Grieving In Zion

adobestock_73052125

I can say no more about the poem below than this:  there will be those who will treat it like a snack on the run and quickly move on to something more satisfying.  Hopefully, there will also be those to whom it will be more like an anticipated expensive meal, to be tasted, carefully considered and allowed to be digested in full.  By reading slowly and thoughtfully, and perhaps more than once, you may find yourself hearing and connecting deeply with the Lord’s heart.

Grieving In Zion

When the great machine rolls ever onward

Laying waste to holy ground

When souls are crushed in the race to greatness

Left trampled in the putrid dust

When good is evil and evil’s good

And truth polluted with compromise

When sacred and profane are poured

Mingled in the golden cup

 

Who is there will raise a tear

And take up a lamentation

Who’ll lift a voice of mourning

And grieve with me in Zion?

 

When love is just a commodity

To be traded for expediency

When hate hides in ideology

And dresses in democracy

When ‘Kingdom come’ is ours not His

Who will dare lament the loss

And who will stand against the crowd

When the flag obscures the cross?

 

Come all you cloistered prophets

Come you who suffer long

Amid the stench of Babylon

There are those who grieve in Zion

 

When those who say they lead the way

Never even learned to follow

When deception makes us strangers

And there’s none to heal the gap

When the freedom bell rings hollow

And justice picks and chooses

When the church has sold her soul

Who will be the greatest losers?

 

But we will dust our heads in ashes

And sackcloth we will don

Amid the proud procession

We will bear our grief in Zion

 

And when it’s all been said and when it’s all been done

When the silver tongues fall silent

And the empires crumble headlong

When there’s nothing left to fight for

And nothing left to win

And Babylon writhes in her grave

Whose name shall our allegiance claim

And who shall be our king?

 

So let us sing our song of sorrow

And let Heaven join the chorus

Till all that can be’s shaken

And the Kingdom stands before us

And let our tears fall full and free

And our steps be sure and strong

As we dance our dance of sadness

With those who grieve in Zion

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Burning Questions

A red question mark in the dark lit by a single, yellow spotlight.

There were two burning questions on Jesus’ mind concerning those who followed Him. The first was uttered on the Road to Caesarea Philippi: ‘Who do you say I am?’ The second came not long after, on a day when many would-be disciples turned back from Him: ‘Do you also want to go away?’

Interestingly, both questions were indirectly related to that most basic of human needs – bread. And miracles. And human reason.

In the first instance the Pharisees, in usual form, were demanding a supernatural sign, custom made just for them. Jesus was not pleased. In the meantime His closest friends, having so recently witnessed Jesus multiply bread, were worrying about where their next meal would come from. Again, Jesus was not pleased.

‘Why are you reasoning?….how is it you think I’m talking about temporary, earthly things when I’m speaking about spiritual things?’ He remonstrates (paraphrase mine). Then, after asking them what other people are saying about Him He confronts them suddenly with the million dollar question: ‘But who do you say I am?’ (Matt. 16:1-16, Mark 8:11-29).

The second burning question came a day later. Those who had witnessed the bread being multiplied, and had eaten it, wanted more. Here was a Man who had powers to feed them and their families indefinitely. With such fringe benefits following Him would be a breeze. Once again, Jesus was on another page altogether.

‘I am the Bread of Life’ He tells them, ‘the Living Bread. The Bread I give you is My flesh.’

‘What? Yesterday He was handing out good solid, belly filling bread, but today He’s telling us to eat His flesh?’ they reason. This weird kind of talk wasn’t what they’d signed up for. ‘Who can understand what He’s saying?’ they muttered as they walked away.

Watching, Jesus turns to those closest to Him and asks ‘Do you also want to go away?’ The path He was offering was not going to be either easy or popular. (Jn. 6:22-67)

The capacity humans have for reasoning things out is useful and necessary. Without it we could not solve everyday problems, administer our justice systems, or fly to the moon, for instance. But human reason is fallen and corrupt, like every other facet of human life. It’s something Jesus consistently confronted and opposed (Matt. 22:25; Mark 2:8; 12:28; Luke 5:21). When human reason rules our world, our hearts become hardened (Mark 8:17 NKJV).

