Picture looking up at the statue Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, against an azure sky with a single white puffy cloud in the sky. Words: Divine comedy (a poem reflecting on Jesus's ascension) Faith in Grey Places

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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Picture of an empty stone coffin with a marble plaque above it quoting words from Mark 16 where the angels say Jesus is risen. Text over the top: The strangest part (a poem celebrating the resurrection stories of Jesus) Faith in Grey Places

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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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.

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Brown parchment background with text over the top: Don't ask (a poem about Jesus debating on his own terms) Faith in Grey Places

Don’t ask (a poem about the debates Jesus had)

This week I wanted to explore the idea of holding your own in a debate intended to undermine you. I’m looking at it in the context in the week before Jesus’s crucifixion, when he was questioned in the temple. In particular, when he was asked by what authority he said and did the things he did. 

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Profile picture of a young donkey with the text over the top: My neighbour's colt, a poem inspired by Jesus's entry into Jerusalem. Faith in Grey Places

My neighbour’s colt – a poem inspired by Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem

In this poem I wanted explore the idea of following orders in the context of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, a week before his crucifixion.

When systemic injustice is uncovered, you often hear this point raised: can the rank and file be blamed for complying with unethical instructions from their commanding officers?

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Neutral choice (a poem inspired by Mary of Bethany when she anointed Jesus with spikenard)

For lent and Easter 2021, I’m writing a series of poems, each exploring the theme of agency through the lens of stories from Jesus’s passion. This first one is inspired by Mary of Bethany when she poured a pint of spikenard over Jesus’s head.

Actually, the gospel accounts vary. 

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Where has the cadence gone? A lament during times without structure.

Note: While the word ‘cadence’ has a number of meanings, this poem uses it primarily in the sense of a sequence of notes or chords that bring a musical phrase to a close.


Where has the cadence gone?
The sentence-ending fitting word,
The coda of a rhythmic song?
When inhale, exhale linger – but not too long.

Continue reading Where has the cadence gone? A lament during times without structure.