The Lord’s Day

Reflection on Proper 6, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

 

Textual foci: Matthew 9:35-10:23; Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8
Click here for biblical texts
Sunday morning at the Metro Station
pleasant people staff stations for sharing
the truth they claim, they know, will set us free
pamphlets, magazines, personal testimony
and smiles, handshakes, even hugs too
to show the love of God
in case we don’t know it
already and to be sure our belief
is correct so when Jesus comes,
when Jesus comes,
we are counted worthy.

They smile and say “Good Morning” as I pass
clerical color and dangly earrings
marking me a man different from others
as I smile too—the politeness of our exchange
linking us strangely with the One
who was often impolite, or at least impolitic,
healing the wrong people on the wrong day
breaking bread with the disreputable
loving sinners as much as the pious—
or maybe more—the One
with big plans for his twelve
just as he has for us,
compassion to share with the lost,
curing disease, healing the sick
in body and heart, guiding sheep
who lose our way.

Yes we are the sheep called also
to be shepherds—there always is
someone who needs leading
to water or food or medical care
or encouraging words
like those some give
my friend Tyrone the Pennyman
at this same station but not on Sunday.
He does not sit in his usual spot to call out
“Pennies, pennies, pennies,”
to busy travelers
on the Lord’s Day,
we being fewer in number
(why is church attendance declining now?)
and perhaps more intent on filling the collection plate
than the stomach of one
with few teeth, many rags
and unkempt hair—
 yet in his cheerful countenance
reminds me of St. Paul who says
suffering produces endurance
and endurance produces character
and character produces hope.

I just pray Tyrone’s hope
does not disappoint him
and others who struggle in like manner,
that somehow divine love
moves enough sheep, and shepherds too,
you and me among them,
to help the lowly rise
that all may make a joyful noise
and worship God with joy.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem. . . . Jesus sent out the 12 and sends us out, too. The question, at least for me, is what is the mission to which I have been called? What is most needed in the world, and what is my part in meeting that need? And am I sure I am hearing the call correctly? Is it really Jesus or is it just my idea or the idea of others I like?  
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Last Days

 

Reflection on the Day of Pentecost, Year A

 

 

Text focus: Acts 2:1-21
Click here for biblical texts

 

 

 

Happy birthday, Church,
we say on Pentecost—
meaning not our local community
but whole Big C,
the Church universal—
but what if Luke in Acts 2,
citing ancestor Joel,
saw a bigger vision
in the tongues, the fire, Holy Spirit
moving, touching everyone,
surging wind filling the whole space
and beyond as crowds gathered
amazed, these devout Jews—
were there only Jews—
from every nation gathered in Jerusalem
for Shavuot, the feast of weeks
fifty days after Passover
and the Resurrection,
how could they all fit in one room
that was intended for disciples
including women of course;
how is violent wind
of many fiery tongues
contained in one room?

Did the walls disappear,
not crashing down
not scaring or hurting people
nor in battle as at Jericho
but vanishing
so that in a twinkling
the room is the world
the street is the room
all open to the divine
swirling in and around them—
all things are possible with God—
so on that day
as on all days
there were no limits
on the Spirit of God
that brooded long ago
on the face of the deep
in the first days.

In the last days God says
I will pour out my Spirit
upon all flesh
young and old all genders
humans of all stations
including those not allowed their God-given freedom,
all flesh, God says—
when does all not mean all,
and if we claim the right to change
the word, to say it is only
people who believe a certain way,
what or who is our authority?

Are we still waiting
or did the last days already come—
has not God poured already
does not God pour every day,
are not all blessed,
and how do we, will we,
you and I, respond?
 

 

About this poem . . . Walls are often necessary, but we also can get stuck behind them. I don’t think God likes many of our walls, so often slipping through them and hoping we do, too. The biggest, hardest walls are, of course, the ones in our heads.
 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Aisles of Love

A Reflection for the Sixth Sunday after Easter, Year A

Textual focus: Acts 17:22-31, John 14:15-21
Click here for biblical texts
 

Worship
at many temples,
god of fossil fuel by Shell
money at First National Bank
sugar and fat by Dunkin’ Donuts
country at Washington’s obelisk
buff bodies by LA Fitness
hard to stop
bending the knee
making offering
when so many shrines and their gods beckon
street corner after street corner
mile by mile
IHOP has more Sunday morning worshippers
than St. John’s, First Baptist, and Trinity Lutheran
together
St. Walmart and Holy Costco compete
across town
lines of communicants
approach the check-out altar
awaiting blessing by swipe or insertion.

