Thursday, December 30, 2010


[We are approaching the halfway point of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and it is time for the second of the Magi's poems. Here are the words of Melchior.]


Twice I saw the star.
twice only.
It was there at the beginning
and again at the end.
It did not move.
But we did—
days lengthening into weeks,
then into months.
Had we not begun,
there would have been no star.
And had we not arrived,
I would never have seen the star again.

I bring gold
for you.
You are my journey’s end.
You do not move
even now.
Even now,
when we journey together.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


[This was the 'title' of my Christmas card this year. Inside I printed the three poems of the Magi. Over the course of the next few weeks I will present those poems, as I await, and then celebrate the birth of Jesus--in Advent and in the Twelve Days of Christmas.]


Once only did I bend my knee in adoration,
Once alone.
Call me stubborn;
others have called me wise.
That’s what wisdom is—refusing to bend
before the unknown.
This time I knew beyond all knowing
and unknowing:
here was the one,
for the one time.
This child.

The gift I bring is frankincense:
it comes quietly, awakening only those
whose memory holds the fire
that cannot be put out,
the vision that cannot be obscured,
the voice that cannot be stilled,
the truth that cannot be forced
to serve the false.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


The End of Christmas

[No, this is not going to be yet another rant about “The War against Christmas.”
That war is already over. We are now living in the occupation. But I’m okay with that; I no longer feel the necessity of defending the excesses of Christmas by strained appeals to the Gospel story.
It is time that we acknowledge what has already happened: the new religion of Commerce has usurped the old religion of Christianity. As its crowning achievement it has supplanted the celebration of the birth of the Messiah with the orgy of consuming and spending; just as the new Christian church took over the Roman feast of Saturnalia, which was its winter solstice feast.
We old Christians are now the pagans (we don’t believe in the religion of giving is better than receiving), just as we once were the atheists (we didn’t believe in the Roman gods of empire).
Once upon a time I envisioned writing a long treatise on this phenomenon. My heart is no longer in it. But this is how it began:]

The Long, Cold Birth of the Sacred

"The reason for the season," far from being the clincher in the argument for hanging onto the name of Christmas, instead also reminds us that the season of "Season's Greetings" is as much an underlying factor in its celebration. It is the winter solstice, it is the festival of Sol Invictus (the unconquerable sun), it is hundreds of other lesser feasts that celebrate the turning of life's axis as measured by the path of the sun. The cold, hard facts are that we would celebrate at this time of the year, with or without recognizing the birth of Jesus.
There is no need to rehearse the long story of how the Christian church chose this time of the year, the winter festival, to celebrate the 'birth' of a new age. It must not be thought, however, that some few, wizened fathers of the church, in secret sessions, made this decision, and thus set the church down the path upon which many of us still walk. The local churches, as most often is the case, took the lead. Where one began, others soon followed; until the church decreed in its solemn session that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on December 25--which is the actual date on which daylight hours do begin to lengthen.
I cannot help but recall what was said of the first Christians by the Romans, when they refused to worship the Roman gods: they called them atheists. The Romans did not accuse the Christians of believing in another god; they accused them of believing in no god at all. The first Christians, in effect, were the secularizing agents of their era. But of course the Christians did not see it this way; nor did the Romans. The dance going on at that time had many more steps and many more movements.
Chosing the date of Our Lord's birth to be December 25 follows in a straight line from the choice of names given to Jesus in the early credal statements of the church: Son of God, God from God, Savior of the World, and so forth. These, as John Dominic Crossan so rightly points out, were titles that belonged to the Roman emperor. The early Christians made it a point to challenge the Roman emperor directly.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Apocalypse and Advent
I am waiting for Advent.
In other words, I am doubling down on Advent, since Advent is a time of waiting.
Perhaps you remember, as I do, a time when Advent heightened our expectation of Christmas by depriving us of its presence. Even further, we deprived ourselves of pleasures—candy most noticeably when we were children—in order to prepare ourselves for that glorious event.
Today we count down the shopping days, we gather for dozens of holiday parties, we watch an endless parade of TV specials; and then, as an afterthought it seems, we go to church on Christmas day—and wonder what the fuss was all about!
So, I am still waiting for Advent. But I know neither the day not the hour when it will come.
In the meantime, I am suffering through a minor variation of the Grand Funk. It comes and goes with differing intensity from year to year. Some years back I composed these two letters—one to the Christian churches, and one to the retail trade. I see them now as signs pointing to the end time then, and quite likely even more so now.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Once again the Christmas season is upon those of us who call ourselves Christians. Yet more and more each year our Christmas symbols and songs serve commercial ends to a greater degree than spiritual ends. The season begins earlier and earlier each year, and becomes more and more frantic in its playing out.
Let us resist!
Christmas is a special day for Christians. There is nothing added to it when we give ourselves, our songs and symbols over to a commercial enterprise that serves only the god of mammon. Were the serpent among us today, I am sure he would be saying, “No, giving gifts to your loved ones is the real meaning of Christmas; for, as the Good Book says, ‘It is better to give than to receive.’”
As believers in Christmas let us not be deceived. The real meaning of Christmas lies in a stunning reversal of that old saying; for in this case it is better to receive than to give. We need only open our hearts to the ever-new presence of divine life, as it is born again in our midst.


Once again the Christmas season is upon those of us who call ourselves Christian. Yet more and more each year the symbols and the songs of Christmas find themselves featured in your aisles and played on your muzak.
Please desist!
Christmas is a special day for Christians. You have no right to take our symbols and our songs and use them in your pursuit of money and profit. Were Jesus alive today, I would not be surprised to see him drive the images of Christmas from your temples of commerce, saying, “You have tried to turn your den of thieves into a house of prayer.”
Believers in Christmas see right through your shameless use of what is sacred to us, in order to extract more money for your coffers.
Again, please desist! Have the courage to create and promote your very own holiday for your very own reasons. If you worship money, then admit it—and make the dollar your sacred image. If you want to make people feel guilty for not spending themselves into debt, then hire consultants to create an appropriate advertising campaign. But don’t expect us to give you cover, and do your work for you. We’re going to take Jesus to church this year.

Friday, November 26, 2010


The End of Waiting--Concluded

Lastly, mourning the loss of the city are “the captains and seafaring men, sailors and all those who make a living from the sea.” Here is what they say: “Mourn, mourn for this great city/whose lavish living has made a fortune/for every owner of a sea-going ship;/ruined within a single hour (18:17, 19).”
The end of commerce extends all the way to the ends of the earth, to the farthest reaches of the seafaring network. When the city is destroyed, that destruction reaches into all facets of life and commerce. Nothing will escape its consequences.
Now, what does all this mean? Well, it means a lot of things. There are layers upon layers of meanings embedded in the text of the Book of Revelation. But for me, coming at the text with an appreciation of what lies at the surface, here is what I come away with:
1)Anyone who lives by the city will perish by the city. The city may be many things to many people—indeed for some it may be all things. But the city will never be the vehicle of salvation. That’s a promise, not a prediction.
2)Whoever puts his or her trust in religion, church-going, the temple; in politics, governing, legislating; or in commerce, investing, buying and selling, will find that trust betrayed—again and again and again. That, too, is a promise, not a prediction.
3)All of this—the end of temple, politics, and commerce—happens in “a single hour.” There is nothing enduring or deep about any of those supremely human enterprises. They are but a veneer over the chaos and meaningless of a human existence lived without attentiveness to the presence of the divine, and the promise that presence holds.
Let me simply close these thoughts on Apocalypse and the End of Waiting with these verses that conclude the Book of Revelation:
“The one who guarantees these revelations repeats his promise: I shall indeed be with you soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus. May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.”

Friday, November 19, 2010


The End of Waiting

No, I do not mean that waiting will end; I mean that the purpose of waiting is to open us to the coming of the radically new. And so radical will this coming new “thing” be, that the old will be destroyed—not transformed, changed, or filed away in our historical memory banks. It will be destroyed.
In the “Little Apocalypse” we listen to Jesus describing the destruction of the temple, where not one stone will be left standing on another. The radically new in this case is such that it will do away with the temple; i.e., there will no longer be a need for the temple. For the kingdom of Heaven will be ushered in by the coming of the Son of Man, upon the clouds of glory.
In the “Great” Apocalypse (The Book of Revelation), the new Jerusalem destroys the old city. The words of Jesus are fulfilled: in the new Jerusalem there is no temple, “since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple (21:22).
But this does not exhaust the meaning of the new Jerusalem. To begin understanding what the New Jerusalem means we must pay attention to the old city that is destroyed in the Book of Revelation, i.e., Babylon.
It is often said the Babylon is code for Rome, the city-empire that was persecuting the Christian sect. But really Babylon is simply code for the city, nothing more. If we pay attention to the destruction of Babylon, we will see what the coming new Jerusalem offers in its place. And one way to focus on what the destruction of the old city means is to note who mourns its loss, and why.
First and foremost are the “kings of the earth who have fornicated with her and lived with her in luxury (18:9).” In other words, the day of the politicians is over, for the day of poitics is over—not just ‘politics as usual,’ but politics itself is finished. All those trusted with governance have failed; they have whored after false gods.
Second, are the merchants, who have “grown rich through her debauchery (18:3).” Here the description is long and detailed, “There will be weeping and distress over her (the city’s fall)…when there is noboby left to buy their cargo of goods; their stocks of gold and silver, jewels and pearls, linen and purple and silks and scarlet; all the sandlewood, every piece in ivory or fine wood, in bronze or iron or marble; the cinnamon and spices, the myrrh and ointment and incense; wine, oil, flour and corn; their stocks of cattle, sheep, horses and chariots, their slaves, their human cargo…(18;11-13).”
Along with politics, commerce is finished. Those who have whored after the false god of the free market are left with this description: “All the fruits you had set your heart on have failed you; gone forever, never to return, is your life of magnificence and ease ((18:14).”

