Sermon-poems. Or poem-sermons.

Today I stumbled upon the sermons of one Rev. Melissa Skelton, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal in Seattle, who occasionally prepares sermons based on poetry. Each Sunday both a poem and a Scripture text are read in tandem and brought into conversation. While I can’t speak to their reception, at least on (electronic) paper, the sermons are a wild success. This one is my favorite.

Also, her taste in poems is exquisite. Mary Oliver, W.H. Auden, Denise Levertov, Wendell Berry. These are not fuzzy Footprints meditations from the Christian bookstore, but real poems: audacious, difficult, probing, honest, searingly intimate. They are poems that cut to the heart of things, and do not mince words. Which does remind one of something else one has read of late … ah yes, the Bible.

Another form of the art of poem-sermon is being practiced by another Emily, the pastor of St. Lydia’s dinner church community in Brooklyn.

Thank you for the inspiration, ladies.

Anyone know of any other sermon-poets who deserve mention?

I will leave you with a Word for the day in poetry:

What is Hope?
It is a presentiment that imagination is more real and reality less real than it looks.
It is a hunch
that the overwhelming brutality of facts
that oppress and repress is not the last word. It is a suspicion
that reality is more complex
than realism wants us to believe
and that the frontiers of the possible
are not determined by the limits of the actual
and that in a miraculous and unexpected way
life is preparing the creative events
which will open the way to freedom and resurrection…
The two, suffering and hope, live from each other.
Suffering without hope
produces resentment and despair,
hope without suffering
creates illusions, naiveté, and drunkenness…
Let us plant dates
even though those who plant them will never eat them.
We must live by the love of what we will never see.
This is the secret discipline.
It is a refusal to let the creative act
be dissolved in immediate sense experience
and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren. Such disciplined love
is what has given prophets, revolutionaries and saints
the courage to die for the future they envisaged.
They make their own bodies
the seed of their highest hope.

    Rubem Alves, Tomorrow’s Child, 1972


My husband will surely recognize sight of a woman blissfully absorbed in a new book as a familiar one. Winslow Homer, “The New Novel”, 1877. Via wiki commons.


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