This is the Church

This is the Church

 

It is the beautiful and broken body of Christ.

It is stumbling, faltering, and flawed. Pray for it.

It is vibrant, triumphant, and redeemed. Rejoice in it.

This is the Church

 

It is sacred and marred. Righteous and erring. The blood of the Lamb covers it all; redemption soaking the ground beneath its feet.

It is filled with sinners, hypocrites, blasphemers, and liars saved and transformed by the grace and love of the Giver of all good things.

Coarse and ugly, it is a priceless treasure. Loud and inconstant, it is the apple of Jehovah’s eye. Timid and afraid, it is the army of the omnipotent LORD of creation.

It is God’s reflected light to the world. The hands and feet of the Great I AM. The voice crying out in the wilderness, calling all creation to renewal. It is the bearer of the greatest mandate ever given. It is the prophets, preachers, and teachers proclaiming truth in a world of lies. It is the lovers, nurturers, and healers extending grace and justice to a world of brokenness. It is the missionaries, Gospel-bringers, and martyrs humbly offering the Bread of Life to the starving.

This is the Church

 

Christ is its cornerstone. It is loved and cherished, sustained and protected. It is the bride of the Lamb, adorned and exalted. The gates of hell cannot stand against it. It is chosen and set apart. It is buffeted from every side, yet it will never fail. It is eternal and victorious, not by the strength of its hands but by the power of the LORD of hosts.

Reject it at your peril. Mock it at your risk. No weapon formed against it will prosper. All those who rise against it will fall. It is God’s holy and established institution on earth, His ambassador to the nations. It is the imperfect representation of the Kingdom of God. It is the hopeful expectation of the perfected union of Heaven and earth. It is to be loved, nurtured, protected, purified, and embraced. It is the bride that is loved with a love so fierce and so overwhelming. A love that did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. A love that emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant. A love that humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. A love so amazing, so divine it transcends all human understanding.

That love has called the Church His body.

His love.

His bride.

Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.

This is the Church

 

Redeemed

Forgiven

Eternal

Triumphant

Loved

This is the Church

 

 

 




Approaching Autumn

REO proudly presents Ben Plunkett’s newest poem – Approaching Autumn. We decided to present this one in a different format than usual, hoping that it would capture more people’s attention. It deserves that. One suggestion, please watch it in Full Screen mode for best viewing. Otherwise, the text might be hard to read for those with less-than-perfect vision.

 

 




The Five Hours of World Conquest




The Tick Tock

A little away
the clock tick tocks
the time where
we know He knows
it tick tocks
the clock rocks

away
when all was lost
He left the stars
where love is lush to
touch our hands,
our heads, our souls,

standing
in His thunder
underneath in
the nothingness
of our ticking,
in the sea of our tocking,
in the ticking, the tocking,

away
when life was lost
and deliverance
crossed into our
land where love is losing,
where He touches our hands, our heads, our souls,
where He views this sphere so

away
ticking, tocking,
our sides
plumped with bumps
and clumps and thorny lumps
far away
from His sigh
of mercy,
of death, His death,
of life, His life,
of the tick tock
the clock rocks
today.




Speckled Spring

There is resolve
in
the green
armies of the textured lawn
yawning
its chasms of dawn,

in
leaves wandering
to and fro,
to and fro,
in boughs
that grew years ago,

in
the sun in the cloud’s
burning light
on dandelions running
with yellow swords to a yellow fight,

in
our speckled spring,
the light shining
to and fro,
to and fro,
in beams that
grew years ago.

And life is in
the hanging ferns so
to and fro,
to and fro;
the ferns swing
and breezes blow.




Phases of Grace

I. Death

After He sighed His last,
the dead came out
to bat their eyes and survived,
the earth revived.

The light
of God passed into
the fields,
the whitewashed fields.

The land survived,
the land revived.

II. Resurrection

There were burrs and
bellyaching
and holy outrage
in our dying race
in need of grace.

And grace is in
a tomb and a tree,
my brothers and sisters,
in a time that is free.

Death was on the earth,
it did not realize,
it did not recognize,
it will not survive.

III. Everlasting Life

There are still burrs and
bellyaching
and holy outrage

as men and women gallivant
from here to there all nonchalant,

and
cities coil with selfish boys
and girls.

