Thursday, July 31, 2008

HE PREACHED UPON BREADTH

by Emily Dickinson

He preached upon "Breadth" till it argued him narrow-
The Broad are too broad to define
And of "Truth" until it proclaimed him a Liar-
The Truth never flaunted[1] a Sign-

Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence
As Gold the Pyrites[2] would shun-
What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
To meet so enabled a Man!

I think Miss Dickinson must have written this poem upon returning home from her Congregation Church in Amherst, and perhaps after listening to a visiting preacher. It's a reminder to all of us to keep things simple--not simpler than they are, but as simple as they can possibly be.

Her observation reminded me of a story I heard in my student days.

It seems that a young man arrived at the gate of heaven and was asked by Saint Peter who Jesus was. The man answered, "He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God." "Well said." Peter replied. "Enter into his rest."

Later, German theologian Paul Tillich arrived at the gate and was asked the same question. "Ah, who is Jesus," he reflected. "Theologically, he is the ground of all being; eschatologically, he is the ground of all hope; existentially, he is the ground of the divine-human encounter."

To which Peter replied, "Huh?"

Doublehaul Dave

[1] "flaunted": to display something ostentatiously
[2] "Pyrites": fools gold

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SONNET 116

by William Shakespeare


Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.[1] Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:[2]
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark[3]
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star[4] to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken[.5]
Love's not Time's fool,[6] though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:[7]
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.[8]
If this be error and upon me proved,[9]
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


This is, perhaps, the most loved of Shakespeare's sonnets with it's beautiful, oft-quoted summary: "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds."

Love, it seems, is the art of persistence: it loves through every change of fortune, time and circumstance. It does not ask for fair exchange, a quid pro quo. It gives—profusely--expecting nothing in return.

Love does not change when a loved one changes. It does not withdraw when the other draws away. It endures love's tempests and torments willingly. It is not thrown off course, nor is it shaken by storms, but remains steady, resolute, and strong.

Love does not fade when outer beauty fades, but grows even stronger. It does not alter through time, but loves till death shall separate one from the other. It bears all things "to the edge of doom."

This cannot be error, for scripture strongly affirms it. To put it Paul's way, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."[10]

Doublehaul Dave

[1] An allusion to the words of the marriage service in The Book of Common Prayer: "If either of you know cause or just impediment why you should not be joined together in holy matrimony… you do now confess it."
[2] “bends with the remover to remove”: to remove (draw away) from the remover (one who has withdrawn).
[3] The "ever-fixed mark": a lighthouse. The "sea-mark of my utmost sail" (Othello 5.2.305)
[4] "star": Polaris, the north star
[5] "whose worth's unknown": Again, the north star. The star's value can never be calculated, although its height can be measured from the horizon.
[6] "Love's not Time's fool": Love is not at the mercy of time.
[7] "his": time's scythe. Physical beauty bends and falls under his sweep ("compass").
[8] "edge of doom": death. "Doomsday is near; die all, die merrily" (Henry IV, 4.1.141).
[9] "upon me proved": If I am proved to be wrong.
[10] 1 Corinthians 13:8

Friday, July 25, 2008

UPHILL

by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Christina Rossetti was an Anglican Christian, who, after E. B. Browning's death, became England's most prominent poet, though today, in our modern/post-modern era she is largely overlooked. (Many modern anthologies of 19th century English poets do not contain or mention her works.)

Rossetti, like so many whose writings touch our souls deeply, suffered greatly, enduring long periods of melancholy, probably due to the fact that she was abused as a child, or so her biographers believe. Her road, in actual fact, wound uphill "the whole long day."

Yet her faith in God seldom wavered and in her final years Rossetti turned her pain into great good, writing and publishing her most compelling devotional and children's poetry and serving as a volunteer in a home in London for under-age prostitutes.

The structure of her poem, "Uphill," lends poignancy to its over-all appeal. Her questions lie buried deep in our own thoughts. Someone answers with authority and assurance.

UPHILL

Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow, dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you waiting at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

It's sometimes said, when old, that we're "over the hill," with the inference that everything now is downhill. I find aging to be just the opposite, however: the road winds uphill all the way and the steepest slopes may lay ahead. Old age does not necessarily bring respite and repose, but greater toil and effort "the whole long day"-'til night closes in.

But is there for the night a resting place?

There is a roof for when the slow, dark hours begin, for Jesus has promised, "I go to prepare a place for you." (If it were not so he would have told us.)

May not the darkness hide this place?

No, for Jesus has shown us the way to our Father's house. We cannot miss that inn.

Shall we meet other wayfarers at night?

Yes. Those who have gone before will be waiting for us there. The Lord has given and taken them away, but he will give them to us again, better, wiser, stronger, more beautiful than ever before.

Then must we knock or call when we're in sight?

No, Love, like the Prodigal's father, will rush to embrace us and bring us in from the night.

Shall we find comfort there, travel sore and weak?

Without a doubt, "the weary traveler will be welcomed home and will find rest there."[1]

Will there be beds for me, and all who seek?

Certainly, for our Lord has promised: "In My Father's house there are many places to dwell." All are welcome there where every comfort that Love can give awaits them.

"And you know the way..." Jesus said...[2]

Doublehaul Dave

[1]Samuel Rutherford
[2] Read John 14:1-6

A Poor Wise Man ""It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit" (Harry S. Truman). ...