That Which We Have Heard & Known

Occasional thoughts of an Anglican Episcopal priest

Category: Poetry (page 2 of 10)

A Christmas Lamb Chop: Sermon for Christmas Eve 2016

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A homily offered by the Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2016, to the people of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, where Fr. Funston is rector.

(The lessons for the day are the second set of readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for Christmas in Year A: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; and St. Luke 2:1-20. These lessons can be read at The Lectionary Page.)

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lambchop1I was in the pet supply aisle at Giant Eagle several days ago getting food for the Archbishop (that’s our black cocker spaniel, Lord Dudley of Ballycraic, the Archbishop Canine of Montville) when I found, right in front of the Beneful which is his favorite meal, a bin filled with these: dog toys in the likeness of a lamb dressed for Christmas. And not just any lamb! This is Lamb Chop, the somewhat snarky puppet introduced to the world by the late Shari Lewis in 1957.

As many of you know, this is something I do every year for this Christmas Eve sermon . . . find something to be a sort of “focus object” or trigger for our Christmas Eve meditations. Lamb Chop just seemed perfectly suited. This Christmas toy suggested four poetic associations to me: one is the title given Jesus by John the Baptizer, “the Lamb of God;” a second was a familiar nursery rhyme; the third was a romantic English poem; and the fourth, a song that Lamb Chop sang on the Shari Lewis television show, all of which can help us explore and understand the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus.

So, the first thing that comes immediately to mind when we look at a lamb, whether Lamb Chop the puppet dressed up for Christmas or an actual lamb in the fields is the statement made by John the Baptizer in the Gospel of John: “[John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (Jn 1:29) That seems an odd way to refer to a grown man, which Jesus was at the time.

The 20th-century bible scholar Joachim Jeremias suggested that a way to understand John’s statement is that he probably used the Aramaic word talya. Jeremias says that “lamb” (amnos in the Greek in which the gospel is written) is a translation of this Aramaic word, which can also be translated “boy,” “child” or “servant.” When Jesus was described as the talya of God, Aramaic speakers of the earliest church would have heard “child” of God, or “son” of God, or “servant” of God, or “lamb” of God. When that gospel story was written after Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection, the image of the sacrificial lamb of the Hebrew tradition resonated with the author. (See America)

According to some widely accepted Christian theologies, the sacrifice of the cross is the very reason for which Jesus was born. I’m not entirely sure that’s the case; I suspect that God the Father would much rather have had Jesus followed than killed, but certainly God made use of Jesus’ Crucifixion and through it opened for us the way of salvation. In any event, some people think that the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb, the second thing called to mind by our Christmas Lamb Chop, is about Jesus’ birth as the sacrificial lamb of God. You know the one:

Mary had a little lamb,
a little lamb, a little lamb
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow.

It’s not really about the Virgin Mary and the birth of Jesus, however. It was written by Sarah Josepha Hale of Sterling, Massachusetts, in 1830, and is said to describe an actual event of a pet lamb visiting the local schoolhouse. (See Wikipedia) Nonetheless, we can learn something about our Christian faith by considering the lamb of that story.

The rhyme continues that the lamb followed Mary and “everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.” Although I don’t believe that the Son of God was born necessarily or primarily to be a sacrifice, I am sure he was born to be followed; I’m certain Christ came into Creation to teach us how to live life God’s Way. He is the Word given to us to lead us to salvation. The little lamb in the nursery rhyme trusted Mary and followed her, and that is what God wants us to do, to trust and follow the Son so that, with the Son, we may live the abundant life of the Kingdom of Heaven that God constantly offers us. This is what makes his birth so important to us and why we celebrate the Incarnation in our many special ways.

So, anyway, I picked up this Christmas Lamb Chop dog toy and the first thing I did was check to see where it was made. I’m very careful not to give the Archbishop, Lord Dudley, anything made overseas. (I’m sure you’ve heard about the toxins found in dog toys and treats made, for example, in China.) Doing so, I thought of another bit of lamb-inspired poetry, one by the English Romantic poet William Blake. You may know it; it is entitled simply The Lamb. It is, in essence, a question asked of a lamb by a child:

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Blake’s poem is a deceptively naive child’s song. Beginning with a descriptive, pastoral stanza, it moves quickly to focus on the abstract spiritual matter of Creation. The child’s guileless but profound question – “Who made thee?” – echoes the deep and timeless question that all human beings have about our origin. It reminds us of the opening lines of John’s Gospel with its abstract account of the Incarnation:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth
(Jn 1:1-3,14)

In Blake’s poem, this profound truth is presented with the naiveté of a child’s puzzle revealing the child’s confidence in a simple and innocent Christian faith. Our Christmas Lamb Chop reminds us that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Mk 10:15) Christmas is a time for us all to experience once again our childlike wonder at the simple beauty that is the Incarnation.