But He sighed and
we came out
to bat our eyes,
we revive,
we will survive.




The Dove: A Story of Hope and Salvation

I. The Dove of Hope

“After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find no place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark.”
Genesis 8:6-9a

The water
            lowers, skims, parts, foams,
the boat bumping the dropping surface.

Curses to the flood after days and nights
           spitting back the flesh and bones
             of our friends without sound.

             One day daylight zapped
the ancient tomb after an age of stuffy howls:

           What sights, what feelings, what
             sounds, what smells.

The sable raven,
the fair fowl, scoured the watery land
             without a caw of contentment.

Therefore the dove,
white as their reclusive faces,
             said, I will soar
and seek a
a land.

He viewed the water-crossed circle,
this domed and submerged miracle,

and brown-green weeds wafted to the surface.

             Behold his empty hands
             in a time of empty lands.

What did you see,
what, little dove, when we sent you forth?

The fowl who invited himself into the uninviting world,
do not despair, life is not forgotten.

The waters roar, the earth shakes,
the sky blurs with steam-borne lakes,

and the dove,

             he is the dove of hope.

II. The Dove of Salvation

“When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.”
Genesis 8:11

The water sounds like a receding end,
          sinking in parts,
           frazzled and flailing like feathers
             with hollow bones.

I, the dove,
hearken to the end,
lowering myself into the never parting,
           always beating wave’s brown eyes.

My
flailing feathers
            bump the half-drowned hills
with their sopping tops gasping for air.

I
hearken to the branch of hope
on the stark tree
in the brown waves and
            foam.

My feathers dance.

I will bear salvation in the evening.

We see salvation in
the mountains and in the branches
             and brown valleys,

in all the gray-green earth.

The waters recede, the earth subsides,
the sky shines with star-lit guides,

and I, the dove,

             I am the dove of salvation.




The Mighty

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”
Genesis 6:4

There is
my master, o bride,
he stands before his throne
dribbling wine into his long beard.

O bride, my master cries with laughter;
daughter of Seth,
my master clashes iron, blushing with welts,
with a cinched belt
of gold, with splotches of death coloring
his fingers.
Of the Nephilim is he, beating his bride, daughter of a river
farmer.

River-farmers
hid their gaunt oxen at his first appearance.

A farmer-child,
a river-daughter, my mother, she yielded;

my master dangles sons and daughters like trophies
and lines his
hall with river-wives.

The father of father, his father is old, his
white hair circles a veiny crown. In his elder years
he shackles shaking limbs with death-cords.

Snaggle-toothed, father’s father
snags sons from the courts of
Seth; they are
still and
knowing
that Cain is
little more than the nothings of a
ten-pillared hairy head.

See here,

the three-horned monster pets of my master deck
his throne ascent. With trunks for legs,
with jeweled backs for
riders, trampling
a carnivorous frog that flaps sticky-traps.

I was a child, o bride,
a child of my master, born to a
a village-daughter, the river-farmer’s daughter, swaddled
in ivy stains and an inexplicable lamb-cloth. My father,
my master came forming crude bonds with her, o
bride, ransacking and rending with fraudulent cords,

and mother loved him.

I played in the fields,
the fields of my
father, with the city-children.

The city, the city of female-spawn, city of
manservants; not so civil was the site
of the chaos and fight, conflicted swords and fists,
bleeding knuckles, swollen wrists.

Affixed is the flesh, o bride, the flesh
of our fathers who turned
us backwards; we stare at ourselves in an imaginary paradise.

Here the women lower their buckets down
deepening wells, wells that thrive with
swords and seething. My master, o
bride, is one with the seething,
one with the swinging sword. I
am alive to both breathe and
to bear a wreath of blades.

On my hands, on my legs, my arms,
my chest burns
funeral pyres and unreal fires. I wonder,
did the Sethites feel this feeling way?

A warrior am I,
little loved, little loving.

And little loving, am I guilty?

For there are more funeral pyres that I worry about.

As my chest unbuttons
beside my bursting hands, legs, and arms
I am one with the swinging sword
and my master
deepens wells, wells that thrive.

