The Winnower Is Coming Soon

John answered them all, saying, 

“I am baptizing you with water,

but one mightier than I is coming.

I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor

and to gather the wheat into his barn, 

but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 3:10-18
The winnower is coming soon;
the wind is in his hand
to blow away the shades of doom.
Who in that wind can stand?

But oh, my chaff shall catch the air
and pull me to the fire,
where I shall burn for years and years
in flames that never die.

The cloak that billows at my back
shall drag me like a sail
unless I take it down and tack,
then kneel and pray and bail.

Where I have two, let me give one
and strip my chaff away
before the thresher's work is done
and sunset swallows day.

Though as I lie upon his floor,
I dare not kiss his feet,
yet where he walks is mercy sure.
There peace and justice meet.

So I may yet be gathered up, 
unworthy of his barn,
if mercy finishes the job
and brings me to his arms.
Medieval image of threshing men By Unknown Miniaturist, French (active c. 1455 in Paris) – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15498541

When the Sun and Moon Are Darkened

Jesus said to his disciples:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, 

and on earth nations will be in dismay, 

perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

People will die of fright 

in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, 

for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

And then they will see the Son of Man 

coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

But when these signs begin to happen, 

stand erect and raise your heads 

because your redemption is at hand.”

Luke 21:25-28

To the tune ODE TO JOY:

When the sun and moon are darkened,
when the stars begin to fall,
when the hearts in charge are hardened,
when we cannot hear you call,
when our lives and loves are parted
by the end that comes for all,
when you come to reap your harvest,
grant us courage standing tall.

Come, O Lord, and bring salvation;
justice bring to every land.
Come to crush the serpent's wisdom;
come with mercy in your hand.
Drown the whispers of temptation
with the song the angels sang.
Come at last and bring redemption!
Come again, O Son of Man!

Give your courage to the fearful;
pour your strength into the weak.
Bring your comfort to the tearful,
your reward to those who seek.
Forge a way across the desert;
orchards in the wastelands make.
Sing your song and let us hear it:
Let the dawn upon us break!
Greek icon of the Second Coming, c. 1700 By Anonymous, Greece – http://ikona.orthodoxy.ru/icon.php?source=source36/53, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3229269

Come On Clouds Descending

For today’s readings on the Feast of Christ the King, to the tune AURELIA (“The Church’s One Foundation”):

You came at first in chaos,
when earth and heav'n were born,
in all the clouds of cosmos
and coalescing forms.
The whisper of creation
that split the day from night
was your first revelation:
You came, and there was light.

Then in the fog of empire,
of upheaval and doubt,
the clouded skies of midnight
when all the lights went out:
You came to bring the kingdom,
a rule not of this world,
that set the heavens ringing
with songs of peace on earth.

But come again, Christ Jesus;
come fill our hearts, we pray.
To draw us to your feasting,
come overturn our ways.
Transform us by your presence
as you transform this food;
come to the cloud of witness
with holy flesh and blood.

Then come once more forever
to reign as Christ our king.
Oh, come on clouds descending,
your lasting peace to bring.
Come, Alpha and Omega,
eternal Word of truth.
Speak into us, O Savior;
make us forever new.
Gospel Book, Second Coming of Christ, Walters Manuscript W.540, fol. 14v By Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts – https://www.flickr.com/photos/39699193@N03/8509826031/, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76790938

In the Days of Noah

Jesus said to his disciples:

“As it was in the days of Noah,

so it will be in the days of the Son of Man;

they were eating and drinking,

marrying and giving in marriage up to the day

that Noah entered the ark,

and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

Luke 17:26-37

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

As 'twas in the days of Noah,
in the hours of storm and flood,
with the seas of terror growing,
peace and comfort sunk in mud,
hope rose o'er the waters knowing
somewhere still the mountains stood.

When the lightning leaps from heaven,
when the earth is swept away,
we before the storm are driven
terrified upon the waves:
Mourn what we have lost forever;
grieve for all we could not save.

Yet above the sea there rises
once again the morning sun.
Still our hearts will beat inside us
when the storm of rage is done.
On the seas our hope will find us
even when all else is gone.

Then on wings of love descending
while the earth is wrapped in flood,
bearing mercy never-ending
as he bears the weight of wood,
comes the word of life befriending
all he made and still calls good.

We lift up our hands beseeching:
Come, O Savior!  Come, bright dove!
Hear our hearts and voices pleading:
Let your sign appear above.
Fill the empty hands out reaching
with your world-remaking love!
By Anonymous early Christian author – An early Christian depiction showing Noah giving the gesture of orant as the dove returns http://www.artbible.net/1T/Gen0601_Noah_flood/pages/04%20CATACOMBES%20NOE%20ET%20LA%20COLOMBE%20SAINTS%20PIERRE.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4147336

Drive Away the Night

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’
with great power and glory,
and then he will send out the angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

Mark 13:24-31
The sun itself has darkened;
the moon gives no more light.
Our every fear has sharpened,
but nowhere can we hide.

The night still grows yet deeper;
the stars themselves fall down,
and over all, our weeping
is now the only sound.

All this is merely midnight!
There is no sign of day,
no hint at all of dawnlight
to drive the dark away.

But there shall be no warning,
no whispers of that hour
'til suddenly the dawning
fills heaven with its power!

