Art, Poetry, Music, and Nature for the New Year
Wednesday, February 3 2021
The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
When you live within the narratives of scripture, they can become a sort of poetry, a story to walk around in, a way toward a truth, not told in straightforward ways but in ways that are revealed when the stories are held lightly, delicate and fresh like a raspberry picked from the vine, or a butterfly wing opening and closing in your hand. Lynn Ungar does that here with the Exodus story, walking around in the familiar textures of that narrative, only to take all that we wish and want, somehow turning the hardest parts of our longing into balm and blessing. It is an impossible task: living, loving, longing. But, she says, “God did not promise that we shall live, but that we might, at last, glimpse the stars, brilliant in the desert sky.”
Parker Palmer says of Ungar’s poems that “they take subtle, complex, and elusive experiences and make them accessible without diminishing the mystery.” I think that’s true, here. Maybe you read her March, 2020 poem that went viral (pun intended) called Pandemic, which has echos of a long lost time almost one year ago when it was only weeks ago that life was “normal” (back when we also thought summer 2020 was going to be the end of isolation and the return to “normal”).
Then you shall take some of the blood, and put it on the door posts and the lintels of the houses . . . and when I see the blood, I shall pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. —Exodus 12:7 and 13
Passover by Lynn Ungar
They thought they were safe
that spring night, when they daubed
the doorways with sacrificial blood.
To be sure, the angel of death
passed them over, but for what?
Forty years in the desert
without a home, without a bed,
following new laws to an unknown land.
Easier to have died in Egypt
or stayed there a slave, pretending
there was safety in the old familiar.
But the promise, from those first
naked days outside the garden,
is that there is no safety,
only the terrible blessing
of the journey. You were born
through a doorway marked in blood.
We are, all of us, passed over,
brushed in the night by terrible wings.
Ask that fierce presence,
whose imagination you hold.
God did not promise that we shall live,
but that we might, at last, glimpse the stars,
brilliant in the desert sky.
Let us glimpse the stars, O God of Promise. Let us glimpse the stars and know that you are the God of Freedom, not the god-of-struggle-free-life. Let us glimpse the stars, even as we weep for what could have been and what never was. Amen.