Poems of the moment by Joanna Tulloch unless otherwise attributed.

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Trinity  

For today, 30 May 2021

Dance of love in three steps,
care and grace and mercy,
you are with us always
to the end of this pandemic
and beyond.

Face of wonder, Father,
present in creation,
you are with us always
till your gifts are loved and nurtured
and transformed.

Son who shared our being
and taught us true compassion,
you are with us always
in those who care for others,
those who heal.

Spirit, source of courage,
comforter, defender,
you are with us always
wherever there’s injustice,
fear or pain.

Spirit, Son, and Father,
inspirer, friend, creator,
you are with us always
until the new beginning
dawns on earth.

GLORY                                                     Easter Day 2021

In the cool, dark tomb, a flame.Blossom
In the winter-girded heart, a spring.
Falls the melted ice upon the dust
and there springs glory.
Do not try to touch.
Do not try to say too much.
Glory abounds
whether you understand
or not.

Covid Remembrance    (23.3.21)

 

A year filled with the unfamiliar,
with masks and distancing,
self-isolation and loneliness;
but above all, for so many,
with death and bereavement.
 
A year ago I wondered
what we would tell our children
and our children’s children
about this time of passion,
of suffering love playing itself out
on television and in crowded homes.
But children have experienced it all
for themselves – the loneliness
and anxiety have affected them
as much as anyone, perhaps more.
 
Yet it has also been a year of finding
new ways to love, new signs of hope.
We are more united than before
in realms of mystery and giving,
standing together though far apart.
 
Let us not forget that truth
when things go back to ‘normal’,
if indeed they do. Let us make
our new normal richer, fuller of
compassion, remembering the death
of the one who was lifted up
for our sakes, and from that height
of glory drew all people to himself.

 

Way of Life   1 March 2021

How shall we explain

our Methodist Way of Life

in simple words

without churchy jargon?

This is harder than

you might think –

it takes the cooperation

of head and heart

to recognise what

is the essence

of our calling.

It takes in all the

wondrous love of God

and speaks it

in response to

our life here, both

the good

and the bad.

Without God’s love

we are nothing,

but with it

we can help

change the world.


 


February flowers     28 February 2021

 

The daffodils are hoping for an early spring,

racing the forsythia for flowering.

Feet still in frost, they feel the air

as if divining how to start behaving.

 

Some will be blind and never see the sun,

others will die before their flowers can open.

Still, they'll have tried. Crocus and snowdrop

cannot now claim all the early glory.

 

Colour me yellow in this coldest month,

sun-dipped and wind-whipped into a new daring.

Dapple  me daffodil in my dreams and plans

so that the darkness shall not sap my courage.

 

Before the month is out I shall be rising

up, up to the life you'd have me living.

 


Back in lockdown    12 January 2021 

 

This lockdown seems heavier somehow,

less optimistic, more grey.

The numbers continue to rise,

both the quantity of infections

and the deaths. Temporary morgues

are being constructed

and Chris Whitty says

the next few weeks

will be the hardest yet.

 

However, there is hope

as the vaccines are administered

to the most vulnerable.

 

What we need is a new story to live by,

the story we have just celebrated

in the Incarnation, God-with-us,

and the story we have begun to tell

ourselves about the importance

of community, about helping and loving

each other, and mirroring the story

of the life, work, and death of Jesus.

 

So, even in the grey times,

even in the heavy times,

do not lose sight of him.


NEW YEAR 2021

Come, let us anew 
Our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear.

His adorable will
Let us gladly fulfill,
And our talents improve,
By the patience of hope, and the labour of love.

The arrow is flown, 
The moment is gone;
The millennial year
Rushes on to our view, and eternity’s here.

O that each in the day 
Of His coming may say,
“I have fought my way through;
I have finished the work Thou didst give me to do!

O that each from his Lord 
May receive the glad word,
“Well and faithfully done!
“Enter into My joy, and sit down on My throne!” 

                                               Charles Wesley


The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
                                                  Thomas Hardy

A Shepherd’s Complaint 

(A monologue for shepherds) 


There are certain things you expect in my profession; 

Weather, seasons, birth, death; 

Cycles. 

That’s the key to my job, 

To my life. 