Our women with buckets lower their buckets,
staring at our very unbecoming paradise.

Our knuckles and wrists are swollen
and chaos and fight conflict us.

This is our city of female-spawn, this city of many.

There are slaves in the thousands
in the fields of my father, my master.
A child, I played in his fields. And
the mother I loved loved and feared him.

Great was my master who came pillaging,
coming in coyness in one of his
fearful riverboats, pillaging a tribe by the river.

I am his child,
o  bride,

and ten pillars bloat my hairy head.

And in elder years,
my father, your father, your father beats another
river-wife and
the sons of Cain
clash in chaos.

And still, o bride, o daughter of Seth,

I wander and wonder:

Who is my master?




The Reclusive Possum

The narrow window was level with the turf. Paul found himself staring out of this window because he was bored, bored, bored. He watched a squirrel hop across the grass toward the surrounding wood. The little creature was as confident as if he was on his neighborhood sidewalk. Step on a crack and break your mother’s back, he thought for it. He coughed and sat up straight. On the chair beside his desk was a gigantic stack of Bro. Ross’ books Paul had read at least a dozen times each.

room

 

The bored reader sighed. After a mighty stretch, he sighed again. And went to his own small bookcase beneath the narrow window. He brushed his hands over the dusty tomes. It often gave him comfort, and sometimes inspiration. But not now. Both were a no-show. Mostly. He still felt some pride in them. Paul was proud of the books he still owned. Among these top-tier items were his near complete collection of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien works. All of this was a bit too bookish for a boy of 21, he knew that. Until two years ago, he’d spend most of his time that wasn’t studying for college or working to pay for it in front of the T.V. or computer.

Through the small overhang beyond the window, he saw that the wind had picked up and was blowing across the field. He could see the squirrel making a mad dash to a tree as the rain increased. Surprisingly, the usually graceful creature stumbled at the roots, falling and hitting his head rather hard on the trunk. Like a champ, he regained his composure and proceeded to the dry safety of a secret tree-cave in the branches. Except for the clumps of grass, the field was now relatively empty.

He knew that Bro. Ross would be coming soon. It was unfortunate, because the man did not like Tolkien. Paul didn’t cotton to folks who didn’t cotton to Tolkien. Kidding. Bro. Ross was just fine for an older fellow. And he still had a very good library of books. He even had a great collection of 23 versions of the Bible, most of which he read every week. Paul had always looked up to him. Plus, he was in charge.

books

 

Everyone here took turns working in pairs to do necessary tasks. Today he and Bro. Ross would be doing something—he didn’t know what it would be, but he definitely knew it was something because that is what it always ended up being. The dreaded “knock” rapped against the hollow door. Bro. Ross and his ancient face was behind the knock.
“Now before you say anything, anything whatsoever,” said Paul, “know that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

“I’ll take my chances. You smell that smell?”

“What, the smell of something dying? I assumed it was you.”

“That smell, my young friend, is a dead possum in the basement. You think it smells bad here, wait till you get a whiff up close and personal.”

“I don’t think so. I’m staying as far away from that odor as possible.”

“No you’re not. It’s our turn. C’mon, it’s in the basement, won’t be that big a deal.” Without waiting for a reply he turned and headed down the hall.

Paul followed. “Seriously, though, it’s been smelling up the place for several days and we’re the ones who have to do something about it?”

“To tell you the truth, some of us couldn’t really tell. I definitely couldn’t. Horrible sense of smell.”

“I’ve still complained. I never would have thought that was dead possum smell. Smells more like old sewage.”

“Nevertheless, I Didn’t really smell it until I checked the furnace in the basement a few minutes ago. Holy cow, it stunk down there!”

“Ah, the epicenter, as it were.”

“Epicenter. Fancy words for a teenager. That’s why just reading books is not such a bad thing.”
As they passed down the dark and rusty hall, a door opened. Jason poked his head out and set a box beside the door.

“I’ll be taking this to the kitchen.” In a previous life, Jason and his wife, Jennifer, were clearly a well to do middle aged couple. Paul knew this because after evening church service they had often taken him and other congregants out to an amazingly nice restaurant and out on the town—their treat. One time they had taken a short flight about the city on their private airplane as they watched the Super Bowl. Paul wasn’t sure how they coped with these new conditions, but it was what it was and they seemed relatively content.

