That Which We Have Heard & Known

Occasional thoughts of an Anglican Episcopal priest

Tag: Poetry (page 1 of 2)

Until 2 a.m. – A Poem

Human conversation
does not travel
from A to B to C
in a neat and orderly fashion.

It starts at A
heading in the direction of B
but takes a detour to A-prime
and then to 1
from which it may turn to 1(a)
or possibly to 2.

After touching on 2,
it leaps to Red
and then Green.

Perhaps at this juncture,
it bounds back on track for B,
but when it gets there,
instead of heading in the direction of C,
it may pause and catch its breath.

It may, in fact,
stop there
and never get to C.

Until 2 a.m.
when the phone will ring
and a voice will say, “C!”

–– C. Eric Funston
29 January 2020

Not Getting It Right: Sermon for Advent 3A (December 15, 2019)

When I was a kid growing up first in southern Nevada and then in southern California, the weeks leading up to Christmas (we weren’t church members so we didn’t call them “Advent”) were always the same. They followed a pattern set by my mother. We bought a tree and decorated it; we set up a model electric train around it. We bought and wrapped packages and put them under the tree, making tunnels for that toy train. We went to the Christmas light shows in nearby parks and drove through the neighborhoods that went all out for cooperative, or sometimes competitive, outdoor displays. My mother would make several batches of bourbon balls (those confections made of crushed vanilla wafers and booze) and give them to friends and co-workers. Christmas Eve we would watch one or more Christmas movies on TV, and early Christmas morning we would open our packages . . .  carefully so that my mother could save the wrapping paper. Then all day would be spent cooking and watching TV and playing bridge. After the big Christmas dinner, my step-father and I would do the clean up, my brother and my uncle would watch TV . . . and my mother would sneak off to her room and cry. You see . . . no matter how carefully we prepared, no matter how strictly we adhered to Mom’s pattern, something always went wrong. We never got it right; Christmas never turned out the way my mother wanted it to be.

Some years later, I read the work of the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai and I understood what our family problem was.

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Lenten Journal 2019 (29 March)

Lenten Journal, Day 23

I linger over coffee
but I rush through eating an orange
I pour my coffee slowly and deliberately
savoring its aroma, craning my neck
to position my nose over the steam
breathing in the rich, roasted chocolate scent
earthy and acid, dark and mysterious
but I quickly peel an orange
ripping the rind from the flesh
putting asunder that which God had put together
I take contemplative sips of my coffee,
a half a mouthful at most,
meditating over its mellowness,
crispness, brightness, fruity palate, floral bitterness,
but I stuff my mouth with whole sections of orange,
sometimes two, sometimes three,
and crush them rapidly into pulpy juiciness
imagining my jaws acting like the juicer
of the lemonade vendor on the carnival midway

Lenten prayers are coffee and oranges
sometimes thoughtfully, carefully prayed,
sometimes hurried and rushed
sometimes a little of both
like breakfast

– C. Eric Funston, “Lenten Prayers,” 29 March 2019

Point of View: If I Were Preaching, Lent IV, 31 March 2019

I’m not preaching this week, but if I were . . .

I often read poetry as part of, and frequently as a substitute for, a homily. This is especially true on “high holy days” when the liturgy and the lessons of the lectionary speak so eloquently that the attempt at exegesis seems at best irrelevant and at worst intrusive, e.g., Good Friday or Palm Sunday. On such days, in such liturgies and with such lessons, the poets seem to get and to give the message so much better than I can.

There are two poems that I’ve used on Palm Sunday which look at the story focusing on or speaking through one of the often-ignored characters, the donkey which carried Christ into the city of Jerusalem. One is Mary Oliver’s The Poet Thinks about the Donkey in which the poet expresses her hopes for the animal.[1] The other is G.K. Chesterton’s The Donkey[2] in which the animal speaks for itself.

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Lenten Journal 2019 (28 March)

Lenten Journal, Day 22

Today is the 20th weekday in Lent … the season is half over!

I thought I would write some poetry, but it just turned into a limerick.

Christianity is not about pie in the sky by and by
It’s not about getting a ticket to heaven when you die
There’re no guarantees
when you fall on your knees
That a voice will answer when you ask “What?” or “When?” or “Why?”

No guarantees. That’s life. There is a Lenten guarantee, however. It ends with Resurrection.

Lenten Journal 2019 (25 March)

Lenten Journal, Day 19

A pink spot, sort of,
transparent, sort of,
maybe even not there, sort of.
First seen on my eReader,
on my iPad,
on my laptop screen,
on my Galaxy phone.
Imagined, really, more than seen,
an after-image of an after-image, maybe.

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Lenten Journal 2019 (23 March)

Lenten Journal, Day 17

Somewhere in memory is a room
Its walls are Navajo White, or possibly pale yellow
It is furnished with twin beds with quilted, green spreads
There is a dresser on the wall opposite the beds
Between the beds, a table with a lamp and a radio
The wall next to one bed holds the door to a closet
And on that wall, next to the corner of that wall and the dresser wall,
Is the door into the room
The middle of the wall next to the other bed is pierced by a window
It is the front wall of the house
And the window looks out onto the street

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Lenten Journal 2019 (13 March)

Lenten Journal, Day 7

There are leaves
Littering my yard
The moldering detritus of fall
Disturbed dancing in an insistent zephyr
Crumbling into dust
Blowing away
In the Wind moving across the surface
The oranges and golds in which
They once were dressed long gone
The beiges of their nude undergarments bared
Their dusty echoes fading
They have lain thus
Blanketed by snow
Overwintering unseen
Under untrustworthy white
As my sorrows and sins
Have slumbered ‘neath
The eagerness of Advent
The joy of Nativity
The surprise of Epiphany
But spring has come
Lent warmed by burnt palms
Melting prior seasons’ deceits
Baring the moldering detritus of life’s mistakes
Blowing it away crumbling
A streak of ash dancing
“You are dust…” it sings
“You are dust…”
“You are dust…”
Its dusty echo fades
“You are dust…”
“You are…”
“You…”
And a Voice answers
“You are my friends!”

Lenten Leaves, C. Eric Funston, 13 March 2019

Insecurity & Incarnation: If I Were Preaching, Advent 4 (23 December 2018)

They shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. – Micah 5:4b

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
Beloved,
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

That is the poem Beloved Is Where We Begin by Jan Richardson from her collection of verse entitled Circle of Grace.[1] It is a poem for Lent, but it also speaks to us of the Advent promise we hear in the prophecy of Micah, “They shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.”[2] On the Christian journey, as poet Richardson writes, wherever it may take us, there will be help; there will be the security promised by Micah.

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On Retiring from Parish Ministry – 25 November 2018

Today, Lord, what shall I say?
What is there to say
when one enters
for the last time
the pulpit from which
one has preached
for more than fifteen years?
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