In the beginning there were no words. Formless, empty, the earth had no sigh. The world spun, the trees swayed, the waters waited for their first kiss. I slept on, I wasn’t born yet, I missed it. There was dark, there was light, on the first morning.

Man begat man begat man and there was love, I assume. What did the first man think of the first woman, was it love at first sight? What did man and woman tell their children love was? What did they say to each other when they met and was it good?

I walk through Glasgow city centre, late on a Saturday night, thinking about the first morning. The first sunrise, gasping for air. The first rush of fingers through grass, first touch of footsteps on sand. I imagine the sea hushed before the moon, the bright, bright green of the first flower, a blank page horizon. Glasgow wails like a newborn whose cord has been cut but in the beginning it was silent. In the beginning there were no words. I wonder what the first words were.

Now the pavements are crowded with new creations, a shadow leans across the street. I squeeze past, whispering to myself, a man shouting in my ear about something, I’m not sure what, just keep walking I guess. More shouting, more voices all at once:


Glasgow changed its clothes, its friends and the colour of its skin, tried to fit in, be accepted, be a type. A teenager ravaged by heroin sits folded into his t-shirt, soaked through and begging for change. Unaccepted, but feet still moving to the beat of the music blasting out a message from every wall and window. Girls stagger through the cold in high heels and high skirts, men shout through them as they pass. Lads and lassies, man created them, in its own image it created them.

There was dark and then there was light, on the last morning. In the end there were no words. Litter scarred the streets, heartbreak and headache bit through every flat and tenement. Man had begotten man who had begotten man and there was love, I assume. What had mankind told their children love was? What did the last man say to the last woman when they first met and was it good?

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Take six from seven, take the stage and then the altar. Take a wife, a wife, a daughter. Take a deep breath, say:

This is life

Take the bread, take the wine.

Take, eat:

hold the bread and wonder what was given. This is his body. Hold. Wonder. Push away the words familiar. Push away the day, the hurt, the sinner. This is His body.

Eat, drink:

His blood was shed for you. You believe it but wonder why you have to drink it too. Surely this is only wine. It passes lips, passes the tongue, makes it past lies, passing through organs, soaking through blood and into the real world where the symbols live. Envy, jealousy, fits of rage. And now mercy, compassion…you’re thinking of him now - a thought of God stirs inside you. You partake of him.

You drop back for a moment. What is it, honestly, what is it? Why am I holding it like this? Why am I praying, eating, drinking, sitting? What does it mean? Real things can’t be symbols. You put your hand in your pocket, touch car keys, wallet. Take and eat. Focus on the bread and the wine and the saviour until there is nothing else. Take and meet.

“For as often as you take this bread and drink this cup… ”

“This is his body broken for you, this is his blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins… ”


There’s what he said, then there’s bread, there’s how many verses, which side of the altar? There’s all the reasons you shouldn’t listen to him, all the things you think when you see her and sometimes there’s hurt. Sometimes there’s family. Sometimes a dove. Where it settles there’s grace, after the flood. Sometimes there’s nothing. Sometimes there’s not. There’s bread, wine and God.

You hear the words proclaimed, you take, you eat, you rest. You let go of every part that doesn’t want a saviour. You feel the calm, savour the hope and the assurance of being rescued, share the symbol of the proof that we are hurt and we are loved.

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One. Name.
One name over and over and over.

Pleading. Longing. Holding out your hands. Is this what your grandparents meant when they said they prayed for you? You’re not even sure what you believe. You can hear your mother speaking to you:
“Not a very good atheist.”
Maybe not. But you’re not asking him to exist, only to hear you. Is that rational? You’re not praying to a God you know could but rather a God you hope would. You want the irrational God right now. There are a dozen arguments in your head that keep the others at arm’s length but there is one name that brings you down to your knees. And you got the call. And he’s in hospital again. And you don’t know which one.

He must be an angel because you’ve never really prayed before. Since you’ve met him you’ve been crying and praying – more in three months than in your whole life. God. Can you hear me? God. Are you there?
Save him! He doesn’t deserve this, he means everything to me. I don’t care if you exist or not, you have to help him, you can’t not do it!

You’re past bargaining. Other men you might have tricked but not this one. What can you offer when you would tear the sky apart if you could, when every word is an earthquake through your lungs. There’s nowhere left to sink to, nothing left to cry. It’s four in the morning, you’re lying on the floor clutching your phone to your chest, hands twisting the edges. If there was something you could fight you would have, something you could buy or break you would have. You’re here because there’s no pretending. No pretending that you know what to do.

You used to pretend to read your Grandfather’s bible before you knew it was a bible. Before you could read. You’d wait until he was sleeping and find it. Take it out, sit your hand on the pages, turn them over. You wonder if God ever prayed for someone. Did he ever love someone enough to tear the earth apart, enough that he could die?

This is intercession. A place beyond love’s joy. A weight so heavy it could crush you. But still it’s only weight.

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This is Seville and I built it.
Heaved the statues out of the ground, fired the builder’s arms with blood, lit the architect’s imagination.
Stood back.

I invented poetry. Put the words together for you. Words for landscapes, words for heart breaks, words for love.
I sent you flowers and you fell in love with Seville.

I wrote my love song across the city, built great cathedrals for breves, sang the refrain, I listened, I waited, I listened, I waited.
You covered your ears but caught the echo. You waited for your part and then
Nothing. You filled in the blanks with blanks.

Now even the statues look silent.
I built it. I know that I built it.
They push in together, cameras flashing, arms reaching out and touching but never feeling. Don’t you see?

No-one built a statue for a city. No-one built a statue for lust, just the postponed rejection of love. No-one built a statue for money. But now even the statues that I built for you seem silent.
I stand a little back, watching. I stand a little back…listening. Hoping.

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