Category Archives: imagination

Be Joyful In The Lord: A Response To Psalm 100

unnamedWe come now to psalm 100, a real milestone in our journey through the psalter and one of the great psalms, cherished by generations of hymn singers as ‘Old Hundredth’, the name of the tune to which it has been traditionally sung, though there are many beautiful versions of this psalm titled Jubilate Deo in the prayer book.

In my response to the psalm I have reflected on that great hymn singing tradition and the sense of connection and kinship it gives us with our forbears and the long tradition of our faith, something celebrated in the psalm itself in its final line:

For the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting: and his truth endureth from generation to generation.

But I also reflect on the essential and timeless truths, truths which our age has mostly forgotten, which are embedded in this psalm:

Be ye sure that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

C  Jubilate Deo

Love bids us welcome with them to the feast

Let us be joyful therefore, let us sing

Old Hundredth with our forbears. One high priest

 

Calls us together in a great thanksgiving

To come before his presence with a song,

Enter his courts with praise, be glad and bring

 

Our very best to him. For we belong

To him since he has made us, and our hearts

Will find their peace in him alone. We long

 

Therefore to come at last beyond the gates

Of time and space, and with the saints to taste 

That joy for which the whole creation waits.

 

But whilst we wait there is no time to waste

In keeping faith with each new generation,

And showing them his mercy and his grace.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

3 Comments

Filed under imagination

The Lord Is King: A Response to Psalm 99

15501Psalm 99 is a joyful acclamation that ‘The Lord is King’, enthroned between the cherubim, and that his kingdom, and its goodness and glory must come to earth at last. It also looks back through Israel’s history, to the great figures of the past, Moses, and Aaron, and Samuel and the psalmist takes comfort and encouragement that he stands in their succession and that God’s purposes will also be fulfilled through him.

I have taken up these themes in my response to the psalm, but I have asked myself ‘Who are the figures from the Church’s long story who have inspired me?’ and so in my poem I have delighted to name some of the other priest-poets who have inspired me in this work and in whose succession I too, in my poor way, stand and sing!

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCIX Dominus regnavit

With every gift that grateful hearts can bring

We celebrate the glory of the one

Who sits between the cherubim. We sing

A song of love and judgement met in one;

Mercy meets righteousness, and truth meets grace

Made one in Christ, as in him we are one.

The world may waver, we’ll delight to trace

The long line of his loving, and to name

The holy ones who see him face to face:

Moses and Aaron, whom he has called home,

And Samuel. But I shall name each priest

Within my heritage, who looked to him:

John Donne and Herbert, Hopkins, each a priest

As much of language as of sacrament.

Love bids us welcome with them to the feast.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

1 Comment

Filed under imagination

Finding Christ in Isolation: A Sonnet for Julian of Norwich

Icon of Julian with her cat by Br Robert Lentz OFM

The 8th of May is the feast day of Julian of Norwich, sometimes known as Mother Julian or Lady Julian. She was an English Mystic of the late fourteenth Century, living as an anchoress in Norwich.  Her life as an anchoress, finding Christ in isolation, and then finding that Christ transfigured that isolation into a communion of love, has been an inspiration for many in the current lockdown. Her ‘Shewings’, or Revelations of Divine Love, a series of mystical visions of and conversations with Jesus, remain a source of profound wisdom and a gift to the church, present and future. For a good introduction to her work I recommend Julia Bolton Holloway’s website, she is herself an anchoress in Florence, and Robert Llewlyn’s classic work ‘With Pity, not With Blame, now reprinted by the Canterbury Press.

This poem is from my book The Singing Bowl which you can buy on Amazon or order from any good bookshop.  Please feel free to use this poem in services, and print it in service bulletins, just include a brief acknowledgement that it comes from ‘The Singing Bowl’, Canterbury Press, 2013. Thanks

As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or on the title.


Mother Julian

Show me O anchoress, your anchor-hold

Deep in the love of God, and hold me fast.

Show me again in whose hands we are held,

Speak to me from your window in the past,

Tell me again the tale of Love’s compassion

For all of us who fall onto the mire,

How he is wounded with us, how his passion

Quickens the love that haunted our desire.

