Home is Where the Questions Are

Home is where the questions are:

My hearth now a why
My door a where
My window a who
My pen a how
My clock a when

And presently my oven is baking a future.

At our table we eat hope
but every now and then
I fail to attend to the time
and a bit of despair
is scorched in our
daily bread.

My pantry asks me about
my neglect, or sanity perhaps,
with no deluge of toilet paper, or
yeast, or pasta, or beans.
Gape-mouthed, I failed
to seize the day, or
the flour.

Home is where the questions are:

Why do we count angels on the head of pin while people die?
Why do we cast stones at those who think, who act differently?
Why don’t we break out in song, in dance, in verse at the fact that

home is where the questions are;

and questions are where the Answer is.

I am Water, the Hour, Food

I/ Water

My name is nibi, mayim, pani, water.
And I am here to inform you
and Jesus, too, that I am
very much alive.

And he would not be, save
for the fact that I am some
60 percent of whom he is.

I am ancient, and I am new.
I was born at
the time of creation.

And still I am being
birthed, wherever and whenever
a complex of carbon and
hydrogen sparks with oxygen.

I measure 1.4 billion
cubic kilometres
large on earth. Now

a cloud arresting your eyes, now
a single flake of snow so intricate it screams “glory!”, now
an iceberg, a diamond writ large, now
a dewdrop stopping creation as it sings from a petal.

I am waving at you from the ocean
I rain on both the just and reprobate
I slake your parched throat.

And I am happily recycled;
some of me-in-Jesus is
now Jesus-in-you.

You, dear hearer, have tears that

were once the sweat of Christ;

the water in this font

was once in the well of

of Sychar, of Shechem.

Now, I make alive. Now, I drown.
Now, I am the ocean all around
humankind in utero.

I am water. But I have no idea what
Jesus means when he promises
a well swelling and self-multiplying
into eternal life.

This is something new,
I know nothing of self-replication;
There is no spermatozoon in me; nor ovum;
no self-pollinating possibilities, even
though I am, where life is.

My name is water, pani, mayim, nibi

II/ The Hour

I am the hour. You have met me; you know me well.
I come around every now and then.
I am that time that wakens you

now with joy; now with terror.

I am that moment when the truth cracks you open

And you know you will never be the same.

I am that time the doctor sits you down…

And I am that time you open a letter and read

“I am pleased to inform you…”

I was your being born and I will be your dying.
I am haunting, I am holy. I am the hour.

I am burned in your mind, where you find traces of all of those little dyings, those little deaths:

That moment of being tongue-tied

That instance when you failed to look left

That time when you shied from speaking out…

I am also alive in your flesh.

I am that muscle memory of that first poignant fist pump

That instance of knowing that you could go further, bear more, be more

I am the hour: pounding your heart and clocking your time.

I am those poignant, agonizing, beautiful moments:
“When a woman is in labour, she has pain because her hour has come.”

I am also the hour at the other side of life:

A breath in, a breath out,
a breath in, a breath out,
a breath in, a breath out,
a breath in, a breath out,

and then silence – silence so sheer it could slice a mountain in half.

I am the hour, “coming, when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father.” Yes, I am that time of clarity, of insight, when you see that your seeing is mostly in the dark, with the odd and wonderous moment of lightning flashing across the screen of the sky: but will you look at the lighting or at what it illumines?

I am that hour

When you finally know that your knowing is fractured and through a glass darkly;

I am that hour

When you discover your doing is flawed, and awkward, and so, so beautiful that it makes angels weep.

I am that hour

When you finally feel your feelings; and live in your skin and rejoice, even though you know it is soon all over.

I am the hour… “for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you

unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it

remains a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”

I am

green…… green… green

cracking black…

I come around every now and then.

You have met me; you know me well. I am the hour.

III/ Food

I am food.

Are you hungry?

Are you looking for me?

Sometimes I am easy to find, too easy some say.
Other times I am as scarce as world peace,

ribs poke out and
bellies bloat with water retention.

I am the first thing on the mind of many as the day begins,
and I am the agony of those at enmity with me.

I am food and with every bite, I invite you

to fight for climate justice,
to battle for food security,
to leverage all your power so that no-one is ever without me.

I am food. I weep at my absence while Canadians throw away more than half of the food they produce.

I am food and finally, I refuse the logic of a zero sum:

When I am shared, there is always enough, there is always more.

You know me, because I am you:

Your planning in this garden’s graces.

Your loving hands in kneaded bread.

Your tears in soup, your song in salad, your laughter in a latticed pie.