And the occasional lost soul 

Wandering around the hills 

In the hands of nature. 

Birth. Death. 

In my job 

God is in the sky! 

Nature! 

Natural. 

Show a ewe a ram, 

You expect it to be expecting 

A lamb. 

And ewe’s expect about three years of productivity. 

That’s to be expected. 

That’s what you’d expect. 

In the town, 

in the synagogue they have wider horizons, 

(more ambitious if you like) 

Started by the prophets, 

Expecting some ‘Messiah’ they call it. 

Well, you can expect something like that, 

It’s useful isn’t it. 

Keeps people in line, 

on their toes. 

Like the occasional lost lamb 

wandering around the hills. 

You’re expected to find it. 

So you keep your eyes open. 

You go looking, searching, 

In hope rather than expectation. 

And you do expect to find it 

Sooner or later 

Just not alive. 

Not really. 

Like the holy men, 

You expect them to have expectations. 

Otherwise what would they have to offer? 

But you don’t expect those expectations to come alive! 

Not really. 

So there are certain things you expect in my profession. 

No surprises. 

Peaceful. 

The good will of companions 

in the trees 

On the hill. 

Nature. 

Natural. 

God in the sky. 

What you don’t expect… 

What I never asked for… 

What I never dreamed of 

was 

Angels… 


For Advent 

Advent, like Lent, is a time of waiting.

Waiting in darkness for times of illumination.

Rooted in ancient prophecies and hopes of new life.

Waiting in violence for times of peace.

As God enters creation and knows humanity’s beating heart.

Waiting in hunger for times of generosity.

In these days when Covid reigns and scars the year.

Waiting for healing in times of death.

Can we wait with new understanding?

Waiting in the cold for the warmth of being held by love.

Counting Advent Days with chocolate treats to help a smile.

Waiting in the sadness of separation for times of joy.

Candles and trees lit against the dark.

Waiting for the Light.

‘Normal’ questioned and found wanting.

Waiting is perhaps the hardest part.

We look to nature, for nature knows how to wait.

Waiting can be embraced as we watch the clouds part.

As in Advent, and in Lent, we wait for the new life

that changes all of life.


Peter Powers


For Remembrance-tide


Passchendaele

 

A single battle that lasted three months – 

waves of men going over the top

or drowning in the mud below.

No sleep, next to no food

and always the relentless mud

sucking men down.

Of dust we were made

and to dust we shall return,

but to be buried in liquid mud

cannot be what was intended.

To tremble with fear

or to run bravely through the fire

until you reached that point

when you couldn’t take another step,

until the mud claimed you.

For all those who endured

this hell-hole of human folly,

those who came home

and those who fell or sank,

there was Passion in Passchendaele

as a whole generation was forfeit.

May they rest in peace.


Week of 25 October


A Meditation on John 10.9


Entrancing entrance 

 

And here is a gate,

simple, rustic,

leading to the fruit trees

and to vert-it-tude

if not yet, or ever,

into certitude,

then at least to veracity

and peace.

This stretched moment,

lazy but not guiltily so,

long and leisurely

with grace and expectation,

resting in not-knowing

accompanied by birdsong,

cheered and chirruped by crickets,

a tiny spider voyaging

across the bright white paper

and then to tickle my arm,

and the clouds drifting slowly,

oh, so slowly

across the blue,

all calling up memories

but leading somewhere else,

somewhere new

by a wandering

and a wondering path

to wholeness.


Week of 18 October 

As the deer


Parched and tired, the muntjac

creeps toward the waterhole,

tempted to run, but shy

of other animals there.

 

This is the clear stream,

the crystal fountain

for which she has longed

and searched for days.

 

Like her, we seek out

sustenance and moisture

in a dry land, but our need

is to find the fount of grace.

 

And when we do, sometimes

in the unlikeliest of places,

we can only praise you,

our living God, source of all joy.

 

A sip of your water is enough

to turn our dry brown edges

back to green again, enough

to satisfy our thirst for ever.

                                    Selah!

 

Imagine


Imagine the new day

as the first day of creation

when the chaos lifts

and the Spirit drifts across the deep.

 

Imagine the shower

as a sprinkling of God’s love

that finds the dark, dry places

and enlivens them.