Show me again the wonder of at-one-ment

Of Christ-in-us distinct and yet the same,

Who makes, and loves, and keeps us in each moment,

And looks on us with pity not with blame.

Keep telling me, for all my faith may waver,

Love is his meaning, only love, forever.

1413

From the Amhurst Manuscript of Julian’s showings

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

3 Comments

Filed under imagination

Sing A New Song! A Response to Psalm 98

41ylPajMpuL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_Psalm 98 is an absolute favourite of mine, I love the great invitation in its opening line to stir our own creative powers and sing a new song to God:

  1. O SING unto the Lord a new song: for he hath done marvellous things.
  2. With his own right hand, and with his holy arm: hath he gotten himself the victory.

But of course, when Christians respond to this psalm it really is a new song. When the psalmist wrote the words ‘with his own right hand and with his holy arm he hath gotten the victory’ I’m sure they imagined victory in a conventional battle with wounds inflicted on an enemy. But a Christian contemplating the right hand and holy arm of the Lord is taken straight to the mystery of the cross where the enemy defeated is Sin and Death itself and the victory is gained not by inflicting wounds on others but by the Lord of Life and Love, in the mystery of atonement, taking those wounds on himself, taking the worst that we can so  to him and one another and turning it into Love and forgiveness, and so that is the theme of my response to this psalm.

The other thing I love in this psalm is the great invitation to take up all the instruments at our disposal to sing his praises:

Praise the Lord upon the harp: sing to the harp with a psalm of thanksgiving.

With trumpets also and shawms: O shew yourselves joyful before the Lord the King.

That too comes out in my poem, where I interpret it not only as the actual musical instruments but also as all the art forms we have: music, drama, dance and poetry!

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCVIII Cantate Domino

For Christ himself will shine as the true ark,

The holy one between the cherubim,

In his right hand and holy arm the mark

And imprint of the wounds we gave to him

Which he returns as love.  He has declared

That love with open hands and heart.  To him

The world with all its wounds, its shared

Desires and fears, will come, to seek the peace

Which he still offers freely. He has spared

The guilty, for he chose to take their place

And suffer for them. Therefore we will sing

A new song, in the all-renewing grace

Still flowing from those wounds. The world will ring

With music, drama, dance, and poetry,

With every gift that grateful hearts can bring.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

4 Comments

Filed under imagination

Hatley St. George; a poem for St. George’s Day

On St. George’s day my thoughts turn again to Hatley St. George. Lockdown has eased a little and it can be visited again, as it continues its silent witness. And one part of that witness is to declare that we have been through this before. Our churches have stood and held and deepened the faith for us through other times of pestilence, through change and crisis as deep as this, a witness ‘in all the changes and chances of this fleeting world’ to the deeper things that abide.

If St. George, as our patron saint, inspires English patriotism, then I’d say my own patriotism is not about wrapping one political party or another in the flag. It was certainly not about ‘Brexit, that kerfuffle that seems so irrelevant now. But rather it is about loving the little particularites of my native land. Not the big nationalist rhetoric or the aggrandising imperial history, but the patchwork of little parishes and quiet shires. That’s one of the reasons why I love little mediaeval church dedicated to St. George in the village of Hatley St. George, not far from here.

Though the church goes back to the fourteenth century , in the late sixties it suffered the apparent misfortune of a collapse in its sanctuary which was declared unsafe and taken down. A new east wall was built but the architects had the wisdom to set in the new east window an arch of clear glass. For beyond that window, across the still sacred space of what had been choir and sanctuary, stands the most beautiful beech tree, which church-goers can see now in all its glory , through the changing seasons, simmering above their altar.

It’s a magical place, but like many such, struggling for survival and recognition. I originally wrote this poem both to celebrate the church and to help raise funds for its mantenance. Do visit it if you can, once our lockdown is lifted, and support those who are working for its upkeep. One of the congregation has written this poem out in beautiful calligraphy and it is hanging on the wall there, and each summer I go and read it aloud for them as part of their summer fete. This poem is in my book The Singing Bowl which you can buy on Amazon or order from any good bookshop.

