30 May 2014

Joanna: Finished

Luke 23:50-24:10

It is finished
- over,
our hopes as broken as your body.
There's nothing you can give me now.
Your healing hands are pierced and torn,
your loving heart - cold.

There's nothing you can give me now,
no benefit in staying here -
but here I am
by your side
not taking anymore,
but giving
a last gift to you.

It is finished
- over,
We wrap you in linen -
one last look at your face.
We roll the stone before your grave -

The seed has fallen
into the ground.
Will it awake
to bring forth fruit?
Lord, is it finished -
or has it just begun? 


[30. May 2014]

Actually this is long overdue; I was going to post this on the Saturday just before Easter, but was really busy and not happy with the first draft, so now more than a month later here it is... I suppose other things I've written go a bit deeper but I dunno. Was focusing on the double meaning of "finished": over, or complete. "Over" would mean it's the end, there's nothing more, this is where it stops. "Complete" means fulfillment, that something has been done. To many of Jesus' disciples, seeing Him die must have made them feel all was over. But when Jesus said it is finished, He meant complete: He had fulfilled what He came to do. It was not the end though.

The "setting" of this poem, or the scene in the background, is supposed to be the burial (because Joanna was probably one of those present). Might be visible in the third stanza.

Maybe the second stanza is a bit of a "mistake" in the sense that it makes a point which does not appear in the rest of the poem... so maybe I should either have left it out or elaborated the thought somewhere. But I'd find it a pity to cut it and I don't know how to elaborate so I'll just leave it for now. The thought there is that at Jesus' grave, we have a powerless Jesus. Those who stayed with Him there knew that they could not "get" anything out of Him, because He was dead. What do we stay with Jesus for - the things we get from Him? Or His own sake? I believe that we should not just believe in Jesus and follow Him because He promises us eternal life, or because we might get good things and blessings from Him, but believe in Him just because of who He is. Because even if He does not give us what we want or expect, e.g. if He leaves some prayers unanswered, that does not change anything about who He is, or change the fact that He is worthy of glory just because of who He is.

Last part is a reference to John 12:24 - "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Because this is a "passion" poem for Holy Saturday, it only hints at Easter, doesn't directly talk about the Resurrection yet. But for us it is certain: Jesus rose again~ So we already have the answer to Joanna's uncertainties.
But even after the Resurrection, when we have a powerful, living Jesus, not a dead and helpless one, I think we need to ask ourselves: do we stick with Jesus because of the benefits we expect to get, or do we stick with Him for His own sake? Do we believe in Him in order to get something out of Him, or do we submit to the true Lord just because He is the true Lord?

Picture by Caravaggio... my favourite depiction of this scene actually (so far).

21 May 2014


 Revelation 12

A cry
piercing through the night:
praying, calling, wailing:

In anguish, with uncounted tongues,
the Earth screams out her labour cry;
a cacophony of sighs
clamouring unceasingly,
longing for the end,
the end,
the new beginning,
a moaning murmur of pain:

Innocent blood
cries out from the ground
as nature laments
and weeps and waits
for the night to end,
for strife to cease,
for peace to come -
will it ever come?

So much noise
from a little speck
somewhere in the universe.

Lord, come!
For hatred still reigns.
Lord, come!
For every day
your name is blasphemed
by those who think they serve you
by causing others pain.
Lord, come!
We are enchained
in sin and death
and cannot escape.

You who added your cry to ours,
you who made our pain your own,
you who suffer with the hurting,
you who died to save us all -
come and change this world
that preaches hatred in your name;
come and dry all tears
and let us find joy
in you.


(Technically not a "Bible women" poem because - despite the William Blake pic of Rev 12 up there - I was not thinking of a particular lady while writing it [except for the woman in labour, taken from some judgement texts but now I realise it doesn't fit too badly to the Rev 12 lady] but this made me want to post it here. And yes the original background and "point" of the poem is very different - as you'll see from the original commentary below - but when certain things happen in the world, I often think "Maranatha" so I suppose this isn't all that unfitting.)

[17. March 2014]

"Marana tha" = o Lord, come!
Though I just read that it could also mean "the Lord has come" - hm, I wonder what the double meaning does to the poem... (you tell me)

I just watched Agora and was pretty moved, and shocked at the un-Christian behaviour of certain "Christians". Whether the film is historically accurate can be debated, but it is a fact that there are many so-called Christians doing evil things in the name of God even now, retaliating with violence instead of answering evil with good, keeping grudges instead of forgiving, causing wars (in God's name - which I think is a worse abuse of God's name than saying "oh my God", by the way), and excusing harsh judgement with "standing up for truth". In the city where I live, famous reformers (Zwingli and Bullinger) had other Christians (anabaptists) drowned just because of doctrinal differences. In the Central African Republic, Christians are killing Muslims and one hardly even hears about it. And it is no excuse saying elsewhere Christians are being persecuted too. The Christian response to evil should always be love, non-retaliation, forgiveness, because that is Jesus' example: He even forgave those who nailed Him to the cross, which is more than some Christians have done (who e.g. used the fact that Jews contributed to Jesus' death as a reason for persecuting them - argumentation that ultimately led to the Holocaust).

This kind of thing does not make me lose faith in God, because I know God is different and what some "christians" are doing runs contrary to the Scriptures. But it does make me depressed about humanity. This world is full of evil. BUT that does not mean there is no hope. Jesus is coming again to make all things right - and that is why if the world makes us hopeless, we can turn with hope to His return, when all this hatred and pain and sin will be over. I believe this kind of hope is not a passive retreat from the world, hiding away from all the overwhelming evil and sorrow - Jesus taught us that waiting for His return means being prepared, being found doing that which He sent us to do. Which means following in His footsteps, being ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5).

Anyway those were the thoughts behind this poem...

- This was inspired in particular by one scene in Agora: Christians are killing Jews (in retaliation for a Jewish attack), and then everything zooms out and you see the Earth floating in space, and keep hearing the screams. And I thought: God hears this all the time. And not just from a distance, but right up close, because He hears right into our hearts even when we don't raise our voices. Imagine God having to hear all this screaming all the time.

- The "labour" image was inspired by some judgement texts in the prophets / Psalms where a city hit by God's judgement is compared to a woman in labour; also, Jesus compared the signs that come before His second coming with labour. Labour is pain but half-way positive, in that it works towards something, and there's hope at the end (child being born).

- The bit with nature weeping and longing too is from Romans 8: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."

- I often "need" a last stanza that ties everything together with Christ, in particular the suffering Christ. I see Jesus on the cross as the one who suffers with us as well as for us, who knows our pain, who bore it Himself to the utter point of God-forsakenness. The strongest comfort, for me, is knowing that whatever pain we go through, Jesus knows it because He feels it too.

Jesus is coming soon and that is a good thing!
Christians, remember that "repent!" means you too.