Everyone Out!

 

Reflection for the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year A

 

 

Textual focus: Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11: 1-45
Click here for biblical texts

 

His bones were not yet dry
but after four days his soul-less
body needed Jesus
to breathe him back to life
just as Ezekiel records God did
for the Israelites.
How many times have you been resurrected?
Even in a good life there can be dead ends
for which holy help is the only way out.

Fleeing war zones, finding refuge in camps,
waiting for clearance to emigrate,
arriving in a strange land—
this is resurrection,
a time to hear “Unbind them, and let them go, ”
just as gay men, lesbian women, transgender siblings,
rescuing themselves from closets, breathe freer
where spirits and bodies
live in wholesome union,
no longer victims of anti-sex and gender wars .

Tombs are everywhere,
rulers building more private prisons,
hells hundreds of miles from somewhere,
Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)
freezing folks out,
police continuing urban carnage
within walls of despair and fear.
Lazarus was lucky,
love that freed his entombed body
seems in short supply today.

The Mary-Martha-Lazarus-Jesus Family home
a center where ties that bind are love,
where even when he is late, Jesus is welcomed,
freed to be himself,
to do impossible things that look easy
because he wastes no words in argument,
going right to freeing the captive,
not seeking applause
or waiting for authorization
from any ruler except the One
whose decrees are freedom,
life, love, hope.

Lazarus, come out!
Everyone else, too.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem…..It can be difficult for us, so rational in our scientifically conditioned minds, to accept the idea that dead bodies can be brought back to life—certainly after four days in a tomb, let alone an entire valley of bones. In the latter case, it may be metaphor, but even the metaphor has power. I have been down, way down, a few times, filled with despair, and I was raised up; I know others, too.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Stay Open

Reflection for the 4th Sunday in Lent, Year A

 

Textual focus: John 9:1-41
Click here for biblical texts

 

 

A person need not be born blind
to not see; it happens all the time,
those sure of Earth’s flatness,
slavery ordained by God,
women unfit to lead.
Just last week I ran a stop sign
I did not see, and before that
I knew beyond all doubt
the name of that tune
I hummed most of my life—
too bad I lost the bet.

Those born blind do not not see,
drawing on different methods  to perceive
–like butterflies and bees with acuity 
of color more nuanced than ours–
what we with working eyes often miss.
Always tempting to make fun
of Pharisees not seeing
the truth of Jesus right in front of them,
but if fast-melting Arctic ice
and destruction of Great Barrier Reefs
cannot convince us something is wrong
with the planet what good
will new glasses do?

Facts are hard to see
when we don’t want to see them,
when by the ways of the world,
some things are not seen—
white people not seeing Black lives
that matter—and others magnified
by repetition and conventional wisdom
into sacred texts—our nation right or wrong.
Everyone knows are dangerous words,
a Ph.D. does not protect us from ignorance
any more than a creed built by humans
or certainty about the truth of holy writ.
Even Jesus failed to see the woman of Canaan,
confusing her with a dog.

How many ways of seeing are there?
Stay open.
 

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . This familiar story is both inspiring and troubling. Pharisees are again blinded by their ideological prism and Jesus does what seems a good thing anyway. Yet, is there not also a presumption that being without the use of one’s eyes is a condition that needs correction—a burden so heavy that it must be lifted by divine agency? I admit to not wanting to lose my eyesight, and yet people without it perceive reality I never know.
 

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Give Me a Drink

Reflection on the 3rd Sunday in Lent, Year A

 

 

Textual focus: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; John 4:5-42
Click here for biblical texts
 

 

Water is soft except when frozen;
hearts, too, locked into hate and fear,
blocked from openness by judgment,
anger, othering.  Soft walls do not exist,
hot or cold, except for Hebrews
marching between watery walls
to escape Pharaoh.

Only way to overcome hardness
of a wall is to climb over or go around,
cut a doorway through.  When people
want to keep others out they build a wall,
but it is not easy to wall up the river
that runs between them;
water still flows somewhere,
maybe even drowning those
who built the wall. Pharaoh knew about
being overwhelmed by water
and Moses followed God’s direction
to strike the rock at Horeb
so water flowed  and people drank.

