Tag Archives: Christ

‘In The Midst Of Thy Temple’: A Response To Psalm 48

Psalm 48 is a celebration of the city of Zion and the temple in her midst, a celebration of the covenant promise that God would faithfully meet his people there. For a Christian this psalm takes on a new significance. Firstly because we know that the Temple, the meeting place of God and his people was a archetype and foreshadowing of Christ, who would himself be the temple, the meeting place of God and the whole of humanity. And secondly because of the wonderful truth that when we are members of the body of Christ, whose body is the true temple, then we ourselves, both body and soul, become a temple of the Holy Spirit, that Christ himself comes into us to a abide with us and in us. No longer need we travel to some outer destination to meet with God, but need only turn inward to find that ‘in our hearts are the highways to Zion’. The temple is already there within us, and Christ is waiting, deep in the mystery of our own heart and soul, if only we will enter those depths and find him. And there, in the depth of our own being he will meet with us, to cleanse us and renew us.

This is especially good news for us as Covid tightens its grip and lockdown looms again. If we are self-isolating, or if our churches are closed again, we can find him in our own hearts and homes where there will be no social distancing, only spiritual intimacy.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

XLVIII Magnus Dominus

For heaven’s king has made the earth his home

Not just the hill of Sion, but the whole

Round world. Call him from anywhere, he’ll

 

Come to you and make his dwelling. Hail

Him in any language, he replies

In your own mother-tongue. For now your soul

 

Is his true Sion, and each day you rise

Already in the city of your God.

So mark the towers and temples, and apprise

 

Again the beauty of your new abode.

Your soul is greater than you ever knew:

Walk round its walls, then take the holy road

 

That winds towards its centre, where the new

Temple of his spirit shines and stands,

Where Christ himself is there to welcome you.

 

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Bring Me To Thy Holy Hill: A Response To Psalm 43

Oh Jesus, show me once again the path out of my sadness

In many respects psalm 43 is a direct continuation of psalm 42, indeed some editions run them together, so this pairing of psalm 41/42 is a good place for my choice of the ‘corona’ form for this sequence of poems in which the last line of each poem forms the first line of the next, and at the end of my response to 43 I return to the image of the living waters which was central to my poem on psalm 42

As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

XLIII Judica me, Deus

Shucked of the husk of all my wasted years

I long to step forth, free of all encumbrance

To set aside the heaviness, the tears,

 

The sin that clings so close, the doleful hindrance

Of resentment and regret, to let them go

Roll them below the cross, as Christian once

 

Did in his pilgrim’s progress. Then I‘d know

A lighter step once more, the joy and gladness

The psalmist longs for here. Oh Jesus, show

 

Me once again the path out of my sadness

And set my steps back on your holy hill,

Send out your light and truth to be my witness

 

And since I cannot climb by my own will

Abide with me and be my will, my strength,

The living fountain whence I drink my fill.

 

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A sonnet for St. Benedict

20130710-093249.jpg

On the eve of his  feast day I am reposting this sonnet on St. Benedict. My recent experience of diving deep into the Psalter has made me appreciate the Benedictine tradition even more deeply, for of course he made the recitation of the psalms the absolute core of his order’s liturgy and worship.

On July the 11th the Church celebrates the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the gentle founder of the Benedictine order and by extension the father of Monasticism. A moderate and modest man, he would have been astonished to learn that his ‘simple school for prayer’, his ‘modest rule for beginners’ led to the foundation of communities which kept the Christian flame alight through dark times, preserved not only Christian faith, scripture, and culture,but also the best of Classical Pagan learning and culture, fed the poor, transformed societies, promoted learning and scholarship, and today provides solace, grounding, perspective and retreat not only to monks and nuns but to millions of lay people around the world.
Here is my sonnet for Benedict, drawing largely on phrases from the Rule, I dedicate it to the sisters at Turvey Abbey. It appears in my second book with Canterbury Press, The Singing Bowl 

You can also buy the book on amazon Here   But better still why not order it through a local bookshop who pay their taxes and need your support!