 

Imagine the clean water

blessing the whole earth

as we learn to share and give

each other sustenance.

 

Imagine that today

a house of justice will be built

and all peoples will be welcome there

for all eternity.

 

Imagine – and realise your dreams.

 


27 September & 4 October  

He found the burden light  Philippians 2 and Matthew 11: 25–30

 

How can we find that humility

that doesn’t remind us of Uriah Heap,

but instead of being ever so ‘umble

in a fawning, cringing way,

leads us to the one whose yoke is easy

and his burden light?

I mean the one who came to live with us

and bid us take his yoke upon ourselves,

for he is humble and gentle of heart.

 

There was a man whose name was Francis

who seemed to understand

what it meant to do this;

a man who lived so long ago

and yet seems attuned to all our problems.

He cared for the natural world

and talked, so they say, to the birds;

he found in Jesus the compassion

to tend the sick and stand up for the poor.

 

We remember him as a man of peace

who left us a prayer, altered down the ages,

but essentially the core of Jesus’s teachings.

He knew how to achieve peace and rest for your soul.

It was not an easy way, no, not at all,

but in honouring the earth

in all its boundless variety

and meeting all people with love,

he caused a quiet revolution.

 

And he found Christ’s burden light.

 

20 September 

Sword of truth 

Light is not the absence of the dark
but the sight in shadowed places
of its complementary colour
hope opalescent
by its own deep concentration
silvering the storm clouds
into brightness.
 
Love is not the opposite of hate
but the kindling of pure passion
out of which may follow
the silencing of all recrimination
all competition
as in the presence of the beloved
comes forgiveness.
 
Peace is not the absence of a war
but the spreading of Shalom
that overflows the spirit
with acceptance
diluting all our differences
so that any conflict
becomes pointless.
 
Truth is not the opposite of lies
but a bold bright blade
raised as a beacon before us
straight sword
cutting through all falsehood
so that hope, love, peace can blaze forth
into life.


13 September 

Amnesty         Genesis 50: 15-21 & Matthew 18: 21-35

Let’s have an amnesty on hate – 

trade in all weapons for blessings

and learn to love as we have been loved.

Buses could be used to take children

out to the countryside or beaches,

knives to cut the bread and not the flesh;

guns, well guns could be re-forged into benches

on which different peoples could sit in the sun

and get to know one another.

Forgiveness would be the fruit of these exchanges – 

true forgiveness that bears no grudges.

First the conversation would have to acknowledge

all the hurts and misunderstandings,

to hold them where both sides could feel them

and then to consign them gently to the past.

There they would remain, not forgotten,

but proof of that great transformation

that Jesus first achieved on the cross,

meeting hatred with forgiving love.

Let’s have an amnesty on hate

and tell the world how all can be forgiven,

freeing them to love in their turn

and to live the new life that he won.

 

8 September 2020

Coming Home

Coming back to Wesley Mem 
after months of absence
would, I thought, feel very strange,
just as the first weeks
shut out of church had been.
There was plenty to make it so – 
not least the prohibition on singing.
Whoever heard of a Methodist service
without any hymns?
Then, of course, there was the distancing,
whole rows of chairs with crosses on them,
and people dotted about the Sanctuary.
And the mask-wearing,
so that only half of each face showed.
 
But, even so, Wesley Mem itself
hadn’t changed at all.
I felt the same sense
of coming home
as when I first walked in there
forty-four years ago,
the same warmth and fellowship
as we gathered to worship God.
I wondered whether the church
had been lonely, too,
robbed of all its people,
and whether it enjoyed
gathering us in once more
so that building and worshippers
were once again united.
 
We were church for all those months anyway,
but it’s good to come back home.
 

6 September 2020

Bread of life  

Soup as thick as stymied thought

in the dish of disconnected memory,

sticky and unswallowable

without a loaf to soak it up.

Ah, here comes nourishment,

here is the promised bread – 

great thick doorsteps of puckly brown

or soft smooth rolls of white.

Broken for you this staple food,

for you these crumbs let fall – 

remember this whenever you partake of it,

whether with pea soup in the brain

or wine at the communion table,

a simple meal with friends

or high in the sky from an airline meal-tray.