But it seems we humans have a tendency to vacillate between reason and an obsessional desire for self-gratifying signs and wonders (Mark 8:11). Jesus walked a balanced line between the two. To those who demanded more and more signs He pointed out that He was their greatest sign (Mark 12:39,40). And to those who filtered everything through the lens of human reason He demonstrated a radically different way of doing life with Him, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, saying:

‘It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.’ Jn. 6:63

These two vital questions have not faded in relevance since Jesus walked among us. They are still the two most important, confronting, soul searching questions we disciples of Jesus Christ can be asked.

Who do we say He is? And if we say it, do we believe it? And if we believe it, does our testimony that He is the Christ, that He is God, bear out as truth in our dealings with the world around us? Unless we are learning how to walk this earth as newly created spiritual beings in the likeness and image of Jesus Christ, unless our very ordinary lives bear witness to the extraordinary truth that He rose and He lives, what we say means nothing.

Shall we also go away? When the path gets narrower, when the journey gets lonelier, when those who have walked a way with us decide to go no further, will we too have second thoughts? Unless we are learning what it is to feed on the Bread that came down from Heaven, unless we are beginning to understand what it means for His flesh to be our true food, and His blood to be our true drink, we will not know the sustenance this journey requires. Imperceptibly, little by little, we will find ourselves feeding and drinking elsewhere until we discover that what we are following is no longer Christ.

Two burning questions.

One emphatic answer.

Christ Jesus. Sustainer, Grace-giver, Life.


Who do we say You are?

You are Lord and Lover

Song and Singer

King and Brother

Gift and Giver

 

Who once we held apart

Passing proudly by, faces averted,

Lest You should heal our weary hearts

But now seeing with newly born eyes

Our tongues stumbling to confess

That which, once spoken, can never be unsaid

 

Who do we say You are?

You are Laughter and Light

Story and Storyteller

Fountain of Life

Glorious and Glory-dweller

 

Costly, this journey, for which

There is no way back

Once tightly held dreams

Discarded like redundant wrapping paper

Pretty then, now drab;

Companions, once inseparable

Nowhere to be seen

Their voices, distant now, beckon us back

To what we only thought we had

 

But we can’t go back, can we?

We have become as those estranged

Shedding this world like a tired cocoon

No longer at home in its deathly embrace

We have, like You, nowhere to lay our heads

No place of rest or refuge

Except upon Your breast

 

Will we leave You?

Is there another who speaks

And we, not knowing we were dead

Find ourselves alive?

Is there some other one

Whose every utterance

Infuses us with His Life?

To whom then shall we go

If we should leave Your side?

 

And if we should seek to go back

To that place You found us

Who would then receive our testimony

That You are who we say you are?

If having known this Love for which to die

Who would believe our report

If we were such sad fools

To trade it for what we left behind?

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

Signal Fires: A Meditation on Psalm 19:1-4

Dollarphotoclubstars

Photo furnished by NASA.

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.  Psalm 19:1-4, ESV Bible


Like noble signal fires on lofty mountaintops

silhouetted against velvet night

the stars shout out Your glory.

Above the frenzied clamor of earth

they guard the pages of unfolding history,

bearing silent, sacred witness to humanity’s entangled story.

 

They were there at the beginning when Adam,

surveying his pristine domain,

lifted his face to contemplate their wordless beauty,

and human eyes beheld the vastness of their heavenly expanse

for the very first time.

 

And when, with innocent delight,

Ishshah* first gazed upward

to laugh with pleasure at their twinkling light,

they playfully embraced her,

their tender glow diffusing across her silken face.

 

They watched silently,

somberly signalling their consternation one to another

across endless space and time,

as humanity departed the garden of its innocence

and the heavens reverberated with God’s harrowing cries.

 

They trembled in wonder as Moses,

trembling with them,

laden with humanity’s weight,

ascended a desolate mountain

alone

and entered its smoky darkness

to mediate for his fallen race.

 

Uniting with angel song they burst forth

in unimpeded celebration,

piercing the night with pulsating radiance,

harmoniously heralding to a sleeping oblivious world

the incarnation of its newborn King.

