Spirit groans and growing pain

I look down at the stars on my jumper

as I sigh

And I think of those Peruvian skies

Just northeast of Huánuco.

The entire sky was sprinkled with silver

Like molten metal dripping through a colander –

And yet you promised Abram that many children.

*

I run my fingers through my hair

as I try

to grasp that what I am reading is happening.

It grows back in patches where I’ve stress-pulled it,

kinking awkwardly beneath my curls –

And yet you know every strand.

*

I scale down my hopes and dreams

as I cry

at the million ways this world is dying and unkind

and really wonder how I’ll keep going

when the going is so bloody tough.

And yet you gave me my life and have kept me growing.

*

Emmanuel –

God the stranger who makes his home with us –

Help us keep on loving

and come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Found in Translation/Wycliffe*’s Plea

For the artists, the liturgists and pioneers who keep the Good News fresh and don’t just parrot the wisdom: you will always be the true evangelists.

Lost for new words

We recycle the old ones

Not fathoming their subtle implications

As if their very antiquity suffices for intelligibility;

As if permanence were a virtue.

Well, not in linguistics

And that is hardly prophecy.

Sure, the well-worn is beautiful as poetry

But if lex orandi is lex credendi*

then new metaphors will come in handy

when translating the ancient

into postmodern.

After all, the Word became flesh and made his home among us

So we need to give Jesus the local lingo:

To keep translating him into our vernacular

and re-interpreting him with our lives.

_

*John Wycliffe (1320-1384) was an English priest who was an early translator of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate version into vernacular English, so that all English people could access the Scriptures in their own languages.

**Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin loosely translated as “the law of praying [is] the law of believing”) is a motto which means that it is prayer which leads to belief, or that it is liturgy which leads to theology.

A Winter Solstice Psalm

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest…

– Isaiah 9:2-3 (NIV)

Bare birches stand out like
Anorexic zebras on a savannah
Just outside Sunningdale…
And I am thinking of you again.
.
The year is nearly ended;
The darkness has reached a zenith;
The world still reeling at such pain…
But I have started to sing again.
.
I hear soft playing in the evening
Like prayers coming out through a piano.
Our treasure we hide in our junk rooms…
And I have started to dream again.
.
People in this city can be terrible
Delaying confirmation for a better invitation
When you reach out to make connections…
Yet I have started to hope again.
.
‘As long as there are people…’
People kind like you,
I’ll believe in hope and fight for love:
For what I trust is true.

“As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbour, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘God is in the Manger’

Holistic Gospel

I used to think
That Life had a narrative
I AM and his purposes were divine
If rarely divined
By us little mere mortals
But now sometimes I don’t know.

I cannot believe in your
Parking space theology
A biased ‘mates’ rates’,
you’re-on-the-list-you-jump-the-queue system.
I’m not saying God’s Providence is democratic
But certain blessing seems questionable from a God of the Poor
Who was born to be a refugee.

The Gospel is about salvation, yes
But it’s about so much MORE.
Bringing the Kingdom; on EARTH, not just in Heaven
And that means getting stuck in,
here and now, in our surroundings.
Who is my neighbour?
Maybe it’s Nature
as well as your colleagues
or the lady who lives next door.
Maybe we’re not just saved to sing
but to share in life, in all its fullness
and not just to perpetuate
middle-class culture.
Surely the cross was a victory
because it was a starting point.

Not a stop but a comma

In this video of a (very good) talk by theologian Paula Gooder about bodies and Christianity, Canon Mark Oakley summarises things nicely and poetically when he suggests that Jesus, in healing people, wanted to change people’s ‘full stops’ (e.g. bodily disability, mental ill-health, anything cutting them off from community and society) into commas – making them not the end of the story but a break, to allow them to start something new.

“It seems that Jesus spots a person’s hard little full stop…and he turns it into a comma, and there’s a new chapter.”

 

 

Jesus makes our full stops commas,

Bringing new life out of old.

Better, he writes semi colons;

longer stories can be told.

He can hear our exclamations:

understand our colon’s fear.

I myself continue mortal;

all the same the Lord is here.

Gloria in Infernos

This poem was specially written for a modern-day adaptation of the Nativity story at Holy Trinity church in Clapham, South West London, on 10th Dec 2016. In it, the shepherds to whom the Angel appears are translated into door supervisors aka bouncers, who, like the shepherds outside Bethlehem, work night shifts and would not expect to be the first to be officially told about the birth of royalty. Infernos is a nightclub on Clapham High Street (which lies within Lambeth Borough).

*

While bouncers watched the club by night,
all standing round the door
An Angel of the Lord came down
And they fell to the floor.

‘Chill out’ he said, for mighty dread
Had struck them dumb as well
He said ‘It’s fine, I’ve got good news
And you’re who we want to tell!’

“This evening Lambeth borough here
Has had a royal birth!
He’ll change the lives of you and them
And everyone on Earth.

The kid’s been born just up the road
Behind a B&B
It’s fully booked, but round the back
A garage nursery!”

That’s what he said – God’s honest truth –
And then they start to sing!
This massive choir – from the sky!
About this baby King.

So off they go to take a look
And sure enough he’s there.
Just humbly wrapped in Primark sheets
No cot from Mothercare.

So praise our God who loves his flock
And give peace to our town
That bouncers were the first to know
When God himself came down.