Still Here

Reflection on Ascension Day and 7th Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Textual focus: Acts 1:1-14, Psalm 47, Luke 24:44-53, John 17:1-11
Click here, and here, for biblical texts

 
Hurry!
Limited time only—offer will not be repeated—
must liquidate all merchandise
Sale ends at midnight tomorrow!

Is this it, Lord, is it the time
You will restore
the kingdom to Israel?

Oh the questions they asked
as if he appeared on Fox News
to outline the latest theory
of how the world will end
or at least the Roman Empire.

When Jesus left the disciples—
modern minds wonder about Ascension,
what principle of physics allows it—
they looked up, what else can they do,
we too thinking God is above,
heaven and all angels
dancing on high.

And God is up, but also down,
nowhere God is not
can pray everywhere—
where is your upstairs room,
or woods, office, hammock,
mountain top, backyard, busy avenue
to wait for God
who is already here?

Prayer and much else comes to those who wait,
not filling the air with our words
as God prays in and through us;
all is gift, Jesus says
everything You have given me I give to them,
no special Easter sale,
we, living in post-Resurrection time,
look up, down, around, world without end.
He’s still here though he rose.

Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ is here.
Christ will come again.

Oh yes.

 
About this poem . . . In the church’s calendar, it is still Easter, although the hoopla has ended. And finally Jesus rises not only from the dead but from the earth, the disciples’ mouths agape at the sight. But is it so? Do we also only look up, or can we look within and around at others and know he remains, seeing him perhaps even in ourselves? Can we pray and wait and know there is always more, for the asking? Often even without asking? 
©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

Where?

An Unfinished Reflection on the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

 

Textual focus: John 14:1-14
Click here for biblical texts
 

 

Easter is not ended officially
yet it seems long ago that we sang Alleluia!
wore our Sunday best, feasted at two tables,
maybe looked for a certain rabbit
to entertain our children—
do we still proclaim resurrection
and if we do, are we ready to follow
the risen Christ wherever he leads us?

We don’t know exactly where he is calling us
though many claim to know—
earnestly telling us they have the inside scoop
because they have the key to scriptural truth,
God not having said a new thing for several
millennia—and we must learn to trust,
sometimes what we see when following Jesus
looks unfamiliar even strange
but that does not make it less godly,
after all Jesus was always going places, doing things
those in the know knew were wrong.

God’s house is said to be roomy
at least that is what Jesus said
whether some of his latter day disciples
still see it that way;
no longer whites only on the main floor
but nursing moms and their babes
may be segregated to be sure
no one glimpses part of a holy body
and gays may want to be quiet
lest they be asked to leave.

Going with Jesus is a challenge—
he said we will do what he does
and even greater things
but when was your last miracle,
and who knows if he really meant that
even though he was not one for idle chatter or boasts—
easier just to read and ride along
and not get too engaged or eager
nor too far in front where we might be tempted
to look down like Peter and sink.
 

 

About this poem . . . .Did Easter really happen? Is it over? The church calendar says no, but what about in daily life?

 

 

 

©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

Good Morning, God

Reflection on the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Textual focus: Psalm 116:1; Luke 24:13-35
Click here for biblical texts

 

He always says “Good morning,”  “Good afternoon”
or simple “Hello” as he meets others on walks.
“You never know what someone may want to tell you,
so I like to prepare the way with courtesy and care,”
he said in response to a friend who asked him about his habit.
“It might be Jesus out for a walk, or someone else
God has tapped with a message for me.
Besides,” he continued, “I believe
each of us is created in the image of God,
so when I greet someone I feel I am greeting
part of God. I really appreciate when God answers back.”

“Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus,
you just never know when a conversation
will change your life,” he said. “One thing is sure,
if you don’t engage others,
the conversation will not happen.  I am
not in charge of which conversations
God may use so I try to be open all the time.”

“Here’s the deal,” he said, “we pray
often for God to be present.
I wonder how God feels about that,
when in my experience God
already is here and now, everywhere,
all the time. There is no place, no time, God is not;
I figure my job is to be present,
so God can get through to me
when God wants. I even speak
to some trees, the squirrels, flowers, birds.
You just never know.
Like those disciples, I might get a message
from the food I eat—that’s why I give thanks,
not just physical nourishment
but also spiritual feeding.
Anything, everything, is possible with God.”
 

 

 

About this poem . . . As a boy, I remember wondering what it must have felt like for the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus to be engaged by, and to engage, Jesus. Later, thanks to some wonderful spiritual teachers and moments of my own, I began a lifelong journey into understanding I can experience that closeness, too. I am still learning, and receiving.

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

What Now?

Reflection on the Second Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Text focus: John 20:19-31
Click here for biblical texts

 

Huddled in a room too small for their number
fearing for their lives 
keeping windows covered
password required for entry;
others hiding outside
praying ICE agents do not see them
or dogs smell them
before night when they slip across the border
trusting false IDS will be ready
so they can find work
a place to stay
a new life to build
in the land they hope
will accept their bravery
and award freedom;
or gay men, lesbians, trans people
hiding in closets,
wanting life, not sure
they have strength to claim wholeness.

