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

Can It Be So with Us?

A Reflection in Response to the 3rd Sunday in Advent, Year A

 

Text Focus: Psalm 146:5-10, Luke 1:45b-55, Matthew 11:2-11
Click here for all biblical texts
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in their God—truth known by John
the Baptizer and Mary too. Can it be so with us?
Dare we open our eyes enough to see
God at work in every moment, read signs
of the times and feel joy as God takes us
on new journeys in faith? John did, and it led him
to prison and death, while Mary’s life grew
both inside and all about her, she proclaiming
the gift of God’s favor, mercy and strength.

They seem so different, rough-clothed, even angry,
on one hand (though might he be sweet in his own way),
soft-spoken, gentle on the other (but so strong as well);
yet both open to what God delivers—
promise of salvation through another
born to her, seen by him;
she births, nurtures, the sprout,
he witnesses the full-grown tree
standing tall, speaking true in biblical witness
in pages close together but separated
by decades, yet saga tells us
their births—John and Jesus—were close
in time and even blood so they
are cousins through their mothers’ line.

We know stories of these men as they live and die,
almost side by side in Jerusalem and countryside,
to carry God’s word to those who want to believe
so long as it does not cost more than they, or we, will pay.
If Mary had known she would weep at the foot of the cross
on which hung her beloved son would then she praise
or curse her fate, and his? And John, and his mother,
cousin Elizabeth, would they then sing
or speak in joy and love for the God of Jacob?
The answer is yes, they did not count the cost dear
but the chance to witness so much more than ever
they dreamed in ordinary lives, a gift so rich
their hearts ring full, Mary’s praises,
John’s hand pointing to the one he came to announce.

Can it be so with us?
Will we birth and nurture what God places in us
trusting Holy One who is our soul and knows us
inside out, from glowing darkness of God within,
calling us to abandon old and narrow habits
that block our own sacred living
in a world that wants control and substitutes order
for life?
Will we cast out fear and choose joy,
to take a chance on God?
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem……This week’s lectionary contains two gospel options, the Magnificat from Luke (My souls magnifies the Lord) and Matthew’s account of John asking Jesus, “Are you the one?” It got me thinking about these two powerful characters in the Jesus story, especially when I came across reference to the Isenheim Altarpiece (featured image above) by the Italian Renaissance painter Matthias Grunewald. It shows a bloody Jesus on the cross, with Mary, on the left, despairing in the arms of the Beloved Disciple, and John the Baptizer, on the right, holding a book and pointing to Jesus. These two figures, joined together by more than shared family connection, may help us be prepared for the journey we are soon to begin again, from birth to ministry to death and beyond, with Jesus and so many more.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

What Are We Waiting for?

(Sunday of the Resurrection, Year C; click here for biblical texts)

I.
I have seen the Lord! proclaims Mary Magdalene,
beginning a new, never-ending adventure In faith.
Again, God has worked through the unlikely,
now a woman whom some once considered tainted,
but the only person in all four gospels to have testified,
from direct observation and even divine exposition,
to the resurrection of Jesus, she called the apostle to the apostles
by one early church father—an astounding claim by a
patriarch, a sign of things turned upside
down, reflecting the wonder of the empty tomb,
God’s power working through one of us—this Nazarene man—
to do what many call impossible.

II.
Colorful eggs, hopping bunnies, are nice,
even fun, but a man rising alive from a tomb of the dead—
now that’s worth the world, which is what
God intended to say: I want all to live full
of joy and love and peace, to trust divine
power more than any other, to know that I,
God, am always here, at the ready, present for
all life which comes from me eternally.

III.
That is why the empty tomb is such a potent marker,
even as it is not an easy marketing symbol any more than
the stone rolled away. But when Mary and the others
arrived they were not seeking the cross. They were
coming to care for the dead body of their Lord.
That they did not find it, that in one account Mary
found him and talked to him, that is the news,
that is the miracle, that is the sign of the victory
over death-dealing injustice and hate that affects
and infests us all to this day. We can’t get to the
empty tomb without the cross, but what truly is
the mark of God’s reign in this world—a bloodied
man-made tree erected by an ugly regime based on the
fear and anger of otherwise good, faithful people, or
the fact that ultimately none of us need be
governed by such ugliness and fear and anger?

IV.
We crucify people all the time, on the streets,
In jails, subway stations, public markets, as lethally—
though sometimes with less agony—and legally as was
done by Pilate and his minions, when what we need
is resurrection, new life, a raising, rising, of walking dead
to live not as the world makes it happen but full,
vibrant, vital human beings striding forth Lazarus-like from
tombs, theirs and ours, to claim divine birthright
belonging to all. God is ready to empty our tombs.

V.
What are we waiting for?

@Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .I have long strained against using the cross as the universal symbol of Christian faith and life, because it is the mark of neither. It is the sign of evil and ugliness, of human fear gone amok,  unchecked by those in authority. Their actions were understandable, so very human, but the result on that hill is not, to me at least, the marker of my faith. My faith lies in the empty tomb, in the natural boulder rolled away that death could emerge and live again. That is Easter faith, the truly good news.