Jesus was thirsty, probably still is,
not for water, but for us,
wanting more connection.
So much life flows from times spent with him,
but I forget he sits nearby,
ready for me to ask.
I wonder how often he has said
to me, give me a drink,
and I, unlike the Samaritan woman,
neither hear nor reply.
Is the wall around, or in, me
higher, harder, than the one
built by the enmity
between her people and his?
 

 

About this poem . . . We focus often on how Jesus, despite his statement about the superiority of Jewish belief, spoke so openly with the woman of Samaria, and she with him. He did, with her cooperation, cross the historical boundary erected long before. What I have often missed, however, is how that crossing came, how the wall was breached, as the result of a simple request for a drink of water.  
 

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 faithfulpoetics.net

 

Commitment

 

Reflection on the 2nd Sunday in Lent, Year A

 

Textual Focus: John 3:1-17
Click here for biblical texts

 
Two men sit quietly,
knowing God is present,
one seeking to better understand the other,
wanting a companion on the journey into deeper truth,
beginning, building, a relationship
laden with meaning and possibility.

Sitting with Jesus can yield such gifts,
man or woman or in between makes no difference.
He loves all, especially those who seek,
yearn, remain open to the more
that lies ahead and is already deep inside
when we listen, and touch soul to soul.

One who sat was Nicodemus,
acknowledging the power of the Galilean
while unsure of his teaching or mission.
I know many like him, I am often one myself,
claiming to follow and love, at least respect,
but failing to commit.

To commit is to change, to put one thing
ahead of what was first,
God ahead of mammon,
truth over alternate fact,
love in place of hate,
rebirth replacing lazy, long dying.

Jesus wants me to nurture the seed
planted in the womb of my soul
and to help others do the same,
all sprouting and growing
into the vibrant forest of humanity
God planted in Eden long ago.

This one immortally mortal man
was and is our oak, a model forest
in himself for us, the one whose fallen,
tortured body Nicodemus blessed
with spices even if he could not
walk the walk.

God asks us for more
because there is always more from God,
but heaven rejoices no matter how large
or small is the testimony of our lives,
especially when we choose to sit quietly
and keep trying to commit.

 
About this poem . . . A Sunday School teacher told me long ago that Nicodemus is one of the “good Pharisees,” meaning, I think, that he was shown actually listening to and talking with Jesus one-on-one, not trying to trap Jesus into betraying himself or his mission. Of course, he did later advise his colleagues to give Jesus a fair hearing and then showed up with holy spices to bless Jesus’ mangled body. But he is often pictured as a foil for Jesus, a prop for Jesus’ teaching, especially the beloved phrase about God giving his only Son (is Jesus really God’s only son?). I wonder if it might be more profitable to see the humility and openness of Nicodemus as a model for us.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Wilderness

 

Reflection on Lent 1, Year A

Text focus: Genesis 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Matthew 4:1-11
Click here for biblical texts

 

I cherish wilderness camping in some way off place,
choosing to be alone to recharge,
to hear trees tell me new old things,
to learn from ducks swimming in a mountain lake.

But there is other wilderness, in the city,
in crowds at the mall, at work, at home, wherever,
when I see only myself,
my needs and desires, opinions, truths,
my rules, diet, hopes, prayers,
my God, gods, family,
none other,
when I am sure I am right or best
or scared to admit I’m not,
when I fail to hear knocking on the door
of my soul, when God is standing outside
the window waving Her arms to get my attention
and I keep playing video games, watching HGTV, drinking wine,
pretending, acting as if, temptation does not lurk
because I fail, refuse, to see it.  
Life is tough enough
without attending to messiness all around me,
even within myself.

