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.

Masaccio, "Baptism of Neophytes", Wikimedia Commons

Lent: Man of Sorrows 4

Lay me down –

slow me down and lay me down

upon the Cross, in Jesus’ hands.

Slow my heart and silence all

the numb self-serving of my pleas;

stifle pride, unlock the clench

of fists deep in this fickle dust.

Lay me down, my soul;

lay down

my soul in Jesus’ hands. Their scars

have room enough for me.


Lent: Humility 3

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.

Catechism 41


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.

Christmas Monday

Well: perhaps, you went to church the day before,
Heard Jesus hailed as promise kept, as wise
Old Simeon and Anna wept and saw
The saving one, a babe before their eyes.
Perhaps you picked some turkey from your teeth
And thought of all the washing to be done,
The relatives all gone, so now relief
From cooking up a storm for everyone.
Perhaps the Christmas tree is drooping now;
Perhaps the pool gives comfort in this heat.
Perhaps there’s too much light going around
And, victory done, you fancy quiet defeat.
Keep watch: He grew and walked and made His way
For summer sinners who always doze astray.

Catechism 37

Detail from a painting by Antonio da Correggio Wikimedia Commons
Detail from a painting by Antonio da Correggio
Wikimedia Commons

Catechism 37

How does the Holy Spirit help us?

The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, comforts us, guides us, gives us spiritual gifts and the desire to obey God; and he enables us to pray and to understand God’s Word.

(New City Catechism)


my best attempts are straw.

My righteousness is dust, my hope

of being more is void.


Your peace like river flows;

your olive branch restores, implores

us into growing grace.


rest on my spirit; open eyes

and ears and heart. Give gifts,

give life. Give comfort in this dross.


only when Your flame descends,

and burns, convicts – O gentle peace –

only then, release.

Catechism 33

Should those who have faith in Christ seek their salvation through their own works, or anywhere else?

No, they should not, as everything necessary to salvation is found in Christ. To seek salvation through good works is a denial that Christ is the only Redeemer and Savior.

(New City Catechism)



the chasm is too wide, the gap

too vast for any Good to bridge.

            All vain

attempts to straddle death with works,

however beautiful, are only


                        in an infinite sea.


            And know this:

all the ladder-clambering to

which the dying soul will turn


ascend the smallest rung,

can only slip, and slander grace

            which lifts

                        the sinner from her knees.


            And nothing

in our best attempts, our finest deeds,

our kindest actions, whitest fleece,

                        can near

the width of grace’s arms which span

the heavens and the earth to take

            our filth

                        into its cleansing grip.

Catechism 29

Francisco de Zurbarán -Agnus Dei
Francisco de Zurbarán – Agnus Dei

How can we be saved?

Only by faith in Jesus Christ and in his substitutionary atoning death on the cross; so even though we are guilty of having disobeyed God and are still inclined to all evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of our own but only by pure grace, imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ when we repent and believe in him.

(New City Catechism)


Without excuse, I

testify within me to

this daily sickness,

this ever-reaching backward

to the garden’s first death-fruits.


Without excuse, I

cannot grasp my way towards

what once should have been.

Too late, I have only death;

but rich mercy intercedes.


No excuse and no

justice: righteousness given

to the least righteous.

Perfect life lived in my stead,

lived on this beggar’s behalf.


How can we be saved?

No excuse, we cry, desperate.

The answer, senseless,

replies: only faith, only

grace which pays infinite price.

Catechism 26

What else does Christ’s death redeem?
Christ’s death is the beginning of the redemption and renewal of every part of fallen creation, as he powerfully directs all things for his own glory and creation’s good.
(New City Catechism)

Yet the cost went deeper than souls
     into soil
and weathered the tree-trunks
     and withered the whole.

The cost ate into friendship
      and truth
and sucked all the marrow
      from health and heart’s-ease.

So the victory’s deeper too
     than our sin:
the redemption stretches vast across bowers
     and sucks sin’s curse from earth’s veins.

Look on Him now: the one whom we’ve slain
     and trust
in the truth which digs deep into soil
     and restores the broken earth whole.