You Go First

Reflection on the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

 

Textual focus: Leviticus 19:9-18; 1 Corinthians 3:18-19; Matthew 5:38-48
Click here for biblical texts

 

Give to everyone who begs from you,
Jesus says that, oh yes he does, and more, too:
Turn the other cheek, give up your cloak,
do not refuse anyone, anyone,
who wants to borrow from you.
How can we keep the economy going
with talk like that? And what about the beggars,
what if they use my money to buy booze?
What good is that?
Respond to being forced to go one mile
by going the second mile—what if I don’t have time
to go that far?
Don’t resist an evildoer, love your enemies,
pray for your persecutors:
How can we live in the world today
with attitudes like that? Does he even know, or care,
about ISIS and our opponents from the other party?

The world is a tough place; you’d think Jesus
would know that, given how Rome treated
the Jews, how Herod killed cousin John.
Sometimes, I think Jesus lives in another world.

Oh, right, he does.
And he keeps trying to get me to join him there,
except for him the there is here, now. 

This didn’t start with him either, he knows
Leviticus: leave the gleanings of fields
and vineyards for those in need
(remember Ruth?), no defrauding your neighbor,
no keeping wages of others, no false swearing,
no slander, no unjust judgments;
you shall love your neighbor as yourself
(yes, Jesus was repeating Leviticus).

So why is it so hard for me, maybe you, too,
to go where Jesus goes, to be one
of the people of the Way—some of his
early followers were called that—to live
with open heart and open hand,
to speak in love even to those
whose ugly words and deeds
cause me to shudder and rise in anger
to say No? Can I do both? Can I say no
and also say I love you? Why not?
Is not all possible with God?

Paul told Corinthians the wisdom
of this world is foolishness with God;
so, he said, become fools
that you may become wise.

So let us dance in the street
when there is no music
except the tapping of our souls,
let us toss coins in the air
and take beggars to lunch,
let us hug the racists and the thugs,
let us find men and women in need of coats
and strip ours off our backs,
and do all generous, foolish things that
will cause authorities,
and our families and churches,
to question our sanity,
believing, knowing(?), that is where and when
we will find Jesus.

You go first, I’ll follow.

 

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem: As faithful people we really do love Jesus, want to serve God, but it can be very difficult when what we encounter in Scripture demands a whole different way of living, not just a way of life, but actual behavior changes in everyday life. The texts in this week’s lectionary really challenge me, and I imagine others, and frankly I am uncertain how to proceed. If I do as they instruct, it seems I shall soon be a pauper, probably begging myself. Can that be right? Maybe, if we all did it together…….would that work better? Is that what the writer of Leviticus, Paul, and Jesus are talking about?
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

He Will Touch You

(Second Sunday of Easter, Year C; click here for biblical texts)

jesus_doubting-thomas-cropped
thejesusquestion.org

Some of us need proof beyond the testimony
of others—at least when it comes to things
out of the ordinary; like Thomas we want
to put our fingers in the holes, maybe even feel  the dried blood.
But can faith ever be dried, captured in a book
or locked up in systems that claim to explain everything?

Some people appear to freeze-dry their beliefs and then
add water when needed and call it faith;
others quote a verse or two and claim that resolves it all.
But faith is a more lively affair, lived in ups and downs,
not without doubt or fear, often messy, unpredictable like
soft ripe pears, juicy peaches, grapefruit squirting all over,
sweet liquids running down my chest
rivulets of nectar coursing through hair over nipples
reminding me of tactile sensations—
like Jesus healing the leper with his fingers,
life poured out and on a hungry soul and body
made whole by faith, in faith, working in ways
reason always fails; logic has limits beyond
which God continually goes, inviting us
to cast aside fear and doubt which hold us
back. Yet doubt is part of faith if we dare
to really go where God leads—walking in
clouds of unknowing, not always able to see
through the fog of our own creation let alone
glimpsing far off a divine horizon we will never
reach but whose power when we let it in
draws and drives us forward. But it is right
for Thomas to want to touch Jesus’ wounds—
it is often in our wounds that we find deeper
faith, and why not in our Lord’s wounds
as well—to learn how to see all that God
has for us and all that the world creates,
including death and destruction and oppression,
too often in God’s name however wrong
it may be. God works with our doubt as well
as our faith—there is nothing God will not,
cannot, use to lead us forward where we
fear to go. Let us then not judge Thomas—
have you not demanded proof, have you not
doubted? So, let us go on the journey
with him and the others who scattered like
holy seed to the east, the west, the south
and north, knowing that they had a story to tell.

What is your story, what is your witness,
when have you said, I have seen the Lord! Are
you even looking? If not, you may miss him, too.
But trust that he will come by if you ask.
He will touch you even if you cannot touch him.

©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .As a preacher, I got tired of the story about Thomas, the same year in and year out—as if the Lectionary architects felt we needed a dose of doubting every year after the big Sunday of the Resurrection. It does get me ponder doubt, however, and how essential it is to living in the midst of the ups and downs of faith.