Can you read? The times, the word, the people—anything?
The wisdom of serpents, gone to the wayside while the
Viper of envy and gossip are nursed
in the heart of the church
And the vulture, Apathy, scavenging on the misty,
Windswept heaths and parched deserts of the soul
Stealing away all capacity to be stirred—
Comfort, reassurance of a tightly held but convictionless
Belief—that we’re all all right.
What’s happened when the dog barks, the hills ring out,
A clatter of horses’ hooves—
There should be panic, a cry for rescue—
But instead the village cries
To be left alone in their burning homes.
God will preserve only those Who Are
Those Who Persevere in His will.
‘Depart from me!’ and how stunned some will be.
–There’s no appealing to reason
There’s no convincing them
Of the rot in the house
The house has been said to be
‘Untouchable’ for aeons
All evidence to the contrary,
There’s no shaking that
Principium from the wall.
‘But we’re a good people,
And always have been
What have we to do with judgment?’
Try showing the bad—
It’ll blend right in
There’s no knowing it in that place
For the ones who foster it.
It’s long been impossible to catch the disease.
And no note of symptoms nor signs of decline
Will ever convince them otherwise—
The doctor is a quack.
How stunned some will be when once they hear unto them thus:
Depart from me!
Life is pain, the truth hurts, and everyone lets you down.
All except the one who defined faithfulness, truth, and life—
You share the best day of your life with people—
People you love, and then find you can’t trust them.
They aren’t who you thought they were,
They don’t think the way you do, and never did,
The piece of the world you knew you knew
–was a mirage, only an ideal—is it your fault?
Did you misinterpret? No—that can’t answer all
Because they were your friends
No matter the shock of discovering
Unexpected unsuspected flaws,
God forbid they should turn on you and blame you
For all their shortcomings,
For more than having put them on a pedestal in the first place.
But what sort of pedestal is this:
‘You are a Christian and my friend;
I can trust you to honor God and love me’?
Hardly a designation of perfection.
What a burden it is to see things as they are,
To know the world as it is!
You say so, and people think you’re sad; need to get out more.
It was never about their shortcomings, their illness
—it was about your medicine.
You shouldn’t have observed, you shouldn’t have diagnosed.
Don’t see, don’t inform, don’t prescribe—
Then they needn’t be ill.
When somewhere is too good to be true,
Don’t get comfortable—it probably is.
Sweetness is all on the surface.
To assume all is ‘fine’—
That doesn’t happen here—
You may as well claim
People don’t sin here.
And we know that’s not true.
Did ever you see such peaceful rolling fields?
Little white church nestled lovely
against farmed hills and woods,
With dawns and sunsets to sigh over.
Tight-knit, all third cousins and something removed,
And three miles down you’ll find the same.
It should have been easy.
But then the fairy dust settles
And tongues loosen.
The problem is new, is it?
Perhaps you should try on for size
Your rap sheet:
One: historical, unresolved, interfamiliar, intraecclesial disputes.
No one will talk about it, yet all act accordingly.
AND I’M SUPPOSED TO KNOW?
Two: elections are held, and no one has prayed—
none of the voters has cracked the pastoral epistles in years.
The real quacks sit round the table,
first mates with have no knowledge of the sea.
When the storms come up, when rigging is lost,
they’re left fumbling on a sodden deck.
Shouts, cries, orders go up that make no sense, but the sailors
Slip, slide, try to obey—how can they know any better
Under such time of command as this?
The cabin boy, worth his salt and his reading,
readies the lifeboat at the captain’s behest—
The crew would have him overboard anyway.
Three: a walking tumor. No doubt it’s malignant—
It’s aggressive, demoralizing and destined to spread.
It presents with a scowl and a scoff,
Contempt, rudeness, derision– topped off with scorn.
Its vice seeps, like noxious damp, slowly and with a shadow,
Purplish-green like the coming of plague,
Through the sanctuary, through the worship, through the flock itself.
But they’ll defend it, because in so doing they defend themselves.
And besides, they’d miss it if it was cured—it’s not so bad, and everyone knows it.
Four: Empty heads. And content to be so.
They’re part of the family; they live good, do good, are a-okay.
How could God expect them to get their brains out of bed?
They’re so… comfortable.
Somebody has to know the Scriptures, but that’s what you’re here for.
Just to know them, apparently—not to impart what you know.
And the kids? It’s never crossed their minds
That they might leave Churchtopia—
When—not if—when they then will have to give a competent,
Reasoned, intellectually self-responsible defense for their hope.
And then they may discover they have none—
And now, no hope.
Five: Antinomianism. Grace they’ve got down pat; don’t need no more books.
Holiness? Not so much.
Six: willful neglect of the Counselor and His gifts.
Certainly if it (He?) were important
Granny would have passed it down with the
peanut butter cookie recipe.
Seven: baseless glorification of Christian education. When it’s done in a ‘school’.
Eight: baseless dismissal of Christian education. When it’s done in the church.
Further sins of omission:
Nine: aiding and abetting vandals by failure to discipline.
Encourage disharmony, attack the credibility of the pastor,
Self-aggrandize, Pedal what you think is your wisdom, carelessly slander—
And this crew will do nothing though you deserve the Cat.
Again, we just don’t talk about it!
Ten: enable a woman in the dissolution of her covenant with her husband.
No thought for him, none for her—none for the church—
All are hurt by such selfishness, laziness—
But thinking about it will stress you out.
Don’t you wish you weren’t on council this year?
Eleven: resentment against those who make you feel your sins of omission.
Some are only taking turns, don’t you see?
You can’t expect elders to have to make tough choices,
to accept being called upon to do the right thing
though it’s hard!
Twelve: apathy, the evangelical epidemic equal only to ignorance itself.
Thirteen: Coldness of many colors: spiritual, empathetic, communal.
This is a little world that rarely prays,
scarcely loves in the most important ways.
And there is no passion for the Truth.
And yet you wonder why God does not receive your sour sacrifices!
3 & 13 May 2015