A Prayer of Thanks for the Melody of Good News

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.” (Luke 16:16)

We heard it ringing in the air—
Your voice proclaiming, “Good news! God’s Kingdom is here!”
Our hearts rose up and our ears perked up
as this message intrigued us and spoke to us.

Castaways and over-achievers, drop-outs and all-stars,
the hungry and the overfed, the thirsty and the drunkards,
the insecure and the over-confident, the sick and the well-groomed,
the misused and the misusers, the lost and those not knowing they were lost—
all of us broken sinners, poor and needy,
we heard it ringing in our ears.

When bad news dominates and ill report abounds
what You brought to us was like a fresh melody
in chaotic discord; like a cup of fresh, cool water
in a parched land; like a three-course meal
for a starved-out prisoner with no hope.

Hope—that’s what we hear in Your invitation,
and love—a love that’s eternal and unstoppable,
and joy—a joy deeper and more buoyant than any other.

We heard it ringing in the air and in our ears,
but more, we sensed it ringing in our souls.
We sensed it so deep we felt the tickle of falling fast,
and all we could do was laugh from our bellies
and sing our own soul’s melody
as You braided it in with Your good news song.

The Weekend Wanderer: 26 February 2022

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles


274810155_245611617777589_5201497153106588650_n-750x375“Ecumenical Patriarch condemned unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine” – Orthodox Times: “Shocked by the invasion of the armed forces of the Russian Federation in the territory of the Republic of Ukraine [on Thursday], the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew telephoned Metropolitan Epifaniy of Ukraine, expressing his deep sorrow at this blatant violation of any notion of international legitimacy, as well as his support to the fighting Ukrainian people and to the families of innocent victims. The Ecumenical Patriarch condemned this unprovoked attack by Russia against Ukraine, an independent and sovereign state of Europe, as well as the violation of human rights and the brutal violence against our fellow humans and, above all, against civilians. He prayed to the God of love and peace to enlighten the leadership of the Russian Federation, in order to understand the tragic consequences of its decisions and actions, which can be the trigger for even a world war.”


Ukraine war“To Stay and Serve: Why We Didn’t Flee Ukraine” – Vasyl Ostryi from Ukraine at The Gospel Coalition: “In recent days, the events from the book of Esther have become real to us in Ukraine. It’s as if the decree is signed, and Haman has the license to destroy an entire nation. The gallows are ready. Ukraine is simply waiting. Can you imagine the mood in a society when gradually, day after day for months, the world’s media has been saying that war is inevitable? That much blood will be shed? In recent weeks, nearly all the missionaries have been told to leave Ukraine. Western nations evacuated their embassies and citizens. Traffic in the capital of Kyiv is disappearing. Where did the people go? Oligarchs, businessmen, and those who can afford it are leaving, saving their families from potential war. Should we do the same?”


man-at-work-unhappy“Reconnecting Worship and Work” – Matthew Kaemingk in Comment: “They feel it in their bones. Most Christian workers living in the modern West experience a deep chasm between their Sunday worship and their Monday work. Their daily labors in the world and their Sunday liturgies in the sanctuary feel as if they are a million miles apart.
Most pastors and worship leaders sincerely hope that Sunday morning worship meaningfully connects with Monday morning work. But are their hopes realized? Walking into the sanctuary, many workers feel as if they’re visiting another country, a ‘sacred’ world quite detached from a world of work that they call ‘secular.’ Some workers have resigned themselves to this growing chasm between work and worship. Some even appreciate it. They’re grateful for a Sunday escape from work, a chance to forget the weekly pressures and pains of their careers – even if just for a moment. In the sanctuary they’ve found a spiritual haven, an oasis far from the cares of troublesome bosses, deadlines, and reports. Other workers are deeply bothered by the divorce between their worship and work: they’re haunted by a gnawing sense that the sanctuary is increasingly irrelevant to their daily lives in the world – incapable of speaking to the vocational struggles, questions, and issues they face in the workplace. The chasm eats at them. They long for things to connect.”


madaba_map_Jerusalem“Madaba: The World’s Oldest Holy Land Map” – Nathan Steinmeyer at Bible History Daily: “In 1884, the local community in Madaba, Jordan, made an incredible discovery, the oldest Holy Land map in the world. The now-famous Madaba Map, however, is not found on a piece of paper but rather is part of an intricately designed mosaic floor, now part of the Church of St. George. The map was constructed in the second half of the sixth century C.E. and originally depicted the entire Holy Land and neighboring regions. Although older maps have been discovered, the Madaba Map is by far the oldest Holy Land map. It is not the map’s age that makes it remarkable, however, but rather its extreme accuracy and detail. The preserved portions of the map depict much of the biblical world, with the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in the center of the floor. The Holy Land map stretches from the area of modern Lebanon in the north to Egypt’s Nile Delta in the south, with the Mediterranean Sea as its western border and the Jordan desert as its eastern border. Using at least eight different colors, the Madaba Map portrays the cities, landscapes, flora, and fauna of the region.”


