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

Eden Again

 

Reflection offered on January 1, 2017
at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C.

Focus texts: Psalm 8 and Eccleasiastes 3:1-13
for New Year’s Day, Year A
Click here for texts

God gives us so much.
With the psalmist we give thanks and praise,
but the singer also knows we may not be all we think we are.
What are human beings that God cares about us?
Is it because we are created to be divine franchise agents,
with everything at our feet–presumably God knew what She
was doing, but polluted lakes and streams, endangered species,
stripped-mine hillsides, fouled air, war,
poverty, and group hates and ugly stories about those not like us,
may create skepticism in parts of heaven
not to mention earth.

There is a time for all that, of course, but so much more,
or maybe less, I mean the simple ways of living in peace
and hope and love and joy that God intends which
could take up all our time if we accepted the gift of God:
that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results
of their hard work. It seems so simple, and it is,
but not easy, never easy when every day in so may ways
we are tempted by the siren calls of those who claim
to have something better: building walls to keep people out,
a bigger house or better car and internet to go faster,
private schools to increase odds of Ivy League admissions, 
droning, bombing everyone who looks at us wrong, making sure
there are enough guns to shoot every person, adult and child,
at least once, and kill as many of them as necessary
to keep stocks rising along with income gaps widening
between rich and poor at home, even slowing the climb
of other nations out of the rut of domination.

But its not too late. It is never too late with God–that is what
makes God, God. She, or He, or They, refuse, despite ancient testimonies|
to the contrary, to give up on us, you and me, too, and the others,
even those whose agendas seem foreign and evil.
No one is a hopeless case with God.

The divine calendar is not ours,
so there has been only one new year, how many
millions of years ago we do not know,
and God is not counting,
but this is the moment of our latest attempt at renewal,
and in truth we can make the most of it—yes, with resolutions
of self-improvement if we must, but even more powerfully by a simple,
again not easy, commitment to listen to our individual
and collective souls where rests and rises the voice and hope
and love of God. And justice, too.

Let us not forget justice, divine justice which is not to punish or even chastise
but to repair, heal, move us to change, to do differently, better than last time.
Self-care is important, essential, but with God the we is as
important as the I, and the test of fealty to our holy parent
is how well we treat the rest of our human family, the ones God loves
as much as God loves us, not more not less, often
in different ways but still with an arm around all and each of us
at all times, everywhere without end.
World without end.

Don’t we know not to fear what is coming,
because of what God has given, and continues to give,
even when we don’t earn it? If we truly know and savor and trust
what God has provided, can we not share in the bounty
willingly, freely, joyously, generously,
so that no one goes without, no child is hungry,
no refugee is turned away from some safe place,
no young Black men and trans women hunted
and slaughtered on our streets,
no body is without health care,
no holy prayers cursed regardless what God or gods
or heavens are invoked.

This is the year God is making, again, for us, with us,
so let us rejoice and be glad in it,
and show our gratitude by making this the Year of Our God
and All God’s people, taking care of each human other and
all the rest of Creation, too, finally rising to meet
the divine challenge issued, earthly opportunity given,
at dawn on the first new year long ago,
to be Eden on earth again,
and forever.

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . Two biblical readings without a real story presented a challenge for me, but I soon realized that the gratitude, reality, and hope present in them fit for today. This is of course the gift of Scripture, and indeed in some way or other all inspired writing (whether called “holy” or not). And as I finished the earliest draft, I remembered poem inspired by Judy Chicago’s famous art installation, The Dinner Party, with its evocation of Eden. God must keep hoping we shall yet understand, accept, and celebrate the gift of life caught in that ancient story.

©Robin Gorsline 2017 LectionaryPoetics.net

What Is the Reign of Christ?

Reflection in response to Proper 29, Reign of Christ, Year C

Click here for biblical texts
(Luke 1:68-79 and Luke 23:33-43)

 

What is the reign of Christ?
Surely not some royal court where he dispenses favors
at a whim, pointing a bejeweled finger
here, then there, to the delight of the crowd,
the retinue of those dependent on royal favor.
This is Jesus we are talking about,
the one who walked and talked with sinners, sex workers,
loan sharks and tax collectors, diseased folk
dreaded by all the good people,
and those cast aside for the color of their skin,
the one whom Zechariah prophesied
would give salvation to his people by the forgiveness
of our sins, to give light to those who sit
without the benefit of knowledge, to guide us
in the way of peace, the one who forgave
his tormenters at Golgotha,
who refused to play the games of Rome, and
told his fellow convict, as he tells us,
today you will be with me in paradise.

jesus-with-two-disciples-bfmindia-blogspot-com
bfmindia.blogspot.com

This is the one I know as Brother, Friend, and Lord,
who calls me to stand with the sojourner
in our land, and feed the hungry, comfort widows,
sit gently and lovingly with children,
stand against injustice wherever I find it—
and I find it many places
so what he asks is not to bow down but
to be brave and speak the truth with persistent  love—
trusting I am not alone, we are not alone.
In this day of troubles,
He knew such troubles—which is why
I trust him with my life—and now he shows
us to walk the walk as we talk the talk,
to listen to the depths of each other,
not just those we like but those we are trained to hate,
speak from our sacred souls more than our fear,
to create on earth the heaven as God intends
for all God’s people, their particular faith not counting
as much as their humanity, the participation
in the life of the divine family.

