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Songs of the Spirit: love (a poem)

Today is the last in my series on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. It’s on love.

As a neurodiverse person, I’ve had a somewhat reluctant relationship with the word “love.” Growing up, people usually described it in terms of emotions that I either didn’t experience, or didn’t experience in the ways that everyone else did. 

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Songs of the Spirit: joy (a poem)

Honestly, I didn’t know where I was going to begin with today’s poem. 

I’d been told plenty of times before that joy is not the same as happiness and that you can have joy even when you’re not happy. As I wrestled to make sense of this, I concluded that joy must be like a sense of inner security that one carries in all circumstances. But isn’t that what peace is about?

I think joy is much more about delight and appreciation.

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Songs of the Spirit: peace (a poem)

Today’s word is peace. 

I’m almost embarrassed to write about peace, given that I can be anxious so often. I don’t want to write something that feels disconnected from our present reality, and yet I believe most surely that God’s peace has a completeness and depth that will surpasses everything we could hope for. 

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Songs of the Spirit: patience (a poem)

Once again, I’ve taken out my concordance and found out some surprising facts about the New Testament Greek. 

I like to think of patience as “love waiting”, as something that exists in its own right separate from any sense of sin or fallenness. But it’s still true that most of the uses of “patience” in the Bible are linked to the world not (yet) being as it should be.

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Songs of the Spirit: kindness (a poem)

There is nothing like kindness to cement a friendship. 

It’s that feeling of “you didn’t have to do this” that makes it so memorable. The kindness might be a gift in a moment of need, a gentle steer away from a pitfall you didn’t know was there, or someone accommodating you when you make a mistake. 

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Songs of the Spirit: goodness (a poem)

Once again, I’m struck by how much I discover when I get out my concordance and start looking at the Greek words. 

Take, for example, Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:17 where he says that every “good” tree bears “good” fruit. These are two different words in the Greek, but many English translations render both words as “good”. 

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Songs of the Spirit: faithfulness (a poem)

Faithfulness is such a big word. I think if there’s one thing, just one thing that God wants us to know about him, it’s that he is someone who fulfils his good promises. And of course, faithfulness is a huge part of that. 

As I sat and considered the word in more detail, five words came to me:

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Songs of the Spirit: gentleness (a poem)

For the next few weeks, I’m running a series on the virtues described as the fruit the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. I started with self-control last week, and this week is gentleness.

I found out some interesting things about the Greek word translated as “gentleness”. The word is πραύτης meaning “meekness”, “gentleness” or “humility” and it’s the same word used in the beatitudes in Matthew 5:5 (“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”). 

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Songs of the Spirit: self-control (a poem)

For the next few weeks, I want to run a series on the virtues described as the fruit the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. I’m starting with self-control. 

So often, I hear self-control described in terms of hemming ourselves in, or resisting ungodly tendencies. Yet these descriptions feel lacking to me, as they can only have meaning in the context of sin. The other eight virtues all stand in their own right as expressions that will have a place in God’s kingdom when all sin is done away with. 

I did, however, find one notable exception to the rule.

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Air, fire, water, clay (a poem celebrating the Holy Spirit)

Pentecost is often celebrated as the birthday of the church. We remember how the Holy Spirit came in power upon the apostles, how they preached in Jerusalem and how everyone heard them praising God in their mother-tongue. The story is recorded in Acts 2.

Pentecost, if you didn’t know, is so named because it’s the fiftieth day after Passover; it marks the festival of first fruits in the Jewish calendar (Deuteronomy 16:9-12), which is why there were so many Jews in Jerusalem. 

For myself, I think one of the most important things about the Holy Spirit that I’ve come to reckon with, is that the Holy Spirit is a person. 

Continue reading Air, fire, water, clay (a poem celebrating the Holy Spirit)
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Divine comedy (a poem reflecting on Jesus’s ascension)

When I was still at school, perhaps still at primary school, a friend asked me why Jesus couldn’t have stuck around. Immediately, I piped up about the Holy Spirit and Jesus’s Spirit can be with everyone, everywhere, simultaneously in a way that an embodied, physical Jesus couldn’t. 

As I look back at my younger self, I’m a little surprised at how bold I was – but in a good way. The Holy Spirit is just as much a person of the Trinity as Jesus is. 

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The strangest part (a poem celebrating the resurrection stories of Jesus)

I get the impression the resurrected Jesus had a lot more fun than the pre-resurrected Jesus. 

During his ministry, Jesus frequently retreated to secluded areas in order to pray. He was pulled into wearying disputes, by his disciples and the crowds. Also, by and large, he kept himself within the laws of physics – the notable exception being when he walked on water. 

And the whole time he was walking a fine line between concealing and revealing who he was. 

