Since setting minds on things above is hard

Since setting minds on things above is hard,
The mind always diverting to the place
Of greatest comfort, fearing open space;
Since often thoughts break off in weary shards
And off we go, empty, scanning the yard
Of day’s vacuum confusions, seeking peace
But scared to look directly at His face:
Let’s look instead upon the scars He bears;
Look at the throne He mounted, at His crown.
If, seeing in this sight our fractured shame,
Our minds connect through brokenness and tears,
Then we, perhaps, might sing to be His own
And turn aside from all He overcame.

Author of Life (Thursday in Easter Week)

“It’s true: the Author of life lay dead,
            Lay three days inside death’s tomb,
The Righteous and the Holy One
            Made Himself an offering to
Ignorant, unrighteous men
            Who knew not what they did.
 
It’s true, for we are witnesses;
            We saw Him breathe and saw Him die
And saw Him rise again and eat
            Fish and bread among us, He
Who made the fish swim, made grain grow
            And lay dead on a tree.
 
Look: the one who makes bones live
            And opens blinded eyes has made
The lame man walk along with us,
            And you too must receive
The gift of faith, the gift of life,
            The gift of utter joy.”
 
The lame man clinging onto them
            Saw the stares of men who knew
Everything yet nothing too.
            “Times of refreshing may come to you,”
Peter said, the tail’s sting
            Hanging in the wind:
 
For everything was done for them
            And nothing they could give,
Every debt was paid and all
            Faith was theirs to take,
Yet some there were who still would not
           Die that they might live.

The Slowing Year (For John Keble)

My year-long poetry project, “The Swelling Year”, is drawing to a close and will finish shortly after the Easter period ends. Today’s poem signals something of a milestone in the project: the last of the “feast days” for significant Christians remembered in the Anglican calendar. Somewhat appropriately, this poem remembers John Keble, a man whose ideas about church I would not completely see eye-to-eye with but with whom I have a level of kinship because he, like me, wrote poems for most of the days of the Anglican year, in a collection called “The Christian Year”. Today’s poem is based around his Good Friday poem; it does not seem that anyone other than Jesus should be the focal point of a poem today, so I have used this poem to unite Keble’s work and mine around our common Saviour, Jesus Christ.
 
The Slowing Year (For John Keble, Priest)
 
As in all lowly hearts he suffers still,
While we triumphant ride and have the world at will.
(John Keble, “Good Friday”)
 
And so the year goes on, for go it does,
Cycling through its old familiar ways;
We take a breath as this holiest of days
Slows down the motions of our weekly throes,
And hearts consumed with silent dreads and woes
But vaguely turn their twisted, inner gaze
Towards the tree where our Ancient of Days
Hangs, contorted, for a Roman show.
 
If we could pause the swelling of our years
Enough to let our wounds rest in his wounds,
We might find hiding places for our shame
And tissue torn to daub up all our tears.
There all our sorrows sound their sweetest tunes
Within the broken triumph of his Name.

The Soul’s Travail (Good Friday)

After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
(Isaiah 53:11)
 
High and lifted up
Astonishing the faithless many
Kings with mouths agape yet shut
And hearts with closed fists
 
Lifted high above
The place of skulls and taunting
Elevated by his grief
The arm of God revealed…
 
Despised and rejected
Nothing to his form to draw
Our eyes up to him, yet he is
Now lifting, high, to breathe
 
And all now see
His final breath of life upon
The gaping, gawking many who
Do not know who he is
 
Breathe life:
His soul now stretches, its travail
Dragging nail-torn limbs across
The branches of the earth
 
Reach out and draw
All life unto yourself and give
Your every breath to see this light;
Your soul is satisfied…

Children of Light (Tuesday in Holy Week)

           Arise, little ones.
Though in your smallness you cannot see
Beyond the faint horizon:
 
He comes, he comes,
Across the seas,
Bearing light upon his brow.
 
To those despised deeply,
Abhorred by the world,
He comes bearing folly, to weaken the wise;
 
He sweeps the vast coastlands,
His mouth is a sword,
Yet he will not lift his voice.
 
And silently he falls to soil,
A kernel, broken, to spread its seed
And bring in a harvest of plenty.
 
           Arise, little ones:
He takes in the weak, beleaguered and small
And makes them children of light.

Palm Sunday

See your king. He comes
Humble, on a donkey.
 
See your king, triumphant, strong,
Humble, on a donkey.
 
See your king; the people cry:
Hosannah! Save us, blessed one!
 
See your king; not even rocks
Can stay silent as he rides.
 
See your king; he rides towards
A weeping garden, a betrayer’s kiss.
 
See your king; he washes feet,
Knelt before his betrayer’s feet.
 
See your king; he looks in eyes
And says, “What you must do, do now.”
 
See your king; he wrestles with
The desert’s demons as he kneels.
 
See your king. “Yet not my will
But Yours be done,” he bleeds and cries.
 
See your king; he puts down swords
And heals his captor’s wounded ears.
 
See your king; he limps towards
The hill where he will be accursed.
 
See your king; he cries out loud
On Caesar’s instrument of shame.
 
See your king; he bleeds and bleeds
And writhes to breathe and cries his last.
 
See your king; the rocks cry out.
Hosannah, save…Hosannah, save…
 
See your king, in death’s deep tomb.
The stone that was rejected sings…