Bro. Ross told him what they were doing, about the dead possum and all that. “Just a sec, I’ll come with you. I want to see this thing.” He went back in to tell his wife and then the three headed downstairs. Bro. Ross urged him to bring his box.
On the way down, Bro. Ross thrust his forefinger into the air with exaggerated drama. “Hear this, hear this now: And we shall love the pursuit, and the pursuit shall be our own.” The other two laughed slightly, mostly politely.

“Kind of dramatic,” said Jason.

“What does that even mean?” asked Paul.

”That’s from one of my poems,” said Bro. Ross, “I’m putting it into the novel I’m writing. Pretty artsy, don’t you think?”

“Excellent,” said Paul. “You know who else put poetry in their stuff? Tolkien! You, my friend, are imitating the master.”

“Uh, no. I don’t imitate hacks.”

“Hack? I’ll show you some hacking.”

“Guys, guys, calm down. Just don’t waste too much paper, bro. Ross,” said Jason.

“You’ll be happy to know I’m not using any. It’s in my head.” Bro. Ross continued as if he had not been interrupted. “You might take it—my quote–in the context of the story. In the story it refers to the pursuit of truth. In the case of the guy in my story, a detective, it means discovering what you see as not true be actually the truth.”

“That’s weird,” said Paul. “If it’s not true, it’s not true. Something that is not true can’t ever be true. That only works if you don’t believe in objective truth.”

“That also might work if you think something is true or not true, but actually turns out to be the complete opposite. That’s the angle I’m going for. None of that relativity stuff.”

“I see. That didn’t seem right for a former pastor.”

“It’s good to clear up straw men like that. Otherwise, it creates friction where it’s really not deserved.”

“Well, aren’t we a verbose bunch,” Jason broke in. “Bro. Ross, don’t talk about any more deep stuff right now or we’ll never get this done.”

Bro. Ross had his hand on the basement door. “Good idea. Okay, you guys might want to hold your breaths or hold your noses or something. It gets pretty bad from here on out.”

“I hate holding my breath,” said Jason. “Sometimes I get all panicky just thinking about it. I’m especially fond of air.”

“Let’s just be men about this thing,” said Jason.

The three men ascended the basement stairs. The body of the possum lay at the bottom near the wall.

possum

 

“Ah, the reclusive possum!” said Paul.

“Well, that’s interesting,” said Bro. Ross.

“What’s wrong?” said Jason

“I could have sworn it was over by that wall. Anyway, hold your box so I can get this in,” Ross commanded Jason. Just over the opening of the box, Bro. Ross slid the animal off the shovel. It somehow missed the target and fell with a plop at his feet. He screamed like a little girl and then laughed it off nervously. “That was a little startling.”

Bro. Ross gingerly turned the animal over with the shovel.

Paul and Jason shuddered at the sight of the razor sharp fangs and the cavernous mouth gaping up at them. They were both certain that at any moment the creature would come to life and tear the three of them to shreds.

“Watch it! Those things can kill a dog, you know,” said Paul. “That is, live ones can. I have a really bad feeling it’s not exactly dead.”

“Just mostly, dead, right?” said Jason.

“I read that possum’s do emit a smell when playing dead but the smell isn’t all that bad. I think what we smell is that poop and urine trickling out of the ground over there.”

“Yeah, it’s the sanitation system. Some of the boys were going to check that out tomorrow.”

pipes

 

“However you look at it, this guy’s one of the deadest things I’ve ever seen,” said Bro. Ross. He was frustrated and still embarrassed about his girl-scream.

“Look!” shouted Paul. The possum’s tail dangled out of the top of the box and swayed almost sentiently back and forth. It attached itself to a bedframe sitting against the wall. “You can’t tell me that that tail is attached to a dead thing.”

“I’m sure it’s just reflexes or nerves or something like that,” said Jason.

“Of course, that’s it,” said Bro. Ross. To Paul’s horror he raised the shovel and began pounding the tail. It soon uncoiled itself.
Bro. Ross ran up the steps and opened a rear trap door for Jason. Ross quickly opened the back door through which the wind blew. They left the underground bunker.