You may think I blaspheme
when I say I have two Jewish men in my life,
my husband and my Lord,
and with me they make a holy threesome—
oh, yes, only one of us is perfect,
and we fail him far too often—
but he helps us get up and move forward,
indeed my earthly partner who goes to temple
loves him some Jesus even though
he does not follow as I do,
but then I go to temple too
and find much truth about the Lord
I love, and seek to serve, among his own people,
ones he loves with all his heart as he loves
us who turned away from them, maligning the very ones
he came to serve and save.

This reign is one of joy and love, justice and truth,
peace and plenty for all,
so we may live out loud
as God intends.
Praise be to God!

 
About this poem . . . . What used to be called Christ the King Sunday is now the Reign of Christ. I appreciate the effort to undo some of the earthly trappings of royalty so that now we can remember, and love and serve, the one who never claimed any office but teacher and fellow-traveler on the dusty, difficult roads of life. This poem evokes the truth of my life that it took two Jewish men, my Lord and my Jonathan, to get me to accept the call of God on my life, so that today I know this paradise about which Jesus told the robber hanging with him—the blessed land of walking with him every day, no matter what troubles beset me, beset all of us, in this place we call Earth.

©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

Make It Real for Everyone

Reflection in Response to Proper 28, 26th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
(Isaiah 65:17–25; Luke 21:5-19)

Click here for biblical texts

Behold, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth–can I imagine that
when a pink sky tinged with gold and orange
bathes troubled souls,
when despite whatever
calamity has happened in the world,
an election gone awry, perhaps coup d’etat
in some foreign land, even here,
or a death in the family,
or an anguished call from a friend,
cancer diagnosis–can I imagine God
promising not only me, not only my family
and friends and community, but the world,
faithful and otherwise, such a glorious reality?
But it is here all the time, is it not?
Did God stop promising this after Isaiah
wrote it down or later prophets
intoned the words and preached
them as if they were true?
No way!
This not a new or old promise,
not even an unfulfilled one
nor expired either.

new-heavens-and-new-earth-isaiah-65

backtothescriptures.org

Do not become trapped in terror when ugly things happen,
whether created by men (yes, sometimes women,
but with their lesser social power it is more
often male-bodied persons), or by force
of nature, sometimes referred to as Acts
of God though if people die I doubt it is God
acting–God not wanting to lose any
of the divine inventory
of creation known as humans.
Instead, in the midst of challenge
see an opportunity to witness, testify
to your faith that when needed God shows up.
When you are not sure of this, check the sunset
or look at the blue waters of the bay
in front of your eyes, or beautiful child
singing quietly as she plays with toys,
or falling leaves and even snowflakes
preparing for new spring and somnolent summer,
grandfather holding the hand of toddler
learning to walk, youths abandoning care
of what others think to dance their hearts out,  
again to be reminded that God shares
much with us including beauty as well as
hardship, the former a gift to feel loved,
the latter to remind us there is always work
to do.

Jesus knew about this and he tells us
nation will rise against nation
(white nations against nations of color,
men nations against nations of women,
have nations against nations of have-nots,
ableist nations against nations of differently able,
youth-obsessed nations against old people nations,
profits-above-all nations against care-giving nations,
discrimination nations against nations of Queer warriors),
and there will be earthquakes, famines, and plagues
not to mention dreadful portents, great signs
from heaven (whatever they are);
there will even be persecution and arrests:
Oh we shall, we must, know about persecution
and arrest because without those
can our testimony break through
the veil, the wall, of privilege and power
that believes in earthly strength rather than divine mercy,
bombast more than quiet murmurings of prayer,
conflict more than peaceful coexistence,
despair and finger-pointing more than hope–
can we be brave and true, faithful,
no matter the provocation?   

It takes strength, courage, to be persistent
and gentle when all about us
are flailing and screaming, beating each other up
with words, as well as fists, armies, and drones.
Endure, that is the word, the truth, the way:
new heavens and a new earth are here already
even if we,
and most, maybe all, others
have yet to see enough
right in front of ourselves
to work with each other and God
to make it real for everyone.

 

About this poem . . . God does not cause all things but God is present in all things. Troubles, like  joys and celebrations, can be opportunities for us gain new wisdom and to experience the presence, grace, and love of God.  Isaiah’s prophecy of new heavens and a new earth need not be about some time in the great “by and by,” but now, right in front of us if we are able, and willing, to read the signs. And we can see in the daily struggles of people for liberation, and wholeness and peace (shalom), despite often daunting odds and steep climbs, God at work. But we do have to be open and receptive, allowing ourselves a level of vulnerability not often encouraged in human society, one based on deep and continuing trust in God.

(c) Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net