Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sun on Rose

Above the wood altar
translucent glass illuminates
the dim sanctuary.
Where flower spreads
between wood and window
earth and sky unite
in suppliant petal;
colors press, adhere,
heighten, become color anew –
green and red, white of light,
life and death, and life again.
Sun on rose takes flesh –
perfect execution of beauty.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

During the Early Eucharist

The Eucharistic prayers are now over. We enter into the climax of the liturgy. We enter that strange time within our ordinary time. We are not obliged to intrude with human speech. Indeed, we are obliged not to intrude. Now is the waiting in thought and prayer, the slow movement forward, the kneeling to receive, and the return to waiting. Thus we participate in the substance of life. People wait while others move forward, receive, and return. There is a quietly expectant mood, amidst sounds of feet, clothes, and murmured words. These are the only words, what priest and layperson say when administering bread and wine. And these are not our words, but God’s words to us and for us. The prior busy speech we have offered is now muted, for we focus on these words, these elements. Priest and laity, amidst the details, the colors, the movement, the waiting, are now here for nothing else but these words and these elements. Christ’s plain and majestic chant of sorrow and joy, of death and life, comes to us in the breaking of bread, the pouring of wine. And we receive quietly, exultantly.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Minor Meditation on Vaughan Williams’ “The Lark Ascending”

The rising of the sun
toward some articulation of the day...

some clear grammar of light
some compassing essay in hope...

and pray, o pray
some lark-sung gospel of beauty...

endless, endless...
into blue...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Land That Makes Us Exiles

With full credit to Phil Chevron who wrote “Thousands Are Sailing,” recorded brilliantly by the Pogues on their album “If I Should Fall from Grace with God,” let me quote two lines from this song:

“Where e’er we go, we celebrate
The land that makes us refugees.”

The Pogues of course sing of the bittersweet experience of Irish emigrants and the land that exiled them. It is not merely that they look to Ireland as the land from which they were exiled; they look to Ireland as the land that by its very history and nature made them exiles. Yet the response of the overseas Irish is no simple alienation, no absolute turning from and repudiation of Ireland. Rather, wherever they go they lift a glass to celebrate that very land which made them refugees.

Transmute this to Christian terms. We celebrate heaven, the realm that makes us, not refugees, but certainly exiles in this world. As citizens of heaven, we know that this world, between creation and eschaton, is not our home. Would it not be far simpler and easier to be at home fully in this world, in this life? That cannot be because God has broken into our existence and inaugurated a new realm and new life through Jesus Christ. Thereby God in Christ, on the bittersweet cross, has transformed us into exiles.

Or rather, God has transmuted our exilic status. Once exiles from heaven in this world because of sin, we are now exiles of heaven in this world because of salvation. We cannot feel at home in this world. We feel daily the dis-ease of living in this world which falls so far short of God’s good and beautiful creation and redemption. We long to be at home and live in heaven. And so while the experience of heaven we have in this life by virtue of God’s coming to us in Jesus makes us know and acutely feel our exilic status, we actually celebrate that which makes us exiles. Wherever we go, we raise a cup and celebrate the land that makes us exiles us in this world, so that we are nevermore at home truly and fully in this life again.

A more devout person than I might object and point out that it is this life which makes us exiles, not heaven. I would agree, I suppose. Such is the technically correct theological perspective. Yet it lessens none at all the sense of exile, and it will not be in the next life that we experience exile but in this one. Here and now we are exiles. It is not heaven where we begin but here. Take heaven off the map, and we might come to feel truly at home here (albeit though death lurks as the final destroyer of such). Yet the announcement and inauguration of the kingdom of heaven in this world shakes to the core any sense of at-home-ment in this life. Hence, sailing one way or another, we arrive at being exiles celebrating that which makes us know and experience that we are indeed exiles in this world. This is much a part of the paradox of penultimate Christian existence.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Leaves Turn Light to Praise

Across the lavish spectrum of their rising and their dying,
From their fecund greening to their prodigal changing,
Leaves turn light to praise. Our hearts then let us raise,
And with them laud all manner, all seasons, of light-particled forms.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Some Thoughts on 2 Corinthians 5:11 - 6:2

Much in our culture entices us to live for self primarily. In many forms – advertising, pop psychology, and more – we are exhorted and even wooed to nurture our emotional, physical, and financial desires first as the basis of true well-being. Even some of the “spirituality” in our churches seems imbued with a similar view – that our self-actualization constitutes the aim of God’s love for us. It is as if Jesus lived, died, and was raised to enable the ultimate in self-success and self-satisfaction for us!

To be sure, there is a semblance of truth in this. God does love us. God did send Jesus for us – to live, die, and be raised on our behalf. But here the real truth – God’s truth in Jesus – runs crossways to our human perspective. For Jesus came, not primarily to reconcile us to ourselves, but to reconcile us to God, to restore us to a loving and right relationship with God.

Therefore – Paul writes – Jesus died, not that we would live for ourselves, but for him. Reconciled to God through Jesus, we are to “live” Jesus in the world. Entrusted with the message of reconciliation, we are to be ambassadors for Jesus. We are to manifest him to the world around us. We are to encourage others to be reconciled to God through Jesus.

This is glorious but daunting! How can we do this? The answer is, we cannot do it from our own human perspective, in our own human strength. We are not capable of it; we cannot even understand it rightly. But here God’s crossways truth answers the problem. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we are made new. In Jesus we can do it. If a person is in Jesus, he or she is a new creation. The old self and world have gone. The new self and world have come! In Jesus, we can “live” Jesus in the world. We can live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and was raised for us. This is daunting but glorious! And gloriously possible for us in God’s new creation in Jesus!