The Myrrh Bearers

Conflating the women who went to the tomb with Mary Magdalene’s encounter. To the tune EVENTIDE (“Abide With Me”).

We watched you die; we held you, stiff and cold.
Weeping, we wrapped your limbs in linen folds.
Now will our hearts this grief forever hold,
turned into stones across your mem'ry rolled.

Now when we come, we come but to the dead;
there we can follow where you first have led.
You are forever he who wept and bled:
How can you rise again, as you had said?

Where is the joy we had when first you came?
Where can we hide our sorrow and our shame?
Where have they laid the body we would claim?
Who is this stranger calling out our name?

Lord, we have found you in the dawning day,
here where we left you, though we went astray.
Rise in our hearts and there forever stay;
made flesh again, the stones are rolled away.
Las Santas Mujeres ante la tumba de Cristo 1346 By Ferrer Bassa – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6628573

As Strong As Death

The love as strong as death
has death itself embraced,
has given up his blood and breath
our fleeing steps to trace.

He sought us, tracked us down,
relentless as the grave,
and when he saw we'd run to ground,
crept into our dark cave.

More fierce than hell's own flame,
he set himself alight.
For this and this alone he came:
to make our darkness bright.

So deep he could not drown
in any ocean's drop,
he swallowed all our torments down
until the lashes stopped.

And when the world went dark,
the sea had ceased its roar,
a pulse, a gasp, a living spark
lit up his heart once more.

The seal upon our hearts,
he lets them beat again;
the chasms holding us apart
he makes a level plain.

For Christ, as strong as death,
all death has overthrown,
has given back our hope and breath
and rolled away the stone.
Icon of the Resurrection, By Surgun100 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8724640

The Spirit Comes

Jesus said to his disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

And I will ask the Father,

and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,

the Spirit of truth.

John 14: 15-17

This comes out of an online retreat I did this weekend. It looks forward to Pentecost, and is written for the tune of “The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns.”

The Spirit comes, as promised us
by Christ before he left,
to lead us into holiness
and leave us not bereft.

Not as of old in wind and flame,
but signs and wonders still
are born in us when we proclaim
God's promises fulfilled.

As we were promised light and life
and sharing in Christ's joys,
the Spirit comes to still our strife
and let us hear God's voice.

As we were promised pain and death
upon our crosses all,
the Spirit comes to give us breath
in answer to God's call.

And when the promised day shall come,
when Christ shall come again,
the Spirit gives us back to him
to join the great Amen.
Detail of a statue at St Bartholomew’s Church in Orford, photo By Ziko-C – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3532648

A Place For You

I try to avoid writing in the first person for a divine voice, unless I’m directly quoting scripture. Turns out, writing from the Last Supper Discourses makes not putting words in Jesus’ mouth really, really difficult. Luckily, most of the words were already there, because the Last Supper Discourses are w.o.r.d.y. So, based on yesterday’s “I am the way, the truth, and the life” reading, here is some rhyming Jesus:

I go to make a place for you,
and where I go, you, too, shall be.
What I have done, you, too, must do;
I send you as my Lord sent me.

And if I go to make your place,
I will return to take you there
to gaze together on God's face
and in the Father's glory share.

I am the way, the truth, the life:
who seek the Father pass through me,
advancing, loving, true, alive,
'til they the Father's glory see.

And I, in turn, shall move through you
as dies my Father move in me,
and who sees you shall see us two,
receiving you shall God receive.

Then come and walk my living way;
come tread the truth whose name is mine,
your place prepared against the day
you come to rest in arms divine.
John 14:6 sign along U.S. Route 66 in Shamrock in Wheeler CountyTexas. Photo By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11202379

The True Shepherd

Jesus said:

“I am the good shepherd.

A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

A hired man, who is not a shepherd

and whose sheep are not his own,

sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,

and the wolf catches and scatters them.

This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd,

and I know mine and mine know me,

just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;

and I will lay down my life for the sheep.

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.

These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,

and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

This is why the Father loves me,

because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.

I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.

This command I have received from my Father.”

John 10:11-18
Your servants all have left us, Lord,
defenseless in the wild,
with neither spear nor shield nor sword,
as a helpless as a child.
You see the faithless shepherds run,
and in their stead you send your son.

Who dives into the lion's maw
to snatch the prey within,
is rent and wounded, bloodied, raw,
but joyous thus to win.
His only weapon is his blood,
that drowns his enemies in flood.

So does he wield his very life
to save the frightened sheep,
he bests the beast in every fight,
and what he prizes, keeps.
So we are treasured—at what cost!
So we are held, not to be lost.

Oh, God, who sent the shepherd true
to love the flock despised,
now let us follow him to you,
and give you what you prize:
our love in heart and soul and strength,
unto your glory's endless length.
Amen.
DAVID, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1623/1624, Photo By Burkhard Mücke – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64506569

The Garden

The garden where you bid us first
to multiply, our acts have cursed.
It now is lost to all our charts.
Will you replant it in our hearts?