(To be continued)

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Apocalypse Heavy
What can one say about The Book of Revelation that hasn’t already been said?
Let me begin by repeating what I said about the “Little Apocalypse:” the Book of Revelation is “not a prediction of catastrophes, a list to be played out according to a timetable; but rather an understanding that the change coming will be so profound that it will literally be the end of the world as we know it! Or, to put it even more simply, the destruction of our cherished beliefs is harder to bear than the destruction of our lives. We will be ready to deny everything, follow any leader, turn on even our family—if only we can hang onto the world as we know it!”
After spending one afternoon browsing a few of the many websites devoted to the “Mark of the Beast,” from Rev.14:16, I can assure you that for the over-whelming majority of the readers of the Book of Revelation the above has not been said.
So let me say it again: John’s revelation is much more profound and earth-shattering than some testosterone-induced, Hollywood-style scenario of the end of the world!
The Book of Revelation is a book for quitters!
And now I will immediately say it is not a book for whiners. It offers no solace for those who have had to leave behind all their cherished beliefs; it does not blame the present state of the quitters on the evils committed by someone else, i.e., it does not feed the persecution/victim complex; nor, finally, does it offer a simple solution to personal and/or social problems.
It is a book for people who have given up. Nothing more, nothing less.. Simply given up. And that is why it is a book that continues to resonate with readers down through the centuries. For we have all at some point in our lives asked ourselves what good is it to even believe, or to hope.
So the question is: What do believing, hoping quitters do? And the answer is: they watch and wait! They are ready for the new world and the new city.
With that understanding, I would like in a few of the following posts tell you what I am watching and waiting for.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Apocalypse Lite
I want to begin looking at what it is that is revealed to us in the apocalyptic writing in the Bible—in the New Testament, really. And I begin with what is often called the “Little Apocalypse,” in the Gospel according to Mark, Chapter 13.
Every time I read this passage, I think of William Butler Yeats’ ever-increasingly more relevant poem, “The Second Coming:”
“ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
Yeats was speaking of his “end-time”, and Mark of his. But were they, really? There are images, words, and understandings that resonate with us today.
Who cannot hear Jesus saying today: “Take care that no one deceives you. Many will come using my name and saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many….And if anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Christ,’ or, ‘Look, he is there,’ do not believe it; for false Christs and false prophets will arise to produce signs and portents to deceive the elect, if that were possible.”
It is possible!
Does not Yeats speak of our times when he writes, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/are full of passionate intensity”?
But why is all this happening? Why does Jesus speak of false prophets, of buildings being laid to waste, of sign in the sun and moon, of families turning on one another? Why does Yeats speak of anarchy, and blood-dimmed tides?
Here Jesus interprets Yeats: where Yeats simply says “the centre cannot hold,” Jesus names that center—or, to be more precise, Mark has Jesus “sitting facing the Temple” when he (Jesus) describes what is about to happen.
The “centre” that cannot hold for Jesus is the Temple! “Not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be destroyed.” With the destruction of the Temple comes the destruction of everything, of all meaning. What follows then are wars, pestilence, false prophets, persecution, family members turning on each other—and even the shaking of the heavens.
Jesus, of course, is speaking to and about the Diaspora: his followers will have to exist in a world whose center is no longer the temple. And at that time in their history, the temple was what held the people together.
So this is what the “Little Apocalypse” reveals to us: not a prediction of catastrophes, a list to be played out according to a timetable; but rather an understanding that the change coming will be so profound that it will literally be the end of the world as we know it! Or, to put it even more simply, the destruction of our cherished beliefs is harder to bear than the destruction of our lives. We will be ready to deny everything, follow any leader, turn on even our family—if only we can hang onto the world as we know it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


(Just a quick break)
You know the rest of it—“so shall you reap.” Please excuse the paraphrase of Paul in Galatians, 6:7; but I just wanted to make quick comment on the mid-term elections.
I heard a pundit say it thusly: We ended up with a Congress [he meant of course a House of Representatives] in which the Democrats are more liberal [as a body, since the Blue Dogs were decimated—or I should say ‘halved’] and the Republicans more conservative [or what passes for conservatism these days]. Yet, what the people really want, according to all the polling, is a more bipartisan approach; they want the two sides to work together, etc.
He offered no follow up on that point, nor was one sought.
Let me suggest one: If you really want a Congress that is bipartisan in its approach, then always vote for the more moderate of the two candidates.
Let me suggest another: stop listening to the pundits of one side or another. Listen to both, or listen to neither.
Finally: instead of breaking down the body politic into liberals, conservatives, and independents; think of the divisions as being among ideologues, pragmatists, and the totally uninvolved.
“Whatsover a man soweth…”

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Final Concepts of the End
When I wrote the book on apocalypse and science fiction, I relied heavily on the work of one Paul D. Hanson, and his book, “The Dawn of Apocalyptic.” Hanson has no real quibble with Buber’s schema, except that it does lead to view apocalyptic as a corruption of prophecy—by which Buber and others mean that apocalyptic has given up on the present order. Hanson argues to the contrary that prophecy and apocalyptic share the same essential vision: “Yahweh’s people restored as a holy community in a glorified Zion.”
I put it this way in the previous post: prophecy and apocalyptic share the same essential promise of God to his people, “I will be with you always, even to the end!”
So what is the difference between the two? Hanson describes it thusly: Prophecy is the “announcement to the nation of the divine plan for Israel and the world; witnessed by the prophet unfolding in the divine council; and translated into terms of plain history, real politics, and human instrumentality.”
Apocalyptic, on the other hand, is the “disclosure (usually esoteric) to the elect of the cosmic vision of Yahweh’s sovereignty as he acts to deliver the faithful; no longer disclosed in terms of plain history, real politics, and human instrumentality; because of a pessimistic view of reality, due to post-exilic conditions.”
The difference, of course, lies in the fact that apocalyptic no longer sees how God’s plan can be understood in terms of the human action needed to help bring it into being; i.e., there is no way to get there (Zion) from here (a broken world) by any usual means (politics).
Prophecy works in a world that works. One clear example was/is the prophetic presence of Martin Luther King. Another was the prophetic action of Eugene McCarthy, when he opposed LBJ in the presidential primaries.
Both their prophetic messages worked , not because people agreed totally with their “politics,” but because they saw beyond their actions and words to the deeper vision MLK and McCarthy had for the future of our nation. And people saw that there was a way to get there.
Apocalyptic does not work in that world—because that world no longer works in that world. And apocalyptic’s message is that is does no good to wait for a new “prophet” who will lead us; what we need to wait for is a new world. And we have to be ready when that new world comes. What so many of the readers of The Book of Revelation miss is exactly this point: it is not the end of the world we are waiting for, not even the end of the “old” world (although this would be an improvement); it is rather the coming of the new world we await.
Still, the passing of the old does “reveal” something to us. This, we will take up in the next post.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Beginning Concepts of the End
(I realize that the ending of my previous post may have terrified some readers out there. I do not want the old world “out there” to pass away. I want that to happen to the old world in my head. Ah, the joys of writing on the fly!)
So, to proceed along a more rational, analytical path, let me propose some tools I will use in talking about the end time.
The first one is this: there is a distinction to be made between prophecy and apocalyptic.
This is how Martin Buber (of I-Thou fame) characterizes the differences: Concerning the eschatology of the two (i.e., where it comes from and how each views future events unfolding), Buber says of prophecy that it is native and monistic. Prophecy is grounded in Israel’s monotheistic faith; it sees one being, Yahweh, responsible for all events. Of apocalyptic, he says it is foreign and dualistic. Apocalyptic is influenced by foreign thought, specifically a dualistic world view: Yahweh responsible for the good in the world, Satan, etc., responsible for the evil. In the end it all comes down to a struggle between those two forces.
Concerning the object of hope, prophecy describes it as the fulfillment of creation; apocalyptic as the dissolution of this creation (the world of Satan) by a different world (a new heaven and a new earth).
And concerning the judgment (what Yahweh says about the course of future events), prophecy says it is conditional: announced, but revocable; that is, it depends on how people respond to the word of God. If they believe and live according to the demands of God, all will be well. If they whore after false gods, their fate will be doom and despair. Apocalyptic, on the other hand, says of the judgment that it is final: unalterable, fixed and determinate. It will play out exactly as it has been revealed.
There are a couple of things that need to be said in commenting on this distinction—well, actually three:
1) As with all distinctions, this one over-simplifies. Not all prophecy is monistic, not all apocalyptic is dualistic. As a rule of thumb, whatever apocalyptic there is found in the canon (Hebrew and Christian) tends toward being monistic; whatever is found outside, tends toward being dualistic. And so forth down through the categories of “object of hope” and “judgment.”
2) Buber’s schema of the differences leads toward the view of apocalyptic as a corruption of prophecy. All I would be willing to concede is that sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Even further, sometimes prophecy has become so corrupt (see the tracts in Isaiah and Jeremiah against the false prophets) that new responses are demanded. (This will lead to my next post.)
3) If I were forced to reduce what I have learned about prophecy and apocalyptic to one statement, it would be this: Neither prophecy not apocalyptic are about God’s predictions, they are about God’s promise. And the core of that promise is this: I will be with you always, even to the end!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Are we at the End Time?

