Over the last five years I have worked with many people from faith communities. Some of it large scale — helping to design and host annual or quadrennial meetings. Some of it wide scale — shifting culture to participation or piloting a learning cohort. Some of it everyday — supporting clergy and lay leaders in discernment and remembering to be kind in tending to themselves while they tend to so many. One of the things that I love in all of that is that people in faith communities have a predisposition to seek out and notice the invisible. The subtle. The stuff that you have to be quiet to hear. To be in community together to help the invisible become more visible, tangible, and palpable together — this reaches in to my belly-level of satisfaction and joy.
Charles LaFond is one of those faith community people that I’ve met — one who sees — first as participant at a workshop I hosted, second as colleague, and soon after that, dear friend. Charles wrote a poem a few years back that he recently republished (with his photo above) in honor of holy week in the Christian tradition. Fluent in Thunder, A Holy Week Poem. Read it below, or on Charles’ blog, The Daily Sip.
Fluent Like Thunder, A Holy Week Poem
Nature. She has Her languages too, in which we are not always fluent.
Lest we understand her cries for mercy.
It is hard to imagine what She felt that week.
She quietly covers the planet in green, brown, blue
and every color of the rainbow-reminder.
She waves as wheat.
She swoons as flower.
She bears the massive responsibility of air as tree.
She waits as water.
She paves as grasses.
She feeds as vegetable plants;
growing for the hairless bipeds
whose rich seek to gorge on Her and whose poor
have little access to Her real nutrition.
She lays majestic as sand, making life
even when life seems impossible or unlikely.
She warms as earth even as she warms as sun.
She too was there that day at the cross, and beneath it;
whispering breeze and speaking thunder so fluently.
She provides small holes in which there is birth and metamorphosis.
Only the humans scream – most of Her females animals make life in the
same silence in which God does.
She eats and processes what She eats as billions of
worms, bees and maggots, making mulch.
She makes the world by freezing molecules of ice between molecules of rotting wood,
splitting them apart so that soil may appear over time;
which is Her Great Friend.
It is hard to imagine what She, the natural world, with a body
of green, tan, brown and blue, undulating in the chaord of growth,
in which humans plotted and planned
the destruction of the Loving-Truth-Teller;
the One with soft skin and kind eyes.
The clergy, the climbers, the bullies . The High Priests -they plotted
while we shouted. Waved palms. Did She feel the pain when we cut the palms branches? Did winds in Asia shift when we waved our palms?
The brash, the loud, the insecure could see He needed to die.
Political leaders of church and state,
afraid of what was tiny in them, and on them, could see He needed to die.
Counterfeit monks and pretend artists could see He needed to die.
Religious competition and ecclesial failure could see that He needed to die.
Thousands of savior-impersonators could see that He needed to die.
Scribes in their book-forts could see that He needed to die.
But perhaps only She, the skin of earth, could see that part of God which God
implanted in Her and also in Him:
the ability to die and then, after waiting in silent darkness, live again.
Perhaps Nature could see what would be Jesus’ emerging
simply and precisely because She experiences the emerging so often,
so casually, so cyclicly, so naturally.
Nature, She is the stage of this passion-play. She could recognize a being whose nature was life like Hers,
even if occasionally interrupted by being
cut with a scythe
or starved of water
or denied food
or choked on fumes
or poisoned by chemicals or genetically mutated
or left alone to heat up and slowly die.
Planet-nature could see that all would be well, even if hot or stinky.
And yet, as Jesus began this Walk, this week,
navigating prince-bishops, principalities and powers
in majestic silence,
head down pathways and staring down power,
looking at the planet’s crust for his
encouragement,His only companion,
She, the earth-skin, looked back and she wept through
her smile into his eyes with brief rains. “Keep walking on me. I feel your feet on me.” She whispered to Jesus.
And then, in a few steps again, she speaks his language;
“Jesus, King of Kings, show them what We are.” She whispered
in her feminine voice of breeze, missed by unfluent priests and rulers
as male voices accused
in their insecurity; little bully-boys in big togas – soon- chasubles, punching at the One Who Is. Die. Die. Die.
And Jesus, looking down at dirt, saw God there, and remembered the
mountain-side chats they used to have on grasses before the Great Silence of late;
remembered divine encouragement under trees,
inhaled, and allowed the story to unfold by streams, just for the next 15 minutes, and the next, and then the next – the way we must live in those tremulous times.
And so Nature and Jesus let life unfold in
manageable segments, 15 minutes at a time.
when night and day are too long a stretch for the unfolding of our sufferings.
And then, as whips with hooks hit His flesh, the blood-bits spattered onto Her grasses – Her dirt – Her sands.
As the nails hit bone, the blood spattered onto Her rocks,
As the fever-sweat dripped down neck, shoulder, back onto wood and then slid sleekly silently down down into dirt and around the sweet little maggots’ wiggly welcome – messengers from past cross-occupants.
His eyes rolled back into sacred sockets-darkness, alone;
and as saliva dropped from a twisted, gaping mouth onto one lone dessert flower emerging from the rock in that dump of garbage by the city walls.
Every day at God’s agreement, Nature asks for permission to exist at morning’s twilight;
“May We exist?” She says each day. “EXIST AND BE BEAUTIFUL.” God says each day, with an accent influenced by thunder the way the waitress’ accent betrays her polish childhood.
After mornings and mornings of Her request for life were again and again granted by the One-Who-is, She, the natural planetary-skin, almost died. In Jesus’ last breaths Nature almost died. The planet’s skin held her breath.
And in Nature’s fight to stay alive, God flared up inside Her
and in her revival She clouded over, darkened, moistened
and thundered, thundered blue-black, like His bruises,
just to show Him, even with His closed-eyes, that She was still there. That He was not alone. And with His eyes closed, He felt the brief cold breeze and saw the darkening from beneath his lids and knew, knew he was not alone. She was there. She always had been. The Mother Earth impaled by His cross.
He could see Her stormy darkness even under his closed, sticky lids
and felt the chill of the brief desert-night as the Divine feminine swelled, moaned, wept, and commiserated with Jesus.
And His last forlorn question,
about whether or not
God had abandoned Him
But Jesus hear the answer.
We think God was silent that day.
But perhaps only because we are not fluent in thunder.