Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October 19, 2010, Poems from a Leadership Course

Tuesday October 19, 2010

Greetings friends ,
                This is a different week this week. I will not be posting the regular readings for the coming Sunday as I will not be leading worship on Sunday. Rather I am spending the week with a group of 40 clergy who have gathered with the Very Reverend Peter Short, former Moderator of the United Church of Canada. We are spending 5 days together renewing our practise of leadership in the church we love so much- the church we believe God loves so much. We have been here since Sunday evening and will be here til Friday. It is an honour to spend that much time with the wise counsel of Peter Short and the wise and compassionate presence of colleagues who have committed their lives to this crazy and beautiful endeavour of ministry in the church.

                So instead, I offer you two poems I have gleaned from our sessions. The first comes from a session in which Peter was suggesting that courageous leadership comes from us when we are deeply and courageously who we are called to be. Unfortunately we humans spend a significant portion of our lives seeking to be someone God never created us to be. So our task really is to unleash ourselves in the world. He offered this poem by Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States, as a playful place to start:

Litany
“You are the bread and the knife,
The Crystal goblet and the wine...”
-Jacques Crickillon
You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
And the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
And the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
The plums on the counter,
Or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
But you are not even close
To being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
That you are neither the boots in the corner
Nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
Speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
That I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star.
The evening paper blowing down as alley
And the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
And the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
Not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

                The work of ministry is both the interior work of the soul and the exterior work of being that living soul, compassionately, courageously, helpfully, truthfully in the world. There is spade work, homework, planning work, gathering work, all kinds of work. But there is also listening work, listening to the stirrings of the spirit within the soul, hearing the voices we are given to guide us. Here is another Billy Collins poem called “The Night House”:
Every day the body works in the fields of the world
Mending a stone wall
Or swinging a sickle through the tall grass-
The grass of civics, the grass of money-
And every night the body curls around itself
And listens for the soft bells of sleep.
But the heart is restless and rises
From the body in the middle of the night,
Leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
With its thick, picture-less walls
To sit by herself at the kitchen table
And heat some milk in a pan.

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
And goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
And opens a book on engineering.
Even the conscience awakens
And roams from room to room in the dark,
Darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.
And the soul is up on the roof
In her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
Singing a song about the wildness of the sea
Until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
The way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

Resuming their daily colloquy,
Talking to each other or themselves
Even through the heat of the long afternoons.
Which is why the body-the house of voices-
Sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
To stare into the distance,

To listen to all its names being called
Before bending again to its labour.
            I am grateful for the opportunity to both learn and lead in this event, and will return refreshed and renewed next week. Meanwhile, grace and peace. Will

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