Praise him…

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

Not knowing…

i was happy before

in the ignorance of not knowing
i was living without you

but now
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

All will pass…

“The things of Time are in connivance with eternity. The shadows serve You. The beasts sing to You before they pass away. The solid hills shall vanish like a worn out garment. All things change and die and disappear. Questions arrive, assume their actuality, and disappear. In this hour I shall cease to ask them and silence shall be my answer. The world that Your love created, that the heat has distorted, that my mind is always misinterpreting, shall cease to interfere with our voices.” (Thomas Merton)

I like the transitions in Merton’s piece… the sense of movement. Everything has its moment and then it passes. The things which dominate today will soon pass; they will be yesterday’s news. We humans tend to forget that everything is transitory as we get fixated on things or issues or interpretations.

But one day (but probably not today despite predictions in some quarters) all the noise and confusion… all the sound and fury of this earthly life will pass away. Nothing will block our dialogue with God when time passes into eternity.

Photo is ‘bench’ by Jonny Baker on Flickr

Saturday… hear the silence

Followers of my old blog blog will know that I am passionate about the theology of the late Scottish theologian Alan E. Lewis… and Easter (or Holy) Saturday is his thing.

Lewis developed his theology of Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, as he was dying from cancer. The resulting book Between Cross and Resurrection was published posthumously.

The principle point behind Lewis’s thinking is that the middle day… this “time of waiting in which nothing of significance occurs” …is central to the whole of Christian theology.

Although Lewis acknowledges that the middle day might be considered a “bizarre and hopeless starting point for theological reflection” he chooses this space – the “no-man’s land”  dividing cross and resurrection – from which to meditate upon the meaning and significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.

But what is it about this day (a day largely neglected by Theologians and by the Church in its liturgy and worship) that holds such significance for Lewis? I think it is probably the shocking enigma that we have to confront as we contemplate Saturday– that it is God himself who has suffered and been rejected by humanity, that the ‘Immortal’ has died and been laid in a tomb.

For Lewis, and for us as we face this paradox, Holy Saturday is “…a day which forces us to speak of hell and to conceive how it might be that God’s own Son, and therefore God’s own self, lay dead and cold within a sepulchre.”

Easter Saturday is the day from which we must look back on Good Friday. It is only from the perspective of Easter Saturday that we can begin to grasp the true reality of the horror and hopelessness that must have overcome the followers of Jesus, indeed all who loved him, on that first Good Friday.

But Easter Saturday must also take us forward to Easter Sunday.

Although the suffering of the cross and the dark silent space of the tomb where “death is given time and space to be itself, in all its coldness and helplessness”  is central, it never overwhelms the powerful and joyful victory of resurrection, because it is the resurrection that confirms beyond all doubt that Christ was in fact God.

So when we view the resurrection from the perspective of Easter Saturday, we are made to think again about the radical nature of the suffering and death of God in Christ and we are also confronted with the shocking reality that God himself has been found and identified among the dead. God has not only suffered and died, he has also been laid in the grave.

Easter Saturday is a day of mystery and a time for reflection.

Bonhoeffer once said that our reflections on the significance of Christ must begin with silence (all voices must be stilled, all conversation must cease).

Easter Saturday gives us that silence.

It is the space for our reflection… space for us to dialogue with the three-day story of faith and to explore, from a different perspective, our ideas of a Triune God who fully embraced our humanity.

From the liminal space of Easter Saturday we are able to gain a much fuller appreciation of the depths of the humanity of Christ – the God become flesh, who lived to die and then to pass through death into glorious new life.

The miracle of the resurrection (our hope for life beyond death) takes place in the silent hidden space of Jesus’ tomb. In Mark’s Gospel this miracle of new life for all is revealed in the words of the young man in white who startles the women at the empty tomb –

“you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here”.

God’s victory over evil – over all suffering and ultimately over death itself is revealed in the young man’s words which proclaim the power of God for a world come of age.

Passion picture from: Way out West