Saturday

Today’s photo is the sea wall in Saltcoats, by Dylan Walker. 
I wanted a still bleak Image for the day between cross and resurrection.
  
“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”

Of Mice and Men  (John Steinbeck)

Lost things

Today’s photographic is called “lost spirituality” (by Jonny Baker on Flickr). 

It seemed appropriate for today when the significance of Good Friday, other than being a day off from school and work (for some anyway), is largely lost or ignored. 

  

In keeping with the bleakness of my mood on this Good Friday, here is a favourite poem from a beautifully bleak poet:

In Church (RS Thomas)

Often I try 

To analyse the quality 

Of its silences. Is this where God hides

From my searching? I have stopped to listen,

After the people have gone,

to the air recomposing itself

For vigil. It has waited like this

Since the stones grouped themselves about it.

These are the hard ribs

Of a body that our prayers have failed

To animate. Shadows advance

From their corners to take possession

Of places the light held

For an hour. The bats resume

Their business. The uneasiness of the pews

Ceases. There is no other sound

In the darkness but the sound of a man

Breathing, testing his faith

On emptiness, nailing his questions

One by one to an untenanted cross

(From Collected Poems, 1945-1990. P180.)

The Musician

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

Sacred space?

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.

Walt Whitman

“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

meaning in the waiting…

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,

Let me go there…

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
With slime.

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.

Body language…

“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

The impossible possibility…

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.

Logos

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