Good Friday: Peter and the Dragon

In Revelation 12, we read of the war between the dragon (Satan) and the woman (the church). Revelation 12:15-17 reads, “The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.” The river which the serpent or dragon attacks the woman is the flood of lies and accusations.

My own poem was inspired by Malcolm Guite’s poem, “What If?“. His poem reminds me of the incredible power of words –both to bless and harm. I love the cadence and the use of rhyme in what seems to me are short pops. Each word carries a sentence worth of meaning. Even as it’s a poem about words, it is a poem which begs to be spoken out loud which he does (you can hear it via an embedded link in the post). In my own reflection on his work and the power of words, I was struck by how the most seemingly insignificant of deeds (the “small sparks” of James 3:5) can bring us to a place of unrecoverable and unforgivable offense.

The flood which pours from the dragon’s mouth are words of attack and lies and wounding, but what happens when we are the victimizer, when we are the one who speak hastily with our words to deceive, betray, or murder?

It seems that this is just the place where Peter finds himself on the morning of Good Friday (Luke 22:54-62). Is there any recovery from the kind of bravado in which he boasted unwavering faithfulness the evening before and the betrayal he is caught in on that morning?

The answer to that question is what these three days are all about.

My poem, The Dragon, is below, and you may hear me read it via the embedded Soundcloud link.

From the Dragon’s mouth words pour out
Like a river in which truth seems to shout:
The shameful curse and accusation,
The legalistic judge’s condemnation,
The victims raging imprecations,
To drown and make you his prize.

In desperate deceit we lie and make
Excuses for self-preservation’s sake.
We deflect with condescending over-simplification
To manipulate another’s expectations,
Managing with half-truths our own reputation,
Denying there could be any association
Between our actions and the Father of Lies.

And in these moments when we double-speak—
Fearing the loss of the fame we seek
And terrified of the cost of the implication—
We deny the very insinuation
Of any merit of the accusation.
We call down curses and condemnations
That we have any association
With this Teacher condemned to die.

It is then and there, at dawn’s first light
When the rooster’s cry breaks the silence of night
We remember our confident exaggeration:
Defiant against any prognostication
That we could be tempted to any prevarication
Or withhold sincerely offered oblation,
Denying our love — our chosen vocation
Merely to protect our own reputation?
And we see through Another’s knowing eyes.

And from this horrified, humiliated heap
A flood of tears pours out in words we weep
Of the hasty vows we swore in the commotion,
Of the sting of exposure and anger at the notion,
That one could be guilty of such insincere devotion…
Drowning in shame and regret and resentful emotion
No more words, no excuses, no alibis.

artwork: Detail of the woman and the beast spewing water into the earth, from the Welles Apocalypse, England, c. 1310, Royal MS 15 D II, f. 156r

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