Be of Good Courage

Yesterday, I met
a company of prophets
in Kitchener, drumming
hard truths under a
gazebo in
Victoria Park. Their
ceremonial ribbons raged
against justice denied and
their voices took shape as a
chariot of fire
witness to heaven. And
yet their circle was soft:
they spoke of hatred as
self-defeating, pleading
for our healing. For a
moment the snow receded
and from the winter ground
a lily shot forth like Christ
from the grave and an
odour of hope perfumed the air.
The wind from the south was raw,
but it whispered in my ear:
“Be of good courage.”


Waves of You

I don’t know what to do
with this love. You
invade me and I collapse.
Words fall from my mouth as if
I have become a child bereft.
I feel waves of You in
Your absence. And
then You return. A
frazzled God, You
dazzle me in
proximity and my
head, my
heart spins. You
win me over yet again. You
begin in my differently. But
still I hurt. Still I weep
You in tears.

Veni Domine

A glimpse of You is
never enough. This
desire for Your Breath
flooding my lungs fills
me with more wanting You;
with more aching after You.

You, God, are
the Desire by which I
desire You.
You, God, are
the Hunger that is
sated with hunger
for You.
You, God, are
each kiss of life;
each touch of love;
each turn of the season
that turns me inside out
as Your reign surely comes.

Veni Domine.

Granite Hope

It is possible to hold this
poem in your palm, to handle
it even while you know that there is
no way you will ever
train it.

This poem will never
be domesticated, never
be tamed with our maimed
freedom. No this poem
has always been
fiercely free,
always soul,
always otherly
incarnate. It was
never mine.

This poem now palmed might
bite, or perhaps shape
shift into a stone:
in lithe liberty
it will then be
a silence that
demands my hearing,
that calls my ears to
attend to
granite hope.

Advent Between

This last Wednesday I led the weekly Eucharist at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. At this service, we look to the coming Sunday for texts etc. That meant that this last Wednesday was the celebration of Advent One. But during the year, we also are attentive to other significant temporal markers, and so noted that November 29 is the annual UN International Day of Solidarity with Palestinians. Our worship team decided to attend to both of these, which was no easy task.

I have never been to the Holy Land, and cannot pretend to know what is happening on the ground in that conflicted and troubled land, but I do know that there are two irreducibly painful truths that cannot be denied as we look east: the Shoah and the Nakba. The first references the attempted genocide of the Jewish people by the Nazi regime, resulting in the deaths of some six million Jews. The second references the uprooting of 700, 000 Palestinians during the 1948 conflict following the UN partition of Palestine in 1947, resulting in some seven million Palestinian refugees today.

We choose to frame our service with the song “Between Darkness and Light,” which was composed by Palestinian Manal Hreib and Israeli Daphna Rosenberg, two musicians committed to the pathway to peace in the Holy Land. This song sings into the ambiguity of hard truths. It speaks to hope in light of the many forms of brokenness we endure. Our preacher, Preston Parsons, spoke to this brokenness in the land of promise, even while reminding us that the land in our own context cries out at the history of dispossession and abuse of its first peoples. And so, he invited us to pray for peace in our own context as well, and to be attentive to the Prince of Peace who transforms us so that we might abandon our warring ways.

We framed the service with the lighting of the first Advent candle at the start of the service while singing “Between Darkness and Light,” and extinguishing this candle while singing the song again at the end of the service. We wanted the service to flow between these two realities of a lit and unlit Advent wreath: worship between darkness and light. During the last singing of the song, after Sarah, one of our undergraduate students, extinguished the candle, I looked up at it and noticed that the candle’s flame was very luxurious in its dying. A slow persistent stream of silver slid up from the wick. This was marked in that it was set against a blue curtain at the end of our worship space in the basement of St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church. This sliver of smoke swayed now to the left, and then to the right, and slowly accumulated in a little cloud above the candle. When the candle finally died, it was as if the last of the smoke was a rope being pulled up into the cloud, which then mystically dissipated. I am not sure what meaning to make of this image, or if a meaning is need. It was simply beauty, and set against the music it reminded me of the ambiguity and transience of life, even while persistent and enduring in its beauty. I don’t think that I will ever forget that image. So ordinary, but profound in the moment. Advent, for me, this year began four days early when Sarah put out a candle, but lit a flame.

The Present in Your Presence

Today You touched me
and I trembled – the world
slid a little to one side,
and adrift
I held to You in the
gap – Your eyes
holding and warming me,
Your heart encompassing
mine. You, God, You
meet me in so many
ways – now
with a glance – now with
hope: here a dream,
there a memory:
there, yes, there, when
the past kisses the future
and ushers the present in
Your presence.

Sixty and Holding

I am only just now back from celebrating my in-laws’ 60th wedding anniversary. A quotable quote from the event was noted by my wife. She said that when she picked up flowers for this auspicious event, the clerk upon hearing about the anniversary, told her that her parents “came from the era when you didn’t throw things away.”

We talked a bit about this around the table. At a literal level this was true. I remember my Omma’s basement, once rife with the things that my mother would have thrown away in a heartbeat, and think on my mother’s basement, once rife with things that I would have thrown away in the day. With every generation, it seems, comes a little less anxiety about tomorrow’s basic needs. And yet other anxieties accrue.

I was chatting at this event with a relative who has worked for the same company since his twenties. I commented that it is becoming a very rare thing that someone should live out their working days with one company. Of course, in his instance, it actually wasn’t the same company since this company had been bought out along the way and he had somehow managed to ride out the waves of downsizing, rightsizing and outsourcing that more commonly characterize the “rationalizing” of resources in a globally competitive world. The “logic” of this economy is expediency: the image of the economy as a reflection of the household is sacrificed to the image of the economy as a reflection of a well-oil machine: rid of excess. If something is not needed, then, toss it out: an employee, a friendship, a faith, a relationship, a whatever.

I am not being nostalgic for the past here. I know that the days of my grandparents where marked by lack and loss. They hoarded because they (barely) lived through the Great Depression; but still, they held onto virtues that are not only too rarely present today, but too often forgotten. These virtues include, among others, patience for delayed gratification and fortitude for commitment. You stuck with something believing it would pay off in the end; and a promise was a promise. I am fully aware that this too often resulted in commitment to loveless, and even abusive, marriages and more. Such simply cannot be countenanced, and yet, in our life together we need to re-imagine what it might mean to think twice before throwing things away and tossing people to the winds of change.

The upcoming generation gives me hope in diverse ways. I think, for instance, of the awareness of some of my students of global issues, or the growing popularity of board games against the onslaught of video games or the arrival the zero-waste movement. Some seem well aware that technology is not enough to meet humanity’s deepest needs. I am heartened by those in my children’s generation who seek after something beyond the quickest way up the corporate ladder, somehow intuiting that the bottom line is simply that: the point from which we begin to be by moving beyond “me”. My generation has been seduced by technology, but theirs – I think – might well be able to take some distance in knowing that know-how needs to be replaced by know-who: know who you are, and know from whom you come. They may yet become the generation that refuses the quick fix and a throw-away way of being in the world. Perhaps we may yet see the proverb come to fruition: “a little child shall lead them.” We can but hope.