Archive for October, 2009

Prayer for the Celebrity’s Purgatory

I wrote this poem in response to the death of Michael Jackson this past summer.

I was not a fan of the music (that is, since the 80s, when I with most others had “Thriller” at least in the soundtrack of my life), but I always felt that he was either celebrated or vilified unjustly; people projected onto him what they wished to believe.

My prayer is that he is even now learning more of and experiencing God’s grace and forgiveness. But the poem could be voiced by any celebrity – anyone upon whom we project our hopes and fears about our present and future.

Prayer for the Celebrity’s Purgatory

There are no eyes that watch me in this place.
Did I not spend my earthly life in faith
that when the people saw me and adored,
their adulation brought its own reward?

But truth be told, that faith was never sure.
I was bound up, I know – could not break free.
The whole of life, from youth, was on a stage.
The habits of the child live into age

and tempter’s lies so sweet are hard to leave.
At least I grew suspicious of the scripts:
all different in detail, all ends the same.
The cameras flashed, the headlines claimed my fame.

They called me Genius, Rebel, Superstar.
They sold the tickets, albums – made the lies
more sure that told me I must ever shine.
I don’t know just what time it was, the line

I crossed – I only know that soon the cameras
found faults and sins would suit them just as well.
The pundits made me famous; just the same,
they were the ones who now invoked my name

in shock and shame – to titillate, to blame,
to mock, to mourn, to wonder at the waste,
sell and profit, shake the head, move on in haste:
Next victim! in the sacrificial game.

Upon the altar which they built for me
they set me up, they worshiped and adored;
and then, my sin and shame exposed, they gorged
themselves upon my naked, bloody flesh.

Can namelessness be grace? A start afresh?
For I can guess the stories that they tell
now that I sing in heaven, or in hell.
My corpse may rot; my memory may still

the needful place upon the victim’s altar fill.
Now that I’m gone, they feast upon this dinner –
“Gifted, brilliant! But was he saint or sinner?
Do blessed ones remove their shining halos

as he draws near, and laud him for his gifts?
Or rather, do the demons from the rifts
rise, flay him in just payment for his crimes?”
I once believed that death would bring the same –

Shouts to praise (or curse, condemn) my famous name.
But if I could, I’d tell them we were wrong.
There are no eyes that watch me in this place,
no ears that beg the singing of my song,

no mouths that speak of me, no deference
nor reference to me, no making sense
of me, blessed, cursed, or misbegotten soul.
They’re giving me no part to play, no starring role –

I’m merely fellow penitent and friend.
I’m neither king nor god, thank God! I’m no
anointed, no pariah – just a man.
I’m making sense of this as best I can.

The habits of the child live into age
and tempter’s lies so sweet are hard to leave,
but I believe I’ve come to disbelieve
the speaking of my name in praise or rage.

But here, one Name is spoken, if at all.
Our ears are pricked to hear His forward call.
O strange, O new, amazing, glorious grace!
There are no eyes that watch me in this place.


October 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

A Biblical view on Divorce and Remarriage

This is interesting to me because it takes into account the situations of people who are physically and mentally abused in their marriages, but does so based on the Scriptures.  Too often we have thought we must make an ‘end run’ around the words of Jesus in Matthew 19 et al because it simply is the only way to deal with a bad situation.  Perhaps we need not make an end run around Scripture after all.

October 7, 2009 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Missionary to America, d. Oct 7, 1787

Henry MuhlenbergFrom Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations:

“…born in Einbeck, in the province of Hannover, Germany, in 1711, the seventh of nine children…”

“…In the early part of the eighteenth century, the Lutheran communities in the New World were scattered over a wide territory and came from various ethnic origins.  They had built a few churches, but they were without any kind of general organization, and there was considerable dissesion among them…

“…August Hermann Francke, who had made Halle a great center of Pietism, sent Muhlenberg to America in 1742.  He went first to London, where he learned from the court chaplain Frederick Ziegenhagen, as he also had from Halle, something of the need of the New World.  Also, while in London, Muhlenberg had a gown made that was different from both the German and the Scandinavian style, and this was to set the pattern for English Lutheran clerical vesture in America.

“He arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 23, 1742, visited the Lutherans there and in Georgia, and reached Philadelphia November 25, 1742.  Muhlenberg was possessed of much courage and perseverance, and gradually the German-speaking churches recognized his authority and the Swedish clergy also cooperated with him.

“During the forty-five years he labored in America, Muhlenberg, struggling against schismatics and impostors, traveled incessantly, corresponded widely, and set a course for Lutheranism for coming generations.  He preached in German, Dutch, and English, doing so, it is reported with a powerful voice.  He sestablished the first Lutheran synod in America, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, which can be dated from SUnday, August 14, 1748, when the delegates met in Philadelphia.  At this synod Muhlenberg submitted a liturgy that was ratified and remained the only authorized American Lutheran liturgy for forty years.  It was revived and used in many places as part of the bicentennial observ ance of the United States in 1976.  Ultimately, this form of the historic Lutheran order developed into the common liturgy of North American Lutherans…as Lutherans slowly moved toward the ideal that Muhlenberg had expressed in 1786, just before he died, of ‘one church, one book.’

“Muhlenberg’s concern with questions of stewardship, pastoral care, and education strengthened the church life of Lutheran congregations and aided greatly in the transition from the state churches of Europe to the free churches of America; his model congregations constitution of 1762 established the basis for local church government.”

God, our heavenly Father, your servant Henry Melchior Muhlenberg displayed courage and perseverance in the face of opposition and slander, and brought order both in life and worship to scattered and dispirited congregations: Give to the pastors of your church such strength and faithfulness that the devotion of your people may be enriched, and that unity and cooperation may be advanced, to the glory of your Name; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

October 7, 2009 at 11:04 am Leave a comment


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