Ubiquitous and basic, yet so varied,

ready to meet every hungry human need,

bread, like Christ, is with you always,

Christ, like bread, is the staple of your life.

And all for you, every crumb for you is given

so that even sticky soup

will not burn your tongue and throat

but slip down easily

to nourish and restore.

For Jesus said ‘I am the bread of life’

and God is always baking white and brown,

heaven’s ovens bursting with risen loaves

for every person brown or white in God’s creation – 

for you, for you, for you,

and, yes, for you.

 

30 August 2020


 I AM who I AM   based on Exodus 3: 1–15 

An impersonal phrase

becomes much 

more alluring when

it is made personal,

as Moses learned when

he turned aside at the

burning bush that did not

consume itself,

but lit up the scene.


Nowadays we say

of the things we

do not understand,

‘it is what it is’,

but Moses turned aside

and listened to God

as God promised 

to lead his people

out of Egypt.


Believing God, he

nevertheless wanted

a name to take back

to the people,

in case they asked

on whose authority

he took charge.

‘I AM who I AM’, said God,

the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’


Jesus too used this name

‘I am’, being himself

the Word of God.

‘I am the light of the world,’

he said, and we read in John

that the light 

shines in the darkness

and the darkness

could not put it out.


So when darkness

enters your life,

do not be afraid

but trust in the One

who IS; turn aside to God

and God will  illuminate 

your darkness somehow.

The light might at first

feel like a fire burning you up,


but you will not be

consumed: just BE.



23 August


Doors    (to welcome our new Ministers)


There was a door – heavy, falling closed

and another open a tiny crack,

just far enough to see

a fascinating stripe of life within:

an arm, a leg, part of a wheelchair

and the edge of a table

scattered with random objects.

They are connected, yet unconnected,

only just finding their place in the story,

only just finding their story in this place.

The heavy door, pulled when it should be pushed,

appeared at first to be locked shut,

but even though that turned out not to be the case

let it be itself, falling to on its self-closer.

Let it close if that is what it was made to do.

Do not struggle with it, but instead

wait for the light to be revealed

in that other room, the one you can see but a part of.

Wait for the pattern to form from the randomness

and the faces connected to the leg and arm

to smile, to speak, to invite you in.

For this is the place of invitation,

of moving on from the familiar,

of risking a step in a new direction,

and of letting what seemed heavy

fall lightly in the past.



Sunday 16 August


Ps. 103 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits – 
who forgives all your iniquity and heals all your diseases.

Belief 

How should we pray? 

It all depends whether God 

will intervene to take this virus from us 

or walk beside us as we bear it. 

Personally I believe the latter 

and so I pray for faith and strength. 

Christ showed God’s love 

as he proved that even the worst things 

that could happen to him 

could not overcome the good. 

He showed that love is always, 

always stronger than death 

and good than evil. 

So shall we know this love 

in our hearts, carrying our burden, 

and, as we hold out to the end, 

everlasting life. 


Sunday 9 August

Matthew 14: 30 as in The Message 

'But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, "Master, save me!" '

Don’t look down   

 

Going out at the moment
is rather like Peter
walking on water – 
you’re all right as long as
you don’t look down.
 
Like a tightrope walker
you negotiate the narrow rope
between getting too close
and feeling safe
because of your mask and distancing.
 
Public confidence is still
quite low among 
the vulnerable – 
why throw away all that
has been won by staying at home?
 
But for Peter it was a matter
of continuing to trust (or not)
in the miraculous powers
of Jesus. Maybe we too
could learn something from this.
 

Sunday 2 August

Taking the next step      based on Psalm 17: 5

 

Go forward into the day, my soul

and do not fear,

though the night-time be tormenting

or the morning mournful.

Go forward 

with courage and conviction,

carrying your cross

and knowing that Christ has gone before you.

Go forward – 

even a single step of faith

will take you further

than any amount of wandering

among worldly cares.

Go forward

though the earth seem to melt away

before you,

for as you place your feet there

the bridge will be built and buttressed

beneath you.

No ifs, no buts, no chasing after shadows – 

simply go forward

to where the Master waits to greet you.

 

 Joanna Tulloch


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