A memory of Kreisler once:
At some recital in this same city,
The seats all taken, I found myself pushed
On to the stage with a few others,
So near that I could see the toil
Of his face muscles, a pulse like a moth
Fluttering under the fine skin,
And the indelible veins of his smooth brow.
I could see, too, the twitching of the fingers,
Caught temporarily in art’s neurosis,
As we sat there or warmly applauded
This player who so beautifully suffered
For each of us upon his instrument.
So it must have been on Calvary
In the fiercer light of the thorns’ halo:
The men standing by and that one figure,
The hands bleeding, the mind bruised but calm,
Making such music as lives still.
And no one daring to interrupt
Because it was himself that he played
And closer than all of them the God listened.
~ R.S. Thomas
A wonderful poem for Good Friday with thanks to Robin
Photo is ‘thin place’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky…
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth
Is spread with the same.
“Every cubic inch of space a miracle? Jesus, God Incarnate, made the whole world that sort of Sacred Space. Holy Week reveals to us again that even the dark and bloody places of the world are sanctified by his life, death and resurrection. The journey we make with him in retelling and experiencing his Passion through symbolic worship in Holy Week draws us into that sanctifying mystery. We enter the darkness that we might see the light more clearly.”
(Whitman quote and reflection pinched wholesale from this Lenten blog which is well worth a look.)
Photo is ’57th‘ by Jonny Baker on Flickr
Kneeling – a poem about waiting. very appropriate as Lent draws to a close.
Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.
R. S. Thomas,
Today I repeat myself by posting a favourite RS Thomas Poem (first posted back in 2007 on my old blog). This poem is called The Coming and it seems appropriate as Easter approaches:
And God held in His hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, He saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows, a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
On a bare
Hill, a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said
Thomas writes a lot about about Via Negativa. His God is often absent, hidden and incomprehensive, yet he is also (paradoxically) the God who reveals himself in Christ.
‘The Coming’ gives balance to the theology of absence which runs through much of Thomas’s writings. Because of the coming of the son (and the sacrifice he makes), we can know something of the unknowable. We can catch a glimpse of the hidden.
“If John’s Gospel were the only one we had, this is all that we would know about Jesus’ birth: before his name was Jesus, his name was the Word, and he was with God from the very beginning of creation, bringing things into being, making things happen, shining light into the darkness.
He was God’s self, God’s soul, God’s life force in the world. He was the breath inside all living things. He was the electric spark that charged peoples’ hearts. He was the fire inside the sun. He was the space between the stars. He was the axis around which the galaxies spin.
John goes on to say that not everyone got that message. Many were blinded by this light and preferred the darkness they knew to the light which they did not know. The Word sidled up to them and hummed life into their ears, but they cleared their throats and walked away. So God decided to speak in a new way. God decided to speak body language. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us – full of grace and truth.”
This is John’s Christmas story in a nutshell. Like Luke, John is telling us about an encounter with the Holy One. God’s Word was translated into a human being. God’s self, soul, and life force were concentrated into one mortal life on earth, and as a result, nothing would ever be the same again. Not because everyone listened, because everyone does not, but because the eternal Word of God took human form.”
I rediscovered this quotation today on a post from my old blog. It was originally found among some sermon starters from eSermons and is well worth repeating as we prepare for the “eternal Word of God” to take human form.
Picture is ‘pickwell sunset’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr
For everyone preparing to preach tomorrow:
‘Sunday’s Hour’ by Arnold Kenseth,
Comes Sunday’s hour, and speech hangs itself
On God’s red tree. Preacher, word-monger, I
Defy the interdict, naming dark Yahweh, taking Him
And His fire in vain. O havoc, cry havoc! Sigh
His deep blue breath into phrases and praises.
Still, it is impossible. He will not dwell half
Or anywhere in my capture. Yet I must draw home
The net, try to catch somehow His graces.
For it is by grace we live, and all the people
Must be told. So I could wish my body more
Contained Him, that my walks more shaped, here
And there, His amble. How ill beneath a steeple
I incarnate! Despite me, then, come now,
Let His enlightening strike us row by row.