Will the Stones Need To Shout?

(Palm Sunday, Year C; click here for the biblical readings)

Will the stones need to shout out now
or will our voices, our presence,
raise enough rejoicing to unsettle
powers who mean to do all the talking,
their own agendas more vital than God’s,
so they tell themselves, and many bound to listen
due to economic necessity
or endless media repetition, never-ending
sound loops of the same loud voices
with the latest offer that in truth leaves
everything except the packaging the same?

We need now to take to the streets
waving palms yes and placards too—
justice for all, love is the way—
and our arms raised in hosannas
drowning out tired old voices, but more,
calling forth our shared power to create
something new with stones rejected,
not throwing them but laying them down as
a new foundation, cornerstone of listening
to each other,  choosing to stay open
to ideas from those we barely knew
existed until we found ourselves next
to them in the crowd cheering the rabbi
(is it true he’s from Nazareth, how weird is that?)
riding the borrowed bicycle leading
the ragtag parade of the powerless
who actually like us have great—
really the greatest—power at the tip and base
of our prayers.

Now is the time to get off the sidewalk,
out of the bars into the streets we used to say
when pride was our parade’s objective, but
now we are called to protect immigrants,
stop assaults against Black men, stand up for
transgender youth and Black women,
get health care for all God’s children,
finally care about native people remaining from our genocide,
help warring leaders to begin talking, listening,
so no more children need die as collateral damage.

This is the day God has made for us to wake up,
grow up, look up, act up, stand up, live up
to our heritage as the people of God led
by the One on the bike who heals, exhorts,
raises the dead, loves our enemies as much
as he loves us, and never ever, never stops
feeding us, all of us, heavenly food we need—
and crave if we are honest with ourselves—
to live by the beat, the truth, the beauty, of God

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .When Pharisees seek to silence Jesus and the Holy Spirit working through the disciples and others in the crowd, really the movement of God in the world, Jesus reminds them, and us, that God’s voice will not be stopped, even if the stones have to shout.  But God depends on us to do the talking, which means we need to listen for and to  God, and then take the risk of speaking up, again and again.

Shall We Sing to God a New Song?

(Christmas, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

Shall we sing to God a new song
becoming angels making joyful noise
listening to hear those high above
hearts ears open to hear
divine music in our souls to tumble
from our holy lips heralds of new birth
in Bethlehem yes but closer to home
our very own manger in which to lay
gifts of ourselves to share hope peace
joy love by which we are marked as
God’s beloved not just one night but
for life giving ourselves away feeding
the world with the symphonic melody
beating coursing in sacred veins
cherub chorus that never ends
divine energy flowing in through around us
touching hardened ones opening once
closed minds making shepherds of all
to proclaim yet again God’s love
for a world too frightened to receive
without shame and preconditions
what is freely given in delirious joy
pondering in our hearts
the gift vibrating still in Holy Land
war zones where mothers continue
to ponder in their hearts the blood
of birth as the sign of heaven’s favor
and fathers look on awed to see
what wildest dreams cannot conceive
hope rising peace born yet again
singing a new song in God’s key
heaven’s harmonics heralding
the chance to start again
where all was lost and yet
is never gone when we listen
watch wait pray hope give thanks
trusting the One we cannot see
right in front of our eyes.
©RobinGorsline2015 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

When Good News Doesn’t Sound So Good

(Advent 3 Year C; please click here for link to the biblical texts)

Advent’s third Sunday known for joy a pink candle
no one told John so he called out the brood of snakes
he saw slithering around claiming holy lives
keeping warm with coats some need more
cheating others of funds bullies for personal gain.
No mincing words still people thronged
wondering who John is and he tells them
I am the harbinger the forerunner of the One who will bless
and baptize and toss into the fire those who fail
to pay attention. This is Good News?
Directions yes but a recipe for happiness not
happiness overrated anyway
Joy is the bigger deal lasting a lifetime no matter
what comes even a crotchety prophet who points
in the right direction we fear to go
sheep bleating stammering backs up
unwilling to be the first to go through the gate
except to buy presents and pretend all is well
while the world continues teetering closer to the edge
of oblivion fail-safe trigger fingers cocked
just in case figures on the chess board bolt their squares.
In God We Trust we say but it is bombs armies soldiers
sailors marines tanks guns generals admirals leaders
who act tough
we trust more
markets tycoons corporations stocks bonds mortgages too
profiting perhaps most of all
But prophetic  preaching
was long ago another time another world
a curiosity in the shop of spiritual memorabilia.
Still he speaks. Will we catch the truth
of joy within bearing salvation fruit to share
with a frightened angry torn weary world
that only knows nine shopping days ‘til Christmas?

©Robin Gorsline 2015 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form