Category Archives: Poetry

A Poem about & a Prayer for our True Identity — A look at Ephesians 1

a 30,000 ft. view of Ephesians

How I read the Bible

The Bible is not a flat book. It’s all God’s word, but every verse is not equal to every other verse. Love your neighbor is more important than don’t eat shrimp. 

I’ve heard many people say, “I don’t interpret the Bible, I just read it.” I may well have said it myself. But, that’s simply not possible. All of us read through the lens of who we are and what we’ve experienced. 

We all have a perspective. Everything we read or hear comes to us through the filter of our background, influences, preconceptions, and worldview. 

I have to listen deeply when I read scripture or hear a sermon or lecture. When it comes to the Bible, I’m learning to ask questions – How do we know that’s true? What’s the context of this passage? What kind of literature is this? To whom was it originally written? What do I know about them? How would they have read and understood this text? How does this passage point me to Jesus? How am I to apply this passage in my life? What do a wide variety of commentators say about this passage?

When I scan the collection of books in my library, I notice a commonality. The majority of commentaries and books on Christian living were written by affluent heterosexual men of northern European decent. That’s because those were the only people who had the means to gain the education, the time to write books, and the connections to get them published. It’s not that there was necessarily any overt plan to exclude others, nor any conscious racism. Nevertheless, as a result, the only voices available all shared the same perspective. I never thought to ask how a biblical text might look through the eyes of a Native American, a descendant of African slaves, or a woman.

Moreover, there’s the danger of reading our favorite theological position into the text. The original authors knew nothing of Calvinism, Arminianism, Catholicism, or Pentecostalism. 

Over the last decade or so, I’ve made a conscious effort to expose my mind to brilliant scholars from widely diverse backgrounds. The result is amazing. When the rains fell on the rich soils of the northern plains, the farmers in my congregation used to say you could hear the corn growing. I can almost hear myself growing spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually because I’m listening to voices across the ethnic, economic, gender, cultural, political, social, and theological spectra. Diversity is a vital divine gift. I’m trying to learn to listen to and learn from everyone I meet. 

But then, how does one sort out the true from the false? 

We have to start with who God is. God is love. Jesus is God incarnate, God in human flesh. God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. We have an amazing and historically accurate record of what Jesus spoke and did.

When reading the Bible, I try to filter the text through Jesus, through the loving incarnate God. I’m learning to read the Bible with a cruciform hermeneutic, to look at every text in light of the cross. 

I read the Bible this way because Jesus said to. All scripture is divinely inspired, and all scripture points to Jesus. Jesus challenged the religious scholars: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39)

Jesus changed everything on the cross. All evil was absorbed and obliterated. Perfect self-sacrificing, enemy-forgiving love conquered sin and satan. 

Eternal life is not in reading the Bible. It is in Jesus. The Bible points us to the true, eternal, infallible Word of God, whose name is Jesus. Every passage in the Old Testament bears witness about Jesus. The Gospels are the stories of the life of Jesus. The rest of the New Testament points us back to Jesus. What does this passage mean in light of the cross? How can I see the love of God behind every Bible passage? 

Doing so takes a great deal of deconstruction. I’m learning to recognize and set aside my biases, to acknowledge my natural lenses. I’ve dispensed with a lot of dogma. 

And, I try to be humble – to keep an attitude of teachableness, of recognition that I have a lot to learn, and some of what I think is true may need adjusting.  

The Community of Faith: 1 Peter 5

An Outpouring of the Spirit

Only the most skilled

Clamp on their ice-spikes and

Venture to the inaccessible heights of

The Himalayans, but even they are

Unaware that far beneath the ice and

Snow on which they climb lie

Granite fissures that slowly sip the

Pure snow being gently warmed by

Molten fires miles below.

Just a trickle of pristine water,

Clearer than the clearest crystal,

Finds it’s kind deep inside the 

Towering peaks and forms a

Rivulet that bubbles to the

Surface thousands of feet

Below the crest to form a

Perfect untainted mountain spring.

Millions of years, glaciers, snows, rains, and winds

Carved the crevice that separates the

Singular spring into two.

One falls violently. The other with grace.

Religion

One becomes angry as it absorbs

Man’s pollutants from soil and air.

It fights and rages against the 

Injustice, ripping trees and boulders,

Stirring sands, campsites, and trash

Until the dam.

But it is not placid, nor will it surrender

To the dullness of the choking reservoir.

The bitterness stirs deep within until,

Aided by torrential rains sent by

Furious gods, it rips and explodes the

Concrete wall and ferociously takes

Revenge on downstream towns

Inhabited by the species that

Polluted its ancestors. 

It is at war.

The Way

High above, its sister took a different path.

Unobtrusive, it winds its unsullied water

Along gentle paths dotted with

Kindly sprays of quiet falls

Through alpine flowers where

Fawns and lambs quench their 

Thirst, bulbul and monal dance,

Home to mahseer, baby rabbits, 

Red panda, tahr, snow leopard and 

Snow partridge. Warmed by thermal

Features below and summer sun above,

It softly cascades into a transparent

Pool where naked lovers play.

Jesus Wept

Tears

Under skies brushed with 

Shades of white and grey the

Yellow-rumped warbler sings a

Song of rebirth as cherry-blossom

Petals float past bluebirds and

Goldfinch taking nourishment from

Offerings displayed on red-buds

Concentric circles formed by

Raindrops push white and pink

Segments of corolla to the edges of a

Verdant ostracod universe where the

Untrained eye imagines a

Mechanistic world where blood-oil 

Consequentialism triumphs

Religion honors the wealthy and

Powerful by justifying, even

Deifying, the dominant while

Babies being crushed by war machines

Elicits joyous patriotic pride and

Even an occasional tear on an

Old man’s cheek

But those tears are an acid rain of

Carcinogenic mercury belched from the

Stacks of empires of injustice – 

Tears that amplify the inhumanity that

Causes opossum and grouse to 

Unite their voices with oaks and birch in

Groans of lament

Like the teenage mother in labor

Agonizing in anticipation of the

Manifestation of the children of

God who cry night and day,

“As in heaven so on earth,” echoed by

Every cayote howl and reflected in

Every refugee’s eyes

Herald bids, “Look closer,” the

Drops of rain are playing in an

Inner world brimming with the

Freedom of the birdsong, a tulip’s

Delicate beauty, the fragrance of

Sage and myrrh, and a vast eclectic

Seascape of dancing color

From whence comes this

Kingdom of love where

Grace and mercy flow like

Rivers into cascades of joyous

Abundance and sacrificial love,

Where beauty begets exquisite 

Beauty and kindness is the only sword?

It is born of the tears of every

War, every death, each loss, of

Rachel weeping for her children

Under overseers’ whips and 

Burning child in ruined hut and

Sobbing heart at every grave

Which mingle with the

Groans of each bludgeoned seal,

Harpooned whale, gunshot stork,

And felled tree forced to release 

Life to feed the greed of conquerors

Whose gods insatiably demand sacrifices

From those who can only hear the

Banshee’s brutal laugh.

Tears of woods and gardens, of

Parents and lovers, of the

Broken homeless, are kept by

God in a bottle of remembrance and

Mingled with the tears of the One who

Wept over Jerusalem and sobbed with

Martha at graveside

Tears that Mary mingled with her own

Precious nard in anticipation of the

Ultimate death that would end 

Death.

Forever.

And so, the warbler sings and the

Cherry tree makes its glad offering

(LRT April 10, 2021)

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