(I continue my examination of the end time)

Do we live in the “end time?”
Well, true to my training, I have to answer that by saying, “Yes, and No.” And, true to my stage in life, I have to answer that by saying, “My end time may not (indeed, will not) be the same as your end time.”
Allow me to explain. Frank Kermode many years ago wrote a seminal work in literary criticism called “The Sense of An Ending.” In it he postulated that the ‘ending’ of any literary work is what gave that work its deep meaning. That he argued it was the early gospel(s) that introduced this narrative drive to the literary world is neither here nor there. Nor, for the purposes of my analysis, is it necessary to limit his argument to the world of literature—that is, fiction or biography.
From the very beginning I have always thought that Kermode’s analysis explained to me what I sought in reading any book—whether philosophy, science, history, political science, theology, and so forth: I was captivated in good writing by the “narrative drive” of the argument; I wanted to follow the” story” as it unfolded; I wanted to be led from one point to another, until “in the end” I saw how it all fit together, how it all made sense.
So, we live in the end time in the sense that whenever we talk about things coming to a head, what we are doing is sensing that all that has gone before is culminating in this moment, and that this moment, what is happening now ,“explains” what has happened before.
This is what is so terrifying about the end time: it is always and only looking backward. But this is also what is so transforming about the end time: it is what frees us from the burden of the past and delivers us to the promise of the(completely unknown) future. Of course we honor this more often in the breech than in the observance. We don’t want the present to end, we don’t want anything to “happen” that would reveal what is really going and has been going on all along.
Having just recently celebrated my 70th birthday, I am well aware that my end time has more and more a personal element to it. But that is exactly what I want to celebrate in all what follows: I want the revelation; I want my old world to pass away, violently if needs be; and I want the new heavens and the new earth to surpass anything I have ever dreamed about.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The End Time--Finally!

The End Time—Finally! (Or, This Time I Really Mean It!)

Okay—so I was in a little funk for the last few months. Happened before; will happen again; and when it did/does/and will, I get through it by writing about what’s going on at the deepest level of my being—the level of the “Grand Explanation”, wherein I lay out the final meaning of life, the universe and everything .
You’d think I would have exhausted this genre by now. I did after all begin with the topic in my published dissertation: “Apocalypse ad Science Fiction: A Dialectic of Religious and Secular Soteriologies.” I was pleased when David Ketterer, author of “New Worlds for Old: The Apocalyptic Imagination, Science Fiction, and American Literature’” called it “…the best theoretical treatment of science fiction currently available.” I had turned his treatment of the apocalyptic imagination on its head, by focusing on the readers’ expectations rather than on the writers’ extrapolations.
Ketterer’s response was indicative of the response the dissertation received in literary theory circles (it was well-received then and still to this day is so received and is being used in numerous college courses and scholarly studies of science fiction), while at the same time it was noted with passing (“dammed with faint praise”) or outright dismissed (as it was in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, on the grounds that it could not make up its mind whether it was a book of literary theory or a theological treatise). As the late Kurt Vonnegut would say often in his books, “So it goes.”
I went on to a glorious, even though unpublished, career of following up on that dissertation by choosing to focus on apocalyptic imagination rather than science fiction. I rarely read anything in that category any longer. Working through the “passivity” often associated with believers in the end times (i.e., we are waiting for God’s intervention), and arriving at length at the new category with which explore apocalyptic imagination, powerlessness, I slowly produced a corpus of works, beginning with the rather pretentiously named “The Praxis of Powerlessness: A Christological Reading of Emancipation”, in the late ‘80’s; a popularized version of that, “Doing the Powerless Thing”, wherein I extended that analysis to include our powerlessness over the natural world, in the early 2000’s; to a completion of that project (at least in my mind) by turning everything back to a reflection on the central theme of powerlessness embodied in a program I shall not name (hint, hint). That final analysis is ongoing and will never see the light of day in any of my writings—although all its components will.
I realize, of course, that in following the path I did I was trying to “prove” to the theological community that my dissertation at its deepest core did address theological issues as well as literary ones. But I am comfortable with that. Whatever it took to push me in a direction that let me explore issues that I was really interested in is fine by me.
Anyhow! Now I am back at the beginning: facing the end times. In most of the following entries I want to explore, and reconsider everything—I mean literally that—again. And I will begin with the end: where we all are right now!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cops as Priests

Let me see. How many excuses can I make to cover my absence from this blog for going on three months?

My computer crashed, and I didn't feel comfortable doing it on another? The summer weather here in Oklahoma City was unbearably hot, throwing me off my schedule while I coped with said heat? And speaking of schedule, we took care of our son's dog all summer, a lab-size creature who demanded attention and daily walks. Was that it?

Well, you get the drift: I used each and every one of those, numerous times, and many more besides, to put off posting an entry.

But then I read this in a police thriller, a deputy sheriff wife talking to her US Marshall husband: “I love the way you talked about it, like a calling, like you were a priest or something.”

I have a file somewhere, in which I have jotted down notes on how police today are talked about—in novels, I might add, not in real life—as being modern day equivalents to priests in former society. They are the thin blue line standing between order and chaos, somewhat like the priest was the thin (black) line between good and evil. They struggle with marriage; most are divorced and leading a celibate life—and they fail just like priests do.

But central to the comparison is the word used in the quote above: calling. Being a cop is a vocation, just like being a priest is. And it leads to another statement that pops up frequently in the literature: “Once a cop, always a cop.” Church talk is a little more formal; it says, “You a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedek.”

If I had logged every reference to such themes in the police procedural and/or thriller literature I have ever read, I would be well on my way to churning out another book. But I didn't, and I'm too far along to remember even a small amount of what I ever read. So, I will have to leave that to another of you to pursue.

I will add only this: the topic interest me because I was, at one time, an ex-priest. I have since resigned from the ex-priesthood. Now I am just me, retired.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Religion and Child Abuse

What is it about religion and the mistreatment of children?
The Mormons did it/ do it too!
Now, before you think I am stating this to lessen in any way the shame and guilt that rightly belongs to those priests and their overseers who engaged in or concealed the practice of pedophilia, I am stating this to move the discussion in another direction: there seems to be something intrinsic in the mantle of religious authority that is more often than not lethal to the spiritual, moral and physical health and well-being of children.
I have just finished reading a novel by David Ebershoff, called “The 19th Wife.” In its pages are intertwined the account of her life by Ann Eliza Webb Young, the “19th wife” of Brigham Young, and the story of Jordan Scott, a young man thrown out of a present day fundamentalist Morman sect, who returns to help free his mother from jail after she is charged with killing the “man of the house,” as it is so euphemistically put in describing the polygamous husband.
This is a wonderful novel. It treats, as only a novelist can, of the highly charged topics of religious faith, divine revelation, polygamy and religious leadership without resorting to clichés or stereotypes about any of them. In the book there are good believers and believers who use their beliefs to coerce others. There are elements of divine revelation that will awaken new dimensions of faith in those who already believe; and there are divine revelations that good believers will be ashamed are even considered divine. There are descriptions of polygamous households that appear different to our sensibilities, but not impossible or immoral; and other descriptions that frankly will disgust many a reader. And, finally, there are treatments of religious leadership that are inspiring and ennobling; but mostly, in this novel, there are treatments that expose religious leadership for what it too often is: the seer leading those whom he keeps blind.
Polygamy by itself is not the issue. Besides, there is polygamy in the Hebrew Bible, there are accounts of God telling patriarchs to take another wife. Women’s rights are an issue; but that is an issue they can well push themselves—as Ann Eliza Webb Young did in history and does in the novel. But the real issue, it seems to me, is what happens to the children. The girls are forced into sexual unions when they are under-aged; the boys are forced out of the community to leave more females for the predatory men—and those who stay live in a world where any kind of healthy psychological and sexual development is distorted.
And all of this is done in the name of religion, in the name of divine revelations to a “prophet

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Gospel of the Earth

This is one of my favorite gospels. Here are a few selections from it.