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

Benedict

You sought to start a simple school of prayer,
A modest, gentle, moderate attempt,
With nothing made too harsh or hard to bear,
No treating or retreating with contempt,
A little rule, a small obedience
That sets aside, and tills the chosen ground,
Fruitful humility, chosen innocence,
A binding by which freedom might be found

You call us all to live, and see good days,
Centre in Christ and enter in his peace,
To seek his Way amidst our many ways,
Find blessedness in blessing, peace in praise,
To clear and keep for Love a sacred space
That we might be beginners in God’s grace.

 

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Who Shall Ascend? A Response to Psalm 24

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?

In the last post we saw how psalms 22 and 23 are linked, as I said in that post: ‘The Lord can only be my shepherd and lead me through the valley of the shadow of death if he himself makes that journey with me, and psalm 22 tells me he does just that.’ I think this prophetic sequence, which began with psalm 22 continues into psalm 24, a coronation psalm which has always been used by the church to reflect on and celebrate the ascension of Christ, understood as the King of Glory in this psalm

Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of glory shall come in.

Who is the King of glory: even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

This interpretation throws new light on the crucial question asked earlier in the psalm

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord: or who shall rise up in his holy place?

The psalm answers that by describing a person of complete holiness, with ‘clean hands and a pure heart’. In the Old Testament perspective only such holy people can ascend and come into the presence of the Holy,  and for the Christian only Christ belongs naturally in heaven. And yet because he has atoned for us and we have put our hearts into his, we are able to ascend, not by our own rights, but with and in him. So a psalm that might have been forbidding to us, is transformed by Christ into a Royal Invitation.

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 ‘psalms’ into the search box on the right.

XXIV Domini est terra

And draw me into his eternity?

But who can rise up to that holy place?

Can all its splendours really be for me?

 

Before that holy fire I hide my face

My hands were never clean, as for my heart

He’ll search out its impurity and trace

 

The sources of its sin in every part,

And in the whole, its weariness and stain.

Who can ascend? I cannot even start.

 

But even as I fear my hopes are vain

My saviour comes, his love revives my hope

I feel him search my wounds, deal with my pain,

 

And offer me again the healing cup.

Raising my head, he says: Now rise with me

The gates will open for us both, look up!

 

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Mother’s Day: a sonnet (and a sigh)

…for those who loved and laboured…

I originally posted this on Mothering Sunday, in England, which was the first Sunday of our lockdown, but I repost it now for all my North American Friends for whom today is Mothers’ Day:

I planned to post a sonnet, but I start with a sigh. This will be a hard Sunday for so many: not only the first Sunday for so many churches when they will not meet physically together, though they will unite in prayer and online, to start the long yearning for reunion, but also it is Mothering Sunday, and so many are rightly staying at home when they naturally yearn to visit their mother. We know that, paradoxically, staying away is the most loving thing we can do, but it doesn’t feel like that.

Nevertheless we can love and be thankful and remember that our very existence in the world is testimony to the love and labour of our mothers. So once more I post my poem of thanksgiving for all parents, especialy for those who bore the fruitful pain of labour.And more particularly in this poem I have singled out for praise those heroic single parents who, for whatever reason, have found themselves bearing alone the burdens, and sharing with no-one the joys of their parenthood. They were already isolated before ‘self isolation’ was a thing, and now, with schools closed, their labour is multiplied, and without the help f neighbours. We cannot bring them physically into the church today, but in our prayers we bring them into Christ.

This poem is from my book Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press and it is available on Amazon Here

I am grateful to Oliver  Neale for his thought-provoking work as a photographer, and, as always, you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button, or on the title

Mothering Sunday

 

At last, in spite of all, a recognition,

For those who loved and laboured for so long,

Who brought us, through that labour, to fruition

To flourish in the place where we belong.

A thanks to those who stayed and did the raising,

Who buckled down and did the work of two,

Whom governments have mocked instead of praising,

Who hid their heart-break and still struggled through,

The single mothers forced onto the edge

Whose work the world has overlooked, neglected,

Invisible to wealth and privilege,

But in whose lives the kingdom is reflected.

