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Portrait of the Artist as a Lone Tree

Simplicity - a message for the church

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Part V.

The sun still shone. I wandered round
the grounds outside a little while -
casting an eye towards the graves
where founding fathers lay in file.
The charge was true, that money held
the church in chains, and yet could I
escape its grip, unlike the rest?
Were all my principles a lie?

I thought of all I hungered for -
the life that I could have at ease.
But then the lost, the lone, the poor
cried out to me with earnest pleas;
“If you refuse, then who shall go?
Who shall arise to plead our case?
Who shall accept the Lord’s commands?”
And in their forms, I saw his face.

The minister was here before,
and struggled just the same as me;
the salary they offered him
was all it took to set him free
from debt, but make his soul a slave;
and if I sought to better him,
then money must be beaten first,
through faith. I felt my choice was grim.

Through weary eyes I looked at stones
on which were graven names of old;
the simple builders those inside
applauded long, but, truth be told,
had nothing left in common with
the remnant who now held their place;
those dead raised up the walls in praise;
those living brought them deep disgrace.

“Where are the likes of these today,”
I asked, for tears had left my eyes.
“They are alive with me,” replied
the one who came in Jesus’ guise.
“Those are the dead, inside, you saw;
those who delay to follow me.
for they will never leave their seats
to carry out my clear decree.

Some would advise you, wait for those
who travel slow, and won’t commit.”
“ ‘Bury the dead, you dead,’ you said;
and now I see the truth of it.
For if your word is not enough
the day it’s given, time won’t change
the hearts that coldly hold to all
the idols they would not estrange.”

His face grinned broadly. “You believe!”
“Indeed,” I said, “you know my mind.
But all I see is pain and loss,
and all that I would leave behind.”
“You know exactly what you’d lose;
what will you gain? Is that so clear?
Do you believe in who I am?
Or is your wallet grown so dear?”

“Help me,” I said, “I cannot see
one step ahead, or what to do.
If I must give my life, then faith
requires goals worth aspiring to.”
“All you need do,” he said, with smiles,
“is hear my words, and then obey.
Take every step you face, and yet
don’t try to fathom all the way.

What if I tell you where it ends?
Will that assist your trembling tread?
Would you be told your day of death?
Would it provide your daily bread?
What if I show a church of power –
how will you hope to make it real?
When it will help, then light I’ll shine;
but other things must time reveal.”

I saw the truth. To give my life
was not to long for any cause
on earth, or make exchange of hopes,
or hold my God to all his laws;
rather, to just become the same;
a man who wandered far and wide,
who knew no roof or home his own,
but laboured long to win his bride.

And worse – what woman might allow
a life of faith, when infants cried
for food, and clothes, and comforting?
Wouldn’t she say my faith was pride?
And yet, the graves before me spoke
of those who lived a life of love,
who worked together hard and long
because they trusted God above.

“Here is my bargain,” said my friend.
“Try me in this, and find me out.
Do as I tell you just one time,
then if you like, live life in doubt.”
“That I can manage, Lord”, I said;
“tell your command to me, and then
you will reveal your ways at once;
how I desire to hope again.”

The sky seemed clearer. Now the ground
felt firmer underneath my feet.
I stood up tall, in hope to hear
the challenge God would have me meet.
“Seven days hence, my name be praised;
tell only those who have to know,
or those who ask your plans of you;
as I commanded others; go!”

Part of me felt like death to hear
such madness called my God’s command;
part of me sang inside to hope
that sev’n days hence, he’d show his hand.
What would the founding fathers say,
who lay beneath the ancient graves –
echoes inside my heart replied,
this is the one who heals and saves!

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