Nails

There were three

To be killed

That day.

Two were thieves,

Strong young men,

Their lives to be wasted

For their crime.

They wailed,

Writhed, sobbed,

Flailing away

Their final moments

Of movement.

It took four soldiers

To hold them

To their crosses

As the hammering began,

The sturdy masonry nails

Driven

Through resistant flesh,

Through inhuman screams,

To their wooden homes.

 

The third man

Was a prophet,

So they say,

A Messiah even,

Yet he did not

Call on God

To intercede,

To save him

From this pitiable end,

This traitor’s death.

He undressed quietly,

Lay down, sad-eyed,

On his recumbent cross,

Only recoiling

As his flogged back

Met rough, hastily cut wood.

 

He was mine to nail.

I chose the sharpest points,

Placed them with care,

Feeling somehow

His courage deserved reward.

Against habit, training,

Professional detachment,

I looked at him,

Met his dark eyes,

Fear-filled yet calm,

Saw his slightest nod.

I took a breath,

My mallet rose

And fell.

He gasped,

Flinched,

Then held himself

Still

As my hammer-blows

Pinned him

To his death.

 

Slowly the three crosses,

Their agonised burdens,

Were levered

Upright,

Away from cool earth

Into the baking, glaring day.

The preacher,

Pale beneath his tan,

Forced words

From his suffocation:

“Father, forgive them,

They know not

What they do.”

And I, stern soldier,

Practised executioner,

Turned away

And wept.

 

SIA 9 iv 2014

 

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Death Watch

The days lengthen.

The walk through Lent deepens.

Does it not seem sometimes as though this will never end?

Not like that other purple season. The days of Advent are filled with being busy and frantic; dashing around, making preparations, thinking secretly that a couple of extra days before Christmas would be no bad thing. It is no coincidence that the months of pregnancy are filled with being busy and frantic; dashing around, making preparations, and realizing in the last few weeks before the due date that the relationship between hours in the day and length of a to-do list are perhaps not as elastic as one might fantasize.

They are purple seasons, but that does not make them the same thing.

They are opposites. Bookends. The bookends that mark the beginning and the end of life.

The days of Lent are a bit barren. It’s a grim time, a difficult time, a time when our vulnerabilities are stripped bare and we have what seems like an uncomfortably long time to meditate and regret and wish that we might have done things differently. Perhaps we feel a bit guilty, as the season stretches on with what seems like no end in sight, for sneaking a look at our watches. Is it not Holy Week yet?

And when Holy Week comes, I will sit for hours on a cold tile floor keeping watch over a garden. The things I feel on that night are a microcosm of all the meditations and regrets and wishes that Lent stirs up in me. But, still, I will sneak a look at my watch. Isn’t it midnight yet?

No wonder He almost lost his nerve.

If they’re going to come, can’t they just get on with it?

 It feels interminable because we sit by a death bed. We wait for the end, knowing that, when it comes, the one who we love and by whom we have been loved will die. We wait for the awfulest of Fridays. And it is awful because we know that we will never be able to do anything to stop it.

In my professional life, I see more death than most people. In my personal life, I’m no stranger to it. I’ve seen deaths that have come quickly and unexpectedly, but more often what I’ve seen is the kind of death that has come after days or weeks. The deaths that are anticipated if not really expected. And for people who are waiting for death and the people who wait with them, it is grim and it feels oppressive and the days are too long but not long enough and there is far far too much time to think about the things that we might have done differently.

This is Lent.

We are there with Him in a desert, grim in its emptiness and oppressive in its vastness, knowing and yet refusing to know what waits for us when we leave.

There is no end in sight.

But even as we sneak glimpses of the slow-moving second hand, what we really want is for the end never to come.

Stay by His side. Keep watch. Keep alert. Keep loving Him.

The end is where we start from.

 

Life and death.

I was reading in church this morning and these readings were a welcome help for me. I talked at the start of Lent that it would be different for me this year, not so much giving something up. Romans has always been a great help to me, I’ve started to appreciate Paul’s writing recently, some may differ. I was looking up the readings online when I was in Uni during the week and didn’t have my Bible and I came across this site with a reflection about each of the passages.

He says what I see in the passages a lot better than I ever could.

Comments by Rev. John Shearman

Summary:
ROMANS 8:6-11
Paul discusses two levels of existence: The
physical which will end when our physical resources are exhausted; and the
spiritual level with the ongoing assurance of life beyond death. Life
focused only in this world is the way to the death that is ultimately
separation from God. The spirit filled life is full of energy and intimacy
with God now and forever.
In depth:
ROMANS 8:6-11 Paul discusses two levels of existence or two principles of
life: the physical which will end when our physical resources are
exhausted; and the spiritual with the ongoing assurance of eternal life.
It is difficult for us who have a relatively comfortable existence with
moderately effective support systems to contemplate exactly what Paul meant
by this contrast. We find it all to easy “to set our minds on the flesh”
and leave whatever lies beyond to theological argument.
In many respects, Paul may have been recalling the two ways of life the
Deuteronomists had set before Israel: the way of life and the way of death.
But the Deuteronomists emphasized obedience to the law of the covenant as
the means of assuring the Israelites a life of security in the land
promised to their patriarchal ancestors forever (Deut. 30:19-20). It is
here that Paul differed with his ancestral tradition. He had a totally
different scenario in mind. Life focussed only on this world and on
satisfying one’s natural impulses is the way to the death that is
ultimately separation from God. This is the end for those who “set their
minds on the flesh.”
Paul wrote after the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost, when the Spirit
the prophet Joel promised would come “in the last days” had actually been
“poured out” on the Christian community. As he says in vs. 9, “the Spirit
of God dwells in you.” For him, the Spirit-filled life is full of energy
and intimacy with God now and forever.
Thus Paul was not dreaming of an other-worldly existence “in the sky by and
by.” He knew full well that every human life must be lived in the real
world. It was the kind of life one lives that is so important to him.
This is nothing short of the life of Christ in us made real and effective
by the work of the Spirit (vs. 10-11).
Equally important in Paul’s thinking is the empowering action of God,
Christ and the Spirit in the life of the ordinary Christian. Nowhere in
the NT is the activity of what the church subsequently defined as the three
Persons of the Trinity more clearly expressed. In this passage the three
are virtually interchangeable. Paul goes so far as to use the two phrases
“the Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ” in successive sentences. He
had fully comprehended the truth that God acted in Jesus Christ, not only
throughout Jesus’ human life and ministry, but especially in raising Jesus
from the dead to be the living Christ present to all believers through the
Spirit actively changing our lives here and now (vs. 11).