Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sonnet: Luke 4:1-13

I'm not particularly proud of this one, but at some point I just need to be finished and move on.

'Twas almost at the start the Tempter gained
That guile to be the voice that man preferred.
And even ancient Israel was stained,
Persuaded they could live without God’s word.
Enamored with the wealth of other lands,
They traded humble deeds for spear and sword.
Through time we’ve fallen captive to his hands:
He’s taught us all to test our gracious Lord.
But one day in Judean desert space
The Tempter comes to glimpse his final hour.
A new Man, Spirit-led and full of grace
Rejects his deals for bread and wealth and pow’r.
           And thus the Tempter’s guile began to wane,
           His power broken. Now Christ, our Lord, will reign.


image: "Temptation on the Mount," Duccio di Buonisegna, 1308-1311

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Christ as fish

I picked up my copy of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek the other day and happened upon this passage right after I finished the sonnet for Luke 5:1-11.  Tinker Creek is a book that takes a couple readings to appreciate its use of allusion.  Although I've heard these verses dozens of times over the course of my life, I've never heard some of the kerygmatic connections she makes.  I like them.  Normally I think of fishing as a grueling, backbreaking profession, but she sees it in a slightly different light:

I am coming around to fish as spirit.  The Greek acronym for some of the names of Christ yields ichthys.  Christ as fish, and fish as Christ.  The more I glimpse the fish in Tinker Creek, the more satisfying the coincidence becomes, the richer the symbol, not only for Christ but for the spirit as well.  The people must live.  Imagine for a Mediterranean people how much easier it is to haul up free, fed fish in nets than to pasture hungry herds on those bony hills and feed them through the winter.  To say that holiness is a fish is a statement of the abundance of grace; it is the equivalent of affirming in a purely materialistic culture that money does indeed grow on trees.  "Not as the world gives do I give to you"; these fish are spirit food.  And revelation is a study in stalking.  "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find."

There's a thought as we begin the journey of Lent: "The people must live."

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sonnet: Luke 5:1-11

These are stretching the limits of my grasp of the English language!  This one for Epiphany 5C is still a work in progress...

Their night out on the lake, no doubt, was long,
Pursuing fish wherever fish may lurk.
Though instinct of a fisher's seldom wrong,
Gennes'ret yielded nothing to their work.
And now at sunrise, work must shift to shore
With nets and boats to clean and dry and mend.
As callings go, to fish can seem a chore:
The toil of catching, cleaning has no end.
A rabbi steps into their boats to teach
To cast their netting once more overboard.
The draught of fish they haul onto the beach
Transforms their lives.  They come to call him "Lord."
          Despite our doubt and dread, Lord, call us, too.
          With gracious instinct, give us tasks for you.

"The Miraculous Draught of Fishes," Peter Paul Rubens (1618-1619)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Sonnet: Luke 4:21-30

I don't know how long I'll be able to keep at this strange goal to compose a sonnet for each lectionary Sunday.  They are surprisingly difficult to put together.  The last couplet on this one took a good hour and a half.  But, for whatever it's worth, here's another.

(Originally I had hoped to complete this one before last Sunday, in order to keep it current.  A weekend youth retreat, however, distracted my energy.  But because a snowstorm cancelled church last Sunday, we will be using these readings this coming week.)

The hometown crowd should not be hard to win:
With clear authority he speaks God's word,
They recognize his face, his next of kin,
And zeal like his they've never before heard.
Yet words are not enough for Nazareth.
Their jealous hearts desire his deeds of pow'r.
But like the grace displayed at Zarephath
When famine reigned in Judah's darkest hour;
Or like the mercy Naaman received
When Jordan's waters cured his dread disease,
God's kingdom prospers when it is believed,
And Christ will heal and rule where Christ may please.
        Though sinful rage demands this Prophet's fall,
        His cross-borne deed will prove he loves us all.

photo: modern-day Nazareth