Thoughts on “Like Walking on Water”

Our Christmas tree this year…

Often when I write a poem, I start with a metaphor; I sniff poetic possibilities in the wind and I follow these and see where they lead. I had been teaching in Mostar Bible Institute, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the fall of 2011. While I was in flight on the way home, this image of Jesus walking on the water came to me as a kind of parable of his Incarnation. So I followed the metaphor, saw where it led, and came up with the poem.

As in the old German carol, Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming, my poem arrived at the same place the carol does: “She bore to men a Savior, when half-spent was the night.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, the great novelist who struggled with malaise, observed, “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.” Job, in the middle of his trial, his dark night, described it like this:

“Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
or a hired man waiting eagerly for his wages,
so I have been allotted months of futility,
and nights of misery have been assigned to me.
When I lie down, I think, ‘How long before I get up?’
The night drags on, and I toss till dawn” (Job 7:2-4).

This is what I love about our Lord Jesus: He comes to us in the middle of the night, during the fourth watch—at three o’clock in the morning. He chose to arrive at the time when we needed him the most. In the middle of the night, when all the negative alternatives seemed so plausible—then he came with new life, new hope, a new future for us all.

Like walking on the water He came to us,
Born to Mary and Joseph long ago
Born our Savior, Christ the Lord,
Coming to us in the fourth watch of the night
And saying, “Take heart! It is I! Do not be afraid!”

Posted by Thomas Worth in Background, Incarnation, Insights, 0 comments

Background to “Meditation on a Theme from Wesley and St. Paul”

Charles Wesley and St. Paul

I wrote this poem with two passages in mind, one from Paul’s letter to the Philippians and the other from a hymn that Charles Wesley wrote. The passage from Paul is the great Carmen Christi (Song of Christ) found in the second chapter. Many scholars believe that Paul is quoting a hymn which the earliest churches sang in their meetings. In the process of encouraging the kind of humility he wanted the Philippians to follow, he refers to the Prime Example. Their attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form… (Philippians 2:6-7, NRSV)

Charles Wesley wrote thousands of hymns, some of which we still sing today. I think his theology is deeper than his brother John’s. John was practical and pastoral in his theology and teaching. But Charles dealt with deep matters that could furnish the text for worship, adoration and thanksgiving. In this case, the third stanza of his hymn, “And Can It Be?” came to mind when I was writing my poem.

He left His Father’s throne above,  So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,  And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; For, O my God, it found out me.

The question is: if the Son of God emptied himself to become a human being, what was left? And the answer is: his identity—he is who he is. He was born with a personality just as you and I are. I believe Charles Wesley hit the nail on the head. The Lord emptied himself but what was left was his personality—the personality of God, which is his love. God is love. Jesus was born into this world, the love of God incarnate.

Posted by Thomas Worth in Background, Incarnation, 1 comment

The Purpose of Advent

Tom and Marsha through the kitchen window

Those first twenty-five days of December we call Advent. It’s a time when we look forward to the coming of Christmas. But more than that, it exercises our spirits, prepares us for the Coming of the Lord, period. It stretches our souls so that we may see the kingdom of God come with power, as Jesus predicted to his apostles in Mark’s Gospel. That may mean his Second Coming; it may mean those special comings in which Jesus comes to us personally in some way, whether something as subtle as the smile of a friend, or something as dramatic as the Transfiguration. And Advent prepares us, most important of all, to apprehend the profound significance of our Lord’s Incarnation, his First Coming.

How do we get ready for the Coming of the Lord? When Marsha and I know the grandchildren are coming, we get the house ready. I should say, Marsha gets the house ready and I do what she tells me to do. She transforms our living room into a play room, she blocks the fireplace with toys and makes that corner into a play kitchen. And so on… And then we wait with bated breath, our hearts standing on tiptoe, waiting, waiting, waiting…

Advent is a season of waiting and expectation. We get our house ready, the house of the heart. As I said earlier, it exercises our spirits. And even though we may think we are only getting ready for Christmas, we are “getting in shape” to welcome the Lord, however he chooses to come. We look for Christ’s Coming and are built up in faith because he has come. And as we fathom that First Coming—it prepares us for his further Coming. But its preparation lies in the fact that this Coming of the Lord needs to be grasped by us for its own sake. The preparation is almost a glorious side effect. Virtue and grace are communicated to our spirits as we truly appreciate Christ’s Incarnation, his First Coming.

Posted by Thomas Worth in Background, Incarnation, 0 comments