Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Poem as promised yesterday- see previous post for all photos relating to this poem.
Standing in the Jacobean pulpit,
an ordinand preached about promised rest
to some illiterate farm labourers –
those who were the physically weary.
Insubstantial words were like thin phantoms
who lurked beneath the lime-washed plaster, whose
discovery would take a century.
For now, his epistle of straw did not
result in any great harvest of souls.
Seventeen years on, he came back, after
his heart had been ‘strangely warmed‘ – awakened.
This time he had a pressing conviction.
He knocked at the door; was not admitted.
As far as South Leigh clergy were concerned,
he was too drunk on non-Anglican wine
and this was his eponymous Church End.
If only he had had the eyes of faith,
to detect what lay beneath the surface!
The first time, he was weighed in the balance:
oh, mene mene tekel upharsin.
He could sense the whitewash in his own soul.
When he’d returned seventeen years later,
burning, burning, like Augustine before,
perhaps the very stones reacted and
truths emerged, as though Christ passed through a wall,
but restoration was gradualist:
much like his view of sanctification.
‘His first sermon’ – yes, then he saw darkly
and, in his lifetime, never saw the light:
that glorious panoply behind him,
which, though covered, had been always present.
Its secret power had blessed his ministry.
I test the meshed door and it gives with ease,
then leave it open, as instructed, for
swallows who nest in the porch of The Lord.
And there is the pulpit and all around
is such a blaze of glorious ochres.
Those hidden things have been made manifest.
My spirit is strangely warmed by this feast:
Come ye blessed… – a stern invitation.
Who would not turn their head from the Hellmouth?
And, just as Wesley stressed the grace of God,
the Virgin redresses the sinner’s doom,
by gently tipping scales in his favour,
with the surreptitious drop of a bead.
(The preacher was a youthful John Wesley)