Monday, May 26, 2014

The Ache of Ministry

            One of my resolutions for this new year was to read more poetry.  I’ve met with some success.  I have been much less successful writing this blog, but I hope the different pace of summer will afford me more opportunity to write.
            Among other things, poetry helps me pay closer attention.  It connects me to my soul in unique ways.  Much of the language of the Bible is poetic language.
            One poet I have been reading is not someone new to me, but “an old friend,” Denise Levertov.  If you are unacquainted with her poetry, I commend it to you.  She writes wonderfully about faith, nature, relationships, politics – in short, about much of life.
            In a poem from the 1960s, entitled “The Ache of Marriage,” Levertov celebrates marriage while acknowledging the work it entails.
            The poem begins:

            The ache of marriage:

            thigh and tongue, beloved,
            are heavy with it

I so appreciate the sensuality present, the embodiment of emotion.
            The poem ends:

            It is leviathan and we
            in its belly
            looking for joy, some joy
            not to be known outside of it

            two by two in the ark of
            the ache of it.
I hear joy and work and the desire to embody love in the daily-ness of life together.
            The poem, though, helped me reflect on something else, the ache of ministry.  Earlier this year a member of my congregation died.  He was a relatively young man, divorced, with three children - 23, 20, and 17.  When it came time to plan his memorial service, I met with the three children.  They were “in charge” of their father’s service – the ache of ministry.
            On the day of the service, the twenty-year-old, a son came to me.  He wanted to wear a tie, but he wasn’t sure how to tie it.  That is something we typically learn from our fathers, but his father was not there.  It isn’t easy to tie a tie while it is on someone else, so I put it around my neck and tied the knot, loose enough so I could then put it on this young man.  In that moment, especially, the ache of ministry.
            The ache of ministry – the joy and work of it, the desire to embody love in the daily-ness of it.

With Faith and With Feathers,