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 Research Receive Realise React Recoil Resist Repress Reject Rebel Retreat Reassess Repent Reform Return Recall Rephrase Reclothe Redact Rehearse Refresh Rewrite Reveal Recount Release Rejoice Reap Regret Rest Regroup...

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At Lazarus’s Tomb: An Easter poem

He wept, the man who I had learned to trust, And spoke: ‘he who believes will never die.’ My brother, who for four dead days did lie, Rose, stripped, and lived again. This we discussed Endlessly – how could we not? The years went by He married, prospered, then, as all men must Grew old. He stooped and sickened. Returned to dust. And now once more we watch his tomb and cry. ‘The resurrection and the life’ he said, But I await the last of days again. ‘Though die, will live’ – strange words he spoke, and hard; What has he changed, who on the cross once bled? He rose. And rose. Made gates of death, through pain, A door held open by the hands still scarred.

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‘Manhood and Deity’: Two sonnets for Christmas

A pair – and they are a pair – of Christmas poems:   1. Manhood: Joseph You paint me in the shadows, left of scene. His shining light there blocked by ox. Or third King. Or by ass like me. My face is blurred Lest I distract from Jesus and Mary.   Oh, ‘I’m not Hamlet, nor was meant to be’ ‘Attendant lord’ am I, attendant on my Lord— My son (or so I say: obedient word, That masks the uselessness I feel in me.)   This all my calling, all my sanctity To stand detached and silent, unpreferred. My voice? A butler’s, asking concierge On their account, not mine, ‘Pray, room have ye?’   Care? No! I know as well as know my fate: ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’     2. ‘These are the generations’: Deity God’s being, act. The act of life. Adored By all creation—act is deity That is before, beyond, above what He Has made, surveyed, and loved, who is named Lord.   Eternal generation the act is. Revered By hosts of heaven who perfectly do see The life of God the Holy Trinity One begets, one is begotten, and a Third   Who holds them both in unity assured. One act, one triune life eternally Most blessed. A second generation we Confess: in Virgin’s womb we find the Word:   In heaven the One in Three lives, loves, and reigns; On earth the eternal Son is born...

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Spiritus: A poem for Pentecost

Spiritus   De sensibili autem demonstratione spiritus sancti sive per columbae speciem sive per linguas igneas… (Augustine, De Trin. IV.xxi)   As dove to him you came; To us you come as fire. Soft, his soul, and smooth Conformed from conception To be your habitation.   We, though, are misshapen, Angular, deformed, refractory. Like agate eggs our hearts Are stone Lined with scattered, shattered spikes, That surround a light-starved void.   We must be Transformed Burnt clean Melted And then remade.   You sear and cauterize us, Holy Dove. You burn long-calcified layers of self; Blazing, you fill the space within, until Our molten souls are ready to be Reformed By some almighty potter Possessed of flame-proof hands.   But when our liquid selves leak out We gape at what humanity can be And say that you have given to us gifts....

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Two Gods, Three Faces: An Easter Poem

Two Gods, Three Faces: An Easter poem     The statue of the god who guards the turning of the year Has two stone faces carved. One looks toward the future yet to be One back to all that was. Blame sculptor for the flaw perhaps, but Each face is blank. Unmoved by what is gone, Aloof to what will come.   Olympus’ peak is famous for its cold But still, Could even an olympian god look thus? Gaze on time now gone with just Indifference? No tears? No sadness? No mourning for what might have been? No joy? No triumph? No little smile for real though modest gain? And could his other face be samely flat As it surveys the future? No hope? No fear? No trepidation in those cold blank eyes?   Not even calm, serene. Unable, not unwilling, to feel joy, Or sadness, anticipation, or desire. Perhaps the law from Sinai’s peak was right: ‘Make no image of your deity’ Who could carve or draw or see what God should feel?   * * *   Another face. Not blank, but wet with tears ‘If you only knew what must to bring you peace…’ Then wet with sweat in garden in the night Then wet with blood and tears when crowned with thorns.   He wept at what had been Then changed all that would be. His face was seen, if never drawn or carved. No blank indifference in the eyes of Christ.   Passionate, face blazing, he threw himself (the scholar said) On history’s wheel to try to make it turn! And turn it did at last (the scholar said) And mangled his dead body as it rolled.   Better that than four cold eyes of Janus? To care, to act, and if to fail, At least it was for love, for purpose strong.   But what if that crushed body was re-knit, With bone joined to bone, sinew to sinew, Refilled once more with the Spirit’s breath? The past recarved, what is to come redrawn On that cold morning that made all time new. What primal joy, what last desire Was written on the face that first Looked on the folded...

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