Surpassing Ritual

by Jeral Williams

Our Lord’s Prayer,
few words, easy to say,
but to truly, truly pray,
like crossing a mountain river deep
surrounded by cliffs, vast and steep
with mossy rocks, flowing water,
whirlpools and the occasional eddy.

I
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name

To divine the divine I fearfully dive,
plunge beneath Adam’s ale.
As ethereal wisps dance to a fraught roar,
I descend, engulfed by strength, by love.
I ascend in blind sense of above.
I bubble clear with open eyes,
mouth words of human meaning—
holy, divine, sacred, pure.
All earthly words fall short,
nothing purely hallowed.
Sensing awe,
  I swim on

II
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Amid capitalism and democracy how can a Kingdom be?
What would that make me: a bondsman, a subject, a serf?
Thy will, always opaque to me,
I only hope to clearly see
through your looking glass brightly.
Mysteries of heaven I try to unearth.
Seeking rebirth,
  I swim on

III
Give us this day our daily bread,

Daily, only daily? Shouldn’t I hoard?
Daily requires trust, so trust I must.
Bread is a need; what about my wants?
Our bread means not my bread alone.
Overcoming my selfish ways,
with thanksgiving for my days
I swim on.

IV
and forgive us our sins

The rocks begin to address my sin,
scrape against gluttony, sloth, wrath,
bump into lust, envy, greed,
smash into pride.
Big rocks are clear, insidious hide down
where the trout abound.
In the crevices, under the moss,
guileful rocks I toss.
Takes more work to exorcise sins that lurk.
Thoroughly I confess, accept forgiveness.
At last, blood and water slow to a gentle easy flow.
I pause, take a long, deep breath
and swim on.

V
as we forgive those who sin against us.

Slowly, I begin to swirl
as I enter the whirl of the pool of distress.
Dare I forgive Adolf, Osama and other foes,
the snobs and cliques, the cheats that caused me woe.
How can I be free of those who mistreated me?
The tighter I cling to my enemies,
the faster and lower I go.
Until in anguish at last, I freely release my past
and I’m flung far, near to the far shore.

VI
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Whirlpools lie still, rapids rush no more,
refreshed and free, I wade ashore. 
Steep cliffs are gone,
I see neither sign nor clear trail.
Needing a guide, I call mine.
Gladly He comes; we journey on.

Jeral Williams is a poet living in Mobile, Alabama. He is a retired professor whose Christian journey has been long and winding. He has published “Being a Proverbial Student,” a reflection on the need for Christian students to pursue knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

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