It’s a long way off, but

The Kingdom
It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured 
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get 
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf. R.S. Thomas

This majestic poem comes alongside us and is a great conversational partner as we walk ever closer to Easter. Lent, a season of denial and penance is soon to be reversed by the joy of resurrection and all things made new. Jesus’ own teaching in the beatitudes (Matthew 5) is a lesson in reversal, those who mourn shall be comforted, those who hunger shall be satisfied and Jesus teaching about the Kingdom is about reversal, the blind shall see, the lame shall walk and the deaf shall hear (Matthew 11). Thomas’s poem begs us to use our imagination as we wonder about the prayer we make “Thy Kingdom come” In the poem ponder the poets use of Festivals, Mirrors, and industry. Note the redemptive quality here in this Kingdom. Healing for the consumptive is possible. Even industry, which feeds the appetite for more, is itself transformed and is about healing and mending. For Thomas this was an amazing change of course as he wrote often about the corruption of machinery/industry. What Thomas’s poem may lack in rhyme is more than made up by his use of line breaks. Pay attention to where the poet takes you from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. Please ponder this poem and turn to it often as you move slowly yet surely to Easter -remember the Kingdom “it’s a long way off but to get there takes no time and admission is free…”

Dear Comforting God,
amidst all our sorrows
you, O Spirit, come and stand
with us, giving us strength
for the present and hope for the future.
Dear Healing God,
amidst all our wounds and sores,
amidst all that is broken,
you, O Spirit, come and tend
to our pain and all that is fractured.
Dear Resurrecting God,
breathe your Spirit into our souls and
resurrect the possibility of Thy Kingdom
here on earth, now not then, here not there.
Come close O God, that we might hear your whisper
of love and be touched by the gentle brush
of your wing of wonder. Amen.

One thought on “It’s a long way off, but

  1. This is a poem I would like to have heard read by Thomas. And as I read and re-read it, my imagination gave me three very different scenarios. First, words being forcefully delivered from the pulpit, or, Thomas answering a child’s question, “What is heaven?”, and last, a poet frustrated by the world around him and providing a final piece of advice as if to sigh and say, “Look, this is the way it is, just do it.”

    The concluding line is truly lovely, and the use of the color green to represent our faith seems especially fitting as it implies such a wide variation of meanings from fresh newness, to hope, to growth, or even to inexperience. I enjoyed this poem, good food for thought.


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