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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Five meditations on His last words

Posted by Ron George on April 15, 2017

I.

The Yellow Christ, by Paul Gauguin (1889)

I hear the voice of Jesus on the Cross:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

I like to say I can’t help what I don’t know,

it’s not my fault,

don’t blame me,

if only I’d known.

Lets me off the hook.

Lets me off, Scot free.

Is this what we mean when we say,

“Ignorance is bliss?”

Yet someone pays a price for my ignorance

when it does harm and it’s not my fault,

when love is neglected and you can’t blame me,

when someone lost in the crowd dies of loneliness.

If I’d only known, I would have done something.

What kind of bliss is this?

I am so smug, Lord, when I can walk away without blame.

I am so content, Lord, when it’s someone else’s fault.

I am so confident and self-assured,

so thankful Lord that I am not like others,

even as this tax collector, this sinner.

I am so right.

Somehow, I become the aggrieved

when my conscience accuses me

and ignorance is my only excuse.

Don’t blame me.

It’s not my fault.

If I’d only known, I would have done something.

Then I close my eyes, again,

walk into the crowd

smug, content, confident, self-assured. So right.

The hell of it is, literally,

that I may be the next to die of loneliness,

and no one else will know.

Ignorance seems to be a two-way street.

We meet each other in the darkness

and don’t turn on the light.

We don’t see each other, because

we don’t see the Lord,

so we go on our way,

smug, content, confident, self-assured. So right.

Whistling in the dark.

Past the graveyard.

Sometimes, it’s an act,

ignorance I feign

so I won’t have to get involved,

so I won’t have to pay the price,

so I won’t have to love as God loves me.

I can’t help what I don’t know,

it’s not my fault,

don’t blame me,

if only I’d known.

I hear the voice of Jesus on the Cross:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Lord Jesus, my ignorance frightens me.

Whom have I ignored today?

What have I not done that I ought to have done?

Is there no health in me?

Whom have I passed by on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho?

Whom have I not fed?

Whom have I not clothed?

Whom have I not visited?

Lord Jesus, I am so smart,

how can I plead ignorance?

I have the benefit of hindsight.

I know the end of the story.

I’m not like those who crucified you,

whom you forgave,

whom you loved from the cruel wood and iron of the Cross.

Yet, here I stand in need of that same forgiveness,

that same love that welcomed home the son who was lost,

who had died, but who returned to the Father and the fatted calf.

Lord Jesus, forgive me, for I know not what I do.

Lead me to the light.

Show me your path of love.

Pull away my veil of ignorance.

Forgive my willful blindness, my blissful sin.

Make me wise as a serpent, but innocent as a dove.

Make me an instrument of your peace.

Show me how not to turn away from the wounded.

Show me whom to feed.

Show me whom to clothe.

Show me whom to visit.

Be my wisdom.

Be my strength.

Be my Lord and Savior.

Lord Jesus, without you, I know not what to do.

II.

Cristo en Croce, by G. Rouault

She sees no god hanging there.

She sees no messiah.

She sees her son,

her flesh writhing,

her blood streaming from a hundred wounds.

His pain is hers.

His death, hers as well.

His life, her memory

from that first gush of blood and water in the stable

to that last gush of blood and water from his pierced side.

Her child,

who once lay upon her breast,

who once held her hand on a walk to the well,

who once fell and wept in her arms,

became his father’s son, tall and good.

Her child also broke his mother’s heart.

He said some things she did not understand.

How could he say that she was not his mother,

that his family was that unruly bunch

who followed him in search of miracles?

How could he say that he did not bring peace but a sword,

that he would set father against son,

daughter against mother?

He had left his home to wander,

not to marry,

not to settle down,

not to have children.

He had scandalized his village,

teaching in the synagogue,

healing on the Sabbath,

so they wanted to stone him on the spot.

Woman, behold your son –

trouble-making rabbi,

would be messiah,

Sabbath-breaking blasphemer,

treasonous rebel dying on a cross.

