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A poem from T.S. Eliot as we prepare for the visit of the Magi to bring gifts to the newborn King.Scary, Scary Night. Photograph by Jackie Twedell. From Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Digital Library, Nashville, TN. A cold coming we had of it,
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
A poem by John Daniel to consider as we approach Stewardship Sunday.Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive with one another, we walk here in the light of this unlikely world that isn’t ours for long. May we spend generously the time we are given. May we enact our responsibilities as thoroughly as we enjoy our pleasures. May we see with clarity, may we seek a vision that serves all beings, may we honor the mystery surpassing our sight, and may we hold in our hands the gift of good work and bear it forth whole, as we were borne forth by a power we praise to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.
Shakespeare, I imagine, was not, in the sense assigned to the word some minutes ago, a religious man. Nor was it natural to him to regard good and evil, better and worse, habitually from a theological pint of view. But (this appears certain) he had a lively and serious sense of ‘conscience,’ of the pain of self-reproach and self-condemnation, and of the torment to which this pain might rise. He was not in the least disposed to regard conscience as somehow illusory or a human invention, but on the contrary thought of it (I use the most non-committal phrase I can find) as connected with the power that rules the world and is not escapable by man. He realized very fully and felt very keenly, after his youth was past and at certain times of stress, the sufferings and wrongs of men, the strength of evil, the hideousness of certain forms of it, and its apparent incurability in certain cases. And he must sometimes have felt all this as a terrible problem. But, however he may have been tempted, and may have yielded, to exasperation and even despair, he never doubted that it is best to be good; felt more and more that one must be patient and must forgive; and probably maintained unbroken a conviction, practical if not formulated, that to be good is to be at peace with that unescapable power. But it is unlikely that he attempted to theorize further on the nature of the power. All was for him, in the end, mystery….
Excerpt from Oxford Lectures on Poetry by A.C. Bradley
Portrait from Shakespeare On-line
For Father’s DaySundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he’d call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?
Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays” from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Copyright ©1966 by Robert Hayden
In honor of Father’s DayHe didn’t know about the Rock of Ages or bringing in the sheaves or Jacob’s ladder or gathering at the beautiful river that flows beneath the throne of God. He’d never heard of the Baltimore Catechism either, and didn’t know the purpose of life was to love and honor and serve God.
He’d been to the village church as a boy in Poland, and knew he was Catholic because his mother and father were buried in a cemetery under wooden crosses. His sister Catherine was buried there too.
The day their mother died Catherine took to the kitchen corner where the stove sat, and cried. She wouldn’t eat or drink, just cried until she died there, died of a broken heart. She was three or four years old, he was five.
What he knew about the nature of God and religion came from the sermons the priests told at mass, and this got mixed up with his own life. He knew living was hard, and that even children are meant to suffer. Sometimes, when he was drinking he’d ask, “Didn’t God send his own son here to suffer?”
My father believed we are here to lift logs that can’t be lifted, to hammer steel nails so bent they crack when we hit them. In the slave labor camps in Germany, He’d seen men try the impossible and fail.
He believed life is hard, and we should help each other. If you see someone on a cross, his weight pulling him down and breaking his muscles, you should try to lift him, even if only for a minute, even though you know lifting won’t save him.
“What My Father Believed” by John Guzlowski, from Lightning And Ashes. © Steel Toe Books, 2007. Reprinted with permission. Lightening and Ashes
A cold coming we had of it,
In Advent, we wait in joyful anticipation for Jesus to be born in us again and for the new life promised to us in this child. This year, we also share in the added joy of Revs. Sarah and Bill Searight and Revs. Lindsey and Pen Peery in the births of their children. In celebration of these newest and youngest members of our church family, we offer a poem and image from William Blake.
by William Blake“I have no name:
Although exact figures are not possible, it is estimated that 60 to 72 million people died in World War II, including military dead of 22 to 25 million. Over 400,000 Americans lost their lives in the war. Two plaques in the narthex of the First Presbyterian sanctuary list the names of 285 members of our congregation who served during World War II. Ten of those names are “gold star” names. Go by the narthex this Sunday and share a moment of your time in honor and memory of those men and women.
Today’s poem is by the poet Archibald MacLeish. ”The poet Archibald MacLeish was especially aware of the importance of this sacrifice. As a young man, he had served as an artillery officer in World War I and had witnessed suffering and death on the battlefields of Europe. During the second World War, he took up public service once again, serving as the Librarian of Congress while still writing poetry. When the Library of Congress held a memorial service for all its staff members who had died in the war, MacLeish contributed a powerful poem that not only commemorated the dead, but also made it clear that those who survived bore a special responsibility to make the deaths of these soldiers meaningful. As you read this poem, think about what the poem suggests as possible ways to live up to such a great sacrifice. You might also think about the sacrifices that other people have made for you.”…. from the website of the Library of Congress.
THE YOUNG DEAD SOLDIERS DO NOT SPEAK
By Archibald MacLeish
Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done
They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.
They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.
They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.
As we recognize Veteran’s Day we will feature two poems. Today’s first poem is by Brian Turner, who served for seven years in the U.S. Army. Beginning in November 2003, he was an infantry team leader in Iraq with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. More of his poetry is available at Turner.ASHBAH
The ghosts of
wander the streets of
Balad by night,
unsure of their way
the desert wind
down the narrow
alleys as a voice
sounds from the
minaret, a soulfull call
reminding them how
alone they are,
how lost. And the
they watch in silence
as date palms line the
shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca
when the dawn wind blows.
Today’s poem by Leroy V. Quintana, a native New Mexican who served in Vietnam in the Army Airborne and a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit in 1967-68. More of his poetry is available at Quintana.