Poets have their unique qualities. Edgar Allen Poe carried an overarching mood in his poems; examples are “The Raven,” “Annabellee,” and “Al Aaraaf.” Billy Collins wrote with a light touch; for example, “Man Listening to Disc.” And the injection of the self into the poems of Robert Frost was unique; for example, “The Road not Taken.”
Mariner’s wife is a serious and talented poet. She has won contests, writes about every aspect of life and, with seeming ease, can create poetry from events anyone else would dismiss without a thought. She, too, has a unique quality in her poems. She injects a twist of thought in her poems. It’s a twist the rest of us would not imagine yet we are forced to take note of it. In the following poem, his wife addresses the relationship of humanity with their God. As we relate to the human condition, we are led to a heavenly twist:
At the Gathering of the Great Congregation
At the gathering of the great congregation,
The Lord made his way down the aisle,
Shaking hands, smiling, nodding,
Reaching out to touch a shoulder
Tousling the heads of the infants
Catching the eye of everyone—
Amazing how he acknowledged
Each of us individually.
He mounted the steps
Paused briefly before the altar
Then moved over to the pulpit.
There was a great hush
As at the beginning of the world.
Now at last,
At long last,
The meaning of life would be revealed
And the purpose of our deaths.
The Lord said, “In the beginning…”
A ripple of laughter spread through the congregation.
“Well,” he said with a smile,
“How did you expect me to begin?
In the beginning, I started a story.
It started with light and stars, and galaxies,
And earth and animals and a garden.
It was a story and you were part of it.”
A murmur of puzzlement arose from the congregation
As they turned to each other in dismay.
A hand went up.
The Lord acknowledged a young man.
“Is that it? It was all just a story?
We were just characters in a cosmic play?”
The Lord smiled. “Just a story. Yes.
But what more could there be?”
Voices, questions began to emerge
From the murmuring congregation.
“You put us through birth and death and suffering,
Through war and disease
And fear and pain
For a story?”
The Lord said,
“Things happen in a story.
If you want to keep it going,
Things have to keep happening.”
“But why,” the young man persisted,
“Did you make us suffer?”
The Lord replied,
“It was a big story. It had to contain everything.
He paused and added quietly,
“I suffered, too.”
Now there was anger as the questions jabbed out.
“You suffered? Give me a break! It was your story,
You started it. You could have made it better.
We didn’t have to die.
We could have lived forever in the garden.”
The Lord was patient and kind. He said,
“One of you could have lived in the garden, perhaps,
But not two. Two is conflict and conflict is lack of peace,
It is pain—and it is also story. Once there were two
The story spun out inevitably.”
An older man interjected,
“Are you saying you had no control of it?”
The Lord turned toward him and said,
“I could have wrapped it sooner.
At any point I could have said
‘And they lived Happily Ever After.’
But you do understand, don’t you,
That that would have been the end of the story.
Is that what you wanted—the end of the story?”
Someone asked, “Is the story over now?”
The Lord laughed. “It doesn’t seem to be.
Wherever two or more are gathered in my name
The conflict—the story—continues!
But that is not a bad thing, is it?
It fills up the universe, and our lives
Yours and mine
With joy and glory, companionship,
Fulfillment and love—yes,
It is true that part of it is also doubt
And hardship, pain and grief.”
A young woman stood up and said,
“Let me get this straight.
If there were peace on earth
And the brotherhood of man
Lived in right relations with each other—
Are you saying that would be the end of the world?
The end of the story?”
The Lord said,
“Yes. A story can’t continue if nothing happens.”
“So our choice is—live in conflict or not at all?”
The Lord said, “If you live, there will be conflict.”
“So what is the point,” came the plaintive cry
From somewhere within the great congregation.
“It seems like bad people advance the plot
Better than good people. You must really
Love the villains.”
“Oh, I do, I do,” the Lord said.
“I love them all. I love you all.
The point is—it is a story.
Be glad you were in it.
I’m glad you were in it.
“Oh, my questioning children—be at peace.
Your part of the story is over.
I thank you for the part you played
And for the indelible contribution
You made to the unfolding story of life on earth.”
The Lord raised his hands in benediction,
Turned and paused at the altar
And walked back down the center aisle
Through the quiet congregation
That was silent in his passing.
After he left the sanctuary
There was a brief pause before the murmuring began.
It grew louder and more insistent,
With cries of “It’s not fair!”
“He didn’t tell us anything!”
And, “I don’t believe any of it!”
And the Lord smiled,
Knowing that his will would be done in heaven
As surely as it was on earth.
June, 2014—after Annual Conference