For me, poetry goes beyond my daily bread; it is a sumptuous feast for my soul that invites me to sit a while and savour the deep mystery that is the Divine, to revel in the rich textures and scents and flavours of a world that cannot be contained in only language or logic, to feel full yet reach still – with longing – for one last delicious mouthful knowing too well that it is probably not my last ….
So, today, I want to share three poems that I keep returning to at present – knowing full well that few people share this love and many, quite frankly, find poetry intimidating.
Still, I invite you to skim through them and find the one that speaks to you in some way: that captures your attention with a word or image, that provokes questions, that plonks you in the deep end with an exasperated “I can’t make any sense of this” ….
Read through it, slowly.
Read through it again – out loud if possible – capturing the rhythm of each line; noting where there is a pause (comma), a break (full stop), or a breathless running on of one thought into another.
Highlight two or three words that seem important to you. What do they mean in the poem? What do they mean in your own life?
Read it one last time – not seeking to make sense of it or find the lesson but allowing yourself to be full of what it is that you are feeling: gratitude, joy, confusion, wonder, frustration etc. Let that be the starting point of your prayer today ….
God, I feel ….
You place a resurrection Flower on my desk, an explosion Of yellow blossom from a green Stem. All winter it was buried In the dirt, covered with snow, Soaked by rains, companion to Earthworms. Easter in a Daffodil: Christ leaps up In your green laughter and light embrace.
Eugene Peterson, Holy Luck
It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak.
Mary Oliver, Thirst
There is this thing that sits just out of reach so that whenever I stretch out for it I am left with my fingers dancing in the wind and the feelings of being exposed. So, instead, I curl myself up again and shimmer inside, enough to be satisfied. I stop grasping and let something grasp me.
This morning I went for a walk through the nearby reserve. I rejoiced in the feeling of my calf muscles stretching after days cooped up inside. I breathed in deeply of air and space and solitude. I reached my hand out to touch the dewdrops on the snow grass. I looked for the kookaburras – hidden but noisy – in the tall trees and stared back silently at the kangaroos until they resumed their breakfast.
As I exalted in the simple sense of being alive, a long-loved poem came unbidden to my mind:
In a field I am the absence of field. This is always the case. Wherever I am I am what is missing.
When I walk I part the air and always the air moves in to fill the spaces where my body’s been.
We all have reasons for moving. I move to keep things whole.
“Keeping things whole” by Mark Strand
Tonight, we move with Jesus from the comforting companionship of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus into Jerusalem where people long to see him because of the miracles that he has performed – particularly that of bringing Lazarus out from the tomb.
He moves to make things whole, and, wherever he goes, he is exactly what people have been missing in their lives.
Tonight, we hear of the heaviness within his heart – for he knows what is about to happen. He speaks strange things about glory in a troubling hour, about a kernel of wheat dying in order to produce many seeds, about believing in the light while we have it.
Tonight, I invite you to engage with Jesus’s predictions through the ancient practice of lectio divina. Sit quietly and comfortably and listen to the words from John 12:20-36. If you are listening to the audio file below, you will hear the story from three translations with a question to ponder during each reading.
If you are working through the readings on your own, you may want to use your own Bible or the words from the New International Version which are included below. Read it through, slowly, three times, reflecting on the following questions:
First reading: What word, image, or phrase struck you the most in the reading?
Second reading: What memories, thoughts, questions, joys does the reading bring to mind?
Third reading: What might God’s invitation be to you this night?
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
John 12:20-36, New International Version
Close off this time of reflection by offering a prayer to God in response to what you have heard. Perhaps you would also like to share one of your thoughts by commenting on this post.