Archive for the month “March, 2013”

Easter Morn at the Cemetery

Ten acres of refrigerated rural soil,
Thickly frosted in Easter’s pre-dawn;
Subterranean saints, quilted in earth,
Smile warmly at the band of believers,
Huddled above to catcall verses of victory,
Into the mocking mien of chiseled stones;
The rocky trophies of mortality’s coup,
North, south, west, and east of Eden.

Wizened hags, pimpled teens, snotty-nosed kids,
All dust to dust, prey of the funereal broom,
Swept beneath this rug of grass and weeds.
Most forgotten by man, yet all remembered,
By him whose lungs breathed mud into man;
Each fruit of a womb, the apple of his eye.
Each soul, a priceless pearl, purchased
With crimson coinage minted in divinity’s veins.

These wooden suitcases of rotting raiment,
Sepulchered beneath the worshipers’ feet,
Travel on, transported by time not space,
From the hour of death to the day of judgment,
Ever ready to spill their contents upward,
No longer as bags of bones and soiled flesh,
But resculptured clay pulsating with life;
Lazaruses wiping graveyard dust from their feet.

Like champagne corks, grave-stones shall pop,
As unbottled bodies after long fermentation,
Bubble upward with fresh blood and skin,
Ready for their vintage soul waiting above;
And joined by that ragtag band of believers,
Who awoke early to go to the place of sleepers,
Defying death and mocking mortality,
Early one Easter morn.

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This Is the Night: An Easter Vigil Sermon

This is the night when the earth is without form, and void; and darkness is over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moves upon the face of the waters. Then God says, “Let there be light,” and there is light. The seal of the darkness is broken and the morning of the first creation breaks forth out of night. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that Thou didst create us to have someone upon whom to bestow Thy blessing; that Thou didst create light that in Thy light we may see light; that Thou most wonderfully created human nature and yet more wonderfully redeemed it.

This is the night when the earth is without form, and void; and darkness is over the face of the deep. And the Ark of Noah moves upon the face of the waters. And while all in whose nostrils was the breath of life died, we float safely in the Ark of Salvation, with the one whom his father named “Rest” as the captain of our vessel. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that as Thy wrath burned for the evil of men and Thou didst bring this deluge upon a wicked and perverse generation, Thou didst save eight souls; that likewise through this saving flood of Baptism all that has been in us from Adam and which we ourselves have added thereto, has been drowned in us and engulfed, and that sundered from the number of the unbelieving, we have been preserved dry and secure in the holy ark of Christendom.

This is the night when the earth is without form, and void; and darkness is over the face of Egypt. And the Angel of death moves upon the face of the firstborn. And while we, with loins girded, feet shod, and mouths full of the Passover Lamb stand quietly in our blood-painted homes, the Egyptians with loins burning, eyes weeping, and mouths full of shrieking stand wailing in their homes now painted with the blood of their firstborn sons. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that as the Angel of Death executed the firstborn of the Egyptians, He passed over our houses baptized in the blood of the Lamb; that Thou didst provide the Firstborn Son of heaven to be slaughtered in our place and we to be painted the color of divine innocence with hyssop dipped in the bloody font.

This is the night when the earth is formless and void; and darkness is over the face of Thy people. For Thou hast led us into the jaws of death, trapped between the waters of the Red Sea and the chariots of Egypt. But oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that Thou didst set Thy Son as a pillar of fire between the camp of the enemy and the camp of Thy Church; that Thou didst send Thy Spirit to move upon the face of the waters, to split them open, to tear the liquid veil in two, that we might walk through dry shod, from death to life, from slavery to freedom, while Pharaoh with all his host are drowned in the collapsing flood.

This is the night when the earth is formless and void; and the darkness of blood is over the face of Thy Son. And the Spirit of God moves out of His body as He gives up the Ghost. This is the day when it is night; when the Son of God is drowned in the Flood that rains down from the storm cloud of divine justice; when the Passover Lamb is skewered to the cross and roasted over damning flames; when the body of Israel’s Redeemer is sunk by the weight of your sins to the bottom of the Red Sea; and when the first creation comes to its omega on the evening of the 7th day, as the God-made-Man rests in the tomb from all His work which He has done – all for you.