 

And then, holding their light hidden,

with all creation breathless,

they gazed from deepest darkness

as that same King surrendered life and breath

to rescue Adam’s children.

 

And still they hold their posts,

these faithful fiery beacons,

pirouetting their timeless, lustrous ballet of light

leaping blithely through galaxies untamed,

choreographed by You,

Who alone knows their number

and calls them each by name.

 

Blazing brightly upon cloudless heavenly peaks

amid streams of infinite brilliance

each trumpets Your glory to another,

echoing Your excellence in a vivid celestial display,

one uninterrupted broadcast across eternity’s distance:

 

“God IS, and He is good”

 

*Ishshah is the Hebrew word for woman, Genesis 2:23

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016. All rights reserved.

Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

What If Revival Doesn’t Look Like Revival ?

Photo public domain, courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo public domain, courtesy of Pixabay.

Y’know how everyone says they want revival?  And y’know how so many only really want a revival they can control or own or put their name on somehow?  Oh, you didn’t?  OK, we must move in different circles.  Nevermind.  But have you noticed God’s up to something, and it’s not in the rule book?  Here’s something to chew on.


The Missing Revival

 

I hear talk of great revival

An end time harvest, overdue

To sweep through towns and cities

There’ll be no room in the pews

From the nearest to the farthest

Get ready, clear the aisles,

It’s coming sure as Christmas

To a church somewhere near you

 

They say the day is not far off

Such miracles there’ll be

With shouting and rejoicing

As the sinners get set free

It’s so close you can smell it

It’s hanging in the air

When the Spirit comes in power

There’ll be nothing to compare

 

But what if God has other plans?

What if He won’t comply?

What if our great revival

Doesn’t fit with His design?

What if He smiles and says “No thanks,

I’ve something else in mind?”

Will we find it in our Bibles

If we have to wait in line?

 

And what if He’s left the building

And is dancing in the streets

With the prodigals and prostitutes

‘Caus He’s found a different beat?

What if He’s crashed their party

The down and outs and losers?

What if He’s set up camp

With thieves and pimps and users?

 

What if He’s marched into the darkness

With His Cross and wine and bread?

And challenged every lurking demon

To defy him if they dare?

And instead of gracing our pretty pews

He’s sitting in the gutter

With a wino and a painted lady

‘Caus He likes it better there?

 

What if the Son is rising

With healing in His wings

On the cripple and the refugee

And the kid with silver piercings

And the ones whose minds are broken

Are now His closest friends

And the homeless serve Him supper?

What then?  What then?

 

What if those who never heard a sermon

Or walked through a church door

Are preaching God’s salvation

To the poorest of the poor?

And those who’ve never read the Word

Are living it instead

As they sit in darkened corners

And share their daily Bread?

 

I hear talk of great revival

It’s preached across the land

There’s praying and there’s fasting

For God to show His Hand

From mega-church to chapel

From mountaintop to coast

They’re pleading that He’ll hear them

And send the Holy Ghost

 

But what if God is done

With the shouting and the pleas

And gone to take up residence

In the dregs of human need?

With invitations in His Hand

Is He handing out free passes?

And opening Heaven’s golden streets

To the very least of these?

 

What if our great revival

So long anticipated

Is not what we imagined

And so fervently awaited?

If after all we’ve said and done

It really isn’t about us?

What if God escaped our box

And started it without us?

 

And what if undesirables

Get first place at the table?

What if they bring their friends

And steal our great revival?

And what if they don’t need us

To help them be good Christians

What if they found Jesus

Outside our definitions?

 

I hear talk of great revival

It’s where it shouldn’t be

In ghettoes, pubs and strip joints

And nations that aren’t free

It’s blowing through the windows

And falling from the sky

It’s spreading like a wild fire…..

Did it just pass us by?

