See How the Proud Are Scattered

Photo © Tanya Smith/iStockPhoto

by Bruce Sanguin

This posting originally appeared on Bruce Sanguin’s blog Visit his blog for more postings, webinars, and podcasts on Evolutionary Christianity.

A: The Dream

It’s curtain time but the melody escapes me.
And I have forgotten my glasses,
so I cannot even read the words to the song
that I have not memorized.
I can’t even fake it.
All is lost. I am lost.
How could I let this happen?
The audience waits.
For me. To deliver.
I turn to the choir, helpless.
I have no choice but to ask
them for what I cannot give to myself.
I-cannot-do-this-without-you. I need you.
they gladly carry the tune and me.
The show goes on.
I do not know how I got myself
into this predicament,
so unprepared for performance,
so unrehearsed,
forcing me to bear their grace and kindness,
without which this dream would have been a nightmare.
A couple choices come to mind:
To admonish myself,
take the reins, or a bull by the horns,
(metaphors of domination),
and live my life so that this will never happen again;
or to understand once and for all,
that a choir of angels has my back,
and that I may choose to lean into grace,
knowing that this opera of humility
is the performance that will elicit
a five star review,
from the self-emptying Christ,
who is crowned with glory.

B: The Greeting

Mary sings in the company of her cousin,
fetal life bulging,
turning joyous greetings into A-framed hugs.
Tiny elbows and feet,
belonging to messenger and message,
try to poke and kick
through their mother’s hope-stretched skin,
to touch the promise of each other
that is being announced even now,
in Mary’s song and Elizabeth’s prophecy,
“Blessed are you, Mary,
who believes that what God
is doing through her shall be fulfilled.”
As peasant girl,
Mary is accustomed to humility.
Her speech is simple truth, profoundly true,
a child who knows her need
for a cousin’s company,
after a village of unbelievers
offered only rituals of shame,
in response to the angel’s news of great joy.
She knows her lines, knows the score
that Spirit sighs, now, through her.
When it comes time to deliver
she is magnificent.
Her secret?
Her performance is meant solely
to magnify the Lord, and not herself.
Her audience consists of three,
two of whom listen from an underwater performance hall,
but are still attuned to love’s pitch and timbre,
floating in their amniotic seats.
Where two or three are gathered,
Christ waits to be born.

C: The Magnificat

“The proud shall be scattered
in the thoughts of their hearts.”
The proud shall be scattered…
in the thoughts,
the thoughts of their hearts.
The proud shall be scattered
in the thoughts of their hearts.
The proud have hearts,
the proud have hearts…
who knew?
Hearts of stone;
Proud thoughts of hardened hearts,
thoughts twisted by beliefs
of separation and isolation,
and a loveless, unforgiving life,
shaped by wounds still open, still tender,
hiding in a dark corner that nobody visits.
The proud shall be scattered
in the thoughts of their hearts…
proud, cold hearts
giving birth to a thousand thoughts,
memetic spawn of the unholy consecration
of Ignorance and Arrogance.
Thoughts that hurt in the mere thinking of them,
and in their intimate enactment.
Thoughts that grow up,
to run madly off in every direction,
down every street, screaming warnings
about an invisible enemy
that is coming, always coming;
Proud thoughts, of hardened hearts,
singing incongruous tunes of atonement,
of Messiahs sent by God
to be tortured—
such a violent scattering.

D: The Scattering

The proud shall be scattered
in the thoughts of their hearts.
Thoughts of the 1%,
shall be scattered like orphans;
wards of strangers and strangeness,
exiled thoughts,
carefully shaped
into clever philosophies and economies of death
that justify stone-cold hearts.
Scattered thoughts,
like frightened sheep,
run from wolves of their imagination,
away from the voice of the shepherd,
who alone knows the song
that can bring them home,
wagging their refugee tails behind.
Scattered thoughts,
in a frenzy of fear,
send covert directives from the Langley of the psyche.
You are unloveable.
You are bad.
You do not belong.
You are helpless.
You are not worthy.
You are an instrument of the state.
Thoughts giving rise to soul-crushing questions
and the deadly mission of scattered souls:
What must I do to earn your love?
How shall I dance and what are the steps?
When do I smile?
What is my cue for cleverness?
Do you see me?
Do you see me?
See, then, at least see my treasure,
my success,
my artifacts of arrogance,
the consolation prizes we collect like trophies,
stacked up like a bulwark against our deepest fear
that love is an illusion.
Scattered thoughts
that are too hidden to be known
by the proud:
Love me for my beauty.
Love me for my talent.
Love me for my rank.
The refrain of souls on sale to the highest bidder.
The magnetic strip
of the smiling, charming, pleasing ego
is indeed worn thin.
Sold! to the highest bidder.
Scattered thoughts,
so far from home,
in this diaspora of despair,
out of ear shot of Mary’s song lines
or the song line of their own soul.
Occupy this:
We dare not scorn the 1%,
until we know the unrelenting minority
that rules the life we have created,
this last proud vestige,
the hidden, hold-out
who sings the chorus
of the self-made man,
and will die a thousand deaths
before asking from others
for what he cannot give himself,
before, on bended knee,
she will ask for a healing touch,
a tender word,
or look to others for Wisdom’s word,
or a choir’s backing.
Do not scorn the ego-speck
in the pauper’s eye,
until you can see the sequoia
impeding your own vision.
We all see through the forest of Herod’s eye,
and need the Magi’s cleared-eyed wisdom
to find our way home by another way.
Do not scorn the 1%.
We all have lost the score,
forgotten the song of Mary’s heart,
and sing now a song of the proud from our ivory towers.
We are minstrels of loneliness,
gazing down on a world
we can no longer sense or feel,
from the corner office,
the world’s reward for the exiled.
songs of exile are our only repertoire,
and we imagine,
in the thoughts of our hardened hearts,
that this must be life, then…
Home is a place of invulnerability,
and freedom is a fortress of privilege
while the world waits outside the gates,
singing a genuine lament,
for the loss of our precious company.

