The Preacher as Antichrist: a sonnet

The Preacher as Antichrist To seize the flesh and make it word instead, Dissecting lived perfection to display Cold concepts, or trite lessons—mere cliche— I block th’ incarnate Word in printer’s lead, Make husk and dry chaff of the living bread, Turn laughter, tears, and blood, to an essay— Mere cleverness—affront to those who pray. To those who come, desiring to be fed And given hope, is all that can be said A worthless, weak, and cheap call to obey? Alliterated numbered points convey A dreary discourse, dull as it is dead. I look up to the Spirit that me owns, And ask, can life be given to these dry bones?   (Certainly not a theorised criticism of preaching; more a confession that, too often, this is what it feels like I am...

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U.A. Fanthorpe, Not the Millennium

Wise men are busy being computer-literate. There should be a law against confusing Religion with mathematics. There was a baby. Born where? And when? The sources mention Massacres, prophecies, stars; They tell a good story, but they don’t agree. So we celebrate at the wrong midnight. Does it matter? Only dull science expects An accurate audit. The economy of heaven Looks for fiestas and fireworks every day, Every day. Be realistic, says heaven: Expect a miracle. From U.A. Fanthorpe, Christmas Poems (Enitharmon Press, 2002), p. 61

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Stigmatic: a poem for Good Friday

[Years ago I read an account of someone—at this distance I don’t even remember who—receiving the stigmata. The detail that has stayed with me ever since was that the wounds did not come all at once, but gradually developed over several months.]   You pierced me slowly, Lord. An itch at first. Mere irritation. Then four sores. Blood seeping, Staining sock and shirt. Skin scraped away as if by Sandpaper. Why not the quick urgent thrust of a lover Breaking my virgin skin with rush of blood? Penetration completed in a moment. As swift as when nails impaled you. Your mining as ponderous and painstaking As an archeological dig. Pits Excavated in my extremities With excruciating exactness. Pressing imperceptibly deeper Precise, damaging no bones. At last you break...

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Irregular Hope: Seven Stanzas for Christmas

Irregular Hope: Seven Stanzas for Christmas   1. Epiphany Thrice fourteen men and Just three women named Between Ur and Nazareth. The men are rapists, murderers, Incestuous, adulterers, and the rest. We read and note the female lives To be irregular.   2. Benedictus Pretending to have Dreamt. Straining to Forget. Then the blood Fails to flow. Young enough Still to be irregular She tries to hope For two weeks more.   3. Annunciation His voice controlled. Effort Etched into his neck. He searches for civility. ‘But how? It all seems … Most irregular.’ She fails to hope Until he dreams her reality.   4. Quickening Her belly soon begins to Swell. Straining to contain the One who fills time, space. One day she prays. Between Her kidneys prayer is...

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The preacher’s task

I get asked sometimes if I enjoy preaching. I find it a hard question. I know I can’t not preach. And often, when actually preaching, I know that intoxicating experience of utter single-mindedness and control – ‘flow’ as they call it – which is dangerously exhilarating and addictive. Every worthwhile sermon I have ever preached, however, has hurt to write, as I have found that in the text that I wanted so much to avoid, and have been forced to face up to it. And Sangster’s old line, that every preacher sits down every time with disappointment and the hope that ‘next time I shall preach!’ rings true for me. These words probably reflect those two moments of pain more than the ecstatic moment of preaching that comes between. Read Revere Relish Reflect...

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