“Carmel”

How long must we still dither, hedge our bets?
The fallen flames leap high, and burn so bright—
Despite our best attempts to douse the wood,
To soak the sacrifice, and drown the stone,
And frenzied prayers to gods who’d do our will,
Our self-inflicted wounds accomplished nothing.
The sign is clear: The Lord alone is God!
Why will we not repent, nor bend our knee
Before our Maker and our rightful King?

I’ve always found the Bible’s story of Elijah to be both a fascinating story and a fertile source of lessons applicable to the world today. (Which is, I suspect, part of why I’m so fond of Mendelssohn’s oratorio.) I began this poem back in 2016, when the first two lines flew into my head, but I didn’t get any farther until I took it up again earlier this month and finished it. And then it occurred to me that it would be a good fit to post in this, the first week of Lent.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

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“Psalm 15”

Sovereign Lord, our Lord, who may live with you?
And who will you allow within your house,
To come into your holy presence there
And stand before your glory and your face?

A person who has lived a blameless life
And never wandered from the righteous path,
Whose heart is full of truth and overflows
To speak no lie against his neighbor’s good,
Who holds those who love God in high esteem
But scorns the vile, who disregard God’s law,
With grave contempt born from his highest love,
Who makes no promise he will fail to keep,
Who seeks no profit in his neighbor’s pain
But gives and lends his money without cost,
Who judges justly and impartially,
Finding in favor of the innocent
And never looking at an offered bribe—

If anyone is righteous, he shall stand
And enter in God’s presence in his house,
Where nothing shall disturb his trusting rest.

The Anchorite by Teodor Axentowicz

This poem is the fifteenth in my series of verse paraphrases of the Psalms. I began this project in 2012, starting with the first Psalm, and have worked on one Psalm at a time; I began this poem soon after finishing my setting of Psalm 14, in November of last year, but didn’t finish it until earlier this month.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. The Kindle edition of my book is on sale this weekend. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

Against Inanities

Our time on earth is limited; our time shared in corporate worship even more so. Why, then, do we spend this valuable time on inanities? What each does in his or her “own” time is of course between him or her and God, but the seriousness of corporate worship is a matter for the concern of every member of the Body. Today I’ve identified a few areas where far too many churches accept—and even promote or insist on!—mere inanity when profound, meaningful forms of worship are readily available. Continue reading

De re liturgiae

Every church has a liturgy—whether it’s called that, or an “order of service”, or nothing at all, and whether it’s distributed to the congregation, displayed on a screen, or known only by the leaders. But I have found that I feel most at home in churches that have a liturgy, call it that, hand it to me as I come in, and, most importantly, have given it more than a little thought.

One of the revolutionary changes made by the Reformation—in Protestant and Catholic churches alike—was the inclusion, participatory inclusion, of the congregation in the church’s worship of her Lord. But worship, communal and congregational worship, does not or at least should not consist only of singing praises (more on that in a bit), praying silently, sharing in the sacraments (more on that too, below), fellowshipping together, and hearing the Word. I do not mean that there is necessarily anything wrong with the worship of any particular evangelical church, let alone my own. But the patterns seem more than a bit … deficient. Continue reading