Now into Christ our mother church we bring them,

Who shares with them the birth-pangs of His Kingdom.

 

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Girton College Chapel 3rd May: ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’

Girton Choir and Brass in the chapel

Welcome back to Girton College Chapel for the second of our virtual Sunday Evensongs, we have all been greatly encouraged that so many of you attended last week. This week we continue our reflection on The Lord’s Prayer and I share with you a sermon and a sonnet on its first petition: Hallowed be thy Name. The choir continue to assist and lift our worship, and once more the music features the original work of our own community, with ‘The KCL Responses’ composed by our director of chapel music Gareth Wilson. Many of us will enjoy and participate in this service together, through the medium of this page, at our usual time of 5:30pm (BST) so join us then if you can, but equally feel free to use this page as an aid to your devotions at any time of your choosing. I’m grateful to Liliana Janik and Jeremy West for the lovely glimpses of Girton their photographs provide.

Now to usher us into worship we hear the opening responses The KCL Preces (Wilson)

V:O Lord, open thou our lips.
R:And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
V:O God, make speed to save us.
R:O Lord, make haste to help us.

V: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
R: .As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
V: Praise ye the Lord.
R:The Lord’s Name be praised.

 

Today’s psalm, 113 sets out the theme, taken up in The Lord’s Prayer, of hallowing God’s Holy Name. Do say the psalm aloud if you can and perhaps share the verses with others in your household:

Psalm 113.Laudate, pueri

Praise the Lord, ye servants : O praise the Name of the Lord.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord : from this time forth for

evermore.

The Lord’s Name is praised : from the rising up of the sun

unto the going down of the same.

The Lord is high above all nations : and his glory above the

heavens.

Who is like unto the Lord our God, that hath his dwelling so

high : and yet humbleth himself to behold the things that are in

heaven and earth?

He taketh up the simple out of the dust : and lifteth the poor

out of the mire;

That he may set him with the princes : even with the princes

of his people.

He maketh the barren woman to keep house : and to be a joyful

mother of children.

a glimpse through Girton windows photo Lila Janik

The Old Testament Reading is taken from the Book of Exodus, and is read for us by our Bursar James Anderson

Exodus 3:1-15

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

  Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’

  When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’

  Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’

  He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings,

  and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

  The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.

  So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’

  But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’

  He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’

  God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’

  God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.

Photo by Jeremy West

For the Magnificat we continue to feature the work of Cardoso, this time with his Magnificat Quinti Toni:

Luke 1

MY soul doth magnify the Lord :
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded :
the lowliness of his hand-maiden.

For behold, from henceforth :
all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath magnified me :
and holy is his Name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him :
throughout all generations.

He hath shewed strength with his arm :
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seat :
and hath exalted the humble and meek.

He hath filled the hungry with good things :
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel :
as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
world without end. Amen.

Our New Testament reading is the great Hymn to Christ’s self-emptying, or Kenosis, read for us by the Vice-Mistress Karen Lee

Philippians 2:5-11

 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
  but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

  Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
    so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

In place the Nunc Dimmitis this Sunday we are going to hear Gareth Wilson’s beautiful setting of Ave Maris Stella

Now we turn to God in Prayer with Gareth Wilson’s setting of the responses

V:The Lord be with you.
R:And with thy spirit.
V:Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

OUR Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

V:O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
R:And grant us thy salvation.
V:O Lord, save the Queen.
R:And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
V:Endue thy Ministers with righteousness.
R:And make thy chosen people joyful.
V:O Lord, save thy people.
R:And bless thine inheritance.
V:Give peace in our time, O Lord.
R:Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.
V:O God, make clean our hearts within us.
R:And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.

Sermon: ‘Hallowed by they Name’ a reflection and a sonnet by the chaplain:

The text of the poem:

Hallowed be thy name

There’s something in the sound of the word hallow;

A haunting sense of everything we’ve lost

Amidst the trite, the trivial, the shallow,

Where nothing lingers, nothing seems to last.

