Poem: A Change of Sanctuaries



A Change of Sanctuaries. 

The sanctuary is empty, cleared by fear
that has sent us each into our temples
seeking solace and safety.

The holy elements gather dust that shows
in the sun that pours through the stained glass windows.
The organ is silent.

It is not the only place. Temples are empty.
Mosques are empty. The vast caverns
of the mega churches are empty.

Still, you come. A solitary pilgrim.
You sit in a back pew and pray.

It is hard, praying at such a time.
There is too much, too many, you are overwhelmed
by the vastness of loss and pain and fears.
There are too many to be grateful for,
too many helpers, too many blessings that remain.
You are fine until you begin to pray,
and then suddenly, you feel small.  Overwhelmed.
Your helplessness in the vast world of need
seems infinite.

And so, your prayers lack words,
They are what the bible calls, “a prayer of moaning”.
And that is enough. It has to be. It is all you have to offer.

In the day to day, you are fine.
There are dishes to wash. Poems to write.
The cats need to be fed.
Books to be read.
You can pretend it is normal, until you bend your head
and call on your God.

But then, that is why we pray, is it not?
Because we understand this is beyond us.
It always was, but suddenly our weakness has become real.
We can no longer pretend that we hold the answers,
that we have the strength, that we are enough.

We are not.

Perhaps that is not entirely true.
We are indeed enough.
We are enough to be loved.
We are all we were made to be,
but not all we aspire to be, never content
to be merely human,
we want to be more,
to pretend we are God,
when in the end we are children playing at it,
suddenly overwhelmed and frightened
when things go wrong, looking to our father to save us
when our humanness proves its limits.

You pray in the stained glass light.
There is wind outside and the bones of the church moan with you.
The building creaks, as if God is restless.
When you are done, you leave.
You go back to your home, a different kind of sanctuary now.

The cats greet you at the door.
The woman you love hugs you as you hang your coat.
This is your sanctuary now.
Here you can pray more coherently,
for the neighbors, for the farmers at the edge of town,
for the children next door playing basketball in the afternoon sun.
You feel more sane here. Less overwhelmed,
able to far better accept what you can and cannot be.
There are things you can do here. Now. Small things,
but, as you always say, they add up.

You sip coffee. You make a call. You write a card.
You prepare for the next days work.
God is with you. You believe this.
It allows you to do, when there is not enough of you,
a power beyond your own.

If there is greatness to be had, .
if there is humbleness, this is where it lies,
in knowing what you are and are not,
and living in faith that there is more,
both in the world, and in you,
than you can see,
that your truest sanctuary has no walls
to hold God in,
or let him out.

About this poem

I was working on my sermon in my studio this morning, and this came out instead.

The picture was taken at the Episcopal Church in Wells, VT.

Be well,


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