St. Paul would feel at home,
so many monuments
rise Athens-like,
but Jesus might wonder
if we can pause long enough
to see God in the aisles
or the eyes of credit card curates
or understand the movement
of love through those
who stock shelves
teach aerobics
cook
wait tables and drive-through windows

It takes courage to love
when it’s not on the printed menu
but we are not orphans,
no place no time God is not.
 

About this poem . . . Paul’s commentary and caution to the Athenians, recorded in Acts, speaks from the aversion to idols grounded in the commandment given to Moses.  It is easy to think that it is the Greeks or pagans of long ago who have idols, graven images. But there are many among us today. At the same time, these temples of commerce and more are also human gathering places, and God often shows up—probably is there all the time (as in Athens long ago).

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Complete

Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Textual focus: Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, John 10:1-10
Click here for biblical texts

 

It’s not just wolves that cause sheep
to run in the wrong direction,
fellow sheep do, too;
some wolves pretend to be shepherds
(see Sunday morning cable).

A good shepherd is needed
in personal and community life,
especially if we seek a world
where people care for one another,
where works and blessings of God are manifest.

Church is best known by its relationship with the Shepherd
the earliest disciple-sheep knew, loved, and followed,
but there are churches where he might not be welcome
when he approves of selling their possessions and goods,
and distributing proceeds to those in need.

Sounds un-American, socialist even—
how we want to claim religion
to support what we already do, who we already are,
planting our national flag in God’s house
as if God cares about lines on a map.

Following the Shepherd means going where he goes,
not necessarily where we have been or want to go,
trusting he knows where water and food are,
how to avoid wolves and other dangers,
protecting us and our lambs.

Abundant life is the promise,
we do not want
when we let him lead us there.

 
About this poem . . . All we like sheep have gone astray, haunting words from Isaiah and melody from Handel, point to the need for not just a leader but the Shepherd of the shepherds.  The payoff is huge, but we cannot know for sure what it will look like, or how we will get there.

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Again

Reflection on Resurrection of the Lord, Year A

 

Text focus: Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; John 20:1-18
Click here for biblical texts
Jesus Christ is risen today!

We rise to celebrate,
go to church, dinner, parade, egg hunt.
Are we raised, too,
on this New Year’s Day,
life no longer the same,
when we, like him,
have been changed,
given new spiritual garments,
shown new paths
as God’s beloveds
to navigate a world
that acts as if there is no God?

First Apostle Mary Magdalene
hung out at the tomb, waiting—
she feared all was lost
but we know otherwise,
God still active,
Jesus keeps rising,
Holy Spirit moving all the time,
we can miss it if we stop
witnessing, watching,
being open to the latest—
where are we waiting
and what are we waiting for?

Signs of the times were not good then,
not good now, powers of death
and oppression and hate
still strong, maybe stronger
in age of alt-whatever,
but during and after two dinners today—
the open meal in the sanctuary
and the ordinary one at home
or church basement or restaurant—
we can witness, we can follow
Mary as she followed Jesus,
share the good news,
tell the world that life and love
win, as they do when enough people show up
to testify, when we wake up, show up
stand up, act up, live up, speak up
so people still in their tombs,
captive to fear—
including ourselves—
put on the love and hope and power
of God, and go forth singing
Jesus Christ is risen today,
knowing we are raised, we are pulled up,
ready or not we are made new,
again.