21farmer-haiti2-superJumbo.jpg“Paul Farmer, Pioneer of Global Health, Dies at 62” – Obituary in The New York Times: “Paul Farmer, a physician, anthropologist and humanitarian who gained global acclaim for his work delivering high-quality health care to some of the world’s poorest people, died on Monday on the grounds of a hospital and university he had helped establish in Butaro, Rwanda. He was 62. Partners in Health, the global public health organization that Dr. Farmer helped found, announced his death in a statement that did not specify the cause. Dr. Farmer attracted public renown with Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, a 2003 book by Tracy Kidder that described the extraordinary efforts he would make to care for patients, sometimes walking hours to their homes to ensure they were taking their medication. He was a practitioner of ‘social medicine,’ arguing there was no point in treating patients for diseases only to send them back into the desperate circumstances that contributed to them in the first place. Illness, he said, has social roots and must be addressed through social structures.”


OnBeing_JohnODonohue_Social_1200x628_FBTWWEB_EpArtwork-768x402“John O’Donohue – The Inner Landscape of Beauty” – Krista Tippett interviews John O’Donohue at On Being before his death in 2008: “No conversation we’ve ever done has been more beloved than this one. The Irish poet, theologian, and philosopher insisted on beauty as a human calling. He had a very Celtic, lifelong fascination with the inner landscape of our lives and with what he called “the invisible world” that is constantly intertwining what we can know and see. This was one of the last interviews he gave before his unexpected death in 2008. But John O’Donohue’s voice and writings continue to bring ancient mystical wisdom to modern confusions and longings.”


John Perkins change“Why John Perkins Didn’t Want More White Christians like Jonathan Edwards” – Daniel Silliman in Christianity Today: “John Perkins stood up at a planning meeting for a Billy Graham crusade in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1975. The Black pastor and civil rights activist was invited to the meeting, along with a group of African American clergy from the area, because Graham himself had insisted the evangelistic event would be desegregated. Black and white Mississippians would hear the gospel together. Perkins loved Graham and his powerful gospel message, and he was excited to hear that the world’s leading evangelist was taking practical steps to end segregation in the church. So he went to the Holiday Inn in Jackson and sat down on the Black side of the conference room, with all the Black pastors, and looked over at the white side, with all the white pastors. Then he stood up. He asked the white pastors whether their churches were committed to accepting new converts from the crusade into their congregations if the born-again brothers and sisters were Black. He didn’t think they were ready for that in Mississippi. And if they weren’t ready, he didn’t know whether he was either. ‘I don’t know whether or not I want to participate,’ Perkins said, ‘in making the same kind of white Christians that we’ve had in the past.'”


Music: Gene Eugene, “Marvelous Light,” from City on a Hill

Osip Mandelstam, “Consider the River” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Osip Mandelstam’s poem “Consider the River” from Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam translated by Christian Wiman. Osip Mandelstam was one of the most important 20th century Russian poets. Writing poetry during the Bolshevik revolution and suffering much difficulty during that time, Mandelstam eventually died from hardships he endured after being imprisoned in Soviet work camps.


Like a late gift long awaited, winter:
Personal, palpable stirrings.

I love the early animal of her,
These woozy, easy swings.

Soft atrocity, sweet fright,
As if for ravishment on first bowed and gave thanks . . .

And yet, before the forest’s clean, hewn circle of light,
Even the raven banks.

Power more powerful for its precariousness,
Blue more blue for its ghost of white:

Consider the river, its constancy, its skin of almost ice,
Like a lullaby nullified by wakefulness . . .


Previous poems in this series:

Mary Oliver, “The Kingfisher” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Mary Oliver’s poem “The Kingfisher” from House of Light. Mary Oliver was an American poet in the 20th and 21st century. Her poetry won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award for lifetime achievement.


The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world—so long as you don’t mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn’t born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water—hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.
I don’t say he’s right. Neither
do I say he’s wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn’t rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.


Previous poems in this series:

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Pied Beauty” from Poems. Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest of the Victorian era whose poetry was published after his death and had a significant influence on the modernist movement of poetry in the 20th-century.


Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.


Previous poems in this series: