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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

MONDAY, the First Week of Lent

Monday, the First Week of Lent
(This is one of my favorites—because it means more to me now than when I wrote it, almost 35 years ago. And because it means more, it means something entirely different. Ah, but you will find your own meaning.)

no longer weaves
the sure comfort of memory.

It decreases geometrically
in the paradigm
of inevitability
that is
the cycle of rebirth.
Life’s fabric
becomes tighter
but less protective
as the garment of immortality
steals the show.

Believing sleeps the sleep
of the condemned
waiting to be hung
in the closet of hand-me-downs.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Sunday in Lent


Winter wears a frozen face
the snow creaks ash gray in old age
withers and shrivels
baring the skeleton of earth.
The daily chore of waking on these cold morning days
weighs us down
and work closes in on every side.
School is scarcely more than half over
and the long stretch is still to come
with fifteen maybe twenty false Springs.
TV shows are tasteless to our hibernating minds
and radio plays the same songs over and over again
the routine
the sameness has dulled the edge of Christmas and New Years.

To look outside
one cannot even find
the consolation that nature is wont to offer
barren lifeless trees hold up a low gray sky
sidewalks of ice and snow
gravel-covered ridges dressed with the wastes
of cars and factories and heating plants
and the grass that has pushed through is brown and matted.

So here we are in the middle of it
taken in both by false Springs
and false revolutions
still waiting for the real thing
frozen cold and still with fear
the revolutionary dreams dying--
both Winter and revolution have gotten out of hand.

We are no match for nature
nor the dreams of our fellow men.
Consider Chairman Jesus.

And so to Lent
coming not by chance in the second semester of life
it would have us face this fact by fasting
have us strip away all the dreams on which we gorge ourselves
have us discover the coldness inside
the icy hearts.

For you see
even our drugstore revolutionaries
would say it takes a lot of preparation
not a lot of waiting.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

SATURDAY after Ash Wednesday

(You will notice, I'm sure, how dated are the references in this piece. If you are as old as I, they will make sense. You will also note the references that tell you where I was living when I wrote these pieces. You can do it!)

Still waiting for a sign?
You too?
"Master, we want to see you work some sign."

"An evil, faithless age
is eager for a sign," he says
and from his bag of tricks
like Jonah from the whale's belly
he pulls out a sign
a cracker jack surprise
plastic Jonah
the sign of our times.

Deeper in our eagerness
which is larger than a whale's belly
and as faithless as cracker jacks
lie some more signs of our times:
Joe Mannix and S.W.A.T.
missles poison poised
and ready to work their sign
dusty volumes of the Kerner Report
trials at Nuremberg and My Lai
a matching set
of dimestore plastic Jonahs
formed from the same mold.

Finally he reaches in and extracts
a palm branch of victory and triumph
food in the barren desert
cool shade in the heat of fire
survival in the midst of God's blazing wrath.

But the branch shrivels
like our eagerness in the face of adversity
and bursts into flame
like victory in the triumph of success
we grow old living in the past
wearing the ashes gracefully.

Still waiting for a sign?
Then this:
the ashes of our triumphs
life absorbs and recycles
not so plastic Jonahs.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Lent is the fast-food shop
in the city of God.
It is like some chain store cowboy
riding the circuit of Spring,
thundering out of the sunset
sack cloth and ashes
blazing in the glory of God.

Lent is a monster on the rampage
through the soft whiteness of Winter;
it is muddy footsteps
across dead gray hearts.
The dead skin of winter is pealed away
the thick blood boils in the heat of expectation
and we sit huddled
against the crosswinds of nature itself.

"Deal your bread to the hungry"
cries Isaiah in the wilderness of the Bible
in God's biggest gamble yet
trying to out-bluff his own children.

It is all fixed
rebirth waits for us
somewhere down the line.
It is in the cards
it is kept warm in Lent's fast-food shops
still with the smell of ashes
it burns with the heat that once smoldered
in the heart of everlasting man
and smoldering long
bursts forth
a spark
a flame
light in the darkness.

The spark jumps across
the distance of our hopes
hangs there
burning against the all-enveloping backdrop
of Winter's long blackness
that even now is finishing its sweep
across the great northern plains of history.

The dry wind of Winter
stirs in our souls
howls heavenward
to meet the raw wind of Spring.
You and I wait
grab quick hamburgers
in the outposts of history.
We are on the front lines now
there is no time
for glories past
or dreamings future.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lent, Inc.

