 12:22-34 again, we were reminded of the glorious truth of God’s promises to His people. This world’s treasures, even church buildings, will all be destroyed one day. But our Father has been pleased to give us the kingdom. Today I am posting two poems to reflect on this truth. Here is the first.


Psalm: Chorale

After J.S. Bach, “BWV 69: Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele”


This morning

I awoke to a harpsichord of birdthrum,

the air alight with strings, a wall

of horns against the trees


and phoenixes in

the distance praised in trumpet-hope.

Toices twirled and twined around

the fretful day, where fire


(and moth and rust)

destroy the treasures of our day.

Singing like the newly born, the birds

cared nothing for death.


Every day new,

they promised what no night will tarnish:

a day of every harmony resolved

and hope that fire cannot take.


Catechism 31

What do we believe by true faith?
Everything taught to us in the gospel. The Apostles’ Creed expresses what we believe in these words…
(New City Catechism)

We believe:
Almighty Father –
      maker of
all living things,
      all things
      holding all.

We believe:
One Son, one Lord –
       Jesus Christ, virgin-born,
       the beaten,
       dying King.

We believe:
Christ crucified –
      died and buried,
rose again,
      ascended now to
            heaven’s throne
      to judge and ever reign.

We believe:
One Holy Ghost –
      one holy, whole,
      all saints communing,
            sins forgiven,

life to come.

Sprawl: For Les Murray (and Bach)

Kopie vonThomaskirche Leipzig

February is a short month, and so sadly I am having to speed up our journey through Les Murray’s poetry. My final poem for the month is an original work written in response to this interview with Murray from Image (Winter 2009-10) as well as Murray’s own description, in a personal letter, of his visit to a Lutheran church in Leipzig. My poem also draws on a number of Murray’s own poems. I’ll leave the eagle-eyed to find which ones, but the direct quotes from Murray are all in italics, to show they aren’t my own words. All in all, it’s a tribute to a man whose philosophy I do not wholly agree with yet always find compelling.

Sprawl: For Les Murray

God, at the end of prose,
somehow be our poem –
(Les Murray, “You Find You Can Leave It All”)

No pinched-arse Puritan, you could walk, I 
into the church in Leipzig with J.S. Bach 
                              thundering away,
differing perhaps in dogma yet relishing the 
                              plenitude of song.

What did you hear that day in St. Thomas’?
Some mighty Cantata? The gospel set to words, to
set to heart again? The world, you said once,

reverberates with Muzak and Prozac. The mind 
some analgesic sound to cool the air; yet souls 
                              desire organs.
Yours that day resounded with the thump and hum 
                              of what,

when Reformations raged, was controversy:
the heavens, all seemed to agree, will roar with
                           voice and instrument,
yet some still debate where earthly Temple-lines
                              are drawn.

Heaven invades earth as molecules of grace; yet 
                              to you
the Presence has always been Real: enacted in 
passed hand to hand, and in sprawl

of shirtsleeve nobility, giving with no thought 
                              of reprise,
no heed of destiny. Whispered in poetic diction,
felt, danced and dreamed, God breaks the banks

of hearts sunk enough to receive Him, who
enter church, not to proclaim what’s already 
but in desperate, grateful hopes of being wrong.