I Got Me Flowers

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

— From The Temple by George Herbert (1593-1633)

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Batter My Heart

giovanni_battista_tiepolo_096Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

— From Holy Sonnets by John Donne  (1572–1631 )

 

The End Is Where We Start From

Sermon for Sunday, November 1, 2015
All Saints’ Day
Preached at the Parish of the Messiah, Auburndale

There is something about buildings that were formerly churches that always catches me. In Iceland, for example, there is a monastery so ruined that, in the nearly 500 years since it closed, all save the largest stones had been removed and repurposed by the local farmers, and yet – the site still feels to me like holy ground. In the Loire Valley, the magnificent Fontevraud Abbey has been beautifully restored and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Yet as sterile and museum-like as the French authorities have made it, when I walk into its soaring Gothic chapel, I can still feel the nearly 700 years worth of prayers that were offered there. And here in Newton, whenever I go past the old Methodist Episcopal Church at the base of Centre St. – just south of the light at Church St. – I wonder if those who live in its condos can sense what once went on there. I wonder if the residents ever think about, for example, how their kitchen occupies the place of the pew where several generations of a family worshiped, or that their dining room marks the exact spot where couples once stood and exchanged marriage vows, or that the walls of their living room once echoed with hymns. For me, walking into a former church is never “business as usual.” When I walk into a place where once prayer has been offered, there is something that – as T.S. Eliot puts it – causes my “soul’s gap to quiver.” There is something about those places – to continue to borrow from Eliot – that “when I come this way” makes me want to “kneel” because they are places “where prayer has been valid.” Continue reading

O Michael the Victorious

Thou Michael the victorious,
I make my circuit under thy shield,
Thou Michael of the white steed,
And of the bright brilliant blades,
Conqueror of the dragon,
Be thou at my back,
Thou ranger of the heavens,
Thou warrior of the King of all,

O Michael the victorious,
My pride and my guide
O Michael the victorious,
The glory of mine eye.

I make my circuit
In the fellowship of my saint,
On the machair, on the meadow,
On the cold heathery hill;
Though I should travel oceans
And the hard globe of the world
No harm can e’er befall me
‘Neath the shelter of thy shield; Continue reading

A Song of the Soul

A Song of the soul in intimate communication and union with the love of God

The Boyars’ Wedding – Konstantin Makovsky

Flame, alive, compelling.
yet tender past all telling,
reaching the secret centre of my soul!
Since now evasion’s over,
finish your work, my Lover,
break the last thread, wound me and make me whole!

Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!
Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
foretaste of heaven conveying
and every debt repaying:
slaying, you give me life for death’s distress. Continue reading

Trinity Sunday

adam_reation_iconicLord who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy blood,
And sanctified me to do good;

Purge all my sins done heretofore;
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity;
That I may run, rise, rest with Thee.

— George Herbert (1593-1633)