Or was this her son’s lament?

Was there something he wanted to repent?

Did that world-sin burden he carried to the cross,

that bag of foul, stinking, betrayal,

overreaching pride and quicksand self-absorption,

have within it a wad of his own mindless dedication

that wounded those least likely to complain?

“Your mother is here,” they once told him,

“and your brothers and sisters.”

Woman, behold your son,

now torn and forsaken,

a willing victim who opened not his mouth

but to say these last few words:

Woman, behold your son,

who would have had this cup pass from him

but submitted to a mighty will,

who would have walked back to Nazareth,

given a nod from the one he called Abba.

Woman, behold your son,

who hangs by iron horror in the air,

who writhes his last in blood slathered battle,

whose heaving breast can scarce declare

the mighty love by which he sees you standing there,

and says,

Woman, behold your son.

Lord Jesus, let us be the disciples

to whom you entrust your blessed mother.

Let us know the family love of you that she knows.

Let us sense the depth of loss on this holy day

that she knew that first Friday of your death.

Let us know you as a brother

and her as our mother by adoption and grace.

Call us into being as a holy family,

a holy church, a holy people

animated by the Spirit in the power of Love so deep

it bore the wood and iron of the Cross.

We pray in your holy name, Lord Jesus,

in the power of the Spirit,

to the glory of God the Father.

Amen.

III.

The Fourth Word from the Cross, Artist Unknown

I stand away from the cross of Jesus,

safe, while he hangs nailed,

frightened of the crowds, of those in charge,

frightened even of Jesus, scared to death.

Scared of death — the death of Jesus on the cross.

So far away from the cross of Jesus,

I can scarcely hear him cry,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

He’s given up. Why shouldn’t I?

It’s almost over, now. Let’s go home.

Jesus, you turned me inside out,

called me out of hiding,

laid your healing hand upon me,

taught me to love you by loving others.

Now love has brought you this forsaken death.

Taking up my cross to follow you,

will I, too, die forsaken?

Oh, God, I hope not!

Please let this cup pass from me.

So I stand away from the cross of Jesus.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

My God, my God, I have forsaken you.

Forgive me, Lord, forgive me.

Do not let me perish in my sin.

May I draw near the cross of Jesus,

in the forsaken ones he taught me to love,

nearer than my fear of death would let me,

but for the love of Christ who died forsaken as

that old drunk in town, that stinking derelict,

that no-account, worthless, homeless cheat;

that haggard, child-beating, drug-abusing hag next door;

all those others who smell of street tar, urine and cheap wine;

all those others who leech and moan that life isn’t fair;

all those others who don’t pull their weight;

all those others who die slow deaths of disease and decline

as much of the soul as of any physical curse;

all those who are poor in spirit,

who will inherit the Kingdom of God.

Jesus on the cross sings a sacred song:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

He sings to us from the deepest pit of abandonment,

this mysterious silence of God.

He sings to us in our own darkness,

where we, too, feel forsaken.

He sings through his pain, and ours,

in hope that love will conquer all.

“For kingship belongs to the Lord;

he rules over the nations.

“To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

“My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the Lord’s forever.

“They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn

the saving deeds that he has done.”

IV.

Become the water, by Matt Rawle

“I thirst.”

Words gasped in desperation from a chest

scarcely able to heave a breath.

Words uttered with a tongue cracked deep,

from within a mouth so fissured and dry

that every movement tears its flesh anew.

From this mouth once flowed the living waters of the gospel,

welcome as water flowing into the wilderness.

From this mouth once came a flood of truth,

unnerving as a rising tide,

yet we were transfixed by its beauty,

awed by its power

and embraced by its love.

“I thirst.”

How can these words pass your lips, O Lord,

you who promised living water to the woman at the well?

What makes you to beg for water now?

Did you not withstand Satan in the wilderness?

Did he not tempt you as you fasted?