The beginning of the good news of Jesus of Nazareth, child of the earth, as it was written in the Torah, "Before a plant of the field was in the earth, before a grain of the field sprouted--Yahweh had not spilled rain on the earth, nor was there man to work the land--yet from the day Yahweh made earth and sky, a mist from within would rise to moisten the surface. Yahweh shaped an earthling from the clay of this earth, blew into its nostrils the wind of life. Now look: man becomes a creature of flesh."
John was a man of the wilderness; there he preached a reverence for the wild and untamed. He urged people, urban and rural, to give themselves over to the greater forces of life, to cleanse themselves and their environment of the poison of growth and development, to search out and live in their place given by God for the glory of all creation. People flocked to him from the large urban centers; but he warned them that it was the barrenness in their own environment that needed attention. "Do not come here to the wilderness expecting it to save you from the emptiness of that place where you live now. If you bring to the wilderness only need and an urge to possess , it will destroy you, not give you life." And he told them of the one to come. "I am a child of the wilderness," he said; "but he who comes after me is truly a child of the earth. I can show you how to live here; he can show you how to live on the whole earth."
Jesus of Nazareth came to John in the wilderness, seeking to be inspired by him, to be cleansed of the pollution of empire and theocracy and progress, to begin anew a life dedicated to giving back some of what he had received from his parents and from the village that had raised him. Almost at once the cleansing became in Jesus the work of God more so than of John. Indeed, it was God's spirit that led Jesus further into the wilderness than even John had been. There he prayed and fasted and fought the demons of domination and control; demons who were as strong there in the heart of the wilderness as they were in any seat of commerce or government.

They came soon to the town of Capernaum, where Jesus entered the synagogue, since it was the Sabbath. He stood up to read and they handed him the scroll of the Wisdom of Solomon. He unrolled it until he found where it was written:
Like all the others, I, too, am a mortal man,
descendant of the first being fashioned from the
I was modelled in flesh within my mother's womb
in a ten-month period--
body and blood, from the seed given
and the pleasure that accompanies marriage.
I, too, when I was born, inhaled the common air,
I fell on the same ground that bears us all;
wailing, I uttered the first sound, common to all.
I was nurtured in swaddling clothes, with
every care.
No king has known any other beginning of existence;
for all there is only one way into life,
just as there is one way out of it.

Jesus then rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the assistant and sat down. All in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"The Book of Jesus"

Pope Benedict is getting closer and closer to admitting the "sin" of the hierarchy: enabling and covering up the sexual abuse of children. But he is not there yet--it is still the sin of the priests. At least he has moved beyond blaming it on the media! or the "enemies" of the church! I am still waiting.

In the meantime, it's back to the gospel project. Here is a copy of the whole introduction to "The Book of Jesus." I will be posting excerpts from the gospels over the next weeks, months, years.


The Book of Jesus: Renditions of New Testament Writings is a collection of four new gospel renditions and one of The Book of Revelation. I have chosen to call them renditions, rather than translations, for obvious reasons. Foremost among these reasons is that I wanted to write different gospels for different audiences, and therefore I needed to take some liberties with the texts.
Let me explain by giving an example. The very first lines of this project I wrote were the rendition of the Prologue to the Gospel of John. I had picked up every new translation of the New Testament that had come out in the last thirty years or so; and every single one of them began this Prologue with the phrases, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The commentaries always offered the necessary explanations. But I waited in vain for a translation that would need no commentary. I would have kept right on waiting were it not for the new translation of the Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell. When I read these opening lines,

The tao that can be told
Is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
Is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
Of all particular things,

I realized right then and there that I would never look at the Prologue to John's Gospel in the same way; for what John was writing about was exactly the "naming" of the Eternal and the creation of "particular things." So, armed with that sensibility, that understanding, that awareness of the tension between silence and speaking, I rendered the Prologue anew,

This is how it began:
When the Eternal, the Unnamed,
Uttered the word 'God,'
That word, too, was God.

God was the first to name God.
Before that, there was only silence and the unnamed.

Thus it has gone with all the renditions below. I have not tried to imagine an evangelist living today, writing to an audience living today. Rather I have tried to imagine us and the evangelist, alive at the time of Jesus and/or shortly thereafter, armed with the sensibilities we possess today. A sensibility is simply a way of looking at things, an orientation, a disposition toward one or another point of view. We know them particularly in their worst manifestations. There is the "conspiracy nut," for example, for whom everything explains or is explained by a conspiracy. Or there is the "bottom line guy," for whom every thing is reduced to the economic dimension. I have tried to pick some of the more neutral and/or uplifting of the modern sensibilities.
For the eco-conscious among us, and for the eco-awareness we all possess in our day, I have rendered "A Gospel of the Earth." For those among us who continually search for the wisdom of the ages, who read the great masters, who seek the depth of being--in short, for those for whom there is always something more-- there is "The Hidden Gospel." On the other hand, for the doubters, the questioners, for those who are not quite so sure that everything is always perfect, about themselves or about the world, I have rendered "The Dark Gospel." Finally, for the intensely personal and individual, for those who want right now to be attended to in their need, there is "The Testimony of John." To these four gospel renditions I have appended a new rendition of "The Book of Revelation." The sensibility here belongs to those among us who are the real poets, the seers, the visionaries--the ones who deal with it in words.
The true test of the worth of these renditions will be if they inspire the reader to create another rendition. For I have always been of the mind that instead of longing for that one, perfectly harmonized gospel, we need instead as many more as there are seekers after Jesus.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

When I Die...

When I Die…
Is that morbid enough for a title? To take off some of the edge, I should have put that title in quotes.
Let me explain. We (some of my adult friends; all of us with our peculiar idiosyncrasies) were sitting around a dinner table just last night, when the topic of ‘near-death experiences’ came up. One of the guys ran through some of the more common features of the reports of such an experience: out of body experiences, the tunnel, the light, and so forth; and he recounted how these reports came from all cultures and all ages. And then he asked me what I thought of the matter. Did it have any meaning for me?
I ran off a few lines before I took on the task of answering. Here in stylized summary is what I said: what means more to me than the near-death experience is the death experience. I then went on to recount being there when my parents died—not just at the exact moment of death, but more for the dying experience. The same went for my spouse’s father. I saw in all of them an acceptance of their fate. I said I needed to have that experience; it was important for me to see my elders in their acceptance of their own death.
I finished, more or less, by zeroing in on that phrase, ‘moment of death;’ for it embodies an understanding that this is a special moment: it is something we do and something we experience at the same time. It exists, in a sense, out of time; it does not belong to this time, or the next.
What I did not talk about (it came to me only much later) was another phrase we use when talking about the experience of death: “When I die…”
We often make the claim that words fail us; and we can say that when talking about the moment of death. But sometimes, while words do not capture everything there is to say about a topic, they do give us clues and point us in the right direction. This I believe to be the case with the phrase “when I die…” Most of the time we use it in the context of talking about what we want it to be like when we die: peaceful, free of pain and suffering, surrounded by loved ones. But we also use it thusly: “When I die I will be in heaven with the ones I love.” Note that we do not say, “After I die…”
I will suggest that we do not say “After I die…” because we do not mean what is clearly intended by that phrase; we do not mean to separate the moment of death from the experience of heaven. What we intend to say is this: When I accept that I am in the moment of death, at that moment I will be in heaven.
There; now you can take it from here. Thanks for listening,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Final Word--again

The Final Word—again

I thought about it; I waited for some further clarification; I came to the conclusion that the Vatican is going to try and wait this one out.
What else could it do? This has been its modus operandi for all its 2000 years, hasn’t it? Can you cite one time when the Church leadership led? I can’t. There are all the usual suspects: Galileo, the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, Modernism, the Holocaust, priestly abuse.
But those are the easy ones. Think about the times that are specific to Catholics: birth control, liturgical reform, women’s roles, celibacy, Church governance. That’s my quick list. You probably have your own. But nowhere on all our lists are there examples when the Vatican has had the vision to see where things are headed, the foresight to encourage the study of issues and trends, and the guts to make some hard decisions about what needed to be changed—in order to preserve and pass on the teachings of Jesus.
Every example has ended in reaction. Ah, but the Church changes slowly, some say. I don’t care how slowly it changes; that’s not the issue. It could take 100 years to change—as long as for those 100 years it has been studying, inviting feedback, and engaged in dialog with all sorts of differing points of view.
Again, name me one example. It has instead used all its energy to close off debate, censure those who raise questions, and banish those who insist on pursuing open inquiry into the faith.
As I post this the papers again carry a story of the comments the Pope made at his latest general audience, expressing his sorrow and dismay at what “they” (the abuser priests) did, and to ensure the faithful that the Church will respond accordingly.
And so the waiting continues—for the Vatican it means waiting for the time when all this goes away; for the faithful it means waiting for some accountability for the cover-up still in place. I know which side I am on.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Doing Penance"--Asking for Forgiveness?

The first item I read yesterday, after posting about the Pope/bishops never asking for forgiveness, was an AP story about Pope Benedict talking about "we" Christians needing to do penance for our "sins." Was he asking for forgiveness? I don't know. Let me think about it over the weekend, and get back to you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More on the Scandal du jour

More on the Scandal du jour
Below you will be given the option to view yet another document from my files—this one a letter that I wrote to the daily newspaper in Dallas six years ago.
Six years ago! What has happened since then? All sorts of procedures have been put into place to deal with any priests who today are accused of child abuse.
But where are the procedures that deal with the bishops and their lackeys who have covered up—and continue to cover up—past and present child abuse by priests?
Actually, a much more basic question is this: Where is the sorrow and contrition of the bishops—all the way to the present Pope? They are quick to forgive the priests who have “sinned;” but they have never--NEVER—to this point asked for forgiveness for their complicity in this sin. I need say no more.