But our Christmas dog toy can trick us! We have to beware of oversimplifying the Incarnation. I read recently about “a Christmas display . . . at [a shopping] mall: giant plush bears robed as Mary and Joseph, beaming at a swaddled Baby Jesus bear in the manger.” Theologian Fredrica Mathewes-Green, who described this display, said of it,

If there was once grand mystery around the Incarnation, it has long since dispersed. Three jolly bears now convey everything we know or expect to know. It is a scene plump with stupidity. Jesus as a cookie. God as a pet. (Patheos)

This, she says, “is very bad news,” because “a circle of cuddly bears is useless at helping us deal with pain. It cannot help us grasp searing heartbreak.” Neither can a puppet, even a nice Christmas Lamb Chop puppet, but it can serve as a warning and a reminder!

Tracy Dugger, an Episcopal priest in Florida, has written about what she calls “meat puppet theology,”

. . . the idea that our bodies are machines simply being utilized and driven around by our minds. The mind/soul is the control, and the body is subservient. This way of thinking about the mind/body connection is wrong, and leads us into some pretty wrongheaded [ideas]. (The Young Anglican)

“The ultimate example of why bodies are important,” she says, is the simple fact that “JESUS HAD ONE! Jesus was Incarnate. Not only was Jesus, Son of God, begotten by the Holy Spirit, He was knit together in Mary’s womb. Jesus was a man of flesh and blood, as well as God from God, light from light.”

Mathewes-Green puts it this way:

God came down in a suit of skin and bones, and walked and talked and offended people, and finally they tortured him to death. And by that death he destroyed death; he rescued us and gave life everlasting and every other good thing. Into this universe crammed with pain we say that God came down, because he loves us with the kind of love that we can only understand by thinking of how a parent loves. (Patheos)

In an Advent meditation offered earlier this week, Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist reminded us that parental love and every act of kindness is an action of the body. He wrote: “The Spirit of God animates us, but it all happens in the flesh: every deed of kindness, every act of generosity, every word of encouragement happens in the flesh. Every embodiment of Christ’s grace or truth or love happens in the flesh – or it doesn’t happen.”

Tonight, tomorrow, as we celebrate the Word becoming flesh, we celebrate that bodily parental love . . . the love of mother and father tending their newborn child; the eternal love of the Father sending the Son to redeem us. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus to Mary, we celebrate also the truth we recite every Sunday (and this evening) in the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father . . .
(BCP 1979, Pg 358)

Jesus was born in Bethlehem once for all time; the Son of God is eternally begotten of the Father and both, as we say in the Creed, for our salvation.

lambchop2Which brings me to the fourth and last bit of poetry our Christmas Lamb Chop brought to mind, which is a song Lamb Chop and Shari Lewis taught their viewers during the 1992 season of the PBS show Lamb Chop’s Play-Along. Some of you may know the song and can sing along:

This is the song that doesn’t end
Yes, it goes on and on my friends
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue singing it
Forever just because . . .
(Repeat)

There is a contemporary Christmas carol by Canadian folksinger Bruce Cockburn entitled The Cry of a Tiny Babe which expresses the timelessness and eternality of Jesus’ birth in its refrain:

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe
(Cry of a Tiny Baby YouTube)

In the last book of the bible, St. John of Patmos recorded his many visions, the last of which was of the Lamb:

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. * * * Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. (Rev 21:22-26,22:3-5)

Our Christmas Lamb Chop reminds us that salvation is a song that doesn’t end, that “redemption rips through the surface of time,” and that our Christmas carols are but a faint echo of the multitude’s song of worship before the throne of the Lamb for ever and ever. Mary had a little lamb, the Lamb of God, the Word made flesh through Whom all things were made, Who came down for our salvation, and Whose song of redemption doesn’t end. Yes, it goes on and on, my friends.

Merry Christmas!

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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.

Complicated Joseph: Sermon for Advent 4 – 18 December 2016

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A homily offered by the Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2016, to the people of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, where Fr. Funston is rector.