Found here (with added Barthian comment).
Picture is of the pulpit in Barony St John’s Church, Ardrossan.
Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into the many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it was all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.
(Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early)
I love this poem -the exuberance and the acceptance of the miraculous. It captures beautifully the love and compassion of Jesus – his words bursting into action in these most ordinary of miracles.
Picture is ‘bread’ by Jonny Baker on flickr
Praise by R.S. Thomas
I praise you because
you are artist and scientist
in one. When I am somewhat
fearful of your power,
your ability to work miracles
with a set-square, I hear
you murmuring to yourself
in a notation Beethoven
dreamed of but never achieved.
You run off your scales of
rain water and sea water, play
the chords of the morning
and evening light, sculpture
with shadow, join together leaf
by leaf, when spring
comes, the stanzas of
an immense poem. You speak
all languages and none,
answering our most complex
prayers with the simplicity
of a flower, confronting
us, when we would domesticate you
to our uses, with the rioting
viruses under our lens.
Now that I am thinking about RS Thomas I thought I would post another of my favourites. Read this poem a couple of times… it is just wonderful.
I love the beauty and the power of Thomas’s imagery. Here we read of a God who is complex beyond our imagination, who is out of the reach of science.
This God murmurs to himself “in a notation Beethoven dreamed of but never achieved”. He makes music in the rainwater and the waves. He sculpts with the shadows. He puts spring together for us …leaf by leaf… like a poet composing an epic poem.
He is the God of all human language but also the God beyond language… who speaks through his creation – “answering our most complex prayers with the simplicity of a flower”.
And we cannot domesticate him. We cannot define him or box him up -when we try, we will always discover more. God (like his creation) will riot when we put him under the microscope… growing bigger… multiplying before our amazed eyes.
I am humbled beyond words to worship such a God.
Picture is ‘cool, cool water’ by Mike Lockie on Flickr
i was happy before
in the ignorance of not knowing
i was living without you
you are more present
in your absence
than any of the things around me
that i can touch with certainty
at any time
the emptiness left by the imprint of your soul
has become the shape in which
i live my life.
Another wonderful poem from Cheryl at hold this space.
I love her stuff because it works on so many different levels.
This poem could be about the precious relationship/friendship that shattered… the death of a loved one… separation from family or friends. Their presence lingers… their influence still shaping the present and the future.
It also has echoes of R.S. Thomas and Via Negativa (Negative Theology). (If you read my old blog you will know how much I love Thomas’s poetry). Thomas speaks of a God who is wholly present in his absence, knowable in his hiddenness and who speaks in silence.
He is “the darkness between stars”.
We follow “the echoes…the footprints he has just left…”
Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow, the footprints he has just
Left. We put our hands in
His side hoping to find
It warm. We look at people
And places as though he had looked
At them, too; but miss the reflection.
Via Negativa (R.S. Thomas)
Picture is ‘tiptoe through the shallows’ by Mike Lockie on Flickr
When we’ve finished
debating and deliberating
moderating and pontificating
When we’ve crossed every last T
and dotted every last i
God hangs on in there
And when we stop for a moment
and acknowledge that
we cannot control the world
God stuns us
with the beauty of creation
peeping out from behind clouds
romping over sand dunes
rippling on the water
and slots into place
and we are besotted again
with the God of mystery
is all around
even when we’re not looking
and whose wonder
saves us from ourselves
and all our plans
and lifts us up
to higher things.
(Liz Crumlish June 2011)
Wonderful slice of perspective from the wonderful Liz at Journalling … inspired (believe it or not) by a presbytery meeting (albeit one which ended with fish and chips in Girvan)!!
I think I might pin this up on my study wall to remind myself that beyond meetings and paperwork and debate… beyond agendas and report writing and all those moments when you want to scream out loud… God IS.
Photo is ‘one day at a time‘ (from the beachlife set) by Mike Lockie on Flickr