An old story, fear driving people
into hiding, authorities, angry crowds,
vigilantes, pious rule-enforcers,
fundamentalists of one sort or another,
determined to tamp down
freedom movements, different religions,
new ideas, ways of living
beyond poverty and despair—
not unlike disciples
behind locked doors
the evening of the day Jesus rose,
afraid they would be next on crosses.

But Jesus visited them
to breathe Spirit into them
give them hope.
release them from their prison
get on with sharing good news
healing the sick
witnessing to divine love.

So today’s question:
whose prisons will we visit
whose cells will we unlock
which fugitives will we take in
which disciples of love and hope
and family and justice
will we welcome
to our churches, our homes
to keep them safe,
whose hearing will we attend
to speak on behalf of mercy and justice
for all
or at least for one or two or more
of those most vulnerable
most afraid
most at risk?

 

About this poem . . . . It is so easy to leave the disciples back there, knowing things will get better for them. But we have been, maybe are, afraid; and have received the Spirit too; what do we do with it? 

©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

What Song Will You Sing?

A Meditation for the 7th Sunday of Easter
(click here for biblical texts)

The cynic’s saying No good deed goes unpunished
may have occurred to Paul in Philippi when—
after making common cause with Lydia and friends—he
ordered ugly spirits to leave a servant girl
who irritated him with public pronouncements .
We don’t know her feelings about being released
from demon’s power but Paul and Silas
find themselves on the wrong end of the law
because her owners are enriched from her fortune-telling.
Not for the first time or the last, emissaries
of The Way find themselves stripped, beaten, and locked up.

paul-and-silas-in-prison bloorlansdownechristianfellowship wordpress com
bloorlansdownechristianfellowship.wordpress.com

But the story takes an unexpected turn to become
one of the greatest liberation moments of all time,
perhaps ultimate in nonviolent revolution,
a model for how God works when we pray
and get out of the way.
Singing and praying in the night,
as their fellow prisoners listen,
some force—is it an act of nature or of God
or simply the earnest, faithful power
of their prayers and voices—
creates a midnight disturbance,
an earthquake we are told, that flings open every cell door
without so much as leaving a trace of damage
to the walls and foundation. Even more, no one
injured, not even the jailer who had confined
Paul and Silas to the worst of the puny accommodations.
In gratitude he takes his new friends home for blessing and supper.

This is the way we want our world to work!
Hebrews escape between the walls of the Red Sea
but Egyptians are so overcome by the sight
they do not pursue and thus do not die.
Israelites advance into Canaan and locals
are so glad to see them they throw a neighborhood party.
In his determination to find the child born in Bethlehem
Herod throws a giant party, treating all the children
and their parents to dinner, games and magic show
before sending them home.
In our own version of Canaan
(recreated in Palestine in 1948?),
European settlers bring much wealth to share with natives,
no attacks are made by either side, no reservations
for native peoples are created and none die
from diseases imported from Europe.
And here’s one more: needing to import labor, recruiters
go to Africa with brochures and bonuses
for early signing, inviting locals onto cruise ships
for the voyage across the Atlantic
with secure, paying jobs and health care waiting here
for those who choose the journey to try a New World.

And how about this? Police, leaders, citizens learn to sit down
with young Black men, listen to what they  need
to gain self-respect, and then work to meet the need.

A utopia, you say?

But why not? Paul and Silas were
two men, people like us. God is still God. Let’s start
praying and singing (don’t worry about your voice, it is
the intention that matters), and expecting the
disturbance. The world is ready for change.
It begins when we unlock whatever cell of despair,
discouragement, and doubt where we have put ourselves
or have allowed others with a different agenda
to confine us.

What song will you sing? What disturbance do you seek?

 

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .Acts of the Apostles continues to share stories of divine intervention (at least that is how I see an earthquake that does no damage) that challenge our rational minds. But is that not the job of faith, to move us beyond our ordinary selves into the realm of Spirit where anything may happen, especially if it intends or results in liberation for the oppressed?

 

Does Anyone Observe Ascension Day Today?

A Meditation on the Ascension of the Lord, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

Does anyone observe Ascension Day today?
Our Lord bade farewell to trusted comrades
and rose in the sky, as one irreverent person said,
like a balloon slowly drifting to heaven
out of sight but not out of mind. Did this really
happen or is it a way of expressing the feelings
of disciples knowing Jesus was gone,
like a young child watching a loved
parent drive away after the divorce,
the child not sure she will ever see the
other again. And Jesus, did Jesus sob like the sad
parent on his way up? But wait. Even if we observe,
do we believe? And does it matter either way?
To believe ascension is different from believing
in Ascension; do the details, as we have them,
have to be true in order to know, to know, that
his friends felt his absence—they, unlike us,
may not have known for sure he would still be around.
Or do we know, do we trust that Jesus is here,
even though he ascended? Or are we so jaded by
science, by incessant needs for proof, scientific proof,
that we cannot grant God the power to do this, to let
Jesus rise right before their, our, eyes? And return,
even if not in the flesh? If we cannot, and
for many it must be so, then we are more powerful
than God—or at least God can only do what we allow
Him to do. What kind of God would that be?

