Tag Archives: Old Testament

My Jacob

Empathy here, at the genesis, a garment
worn to wrestle. The hip bone
wrenched at dawn. A new name
for one at the end of himself. Stones
ground under heels overnight. He won’t go,

that heel-grabber, he wants a full-face
blessing. Under his torn garment,
throbbing with honest pain, his hip bone
is ID’d by my thumbprint. My name:
he knows it. He left it with the stones,

that time he gave my house my name,
rested his head and dream-laddered to me on pillow-stones.
So I won’t go,
and he’ll see the lines of kindness that write my face.
And I’ll feel the pain shouldered under his garment,

thumb-pressed into memories of when he had to go,
flee a father who could not see his face,
the hairs barely plucked free of his garment.
He knows the throbbing truth, has picked it from the bone:
his brother was right when he spat the heel-grabber name.

And yet. He grabs the other truth while we grind stones:
I want to make room for him, to let him go
with a memory of my face.
He will get a chance to replace this garment,
the one holy-torn to our contention’s bone.

Fast backward and forward to other bruised bone:
His own father with sticks carried on boy-shoulders, carried in the name
of a ram-surprised sacrifice. Then, those stones
that cried at the sight of battered shoulders, cross-ready to go.
You will cry, too, at my thorn-pressed, pain-readable face.

At the dawn there I am, and you have a new name.
When your pillows are stones, your dreams wrestle with bruised bone,
remember your holy-torn garment, read my love-legible face.

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Esther

Maybe for a

time such as this? When
cousins / fathers stand at gates, and
I’m not sure whether I
won / lost / drew that
beauty contest and / or the
Makerlove, covenanted through history, but

Maybe not for a

time such as this? When
cousins / fathers change minds, and
I’m not sure whether I
am / am not / am becoming, the
braver of sceptres for that unspoken / spoken
Kinlove, exiled into history, and

Maybe not around for a much longer

time than this? Resolve, then,
tendrils every word. Hebrew letters
curve into destiny. My scribe hushes mention of the
Consonant One, but herenow,
providential friends, we can
grab some vowels and toddle into the
Yahweh Godfire.

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A song about a kiss

The Bible, it’s a book. It’s a book full of different books, that all fit together into one story. The story of how God loves us, and how God rescues us.

And …you may not know, the Bible is a book that’s full of songs. We have, in the Bible, the book of Psalms. The Psalms are songs. They were sung, long ago, by God’s people. Many of these songs were sung in desperate times, when the people were being captured, enslaved, torn from their homes and sent to distant lands. Many of the songs speak of a deep longing for God’s King to arrive, finally, and put things right.

Today, I would like you to remember one of these old old songs. It’s song about a kiss:

I will listen to what God the Lord will say;
he promises peace to his people, his saints-
but let them not return to foolishness.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Love and Faithfulness meet together;
Right Living and Peace kiss each other.

(Psalm 85:8-10)

God’s people, so long ago, were longing for this kiss to happen. They wanted to see God reach into history and rescue them with a huge kiss. And then they would live forever in a kingdom of right living and peace.

And it happened. We know this from the Bible. Right Living and Peace kissed each other. God rescued his people.

How did it happen? When did it happen?

God loves us so much he sent his son Jesus to earth to be our King. Jesus lived the right way, the perfect way. He obeyed God by getting killed, getting punished so that we would not need to be punished. We can’t live a perfect life. Jesus came to earth to live it for us. So Jesus is our Right Living King.

And Jesus is our King of Peace. His Kingdom of Peace is unfolding every day. We can’t always see it…Life is hard, there is hurt, pain and conflict in our lives and in our friends’ and families’ lives. But through Jesus we can be part of God’s family. Jesus is going to return to earth one day, and all of God’s family will be able to live in perfect peace and happiness under his rule. There will be heaven on earth for God’s people, forever.

So, as you’re walking through the shops and you hear Christmas carols, you can remember that they are songs that celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Right Living King, and the King of Peace. Jesus’ birth is the reason we can sing and celebrate at Christmas, and keep on celebrating forever. Our King has arrived!

Madonna mit Kind (Albin Egger-Lienz, 1921)

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A prophet, not fallen from the sky

Rocks, rocks and rocks on the Sinai peninsular

We’ve been “doing” the Exodus story at church. Actually, we haven’t got to the exodus bit of Exodus yet. But oh, the backstory! It’s a bit tantalising, really. Moses lives through so many lifetimes before he even gets to the burning bush. And when he arrives at the burning bush, who is he? Is he a solemn, chesty type with a can-do attitude? Heroic and muscular, able to heft stone tablets and run down mountains with ease? Maybe that’s how he ends up. But when he stumbles across a well in the middle of the desert and into into Zipporah’s life, I am thinking that he is probably scrawny, desperate and lost. And when he removes his sandals before the burning bush, he seems reluctant to leave his obscure shepherd life- even when it is God who is calling him to do so.

Anyway, there is lots that I am still curious about… Lots of living between the words of Exodus chapter 2 that Moses didn’t hand down to us as part of the official Exodus story. Maybe I will get a chance to do some research on Moses after I arrive in heaven, even speak to the man himself. Who knows! Maybe someone there will be allowed to write the official prequel(s) to Exodus. There’ll be time, and probably interest.

In the meantime I’m releasing these little question balloons into the theological atmosphere. Let’s look at them as they float away, and wonder where they will end up…

Moses Afloat – The Early Years
Moses’ mother and sister loom large in the early years. What was Moses’ father doing and thinking during this time? Did he know about his wife and the papyrus basket? Did he agree with this Nile plan of action for his son?