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Looking back from Emmaus (a poem about how we make sense of our experiences)

As if the title didn’t give it away, today’s poem draws on the story of when Jesus walked with two disciples along the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday. The account is in Luke 24:13-35. They were downcast and somewhat astonished that Jesus didn’t seem to know about the crucifixion, but then Luke says they were prevented from recognising him. 

Whilst they walk, Jesus is described as ‘opening’ the scriptures to them so that they could understand that the Messiah ‘had to’ suffer and die. It’s only when they reach Emmaus that they invite Jesus in to stay with them and, over a meal, recognise him for who he is. 

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Son of Jonah (a poem reflecting on when Jesus reinstated Peter)

Today’s poem draws on the story of Jesus reinstating Peter in John 21:15-19. I always found this a strange story growing up, but struggled to put my finger on why. It seemed odd that Jesus would distress Peter by asking him the same question three times, or indeed respond to that distress by telling Peter that Peter would die for him. 

There was also the question of the Greek and what that meant. The first two times Jesus asks if Peter loves him, he uses the Greek agape for love, but the third time, he uses philia which doesn’t have such a rich meaning. I was sure there had to be deep significance in all this but I couldn’t see what it was. (Peter responds with philia each time.)

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Loneliness in the morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked)

Today’s poem draws on the time after Jesus’s resurrection when he had breakfast with seven of the disciples (John 21:1-14). The disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing, but when Jesus tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, they catch a large number (of large fish). 

There are various ways to take this story. You could say the disciples were returning to what was familiar to them, though I’m more inclined to think they were doing it to relax as much as anything else. I also think the large catch was an affirmation of what they were doing. 

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A sonnet from a modern Thomas (reflecting on what it takes to share our faith)

The lectionary readings this week include the story of Thomas recorded within John 20:19-31. When Jesus appeared to his disciples, he wasn’t there, and then he wouldn’t believe them until he saw Jesus for himself.

He said he would need to see the marks in Jesus’s hands and side before he believed. What I find remarkable is that when Jesus does appear to Thomas, he offers Thomas his hands and side. Almost as if he wants Thomas to believe. 

Continue reading A sonnet from a modern Thomas (reflecting on what it takes to share our faith)
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A question, not a criticism (a poem reflecting on the resurrection accounts)

Jesus’s resurrection is the best surprise ending ever. It’s so good, so fitting, so unexpected, so inevitable, so awe-inspiring, so triumphant, so impossible to make up.

The accounts of the resurrection are in Matthew 28:1-15,  Mark 16, Luke 24:1-49 and John 20:1-23.

As I read through them this week I was struck by the number of questions that Jesus and the angels ask Jesus’s followers. The most famous is “Woman, why are you weeping?” when Jesus meets Mary Magdalene but she doesn’t recognise him. But there are several others.

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A single cross standing on a dark plain, silhouetted on a blue and purple sunset, with the words: Father, forgive (two poems inspired by Jesus's words on the cross) Faith in Grey Places

Father, forgive (two poems inspired by Jesus’s words on the cross)

Two short poems this week, both reflecting on a prayer Jesus made whilst he was on the cross on Good Friday: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” 

It’s recorded in Luke 23:33-35, though some manuscripts don’t include it. Curiously, the NET footnotes say that “even those who regard the verse as inauthentic literarily often consider it to be authentic historically.”

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Close up picture of a rich woman in a large ornate room, sitting on a red and gold couch, wearing a tiara, looking out towards the light with a concerned look on her face. Has the text: His blood and his body, a poem reflecting on when Pilate washed his hands

His blood and his body (a poem reflecting on when Pilate washed his hands)

Last week I wrote that I’ve written these poems starting from a blank slate, meaning the end result often surprises me. Again, this one surprised me.

Also, I hope you like Shakespeare.

I wanted to reflect on Pilate’s agency, especially how on Good Friday he tried to wash his hands in public and absolve himself from the guilt of Jesus’s death. The account is in Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15, Luke 23:1-25 and John 18:28-19:16.

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The Longest Sabbath (a poem reflecting on Jesus’s prayer: “Not my will but yours”)

I’ve written these poems starting from a blank slate, meaning the end result often surprises me. This one… this one really surprised me. In short, I started out wanting to write about Maundy Thursday, but ended up writing something peaceful set on Holy Saturday. I also cried a lot while I was writing it (but in a good way, I think?) 

I wanted to reflect on Jesus’s agency and will, when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, the night before his crucifixion. He was so overwhelmed with sorrow, knowing what was about to happen, that he asked God (the Father) if it was possible for him not to suffer. But, having prayed this, also prayed that the Father’s will be done, not his own.

The account is in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46.

Continue reading The Longest Sabbath (a poem reflecting on Jesus’s prayer: “Not my will but yours”)