These are the nights when you are spared, O sinner, so repent and believe. How holy are these nights when the Lord God of Israel acts to save you, calling light out of darkness, arks out of water, free men out of bondage, dry feet out of sea floors; calling His Son out of heaven, into the womb, onto the cross, down into the bloody dust – all to save you, His people Israel, to save you from yourselves, to save you from the hellish Pharaoh, to save you for His own Name’s sake.

But this is the night from when all those nights receive their light. For this is the night when Christ, the Life arose from the dead. The seal of the grave is broken and the morning of the new creation breaks forth out of night. This is the night when the Lord leads Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, David and Bathsheba, you and you and all of you out of the blackness of the tomb and into the brilliance of the 8th day sun. This is the night when we receive more from Jesus than we lost in Adam; when we are clothed in the skin of the Lamb of God; when death’s dread angel sheathes his sword to beckon us with open arms back into the Garden of heaven.

This is the night when night is buried under the soil of resurrection. God says, “Let there be light” and there is, and there is, and there always shall be, sunshine without end. Oh, how wonderful and beyond all telling is Thy mercy toward us, O God, that as Thou didst say, “Let light shine out of darkness,” even so Thou hast shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of Thy glory in the face of the resurrected Christ.

How wonderful and beyond all telling is this most holy night!

Uninjured Tongue: A Good Friday Poem

That head, which angels with ceaseless praise adorn,
Is pierced with crowded thorns.
That face, which our God with grace and beauty lit,
Is marred by sinners’ spit.
Those eyes, outshining the sun’s most piercing light,
Are dull as sable night.
Those ears, accustomed to praise from heaven’s host,
Must hear his haters boast.
That mouth, whose wisdom the wisest could enthrall,
Tastes vinegar and gall.
Those feet, whose footstool is this terrestrial sphere,
To bloody wood adhere.
Those hands, which stretched out the heavens like a tent,
By spikes in twain are rent.
That tongue, uninjured, shall cry from that cursed tree,
A prayer of love for me.

Based on “An Exercise of Repentance from our Lord’s Passion”
in the Sacred Meditations of Johann Gerhard.

If you like this poem, and would like to read more of my hymns and poetry, please consider purchasing my book, The Infant Priest: Hymns and Poems. Click on this link to read more about it: https://www.createspace.com/4494298

The Gestation of God Begins: A Poem for the Annunciation

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Inside a woman who had never known a man
He, the fount of all knowledge, is made man.
The very Word who made the Virgin’s womb
Silently makes that womb his nine month home.
He who exceeds the distance from east to west
Is encompassed by the body of a teenage girl.
The God whose greatness is beyond all measures
Is so small as to pass through the eye of a needle.
The Lord of lords, King of kings, and God of gods
Becomes the brother, friend, and savior of sinners.

Today being nine months before Christmas, the church celebrates the Annunciation of our Lord, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was the chosen mother of God.

We implore you, O Lord, to pour forth your grace on us that, as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ by the message of the angel, so by his cross and Passion we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever (Lutheran Worship, 107).

Our God Upon a Donkey Rides: A Poem for Palm Sunday

Our God upon a donkey rides,
His glory in our skin he hides,
Beneath his feet are garments strewn,
And branches from the trees are hewn.
A sweet reverse of Eden’s shame,
As unclad Adams laud his name.

“Fool Me Once….Fool Me Twice”

A Devotion for LINC San Antonio for the 5th Sunday in Lent
Text: Luke 20:9-20

”Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” So the saying goes. When someone tricks you, you’re supposed to learn your lesson the first time around. Those who fool you, trick you, fail you, are not to be trusted again. If they fool you twice, well, shame on you for giving them a second chance.

