Be Above Reproach

While walking ‘long the riverbank

the sun on the stream and

shadow in the glade

I saw a man across the water,

he’d come from out of the wood,

and stood ready to speak to me.

I knew him by his face

no mistaking the glow

though three thousand years since

first it was bestowed.

Without a thought I bowed my head

to this giver of the Law

And asked him what he would say

what I ought to know.

His sermo was brief, to the point,

as the commandments themselves-

‘Be above reproach,’ said he, ‘and

do not fear man.’

I would have asked him to explain,

but he’d said his piece, now turned away

and all was quiet at the bank.

I walked a little further along, and emerged anew

someone from the trees–

I knew him by his crown and by his voice,

for he approached the bank in song.

‘O King,’ said I, nigh breathless,

‘you have been one after His own heart–

what would you say to me?’

‘Be above reproach,’ he said, ‘and

be no party to rebellion.’

He too spoke short, and his errand done, departed, in psalm.

Deciding then to wait, I sat down in the grass,

to mull and to see whether another would come.

It wasn’t a long time, perhaps only moments,

when another left the shade,

one whose countenance bade me stand.

By his clothes and by his feet I knew

the one who’d raced a king’s car to Jezreel.

I could speak not a word to him, could only

listen to his warning.

‘Be above reproach,’ again, ‘and

do not abide idolatry.’

I replied with so slight a nod

and thought he looked tired.

But he was gone, and one followed him soon after.

By his eyes, red and worn from tear-filled years of service,

I knew him.

I would have reached out to him

were we not separated by the stream.

‘I will take your advice,’ I said, ‘you who have

spoken sorrowful things’.

‘Be above reproach,’ he answered, ‘and

do not suppress Truth.’

In his sadness yet there was peace as he heard

the sound of the water,

and as the glint of the sun on its current

flitted over his face.  And then he departed.

My heart was heavy with the weight of their words,

and yet I could not leave the river-bank.

There was more to hear.

I was not wrong, nor long in waiting,

for then came a seer of visions,

one whom I knew by his chain of gold.

I was a partaker in the wonder of his dreams

as I stood across the river meeting his gaze.

‘Can you lighten my load with your words, sir?’

With almost a smile he answered,

‘Be above reproach, and

do not omit to pray.’

This would do, after all.

He now waited until another came to the bank,

exchanged with him a greeting

and took his leave.

This newcomer I knew by his keen glance,

tax-collecting ambition turned to recording of instruction.

‘You once despised,’ I addressed him,

‘who wrote more than all the teachings of Christ,

what would you tell me?’

‘Be above reproach,’ said he, ‘and

do not doubt the Word.’

I recalled then the Fulfillments noted by his pen,

and knew his own assurance.

After he left, I thought then to think,

and began to move again down the riverside.

I was left to myself for some time,

when from the wood came one whom I knew

by the impetuous curve of his brow,

one who had known once a thrice-dark night of the soul.

‘You who are sober-minded,’ I said, ‘and

ready to suffer, what must I know?’

The man stout of heart replied right away,

‘Be above reproach, and

do not brook false doctrine.’

The urgency in his voice made my eyes widen,

but there was no time for questions,

for he seemed summoned away.

The sun glanced off the water, though more faintly

as evening fell, yet even now

golden patches refracted, then rippled along the tree-trunks

opposite.  The words were good.

I felt I was nearing the end

in this series of interviews,

when another came to the river-bank.

Him I knew also by his eyes, once struck blind

then renewed with his soul.

‘O you who were called to journey,

to plant, three times, four times,

what more should I know?’

The many-times past-imprisoned answered,

‘Be above reproach, and

do not spurn your conscience.’

This I stored up with the others, to ponder,

lest I forget–and after a nod the apostle left.

Twilight was casting long shadows,

and Time at the river-bank would soon wind down.

There was only one more to come,

but who would he be?

There was something moving in the trees;

from across the water I caught sight of a yellow glow.

A little fire was coming through the wood.

When the last man emerged, I recognized

a lamp in his hand, a light of hope in his face.

It was fitting that he should come last,

the one whose carried-along quill

penned the seven letters and

whose mind saw the breaking of the seal.

‘You who have been shown the end of days,’ I said,

‘what have you come to say?’

In silence, he came to the very edge of the water.

It was as he stretched out his arm,

that the stream showed itself narrower than I’d realized.

In his hand was the lamp.

Without thought

I stepped to the edge, on my side,

and put out my hand to receive it.

When once I had it, I looked to him for explanation.

‘What have you come to say?’ I asked.

‘Be above reproach,’ he said, ‘and

keep the Faith.’

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