But Hallowed,summons up our fear and wonder,

And summons us to stand on holy ground.

To sense the mystery that stands just under

Familiar things we’ll never understand.

 

Hallowed be thy name: the name unspoken,

The name from which all other names arise,

The name that heals the sick and binds the broken,

Whose living glory calls the dead to rise.

You make this prayer my rising and my rest

That I might bless the name by which I’m blessed.

‘my rising and my rest’, a peaceful seat in the fellows garden Photo by Jeremy West

 

Our Anthem this evening is Laudata Sion by Ingegneri, a rennasance composer re-discovered by Gareth Wilson and featured on the choir’s new CD  (You can find the choir’s CDs Here)

 

Now here, as always is the blessing which concludes our service:

A Blessing from the Chaplain:

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his son Jesus Christ our lord, and the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you and those whom you hold in your hearts, this day and always, Amen

Blossoms in our beautiful orchard. Photo by Lila Janek

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Let not your hearts be troubled: a sonnet revisited

I recently had a request from some one, bereaved in this Coronavirus crisis, who had read this sonnet in my book Parable and Paradox  and wanted permission for her grandson to read it at his grandfather’s online funeral. Of course I granted that permission immediately and freely, and it prompted me to repost the sonnet here, in case their might be others to whom it might bring comfort or for whom it might express what they needed to say. If you, or someone you know would like to use this sonnet, either the text or the recording or both for an online general or memorial please feel free to do so, it was written for just such an occasion.

The sonnet itself is a reflection on John 14:1-3.

 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

This saying was not uttered on some sunny morning when all is going well, but on the night Jesus was betrayed, the night before he died, and in that poignant scene he shared their pain, and shares with all us the sheer tragedy of our mortality. But even as he prepared them for the sorrow of parting  he also instilled in them the hope of resurrection, the hope of Heaven and homecoming which they could not yet see.

This passage in John is very often chosen, and rightly so, as a reading at funerals, because it expresses both empathy and hope, and when I came to compose this sonnet I was gathering together the thoughts and prayers of the many funerals I have taken and hoping to write something that might be helpful, in opening these verses for people who choose to have them read at a funeral.

I have also developed these ideas a little in a sermon I preached this last Sunday at Girton which you can listen to here

As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on the title or the play button


Let not your hearts be troubled

 Always there comes this parting of the ways

The best is wrested from us, borne away,

No one is with us always, nothing stays,

Night swallows even the most perfect day.

Time makes a tragedy of human love,

We cleave forever to the one we choose

Only to find ‘forever’ in the grave.

We have just time enough to love and lose.

 

You know too well this trouble in our hearts

Your heart is troubled for us, feels it too,

You share with us in time that shears and parts

To draw us out of time and into you.

I go that you might come to where I am

Your word comes home to us and brings us home.

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This Breathless Earth: a new sonnet

The reading set in many churches for this first Sunday of Easter is the account in John 20:19, of how Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room where they were cowering behind locked doors, and how he brought them peace, and breathed on them, saying ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ and sent them out, renewed into the world. Meditating on that scene I have made a new sonnet, voiced for one of the disciples in that room, but written also from our present context where we are all fearful and so many of us are struggling even to draw breath. I am posting the new poem here in case anyone finds it useful, either for a virtual church service on Sunday, or for reflection during the week. Please feel free to reproduce this poem but if you can include a link to this blog that would be great.

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

This Breathless Earth

We bolted every door but even so

We couldn’t catch our breath for very fear:

Fear of their knocking at the gate below,

Fear that they’d find and kill us even here.

Though Mary’s tale had quickened all our hearts

Each fleeting hope just deepens your despair:

The panic grips again, the gasping starts,

The drowning, and the coming up for air.

 

Then suddenly, a different atmosphere,

A clarity of light, a strange release,

And, all unlooked for, Christ himself was there

Love in his eyes and on his lips, our peace.