(The lessons for the day are from the Revised Common Lectionary for Advent 4 in Year A: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7,16-18; Romans 1:1-7; and St. Matthew 1:18-25. These lessons can be read at The Lectionary Page.)

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angel-appears-to-joseph-in-a-dream1In these few verses, Matthew opens up for us the complexity of Joseph as a human being. He hints at, and we can imagine, Joseph’s distress, his sense of betrayal, his disappointment, and all the other emotions he must have experienced. We can imagine also the fear and hurt that Mary probably would have felt as she and her betrothed sorted out the complications caused by the divine intrusion into their relationship.

Unlike Luke’s pastorally pleasing story of the manger, the angels, and the shepherds, Matthew gives us a direct and simple story of Mary and Joseph as human beings, not characters frozen in a stained-glass window, but flesh and blood people, people like us dealing with a serious complication in their relationship. Thus, we can see ourselves to be people like them, people who live complex lives, who have all sorts of experiences, some of them quite detrimental, and yet whom God invites nevertheless to accomplish God’s purposes.

Poets have explored the complex humanity of Joseph and his possible reactions to the news given by the angel in his dream. For example, in Joseph’s Suspicion, Rainer Maria Rilke envisions Joseph arguing with the angel, forcefully refusing to believe even that Mary is pregnant, raising his fist to the angel defending Mary’s honor:

The angel spoke and patiently tried to
convince the man, who met him with clenched fists:
Can you not see that in every way
she is as cool as God’s first morning mist?

And yet the man looked at him glowering with
suspicion, murmuring: what has brought about her change?
But then the angel cried in anger: Carpenter!
Do you not yet perceive the hand of God’s own doing?

Because you handle wood and know your trade,
do you in arrogance call Him to task
who from the self-same wood you handle now
can make green leaves appear and swelling buds?

He understand. And as he raised his eyes;
now full of fear, to meet the angel’s face,
he was gone. Slowly Joseph removed his cap.
Then he began to sing his song of praise.

In his Christmas oratorio, For the Time Being, W.H. Auden envisions Joseph asking for “important and elegant proof” that Mary’s word is true; the angel refuses and, instead, demands that Joseph simply have faith in what Auden clearly considers a scientific impossibility.

JOSEPH:
Where are you, Father, where?
Caught in the jealous trap
Of an empty house I hear
As I sit alone in the dark
Everything, everything,
The drip of the bathroom tap,
The creak of the sofa spring,
The wind in the air-shaft, all
Making the same remark
Stupidly, stupidly,
Over and over again.
Father, what have I done?
Answer me, Father, how
Can I answer the tactless wall
Or the pompous furniture now?
Answer them . . .
GABRIEL:
No, you must.
JOSEPH:
How then am I to know,
Father, that you are just?
Give me one reason.
GABRIEL:
No.
JOSEPH:
All I ask is one
Important and elegant proof
That what my Love had done
Was really at your will
And that your will is Love.
GABRIEL:
No, you must believe;
Be silent, and sit still.

The Narrator of the oratorio then compares Joseph’s dilemma to that of Adam believing Eve and eating the apple, and traces the spiritual relationship of men and women through the ages, ending with this advice to Joseph:

You must behave as if this were not strange at all.
Without a change in look or word,
You both must act exactly as before;
Joseph and Mary shall be man and wife
Just as if nothing had occurred.
There is one World of Nature and one Life;
Sin fractures the Vision, not the Fact; for
The Exceptional is always usual
And the Usual exceptional.
To choose what is difficult all one’s days
As if it were easy, that is faith. Joseph, praise.

The Jesuit poet John Lynch in his narrative poem A Woman Wrapped in Silence, writes of what we do not know, capturing through our ignorance what Joseph and Mary might really have been to each other in their mutual consternation:

What source we have of knowledge of her days
Is sparing, and has left us many days
Still veiled, and if there is enough to find
What Joseph found, and a few dear treasured words,
We must have more to lead us where our love
Would seek to go. And there is one sweet place
That distant watching eyes could fondly wish
To see and ponder on. Did Joseph come,
And with his sobs seek pardon for his fears?
And did he see how, suddenly, his love
Was greater than he knew and could be carried
Now along new pathways with his prayers?
God’s kingdom now was four, and claimed again
Another life to be with Zachary,
To listen with Elizabeth, and then
With her to serve. O, glad, he was for strength,
And glad for honor, and for nmae, and glad
His hand was skilled enough to fashion walls
And build the smallness of a crib that now
Would cradle more than all the world could hold.
Dreams of all his fathers fell on him
In one bright dream, and all bright hopes were clear.
We may not know for sure, and yet, and yet,
May we not see how quietly he came
And spoke no word. And Mary saw him come,
Finding a new thing shining in his eyes.
And when quick tears of gladness and relief
Were done, she saw him kneel, lift up his hands,
Two hands that held invisibly, his life.
She may have reached her own pale fingers out
And found them . . . callused, generous, and strong.

