LENT Poems 2021

THE FLOWING TIDE

Abbey-st-side

This story is now well known. Way back around 1993 I was leaving my office on Lower Abbey Street in Dublin. My office was at the back of the Ormond Quay & Scots Church and on a Tuesday they hired out the hall for keep fit. Paddy did the door.

As my mate Chris Fry and I were heading out for lunch Paddy says to us, “Away into the flowing tide lads…” We laughed and thought how poetic and almost missional Paddy’s phrase was. Good for Paddy we thought! I immediately thought poem and Chris thought song! Out onto O'Connell Street. The flowing tide of the city… brilliant!

Later in the week Chris and I found ourselves in a car, travelling somewhere, and we started talking about how The Flowing Tide poem and song were coming along. I think it was Brian Colvin who leaned over and said, “You know that that is the pub across the road from your office!” We all started laughing. Paddy wasn’t being as poetic as we all thought. He just thought we were off to the pub! 

That The Flowing Tide is a pub, and indeed popular for the audiences of the famous Abbey Theatre across the road, is almost more perfect for how I used the phrase. I was pondering at the time the way that the Church was no longer in the places Jesus had called us to.

I was thinking that we cannot blame the dark for being dark. That is to be expected. We can blame the light for not shining though. Jesus did say we were the light of the world… and I remembered where he died... which is where we should be, should we not!

 

I see the dark

But where is the light

Shining in the day

Away from the night

I hear the sick

But where are the well

Too close to heaven

And too far from hell

We've got to climb out of these trenches

Where we sit in comfort and condemn

We are not called to be their judge

We were called to go and love them

There where evil fights the good

There where no one believes

There where the city gambles

There among the thieves

There where innocent blood is spilled

There where love violently dies

Out there where the world is changed

In the flowing tide.

 

I hear the cries

But where is the shoulder

Warming the heat

As the cold is getting colder

I see the lonely

But where is the love

Too busy to care

With those who have enough

We must grab apathy by the throat

Shove respectable against the wall

Open our doors to a wounded world

Hear their broken hearts call

There where evil fights the good

There where no one believes

There where the city gambles

There among the thieves

There where innocent blood is spilled

There where love violently dies

Out there where the world is changed

In the flowing tide.


LENT 2021 - COVID ADDS MORE POTENCY

Janice and I with ASH

Lent can be a little directionless. Maybe I am just speaking as a Northern Irish Presbyterian. We are not taught in the art of Lent. It seems to be all about giving things up. A chocolate/chips/alcohol fast for 6 weeks. It can end up as little other more than a New Year’s resolution. Perhaps I’ll lose a little weight but is that the point?

Lent should have more of a spiritual intention. Leonard Cohen sang the words of poet F.R. Scott:

 

“From bitter searching of the heart,
Quickened with passion and with pain
We rise to play a greater part. 

 

A searching of the heart. The Psalmist puts it well at the end of Psalm 139: -

 

“Search me, God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.”

 

Now this seems more like it. A time of reflection and soul critique. Yet, not only a looking in but also a looking forward to the changes the searching should bring.

For me Lent has much more potency in this particular year. These strange times give a near perfect context for some serious Lenten practice.

Here are six weeks to look back at the “old normal” tossing it up in some winnowing and seeing what chaff is blown away by the Holy Spirit and what valuable grain falls back into the fan basket of eternal value. That will help us to begin to shape what might be called “the new different”.

I remembering as far back as last April interviewing Deacon Blue’s lead singer Ricky Ross for my blog. I was asking about how the lockdown impacted his work and life. After telling me about the work that was on hold he went on, “what we are experiencing changes everything. It changes what we thought was desirable and what we deemed as necessary. It changes our expectations of life and the degrees in which we find satisfaction.”

We have had longer to ponder the “old normal” than we thought. I fear that we might lazily find ourselves out the other end and have nothing nearly as exciting as the “new different” might be. Let us not just shine up the old tack but rebirth an entirely new way to live.

So let me invite us all to take Lent 2021 seriously. There are so many passages in the Scriptures that can help us unravel this great possibility. Most of Jesus teaching can speak directly into this very time. Jesus was asking the same questions of First Century Galilee and Jerusalem. 

The focus of Jesus teaching was our desires and ambitions. The things we put our life energies into. The goal of Jesus teaching was that we would fin ultimate soul satisfaction and find the deep secret of living as human beings.

So, I am giving up the chocolate and the dessert. I pray that makes me physically more healthy for a binge of Easter Eggs on Resurrection Sunday!!! However, my real yearning is to be spiritually healthier. So let us get down to challenging all the values of the “old normal” and create something so much more spiritually fulfilling and therefore socially valuable in the “new different”.


TO THE MARROW OF MY SOUL

Ps 139

Search me oh God

Down to the very marrow of my soul

Take every selfish part of me away

That would stop me from being whole

Help me peer inside my prejudice

To judge the incentive of all my actions

Make kind the reflexes of my heart

And gentle the strength of my reactions

Help me squint at every weakness

That comes from family and neighbourhood

To smash the idols of sectarianism

And create shalom for everybody's good

So, search me oh God

Down to the very marrow of my soul

Take every selfish part of me away

That would stop me from being whole

And when I’ve let you search oh God

Believing to be in Your Spirit’s collusion

Let me look just one more time

For any remnants of my own delusion.