I stop feeling pain that trails my brother
roaming Baltimore fearing he will be next in a pool of blood,
or fear in the Palestinian child
whose home is demolished by the IDF while he sits
in a school without supplies hearing ugly things
about Jews, or dread stalking the raped woman
not sure anyone will believe her or if they do
they also will believe she asked for it and tell her
she is a murderer if she chooses to abort,
or terror of the undocumented mother
who waits for ICE to pry her from her U.S.-born toddler—
when I cannot see these faces and many like them,
because it seems they are in wilderness,
it is me, I am lost. I am in wilderness,
I am the one who has forgotten
who and where God is
who God expects me to be,
where God asks me to be.
I have given in to the tempter,
I do whatever I want without God,
I think I can fix anything all by myself,
I am the one who lives, who worships, my way,
my country’s way, my party’s way, my company’s way,
even my church’s way,
more than God’s.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . It is reassuring to focus on Jesus in the wilderness and how he overcame temptation, and perhaps to think he was only there once, but I suspect he was tempted more than this one time recounted in the Gospels.  And when I only pay attention to Jesus’ wilderness time I can forget mine.  But when I am honest, I know I spend a lot of time in wilderness  of my own making, aided by the world around me which lulls me into thinking it is only others who wander there.  Perhaps that is the ultimate temptation.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

More than Sightseeing

Reflection for Ash Wednesday, Year A
An unpolished poem for a day of ash and glitter

 

Textual Focus: Joel 2; Isaiah 58; Matthew 6
Click here for biblical texts
 

The Ash Wednesday readings seem an odd collection,
especially Matthew, for the day on which we mark our foreheads
with faith for all the world to see;  maybe that is why Matthew 6 is chosen,
to remind us that bearing ash marks is not intended
to be an advertisement, not putting our name on a hotel
or other grand building or taking out a full-page ad
in The New York Times, but a pledge, a promise,
to be faithful no matter who is watching or not,
knowing the only one watching who really counts
is God, the One who wants us not to rend our clothes
but our hearts, who calls priests not to exalt but to weep,
so aware of their own failings and those of their neighbors,
who reminds us that the real fast is doing justice,
taking in the homeless, feeding the hungry,
freeing the oppressed, to admit our shortcomings,
our iniquities, to endure whatever hardships
come our way in service to God and God’s people.

And then there is the verse that I remember
every Sunday from early childhood on,
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,”
knowing it was the moment to pull out my dime, or dollar,
or check, or look sheepish and hope no one noticed
as I passed the plate in a swift motion without
adding to it—whether giving or not these words
seemed to carry guilt, sensing that no matter what I added
to the plate it was an inadequate response to what God
gives me.  But the plate is only one measure of where my heart is;
how much time do I spend with God? When was the last time
I listened to Jesus, not just talked to him but waited to hear him?
When was the last time I invested myself in being all
God wants me to be?

I saw an Ash Wednesday drive-by yesterday, a church advertising getting
ashes on your forehead when you drive into their parking lot—
no need to come to service, no need to join in community
prayer. At first, I was repelled, maybe still am, but also I
know that it might help some, who would not otherwise bother,
to pause to consider their lives, even for just a few moments.

And glitter. I like glitter, and am glad that some churches
are combining ash and glitter,
acknowledging that I, and everyone else,
is a complex mixture of saint and sinner.
I remember the year I gave up Lent for Lent.
I was tired of beating myself up for my failings
and decided to spend forty days focusing
on my good qualities. I wanted to put my best foot
forward for Jesus, to be all I could be with him
on the journey to the cross. I did that only once,
but I am glad I did, because it has helped me
ever since have a fuller view of me and my relationship
with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, with God the Parent.

So, here I am, here we are, another Ash Wednesday,
another Lent—again invited to walk
the often dusty and bumpy, sometimes crowded and busy,
at other times quiet and lonely,
even on occasion beautiful and merry, roads of life.
I’m a pilgrim, maybe you, too, with few if any answers,
and I’m here for more than sightseeing.
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . I generally approach Ash Wednesday with mixed feelings, aware certainly of my shortcomings, but also not sure how much it helps to focus on them without also seeing my positive qualities, indeed doing that with everyone I encounter and/or care about. I decided that I would not pore over this poem with revision after revision as I often do but let it stand pretty much as it came out—a way of exposing myself for the still being formed person I am.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net