Thursday, June 29, 2006

truth moments

thanks to Diane
for sharing this poem with me
the words written over 100 years ago
yet still ringing very loud

The Church and the World

The church and the world walked far apart
On the changing shores of time,
The world was singing a giddy song,
The church a hymn sublime.
“Come, give me your hand,” cried the merry world
And walk with me this way.”
But the good church hid her snowy hand
And solemnly answered, “Nay,
I will not give you my hand at all
And I will not walk with you;
Your way is the way of endless death;
Your words are all untrue.”

“Nay, walk with me but a little space,”
Said the world with a kindly air.
“The road I walk is a pleasant road,
And the sun shines always there.
Your path is thorny, and rough and rude,
And mine is broad and plain;
My road is paved with flowers and gems
And yours with tears and pain.
The sky above me is always blue;
No want, no toil I know;
The sky above you is always dark,
Your lot is a lot of woe;
My path you see is a broad, fair path,
And my gate is high and wide,
There is room enough for you and for me
To travel side by side.”

Half shyly the church approached the world,
And gave him her hand of snow.
The old world grasped it and walked along
Saying in accents low:
“Your dress is too simple to suit my taste.
I will give you pearls to wear,
Rich velvets and silks for your graceful form,
And diamonds to deck your hair.”
The church looked down on her plain white robes
And then at the dazzling world,
And blushed as she saw his handsome lip
With a smile contemptuous curled.
“I will change my dress for a costlier one,”
Said the church with a smile of grace.
Then her pure white garments drifted away
And the world gave in their place
Beautiful satins, and shining silks,
And roses, and gems, and pearls,
And over her forehead her bright hair fell,
Crisped in a thousand curls.

“Your house is too plain,” said the proud old world,
“I will build you a house like mine’
Carpets of Brussels, and curtains of lace,
And furniture ever so fine.”
So he built her a costly and beautiful house,
Splendid it was to behold;
Her sons and her beautiful daughters dwell there
Gleaming in purple and gold.
And fairs and shows in the halls were held,
And the world and his children were there,
And laughter, and music, and feasts were heard,
In the house that was meant for prayer.
She had cushioned powers for the rich and the great
To sit in their pomp and pride;
While the poor folks clad in their shabby suits
Sat meekly down outside.

The Angel of Mercy flew over the church
And whispered, - “I know thy sin.”
The church looked back with a sigh and longed
To gather her children in.
But some were off in the midnight ball,
And some were off at the play,
And some were drinking in gay saloons;
So she quietly went away.

The sly world gallantly said to her,
“Your children mean no harm
Merely indulging in innocent sports,”
And she leaned on his proffered arm,
And smiled and chatted and gathered flowers
As she walked along with the world,
While millions and millions of deathless souls
To the horrible pit were hurled.

“Your preachers are all too old and plain,”
Said the gay old world with a sneer.
“They frighten my children with dreadful tales
Which l like not for them to hear.
They talk of brimstone, of fire, and pain,
And the horrors of endless night;
They talk of a place that should not be
Mentioned in ears polite.”

“I will send you some of the better stamp,
Brilliant, and gay, and fast,
Who will tell them that people may live as they like
And go to heaven at last.
The Father is merciful, great, and good,
Tender, and true, and kind:
Do you think He would take one child to heaven
And leave the rest behind?”
So he filled the house with gay divines;
Gifted, and great, and learned,
And the plain old men who preached the cross
Were out of the pulpit turned.

“You give too much to the poor,” said the world,
“far more than you ought to do.
If the poor need shelter, and food, and clothes,
Why need it trouble you?
Go, take your money and buy rich robes
And horses and carriages fine,
And pearls, and jewels, and dainty food,
And the rarest and costliest wine.
My children, they dote on all such things,
And if you their love would win,
You must do as they do and walk in the ways,
That they are walking in.”

The church held tightly the strings of her purse
And gracefully lowered her head,
And whispered, “I’ve given too much away,
I’ll do, sir, as you have said.”
So the poor were turned from the door in scorn
And she heard not the orphan’s cry;
And she drew her beautiful robes aside,
As the widows went weeping by.
The sons of the world and the sons of the church
Walked closely hand and heart,
And only the Master that knoweth all,
Could tell the two apart.

Then the church sat down at her ease and said,
“I am rich and with goods increased.
I’ve need of nothing; have nothing to do
But to laugh and dance and sleep.”
The sly world heard her and laughed in his sleeve,
And mockingly said aside,
“The church is fallen, the beautiful church,
And her shame is her boast and pride.”

The Angel drew near to the Mercy-seat,
And whispered in sighs her name,
And the saints their anthems of rapture hushed
And covered their heads with shame;
And a voice came down through the hush of heaven,
From Him Who sat on the throne,
“I know thy works and how thou hast said,
‘I am rich’ and hast not known
That thou art naked, and poor, and blind,
And wretched before My face.
Therefore from My presence I cast thee out,
And blot thy name from its place.”

(written over 100 years ago)

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