Alyce M. McKenzie, Professor of Preaching and Worship, Perkins School of Theology, in her commentary on this gospel entitled The Fear of Betrayal offers not a poem, but a vignette offering another possible conversation between Joseph and the angel:

On this night, as much as on Christmas Eve, an angel hovered near, whispering a message from God into Joseph’s sleeping ear. The angel interrupted the nightmare visions of accusation and estrangement that played in the theater of Joseph’s dreams. The angel replaced them with a manger scene and visions of a boy growing and becoming strong.

“Here,” whispered the angel, “is the key that unlocks your dilemma. Believe her unbelievable story. Marry her, and become the father of God’s child. He will need a father to be accepted by others as he grows to manhood. He will need, not just any father, but a father like you, capable of nurturing him, and giving him a name. ‘Immanuel — God with us.’

“He will need a father like you to teach him to take risks like the one you are about to take, for he will be tempted not to take them.

“He will need a father like you to teach him to withstand the disapproval of others, as you will soon have to withstand it.

“He will need a father like you to teach him what to do in situations like this one, when all hope seems lost and only pain remains; to model how to believe the unbelievable good news and to walk ahead in faith.

“If you do not walk the hard road to Bethlehem, who will teach him how to climb the cruel hill to Calvary?”

In this way, I imagine the father of our Lord was born that night.

These writers through their imaginative treatments show us what Matthew hints at in his simple story: that Joseph was a complex man, a human being like any of us, entrusted by God with the ominous responsibility of fostering God’s own son. We can imagine that his response to that invitation might have been as fearful and as conflicted as any of ours would have been and yet, although Joseph soon disappears from the gospel narratives, we can be assured that he accomplished that ministry with skill and grace. From that we can take the comfort that when God invites us to accomplish his purposes, as God surely does, we too will be able to do so with skill and grace.

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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.

Building a Modern Creche: A Poem – 2 December 2016

enptycreche

Building a Modern Creche

Let’s build a new creche
a new nativity scene
that’s built with
elements
of our lives
reflecting our modern world.

The Incarnate God
can’t be born
in a stable
no one has stables any longer
(well, some do, most don’t).
What do we have instead?
Garages . . . God will born in a garage.

No! That won’t do!
Nobody would send
a pregnant young girl
to spend a night in a garage!
A homeless shelter, maybe
A charity hospital, maybe
What would Joseph try to do
in modern America?

He’d go to a church:
“Please, pastor, we’re on the road.
My wife is pregnant.
We need some money for a motel.”
A voucher, they’d get a voucher,
for the local cheap motel
the Super 8 Motel 6 Ameristar
Interstate Inn with free cable
and maybe wifi.
That’s where God would be born,
in a seedy highway motel.

And for our Christ Child
what baby doll shall we use?
Black brown yellow red white?
That would be too particular,
wouldn’t it? It would make
the Holy Infant
too much like some
not enough like others
maybe we need a non-human thing,
a metaphoric Baby Jesus?

I know! The toy from
the dog food aisle
a plush green googly-eyed frog
in a Santa hat!
That’s not too particular
no one could claim
such a Holy Infant
looked too much
or too little like
anyone!
So it will be
green googly-eyed
Santa froggy Jesus!

And Mary, who to be Mary?
Everyday I drive past a
young woman who makes
a Christmas appearance
every year
in this little town of ours.
A plywood Lucy van Pelt.
Eight feet tall if she’s an inch
and holding a Christmas wreath.
Eternally young but worn a bit
with age
she has stood in that yard
every year for more
than a decade.
A perfect blend of childhood
innocence and world-weary
wisdom in a cartoon Mary
for our creche,
that’s plywood Lucy van Pelt.

And her husband, the foster father?
If I drive the other route to work
another neighbor’s yard
displays a nylon blow-up
snowman who wavers
and leans and then gets
a spine and stands straight
only to slump again with
uncertainty not at all sure
what he’s doing where he is.
Joseph, anxious Joseph,
wanting to do the right thing
but needing the windy support
of the Spirit to buck him up
like the snowman’s
electric fan spine.
We have our Joseph!

