The Garden of Creation, now lost to one and all, replaced by forest thickets upon whose roots we fall; our destiny still governed by laws we always break and all creation stumbles over the mess we make. The fruit for which we lusted, upon that single tree, reminds us of our stubborn pride and failed humanity. The other Tree was kept from us lest we should live forever; expelled, we faced the mortal cost of our rebellious error. But while that sin stained everyone born to the world of men the love of God could not be dimmed and purposed, even then, to be the way for our return into his holy place, our restoration, full and free, by such a costly grace. Into our world he placed the seed: his Word, his Light, his Son and he, among us, lived and died - the hope for everyone. The Tree of Life was lifted up to bear the Lord of All as it became the wooden cross that broke our fateful Fall. And once again the Garden received that perfect Man and we began to understand the mystery of Love’s plan. The empty cross, the empty tomb, now relics of the fight: the darkness withers at the dawn of Resurrection Light.
My friend Jeff and I meet regularly (about every 2 weeks) in local cafes, Supermarket cafeterias etc. specifically to discuss our spiritual journeys over breakfast or some other meal, share creative work and pray. It has proved an interesting experience, not least the praying together bit in full public view. We haven’t had any reactions yet but there has been a definite thrill in doing something overtly which could be misconstrued or otherwise objected to. It has also given me, at least, a greater appreciation of the freedom which is currently ours to speak the name of Jesus and read the Bible outside of our churches and other Christian venues.
At our last get together we each shared a poem we’d written about Jesus’ Ascension. I share them here as examples of our diverse styles but also the joy in discovering more about each other’s faith and walk.
Jeff wrote his poem in 2009 after an Ascension Day Service but it begins with memories of his childhood introduction to Jesus life and ministry …
It was my sister’s clothbound, dog-eared life of Jesus
Picture book which drew my early wondering through
Everything from manger, Mount and miracles, to passion
Cross and gaping tomb. More vivid to me than catechism,
More colourful than the eccliastical year.
It was the final frame, especially, that held with something
More than poignancy. A kind of challenge to me.
So to the postage-stamp square of grass
That was our back garden, I took the book
And devoted myself to practising the Saviour’s look:
The lift of the head, raised eyes, but even more
It was all about getting the hands right –
The angle of the arm-bend at the elbow, the turn
Of the wrist, the opened palm and splay of fingers.
I worked religiously to recreate the experience.
It was, after all, the age of Gagarin
And of America’s busy-bee responses.
Anything could happen. Nothing would surprise.
And despite my labouring in vain, I don’t recall disappointment.
True, the strategy was not mastered;
I remained earthbound; but perhaps, in place,
It was granted me to dream with regularity
Of flight, accomplished casually with most enviable ease.
Tonight our service seems tame: I’d like
To take the congregation out into the church’s grounds
To practice angling arms and hands for an Ascension lift-off.
We could look up, and learn the ultimate anticipation
Of emulating Christ the cosmonaut; I suspect we’d also learn
Most concretely, that like this crowd in the picture
Awed around the cloud of his upward propulsion,
We too are the ones who have to stick around.
(c) 2009 Jeff Hankins
Neither of us had seen each other’s poem before we wrote them but there are interesting similarities despite their very different design and language …
This Strange Gravity:
Here, we stand; rooted and
grounded by this strange gravity;
limited by our eye-level perspective;
weighed down by failure and falling;
distrustful of what we cannot see.
“He is risen!” And yet we still
focus on the empty tomb,
the memories of the garden and
the road to Emmaus (though our
communion often lacks such revelation).
Where is the life you promised?
Where is the quality, the essence?
We caught a glimpse of your blood-less body
but we need more than resurrection theory;
we desire a bigger life; better than the best.
you shook the foundations
of our tradition and faith.
you break the ceiling of
our low imagination
with such a weight of glory
and, through the gift of
that holy sprinkling,
you root us and ground us in
… and we are free to fly!
© 2017 Graham Oakes
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