You can listen to me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. As you listen you will also hear the scatter of bright birdsong which lifted the early April morning where I read the poem in my little writing hut ‘The Temple of Peace’

the window of Hatley St. George

View through the window of Hatley St. George

Hatley St. George

Stand here a while and drink the silence in.
Where clear glass lets in living light to touch
And bless your eyes. A beech tree’s tender green
Shimmers beyond the window’s lucid arch.
You look across an absent sanctuary;
No walls or roof, just holy, open space,
Leading your gaze out to the fresh-leaved beech
God planted here before you first drew breath.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
You cannot stand as long and still as these;
This ancient beech and still more ancient church.
So let them stand, as they have stood, for you.
Let them disclose their gifts of time and place,
A secret kept for you through all these years.
Open your eyes. This empty church is full,
Thronging with life and light your eyes have missed.

Stand here awhile and drink the silence in.
Shields of forgotten chivalry, and rolls
Of honour for the young men gunned at Ypres,
And other monuments of our brief lives
Stand for the presence here of saints and souls
Who stood where you stand, to be blessed like you;
Clouds of witness to unclouded light
Shining this moment, in this place for you.

Stand here awhile and drink their silence in.
Annealed in glass, the twelve Apostles stand
And each of them is keeping faith for you.
This roof is held aloft, to give you space,
By graceful angels praying night and day
That you might hear some rumour of their flight
That you might feel the flicker of a wing
And let your heart fly free at last in prayer.

If you have enjoyed this page here’s a little link that allows you to ‘buy me a coffee’ (or a beer if you prefer!)

Buy Me A Coffee

4 Comments

Filed under imagination

The Lord Is King: A Response To Psalm 97

Psalm_97,_Cantate_domino_canticum_novum,_quia_mirabilia_fecit,_King_David_and_a_woman_(Ecclesia?)_offering_him_a_chalice_-_Psalter_of_Eleanor_of_Aquitaine_(ca._1185)_-_KB_76_F_13,_folium_117vPsalm 97 is another psalm of pure joy and celebration, a psalm which sees, even through the shadows of the present time, the resplendent brightness of the coming Kingdom, as it says in that beautiful line:

There is sprung up a light for the righteous: and joyful gladness for such as are true-hearted.

The psalm begins with the words ‘ The Lord is King’! For Christians reading this psalm that King and Lord is Christ himself, who died for his people and rose again, not only to reign but to share his kingdom with all whom he has redeemed, and some of those themes are taken up in my response to the psalm.

Frustratingly, the new WordPress software seems to strip out the breaks between the three line stanzas every time I put them back in. If you have the book you will see that the poem is intended to be laid out in five three-line stanzas, not a single block of 15 lines, but there seems no way of restoring this arrangement! Clearly WordPress is not intended for poets!

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCVII Dominus regnavit

With our own joy, we will take up the song

Of all creation: Jesus Christ is king!

The whole earth will be glad, for there has sprung,

A light for all the righteous who will bring

A final judgment to the earth, as bright

As lightening, and the round world will ring

With jubilation. For the mournful night

Of our long exile will be ended then

As darkness flees before his glorious light,

The bright ark of his covenant. And when

We see that holiness unveiled, the dark

Devices, all the substitutes, the vain

And empty images, the shoddy work

Of our own hands will fall to nothingness

For Christ himself will shine as the true ark.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

3 Comments

Filed under imagination

Sing A New Song: A Response to Psalm 96

psalm 96We come now to psalm 96, a glorious poem of pure praise which contains the beautiful line

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: let the whole earth stand in awe of him.

The psalm goes on to invoke the whole creation to join in the psalmist’s hymn of praise:

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad: let the sea make a noise, and all that therein is.

Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord.

In my own poetic response I have also delighted in nature and striven to get something of the music and beauty the psalmist invokes into the very sound of my words, because, as i say in the poem, it is one of our vocations as human beings, to voice creation’s praise.

Frustratingly, the new WordPress software seems to strip out the breaks between the three line stanzas every time I put them back in. If you have the book you will see that the poem is intended to be laid out in five three-line stanzas, not a single block of 15 lines, but there seems no way of restoring this arrangement! Clearly WordPress is not intended for poets!

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCVI Cantate Domino

Our Saviour King and Shepherd calls us home

And on our homeward journey bids us sing,

To join that all-renewing song to him

Which all creation sings. The valleys ring

With praises and the mountaintops rejoice;

The greenwood trees and meadow flowers bring

Their silent praise and call on us to voice

It for them in our songs, to worship him

In awe, in beauty, and in holiness.

