Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Feedback (or...An Evangelical Walks into a Nave)

Not long ago I preached a Sunday sermon about one of the techniques I have found useful for keeping my own liturgical spirituality fresh, which is to put myself intentionally in the place of a visitor, experiencing for the first time (or close to the first time) that which I and others now find routine and commonplace.

I don't often actually get feedback from such a person--any feedback at all, let alone articulate and penetrating feedback. Over the past couple of years at St Anne's, we've been getting a small stream of visitors from the local evangelical liberal arts college. In the milieu of that community, St Anne's is kind of para-normal; clearly we "know the Lord," but we do strange stuff. Some of them have a taste of our liturgical worship rooted in Catholic tradition, quietly roll their eyes, and move on. Others have an epiphany.

Connor Park is one of the latter, apparently. This morning he posted the following (longish) poem on his Facebook page, and I share it here with his permission. I love it when somebody "gets it" even without the benefit of months of careful catechesis. It's almost enough to make on believe in the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit.

(Connor Park's poetry blog is here.)

On the Eucharist #1

So it's mid-autumn, right
Smack dab in the middle of the season of change
Where everything green turns to gold
Like God's up there playing Midas or something
“You thought that green was gorgeous? - Just wait till you see what colours I have left.”
And everything's falling down
or falling apart.
The trees are out in the cold with no coats.
Crazy trees.

But anyhow,
An evangelical walked into the nave -
Great set up for a joke, right?
That's sort of how I always thought too,
Like God's up there throwing feelings my way or something -
“You thought THAT theology was mindblowing? - Just wait till you hear my really good stuff.”
And everything's rising up
or raring up.
The kid is out on the road with no coat.
Crazy kid.

So there's this guy right?
And he's the type of nutcase who'll wear sandals in sub-zero
And maybe doesn't quite have it all together
And maybe he's got a twinge of that postmodern, question-the-world, Jacques Derrida, Jack Kerouac, Jack Daniels différance,
Drunk on uncertainty and linguistic ambiguity
Incapable of settling, living life with abandon
Or at least as wild as his upbringing will allow.

So all his life he's had the answers,
And a bunch of questions too -
Why am I here?
Whose language am I speaking?
Why am I here again? Where's my home, my hope?
And everything's bursting forth
or busting doors.
The guy's out in the world without a clue.
Crazy guy.

All right.
Leave him on his corner for a while.
He could go on for hours.

Let's talk about bread.
About how yeast -
when harbored in a warm and welcoming envelope of water
and nurtured on the sweet monosaccharides of life
expands and ferments and sweetens and enriches
and turns the sticky glutens of grain
into something well worth eating and savoring.
What was potentially, but only just potentially edible
Is nourishing, life-giving, delicious.

And how about wine?
You've got these little vine berries
Some people think they're ambrosia but
Most will acknowledge that grapes are not actually all that.
But you take this purple fruit
and walk all over it
and throw in - what else? - yeast
and bury that for a while
And raise it up again
As an invigorating force.

These are the things that we can understand.
Simple facts. Not a lot to question there.
But the kid, he's out for more
In this mid autumn time when everything is changing
During the season when green is passing out
During the question-raising time.
It's like God is out there somewhere, right here –
“You thought the first two decades were interesting? Just wait a little while longer.”
The kid's out for enough love to drown in.
Crazy kid.

This kid is a walking paradox, all right?
A homebody to the core
A wearer of floured aprons and a dough-puncher
An eater of warm stew and wearer of slippers
But at the same time
A road-lusty wanderer
A wearer of flannel shirts and the same jeans for ten days
A devourer of life and a barefoot nomad
At least, metaphorically.

Yes, a complete oxymoron:
Contending peacenik.
Studious poet.
Egalitarian medievalist.
A musician with no rhythm
A believer with questions.
Confound it all, but he is also a man helplessly in love.
Crazy kid.

So that joke from earlier?
An evangelical walked into the nave?
True story.
Searching for God knows what.

He's always supposed
Kid has
That the readiness is all.
If he waited restless long enough
His colours would change without intent or action
And the undiscovered country would remain so –
Found but not discovered
And he'd gain entry with enough forethought
and examination
and above all, reading
An armchair theologian of a God in the wild.
Now that's absurd.
To set out on a voyage without ever casting off.
Remember, this kid is a very oxymoron
Definitely like God decided to tell a joke –
“There’s this kid, you see, drunk on questions, dizzy for answers.”

But things do change,
in mid-autumn
In the falling of the leaves
Other types of falling happen slow
There’s that love thing
“Gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight…”
And there’s the discovery of home in a concrete crate –
And what’s more the embrace of people with as much paradox
as the kid could ever dream.
and yes, the girl.
She warrants two mentions at least.
So many more though, definitely.
Everything budding, brewing, rising

“An evangelical walked into the nave.”
Searching for God knows what
And he did.
Miracle of miracles –
The forensic formulae for bread and wine
Come up short, which confirms his poetic leaning
But also so much more.

The wind blows
and the light in the window catches his eye,
illuminating, knowing, forgiving
“…by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…”
and a centuries-old rhythm calms his heart
beating, walking, steady pacing
“…joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven…”
and the smell of incense hallows him a temple
ringing, singing, loud echoing still
“Hosanna in the highest.”
The wind blows
“…to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son...”

And he kneels.
And he rises.


You’d think that God was crazy or something.


Unknown said...

Yep, he gets it. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Dan!

Carson Clark said...

Fr. Martins,

Hello. Really enjoyed the read. Saw that you're ministering to a group of evangelical students from a nearby college. Very cool.

I'm an aspiring clergy-writer who's new to the Anglican tradition, and am trying to find Anglican readers. The title of my blog is "Musings of a Hard-Lining Moderate: The assorted thoughts of an evangelical Anglican."

Right now I'm doing a series on the doctrine of Scripture, which was prompted by the crisis in the global communion. Also wrote a post on the value of the christian calendar.

Don't know if you'd be interested, but here's the link:

Have a great day.

Grace & Peace,


Anonymous said...

beautiful poem!