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond.   All rights reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

From The Archives: An Un-Christmas Carol

Music notes with Christmas carol and Christmas ornaments

The night was not so silent:

In the bustling streets

Crowds pushed and poked

With shoving elbows and trampling feet

Men cursed

Dust choked

Indifferent to a woman heavy with child

In desperate need of a place to sleep

 

The little town was not so still:

It’s streets and houses overflowing

With one night standers, out of towners

Compelled together by Roman decree

Eager to reclaim their normality

The shrill shouts of merchants intertwined

With the noise and smell of humanity

For trade was brisk and coins flowed free

 

The virgin mother was not so peaceful:

Her young face etched with pain and fear

On her lips a voiceless prayer

Her womb, its patience spent,

Pushing, heaving, stretching,

Sharply signalling its intent

Amid the turmoil of the dung strewn street

To expel her child right then and there

 

The Child’s face was not so radiant:

Stained with the blood of newborn birth

Tender untouched flesh

Trembling in the sudden cool

Untried lungs gasping earthly air

A cattle trough to lay his head

His holy Presence barely noted

By passing crowds with minds elsewhere

 

The world was not so joyful:

No shining golden trumpets

Heralded this King’s advent

No pushy journalists jostled for a view

Or flashing cameras recorded the event

Just a few poor peasant shepherds

Whose witness was devoid of worth

The world too busy to pause and ponder

Another common Jewish birth

 

SO….for just a brief few moments:

 

Can we put aside the Christmas cards

With their sparkling pretty nativities?

Can we forget about turkey and tinsel

To confront our sad reality?

Can the man in the jolly red suit sit down

And the merchants cease their endless clatter?

Can the social networks take a break

From their numbing and distracting chatter?

Can the politicians just for once

Step back from their cherished limelight?

Can the Christmas lights all be dimmed

And the tree forego its dazzling spotlight?

 

For unto us this Child was born

And unto us this Son was given

This Holy Prince of Peace

This God of Living Light

Stands amidst our frantic frenzy

This noisy chaos we use to disguise

That we’re really running all on empty

We need Him now as we did then

When first He came to dwell with men

 

Let’s take one united collective breath

For just a single shining moment

Let towns and cities be at rest

And let the starry night be silent

Let’s ask the questions we can’t forget

Let’s weep for what we lost

As we kneel to worship God made flesh

And wonder why He loves us yet !

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014 and beyond   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

 

The Question

Question mark background

This is not the post I planned to share today.  Today many of us are grappling with deep sadness and questions no one can answer. This weekend we were brought once again to the shattering reality that humanity is in deep, agonising trouble. While politicians promise dramatic responses, musicians comfort us with gentle tunes, and newsreaders sombrely churn out details we don’t really need to know, one question rises unbidden in our searching hearts:

Why?

We hear talk of swift and unrelenting retribution. We watch world leaders speaking of unprecedented unity. We see flags flying, hear anthems being sung and deck out our social media in special colours. Some urge victory in solidarity. Others preach defiance. But the question remains unanswered:

Why?

We are quick to offer our opinions on ideology, radicalisation, religion, marginalisation, death cults and what needs to be done about all of them. But these are symptoms of something much deeper, much darker in the collective heart of humanity, that has been there longer than any of us can remember. War, destruction, hatred and murder. This is our history.

Why?

Some say the only answer is love. They are right. But Love has walked among us and we did to Him what we wanted. We crucified Him. Do we really think we can love without Him? Really?? Do we really believe this human race can find our way out of the darkness within us –  apart from Him?

WHY?

The question is screaming at us and we stop our ears, desperately hope someone will turn up to solve the problem, and sadly limp on. We cannot answer the question, but are we at least ready to ask it? If not, one thing is guaranteed: we will grieve, collectively, again.

And the question will remain hovering menacingly in the air, spoken only by the brave and truthful.

When Jesus Wept

When Jesus wept at Bethany

What sorrow did His heart conceive

Was it unbelief in all its masks

That caused His overflowing grief?

That human eyes that day conveyed

While human tongues unknown betrayed?

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

What aching filled His gentle soul?

Knowing well our history

Did He glimpse the unrelenting toll

Of pain and grief and misery

That death has cost humanity?

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did creation gasp with soft surprise

And angels gaze with puzzled eyes?

Did earth and Heaven hold their breath

While tears rolled down the face of Him

The Resurrection and the Life?