It is not for ourselves alone we hymn

The great creator, for we lift our song

To voice creation’s praise. The drowsy hum

Of honey laden bees, the lovely, long

And lapsing sigh of waves along the shore,

And our own joy, must all make up the song.

f you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

2 Comments

Filed under imagination

O Come Let Us Sing: A Response To Psalm 95

After the rigours of psalm 94 its lovely to come to the familiar and gracious invitation of psalm 95, which is the regular canticle for morning prayer which we call by its first Latin word ‘The Venite’:

  1. O COME, let us sing unto the Lord: let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.
  2. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving: and shew ourselves glad in him with psalms.

At the core of this beautiful psalm is the humble acknowledgement that we didn’t create ourselves but that we are all made by the one God to whom we owe our thanks, and this is something on which I have reflected with gratitude in my response.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCV Venite, exultemus

For equal rights and justice, cry out loud!

Then come before God’s presence and be glad,

And harden not your hearts. Do not be proud,

But kneel before your maker, for he made

You for himself and also for each other,

To share his good gifts equally. Our God

Is everyone’s salvation, and our Father

Is Lord and father equally to all.

Let us rejoice before him, let him gather

The scattered tribes and nations back from all

The corners of the earth, and also from

The wilderness of willfulness. His call

To bring our lives, and our whole world to him

Resounds in all of us. Could we but hear,

Our Saviour, King and Shepherd calls us home.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

Leave a comment

Filed under imagination

Arise thou Judge Of The World: a response to psalm 94

41ylPajMpuL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_After an Easter break I am resuming the thread of my postings from David’s Crown, my poetic response to the Psalms, and we come to psalm 94.

Psalm 94 is one of those bracing and challenging psalms that calls out for Justice, calls out for God to come as judge, and finally set the worlds wrongs to right. It is challenging for us to say because of course we ourselves are entangled and compromised with so much that is wrong in the world. At the time I was writing my poetic response to this psalm we were becoming aware of how acutely Covid itself was exposing and increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots and we were also in the midst of the  ferment and protest against systemic prejudice and injustice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. All these issues made this psalm more relevant and challenging than ever.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it is available from Amazon Here.

XCIV Deus ultionum

My saviour stands and keeps my soul serene

But also sends me back into the world

To speak his word and challenge the obscene

 

Injustices we take for granted, sold

As we are on systems that preserve

Our privilege and barter truth for gold,

 

Putting our souls to silence.  We reserve

Our judgment, but the psalmist makes it clear

Justice is coming for God’s poor. We serve

 

Him best if we can serve them here,

Rise up and take their part against the proud

Deliver them from harassment and fear.

 

We have been pietistic, quiet, cowed

But we must come out publicly and cry

For equal rights and justice, cry out loud.

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

2 Comments

Filed under imagination

Three lovely settings of my Easter poems

To my amazement I received, on Easter Monday, three separate links to beautiful performances of new musical settings of three poems of mine, all with an Easter theme, and I thought I would share them with you here. The first was a setting, by composer Zebulon Highben, of my sonnet Easter Dawn, performed beautifully by the choir of the chapel at Duke University as part of their Easter Sunday service.

Here it is:

The other two were performances by Girton choir of settings of a series of quatrains I wrote on the mysteries of Christ, one on Easter and another on the Ascension. Here are the words for my Easter Quatrain:

Resurrection:

A stone flung in a pool makes waves of light

Until, like every life, it sinks alone.

They plunged Him too, into the pool of night,

Today His waves of light fling back the stone.

The setting is by the composer Cevanne Horrocks Hopayian, here it is:

And finally here is the Ascension piece:

Ascension

Let there be light.  The light leaps up

That was in deepest darkness drowned.

There is no realm or kingdom now

In which the lost cannot be found.

The setting is by the composer Libby Croad, here it is, (I hope) the link is to facebook rather than youtube so you may have to follow through and find it there: https://www.facebook.com/libby.croad.9/videos/10165061013315607

If you would like to encourage and support this blog, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!

Buy Me A Coffee

9 Comments

Filed under imagination