Click here to download the letter.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

De ja vu Scandal du jour, pardon my French

Where to begin?
It is Thursday of Easter week, and the series , Lent, Inc., is laid to rest. I have not been idle in the interim, however. For the “scandal” has arisen again and has driven wedges everywhere into the façade of the Catholic church. The fissures are many; and there is even talk about the final and lasting collapse of the whole thing.
I have no idea.
What do I know for sure? Only this: I got out well before the shit hit the fan.
But before I did, I lived in two rectories that provided me with living examples of another side of the clerical culture, a side that is strangely absent from all the psycho-babble and hand-wringing about the unnatural effects of enforced celibacy. I speak, of course, of the pastor/housekeeper arrangement.
My first assignment, fresh from 12 years in the seminary, was to a parish, or, rather, to a rectory. Sure, I was sent there to minister to the people. But the real assignment was to live in a house that was dominated by the dynamics that went on between the pastor and his housekeeper. Looking back from my present vantage point, I would slap on the label ‘dysfunctional.’ But that is much too mild. My fellow associate and I were intruders in their household, we were servants, we were ungrateful children. We were anything but fellow servants of the people of God.
I have no idea what really went on in their part of the house—75% by square footage. But judging from the way we were treated, it cannot in any way have been a healthy relationship. In one sense celibacy had everything to do with the situation; in another sense it had nothing to do with it. For the law on celibacy both created the need for some kind of non-sexual intimacy, while at the same time forbidding anything that might hint of it.
Again, I have no idea what characterized their relationship, but I suspect a whole lot of denial went on. And much less denying their own feelings, I suspect the two of them never once talked to each other about how they felt about each other. Or maybe they did, and that was the problem. At any rate, we two associates, and all the people of that parish suffered because of it.
Having petitioned the newly formed diocesan priest’s senate, my fellow associate and I managed to effect the ouster of that housekeeper from the rectory; but the price we paid was to accept transfer ourselves to other assignments.
My assignment was to a parish in small town Wisconsin. There I was welcomed into the rectory by the pastor and his housekeeper—or, I should say, our housekeeper. I never felt as though I was intruding in their house, that I was there to follow the orders of the pastor, or that I had to conform to their image of what a priest should be like. I was part of what went on in that house: we ate our meals together, we worked together, we sat and watched TV together often in the evenings. When I went through a difficult personal issue, I felt at ease talking it over with the pastor.
What do I know about the relationship between the pastor and the housekeeper in that household? Only what I have described. But I think what I have described in many ways resembles family. We as children do not comprehend nor do we talk about the sexual intimacy of our parents ; but we do understand, learn from, and are shaped by their non-sexual intimacy.
The law of celibacy did not do away with the need of intimacy in the lives of priests. That, I suspect, is what stood behind many of the relationships between pastors and their housekeepers. And just as, Tolstoy says, all families are dysfunctional in their own ways, so all rectories were dysfunctional in theirs. But, and this is my main point, dysfunctional or not, the relationship between pastor and housekeeper was what kept many priests sexually healthy—they cared for each other in ways that were more important and meaningful than biological drives.
I went on to only one more assignment, and then I resigned the priesthood and married. What do I know about my relationship with the woman to whom I have been married 35 years in June? Only this, to quote Robert Parker: “Sex enhances love; but not as much as love enhances sex.”

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday

One prays
against the candles’ slow descent into hell
and pictures
the howls of the starving
piercing the lonely sacred hearts
of Jesus and Mary
[they’re hanging in the sacristy now
since the renewal of the church
no one hears the cries
nor sees the pain].

One prays
along the trail of the fourteen stations
while Jesus is railroaded to the tomb
clutching a round-trip ticket.

One prays
in the moment of death
while Jesus walks up and down the aisles
checking the vigil lights
[one if by land
two if by sea
three if you see him come back
as you saw him go
trailing clouds of glory].

[And so ends Lent, Inc. A happy and blessed Easter to all. I will take a day or so off now. See you all soon.]

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Good Friday

It is strange for us to gather here
remembering the death of God again
you’d almost think it would weary him to die so often
shed his blood
just to say to us it isn’t make-believe
it’s not an instant replay
not a tv re-run
and sometimes I even catch myself saying
I know how it ends
you see he rises from the dead
but I won’t spoil it for you.

Strange that we should gather here
we the living who seem so sure of everything
sure that the death of Jesus means something
means everything
when the death of someone loved leaves us lost and lonely
dazed and sorrowful
when our father mother husband wife dies
we are not so sure.

I wonder if Jesus is so sure
that his death has made the difference
when he sees us crowding into churches to mourn his death
while he is dying on the battlefields alone
or dying of a broken heart
in some God-forsaken run-down rooming house
or staring at some babbling flashing Goodwill tv set
in an old age home
while his family is gone to church.

Still the habit strangely draws us to this church
to one another’s comfort in this time of sorrow
death has bound the living closer still
love has reached across the void
all the children have come home
to find each other in the silence of death.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday

In the beginning
and in the end
it is bread and wine we offer
age old food to feed an ageless dream.

We offer this
a somewhat wager
standing in between ourselves.

Water married to wine
wine to blood
blood to flesh
flesh to bread
bread to feed the living
by the word of God
no longer

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday of Holy Week

Wednesday of Holy Week

There is in our times
a certain fascination with Judas
but like father to the son
the fascination betrays an understanding of
and a close identification with
his mind’s machinations
and his political philosophy.

And like son of his father
Judas still sells out to our fascination
with power and money.

Ah but that strikes close to home
sits at the very table with us
dips its hand into the same dish.
No wonder
we place him so often on the pedestal
albeit a sinner’s pedestal
take such pains to maintain his infamy
while we court the pleasures daily
of money and power.

Our true and loyal disciples attend
to the left of us
financial security
golden passbooks
life insurance
pension plans
credit cards
and to the right of us
spheres of influence
public mandates
democratic processes
and the sons of thunder
national security
and executive privilege.

We gorge ourselves on our fantasies
of deliverance from slavery
never mind the forty years wandering
in the desert of our jobs
before the promised land
of social security.

little old Judas runs around
with his bag of money
reminding us all that we have our price
and pay the price
for courting the pleasures of power and money.

But the good news comes cheap
the early church
understood Judas as part of the solution
told before their times
the promise of betrayal.
They built communes against his memory
shared their wealth across national lines
they drew lots to flesh out his absence
withstood the oxymoron of free elections
and free power
giving it to anyone at all
instead of those who want it most.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday of Holy Week

Tuesday of Holy Week

He saw his dream
like smoke blowing in a thundershower
like windows crying
then he fell asleep.

The haunting pull of death
the knotted cord
his life obstructs the vision
standing in the flow of history
bodiless and out of joint
then he fell asleep again.

He woke to the para-world
of daylight salvation time
where dreams unmake the man
and the war to end all wars
is fought in the shadow of need.
He marched in his own funeral parade
while the smoke blew
and the thundershowers washed the dirt
off the thumbs-down
double-fisted streets.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday of Holy Week

Monday of Holy Week

It’s the long stretch into it
the thought of all those calendars
still in the mind of God
like unborn children
waiting to be called forth in love and trust
and into flesh and blood.

Life’s call that pulls you
won’t let you sleep
for the loneliness that you can’t run from anymore

To be with your Father
to love and suffer
ache and wander off by yourself to the high places
the holy mountains
and back again
where the crowds devour you
and crucify a man
whose life already has been given.

Love the man says
love is the long stretch
the crazy hope
the pain and the scream
the loneliness
the life already given
hanging there by nails.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

You wave
and some will see it as hello
this farewell tour
this good-bye grand parade
down the main street of mankind’s hope
this ticker-tape and circus-wagon passage
through the graveyard of messianism
watching puppets dance along the curcb
skeleton’s of dogma rattling their well-rehearsed refrains.

You say hello
and they say good-bye
strangely silent empty eyes
washed in tears
and heartbeats.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Saturday after Passion Sunday

I'm going to deviate from the pattern here, because the post is just too long. You'll see the "click here" message at the bottom of this post. It will take you to the poem.

Okay, this was written in my "Western plains" period. I think this was after two driving trips from Wisconsin to California and one hitchhiking trip to Alaska and back, in the space of two or three years, in the middle 70's. I had done it once before, in the early 60's; but that had all but faded from memory. For someone growing up in the confined spaces of Midwest, and going to school in the more confined spaces of the East coast, the wide openness was startling--not just the big sky, but the big, far horizon. If you've been reading all the poems, you will have run across some of this imagery already. Here it all but takes over.

As for the content! Well, it's still with me: the dark side.

Click here to download the poem.

Friday after Passion Sunday

Friday after Passion Sunday

The Trinity argues
against the logic of destiny
it is no more mysterious
than human existence.

Ocham’s razor dulls
on the bearded wisdom of life:
the rich grayness of flowering death
defies the laws of entropy.

Even God does not live alone
in the solitude of necessity:
life enters on itself
and names the meeting a person
persons are the only true mirrors
of other persons
and move is the medium
through which the vision passes.

The Trinity argues a priori
against the flow of life:
there is oneness
in life meeting itself
born within and without.

To believe in the Trinity
is to see that all of life is one
when it encounters the other as itself:
it suffers
it imprisons
it loves
it lives
it flowers
it is one.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday after Passion Sunday

Thursday after Passion Sunday

Like Marx standing Hegel on his head
in the greatest show on earth
passages of Scripture
balance before the taskmasters of prejudice
displaying their many talents
crowd-pleasers all of them
they are paraded ‘round the ring
following the tail-end of prior arguments.

