The word “Easter” in rounded letters against a pale blue background with words over the top: This is my body (a poem for Eastertide) Faith in Grey Places

This is my body: a poem for Eastertide

For lent 2022, I’m writing six duologues between Samuel and other people in the Bible, all on the theme of living with conflict. The duologues are taking longer than I’d hoped to write, so this week I offer a poem instead.

Last week, I wrote a new poem, “This is my tent.” This week, I’ve written another “This is my body.” It’s a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. 

Continue reading This is my body: a poem for Eastertide
Black and white photo of a church where the ceiling has fallen in. The photo shows the broken pieces of the ceiling and the top of the high altar where a cross with INRI over the top is placed.

This is my tent: a poem for passion week

For lent 2022, I’m writing six duologues between Samuel and other people in the Bible, all on the theme of living with conflict. The duologues are taking longer than I’d hoped to write, so this week I offer a poem instead.

It’s no secret that on Good Friday, Jesus suffered a long and agonising death. I have long struggled with Christian imagery and literature on the passion of Christ. On the one hand it shouldn’t be sanitised, but on the other it’s almost too much to bear thinking about. I’ve also struggled with depictions of Jesus’ suffering that seem to revel in the pain; it makes me wonder whether the artists in question have any comprehension of what torture is like. 

And then of course, I come back to the fact that I barely know myself. 

Continue reading This is my tent: a poem for passion week
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)

Bible references for this poem: Matthew 27:5–54, Matthew 28:1–8, Mark 15:37–39, Mark 16:1–7, Luke 24:1–43, John 20.
Also: 2 Corinthians 3, Hebrews 10:19–25.

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. 

Continue reading The strangest part (a poem celebrating the resurrection stories of Jesus)
Small section of the baptismal stained glass window at Coventry Cathedral with the words: Looking back from Emmaus (a poem about how we make sense of our experiences) Faith in Grey Places

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

Bible references for this poem: Luke 24:13–35.

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. 

Continue reading Looking back from Emmaus (a poem about how we make sense of our experiences)
Close up of sheep standing in rough pasture in warm evening light with one sheep looking directly at the camera. Text on top: Son of Jonah (a poem reflecting on when Jesus reinstated Peter) Faith in Grey Places

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

Bible references for this poem: John 21:15–19.
Also: Matthew 26:69–75, Mark 14:66–72, Luke 22:54–62, John 18:15–27.

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.)

Continue reading Son of Jonah (a poem reflecting on when Jesus reinstated Peter)
Picture looking out to the sea from the edge of the shore with yellow and pink sky. Word: The morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked) Faith in Grey Places

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

Bible and other references for this poem: John 21:1–14.
Also: Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 10:1–20, and the poem ‘Footprints’ by an anonymous author.

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. 

Continue reading Loneliness in the morning after (a poem for when your faith has been rocked)
Woman sitting on the edge of a balcony in a city looking up at a large sign that says "JESUS SAVES". Text over the top: A sonnet from a modern Thomas (reflecting on what it takes to share our faith). Faith in Grey Places

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

Bible references for this poem: John 20:19–31.
Also: Psalm 23:5, Psalm 42:1, Psalm 139:1–2, Matthew 16:8–10.

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)
Paper cut-out of a tomb with the stone rolled away, against a brown background with light seeping through from above. Text: A question, not a criticism (a poem reflecting on the resurrection accounts) Faith in Grey Places

A question, not a criticism (a poem reflecting on the resurrection accounts)

Bible references for this poem: Matthew 28:1–15, Mark 16, Luke 24:1–49, John 20:1– 23.

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.

Continue reading A question, not a criticism (a poem reflecting on the resurrection accounts)
"They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." The Prophet, Micah 4:3

Christmas 2020: Week 1, Day 7: Dreams

“Never surrender dreams.”

J Michael Straczinsky, screenwriter and author

I once read a fantasy novella called The Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson. It was all about a magic of forgery, where you could make alternative identities for people and even objects. But for an alternative identity to stick, it had to be plausible. The more plausible it was, the longer it lasted. (I highly recommend the book.)

I found this a fascinating and creative take for how we bring about change. Change only happens if people can envisage the new way of being; ideas only get traction if they’re seen as achievable. 

Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 1, Day 7: Dreams

Christmas 2020: Week 1, Day 6: Bones

I have a strange relationship with legal codes. 

On the one hand, I love seeing how they interact. Geeking out on Old Testament laws is one of my pastimes.

On the other hand, there is something very dead about written regulations. They are static. They always have cracks and limits. And legal documentation can be dry as a bone. 

But sometimes things need to die before they can really live. 

Continue reading Christmas 2020: Week 1, Day 6: Bones