Climbing

O God, come guide my stumbling steps.
So little progress do I make
along the road to holiness,
yet help me one more inch to take.

Since you have no mown down these hills,
then you must give me strength to climb.
And if no strength my body fills,
do you still ask for heights sublime?

While others scale the grandest peaks
and then descend to holy lands,
the Shepherd gathers up the weak
and carries them within his hands.

He leads the straying, shambling ewes
not with despite, but tender care.
And though they may destruction choose,
he will not leave them to despair.

So I, so often choosing death,
still hope to climb some little ways,
not by my power, not by strength,
but by my Shepherd's loving grace.

And if I never scale the heights,
yet there is one who bears me up.
I may not see those awesome sights,
but I can sip this flowing cup.
4th-century depiction at the Museum of the Baths of Diocletian, Rome By No machine-readable author provided. Kleuske assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=468437

Mustard Seed

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed

that a person took and sowed in a field.

It is the smallest of all the seeds,

yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.

It becomes a large bush,

and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31-32
Come sow in me your mustard seed;
I have no room for more.
My little field is full of weeds
and clogged and choked with thorns.

Send down your sunlight and your rain,
your healing darkness, too:
Perhaps, though I had killed the grain,
this seed will grow for you.

If it should sprout, then make a way
among the tangled vines
for shoots to here unfurl by day
and safely rest by night.

Clear out the weeds; tear deadwood down
that will bear fruit no more,
and let new branches test the bounds
I had set long before.

So day by day and week by week,
by season and by year,
Lord, grow in me the good I seek
in spaces you have cleared.

Send branches up to greet the sky;
let brand-new leaves unfold,
that birds may see me and alight
to shelter in my soul.
An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Mark 4:30-32 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England. By Phillip Medhurst – Photo by Harry Kossuth, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7549966

What Good Are These?

When Jesus raised his eyes

and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,

he said to Philip,

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” 

He said this to test him,

because he himself knew what he was going to do. 

Philip answered him,

“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough

for each of them to have a little.” 

One of his disciples,

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;

but what good are these for so many?” 

John 6:1-15

To the tune FINLANDIA:

What good are these, five loaves to feed five thousand?
Two hundred days could never earn enough.
How can we feed the hungry that surround us?
How can we give, and have some morsel left?
Shall we starve, too, alike with those who crowd us,
or shall we live, good Savior, by your gift?

You blessed the bread and broke the loaves asunder:
They all were fed, the thousands at your feet.
And more besides: You filled them all with wonder;
you bounty gave more than the crowd could eat.
Then bless us, too, who come to you in hunger,
who come in hope, your mercy here to meet.

What good are these, the bread and wine we offer?
These morsels here, what works can they perform
to feed the poor, or comfort those who suffer,
to seek the lost, or shelter those forlorn?
But in your hands, this gift is something other:
You give yourself, and, Lord, we are reborn.

O Lamb of God, you came as one for many;
on earth with us, you felt our hunger, too.
You knew our needs, and filled us with your plenty;
and when you died, you drew us all to you.
Without you, Lord, the hearts in us are empty:
Come fill us all with love forever true.
The five loaves and two fishes (bottom), depicted on Moone High Cross, Ireland (10th century), Photo By Sheila1988 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94709610

Exodus

I took a road not meant for me,
a pathway not my own
where dry land carved into the sea,
and sank like any stone.

A galewind blew throughout the night;
the waters stood like walls,
but when I chased the burning light,
the seas began to fall.

And though I'd thought the way was dry,
I sank into the mud.
Those fortress walls that stood so high
came down on me in flood.

So now I hear deep call to deep:
The breakers and the waves
are roaring, roaring me to sleep
in praise of God who saves.

And now I know that you are God—
would that I'd known before
without the touch of staff and rod,
without the stormwinds' roar.

But I will sing your triumph, too,
from here beneath the sea,
for now I know it must be true:
You'll make a way for me.
Moses commands the return of the Red Sea. A print from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations in the possession of Revd. Philip De Vere at St. George’s Court, Kidderminster, England. By Philip De Vere – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44628620

See My Heart

To the tune PLEADING SAVIOR (“Sing of Mary, pure and lowly”):

See my heart, confused and groping—
Lord, look down to earth and see—
lost and blind, but trusting, hoping,
you will help my unbelief.
If my eyes should never open,
if the morning light should flee,
if I am no more than broken,
yet come walk the night with me.

Lord, I do not know the meadow
where you promise me your rest,
yet I long to find the shadow
held between your wing and breast.
Here I walk by hint and echo
to an end I have not guessed.
Come and guide me, heaven's arrow,
to the places you have blessed.

Take me by the hand and lead me,
by the roads I cannot find,
gentle when my fears deceive me,
patient when I fall behind.
With each day, once more receive me;
each step, one more chain unbind.
With the bread of heaven, feed me,
savior, shepherd ever kind.
Good shepherd. Russian icon, 19 c. Niederland, private collection By anonimous – http://www.cirota.ru/forum/view.php?subj=47937&order=&pg=1, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4516161

Come Away

The apostles gathered together with Jesus

and reported all they had done and taught. 