Did you not tell him that we do not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God?

What makes you beg for water now?

Is Satan nearby with a canteen?

Has that dark angel finally won?

“I thirst.”

Lord Jesus, you call us to hunger and thirst

for righteousness,

for justice and for peace.

Do you now long only for water to soothe your parched mouth and throat?

Is there so little left of you to be poured out as a ransom for many?

What makes you beg for water now?

You once stood, baptized, in the Jordan River,

where the Holy Spirit descended upon you like a dove,

and you mastered the raging waters of Galilee with a word of peace.

Have you now bled so much

that your body yearns for water

to still a raging thirst?

“I thirst.”

So little, now, would meet your needs, Lord Jesus,

just a cup of water in a dry mouth.

So little would fall far short of healing,

and yet that is all you want,

just enough to soothe your parched tongue

until death overtakes you.

Lord Jesus, is this thirst for life as well as water?

Do you long for more of these great gifts,

to stand under heaven on the sounding earth,

to stand at the margins of the sea,

to stand at the high precipice in thin air,

to stand by day and by night,

for better, for worse,

in sickness, in health,

but alive in this flesh beloved by the Father,

his gift to us that we may know and love him

and each other?

If I could but take your head in my arms

and pour a clear stream from a clay pot

into that searing pit of pain your mouth has become,

I would.

If I could but lift your sacred body from the cross

and rescue you from this unshapely death,

this thirst,

I would.

If I could but stand with you on the sounding earth,

walk with you at the margins of the sea,

climb with you to the high precipice,

hear your voice,

feel your touch,

I would.

You are beyond my reach, Lord Jesus.

Your crucifixion thirst is but a prelude

to your moments of despair.

You have fallen into Satan’s hands,

the way our sinful world deals with

He who loves without condition,

He who speaks truth without compromise,

He whose words are living water.

You are beyond my reach, Lord Jesus,

but, I pray,

not your Father’s.

V.

Golgotha – It Is Finished, by Andrew Frazer

I want to make Jesus a hero

even at this moment of despair.

I want to interpret these last words of his to mean

it is accomplished

I have done what I set out to do

I have succeeded

I have won.

What I want, though, is not what happened.

What I want is bound up in my sin –

my self-absorption

my egocentricity

my pride

my so easily-inflated sense of self.

And isn’t that, after all,

the point of this bloody mess?

Has not my sin cost God-in-the-flesh

not less than everything?

Jesus is no winner here,

not now.

He has become a loser for my sake.

He shows me love so deep, so broad, so high

that my only word for it can be

infinite.

“It is finished.”

His words echo from a well so deep

that I can not know its end.

He has plunged from the heights of heaven

God’s word made flesh

to the very pit of hell,

where we without hope would die

but for the love of that which made us

free to fall.

“It is finished.”

He means

game over

I have failed

I am lost

I am forsaken by family, friend and neighbor

I am forsaken by my God.

He means

there is nothing else

I was wrong

and now I die alone.

“It is finished.”

He means

what might have been never was

there is no hope

there is no love

there is no faith to save us.

He means

go not in peace but in despair

into the darkness of your stinking graves.

Go to hell.

Lord Jesus, you are now beyond my reach.

I see, though, that I am not beyond yours.

God in you has now reached so deeply into my pain

that I cannot be beyond a healing touch.

Lord Christ, I know now

that you are not only with me in my pain

but you are in my pain.

My pain is your pain,

my suffering yours

my despair yours

my hopelessness yours.

You own all of me

not just my joy and crown

the stuff of life

but also my fear, trembling and despair

the stuff of death.

Lord Jesus, I must leave you on the cross

at least for these three hours.

I must let you plumb the depths

of human depravity and sin.

I must let you die alone

in hopelessness and despair.

I must not try to make your hopeless death

into something it is not –

something more like victory.

Your defeat must be real to you

for your resurrection to be real to me.

REG+ 

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