A Psalm of Petition (a poem)

What I’m asking, the thing I seek,

Is that you’d pitch a tent in my wilderness, please.

Not the solid, brooding stone of Elijah’s cave.

Not the haunting bird calls and thundering waterfalls

Of David’s wild places.

A space, a pause,

Just a tent.

And not the wilderness of solitude and temptation,

But the one in the midst of the brood of children

Demanding water and quail and peanut butter sandwiches.

That wilderness.

A fragile, fabric flap, which lets in the sounds

Of laughter and tears and questions

But is somehow strong enough to shield the peace.

Not high up, on some mighty, manly temple mount,

But here in my kitchen, or possibly the laundry room.

I want to know if you will make a table for me in the presence of–

If not my enemies, then at least my own children–

If my prayers for parking places, snotty noses

lost toys, lost patience

Are still precious.

If you will still meet me,

still make my face glow.

I want to know

If the apron flung over my head

Can become a tabernacle.

Muck is still muck no matter who sits in it with you (Advent wk2)

So, this week I’m going to be reflecting on the incarnation–the-God-coming-to-earth,  God-with-us part of Christmas. But before I get poetic about baby Jesus’ cute fingers, and how amazing it is that God himself would condescend to dwell with us, I’m going to say what it’s not. The incarnation is not just about God experiencing burps and sleepiness. It’s about God becoming human so that he could die (and rise) so that he could put death to death once and for all. Because if Jesus came and lived among us, but he’s just an inspiration for rich white kids to go move into squatter camps and “be one” with “the people”, or for rich people to gentrify blocks of the inner city, or for missionaries to learn new cultures– then it’s not enough. The world is too dark, too broken, to hugely broken beyond any hope of fixing for that version of the incarnation.

We do need a Jesus who understands us. We need a Jesus who sets us the example of selfless service. We need a Jesus who reminds us that the created world is good. These things are true. But we also need a Jesus to do for us what we could never do for ourselves: to live a perfect life, to die a death in our place, and to thereby put death to death. We don’t need a Jesus who just sits with us in our pain, we need a Jesus who fixes things, who makes a way to end all pain.

It is comforting to know that Jesus is with me when the world is dark. But it is much more comforting to know that one day the darkness will completely vanish in the blazing light of his presence.

One of those big complaints people have against God is: if God is good, why is there suffering? There’s two ways to answer this– one is to say that humans have free will, this is a fallen world, and as a result there is suffering, but it is logically sound to still believe in God anyway. The other response is to say something about how Jesus suffered, too, and he understands us and is with us in our suffering. But let’s not forget to also say: Jesus didn’t suffer needlessly. He suffered to end all suffering once and for all.

Without that perspective, you end up with poems like this one:

Sometimes I want to break up with You.

Not like, get divorced or anything

I’m not having an affair with atheism or anything,

Just like… I need some space.

I get sick and tired of apologizing for you

sorry about your dead puppy isn’t too bad,

but

sorry about that whole half a country dying in pools of their own blood and vomit thing,

sorry about little girls being raped,

sorry about being born in that country in the middle east that doesn’t exist anymore.

(Whoopsie). Those apologies don’t quite cut it. I think I’m becoming codependent.

You could blame me for this mess,

You always try to

but let’s be honest—I couldn’t stop Ebola, and you could.

You’ve got the power buddy, don’t blame this on me,

or humanity.

Great power, great responsibility and all that jazz

if you’ve got the power you better use it.

Or let’s all just drink red Koolaid and sit on clouds with harps

because it pretty much sucks down here.

And so what if You came down here

to sit and suffer and muck through our muck

to get lice, and have friends die, and see children crippled and starving?

Great. You know what it’s like.

Oh, you’re going to hold my hand in this now, too, huh?

That’s sweet. Move on over you guys,

let’s all sit in this muck together

and sing some Kumbaya.

Except that crap is still crap no matter who is sitting in it with you.

But thankfully Jesus didn’t come just to sit in the muck with us. He came to change the whole system from the inside out, to make us new creations, to start the restoration of all things. One of my favorite verses about the incarnation is Hebrews 2; 14-15.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

(I’m away at teens camp this week, but I’ll still try to do my “daily” advent reflection via email. If anyone new is interested, shoot me an email at steph.ebert17(at)gmail(dot)com to get on the list!)

A Poem: Maestro

This is a poem. Because it’s broken up into funny lines, I can call it a poem. I didn’t try hard enough for it to be an actual poem. Maybe one day when I have time I will make it a real poem. But it is based on a common occurrence at the main intersection of the town where I live. 

 

Maestro

 

Ah, the robot is out again, you say

And you grumble, and tap your fingers on the wheel

and check your watch

and mutter about the government, and service delivery, and Eskom

to your empty car. 

 

But look up, my friend, look up, you’re missing it!

There he stands, the arc of his arms ready to pounce

on the down beat,

 then up on the up–

his flapping newspapers abandoned at his feet,

his fingers splayed out wide

stopping traffic with one hand, 

with the other setting free a cascade of cars—

now the Honda can right turn,

BMW, wait quietly a moment longer,

And…NOW! 

Enter the string of minivans,

Hear the rumble of the engines, 

Smell the exhaust, and the sun, and the bright morning air– 

 

Ah, it’s a good day to be alive!

and to watch him twirl and turn,

to orchestrate order with such flourishes

and a flash of smile, like it’s easy. 

 

You, with your boring nine-to-five job

in an air-conditioned office with twenty-seven urgent emails,

haven’t you ever thought what joy is there 

for the newspaper man when the robot is out?