Rainy Day Sermon

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Saint Paul – Rembrandt van Rijn
The text is darker in this weather,
     more emphatic, as though
while he wrote,
         outside prison walls Saint Paul
            saw the fall
of some Ephesian rain-drops and thought:
            If my plea should fall on hard soil…

Did he see the runaway slave
     in the wet, uncertain,
standing at
         his master’s door, with letter
            dripping ink
on solid Colossian stones, and fear
            a silent and stony reply?

Raindrops soften soil. Outside is damp,
     garden drenched. Too much heart
is a flood
         when heart hears abject pleading.
            Letter drips
today with softening truth, and yet
            for all my rain I still am clay.

Debt

Acknowledgment sounds with our morning yawn:

We have been in need; we have been held safe.

And the quiet of the dawn routine declares

That we are weak, are strangers to this day.

Awaken slowly. Infants in the world,

What will you do now? Fresh from the night’s grace,

Will you shake your horn’s fist at the first sight

Of anguish lurking at the silent light?

Forgiven much, enrage. The open space

Of day defies you. If all now unfurled,

How would it be to wait, to be, to say

Yet not my will? Grace’s true cost lies there

And we are not prepared. Our kinship chafes

As we seek love, reluctant, through the dawn.

Northbound at dusk

Jeffrey Smart painted this dying day:
burnt orange in floating smokestack steam,
needle-lights stretching in fluorescent dream,
the sojourn of light sinking in silent sway.
Daytime paints its canopy away
and minutes pass in inches as we glean
each moment, weigh each instant gram by gram.
Apologies buy flowers; much to say,
yet time is rare. I wish that now could be
a canvas on a wall that we could share.
I cross the bridge; I mount the street of bells.
Ascend, descend; the sound within us swells,
and expectation greets the seated air.
No movement; move. I gather you to me.

image

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

Catechism 41

lordsprayer

What is the Lord’s Prayer?

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

(New City Catechism)

 

Hands upraised,        hands open
        imploring              yet worshipping
receiving              yet giving
        asking                 yet content
forgiven               and forgiving
        on earth,              as it is in heaven;
now                    forever
        delivered             yet
              daily caught in moments’ fear…

Our Father     here    and Heaven’s king:
            teach us how to pray.

Confessional Hymn, After Gavin Bryars’ “Cadman Requiem” (Cornucopia of Heaven)

Pan-Am

 

Confessional Hymn

After Gavin Bryars, “Cadman Requiem”

 

We were not there when stars were flung
           wide, wide,     across the vast expanse.
We were not there when hearts were knit,
            when breath was breathed inside.

We were not there when plans were made,
            when laws      in hearts were broken.
Yet we were there to feel death’s sting
            and feel          the plan’s undoing.

We were there when sparks flew up
            and fire scorned        the fickle ground,
when sound was lost and wings spun out
            and everything          was falling.

Ours were hearts un-tuned to sounds
            of life             and perfect leading.
Ours were rebel schemes which blew
            the hope         out of the sky.

Though stars may fail and hearts implode:
            still, still          Creator God, uphold.
        O kyrie  eleison,                Christ –

            have mercy    on us all.


Catechism 25

Does Christ’s death mean all our sins can be forgiven?
Yes, because Christ’s death on the cross fully paid the penalty for our sin, God graciously imputes Christ’s righteousness to us as if it were our own and will remember our sins no more.
(New City Catechism)

All?
It seems a dream
which never human mind could fathom.
No, I must repay the debt!
the striving self says in the face
of grace too grand, too reckless.

Yet all.
No helpless soul
could fiction up such headlines, nor
could guilt conceive such answer.
All: eternity before and after
sings redemption’s senseless song.

And all
the righteousness
bought on the tree, all glory, reward,
all ledgered out in our false names.
The beggar sits in fortune’s seat;
the Father sprints, arms open.