Ascension-Day ascensionday2016 com
ascensionday2016.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or can we understand with Karl Rahner that Ascension
tells us that God intends flesh be redeemed
and glorified? Flesh be glorified, is that even Christian?
So many years of hearing about flesh mortified, flesh
hung out to bleed and dry on crosses, flesh to be
tamed, can we think God really loves us, and our flesh,
enough to glorify and redeem it, not just
spiritually but even physically? Is God reveling
in our fleshiness? If not, what are we
to make of incarnation, Jesus fleshing God better
than any human, or as many say, the way only He can.
Whatever. Doctrine does not guarantee salvation
but following Jesus wherever he goes and
being with him wherever he is calling us
makes a good recipe for blessed, even holy, life.

May you feel Ascension in your heart and body,
if not your mind.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .So many of us have lost connection with special holy days, and if we observe them at all we have moved them to Sunday, to avoid inconvenience in our daily lives filled with so much important business. Yet is the pain the disciples, men and women, humans all, must have felt, not worthy of remembrance? And what of our blessed, holy flesh: will we ascend someday? Will anyone remember?

She Will Not Be Bound

 

Meditation for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

See I am making all things new;
is this verse from the last of the
Christian canonical biblical texts
not the whole truth of the creation,
byword of a God always on the move,
seeking us (as Rabbi Heschel said long ago,
the Bible is not the record of humans’
search for God but of God’s search
for humanity) so that somehow She
can get us to see that what we often
claim, namely that we have received
all God has for us between
covers of an often translated humanly
created set of texts, is only part
of the divine story–the rest being
God’s continuing revelation of all life.

Peter at Joppa pilgrimatthecrossroads com
pilgrimatthecrossroads.com

So we see Peter receiving a strange hieroglyphic,
a divine picture-text descending, not telling him to obey
old rules devoutly maintained for generations,
but to see the universe in a new way: what
God has made clean, namely every creature like snakes,
caterpillars, blue jays, frogs, wolves, bears, ants and anteaters,
do not despise or negate. And that applies not
just to dinner fare, but also to dinner companions—
God’s table excludes no one, forget human rules
of eligibility–God does not exclude
no matter how much human authorities try
to convince us and themselves otherwise.

And what about love? Does Jesus tell us
to love but warn that certain restrictions apply?
Or is love to be how we live as well
as the sign of who we are? Many think he meant
we do not need to love those who seek to harm us
or those of whom we are frightened  
or those who don’t obey Ten Commandments,
not wanting them chiseled on the courthouse wall,
but he did not say that. Love as I have loved you
is what he said.  I love you, Herod, I love you,
Pilate, and Judas, too, and the young man
who walked away downcast because you did not want
to give up your riches and privilege, I love you too.
Not just Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the beloved disciple,
and the others. No I love you all. All means all.

This no poetic license, despite objections
that there is no evidence that he loved Herod
or even those screaming for his execution.
Where are the harsh words, where the angry screeds
delivered in Gethsemane’s Garden?
Did he keep the disciples up with harangues against he
who betrayed him, did he allow Peter’s
sword to have the last word or did he heal the wound
and say no to more violence?  And did he tell
Herod he was evil or call for a revolt against
his authority? He did not feel bound
by the king’s rules, but he did that without
disrespect to the person, and that is the ground
in which love can thrive–you must respect the
personhood of another in order to love them (if only
Congress could remember that love comes first, before
scoring points against those with whom you disagree).

The truth is that God keeps showing up with
another textual sheet with truth we missed before
or forgot, or is especially apt for the moment.
Our job–really God’s gift to us–is to pay attention
and follow that wisdom even if it challenges rules
we have imbibed at mother church’s breast,
even if those who claim to know say no.
God is on the move reaching and teaching
well outside their control, which is why they
try so hard to lock Him up in that book
or any other holy jail they can find or construct.
But She will not be bound, and
there comes a time, and more than once,
we have to choose whom to trust: God,
the Holy One who makes all things new,
or the people who tell us who God is.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The account in Acts 11 of a new teaching–What God has made clean, you must not call profane—is a pivotal moment in the development of what eventually became Christianity. But so often we cling to the idea that revelation is over, that God has nothing new for us, that we have nothing new to learn, that to be faithful requires only that we repeat what was repeated to us. That is a God neither Jesus, nor Peter, nor Paul, would recognize.