Shape and Substance

meditations on faith and church

Month: March, 2015

In Medias Res

Palm Sunday, 2015

Luke 19:40


You who enter the city in the midst of things,

come to find a place to love and die,

though we are busy keeping feasts, keeping kosher

keeping our heads down, keeping a low profile

ducked behind stone walls of practiced custom

where no hope or change or grace can reach us.

You who come to upset our assumptions

take away the illusion that we are the center of things

that we can cushion the stumbling stones in our paths

with pretentious fronds and conceited cloaks

though we cry Save us, Save us

without acknowledging that we need saving.

You who come to tear down temples

overturn the tables of our sacred things

scatter the coinage of our sacerdotal commerce

release the doves we sacrifice to self deception

though we apprehend you without understanding

and install you in the harsher sanctuary of our stony hill.

You who dwell in the midst of things:

for a moment, for an instant, for a heartbeat

slow the processional of things

still the noise of things

until we hear the one thing whispered

in the silence of the stones.

Today He Lit a Candle

Sometimes a friend adds just the right touch. Thanks, Dana Hughes, for the new final line. 

Today he lit a candle and said a prayer

In the shadowed alcove of a sanctuary

the match he struck a phosphorescent globe

above a dozen votives in the tray,

wick sputtering, guttering as he lit it

and pensive blew the match out with a puff.

The passing of his breath across the candles

bestirred a breeze, and the dozen tiny blazes,

once steady, now wavered in its wake

turbulent, uncertain, as was his own

until they together straightened and anew

pursued the shadows with a more persistent light.

So do our anguished prayers unsettle others,

but everything that rises must converge.

Lament 2

February 2015


These lives of quiet anguish take their toll,

peer mirrored back beneath a furrowed brow

through eyes that wear the sorrow of the soul,

a tattered shawl. Our prayers are empty now.

How long, O Lord, how long?


We are but shadows on a shadowed wall,

indistinct, our lives play out in gray—

a gesture here, and there a muffled call—

and at the end have nothing more to say?

How long, O Lord, how long?


Around us burn the fires of other sins

bequeathed of other prides or hates or lusts.

Yet does not our quiescence held within

at last divide Dives from Lazarus?

How long, O Lord, how long?


Save us from our self-posed isolation,

save us who are in impotence imprisoned,

save us from our complicit resignation

to blinkered eyes that masquerade as vision.

How long, O Lord, how long?


Come your justice, Lord, poured out in deluge

and wash the dust of indolence away;

come your voice that shatters easy refuge

and speak the promised dawning into day.


Come your kingdom, Lord; we wait uncertain

whether we can bear indifference lost;

come your glory, Lord, and rend the curtain

we draw to block the sunlight of the cross.

How long, O Lord? Not long!