Yesterday being Ash Wednesday, I set out to find a manuscript, called "Lent, Inc." It consists of a poem for every day of Lent.

Here, then, are the first two days. I will post all the rest--one day at a time!


Sometimes it looks like a bullet-hole
Wednesday's run in with the past
walking dead men
heaps of dust
wearing history's ashes right between the eyes.
Take a look into the mirror
there is Hiroshima there
and Dresden
and Watts.
Holes in our empty heads
ashes on our souls
in our hair
gritting teeth

THURSDAY after Ash Wednesday

Both the easiest and the hardest
of life's monologues
is love.
It is a word know simultaneously
by everyone
in the silence of their own world
yet present unknown
across light-year voids/

the great unknown god
is described only by another unknown god:
God is love
the unfathomable plumbs its own depths:
I God you
becomes the equation
that unleashes the energy
of the universe.

You God me
I God you
God you me
You I God
We eye God
in the language of the souls telemetry
as gravity
in the weightlessness of time's womb.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ponts of view: A point of view

I have discovered that I feel most threatened by a well-reasoned opposite point of view when I am least knowledgeable about my own. Or, to put it another way: whenever I base my entire political or theological construct on unexamined principles and/or assumptions (the Bible says, we've always done it this way, everybody knows), any contrarian point of view that is well-argued threatens me like nothing else can.

A negative example serves best. Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" is a good example of a well-reasoned point of view that stands basically polar-opposite to mine. I am, however, not in the least threatened by it, because I have thought long and hard about my own, and I am comfortable with it. And since it does not threaten me on the level of basic assumptions about the nature of society and government, it does not threaten me on the more immediate level of how that vision is to be implemented.

Indeed, I can well entertain many of the proposals he makes concerning health care, social security and taxation, because I believe they rise above political points of view. They rightly question any entrenched, unexamined way of doing things, right or left.

But, this is not a political blog/website. So let me instead venture into the world of the other topic never to be mentioned in polite society: religion.

What grounds the Catholic Church is obviously greater than and prior to it. If I am in touch with that--whatever it is--then I can never be threatened by someone acting against or questioning what it is the Church is or believes.

But neither can I pass off my own point of view as the only one, or the correct one. It may be only a point of view; but it is a point of view of something that is greater than me and greater than all of us. As such it is well worth listening to.

With this in mind I offer some notes from that time in my life when I pursued heavy theological matters. At such a time I began to think about something even further back: a time when I proposed complementing talk about the 'hypostatic union' with talk about a 'hypodynamic' one. Well, you can see where it led to--nowhere. Still, faced with that same situation today, I would try again.

See what you think.

Click here to download the notes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whither the New Age?

The final thoughts in my last post, on the Testimony of John, got me thinking about what always acted as a foil for me: New Age thought. What happened to it?

Perhaps I am the last person you should ask about it; for, having left the book store, I left any contact with New Age thought. It just disappeared from my life; there was no longer any reason for me to pick up any of that literature again. And so I never did.

But...always that disclaimer...I do have to admit though I may have left it, it never left me. In my days at the book store I did manage to put out a text, a long essay in effect, called "Every Thousand Years," on my disagreements with New Age thinking. It's buried somewhere in a box, somewhere in this the fifth house I have lived in since I wrote it. Maybe in a thousand years I will retrieve it.

What is not lost, however, are two insights I arrived at in the course of writing that essay.

The first is this: there is a real and important distinction to be made among religion, spirituality and church. I don't remember the exact wording I used, but let me say it now as I think I said it then: Religion consists of the values, practices and rituals that bind a people together; spirituality consists of the relationship one has with the depth of one own being; and church describes a people who are called together by a shared text, believed to have been revealed, and which touches on the concerns of religion and spirituality.

I have ever since then held to that basic distinction, and to the one further corollary: church is there to mediate between the extremes of religion and spirituality.

The second insight was this: Gnosticism (the original New Age thinking)was for a long time considered as nothing more than a Christian heresy. We now understand it as having an origin and existence separate from Christianity. But the fact that it was for so long considered simply as a Christian heresy means that there is something in Christian thought that invited that linkage.

What that, in turn, has led me to ponder is whether there are perhaps hundreds of other ways of thinking buried in the body of Christian thought we have inherited.

And that, my friends, is another dimension of why I have called this website "The Potluck Catholic." I suspect that even now there is in the church a whole plethora of understandings that are begging to be brought to the table. And so I close with yet another invitation: bring what it is that nourishes you to the table. Perhaps I will like it too.