To wit:
“Whoever does not want to work
is not allowed to eat,” writes Paul
to the Church at Thessalonia
and continues
justifying his stance:
“We say this because we hear
that there are some people among you
who live lazy lives
who do nothing
except meddle in other people’s business.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
we command these people and warn them
they must lead orderly lives
and work to earn their own living.”

This poor beast of burden bible quote
has been carrying the load of free enterprise capitalism
for centuries too long
walked across the water with Captain John he did
clothed in the puritan ethic
and browsed once at the first Thanksgiving feast
sent stampeding wildly through welfare lines he was
trampling on the poor and crippled
children and aged—
what we were and will be the bane of life’s entrepreneurs.

But he will work as well
for those who suffer under the scourge of life’s lot
the poor
who have always borne the burden
that the rich are
who do not work
who live lazy lives
who do nothing
except meddle in other people’s business
for whom we must slave’by paying high taxes
high utility rates
exorbitant rents
the rich are more of a burden
than the poor.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday after Passion Sunday

Wednesday after Passion Sunday

Statues draped in purple cloth
crucifixes covered
plaster people shrouded in veils
of an ancient and dim past
here in the church they stand
looking like next year’s models
brand new man and brand new woman
new creation waiting to be unveiled.

Underneath that purple cloth
is written the record of a glorious past
of a time when God’s very love walked among us
touching souls of flesh and blood people
of a time when signs and miracles abounded
wine flowed at wedding feasts
loaves and fishes filled the hearts and stomachs of hungry people
blind men saw the look of love on a stranger’s face
cripples walked and even danced their thank you
to the startled crowds.

It was there once
all of it alive
shaking the universe to its core.
Covered now
hidden from our eyes
it is quiet here
and the silence speaks of many things.

We are all of us shrouded in that purple cloth
all of us simply plaster people
covered with the weariness of winter
wearing 40 days of dust and ashes on our souls
frozen in our ancient shopworn ways
of doing and undoing things
stiff and proper looking neither right nor left
unwound wooden soldiers of Christ.

It is quiet in the world now
here within this purple haze
one can even here stomachs growling in Appalachia
hear children screaming
as the napalm spreads its fiery breath
running along the ground
listen closely very
hear the atoms splitting on the warheads.

It is quiet here in the church
one can also hear the spirit
stirring in the depths
the mighty spirit breathing life into all of us
that we can be those next year’s models
brand new man and brand new woman
new creation risen from the dead
signs of life and love
into a world preoccupied with death.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday after Passion Sunday

Tuesday after Passion Sunday

the story is very much down to earth
and up to snuff
floats there in the timeless expanse
between a man and a woman
between faithfulness and infidelity
between love and hate and cheating.

A marriage counselor’s nightmare
what to do about the wanderings of wayward souls
lusting after the thrill of an affair
discreet or otherwise?

The story is as old as a thousand television shows
a hundred thousand paperbacks
a million graffiti on bathroom walls
hack writers still make money on it
so do divorce lawyers.
God doesn’t make any money
those who love usually don’t.

mercy wins
mercy beats out justice
and all the theological divorce lawyers can go home
pack up all their case books
settlement alimony schemes and go home
hack writers can unplug their electric typewriter minds
throw away their carbon-copy plots and go home.

Yahweh God never bought a round in the Last Chance Saloon
he belongs to Lovers Anonymous.
Yahweh God knows with all his heart and mind and soul
the terrible addiction of one more chance
he has seen us all
morning after morning
pouring ourselves another chance.

Mercy is Yahweh God’s lover
and justice the prostitute of Hosea
the two become one flesh.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday after Passion Sunday

Monday after Passion Sunday

Watch the way the wild lilies grow
all the time-lapse living
sitting out there on the flower garden edge of life
to look at beauty is to touch the other side
to see creation’s evolutionary spasms crystallize
and time stand still and quiet in the daylight mist
breath held in your hand
morning after morning after nights
in which you betrayed the fragile tenderness of life
and crushed the blossoms petals tossing side to side
record band to record band
where have all the flowers gone
long time passing…

Watch the way the wild lilies grow
feeding on the bodies
feeding on the dust of someone else’s dreams
the broken bodies
the blood that has fertilized the earth
all the time-lapse living and dying
lily tombstones dot the hillsides
cover plains
wild lilies feed on wild dreams
and beauty grows amid the ugliness of life and death
and Jesus says to watch.

I have watched the wild lilies grow
just like Jesus I have watched
flower children springing up across the land
wild blooming in the deserts
wandering through ghost towns
parading around the Pentegon
gone to soldiers everyone
when will they ever learn…

Jesus says
take a look at the birds of the sky
singing to all of us reaping
on the fence
like a bird on the wire
I have tried in my way to be free
all the time-lapse living and dying
behold the faded yellow still-life pictures
lily tombstones
birds on the wire-fence
slow-motion yearbook
autographed by Jesus
Roses are red
Violets are violet…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Sunday of the Passion--Passion Sunday

First Sunday of the Passion—Passion Sunday

To sit down after a hard day’s night
thirty years on the circuit
washed up
hung up there
too far from fifty to last it out

Just to be able to sit down
kick off the shoes
feet sweating on a cool floor
to be able to walk on the earth
let the sand run between your toes
to touch Abraham in the open fields
leave your footprints in the promised land.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Saturday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Sometimes I feel like Godot
I mean on the other side of waiting
standing in the wings
watching the chosen people
behind closed doors
waiting for the end which is the beginning
which is a new life.

You were there also
I saw you around the edges.

And sometimes it was waiting with Godot
you and I and a tree
I felt like Adam
but I wasn’t going to say
we have cried in the waiting rooms of life
beneath the weight of a thousand sorry eyes
we have stood at the foot of history
as it stretched out its arms
to embrace the future maybe tomorrow.

We may whatever we dare to hope
circumscribe all our sorrows in a dream
throw a kiss to the lions
sure the tears and floodwaters
undermine the vision mostly.

But he who walks upon the waters is coming
come Lord Jesus

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Friday, the Fourth Week of Lent

[What would you do] if I broke out of jail
would you stand up and walk out on me
lend me your keys
and I’ll show you around.
Perhaps I should introduce myself
Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will
I was knocked off my ass
most people think it was a horse I was riding—
I was riding the wave of the silent majority
the unbridled apathy I could harness
saddle ride the winds
I wanted the whole bit.
I could verbalize their silence
they swallowed all my boasts
we ate each others’ hearts
some of us sold our souls for the people’s mandate
our mission: to search out and destroy
smash the Jesus freaks.
But I flipped out in the hot sun
sprawled across the desert blind
saw visions
heard voices
the whole trip reminded me of…

[the whole trip reminded me of]
the journey to Jerusalem
just couldn’t stay away—Jesus—
the fatherland is my German shepherd—
and Dietrich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is my name.
I get by with a little help from
my jailers
my memories
my education
my lawyer
scraps of paper
anything larger than the head of a pin
can hold the wisdom of all times:
we are all prisoners sitting on death row.
I sat two years
protected from the madmen
from Hitler Goering Eichmann
then the storm troopers broke into the cell
they built themselves.
It was not a matter of amnesty…

[It was not a matter of amnesty]
or pardon someone said
if you blacks waited two hundred years
you could wait another twenty
we don’t want to move too fast
look at how far we’ve come already.
Martin Luther King here
I have come all the way from
the dark continent of your heart
played the clown at one night stands
of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
fought the rednecks
white liberals
blue meanies
on street corners at school house gates
you name it scars and stripes forever
in Montgomery Birmingham Chicago.
What else could I do
someone has to take out the garbage
so I went to help the garbage collectors.
Nobody loves the man who collects…

[Nobody loves the man who collects]
the taxes are the sign and wonder
of an occupied territory
love your jailers
be good to those who take the 20%.
I am the Christ
I am the one who knocked Paul off his
asked Dietrich to stand up to Hitler
mananged to get Martin to sit down
helped all three to escape into prison
for there are no taxes there:
the rooms are free
and so are the occupants.
Besides: I needed time to talk to them alone
they were always so busy.
“I go now to prepare a place for you
I will come back and take you to myself
so that you will be where I am.
You know how to get to the place
where I am going.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Thursday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Up against the wall Mother Church
waving your Standard Oil credit card
American flag and your Bible
pulling the lever that plugs you into the system
short circuit and all
sterilized for another four years.

You I love you because
God created the world
isn’t that strange
that I should love you because of that
the sun and moon and stars and dust
and a breath of fresh air giving life-giving air
wide open God left himself
and we gag on a diet of color TV dinners
and air-conditioned air
America you are beautiful
do you know you have made uncreation
your most treasured heritage
some of you have even gone so far
as to order law and order and uncreation
try it with Mom’s apple pie in the sky
off the tree off the wall
in the empty arena of the national past-time
God is the home team
standing up for the seventh-day stretch.

You I love you because
the the stone-hard-hearted law shattered
smashed in the confrontation with the golden calf
and your people were saved from choosing between
idolaltry of calf and idolatry of law
wide open God left himself
and in the wide-openness in the land without idols
wandering in the desert the gutted frustration
forty years a wandering god on a free no-home trial
portable god and solid no-state people
at his service call.