I am your daily bread: I am

the farmer, and the soil she worships;

the seed so sacred: sown, for, given, for you

I am your daily bread: I am

the trucker and truck bearing me to the mill to be floured;

the worker who does a most holy thing: showing up day in and day out.

I am your daily bread: I am

the bright dawn beginning at the bakery and the miracle of scoring a loaf

now I am that aroma and texture, that delicate balance of air and flavour

“My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to complete God’s work.”

I am that food: I sate you with service.
I am that food: I satisfy you by slaughtering greed.
I am that food: I content you with meeting needs.

“My food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to complete God’s work.”

I am food; I am mystery. I am Eucharist and this I want you to know:

The One whose food is to do the divine will, will never forsake you.
As you eat me you, too, become food…

Bread for the journey.

You become me, and we will be, together, eternally.

I am food. I am your hunger.

The above was presented in Keffer Chapel at the Open Door Service on March 11, 2020 as a reflection on John 4:5-42.

Working Edges

This last Saturday night my wife and I went to The Mayors’ Dinner in Kitchener, a fundraising event for the Working Centre, a not-for profit organization in our community that addresses issues of poverty and unemployment. This happens every year, and a person or group of people, is given special recognition. This year the recipients were Arleen Macpherson, Gretchen Jones, and Jennifer Mains, all who work or have worked with St. John’s Kitchen. My wife and I have gone to a few of these fundraising events, but I was especially interested because I have had students that have done volunteer placements at St. John’s Kitchen. A few years back one of the Community Service Learning coordinators and I visited the site, and chatted with Gretchen, who keeps thing moving on a daily basis.

I still remember the visit well. We biked there from the University, Rebekah leading the way as we wound our way through a kind of back street route from point University to point Kitchen, in Kitchener. We locked up our bikes and said hi to a few clients on our way up the brightly painted stairwell, and into the well lit, vibrant, second floor of 97 Victoria St. N that houses the kitchen, the dining hall, and offices for some health care there. We sat and visited with Gretchen, who told us a bit about the program, and then expressed thanks for the volunteer work done by students. Of course, I already knew from student feedback that they received more than they gave at this volunteer site. For many students, their experience at St. John’s was a life changer, in important ways.

Many of them had never had experience working with marginalized people, and so this experience reconfigured the world they knew. They came to see that there are not simple solutions to problems like homelessness. They came to see that people in need do not need charity, but deserve dignity. They came to see that where their world ends is where other people’s worlds begin. This experience took them to the edges of their lives, where they started to work at important questions: who am I? what is my place in the world? where is God in this?

At the dinner on Saturday, Gretchen and others from the Kitchen spoke, and told some very moving stories: accounts of varied experiences that were miraculous in many ways. We also were introduced, via video, to some of the volunteers and guests of the kitchen, who opened to us the Reign of God, for those with ears to hear. We began to see the face of the Kitchen, painted with stories of broken people reaching out to care for broken people and so creating community. At the end of the evening, I rejoiced at having been given another snapshot of what it looks like to live in community, where truth makes things messy and hope makes people patient.

We have to be patient to work at the edges, where we discover ourselves anew in the experiences of growth, being stretched and strained in ways that remind us that the human condition is change: from cradle to coffin we are moving from life to death and from death to life. These two feed on each other, and so there is no food that does not entail death in giving life. Food is the marriage of life and death, and St. John’s Kitchen is one place that preaches the sermon that we are what we eat: the community of life and death that works at the edges, that works on its edges.

Tasting Trials

It is impossible
to do justice to
taste even while I yearn
to tell of delights
tickling my tongue with
this delicacy or that.
This tantalized tongue
that tries to talk knows that
it cannot describe taste to
a “t” and so knows intimately
language that limps;
speech that works with lack.
It points, it gestures, it stammers;
but it cannot stop.
This tongue peppered with fire
refuses silence even though its words flail
as they try to fly
like chick from nest,
like dove from ark.

Never Fear Eating on Your Own

Never fear eating on your own
because you aren’t
alone in your eating.
The farmer’s hands which have
teased milk from cow’s teat
hold yours as you
savour cheese. And the hoe to the row
of potatoes is a fork now, patterning the mashed moat
of gravy – afloat with peas – pilgrimming from pod to pot to palate, each pea
caressed by fingers whose prints bear witness
to careful culling. No, you are
not on your own – never alone – with
food, which only gives itself up
because another has given herself over to it:

      the farmer firmly by your side
        the gardener grounded in each root vegetable
          the vintner poured out in the wine’s glow.

A host in light delights in your satisfaction, in your being
fed, your being bread for the world.