He said to them,

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 

Mark 6:30

One for today’s readings, to the tune TANTUM ERGO (“Down In Adoration Falling”):

Come away from all your labor;
come from your relentless tasks.
Come, lay down your shield and saber;
set aside your many masks.
Come away with Christ the Savior:
Rest awhile, just as he asks.

Come away from restless hunger;
come from ever thirsting greed.
Come: Through all the strife and thunder,
Christ alone his flock shall feed.
Come be filled with hope and wonder
where the shepherd knows your need.

Come: The wedding feast is ready
and the sacrifice prepared.
Come, and leave no places empty;
come, the angels' bread to share.
Christ the Lamb his flock is tending;
he shall all your burdens bear.

Come, for Christ, who walks beside you,
sees and knows your weariness.
He, who left the flock to find you,
is your shelter in distress.
Come, and leave all else behind you;
with your loving Savior, rest.
James TissotThe Exhortation to the Apostles – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007, 00.159.129_PS2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10957411

Lord, I Come Before Your Altar

To the tune ST. THOMAS (TANTUM ERGO) (“Down In Adoration Falling”):

Lord, I come before your altar,
limping as I make my way.
Feeble are the steps that falter
with the closing of the day,
yet let fall your living water:
Give your grace again, I pray.

Lord, I come—but are you turning?
Do not take away your light!
Though I know I am unworthy,
cast me not into the night!
Though I fled you, still my journey
never led me from your sight.

Always you have been beside me:
If I come before your throne,
this is by your grace that guides me—
only you and you alone.
Christ, who walked the earth, is by me
as he makes your mercy known.

So I come, O Lord, before you
bearing nothing but myself:
Take it kindly, I implore you,
though it is of little wealth.
As I am, I would adore you;
give me your unfailing help.
The Pharisee and the Publican (Le pharisien et le publicain) by James Tissot, 1886-94, Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum – http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4532/The_Pharisee_and_the_Publican_%28Le_pharisien_et_le_publicain%29, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10631555

How Can I Hate?

Based on Matthew 10:24-11:27, all the the stuff about hating your father and mother, and taking up your cross, and Sodom and Gomorrah rising up in judgment, and what the Father has revealed to little ones. A lectionary season I struggle with every cycle.

How can I hate the ones I love
to follow you, my Lord?
I prayed for peace sent from above,
but you have brought the sword.

You speak of anguish, speak of loss
as steps along the way,
and bid me take the bitter cross
and bear its weight each day.

If I should fail in all of this,
then I'll unworthy be,
betraying you with falsehood's kiss,
though you are true to me.

And if I cannot, Lord, what then?
Must I go from your side?
And shall I wander lost again,
without you as my guide?

Though I have seen your mighty works,
yet do I fail of faith.
Shall you condemn the heart that shirks,
though all else you forgave?

My heart is fearful, but it stands
(when it stands) next to you.
Oh, let me stay, and take my hands;
take all in me that's true!

And though that is but little, Lord,
yet do you love the small
and give yourself, not just the sword,
when I before you fall.
By Abrasax – Von Abrasax am 14. Januar 2008 in die deutschsprachige Wikipedia geladen., CC BY-SA 2.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25399109

Let There Be Light

When you looked upon the chaos,
when you called it into form,
when you broke the void of sameness
and creation was newborn,
then you spoke into the darkness
with the still, small voice of might,
and the new-made spaces hearkened
when you said, “Let there be light.”

So I, too, am your creation
and disordered as the dawn
of the first day that you made on,
well before there was a sun.
Come, O Lord, where I am formless;
separate my day from night.
Let me know them in their order;
deep in me, let there be light.

Let me see what you have made me;
let me hear you call it good.
Let me know the gifts you gave me;
let me love them if you would.
As the earth is swiftly passing,
all you made will share its plight.
By your mercy all-surpassing,
call me then into your light.
The Ancient of Days by William Blake (Copy D, 1794)
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1859-0625-72, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27197029

I Must Take Nothing For My Journey

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two

and gave them authority over unclean spirits. 

He instructed them to take nothing for the journey

but a walking stick—

no food, no sack, no money in their belts. 

They were, however, to wear sandals

but not a second tunic. 

He said to them,

“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave. 

Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,

leave there and shake the dust off your feet

in testimony against them.” 

So they went off and preached repentance. 

The Twelve drove out many demons,

and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Mark 6: 7-13

One for today’s Gospel reading, to the tune ST. CLEMENT:

I must take nothing for my journey,
no gold or silver for the way,
no comfort for the endless yearning
for someplace I can ever stay.

I must go lightly, all unburdened;
I must lay down all that I have
and take the highways, all uncertain
that I shall win what now I crave.

Then take, O Lord, my busy labors
that barricade me from my fears
and take my dreams of widespread favor,
the name I wish to see revered.

The hope that I am somehow worthy
and worry that I'll never be:
They weigh too much to make this journey.
Lord, take them both away from me.

And give me, in their place, your mercy
that outweighs all my hopes and dreams,
that fills the hungry and the thirsty
with your own ever-flowing streams.

And may I meet, upon the journey,
companions who will show your face,
that we may bear each other's burdens
and go together in your grace.
Vocation of the Apostles, a fresco in the Sistine Chapel by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1481-82 – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6636269