How long did Moses’ birth mother look after him? Was it long enough for her to impart to him the story of his rescue? If so, how did Moses feel about being let loose on a big river in a small basket? How did he feel about being a survivor amongst Hebrew boys? Did he feel, even as a child, that he had been set aside by his God or his people for a special role, perhaps a rescuer role?

Was Pharoah’s daughter a good “mother”? Did she let him eat at the table with other family members? Did she respect his Hebrew heritage? Did she like his Hebrew heritage? Was her rescue of Moses a quietly subversive act in the court of Pharaoh?

Fight and Flight
Moses is “grown up” – has he been given any role in Pharaoh’s court, or is he being pushed to the fringes of royal life? When he goes to watch the Hebrews at work, is he already thinking of defecting to their side?

Does Moses know the Hebrews are being oppressed before he goes to watch them? Has he ever witnessed violence before? Does his anger at the beating of a Hebrew by an Egyptian take him by surprise? What angers him most: Egyptian oppression of the Hebrews, or Hebrew-Hebrew conflict? Does the latter shatter an idealised view of working-class Hebrews, held as a counterpoint to his privileged Egyptian upbringing?

Does Moses want to be the leader and judge of the Hebrews at this time? If he wasn’t forced to flee after the murder, would he have tried to integrate himself back into Hebrew society?

Sheep and Romance at the Well
What kind of priest was Moses’ future father-in-law? Did he know about the covenant God made with Abraham? Did he think his family were covenant people?

What made the girls at the well identify Moses as an Egyptian? Did he have an accent, clothes or or a “look”? Did they see him as a hero, or as a crazed loner, perhaps capable of violence?

Was Moses famous- did his new family know some of his story already? Did his father-in-law suspect who he was from the beginning? Did the family regret their welcome (and perhaps the offer of marriage) after finding out Moses was a murderer?

Did Moses find his shepherd life too lonely and quiet, or was it a relief? Did he actually like being “an alien in a foreign land”? Perhaps this was better than feeling like an alien in the land you grew up in; and/or feeling like an alien amongst your own people?

What is Moses thinking as he tends sheep and looks at rock, rocks and rocks? Is he hoping to anchor his life in comfortable obscurity, or is he plotting some form of “return”?

***
It’s just as well that bush starts burning.

Praise God for rescuing, calling and forming such a great prophet.

Moses- himself allowed to help rescue, call and form a people who belonged to God.

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt- to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no-one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
Deuteronomy 34:10-12

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River of psalms

1986_vertige_des_reflets

Each psalm a drop into the river
The river-
Narrowing, narrowing
Until the best and final drop
reaches the sea.

So many thoughts
Floating, ready for us
To scoop up, wonder over.

Where does that current take us?
Maybe it’s best to jump in?
Swim in history
Swim toward history.

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Notes for a water poem

Some background research-
Prudent before jumping into the choppy waters
Of a water poem.

Noah told stories about pigs, scorpions,
Confined spaces, cubits and feeding time.
But the water has receded from his mind
He has his own grand design to complete now
And a lot of wood to recycle.

I waited for Moses and reviewed my notes:
Nile floater, sea divider.
They said he was on his way, just round the corner
Night fell, I couldn’t read my notes
A no-show.

Jonah- I expected a trembling, sarcastic man
But not the ocean’s calm, disturbed only by nose and cheekbones.
That fish, it took me as far away
From the temple, as I could ever go
That fish, it spewed me right onto the forecourt
Me and my prayers, neatly packed
Ready to go
I’ve gone. There’s so much happiness
In knowing your story has an end.

I cast the net, pulled it up
I’m still putting the words together.
Somebody let me know when I’m done.

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Ruth

Naomi, your family came to Moab
You were hungry-
But were you also excited, exhilarated?
You had snuck out from under God’s blanket during
Israel’s night- so many judges, so few law keepers.

The hunger went away with your first Moabite harvest
But what had you really reaped?
Not excitement or exhilaration-
Gone, pitched away into the air,
Far from the graves of father and sons.

And me, I am not sure who I am
I was once a daughter, a wife
What am I now? A daughter- in- law?
I am foreign to myself, perhaps to others.
I am not sure where I should be
But I can’t rest here
I’ll take your slipstream, Naomi, to Bethlehem
And I’ll wonder all the way-
Am I going home, or into exile?

Naomi, you and I were a tiny knot,
Pulled tight, tighter
At the point where loss and bitterness meet.
Now we are beautifully undone,
Hope stretches out
And is rolled back into a ball of
Family, close family.
Thank you Boaz.

Boaz, you know the letter of the law,
And you’ve filed it away, carefully.
You know all the regulations
You’re the CEO of a kind harvest
A harvest certifiably kind to widows and their mothers.

I know it was more than Naomi’s slipstream
That drew me here.
Sometimes I dream that I am still making my way
Somewhere on the way to Bethlehem
Wondering whether I should start searching for memories-
Of my parents, of Orpah, of the husband of my youth.
There are no signposts here, in my dream
And each time I think- next time I’m here
I’ll plant a signpost, because I know
Others will make this trip too.

There is always the donkey at my side,
Nudging me home
And then there is always the cry of a baby
My baby, waking me
Ready to be fed.

Image

Painting is “Ruth Gleaning” (James Tissot, 1896)

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