So now plywood Lucy Mary
and blow-up Snowman Joseph
lay their newborn
green googly-eyed froggy
Santa Jesus
into his make-shift crib
his manger . . . .

No, wait again! This isn’t a stable!
No mangers at Super 8 Motel 6
Ameristar Interstate Inn.
What can they use?
What can they find?
A cardboard box
the copy paper carton from the office
the one that holds the registration
forms and receipts from
the local print shop.
That will do!
And diaper our Holy Child
in the thread-bare barely absorbant
motel bathroom towels
too small for an adult
but fine to swaddle
God Incarnate in
googly-eyed froggy splendor.

Our creche is complete.
The Holy Family awaits
the modern-day shepherds
the night workers:
the 24-hour convenience store
graveyard-shift cashiers,
the midnight linemen
keeping the power lines up
and working in wind
and snow and ice,
the waitress at the Waffle House
both hoping for and dreading
the next customer.
“Glory!” they will think they hear
“Glory!” angels will cry trying
to get their attention.
“Tidings of great joy!”
they will endeavor to push
through the jade and jaundice
of darkened spirits,
and plywood Lucy Mary
and blow-up Snowman Joseph
and froggy Santa Jesus
will wait, and wait, and wait,
hoping that eventually
the waiting
will be fruitful

Maybe some kings or the like
will show up.
Not Melchior, Caspar, or Balthazar.
Perhaps our wise people will be
Barak, or Donald, or Hillary,
or Vladimir, or Bibi, or Angela,
or Bashir, or Xinping, or . . .
who knows?
And perhaps not,
perhaps in a modern nativity
there are no wise men,
no wise women seeking
the newborn froggy
Incarnate God,
there is only
the Holy Family
while somewhere nearby
late night workers
are not sure they have heard
“Glory!” and
wonder what wisdom is
and if anyone possesses it.

= 2 December 2016
C. Eric Funston

Two Poems for Thanksgiving: November 24, 2016

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In place of a homily, the Rev. Dr. C. Eric Funston offered the congregation two poems by contemporary poets on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio, where Fr. Funston is rector.

(The lessons for the day are from the Revised Common Lectionary for Thanksgiving Day in Year C: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 100; Philippians 4:4-9; and St. John 6:25-35 These lessons can be read at The Lectionary Page.)

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the_first_thanksgiving_cph-3g04961

My Work is Loving the World
by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird..
Equal seekers of sweetness,
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums,
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters,
Which is my work

Which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium,
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes
A mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam
Telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.

* * * * * * * *

Thanksgiving
by Malcolm Guite

Thanksgiving starts with thanks for mere survival,
Just to have made it through another year
With everyone still breathing. But we share
So much beyond the outer roads we travel;
Our interweavings on a deeper level,
The modes of life embodied souls can share,
The unguessed blessings of our being here,
The warp and weft that no one can unravel.

So I give thanks for our deep coinherence
Inwoven in the web of God’s own grace,
Pulling us through the grave and gate of death.
I thank him for the truth behind appearance,
I thank him for his light in every face,
I thank him for you all, with every breath.

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Image: The First Thanksgiving 1621, oil on canvas by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1899). It’s a painting filled with misconceptions and misinformation about the first Thanksgiving, but it’s lovely and romantic and fills our imaginations on this day.

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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.

Two Hours in October: A Poem (18 October 2016)

steaming-cup-of-joe

Two Hours in October

Between cancer treatment and Irish class,
a soul deepened by the darkness of childhood
ponders the technologies of repression,
leaves, windblown, aimlessly circle the patio,
an English horn chuckles
amused by the scent of coffee
carried on an air conditioned breeze,
and women study ephemeral images
that have settled into their laps.
How can one study theology
in such a place?
It is better suited
to maniacal laughter and
paranoid delusions of rigged elections.