You I love you because
the angels finally got off their pinheads
letting the spirit of Yahweh escape
no longer fixed to the world by the cross
perhaps on a good day to crawl away or even fly
above the smog and small talk
that leaves a film of dust upon our souls
and burns our eyes red
white and blue gets into our joints.

America and Mother Church
joined in a civil ceremony
walking off into the sunset
you I love you because.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Wednesday, the Fourth Week of Lent

“Listen to the dream I had”
Joseph said to his brothers
and because of his dreams
they hated him the more.

“I had another dream.”
So his brothers envied him
they plotted to kill him
they said to one another
“Here comes the dreamer
let us kill him
then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams.”

The dreams of Joseph
gush like uncapped wells
from the sandbox of our children’s children
the coat of Jospeh’s many-colored dreams
haunts the bounty of our age.
The lands of plenty consume greed
hoarding it against the promise of surplus dreams.

Somewhere in the future
the milk and honey refuse of our times
like Joseph rescued from the well
will welcome us into a foreign land
bid us settle down
and slowly bind us
to the inevitability of slavery.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Tuesday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Who else would have the nerve
shot up with the hypostatic union
Jesus talking about children
parading a child into the midst of our aging
where time is running out on all of us
and everyone is waiting
for the waiting to stop
here Jesus talks about welcoming children.

Ah but we are all of us children
crucifixed perhaps on the cross of middle age
run out of questions
before we have run out of answers
and we hoard the latter
against the final question: death,

There are children standing in our midst
standing right inside our tired wrinkled skins
welcome thechild
you are.

Wait no longer
for we are the spirit come and poured out
strong like a driving wind
we are tongues of fire
shaking and burning
celebrating for all the waiting captives
locked inside the house called America
still alive
after all the betrayals and crucifixions
still alive
after all the answers.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Monday, the Fourth Week of Lent

Like the sword of Solomon
wisdom courts death
like the final move
in a cosmic game of chance
it hangs
tantalizing our consciousness.

We wait inside our stomachs
children to the future
smitten in two
by the judgment of wisdom
we are life’s alternative
to being born out of time
and smothered in the restless sleep of death.

Wisdom is God’s trump
in the hand of life
the one-eyed knave
who sees the single solitary hope
against the fairness
and equality of death.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent

The magic word is love
love is quicker than the eye
love’s eye is a growling stomach
and an empty heart
love’s heart is stale bread and dried fish
and the leftovers are saved
all the leftovers of love collected
lest they perish and the hunger come again
broken hearts
Bayer aspirin bottles
ashes on the hearth.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday, the Third Week of Lent

Saturday, the Third Week of Lent

Some days it’s just hard to hope
harder than to hate.

The hangman waits with mail order justice
the funny thing is it arrives with postage due
someone has to pay.
The occupant is Jesus starving cold and thirsty
and he has to pay again.

Years ago
when they buried flesh and bones and blood
of this man called Jesus
he rose a god.
This god-ghost haunts the empty houses
hangs out in national monuments
hangs in art galleries
stands on street corners
and occasionally skips Mass on Sundays
to care for one of his brothers.
But no one misses him.

Some days it’s just hard to hope
because maybe you’ve never hoped before
and it feels like despair now
to hope at a time like this
when there’s nothing else to do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday, the Third Week of Lent

Friday, the Third Week of Lent

We have all played the scene a thousand times
weary afternoon ice rattling in our glasses
teasing bull sessions into night
we touch all the vital issues
The room grows stuffy
so the window is opened for a breath of fresh opinion
all of us saying what we have to say
sitting there in our little demilitarized zones.

“You’d think”
the final doomsday warning argument
drops like a bomb
“you’d think now that we can
send men to the moon
transplant hearts
watch instant replay
call elections after 2% of the vote is counted
you’d think we could put an end to war
you’d think we would have enough intelligence.”
Jesus sat in his bomb shelter
and survived the direct hit
waited for the fallout to dissipate
and emerged to wander the desert of intelligence.

Avoiding war is a matter of intelligence
building peace rises from the heart.
“Deep within them I will build my bomb shelter
then I will be their God
and they shall be my people.”

For better or for worse
it is the heart that shelters God
against the passion-death of holy war days
and thank-God-it’s-good-Fridays
against the climax of our melodrama lives
battlre weary warriors all of us
swords buried in the heart of mother earth
knives in our backs
smiling as we sign upon the dotted line:
“There, finished!
The war to end all wars!”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday, the Third Week of Lent

Thursday, the Third Week of Lent

Morning comes and then winter
noon follows summer
sun hanging high overhead
shadows point North to a sky
lights dancing magically across the wondrous
dark strange expanses of a child’s memory
to peer sometimes above the pews
see sunlight knife through swirling incense smoke
reach high to windows
burst outside to flood the world
scented sight and sound
holy magic wind-up universe
toss away the key called growth maturity evolution
all’s well that ends

Mourning comes again
quiet worlds ring hollow in the windowless world
we stare each of us into our future
the end is the beginning
here at the edge of our existence
quiet words fail worlds fail
worlds fall away and tumble pass away
Jesus says
My words will never pass away.

Again morning comes
again waiting for the signs
darkened sun and shadow moons
smog settling slowly at day’s end
and men walking on and on the moon circling
like seasons changing frozen in the end-time.

But I will wait for you on the other side
I am where the eagles gather
I see someone on the mushroom clouds.

Let the reader take note.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, the Third Week of Lent

Wednesday, the Third Week of Lent

Why stand you there,
Know you not that the thirst shall be fast
and the past worst
and that though neither jot nor tittle shall change
all else shall?
Now that household gods are no longer in demand
now that the certain is going up
and man has entered the whirled arena
spinning off his lines in evolutionary spasms
matching wits with the width of space and time
where life is drama
and eternity the certain call.
Which reminds this I-land that a few hours ago
we had time on hour hands and minute hands
and now possess not even a second chance
thrown into the tick of things
into the mainspring of civilization
we watch and clock and estimated fifteen bloody rpy’s
unwind the spring the great watchmaker wound.
Now that man is sitting on a prouder-keg
and boasting of his Adam-smasher.
Why sit you there.
Now that man is fled from serf-city
and the barren no more feed on peasant-under-glass
now that man is freed to run alone
past the call of idolness
and all such creaturely end-ever
into the infinite-thee of God.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday, the Third Week of Lent

Tuesday, the Third Week of Lent

It is always the innocent who suffer.

We are the superstars
the conjunction of whose lives
signal the purge.

Under the sign of the cross
lie the drained bodies
and breathless souls.

We have conquered
we have overcome.

In the heaven of our weekend dreams
we bury the ashes of time
in the barricaded tomb
at the center of our garden of delights
they will both lie there smoldering
and soon rise flaming.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday, the Third Week of Lent

Monday, the Third Week of Lent

Let’s talk about lepers you and I
who do not feel the pain
lepers do not feel the pain
that’s what it means to be a leper.
Let’s let lepers talk about you and me
who do not feel the pain.
I can hear them saying
if you will to do so
you can make us clean.
Now I feel the pain.

Let’s talk about soldiers you and I
where have all the soldiers gone?
Graveyards mark the dreams of man
gospels mark the dreams of God.
Who of us has ever looked for soldiers
in the gospels?

Let’s joke about Jesus you and I
who wear frowns like the world wears Winter
white with fear.
The clown is court jester at the feast of fools
and he who laughs

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent

You wonder about the devil inside you sometimes
he squirmed a little
when you went to see “The Exorcist.”
“Scared the hell out of me”
he said
listening to the Beatles
drinking beer
getting fat and lazy.
You think about him now and then in church
and he comes along
now that it’s in English
folk songs and all
Lord of the Dance
Lord of the Flies
swept and clean and so much roomier.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday, the Second Week of Lent

Saturday, the Second Week of Lent

The bartering rose above the lot
of ordinary wagering.
“When he finished talking to Abraham
the Lord went away
and Abraham returned home.”

Sunday liturgists
blue line the final sentence.
All the news that’s fit to print
is that Abraham couldn’t find the honest ten
so Sodom was destroyed.
It is covered up that Abraham did not even
go down into the city to look for them.

What’s with Abraham, anyhow?
The least he could have done was mount
the thorough search
ride the question to its death
put ads in the paper

fatherless to God’s promise
still wrestling with the suffering of innocence
goes home with the knowledge
that even ten honest men
could stay the holocaust that waits
poised above them.

astrologer of Chaldes
still wandering in a straight-line universe
does not bargain on a bargaining God
nor have a prayer of a chance
against what he sees in the stars:
fire and brimstone
the dark hole of space
swallowing up the city of Sodom.

God drives his bargain
right through the sophistry of wickedness
and the liberals’ soft hearts.
The stars of the universe
like lottery tickets
hold Abraham’s descendants
in the twinkling of their eyes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday, the Second Week of Lent

Friday, the Second Week of Lent

I have often wondered why he didn’t call it off
the wedding banquet
say the special session is adjourned
send the marchers packing
tramping off to farms and business wives and oxen
put all the wedding garments in mothballs
along with the dreams of mothers children
aching feet and aching bellies rising rents
hanging on from waving fist to locked door
to snarling face to empty cupboard to eviction notice
from your national guardian.

I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now and know for sure
an invitation just is not a wedding garment.