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did His tears fall down to stain the land

To mingle with the sinless Blood

That Calvary would soon demand?

Did blood and sweat from Gethsemane

Join their flow into the flood?

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Did He weep for you and me?

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

Perchance He stood by all of us

And mixed His tears with yours and mine

And claimed our suffering as His own

That none of us who weep and ache

Could ever say we wept alone

When Jesus wept at Bethany

He wept for you, He wept for me

 

When Jesus wept at Bethany

His weeping crossed eternity

And entered every human tear

That was or is or soon will be

That in our loss and in our pain

We should know the cost is paid

And sorrow’s depth was plumbed by He

Who wept with us at Bethany

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2015 and beyond.   Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.

From The Archives: Unwashed Feet

feet“Come right on in” said the usher at the door

You’re so welcome today, please find a seat”

Failing to notice as the crowd pressed in

The stranger she welcomed had unwashed feet

 

The stranger sat down in the very front row

An elder came up with a knowing smile

“I’m sorry this row’s reserved for our leaders”

And escorted him back five rows down the aisle

 

The worship team started, one fast song, two slow

The people stood up to sing loud and strong

The stranger looked round for an eye to meet his

But all eyes were closed – they were singing their song

 

The pastor emerged and took centre stage

“Welcome to God’s house, find someone to greet”

Some gathered around and shook his hand tight

Trying hard not to stare at his unwashed feet

 

Each one had come in their best Sunday suit

Not a hair out of place, not a button left loose

And eyebrows were raised enough to take note

The stranger among them was wearing no shoes

 

The stranger stood up and his voice rang clear

“I have something important to share here today”

The pastor beamed kindly: “Please take your seat,

It’s time for the offering, let’s not delay!”

 

The stranger sat down while the tithes were taken

Much whispering was heard and heads turned to stare

At this one who had rudely upset the order

And dared to call out from his fifth row chair

 

A young child escaped from a distracted mother

And ran to the stranger, climbing onto his knee

“What’s your name, where you from?” she asked unabashed

“And please tell me why you have dirty feet?”

 

The stranger smiled warmly as he played with her curls

“I’ve been on the road for such a long time

Searching for somewhere I can belong

And a traveller’s feet can get covered with grime!”

 

“Stay here!” the child pleaded, “we have all you need

Some water, and food, and a nice place to sleep”

“Come now” said the mother and pulled her away

“And don’t talk to strangers with unwashed feet!”

 

The announcements were given and all duly noted

A conference, a wedding, a new building plan

“Mr. Smith had a fall so please keep him in prayer

We need a new hall, give as much as you can!”

 

“And now for the sermon” said the pastor at last

“Turn to John chapter one, and read verse eleven

Well can you imagine a thing so peculiar

From people who thought they were going to Heaven?!”

 

Then raising his voice to drive home his lesson:

“‘He came to His own and His own knew Him not’

Now I know such a thing could not happen here

For we are the people who live close to God!”

 

The people all hurried when the service was over

“Let’s get some nice lunch, then maybe a snooze”

Laughing and kissing and “See you next week!”

But all passed on by the man without shoes

 

The pastor came up, his wife by his side

“We hope you enjoyed being with us this week

We’d love you to come and visit again

God loves you, you know, and, oh, so do we!

 

Just one more thing if you don’t mind me saying

Next time you come it will be real neat

If you’ll sit quietly and don’t interrupt

But most of all if you’ll wash your feet!”

 

The stranger looked past him straining to see

A child standing by with tears on her cheek

“Please don’t go away, I want you to stay

I’ll bring some cool water and I’ll wash your feet!”

 

Then, kneeling, the stranger took the child’s hand

With pastor and wife looking on in surprise

With hands on her head he prayed a blessing

And gently wiped all the tears from her eyes

 

“’I’m not welcome here so I must move on

But now we are friends I’ll always be near

Whenever you’re frightened or lonely or sick

Remember me and I promise I’ll hear”

 

With a kiss to her brow, then not looking back

The stranger walked out and on down the street

On his quest for the lovers who’ll look in his eyes

And don’t give a toss about unwashed feet

 

© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014 and beyond.  Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included.     To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.