Names

Reflection on Trinity Sunday, Year A

 

 

Text focus: Matthew 28:16-20
Click here for link to texts

 

I baptize you—yes you,
who wants or whom others want
to be a disciple of Christ
or at least a member
of this church or other Christian body
or to be called a baptized Christian
when appropriate—
In the Name of the Creator
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

There’s that Trinity thing
again, pastor says it
at the weekly benediction
as well as at the end
of heavy-duty prayers;
it must be important,
it even has its own Sunday,
but does any mortal
really grasp what early fathers
of holy church
had in mind when they made belief
in Trinitarianism
a test of faith?

Or was it meant only to be a mark
of faith, an enigma
bound in mystery so securely
that we can only repeat over and over:
Creator—okay some still say Father—
Son and Holy Spirit (does anyone
still say Ghost?)—so we know
and we hope God knows too
we are speaking of the Holy Parent
Jesus knew, lived, and taught,
he part of the Trio
dancing across eternity
cajoling us on to the dance floor too
wanting us to hear the heavenly beat,
do more than tap our toes and hum along,
get up, join the romp of living
up and down and around
with history’s most famous gospel rock group
God Son Spirit
except they are not playing in history;
their greatest hits, new releases,
available now wherever we are
whomever we are, whomever we love,
whatever our ancestry—indeed as Meister Eckhart
of blessed memory said long ago,
Creator/Parent laughed,
and the Son was born,
then the two of them laughed
and the Spirit was born.
When all three laughed,
the human one was born.

Whether we understand or not
—its all in the family, each one of us
making a fourth
not for bridge but for life.
 

About this poem . . . Most preachers dread Trinity Sunday. How to engage people in a discussion of a declaration that God is in three persons and yet only one–that is the challenge. I have long enjoyed the idea of these three, the Trio, dancing and getting us to dance. Maybe if we could all get on the dance floor together we would not have to understand the theory, just enjoy the dance.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.

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

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

Jesus Keeps Walking, God Keeps Moving

Reflection on the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

Focus: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
Click here for biblical texts
 

Jesus kept walking no matter what was happening around him
whether John was arrested or Lazarus needed him;
he walked to the wedding in Cana though he may not have
known what he would be asked to do. He set his face and feet
towards Jerusalem even when he knew that was the way
to trouble with a capital T. Paul kept moving too,
knowing that his mission was to proclaim the gospel,
so when Corinthians began to mess things up
he wrote to them while on the road.
Isaiah knows God sends joy to those once bereft of hope.

God is always on the move, and not just walking, but touching
and blessing and inspiring and jostling status quos with new life.
Pharaohs. presidents, generals, moguls, dictators, pass through
on their way to self-described greatness,
but they are not really moving so much as walking
on the treadmill called success and power and wealth,
while God and faithful ones God touches
really move, living where things count less than soul,
where hearts are eager and minds open to receive and share,
not grab,  the gifts freely available to all.  
These are ones Jesus calls, the ones who answer,
putting down nets in which they have loaded all they own,
to be captured, raised up and sent forth
by a power greater than themselves, greater than
all of us, all the world.

It seems easiest to move with the world,
not trusting in God or prophets or others
who ask us to move in holy, other ways,
not out of the world but deeper in it
because we move knowing the truth
of the psalmist and Jesus and Paul,
and Mohammed and Moses, too,
God is my guide and my salvation,
whom shall I fear? God is the stronghold
of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Can we not be brave like the smallest seed
that pushes up from the soil into a world
it does not know, trusting in the rain, sunshine,
and nurture God provides and encourages us to offer, too?
Can we not become, like Simon and Andrew, and James and John,
mighty oaks of faith, the winds of God blowing in and through us,
gracing all around us , our roots going every deeper into earthy soul,
shedding leaves of faith, joy, hope, and love
wherever we stand, the never-ending melodies of God,
the ceaseless plea to care for the widow, orphan, immigrant,
divine prayer for us to love as God loves,
crossing our lips not just on Sunday mornings
but in every moment of every day?
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . God so often gets locked up somewhere—a book, a temple, an idea—for safe keeping. But the prophets and even the psalmists, in their better moments, knew better, and surely Jesus did, and he helped Paul figure it out, too. One of the problems with churches may be that we are locked up in one place, too, and forget that God is on the move, everywhere, all the time. Of course, God comes to us all the time, but we can easily miss the visit because we do not expect it right where are.
 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

God’s Tree, Our Tree

There is a tree, an oak, our tree I say,
although I do not know what kind of oak,
that stands like a beacon outside my church,
Metropolitan Community Church of Washington,
District of Columbia, United States of America,
a beacon of God calling the people
to worship, to focus on higher things,
to see the changing seasons through the glass
above the communion table, to see God’s sacred squirrels
and birds running, flying, landing in its branches,
reminding us that life is more than our
human-centered preoccupations, to accept
rhythms of life that beat the universe
into being and unfolding.

