A new hymn text for Good Friday
Here at the cross I see my Savior suffer.
His wounds cry out protesting “It’s not fair!”
This one who preached of mercy, love and justice
is victimized by those who do not care.
Without due cause a gentle man is dying.
I watch Him wince in agonizing terror.
Here at the cross I hear a muffled whisper.
My Savior thirsts for more than sour wine.
I tune my ears to listen to his pleadings.
What he desires is that for which he’s pined.
A world of peace in which all wars have ended.
A realm of love that reaches beyond time.
Here at the cross I smell death’s scent around me.
My Savior’s life is ebbing fast away.
He gasps for air and shivers in the shadows.
But all the same he turns and looks my way.
This Rose of Sharon, crushed and cruelly trampled,
emits a fragrance that will win the day.
Here at the cross I touch his feet now bleeding.
My Savior’s head is crowned with hatred’s thorns.
His nail-spiked hands reach out in love surrendered.
My grieving heart in heaviness but mourns.
This dreadful scene engages all my senses.
The Lamb of God, hung out to die, is shorn.
Here at the cross I taste my pride (once swallowed).
My Savior’s death confronts my need for grace.
I stand before this blameless man convicted.
I am amazed that he would take my place.
In Christ alone, I claim redemption offered.
Here at the cross, I glimpse my Savior’s face.
A tribute to the team chaplain
Loyola U’s most loyal fan
is not a boisterous Midwest man.
She is a nun. Her name is Jean.
The team respects her so.
She is the chaplain for the guys.
Her cheers aren’t loud, but they are wise.
Jean keeps them focused on their goal
confined to a wheelchair.
Yes, Sister Jean is ninety-eight.
But she’s not old. She’s feeling great!
And though her team might come up short,
she’s long on praise and love.
This little nun inspires me
to be the best that I can be,
to find a cause to celebrate
and putting feet to faith.
A troubling forecast for a nation in need of God
In spite of global warming,
the world we live in is growing colder by the year.
A nation once warmed by the fires of revival
is becoming a frozen wasteland of secular relativism.
Church attendance isn’t assumed any longer.
The length of marriages is shorter than ever.
Basic biblical knowledge is not a given like it once was.
As a result the soul of our nation appears to be shrinking.
One wonders if even Billy Graham could fill a sports stadium today.
Thanksgiving has become Black Friday Eve.
Christmas no longer seems to unlock
the mystery box of spiritual reflection.
Nor does Epiphany.
Nor Ash Wednesday.
Nor Good Friday.
An empty grave used to be the fireplace
in which personal faith was kindled and stoked.
Sunday brunch and egg hunts increasingly define the day.
A death-defying Savior can’t claim top billing of this holiday.
It’s an occasion for gathering families,
taking photos and arranging flowers.
Flowers that wither and die.
Photos that will fade and be forgotten.
Relatives who will grow old and pass away.
When will we tire of death and long for a message of life?
When will the proclamation of marginalized preachers
actually become good news again?
Let it be soon, Lord.
Let it be soon!
Looking back to where it all began / There Goes the Neighborhood
A Tribute to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
It was back in 1968
when MLK succumbed to hate.
And yet at Haight and Ashbury
young hippies lived on love.
That was the year a TV show
went on the air to let us know
that we are special as we are,
that we’re all beautiful.
In Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,
the world seemed right and life was good.
In cardigans and tennis shoes,
Fred Rogers calmed us down.
Unlike the vibe on Sesame Street,
Fred’s Neighborhood was less upbeat.
His quiet voice and slower pace
would comfort and console.
Oh how I miss that gentle man
who taught my children “Yes, you can!”
And on this anniversary,
l’m looking back with joy.
There Goes The Neighborhood
Well, there goes the neighborhood.
By now you’ve heard the news.
Mister Rogers boarded the last trolley last night
and bid us all goodbye.
It’s sad to say Fred is dead.
But instead of being swept with grief
let’s celebtrate the fact
that he was a believer
(and an ordained preacher at that).
Goodness, gracious how the Lord has used
that sweater-clad gentle man
in the lives of kids we love.
Mr. Rogers was nothing short of Christlike
in his calm and caring ways.
He was a man of the cloth
who offered a security blanket
to preschoolers through puppets
instead of a pulpit.
Thanks to King Friday and Prince Tuesday,
the message of Sunday
was heard most everyday
by little lambs following the lead
of the shepherd in canvas gym shoes.
Yes, Fred may be dead,
but it’s such a good feeling to know he’s alive
in the presence of the One he served.
*The above poem “There Goes the Neighborhood” was written in the Spring of 2003 the week that Fred Rogers died.
Remembering Billy Graham’s example
Lord of all nations,
God of our fathers,
Ancient of days
and Lord of all time.
We humble ourselves
acknowledging our need of divine discernment
and extraordinary wisdom.
Forgive us when we approach the tasks before us
as if they all depended on us.
Teach us by the example of those
who have modeled a lifestyle of
compassion and forgiveness.
Today, with millions of Americans,
we are remembering a confidant of presidents
who curried the favor of kings, queens and prime ministers
all the while conveying a message of love to common people
in an uncomplicated way.
May the best qualities that characterized The Reverend Billy Graham
call out the best in each of us.
May his integrity, honesty and conviction
be markers that distinguish our efforts.
May his simple faith serve as an example
of how to navigate the complexities
of an ever-changing planet
even as we admit our inadequacies
to create the kind of world of which we dream.
May we strive in our own faith communities
to become Billy-like in our purpose and passion.
God honoring… just as we are.
- This prayer was offered at the Washington State House of Representatives on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 while the body of Billy Graham was lying in honor beneath the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.