Tuesday, 25 September 2007

St George poem Chapter 1- Part 4

A shadow passed across
The stalwart chieftain's face;
His furrowed brow drew tighter
In the manner of his race.

"Your peace is worthless, Roman!
I know your kind and kin.
I know you've men you buy and sell
And wars you always win;
I know of Gaul and German graves
And gods who love to sin.

I shun your peace, O Roman,
A peace that comes with war.
I've heard the tales of refugees
Who've seen the blood and gore
You spill upon the battlefield
From peoples you deplore.
Such peace this tribe can live without,
For though it keep us poor,
That is a little price to pay
To 'scape the Roman maw."

At this, the elder faltered.
His face grew dim and cold.
His eyes took on a distant look,
Like an ocean growing old.

His voice came out with raspy breath,
Unlike what it had been,
"Your emperors know nothing
Of the things that I have seen."

Monday, 24 September 2007

The Broom of Destruction

The prophets have some very vivid imagery. Yesterday I happened upon this brilliant chestnut in Isaiah:

I will sweep it with the broom of destruction, says the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 14:23)

Monday, 17 September 2007

Priests of Two Covenants

The other day in my daily Scripture reading I came across this passage in Acts, upon which I had hitherto never really remarked.

Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
As I read it, the thought struck me. Many of the priests became obedient to the faith. The priests-those who served in the Temple, who faithfully administered the ablutions, the drink offerings, the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, descendants of Aaron all- became believers. In much of the rest of Acts, we see the Jewish leaders, both Sadducees (amongst whom most of the priestly classes could be counted) and Pharisees aggressively opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an agreeable thought then to realise that in fact those reactions were not representative of the entire Judaic establishment. For "many of the priests were obedient to the faith". Not just a couple. Many.

And that leads into an even more compelling idea. How many, I wonder, of these Jewish priests would later have been ordained into the Christian priesthood? How many who had spent much of their lives offering the sacrifices of the Old Covenant would then have been privileged to offer the Sacrifice of the New? It is a delightful thing to ponder.
It was pointed out to me when I mentioned this to a friend that these priests would have had to wait a while. We have every reason to believe that, certainly until the time of the persecution following Stephen's martyrdom and the consequent dispersion of the Christians from Jerusalem (most notably to Antioch to the north), the only ordained ministers were those Christ Himself had ordained, that is, the Apostles. Sometime after the dispersion, and certainly by the time of Paul's first missionary journey (at the very latest), however, the Twelve would have begun to ordain their first successors. And who better to offer the Sacrifice for the people and pastor the new flocks popping up in different cities than those who had already been sacrificing and pastoring under the Old Covenant and had passed from Old to New organically? Those who had been priests in the order of Aaron could now be drawn up into a priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek. The shadow passing into the reality. The type passing into the fulfillment.

"Do not think I came to destroy the Torah...I came not to destroy but to fulfill."

At this crossover period when one covenant was barely over and the new barely begun, it is agreeable to ponder those who lived and, very possibly, ministered under both. It is indeed a wonderful thought. Speculative, I grant you, but by no means improbable. And who can think of the possibility without marvelling somewhat at the magnificent brilliance of God's designs?

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Dream of the Rood

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. To commemorate it, and also to assist me in my own prayers and in living out the spirit of this feast in my life, I offer an excerpt from the ancient English poem, "The Dream of the Rood". One of these days I will have to attempt my own translation of it, but for now I give it in the original.

Syllic wæs se sigebeam, and ic synnum fah,
forwundod mid wommum. Geseah ic wuldres treow
wædum geweorðod wynnum scinan,
gegyred mid golde, gimmas hæfdon
bewrigen weorðlice Wealdendes treow.
Hwæðre ic þurh þæt gold ongytan meahte
earmra ærgewin, þæt hit ærest ongan
swætan on þa swiðran healfe.all ic wæs mid sorgum gedrefed,
forht ic wæs for þære fægran gesyhðe; geseah ic þæt fuse beacen
wendan wædum and bleom: hwilum hit wæs mid wætan bestemed,
besyled mid swates gange, hwilum mid since gegyrwed.
Hwæðre ic þær licgende lange hwile
beheold hreowcearig Hælendes treow,
oð þæt ic gehyrde þæt hit hleoðrode…

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

St George poem Chapter 1- Part 3

Sure enough, this mudbrick hut
Bedraped with thatch and tar
For generations now had been
The place where chieftains are.

The soldier was expected,
For a man stood by the door.
Authority stood on his brow
But stiffness in his jaw.

His robes were wound about him
In shades of brown and cream;
With stony stare and piercing eye
A statue did he seem.

A beard of black and tousled hair
Clung furiously to his face;
The soldier stood, saluted him,
Then bowed with Roman grace.

A very contrast did they seem
To the folk who gathered round-
Th'imperial armed with soldiers' gear,
The village elder bowed with years-
Never had such a sight appeared
Within this little town.

At last the village elder spoke,
"Good sir, you've travelled far.
We are simple people here,
But we will welcome without fear
An honest traveller."

"You need not fear me, noble chief,
For it is peace I bring-
The peace of purpled emperors
And th'eagle on the wing;
A peace that reaches far and wide,
That roams o'er land and sea;
The peace that rules an empire
Is what I bring to thee."