Another Look at Psalms Past

Last year, I penned the below psalm as part of my Monday psalm writing series--a series in which I attempted to create some more liturgical poetry. It was inspired by the text of Psalm (Psalm 2), which begins with the following:

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed...

As appropriate as the psalm seemed to the geopolitical climate a year ago, it seems even more appropriate now.

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Psalm #4

If I might impose; allow me to to suggest a reinstatement, a return, a coming like the splitting of another veil, the fission of this present from the eternal Real, so that men might tremble in the memory of their once Edenic selves.

Could there be a quickening return of the Immediate Dramatic, a natural transfiguration of clouds, from mist to Face, a thundering rising from the earth's bowells, ozone steaming, rising upwards like asphalt incense?

Were I so bold, might I request a trumpet, a white horse, an inimitable, fierce army of the once low, poor saints? Might the air be filled with all that Is, so that those who would breathe life are filled with life, and those who breathe death drink only dread?

On the mountain called expectation do the suffering poor wait for the terrifying, Vehement Beautiful.

In the deserts of war do the greater men fill their mouths with the orders of bones.

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*Photo by Shawn Semmler, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Scriptural Imagination and Ferguson (Part III)

In light of the Ferguson protests,  I’ve been exercising “scriptural imagination,” and reading the words of Jesus with fresh eyes. (Follow this link to read the entire series). Yesterday I examined Matthew 7:1-23. Today, I’m taking a fresh look at Matthew 7:24-29. Follow the hashtag #ScripturalImagination on Twitter for more renderings, and feel free to add some of your own.

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Matthew 7:24-29

The Two Foundations

Jesus drove the point home. “Everyone who hears and acts on my hard teachings—the teachings on secret prayer, mindful action, bearing the sorrows of others, and bearing peace—is like a wise person who builds their house on the high ridge of reconciliation outside the flood zones of violence. The rain of terror and violence may fall, the floods of oppression may breach the sandbag wall, and the winds of propaganda may blow and slam against that house to the point of great fear; and yet the house will hold strong. It will not fall, for it has been founded on the rock of a correct and active faith. It has been founded on the rock of my teachings.

"But what about those who hear these words of Mine and do not act on them, who opt instead for violent revolution, the terrifying teargas oppression, or who otherwise seek glory through contrived and false reconciliation? Or what about those who see a 'good crisis' and act in self-interest, self-righteousness, or self-indignation? They will be like foolish men who built a high-rise apartment complex at the lowest point in the flood zone. The rains of terror will fall. The floods of fear and oppression will come. The winds of propaganda will blow and slam against the building, and because the high-rise was built on an incorrect faith, it will fall. And its fall will be loud and raucous, and it will be broadcast on CNN for all the world to see.”

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their politicians and pundits.

 

*Photo by Debra Sweet, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Scriptural Imagination and Ferguson (Part II)

In light of the Ferguson protests,  I’ve been exercising "scriptural imagination," and reading the words of Jesus with fresh eyes. (Link to the series). Yesterday I examined Matthew 7:1-6. Today, I'm taking a fresh look at Matthew 7:7-23.

Follow the hashtag #ScripturalImagination on Twitter for more renderings, and feel free to add some of your own.

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Matthew 7:7-23

The Narrow and Wide Gates

“You’ll have to put down your weapons, crawl out of your MRAPs and tanks, perhaps lay aside your possessions, prejudices, and maybe even your picket signs to enter through the narrow gate. The gate wide enough to accommodate all the artillery, television trucks, helicopters, militia members, gangs, provocateurs, and even well-meaning activists, empties onto a violent and wide road that leads only to war and death. Too many well-meaning men follow the masses through that gate to their peril.

"The gate of peace and reconciliation is a very slim—in fact, it’s a super-tight fit—and only the smallest empty-handed children can fit through it. It takes great imagination to find this narrow gate. Stop walking with the masses. Strip naked! Get on your hands and knees, and search for the small entrance that leads to life and peace."

A Tree and its Fruit

"Beware of the provocateurs, anarchists, and activists looking to make a big name on a legitimate crisis; they seem to take the side of peace and reconciliation (have you heard the term 'sheep’s clothing?'), but they only fight for their own agendas. You will know them by their hate-filled backpacks, how they hide within the crowd and pitch bombs over your heads at the police. Their weapons of warfare belie their intentions.

"Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor strawberries from AR-15 assembly lines, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears the fruit of anarchy and violence.  A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a factory of warfare cannot produce organic, farm-raised, homegrown tomatoes (the kind you ate straight from the vine as a child; remember those?). The truth is, sooner or later these factories of violence and the societies that build them will go into the fire, just like every sick tree that bears rotten fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

"Look closely; do you see it? You will know the reconciling children of God by their fruits.

"And one more thing: not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ cares about the kingdom of heaven. (Not really.) But he who does the will of a peaceful and reconciling God? He will enter the good and eternal kingdom. Many will say they belong in the kingdom, will say 'Jesus, did we not enforce law-in order in your name?' or 'did we not bring peace to a riotous, raucous crowd?' or 'did we not picket and protest for justice in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, ‘You did all of this for your own gain, which is its own sort of lawlessness. Did you take off your riot gear and join the protestors? Did you lay down your picket sign and talk with the police? Or did you just engage in a war of words? Get out of here. I never knew you.'”

*Photo by Craig Dietrich, Creative Commons via Flickr.

One Good Phrase: Peace of Christ.

The son of a Catholic father and Southern Baptist mother, I was raised a bit of a spiritual mutt. That is to say, although I considered myself Southern Baptist in practice, it was my lot to attend Catholic school for the majority of my formative years, and thus, to attend the weekly ritual known as all-class mass. As if my lanky frame and pock-marked face were not enough, my distinct misfit status was highlighted by the Sisters of Mercy’s public pronouncements that I should refrain from sullying the holy water with my under-aged protestant fingers, or signing myself in the name of the Trinity, or attempting, even for one sullen second, to enter the eucharist line. It's my privilege to be writing for Micha Boyett, today. I've been following her words for over a year now, and am honored that she'd allow me to share a thought or two at her place. You can continue reading this piece on her site.

The Goodness of God (A Song)

I was called a man of faith not too long ago, and it seemed ironic to me in the moment. Lately, faith is hard. When I was a child, I recited my mass responses in a sing-song manner--"I believe that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." In those days, it seemed little more than a repetitive practice perpetuated by the Sisters of Mercy, nuns who struck the fear of Christ in the fourth-grade hearts of the non-participating. Some might say this kind of rote memorization is little more than manipulative programming; others might say it is training up a child in the way he should go. I'm not sure about either of those sentiments, but I have come to find the words of Psalm 27 in the granaries of my memory lately, and they have been a comfort.

It's been a long five months. We've been through the ups and downs of raising a sick child and there are days when I go back to the Psalms to remind myself of the goodness of God. It is a constant effort to recall the truth, to speak it to myself even when the easiest notions of God trend more toward agnosticism or deism. It's a constant effort to remember the power of the Gospel--that Christ is all-sufficient.

I've written this piece as a reminder. It's simple, much the way my faith feels these days.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MyQnIfyzYY&w=420&h=315]

*Amber is sharing a brief Titus update at her site for those of you who are following along.