Prepare for Joy: The Broken Image

 

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What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your
shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

T.S. Eliot from “The Wasteland”

There is justifiable fear in and of this broken world —  as when a mountain blasts part of itself into the sky on a quiet Sunday morning or when a wall of water washes away everything in its path after an otherwise survivable earthquake.

I have seen the aftermath wasteland of Mt. St. Helens decades later as the land slowly rejuvenates from the ashes.  Now after four years (today) the villages surrounding the beautiful city of Sendai, Japan leveled in a tsunami of devastating power are rebuilding from the dust and mud.

Fear is never the end of the story.  It is part of the story, but dust that is breathed upon becomes Love that heals.  Only a handful of dust, but it has come to repair this broken world.

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Listening to Lent — Mercy to the Lost

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kyrie eleison, have mercy,
christe eleison, have mercy.

as we come before you with the needs of our world,
we confess our failures and our sin;
for our words are many yet our deeds have been few,
fan the fire of compassion once again.

when the cries of victims go unheard in the land,
and the scars of war refuse to heal,
will we stand for justice to empower the weak
till their bonds of oppression are no more?

if we love our God with all our heart, mind and strength,
and we love our neighbors as ourselves,
then this law of love will heal the nations of earth
and the glory of Christ will be revealed.

Lord, renew our vision to be Christ where we live,
to reach out in mercy to the lost;
for each cup of kindness to the least in our midst
is an offering of worship to the throne.
~Stuart Townend

And are we not all alike, all lost?
Wandering? Weeping? Wretched?
It is when we know mercy
that we become mercy,
loving where others show hate
giving where others take away
building up where others tear down.
We can be Christ where we live
because He renews in us
a new life in Him.

Listening to Lent — Whiter Than Snow

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Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.

Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.

Asperges me hysopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.

Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.

Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me.

Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me.
Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.

Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.

Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.

Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta:
tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.
~Allegri’s Miserere — setting of Psalm 51

Translation:
Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness
According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offenses.

Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight:
that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged.

Behold, I was shaped in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.

Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness:
that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.

Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.

Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.

O give me the comfort of Thy help again: and establish me with Thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.

Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health:
and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness.
Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew Thy praise.

For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise.

O be favorable and gracious unto Sion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness,
with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon Thine altar.

 

Every day, as the sun goes down,
I pause to remember how often I messed up that day,
in big and small ways.
My mistakes seem illuminated,
weighing down my heart, and impossible to forget.
Yet, as I pray like David did in Psalm 51,
as I pray for mercy,
there follows a peacefulness at the end of the day,
as my errors are blotted out,
covered over by the descent of the night.
The slate, one more time,
is wiped clean,
whiter than snow.

I remember, once again,
as new morning dawns,
there is renewal,
there is cleansing brightness,
a promise provided within each new day.

I am given another chance to get it right.

Listening to Lent — The Falling Tear

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When Jesus wept, the falling tear
in mercy flowed beyond all bound;
when Jesus groaned, a trembling fear
seized all the guilty world around.
~William Billings

To be known for who we are
by a God who weeps for us
and groans with pain we caused~
we will know
no greater love.

Listening to Lent — The Bud of the Wood

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O Deus, ego amo te,
O God I love Thee for Thyself
Nec amo te ut salves me,
and not that I may heaven gain
Nec quod qui te non diligent,
nor yet that they who love Thee not
Æterno igne pereunt.
must suffer hell’s eternal pain.

Ex cruces lingo germinat,
Out of the bud of the wood of the Cross
Qui pectus amor occupant,
wherefore hearts’ love embraces
Ex pansis unde brachiis,
whence out of extended arms
Ad te amandum arripes. Amen.
you lovingly take us. Amen.
~Prayer of St. Francis Xavier  “O Deus Ego Amo Te” 18th Century Traditional

Suddenly, in the last week, buds are forming everywhere.
From seemingly dead wood, standing cold and dormant,
there springs new life.
What could be more lifeless than a cross piece of timbers
built specifically for execution?
Yet life sprung from that death tree,
an unexpected and glorious bud,
ready to burst into most fragrant blossom.

Lenten Grace — Be Still and Wait

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

I said to my mind, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; yet there is faith
But the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be light, and the stillness the dancing.
~T. S. Eliot, from “East Coker”  The Four Quartets

This in-between day
after all had gone so wrong
before all will go so right,
puts us between the rock
and the hard place:
all hope, love and faith is squeezed from us.

Today we are flattened,
dried like chaff,
ground to pulp,
our destiny with death sealed.

We lie still
like sprinkled spices
trying to delay
inevitable decay,
wrapped up tight
stone cold
and futile.
The rock is rolled into place
so we lie underneath,
crushed and broken.
We are inside,
our bodies like His.
We are outside,
cut off and left behind.
We cannot know about tomorrow,
we do not fathom what is soon to come:
the stone lifted and rolled away,
the separation bridged,
the darkness giving way to light,
the crushed and broken rising to dance,
and the waiting stillness stirring, inexplicably,
to celebrate new life.
photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

Lenten Grace — Every Stone Shall Cry

photo by Kathy Yates
photo by Kathy Yates

Yet he shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God’s blood upon the spearhead,
God’s love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
In praises of the child,
By whose descent among us,
The worlds are reconciled.
~Richard Wilbur from “A Christmas Hymn”

Reading the news from around the world, I could be convinced we’re all mute and dull as rocks, inconsequential and immobile, trod upon and paved over, forgettable and forgotten. I could believe there exists no pulse in our stony hearts.  I could believe we are incapable of love as we turn away from a God descending to lie with us on the ground where we lay.

Yet even the low are lifted high by His descent– every stone, yes even the dumb and lifeless,  shall cry out in community with Him, even the silent will find a voice to praise.  Even my own voice, meager and anemic,  shall be heard.

No longer forgotten.  In fact, we never were.
So hard to reconcile but if the stones have known it all along, so should we.