The man and woman made of clay,
before your bidding could obey
broke faith, O Lord, broke right and good
and went to till a barren world.

No garden grows but by your might,
but by your gifts of rain and light;
relentless, though, we plow and sow
and bid the seed by our work grow.

By sweat of brow and stoop of back
we seek to burgeon where we lack,
but not a seed we plant bears fruit
excepting Christ himself is root.

The harvest gifts of fruit and grain
come after storm and after pain
or don't, and we are barren left,
lamenting all that we're bereft.

'Twas in a garden, sweating blood,
that Christ accepted for our good
the bitter passion of his end,
and planted something new to tend.

Naught but his touch could break the soil—
not all our groaning, all our toil—
none but his pow'r could plant the seed
where all the birds now rest and feed.

O, gard'ner of that Easter morn,
let what you plant in us be born,
a gift as pure as rain-washed earth:
your life, your will, and our rebirth.
The Garden of Eden (c. 1828) By Thomas Cole – The Athenaeum: Home – info – pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=182975

Jesus, Shepherd

For Good Shepherd Sunday this weekend, to the tune of “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” (GROSSER GOTT).

Jesus, shepherd of my soul,
through the dark I strive to see you;
keeper of the gate and fold,
other shepherds claim to be you.
Speak, true shepherd, loud and clear;
call me, Lord, that I may hear.

Let me follow where you guide;
light the way before and save me.
Let me kindly walk beside
each companion that you give me,
helping each to follow you.
Show the pathway straight and true.

Shepherd, tend my wayward heart:
I would give it you forever,
but I often rove apart.
Draw me back again, Lord, ever.
You have made and set me free:
Freely do I give you me.
At the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=515973

Emmaus

That very day, the first day of the week,

two of Jesus’ disciples were going

to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,

and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.

Luke 24:13-35
They say the tomb is open
but Jesus can't be found,
and all that we were hoping
lies ruined on the ground.
What is it you have spoken?
What draws us to the sound?
The scriptures, blest and broken,
their comfort handed 'round.

Oh stay, you who can guide us
to find the son of man.
Stay here and sup beside us,
and show us what you can.
Encourage us and chide us
still in our hope to stand.
Stay, 'til you have supplied us
with bread from your own hand!

And were our hearts not burning
with every word you spoke?
Our savior swift returning
destroys the anxious yoke!
Though we were undiscerning,
still the true bread you broke;
you satisfied our yearning
and all our hopes awoke.
Supper at Emmaus with candlelight, By Matthias Stom – Self-photographed, Photograph taken at: Corps et Ombres : Le Caravagisme européen, Musée des Augustins, 23 July 2012–14 October 2012 , Caroline Léna Becker, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20627958

Breathe

He breathed on them and said to them,

“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:22
The wind that on the waters moved
stirs now across our drying tears.
The bloodied hands of him we loved
reach out to hold us in our fears.

Our breath in short and ragged gasps,
our sobbing sorrow, grieving awe,
meets his as in the air they pass.
Our hearts to his, his to ours, draws.

The sigh of peace breathed over us,
the hot and misting, living breath:
a promise spread to cover us
and bear us through the vale of death.

As we inhale the savior's air,
the spirit steals into our lungs:
the ordinary breath we share,
communion on our lips and tongues.

Breathe in the living, breathing Lord;
breathe out on every breath his name:
each breath a letter of the Word,
each pulse the seal upon his claim.
Doubting Thomas, circa 1190-1200, By Unknown – illuminator – hgFUz6bXaLmUQQ at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22185693

Give Us Mercy

This comes out of an online creative retreat. The prompt was an Easter Kyrie from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:

Like Mary at the empty tomb,
we fail to grasp the wonder of your presence.
Lord, have mercy.
All   Lord, have mercy.
Like the disciples behind locked doors,
we are afraid to be seen as your followers.
Christ, have mercy.
All   Christ, have mercy.
Like Thomas in the upper room,
we are slow to believe.
Lord, have mercy.
All   Lord, have mercy.

I wrote a lyric based on it, and Rachel Wilhelm set it to music:

On the heart that cannot see you in the garden,
on the fear that clings too close to what it knows,
oh, have mercy, Lord, and grant us all your pardon,
in the garden where the life you planted grows.

On the courage that deserted us at midnight,
on the promises we made and broke at once,
oh, have mercy, Lord, and meet us in the dawnlight
when the hope within us rises up and runs.

Give us mercy ever new,
Lord, to rise again,
Lord, to rise again with you. (2x)

On the eyes that have to see before they trust you,
on that hands that only love what they can hold,
oh, have mercy, Lord, and give us leave to touch you,
touch the wounded hand that points us to the fold.

On the fragile clay that cannot help but crumble,
on the frail humanity you made like you,
oh, have mercy, Lord, and catch us as we stumble.
Lift us up again and give us life anew.

Listen to it! And then go listen to the rest of Rachel’s stuff!

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, 1602, By Caravaggio – http://www.christusrex.org/www2/art/images/carav10.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6804893