Poetry Mondays: Rebekah

Since yesterday was Advent Sunday, today I’d like to share a sonnet I wrote during Advent last year.  Every Advent, we use a Jesse tree to remember the characters and stories that make up the bigger story of God’s saving plan for his world.  Rebekah is one of those people, called out of her home to join the family of God. I was struck by the beautiful moment in Genesis 24:62-65 when Isaac and Rebekah see each other for the first time across a distance, and the parallel between the way they approached each other and the way we, as a church, approach the coming King who is on his way to meet us.

Rebekah

She saw the bridegroom, so she veiled her face.
Between them hovered hope, and the unknown;
Love longing lay between, across the space.
Love was between them, and was not yet shown.

Her love stepped out, stepped into the between.
Her beauty now belonging to his praise
Now that she saw him look, while still unseen
She veiled her beauty, waiting for his gaze.

Her advent brought him, searching, from his place:
His advent made her faithfully prepare.
She journeyed on, but now, she veiled her face.
He searched until he found, and met her there.

Is that my Love, come out to meet His bride?
Give me my veil, and bring me to His side.

 

Poetry Mondays: The Kingdom’s Down Here

 

I wrote this – what is it? A performance poem, doggerel, a rant? – a few weeks after Brexit, and I think that in the light of the American election it may be worth sharing it again.  Some people might find it useful for Advent and Christmas, too, as it explores ideas about the kingdom of God, the incarnation and Mary’s song.

It really works better read out loud, because as with most of my ‘performance’ poetry, the scansion isn’t obvious.  I initially posted it on Facebook as a video, but that makes it harder for others to make use of it, so this is the full text.  If you think of it as being loosely in anapaests, you’ll find the scansion easier to pick up!  The style is inspired by the things Glen Scrivener writes, so if you want to see this kind of thing being done really well, have a look at his videos.  I wish I had his filming and editing expertise.

 

The Kingdom’s Down Here

 

I write at the end of a fortnight of news

That has left many hurting, divided and bruised.

I don’t think I’m alone here. The world’s a disaster.

And we Christians pray, ‘Let God’s kingdom come faster!’

But the kingdom’s down here, if you have eyes to see:

Like when God picks an unmarried teen refugee

To be pregnant, alone, with no family supporting,

Gets dumped by her bloke, and instead of aborting,

She sings! She rejoices! She calls herself blessed,

Says God scatters the proud, raises up the oppressed,

Knocks the powerful down, fills the hungry with food,

Sends the rich home with nothing. She says God is good

And remembers his mercy. And all of her hoping

Is how she is living, not just how she’s coping.

She’s seeing the world in this radical light;

In the Light of the World. It’s because, not despite

The way that things are, that the kingdom shines through.

In the light of the world we can glimpse what is true.

So where is this hope? When the mighty are strong,

When the hungry are starved, have we cause for a song?

Yes! The song of the kingdom’s the song of the blessed.

It goes: blessed are the losers. Blessed the distressed.

Blessed are the poor, the downtrodden, the slow,

The refugees running with nowhere to go,

They’re all blessed. The grieving are blessed, and the weak,

The bullied, the broken, the unspoken meek,

Blessed are the victims. Blessed the oppressed,

Blessed are the stressed, blessed the depressed.

And blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed beyond measure

The pure-hearted ones who discover this treasure,

This parallel kingdom, invisible, true,

And bring it to blessing. And they could be you.

The kingdom’s down here, if you have eyes to see,

With the hungry and poor, and in you, and in me.

For the kingdom is doing its mustard seed thing

Where a gaggle of losers who loved a dead king

Start to meet; washing feet; sacrificing their lives

Every day, like their king, always dying to rise.

Because here in this kingdom, it’s all upside down.

The humblest are highest, the poor get the crown

And the winners who sprinted to be in first place

Are arriving to find that they lost the whole race

To the stragglers and limpers who loped at the back

And the ones who served drinks at the side of the track.

So don’t worry. The kingdom is here. It’s not gone.

It’s existing in us. Love has already won.

Poetry Mondays: All Saints

Today being All Hallows Eve, tomorrow must be all hallows, or all saints’ day.  The church will be celebrating the lives of the saints: Christians who have lived and died before us.

Here’s a performance poem that I wrote quite a while ago for a primary school assembly on all saints’ day.  It was performed with props and bits of costume which had to be put on, picked up and thrown down again at high speed, adding to the silliness – but, hopefully, it makes a memorable point by the end.

St Peter was a fisherman, he fished the whole day long,
When Jesus asked him questions, Peter got the answers wrong,
When they said he followed Jesus, Peter swore it wasn’t true!
If St Peter is a saint, then we can be saints too!

St Paul was an unpleasant man with just one thing in mind:
To hunt down and to murder all the Christians he could find.
Yet he’s the one that Jesus chose to send his message through,
If St Paul can be a saint, then we can be saints too!

Saint Matthew was a taxman who stole far more than his share
Everybody hated him and said he was unfair
But Jesus said “Hey, follow me”: Matt stuck to him like glue
If St Matthew is a saint, then we can be saints too!

St Martha was a fusspot, and when Jesus came to stay
She wouldn’t sit and listen to a thing he had to say,
She squabbled with her sister as she tried to cook the stew –
If St Martha is a saint, then we can be saints too!

None of us is perfect, we don’t always get things right.
We lie and steal and misbehave, we argue and we fight.
But Jesus says, “Just come with me, and I can make you new,
I did it for these saints you’ve seen – I’ll do it for you too!”

LightCraft

Every year round about now, I start to see posts all over social media discussing and debating the issue of Halloween: what to do about it, whether to embrace it, what its roots really are and whether it’s a bit of fun or a terrible problem for society in general (or for teenagers, children, the elderly, people with special needs, people with allergies and so on, specifically.)

This year, we’ll be celebrating All Hallow’s Eve with a LightCraft party.  Children from our four churches will gather to play games, make light-related crafts, carve hearts and pictures into pumpkins, and hear that Jesus is the light of the world who has defeated darkness.

That’s on Sunday, so we might also go meet-and-treating on the night itself.  Meet-and-treating is a fun way to turn around the traditional tricks and scares while still being generous: we go out to find trick-or-treaters and hand over a treat.  This year we’ll probably give away glow-stick bracelets along with this explanation printed onto cards: it’s one that I wrote several years ago, and you are welcome to print copies yourself if it’s useful.

Nobody really knows where the festival of Halloween originated. The name comes from All Hallow’s Eve, marking a time in the Christian church when we remember saints and loved ones who have died, but the traditions that take place come from much earlier pre-Christian times. In fact if you look at almost any culture in any time, you’ll find that as the nights get longer, a festival takes place which involves light, intended to ward off darkness and evil. That’s where Jack-O-Lanterns come from, for example. It’s humanity’s way of dealing with darkness, death and the things that frighten us as we go into the long winter.
In our family, we remember at Halloween that Jesus said “I am the light of the world”. He has already conquered darkness and death by dying and rising again. This year, we’re giving out Glo-sticks to light your way and to remind you that Jesus has beaten the darkness!
We hope you enjoy your treats, and have a safe and fun Halloween!