Both Jesus and I were youngsters once upon a time
received an invitation to the wedding feast of life
and blanket in hand wandered off
to wedding after wedding dance
darting around the polka-dotted dancing floor
ducking in between the lusty swirling wives and lovers
gliding across a world
that was worn only once upon a wedding garment time
and perhaps slightly crumpled
both in body and in soul
the following Sunday church-going morning.

But I was so much older then
I’m even younger than that now
a child roman-collared celibate
offspring of a people’s need
I have stood there on the sideline long enough
clutching the invitation
I am roaming now the countryside
checking on those farms they said were newly bought
soil-banked and weedy welfare world
strangling all the land
living on the suplus promises
that are doled out daily at press conferences
auditing the business as usual
they said was what our country was founded on.

I have seen a thousand farms
a thousand wives a thousand oxen too
all of them idle
while the wedding invitations scatter in the wind
and Jesus walks alone.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday, the Second Week of Lent

Thursday, the Second Week of Lent

as words go
has become cheap and unreal
it is bought and sold
in the fast food shops
of the theological
and economic market places.

Hunger is hurried meals
of reports and statistics
kept-warm facts and figures
ready to serve at a moment’s cry of concern.

The menu reads
like rendings of the heart
APPETIZER: according to the current estimate
of world food reserves on hand today
we could survive as long without them
as we could with: 27 starving days.
MAIN COURSE: applying red meat’s bloody equation
(8 to 10 lbs. of feed equals 1 lb. of meat)
survival’s chances shrivel
as stomachs bloat.
JUST DESSERT: World hunger.

Our minds swell deliciously
on the crumbs falling from the tables
of those rich in gourmet gruesome facts
and simmering in their own doom.
Their meals glitter
like falling stars and suns going nova
against a blood-red moon
as earth wets its lips
in the vigil of disaster.

We feed on doom
grow fat and lazy
heart-heavy in the thrill of brinkmanship
unable to kick the habit:
too fast
to fast.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wednesday, the Second Week of Lent

Wednesday, the Second Week of Lent

The television set keeps on babbling
flashing pictures
right there in a frosty glass
just a swallow away.

“Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
Jesus says
and we say we can
thinking of the good life to come
the coolness after a hot and weary day on the job
all the trials and heartaches
washed down in one deep swallow away.
“This is the cup of my blood
It will be shed for you and for all peoples
that sin be forgiven.”

“Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
Perhaps we can
perhaps in this Lenten season
as we gather in the memory
of our fallen brother Jesus
perhaps the memory of him does take on our flesh
move our lips to say we can
move our hands to take the cup of his blood
and drink to whatever may come.

What a change it is
drinking to remember
instead of to forget
and in so doing we become the memory of Jesus
alive his blood is flowing in our veins
his flesh covers the hollowness we are.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday, the Second Week of Lent

Tuesday, the Second Week of Lent

From the dizzying height
of our power and arrogance
our cynicism and sophistication
on the cross Jesus reigns
over a people
who does not want a king
yet plants the tree
and tastes the fruit.

The cross sticks in our throats
it is shoved
down the gullet of our greed
to satisfy our ambivalence.
Its fruit is bitter to the tongue
it tastes of history’s triumph in its repetition.
Somewhere in the crowd
that gathers at the cross’s clay feet
Ezra reads again the word of God.

Labeled king
says the honor of thieves
God is under the same sentence as humankind.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday, the Second Week of Lent

Monday, the Second Week of Lent

If you can’t lick them bind them
wrap the world’s wounds
in the rag-tag remnants of your dreams.

We were walking on the road to Jericho you and I
from Jerusalem to Jericho
all the lonely people
where do they all come fr

and the man speaks of love
all the lonely people speak of love
armed love
Bonnie and Clyde love
heart and soul love
mind and strength love
neighbor love
stripped and beaten love
lying there on the roadside to My Lai to Chicago
to the grocery store.

Living on a one-way street
is like watching half a ping-pong game
people bouncing along the road of life.

The ratio of a man’s brain to his automobile body
is about the same as that of a dinosaur brain
to a dinosaur body
add that to your fuel
and see how your mileage improves.

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho
is not one-way
like the two-edged word of God
it cuts in both directions
like a ping-pong ball it bounces back.
Although I have always wondered
about the presence of the Samaritan on that road
being that Jews and Samaritans darned their socks
alone in the night
a small point to be sure
but there he was in hostile territory
what did he care?

And then the question hits us
like a body in the ditch
like an empty gas tank
like a hole in our socks.
What are we going to use for bandages?
Those of us stripped of the rag-tag remnants of our dreams?

Hang on to your hats
may become the wisdom of the ages
at the very least
hang on to the rag-tag remnants of your dreams.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Second Sunday of Lent

The Second Sunday of Lent

Watergate notwithstanding
there is a certain mystique
about the legal profession.
H & R Bock and all other para-legal camp-followers
share in that mystique.

The prosecution argues this is so
because the law is so complicated
far beyond the minds of ordinary citizens.
The defense in me argues for that reverence
because the law is so profound
both the lawyer and the client
stand in awe before its depths.

The defense calls as its first witness
the Constitution of these United States .
It testifies that it is the law
and not the growing glut of legal codes
states and federal statutes.
It testifies that it defines
not behavior but relationships
one to one
the citizen to the state
the state to the people
and the state to itself.
It concludes by saying
it belongs to everyone
not to lawyers alone.

Ezra then takes the stand
before the assembly
and proceeds to read the Law of God
from beginning to end.
It is a story he tells
more intricate
than the statutes of our sovereign state
more compelling than the codes of canon law.
For it is our story
how we wandered aimlessly
in the chaos of disorder
killing our brothers and sisters
holding them as slaves
in bondage to our customs
until set free
thrown into the wilderness
and delivered to a promised land.
Along the way the Law was forged
from the remnants
twice carved into stone
and finally written on living hearts.

The final witnesses to the Law’s profundity
are you and I.
It is our story that must be told.
The unfolding not of our life’s behavior
but of our life’s relationships
not of where we have arrived
but of how we have wandered and searched
not of words written in someone else’s book
but of the Word written in our hearts.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday, the First Week of Lent

Saturday, the First Week of Lent

Saturday is a marker
in the cemetery of unbelief
where nothing matters anymore
than the nothingness he is buried with
the waste of it all
wrestling with the sheets
the shroud
the shambles of the war waged daily
for a god
the void of wanting
nothing to take him past his memories
nothing to speak of a tomorrow
to drag from the vacuum of the past
to fill the vacuum of the future
empty tomb
and empty bodysoul
wandering somewhere in the netherworld
of providence or fate or destiny
it all comes down to this
not to believe
but to be believed in
that’s what it means

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday, the First Week of Lent

Friday, the First Week of Lent

No one wonders
than seeing is believing.
In the gospel of life
poll-takers climb trees
then thieves
suddenly everyone
cries out for entrance into the kingdom
and thunder roars.
His head splits with flashes of lightning
and the dead memories of God
spring from the graves and roam the streets.

People grope blindly
under the cross of belief
crying at God’s failure
and mocking their own cynicism.

Seeing is believing
that death is a dustbowl in God’s kitchen
wherein swirls all that matters:
it is the promised land withering
in the blaze of fulfillment
it is holes
in the blanket of believing

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thursday, the First Week of Lent

Thursday, the First Week of Lent

The cycle of believing
rings truer than diamond
cutting parabolic curves
upon infinity’s unknown face.

Wandering up and down the promised land
looking for the promised people
Jesus finds them
at the exact point
where promise intersects fulfillment.
Odds on immortality
they have gone this way before
screaming for his body and blood.

Crowned with irony
Jesus rides the king’s highway
into the uncharted regions of the mind’s eye
where belief turns inward
reflecting the chaos of self

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday, the First Week of Lent

Wednesday, the First Week of Lent

God believes in God
who once upon a time
was how it started
there was nothing but God believing in God
then building a seven stor[e]y week of his beliefs
he lived into his make-believe
breathing laughing heaps of dust.

Maybe in a supermarket
you’ve seen them rolling down the aisles
those tumble-beings
ribless spineless balls of dust:

Jesus for one
who made the scene
with stars and angels and kings
gold frankincense and myhhr
and blew it preaching about love and flowers/

The Spirit for another
grinning ghostly
windstorm and fire
sweeping the earth clean.
And one for all
in the endless doomsday spectacle of life
was how it ended
God just believing in God.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday, the First Week of Lent

Tuesday, the First Week of Lent

No one seems to know what it means to believe
than what it means to breathe
lungs bursting as the sea comes crashing down
chariots and horses
than what it means to laugh
just because God is the jokester
and everyone knows the punchlines
than what it means to cry
weeping over a city that is slowly destroying itself
drinking Molotov cocktails
bloody Marys and Davids
three year-olds
anymore than what it means to run for one’s life
or the morning newspaper
checking the want-ads to see who has been found
and reading “Dear Abby” to see how many more have been lost
(On a good day it finds a balance
on a bad God overdraws his account
and the headlines scream: God goes bankrupt!)

And no one knows
what it means not to believe
not to breathe and laugh and cry and run
as though
every breath were the first
every smile shattered the gloom
every tear washed the vision clean
every stride brought one closer
to the beginning of the race.