…all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
The promise shines bright,
but not all have eyes to see.
Many search elsewhere, dismissive of their quest
for nothing great comes from Palestine.
Preferring the grandeur of temple and palace courts,
they snub noses at a people on their knees
and follow other stars for other fates.
Yet to those who’ve been waiting,
those willing to hoist saddle and trudge desert sands,
the movement of stars matches movements in hearts
and the star points to what they are seeking.
Only this is unexpected: not only
do they bring the ointment of kings
and the gold that’s surely fit for him
but a resin that embalms when bodies expire,
a sign that the child-king lives here to die.
Knees bow before this acceptance of fate
while proud knees are buckled at the truth.
Only when it humbles will it save.
Teacher, they say, grant us whatever we ask of you.
Assumptions rich in self, they see
a throne, and seats on either side;
surely theirs? For what other reason do they fight?
Yet His kingdom is not of this world;
its great ones do not presume, nor grasp.
Losing and finding self, they serve,
seeing the king Himself on His knees.
Here it begins: on knees;
and it ends here too, for humble delight
is eternal delight, having nothing to lose but the object of its joy.
So far to go, I cannot go further than this;
I kneel, confess, rip off my face.
If worship is bowing, then see, O my king,
this death of self now as my song.
The lie entwines with half-truths:
it pleases the eye, and wisdom seems good,
yet that which seems deceives, tears apart at the seams
the fine-woven fabric of image and praise.
Who are we? Like God, yet when
we grasp at fruit to be like God,
the image dies; the garden turns to dustbowl.
O what have we done, what become?
Grace rearranges, but grace demands
no hubris, no self. Leave haughty chins at the gate.
Raise heads, but only to trust;
raise hands, but only to pray and praise.
Surely you will be like God; yes, and only when,
like God, you know yourself in Him alone;
only when, in perfect alignment with Father,
you lose all face to win a kingdom.
Dust I am, precious Lord.
Though well-adorned in rags of self,
underneath I am dry bone.
Daily I wander in search of glory:
fine silks to wrap my pride;
jewels to garnish ears that do not hear;
softest leather to shoe rock-still feet.
What can clothe a heart of stone?
What perfume can disguise rotting flesh?
O Lord, I am but dust; I cling
to the roof of the earth, a cloying taste.
O gather my dust; assemble my rags;
Only in You can life be made.
The serpent bites deep;
venom lurks where least expected.
The heart has chasms, labyrinths, unknown even to itself.
What way out have we but to weep?
Deceitful beyond all things,
the heart’s lie is more twisted than you ever thought.
Good intentions pave Destruction’s road;
who will rid me of this body of death?
Follow the trail of tears;
enter the wilderness where, sweating blood, He kneels.
Kneel too beside Him, where spirit wills but flesh resists.
Word-made-flesh, His flesh transfigures humbled dust.
Bow at His feet.
You did not come here by yourself:
your knees are weak and buckle under pride,
and joints stiffen when left to self.
The road is narrow.
You must bend and bow to walk its curves;
it will not bend itself for you
and, puffed with knowledge, you will only make it burst.
Consider Him who bore
such shame, who fell such distance,
plumbed such trenches with His perfect grace,
and all the while knew joy.
Not greater than your master,
the mountain-side is no more yours than His.
If He descends, then so must you;
low, be lower still.
In praises, bow.
The dust heap is not your final home, yet He is king
and though a king He also bowed
and, humble, became dust.
So wait in dust, and bow.
Such humble, unaffected fun befits the heirs
of one who danced the stars alight –
again! again! – in child’s constant joy.
Breathing into soil, He cherished soil;
rejoice; do not forget.
Do not forget His downward climb,
or His eyes turned in heavenward tears –
praise for truth revealed to babes;
anguish at the cup outstretched;
and always, Not my will but yours.
Bow at His feet and sing.
Bach Cantata, BWV 47 – 1.Chorus – Wer sich selbst erhöhet