 

  

About this poem . . . . Our voices, our spirits, our arms and hearts arc in successive crescendos as we feel the joy of Jesus breaking the bonds of death. It is about him, surely God, as well as Mary and Peter and the others. But it is us, too. I ask myself, how am I changed? Am I changed? Is this the New Year, and will I do better with resolutions—or do I need resolutions? Maybe I just need to listen and follow what I hear.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Blessed Are the Ones

Reflection on Palm Sunday, Year A

 

Textual focus: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21:1-11
Click here for biblical texts
 

We say each week in church
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.”
Who do we mean? Are we thinking of Jesus
riding on the donkey in Jerusalem
or our pastor, preacher, other spiritual leader?
Or ourselves? Could we be the ones who are blessed
to come in the name of God?

When the alarm goes off in the morning,
do we come to in the name of God?
Pee and shower in the name of God,
eat breakfast, get dressed, go to work,
lunch, the store, return home, eat dinner,
bathe the children, tuck them in,
watch television, read the paper or our book,
have sex, go to sleep, in the name of God?

The crowds acclaimed the Son of Daivd
as he rode the donkey walking on their cloaks
and branches, a peoples’ carpet—
believing he was their champion
in the face of domination by Rome
and distance from religious authorities.
Today, without fanfare, in terror
of what lies behind and perhaps ahead,
refugees flee the devastation of war,
extremism, chemicals, poverty,
maybe all of the above,
Blessed are the ones who come,
claiming in Jerusalem and elsewhere
power that resists fear,
breaks institutional barriers,
defies narrowness, all in the name
of the God of of holiness everywhere,
in everyone.

Who knows what will happen—a dead body
hanging from a tree or lying on a street or the desert
with a chest full of bullet holes,
or sex work or drug-running for a pimp,
or maybe,
just maybe, a new life, dignity,
deepening of soul connection,
new love or better job,
appreciation by others for gifts
freely shared in sacred communion.

Whatever.
Blessed are the ones
who come,
and go,
in the name of God.  
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .It is easy to read or listen to this familiar story and see Jesus, the donkey, the disciples, the crowds, and to wave our own branches (although I have not seen coats laid on the ground), and feel good. But what about today? What are we doing that might cause others to see God riding or walking or loving or speaking in and/or through us? And do we allow ourselves to see, to experience, the blessing of ordinary, as well as extraordinary, others who come in the name of God?
 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Shining

Reflection on Transfiguration Sunday, Year A

 

Textual focus: Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
Click here for biblical texts

 

She began slowly,
so softly we had to quiet ourselves to hear
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
and again, many repetitions
as she mined the word-notes for all their life—

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John
and led them up a high mountain by themselves—

the purity of her contralto
caught us as she moved to Bless the Lord, O my soul,
many more now singing and beginning to stand,
arms in the air, and all that is within me,
bless His holy name, her eyes begin to glisten—

And he was transfigured before them,
and his face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became dazzling white—

her voice stronger, He has done great things
her face begins to glow, bless His holy name—

suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him—

then This Little Light of Mine, almost all of us
on our feet, singing, tears of joy and thanks,
I’m gonna let it shine,
glow spreading face to face—

suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them,
and from the cloud a voice said,
“This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased;
listen to him!”—

I’m gonna let it shine,
bodies swaying
our collective gleam radiating through walls
all the way to heaven and back,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

As the applause and tears and hugs
roll across the sanctuary
the preacher says,
“Jesus told the disciples on that mountain,
‘get up, don’t be afraid,’
meaning living belongs to those who stand
even when it is difficult,
who rise not just in church
but when we come down from holy highs,
Spirit touching us deep as our bones and more,
knowing sacred work begins
when we stand where bodies are needed
to say no to injustice,
yes to justice, or both,
to remind America First, to remind ourselves,
God is first.”

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . To our rationalist eyes and ears, the story of Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop can sound too much like Christian scripture writers trying to outdo, or at least, match the glow of Moses’ face or the divine blessing of Elijah. But such transfiguration, on a more human scale, happens fairly often, at least it seems so to me, when one of those truly holy gospel church moments begins to capture all within hearing distance, when a singer or choir and instrumentalists take us out of the room, certainly out of our seats, and we feel the gleam of heaven’s bright sun and stars not only on us but in us, not only shining on us but glowing out from us. And that is when we can get the courage to go forth and “god” (a wonderful verb) in the world.

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net