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Reflections on Proper 7, Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

 

 

Textual focus: Jeremiah 20:7-13, Matthew 10:24-39
Click here for biblical texts

 

 

He was raking in 10 million
in leanest years, celebrated
for Midas ways with stocks,
his counsel sought by all
who wanted more and more
even as he felt less and less,
waking at night with scenes
of gaunt-faced children watching him
as he ate at Sardi’s and the White House.
He cried, he prayed, went to church every day,
gave away millions to hungry kids everywhere ,
still the money piled up
mocking his nightmares, misery and guilt.

Hurrying from one meeting to the next,
he heard a street evangelist quoting Jesus,
“Those who find their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
He was stopped, unable to move,
I want to lose this life—the voice sounded like his—
no more capital gains
no house in the Hamptons
no private jet.
He cried, right on Wall Street.
People stared, others averting their gaze,
most kept their distance as he tore
at his Armani uniform
thrusting his coat, then his tie, shirt, shoes, pants
at gaping tourists and brokers,
“I don’t need these, please take them, in the name of God,”
he said, and hearing himself thought,
where did that come from? Who said that?

He looked around, as if seeing the street
for the first time,
now knowing what he had to do.
He remembered hearing a preacher say
following a divine call is rarely easy,
Jeremiah and Jesus surely knew,
friends and family, authorities too
turn away, turn against,
the loneliness can overwhelm
even in the embrace of God.

But he felt raised up, resurrection-like,
his mind racing, his heart at peace,
beat of new life beckoning him
to become a disciple, a student
of the Lord, gentle Jesus whom he knew also said
some hard either/or words
about not bringing peace
setting children against parents
foes arising in the household
hierarchies of teachers above disciples
seeming normal
but masters over slaves grate against modern ears
can we love Jesus more than mother and father,
what about God?

He thought, I love God most of all,
and I want to serve with Jesus and the Holy Spirit;
this is my ‘I can’t not do it moment’
I heard my pastor describe, when he knew
he was called to share the Good News:
God’s total, unending, unconditional love.

Naked as Francis long ago,
he saw the church and went inside
to pray and to listen
for further instruction.

 

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem. . . So many of the really cool people in the Bible show us that following God is not a necessarily smooth way, that the challenges can be huge, daunting .  Upending a life is best done with divine direction and that can come in all sorts of ways to all sorts of people. Jeremiah and Jesus, two prophets who had hard things to say because they listened so carefully to God, surely must have felt, from time to time at least, why me? Of course, God’s answer to them, as to us, is, who else?

 

©Robin Gorsline 2015 FaithfulPoetics.net

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

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

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

Thank You, Joseph

A reflection for Advent 4, Year A

Text focus: Matthew 1:18-25
For biblical texts, click here

 

The conception not socially approved, an inauspicious start
to marriage where the rule is the man’s right to be the  first,
but as we know this plays out differently. Joseph listens
to God and the world is never the same. Is that not true
every time we listen to God? Joseph, sainted Joseph,
did not ask to raise a child technically not his,
but what does that mean, not his? He claimed the baby,
raised him in his trade, made sure he learned the Torah,
respected his elders even when he knew more.
This was a good father raising a blessed son.

The child was from the Holy Spirit; many wonder though
If that means immaculate conception,
parthogenesis, procreation without fertilization,
or whether it means God’s blessing does not depend
on following human rules. Is not every wanted child
a gift from the Holy Spirit? Is a marriage license
required by God for the child’s holiness?
Can non-monogamous partners not give life to a blessed child?
We spend so much energy trying to bend God to us
when what Joseph, and so many others, show us
 is that God breaks rules, our rules, all the time.

We cannot contain God; if we could, God would not be God
but god, an idol of our creation, the Creator being creature.
We are wondrously made in God’s image, probably images
in reality, not the other way around no matter our endless efforts
to tell God who God is. The greatest spiritual gift is listening,
a way of life requiring constant cultivation
in order to defeat human need for control,
and that means truly hearing and following what God says,
including hard stuff, the counter-cultural directions
and guidance, love bursting through and beyond all human restrictions.

Thank you, Joseph, for showing us the way.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . .  Joseph eventually seems to disappear from the Jesus story but at the beginning he looms large, the man who, according to Matthew, does “the decent thing” by not dumping Mary. It is critical to recognize that he had a choice; just because he dreamt of God telling him to be faithful to her even though it looked as if she were not sexually faithful to him does not mean he had to do that. And whether we believe that the conception of Jesus was due to parthogenesis, the Holy Spirit providing the spermatozoa if you will, or whether Mary was raped or even got herself in trouble—scholars have suggested all these—Joseph stayed the course with her, with his new son, and with God. So did she. And why wouldn’t God choose a child conceived out of wedlock for the Messiah? It’s just one more example of God acting by God’s rules, not ours.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

 

Picked Up by the Spirit

A Meditation for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

(click here for the biblical texts)

Lydia's baptism site en wikipedia org
A Greek orthodox chapel on the site where Lydia is thought to have been baptized en.wikipedia.org

Visions from God are rare for us but not for Paul
who is told where not to go, where to go, even
it seems at times what to say, to whom to say it.
He was sent to Lydia the dealer in purple cloth
and her women’s community gathered at riverside
outside the gate at Philippi, Paul’s first journey
to Europe, he an intercontinental figure
for the first time; more, he does a new thing,
baptizing women who listened without a man
to tell them it was okay and without Paul asking
for a man to authorize this church plant
far from headquarters at Jerusalem.

This woman Lydia, dealer in purple cloth,
a luxury only the wealthy can afford,
heads her own household, decides on her own
to be baptized, choosing for the rest of them, too,
and invites Paul and his companions to
stay at her home a few days—a woman
in charge of her own life and others’ too,
rare in this world where men rule all.

Can we see ourselves in Lydia, men, women
or in between, not constrained by gender,
sexuality or race or station, gathering with other
seekers, believers, to pray at chapel
or in our homes or riverside or park,
office, bar or restaurant, anywhere
people need prayer, desire union with the divine.
Must we wait until Sunday,
do we even need to be organized
or could the Spirit pick us up and draw
us together heart to heart, soul to soul,
on a street corner or in a Starbucks—
now wouldn’t that be novel, prayer and latté
with or without the whipped cream and cherry.

And could we pick a day and wear purple
not for Lent but for Lydia, claiming our spiritual
ancestor, the woman who stood up, was counted,
and many say was the first convert in Europe?
If we light a votive for St. Lydia, dedicate communion
In her name, we will help ourselves to be more brave,
open, outing ourselves as people of prayer, letting
visions take hold in us, going where Spirit calls
rather than where rote convention commands.
Can we, will we, do a new thing, honoring Lydia,
and yes Paul, boldly living out loud for God in Christ,
bending ourselves to Spirit’s way? O, what  a ride!

 

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The story of Lydia and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles intrigues many of us. There are many delicious details . . . the community of women, the significance of purple cloth, to name two, and then there are things we don’t exactly know, like how Paul, in many ways a very traditional man, felt being invited by a woman to her home. The Spirit is clearly at work here, and it is good to open ourselves as well.