= C. Eric Funston
18 October 2016

Radiation Fatigue: A Poem (13 October 2016)

birdinfog

Radiation Fatigue

There’s an ache,
a soreness of the muscles,
a deep down, next-to-the-bone weariness
that sets in
about thirty minutes
after you finish a job well done –
swinging a hammer,
pulling a saw,
laying bricks or tile,
moving a pile of dirt,
digging a trench –
it’s an earned exhaustion,
a deserved worn-out-ness
that wants a cold drink
and a comfortable chair
and a hot shower.
And it passes,
that deep-seated, well-deserved fatigue;
it passes as you rest.
I have known that lassitude;
I have had that attitude
of inertia
drained of energy
spent on good work.
That was not what I
expected of cancer’s
radiation therapy!
You’ll be tired, they said.
Sleepiness I anticipated,
not this bone-weary feeling as if
I’d thrown bags of concrete
all day
today
and yesterday
and the day before
and look forward to more
to doing it again
tomorrow and the next
and the day after that
and then the day after that
again.
It’s that bone-deep exhaustion
but unearned, not deserved;
one shouldn’t feel this way
from simply lying on an x-ray
table, one hasn’t the right!
And it doesn’t pass;
it doesn’t go away.
No drink,
no chair,
no shower,
no long night of sleep,
nothing
sends it away!
It hangs on and on
and on and
my body asks guiltily
when will I feel . . .
normal
rested
human?
When will I feel like
swinging a hammer,
pulling a saw,
laying bricks or tile,
moving a pile of dirt,
digging a trench
again?
When therapy is completed
they answer.
I wonder if I believe them.

= C. Eric Funston
14 October 2016

(Photograph borrowed from website of Susan Forshey, PhD)

A Sad and Irrational Irony: A Poem – 7 October 2016

trumptshirt

NOTE: I do not support Mr. Trump!

A Sad and Irrational Irony

Inaction fostered by division
grinds the nation down.
A sad and irrational irony
grips the nation
angered by inaction.
Anger fosters division
Division fosters inaction
Inaction fosters anger
“I’m not angry!”
shouts the parking lot youth
spittle spraying from his lips
“I’m not angry!”
“I’m not!”
“I’m . . . .”
A sad and irrational irony
grips the nation
ground down
ground
background
In the background
the theologian says
God is the ground of being
infinitely transcending
that of which
God is the ground.
A nation
angered by
division
inaction
ground down
to the ground
an irrational irony
no longer sad

= C. Eric Funston
7 October 2016

Inspired by a story told on Facebook by Connie Schultz.

NOTE: I repeat, I do not support Mr. Trump!

Sweet Nothings of Prophecy: A Poem

clergy-collar-1

Sweet Nothings of Prophecy

Deep in my heart of hearts,
in the deep soul of my being,
I am filled with doubt.
Is this the way it’s all supposed
to work itself out
and does anything I do or say to anyone
contribute to the solving
of the equation?

Why do I do what I do?
Why do I say what I say?
And does it matter
to anyone
anyway?

I lie awake in bed.
I drink too much in the
wee hours of the morning,
the wee dram
of the creature
turns into milliliters
and ounces of
false courage.

I don’t have a connection to God!
I wish I did!
I wish the Almighty would
whisper in my ear
sweet nothings of prophecy
and make all clear
everclear!

I’m no different now
than I was then
except they put a collar
on me!
Amen!

= by C Eric Funston
29 September 2016

The Permanent Unavoidable: A Poem

throat

The Permanent Unavoidable

It’s there all the time and won’t go away
A permanent reality now
Unavoidable
Unmistakable
Unshakeable
Sometimes
I almost don’t notice it
Then the news will report a death
Or a song will excite a memory
Or Story Corps
Or the MOTH Hour
Or a TED talk
Will share a tale of
Sorrow
Happiness
Bravery
Compassion
Gratitude
Faithfulness
Loss
Gain
A story
To tug
At heartstrings
To prick
At conscience
To tear
At soul
Or my children
Will write a note
Make a call
Share a picture
And then I notice it
There it is
That
Lump in my throat
All the time
And it won’t go away

– C. Eric Funston
9 September 2016

The Sun Lifts: A Poem – 9 August 2016

misty-203155_640

The Sun Lifts

Oppressively soft
the morning mist –
the mourning mist
the funereal fog –
hangs a pall over the casket
of the day.
The doves coo their
sorrowful plaint
and even the ravens –
their undertakers’ frock coats
sleek and tailored –
are subdued.
The crickets and the peepers
chuckle and laugh and
interrupt
unruly children
tolerated
in the solemn moment
the cortege begins
the slow roll.
The sun lifts the western
hem of the white-grey
shroud and shouts
“Alive!
The day is alive!”

– C Eric Funston, 9 August 2016
Image from Pixabay

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