“Go! Go! Go!” shouted Bro.

Paul held Jason back. “Listen, I’ve read that possum’s are super good at playing dead. I don’t know that this guy’s really gone.
Maybe we ought to—“

Bro. Ross and Jason both sighed heavily.

“Look, we’ll just put him in that big ditch in the woods,” said Bro Ross. “It’s not like we’re going to bury him. If he’s alive—which he’s not—he can always get out of the ditch as easy as you please.” The three walked through the woods. They all new exactly the hole Bro. Ross was talking about. It was actually an old trench dug by the enemy during the first war but long abandoned. Now they used it as a carefully disguised rubbish hole.

When they came upon the ditch there were two human bodies near the bottom: two soldiers. Soldier One had clearly stabbed Soldier Two to death. However, Soldier Two had also clearly not gone down without a fight. The other lay on his stomach near the top of the opposing edge of the ditch. A stream of now dried blood ran down to the bottom.

None of the three were all that surprised. It had been a week since they had heard a lot of gunfire and heavy artillery in the near distance. They all knew something was going on in the valley.

Bro. Ross left them. He walked around the hole and hunkered down by Soldier Two for a closer inspection.
“Yep, dead as a doornail, my friends. Got him right in the cheek. Went out the other side of his head. Must have bled out.” Then he walked a little further on to where the trees cleared and the descent into the valley begun.

“I’m just gonna…” said Jason. Paul released the box as Jason lowered and tipped it. The possum rolled to the bottom of the hole, its head nestling against the shoulder of Soldier Two. Then they joined Bro. Ross. Down in the valley was the scene of a battle: Upturned earth, deep tank tracks, bodies, and many birds picking the scraps of the week-old battle victims. The once green valley was all decimated. Directly at the bottom from where they stood, the huge blackberry bushes where the group had spent hours was now lifeless, having been beaten into the ground by the rolling tanks.

“Well, no more blackberries for a while,” said Jason.

“Or ever,” replied Paul. “There won’t be anything left at the end of this war.”

“Seventh war,” added Bro. Ross. “Things are actually not all that bad, considering.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” said Jason. “The rest of us? We’ve been going through an electronics hangover for two years. Two years! No computers, no T.V., no smartphones, no batteries…no airplanes. I really miss my airplanes.”

Bro. Ross made no reply. The trio stood in silence for several more minutes. Then they descended into the reeking, war-torn valley to check for survivors. They looked for several hours. They found nothing except the birds and a few wild dogs eating the decomposing bodies.

end

 

“You’d think someone would collect their dead,” said Jason.

“You’d think,” replied Bro. Ross. “That’s the way it is these days. No one cares about the dead, only the living. It may be risky, but tomorrow we’ll plan to do something with them.”

The three trudged up the hill. The two human bodies remain where the lay. The possum was gone.

“Guess you were right, Paul,” said Bro. Ross. “Don’t let it go to your head. C’mon, the girls will have supper ready soon.”

“I guess there is hope,” said Jason.

“Yeah, probably,” added Paul. Paul imagined the possum crawling out of the ditch. It had splashed in the nearby pool and sloshed its way to safety. In his mind’s eye it disappeared into the thick holly bushes that stood in its way. Something was resurfacing from the deeps of his heart and mind, reviving. He felt that surely there would be a future resurrection.




Holding Hands

Holding Hands

See them meet.

The childlike wonder on their faces. The rapture. The anticipation. The thrill of touch. The exploration of joints and gaps. The overwhelming rightness of it all. Fuzzyheaded with the joy of the moment.

See them live.

Interruptions and pressure. The mundanity of living drapes their shoulders and they have no time. To last, they fight and claw and push through the fog. To the last, carving out a safe haven; a home for their souls. It is delicate and easily broken, yet made to endure, if cherished and chosen. They grip harder, for the sake of a vow.

See them fade.

Worn. Bent. Glassy-eyed and frail. Forgotten by most, remembered by the other. Days filled with emptiness. Nights vacant of wholeness. Time has waged its war and it will surely prevail. Yet a gentle touch is the defiant howl in the face of all that seeks love’s demise.

See them love.