20 Contemplations #15: Intimacy

caravaggio_taking_of_christ_ireland-resized-600.jpg
Caravaggio – The Betrayal of Christ

He comes near, able to touch, to be touched,
and be wounded, to kiss and to be kissed:
the grateful kiss, the sleepy child dismiss-
ing himself to sleep; the mother’s kiss, a smudge
on freshly-bathed cheek; the plotter’s grudge
expressed in the curl of doubled lips,
the final, false farewell, the fatal tryst.
He comes to feel the touch of friend and judge.
He comes to raise His hand to touch the world,
to put together Jacob’s broken hip,
to be the salve on Adam’s missing rib,
to gather in His family, unfurled,
and show that God’s love isn’t scared to feel
the pain of touch to make all new, to heal.

Catechism 51

Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension?
Christ physically ascended on our behalf, just as he came down to earth physically on our account, and he is now advocating for us in the presence of his Father, preparing a place for us, and also sends us his Spirit.
(New City Catechism)

Not waiting in vain,
men and women thirsting at a cloudless sky,
nor farmers ploughing a desert.
Not children
hiding behind a veil of hands
or the clenched-fisted ones in the corner.
No metaphor sates us:
only a body will do. Only
face-to-face, Father to Son,
full sight in place of dim mirrors.
And so a body grows,
and for a body, a home with walls
solid to the touch, but never closed,
a welcome that has arms,
a priest who bears scars,
a love decked with nails,
crowned,
risen, no fall.

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

Nazarene

Image: Open Doors
Image: Open Doors

“We can only silence the guns of hatred with the guns of love.”

– Nigerian church leader, quoted in Open Doors prayer letter


I am broken in my love:

I cry, I steal,

I hurt, I hate.

My heart has guns which fire and kill

and I am daily killed.

 

I do not understand my friend;

my neighbour dies,

I pass him by.

I do not walk across my street

or see you in your home.

 

The scarf around your head sparks fear;

my crucifix

is shame to you.

The Nazarene upon the cross

lives not like I have lived.

 

All exiles, while the Garden grows

far from our homes,

we never meet

or open hands to shake, to greet

and give as we’ve received.

 

Yet love transformed by crown of thorns

has power to

unload these guns.

Such love has wounds to mend the rift

and make us many One.

 

O I am broken in my love.

I cry, I steal,

I hurt, I hate.

O Jesus, Nazarene, come heal;

come open doors and sing.

Hospitality

Well, poems have been few and far between at The Consolations of Writing recently, mostly because – I must admit – I’ve been slightly distracted by my recent engagement to an absolutely wonderful girl, Hannah. This week I have distractions of another kind: a week-long, short-term mission in my own city, Melbourne. Today’s poem is a reflection on what it means to open ourselves in Christ-like love to the stranger in our home.

Hospitality

Open my hands:
You have opened Your hands;
You had nails scar Your hands.
      Open heart.

Open my fists:
You have unclenched Your fists;
You have satisfied wrath.
      Open hands.

Open my heart:
You have sword-pierced Your heart;
You have loved with Your scars.
Open fists, hands and heart:
       Open, heart.

“August Sabbath”, and eight years of poetry

Eight years ago today, I began writing poetry. It was a beautiful spring day – the promise of things to come. But, as is so often the case at the end of a Melbourne winter, the spring was fragile. Cool weather could return at any moment and snap up the new growth. I was about to begin teaching and had recently emerged from a bad relationship; life was hopeful. Yet it seemed to me it could so easily fail. I turned to poetry to express this feeling and never looked back.

Today is another beautiful spring day. Life has brought more disappointment and more joy than I could have known. My hope is quieter, my heart more still and my poetry is – I hope – a bit better. But God is the same as He has always been.

August Sabbath

Hope settles as wind whistles in fresh leaves;
August grins in unexpected warmth, and though
Next week may bring cold worse than before,
New days are sure to prosper in His plan.
As we await the joys, the sun, the cold,
Hope settles and the wind whistles today.