Behold, the blemished Lamb of God, and scarred
with unhealed woundings of the nails and spear,
Thomas seeks to know what it was that marred
pure God to now mutilated appear.
Thomas had seen his rising power before,
No question that God could raise the son of Nain,
But why upend complete Prophets and Law
and accept a sacrifice of bloody stain?
And then he saw altar priests cutting throats
and the violent contest of sacred police,
then the deep purpose of the Bible’s quotes:
to bring violence to an end with world’s peace.
The end of religion flashed before Thomas:
in faith and love alone the godly promise.
- John 20:24-31
- Luke 7:11-17
NBC News photo
There’s a special moment just before night
when grey turns brown, and ginger’s tinged red,
Forms appear like smoke against the twilight,
a side-on glimpse makes you turn your head.
In glory risen, Christ’s evanescing web,
Our sightings tangential, our love inept,
His presence felt at muted tides’ low ebb;
The Emmaus blessing gently breathed as stepped.
The bread is broken, space between fingers,
The almost presence vanishes to nil,
What cannot be. Possibility lingers…
The endless love of the universe to fill.
Light wrapped in fire and fire in rising light,
So delicately from the tomb alight.
À la brunante (Twilight), André Perrault (Galerie Guylaine Fournier, Québec, Canada)
The cloth which yesterday so reverently kept
our Lord’s head, is today lying by itself;
the shroud appears like the bed where he has slept,
pillow face cloth arranged on the rock shelf.
The tomb is ordered, the Paschal setting
is not a wild off-planet getaway:
the presence who has folded the netting
has artfully followed the Passion Play.
Easter’s presence/absence on limestone set
covered in the linen weave of white cloth,
powerful mystery in quietest calm yet:
Life bursts from silent Yahweh Sabaoth.
The folded cloth, the ordered tomb resound.
The living Jesus in measured singing found.
Image: Yale University (Brahms: Capriccio)
They’re rolling bodies from the soiled airplane,
they’ll hose the cargo hold when all are gone.
Did they cry ‘Our Father’ before were slain
not by the sea but by all who looked on?
Truth: so hard to hear that we dismiss it.
With Pontius, hands are washed in hypocrisy.
Not us, in crimes in our name complicit,
We choose systemic evil not to see.
We leave to Jesus burden of the cost,
to carry the pain, to accept the blame.
We roll him out and dump him with the lost:
For this he was born, and for this he came.
Look on, he becomes our mocking mass song.
Onlookers, felons – we compose the throng.
- Lamentations 3:63
- John 18:37
- Ted Witham, Good Friday 2017
Sonnet for Palm Sunday
Hey, Donny, why did you hit sayyeed Assad?
It’s true, he did a smelly piss in his sand;
but now you’ve deployed your savage trump card,
do you think he will just do what you demand?
You hit him and why will he be gentle?
You hit him and he may stop and reflect;
Then plan renewed violence incremental,
And let his vengeful anger flow unchecked.
In one brutal act of reciprocation,
He will throw all his foul power against you and yours,
Only one possible direction – escalation,
Settling in one blow years of niggling scores.
Lord, your people with their targeting hate,
what can we work out before it’s too late?
Anti-war March, Melbourne, 1970. Image: Australian War Museum
They lie as they fell in the heat of battle,
bones and dried gore and hate’s bloody shame.
Now noise overwhelms like a machine-gun rattle,
A whisper above breathes our God’s veiled name.
They find their own body part, who knows how,
and sinews join them and swaddles with skin,
the quiet wind above whispers its vow,
and new life covers the earlier sin.
Evil army they were before they were killed,
Now they arise a non-violent array,
God’s Dominion of love is theirs to rebuild,
Fruits of kindness and joy now on display.
Across our bony fractures the breath quivers,
Today Christ’s glory in now-loved limbs shivers.
- Ezekiel 37:1-14
- Romans 8:6-11
- Lent V (Year A)
Ted Witham 2017
Photo courtesy King’s College, Cambridge
Bush church of my childhood: wait server and priest
In vestry small with vestment-chest of oak,
White robes laid out immaculately creased,
Christ’s purity, and his mother’s, evoke.
The albs are bordered in fine crafted lace,
Stole and chasuble crisply ironed arraying,
Emptied of sound, in silence of place
The server hears his predecessors praying.
Inside the small church a reed organ’s sound,
On, into the sanctuary the server leads on,
He bashful bows deep then processes round,
He offers water and wine: the Dreaming’s white swan.
My mother and grandma with pride are stilled;
They watch from the pews the now and the willed.
- Malachi 3:1-4,
- Psalm 84,
- Luke 2:22-40
In Native American stories, Dragonfly persuades the Swan to surrender to the power of the river so that she can, in a state of grace, be taken into the future. (http://www.swansongs.org/who-we-are/swan-mythology/)