When shall we see that glory
and know at last that light?
O sun of justice, show us,
and break upon our sight!

Then weeping turns to dancing,
and all our sorrows cease:
Our armies stop advancing,
and we at last have peace!

O Son of God, come quickly
and fill the earth with light!
O Son of Man, come heal us
and drive away the night!
The Last Judgement. The Louvre. By Jean Cousin the Younger, also called Jehan Cousin Le Jeune (lived c. 1522–1595). – Blunt, Anthony. Art and Architecture in France: 1500–1700. New Haven (CT): Yale University Press, [1957] 1999 edition. ISBN 0300077483. Page 99., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2874303

Lead Me To Your Rest

Come, the night is nearing;
all my days fly west.
I have long been weary,
striving to be blessed.
Gentle stars appearing
show a road unguessed:
Come, O Lord, draw near me;
lead me to your rest.

Come and take my fearing,
take my anxious breath.
Lay the balm of healing
where I long have bled.
Come, new lights revealing
though the sun has fled.
Come, O Lord, draw near me;
lead me to your rest.

Come, on dark ways stealing,
guide my searching steps.
Though I'm stumbling, reeling,
walk beside me yet.
With your mercy seal me;
touch my heart and head.
Come, O Lord, draw near me;
lead me to your rest.
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

Opened

He put his finger into the man’s ears

and, spitting, touched his tongue;

then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,

Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —

And immediately the man’s ears were opened,

his speech impediment was removed,

and he spoke plainly. 

Mark 7:31-37

For today’s readings, combining Isaiah and the healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment:

The wasteland stretches out before;
the desert road is long,
but we who heard you hear no more
and sing no more your song.

When will the desert bloom for us?
When will our closed ears hear?
When will the springs burst forth for us?
Oh, when will you draw near?

Our tongues are tied and mute, my Lord;
our feeble hands are bound.
Come, give us once again your word
and lift us from the ground.

Then shall our eyes be opened wide,
our wounded souls shall leap.
Your fountains welling up inside,
our hearts shall wake from sleep.

Then place your fingers in our ears;
reach out and touch our tongues.
If you will heal us, we can hear;
your songs can still be sung!

Then come, O Savior, flood the ground
'til deserts all are past.
Break open clouds and end the drought:
oh, let us bloom at last!
Christ healing the deaf mute of Decapolis, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, 1635 – http://www.insecula.com/oeuvre/O0017918.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5746158

Thief

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

Matthew 24:42-44
When shall you come, O Thief?
When shall the final hour
cut down the forests of our grief?
When shall we see your power?

What shall we lose to you
when you break on our sight?
What treasure in your hand made new,
shall we see in your light?

Thief, if you take from us,
let it be to our gain:
Take all the sorrows of our dust;
take all the years of pain,

then in your crucible,
oh, let them be refined!
Turn all our sorrows into gold
and with you let them shine!

So do we long to be
robbed of our weight of dross:
Come in the night and let us see
joy for the years of loss!

Come, though we know not when,
no one may tell us how.
Come, let your endless reign begin,
Thief with a thorny crown!
Icon of the Second Coming. Greek, ca. 1700 A.D. By Anonymous, Greece – http://ikona.orthodoxy.ru/icon.php?source=source36/53, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3229269

Foolish

On the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.

I am not wise; I am not good,
and when the bridegroom comes at last,
will I be standing where I should
with lighted lamp and ready flask?

Or will he see my empty hands,
my wick untrimmed and guttering,
and cast me out to wail and gnash
while calling others in to sing?

Where shall I go to seek for oil?
Where shall I find that burning light?
Not all my good or all my toil
can make me ready for that night.

But Christ the merchant ready stands,
and if I give all that I have
the oil of mercy, from his hands,
will flow for feasting, fire, and salve.

Then I must go—the hour is late—
to buy the oil I know will light
before the groom comes to the gate
and I am left to wail the night.

And if I fail, O Christ the groom,
O Christ the merchant, fill my lack!
And at your coming, still make room
for those who tried to fill the flask.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (section) by Phoebe Traquair, Mansfield Traquair Church, Edinburgh By Phoebe Anna Traquair – Own work Stephencdickson, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37847772

He Comes

For today’s first reading from Isaiah. Written to the tune ST. FLAVIAN (“Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days”), then set to music by Paul Zach, featured on the Art & Theology blog.

 He comes, the Lord's anointed one,
 and we shall see his face
 as clear as if the rising run
 poured out the light of grace.
  
 He comes, and we shall hear his voice
 not as some mystic sound
 but tones that make the heart rejoice
 when love long lost is found.
  
 He comes, not to the wise and great,
 but to the bound and poor,
 so low himself that potentates
 must kneel to pass his door.
  
 He comes, with favor in his hands,
 our empty souls to fill,
 to make a highway through the sands
 and bid the storms be still.
  
 He comes, and we shall go to him
 set free from ancient chains,
 adorned in mercy's diadem
 to glory in his reign.
  
 He comes, the Lord, as one of us;
 he comes to judge the earth:
 How wonderful, how glorious
 his long-awaited birth! 
adoration of the Christ-child by the shepherds; Mary and Joseph present, between 1700 and 1800 By Rijksmuseum – http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.241745, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84639821