mcc-tree-through-glass

I love this tree, grateful to the people
who designed the sanctuary so that
when we sit in worship we face the tree,
even now as it is dying, leaves shriveling
up, clinging when they can to the branches
just like I want to hang on to the trunk,
resisting like the man in Tiananmen Square,
refusing to accept what the authorities
say I must, yet I know that denial
while real, must give way to tears, to grief,
to celebration of the faithfulness
of this divine creature, agent of God
who has served its time, whose angelic
presence is needed elsewhere now,
even as our memory will always be healing.

Authorities have painted the red blotch
of impending death on the trunk,
saying clearly tree homicide
is about to be committed
by those who don’t want trees to fall
on passersby or into the sanctuary—
I know they must do their job, but
how I wish we could give sanctuary
to our faithful friend, member, and beacon.
What we can do is hug—yes, hug this tree—
and speak our gratitude, perhaps we can
even make something from the wood
for the church as a permanent memorial;
never forget our friends, those who
stand with us through thick, thin, and in between.
God gave and gives us the church, and God shared
and shares God’s trees. Thanks be to God,
and thank you, Tree!!

 

robin-hugging-mcc-treeAbout this poem . . . I love trees, all trees. The first time I entered the sanctuary at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C.–for a denominational function years ago–I immediately saw the tree standing tall in the clear glass above the communion table. I stared, teared up at the simple elegance of a tree–we say Jesus died on a tree, for one thing, and for another, trees signify life for me–in that vision. I never forgot that tree, and always looked forward to seeing it on other visits. Now, I am a member of the congregation, along with the tree, and I see my friend each week. I give God thanks for the gift which will never die in my heart. 

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

Real Choices

A Reflection in Response to Proper 20, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (Luke16:1-13)

 

Click here for biblical texts

 

A cool September morning, walking in the park,
my husband talking about work troubles,
our dog sniffing the ground and eying the scampering squirrels,
birds flitting and singing, we sharing good mornings
with those on the same path, admiring other dogs,
all the while I keep hearing Jesus, you cannot serve God and wealth,
or the way I learned it long ago, God versus Mammon,
the god of money, Caesar, evil chasing after wealth,
visions of an ugly beast with multiple tentacles
reaching out to ensnare us all
into putting the pursuit of worldly riches
at the center of life.

money-prisoner
godmammon.com

Sometimes he just gets in your head and you can’t stop it,
sort of like the manager in Jesus’ parable caught up in
what he saw as survival, leveraging what was not his
to keep him from money or Mammon ruin,
forgetting about honor or responsibility—
and strangely he seems to come out alright
avoiding the axe using other peoples’ money;
is this not what we read about with banks too big to fail?
Is Jesus recommending cheating those who are owed?
Or is he playing us, and his hearers?
I don’t claim to know, some scholars I read
seem unclear at best, so I can only say
the Jesus I know does not dismiss honor, care,
love, responsibility, moral judgment so easily.
You just have to take my word on that. Or not.

Wall Street, even lobby of my friendly local credit union,
feel far away, because I keep hearing Jesus who once again
sounds like a socialist, not a fan of free enterprise, or consumersm.
Ouch. Most U.S. citizens are not partial to that label,
despite The Bern, not ready to see the welfare of the mass
more important than the profit of the few who make it work,
no prophet of that ancient view accepted even in his hometown
or sanctuaries that claim him for their own.
Once again Jesus unsettles the easy assumptions
of my life and the lives of my comrades in the pews,
and so we look away, embarrassed by the demand
on our individual and collective soul.
Why does he do this again, force us to stand,
uncomfortable like school children found wanting,
not knowing our lessons and resentful that we cannot
go to recess and play as if we have no cares,
pretending that no one Is hungry, no one is shivering,
no one is dying from neglect?

A walk in the park is a choice for health and happiness;
the market says we have choices, and we do, between brands
of toothpaste and cars, but Jesus reminds us we have real choices,
life and death soul choices.  

 
About this poem . . . . This choice Jesus calls us to make, between focusing on God and focusing on wealth or money or Mammon, is perhaps the most difficult one there is, at least in the United States where the reigning ideology is about getting enough wealth to survive and then to do more, to become wealthy enough to live well and then better and better, until we die and leave it our loved ones who can continue the quest. We are, it seems a “more” culture—everyone wants, we are told by experts, 20% more than they have . . . and that is true if we are at the bottom of the economic pile or the top. Do not our things get in the way of our relationship with God? What are we supposed to do?

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit live above when this poem is published

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.