So now we breathe again, sent forth, forgiven,

To bring this breathless earth a breath of heaven.

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Two Sonnets for the road to Emmaus

Christ appears to the Apostles on the road to Emmaus. Mosaic (6th)

Christ appears to the Apostles on the road to Emmaus. Mosaic (6th century)

As we walk together into the Easter season I thought I would post again two  sonnets reflecting on the encounter two disciples had with the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Re-reading these in light of our present crisis, I find some lines suddenly pressing forward with new clarity, new urgency, particularly in the octet of the first sonnet, which opens with longing and loss and speaks of  ‘The pit of disappointment, the despair/The jolts and shudders of my letting go,/My aching for the one who isn’t there.’ I know that those are just the things that many of us are feeling right now and I hope and pray that we can let christ turn those feelings around for us just as much as he did for the disciples on the road.

 

These two sonnets form part of a sequence of fifty sonnets on the sayings of Jesus called Parable and Paradox. They were published by Canterbury Press in a book of that title in 2016 and are available on Amazon Here.

Parable and Paradox

Parable and Paradox

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button

Emmaus 1

 


Luke 24:17 ‘He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast’.

 

And do you ask what I am speaking of

Although you know the whole tale of my heart;

Its longing and its loss, its hopeless love?

You walk beside me now and take my part

As though a stranger, one who doesn’t know

The pit of disappointment, the despair

The jolts and shudders of my letting go,

My aching for the one who isn’t there.

 

And yet you know my darkness from within,

My cry of dereliction is your own,

You bore the isolation of my sin

Alone, that I need never be alone.

Now you reveal the meaning of my story

That I, who burn with shame, might blaze with glory.

 

Emmaus 2

 


Luke 24:25-26 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

 

We thought that everything was lost and gone,

Disaster on disaster overtook us

The night we left our Jesus all alone

And we were scattered, and our faith forsook us.

But oh that foul Friday proved far worse,

For we had hoped that he had been the one,

Till crucifixion proved he was a curse,

And on the cross our hopes were all undone.

 

Oh foolish foolish heart why do you grieve?

Here is good news and comfort to your soul:

Open your mind to scripture and believe

He bore the curse for you to make you whole

The living God was numbered with the dead

That He might bring you Life in broken bread.

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‘Easter 2020’: A New Poem

A response to this poem by the artist Bruce Herman

Like all of us, I have been drawn deeply into this strange Easter when so much of the outwardly familiar has been taken away, and yet the inwardly familiar, the great Easter story of Death and Resurrection, has suddenly been renewed and become more agonisingly close, more vividly relevant to our lives than ever. But, like so many, I am deeply distressed at not being able to gather in church this morning, and to receive communion in community, to meet Christ ‘risen in bread, and revelling in wine’, as I put it in a sonnet long ago. But this Easter he calls me to discern him in new ways and in different places. He is risen indeed, and if I cannot go to church then where am I to find him? That is the question my new poem seeks to address, and if it is a question you ask yourselves too, then I hope you will find this poem helpful.

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

Easter 2020

And where is Jesus, this strange Easter day?

Not lost in our locked churches, anymore

Than he was sealed in that dark sepulchre.

The locks are loosed; the stone is rolled away,

And he is up and risen, long before,

Alive, at large, and making his strong way

Into the world he gave his life to save,

No need to seek him in his empty grave.

 

He might have been a wafer in the hands

Of priests this day, or music from the lips

Of red-robed choristers, instead he slips

Away from church, shakes off our linen bands

To don his apron with a nurse: he grips

And lifts a stretcher, soothes with gentle hands

The frail flesh of the dying, gives them hope,

Breathes with the breathless, lends them strength to cope.

 

On Thursday we applauded, for he came

And served us in a thousand names and faces

Mopping our sickroom floors and catching traces

Of that corona which was death to him:

Good Friday happened in a thousand places

Where Jesus held the helpless, died with them

That they might share his Easter in their need,

Now they are risen with him, risen indeed.

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