E: Kenosis

Here is the secret.
Lend me your ear.
Lend Mary your ear.
It’s the song that Mary sang full throated,
from a heart whose valleys had been lifted up,
and mountains brought low,
and the crooked paths made straight
for the advent of God,
the same song that Paul put down
in a letter to his Philippian friends,
one afternoon,
upon hearing Sophia’s soft whisper:
Jesus humbled himself,
not counting equality a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
emptied himself,
And then lost all,
including his very life,
not counting equality a thing to be grasped,
but rather given by God.
he gained the kingdom of God,
and filled the whole world
with sacred presence.

F: Cosmic Annunciation

The whole glittering cosmos
coalesced in Mary’s womb.
The Holy Spirit overshadowed
the whole affair,
in-sinew-uated Itself
in-celled Itself
in-boned and
en-fleshed Itself in this cosmic zygote,
holy hybrid,
Love divine, all love’s excelling,
joy of heaven to Earth now wed.
A new heaven,
a new Earth,
growing in a maiden’s womb.
The universe read Paul’s letter
and emptied itself into an embryo,
and now rushes toward Bethlehem
to see it’s handiwork and to bow before
the one in whom it has been reconfigured
and transformed,
this servant god,
manger-born, mangy cloth
swaddling a saviour,
who knows only the power of love,
and a heart broken by compassion,
whose only song is a piercing cry,
a prayer that this whole, buzzing universe,
might know that it was made for love,
and by love.

G: The Birth

The longest journey
is to the bended knee,
the outstretched and open hand,
the beggar-heart,
the state of inner poverty,
the emptiness,
which alone
gives us eyes to see
the Christ
in each other’s eyes,
who wants above all else
just one shot at lifting us up,
and crowning us with a diadem of glory,
and Oh, a new name:
My Delight Is In You.
Send us, the rich,
empty away,
if poverty confers this coronation,
and emptiness alone can fill us with this saving love.
Hollow us out,
Holy One,
knowing that love abhors a vacuum—
even more than nature—
and will come swooshing in,
whooshing in,
to swallow up ego’s detritus,
and the mess death leaves on the floors of distrust.
And when one day,
we dare to fall backward into grace,
redeeming broken trust,
(may it be soon),
make of our lives a humble stable
where stars come to rest,
and shepherds come to wonder,
that through the likes of us,
the Christ is born, again.
So this is Christmas.
And what have we done?

H: Doxology

Gloria, in excelsis deo.
Gloria, in excelsis deo,
Glory, glory hallelujah
Heaven and Earth are filled with your glory.
We are filled with your glory,
fulfilled by your glory,
glazed and fired in the furnace of your glory.
Gloria, in excelsis deo.

I: The Scattered Return

Hear now the praise that rings
from the lips of the scattered,
streaming up to the Mount of the Lord,
the Great Homecoming,
with their ploughshares and pruning hooks,
converted weapons of an Iron Age,
equipped now to till the soil of a New Age,
and build the new Jerusalem.
Ah, so this is my choir,
well, Mary’s choir,
All Poor Ones and Humble Choristers,
who, as it turns out,
had been waiting for me to get in line,
waiting for my proud soul’s falling and failure,
for the great emptying that alone elicits
community and a song worth singing—
the soul’s song of being pregnant
with a New heaven and a new Earth.

Bruce Sanguin is a minister serving Canadian Memorial United Church in Vancouver, BC. Bruce is passionate about raising public awareness that there is a form of Christianity beyond the belief-based, biblical literalism that is associated with traditional “church.” His latest book, If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics, won an IPPY gold medal for best spiritual and inspirational book.

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Categories: Bruce Sanguin, Prayer


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One Comment on “See How the Proud Are Scattered”

  1. December 22, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    These really hold up as poems, Bruce. You are a poet.


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