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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button
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
This poem on ‘Father forgive’, one of Jesus central ‘sayings from the cross’, was originally published in my collection Parable and Paradox, and I post it here, for the first time, for Good Friday. You can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘Play’ button.