But the vineyard owner in the parable Jesus told, he evidently didn’t understand that old saying. Or, perhaps, he simply chose not to live by it. For not once, not twice, but three times his tenants fooled him. In fact, it was far worse than that. For not only did they cheat him out of his rent, they beat up the servants he sent to collect the money. The first time this happened, it should have been enough. He had ample evidence that these tenants were scoundrels and thieves, with a penchant for violence, so the standard course of action should have been to fight fire with fire. Bring in the authorities and let them deal with these criminals—deal with them violently, if push came to shove. But no, the owner sends a second servant, who, like the first guy, stumbles home empty-handed and fully bruised. And a third servant, whom they beat and battered and booted out of the vineyard. Three strikes, but they still weren’t out.

Any reasonable man, at this point, would never have dreamed of doing what the vineyard owner did next. He asks himself, “What shall I do?” But instead of answering, “I’ll kill them all!” or, “I’ll teach them a lesson they’ll never forget!”, he says instead, “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” Not only does he give them a fourth chance; he risks the very life of his son in doing so. There lay three of his servants, with blackened eyes and broken bones, scarred by cuts and abrasions, and he imagines things will go better for his son? Seriously? Does he not foresee the danger? But send that son he does. And, indeed, things do go badly, the ingratitude and greed and violence escalate from a PG to an R-rated horror. For when they see the son approaching, the tenants say to each other, “This is the heir. Let’s kill him, so the inheritance will be ours.” Instead of respect, there is rage; instead of payment, pulverizing. The beloved son becomes a bloodied corpse.

Finally, the vineyard owner has had enough. After risking the life of three of his servants, and losing the life of his beloved son, he gives the tenants what they deserve—judgment. He destroys them and gives the vineyard to others.

What is most astounding about this story is not the perversity of the tenants but the patience of the owner; not their evil, but his good. This parable, at its core, is a story about the heart of God—the God of second chances, and third chances, and, yes, fourth chances and even more. He is portrayed as a man of business, to be sure, but he does not act according to the ways of the world, for he is not a Lord of commerce but a Father of compassion.

For we are these tenants, these ungrateful, violent men. There is no blessing of God which we cannot twist into self-serving instruments that hasten our own destruction. Instead of a million uplifting, truthful words we could and should speak with our mouths, we choose a few hateful, demeaning words to tear down others. Instead of using our hands to help someone in need, we use them to grasp at more and more for ourselves, though we already have more than we know what to do with. God comes to us, looking for good, and finds evil. Indeed, he finds tenants who become angry and violent when he asks for even the bare minimum of decency and selflessness. Do you see that in yourself? Do you see how like the tenants in the parable you are?

But more importantly, do you see, do you grasp, just how incredible it is that God has not given up on you? He does not say, “Fool me twice, shame on me,” strip you of his blessings, and kick you out of his kingdom. No, instead, he affirms, “You are my child, foolish though you are, and I will never be ashamed of you.” If the world has given you up for lost and washed their hands of you; if your friends have written you off and turned their backs on you; if even your family has disowned and discarded you; yes, if every single person in this world regards you as a hopeless, embarrassing failure at life, the Father of all mercies does not. He will search you out, find you, embrace you, kiss you, and shout to all the earth, “This is my beloved son! This is my beautiful daughter! This is my child, my heir, the apple of my eye! With you I am well-pleased!”

Jesus is that beloved son in the parable, cast out of the vineyard. But he who was cast out brings you backs in, alive with him. He is not ashamed to call you brother, sister, a fellow heir of his kingdom. That is why he came. Not to die for the righteous but for those whose lives are full of one failure after another, for his is a love that never fails. He came to die not for the clean but for the dirty, for his blood washes away even the filthiest of stains embedded in your soul. He came to search out not those who come running to him, but those who have fled from God, who hide in the darkness of their doubt and unbelief, to find you no matter where you are, to give you hope in place of despair, faith instead of doubt.

The way of God is the way of forgiveness. He keeps no record of how many chances he’s given you. For in the end, it’s not about how many times you’ve messed up, but how constant, how unwavering, is the Father’s love for you in Jesus Christ.

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