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

The Change We Seek

Written for and Delivered at the
Interfaith Passover Seder
sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace – Metro DC Chapter
at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
March 19, 2017/5777

I join you tonight as I did last year in prayer and hope,
as a queer Christian minister and theologian/poet,
married to a beautiful Jewish man,
member of Jewish Voice for Peace, Reform Temple,
and an LGBTQI affirming, multi-racial Protestant church,
citizen of this nation that still imprisons Native peoples on reservations
and kills descendants of slaves on the streets
for crimes of living while Red and/or Black,
where plagues of ethnic, gender, religious, bodily, and sexual hates
are often the center of public life,
as they live and grow among some at or near
the pinnacle of national leadership.

We are not alone in taking land, we know its ancient roots
in Torah, and we know countless ones today who
are displaced, unplaced, misplaced, replaced as were hundreds of thousands
in the Nakba, just as we know that second class citizens live
not only in prisons, ghettos, and reservations here
but also on streets and in neighborhoods of Jerusalem,
along with others who are citizens of no country
confined to refugee camps, water-less deserts, and outposts
under constant threat of dislocation, trying to live and breathe
where once they were born and played as children,
and grew to tend their flocks and orchards.

So as we gather in the midst of ugliness, fear, and othering,
we claim our inheritance as people who cherish liberation,
our own and that of others, knowing this day
like all others is made for us to wake up, grow up,
look up, act up, stand up, live up, speak up
so captives go free. 

We gather in an ancient and honorable ritual
celebrating another time when people rose  to be free,
and like them our words, songs, prayers, and food
prepare us and recommit us to march, to resist,
to claim the mantle bequeathed by Moses,
and Esther and Jeremiah, to speak truth to powers,
to say to modern princes: Let the people of Palestine breathe,
end the Occupation of their land, their homes, their minds—
and yes, well-funded overlords,  free yourselves from the tangled webs
you create with ancient enmities and entitlements
creating more war, more chaos, more ugliness, more death.

We seek a new way, a time of milk and honey for all,
when peace and justice glow in and through the golden dome
of God for all the world.  We shall do our part to make it so,
knowing, believing, it is our divinely inspired mission,
to join with many others here and there,
to create the new Jerusalem, the new Israel,
the new Palestine, the new USA,
the new people there and here, everywhere,
no longer living and walking in fear, no longer dispossessed,
no longer forgotten, no longer denied entry, exit, jobs, housing,
life, or dignity for being on the wrong side
of one line, one wall, one gate, one identity, or another.

We pray tonight, whether prayers be traditional
or postmodern, whether they be to the God of our understanding,
or desire spoken in unbelief to ourselves,
or testimony on posters, chants on the streets,
letters to editors and legislators—
we pray however we pray,
because ,
and because I know, and I believe you know,
we are the change we seek.
Amen. Amein. Ameen. Acé, May It Be So.
©Robin Gorsline2017 faithful poetics.net

Blessed Are the Ones

Reflection on Palm Sunday, Year A

 

Textual focus: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21:1-11
Click here for biblical texts
 

We say each week in church
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.”
Who do we mean? Are we thinking of Jesus
riding on the donkey in Jerusalem
or our pastor, preacher, other spiritual leader?
Or ourselves? Could we be the ones who are blessed
to come in the name of God?

When the alarm goes off in the morning,
do we come to in the name of God?
Pee and shower in the name of God,
eat breakfast, get dressed, go to work,
lunch, the store, return home, eat dinner,
bathe the children, tuck them in,
watch television, read the paper or our book,
have sex, go to sleep, in the name of God?

The crowds acclaimed the Son of Daivd
as he rode the donkey walking on their cloaks
and branches, a peoples’ carpet—
believing he was their champion
in the face of domination by Rome
and distance from religious authorities.
Today, without fanfare, in terror
of what lies behind and perhaps ahead,
refugees flee the devastation of war,
extremism, chemicals, poverty,
maybe all of the above,
Blessed are the ones who come,
claiming in Jerusalem and elsewhere
power that resists fear,
breaks institutional barriers,
defies narrowness, all in the name
of the God of of holiness everywhere,
in everyone.

Who knows what will happen—a dead body
hanging from a tree or lying on a street or the desert
with a chest full of bullet holes,
or sex work or drug-running for a pimp,
or maybe,
just maybe, a new life, dignity,
deepening of soul connection,
new love or better job,
appreciation by others for gifts
freely shared in sacred communion.

Whatever.
Blessed are the ones
who come,
and go,
in the name of God.  
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .It is easy to read or listen to this familiar story and see Jesus, the donkey, the disciples, the crowds, and to wave our own branches (although I have not seen coats laid on the ground), and feel good. But what about today? What are we doing that might cause others to see God riding or walking or loving or speaking in and/or through us? And do we allow ourselves to see, to experience, the blessing of ordinary, as well as extraordinary, others who come in the name of God?
 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Everyone Out!

 

Reflection for the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year A

 

 

Textual focus: Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11: 1-45
Click here for biblical texts

 

His bones were not yet dry
but after four days his soul-less
body needed Jesus
to breathe him back to life
just as Ezekiel records God did
for the Israelites.
How many times have you been resurrected?
Even in a good life there can be dead ends
for which holy help is the only way out.

Fleeing war zones, finding refuge in camps,
waiting for clearance to emigrate,
arriving in a strange land—
this is resurrection,
a time to hear “Unbind them, and let them go, ”
just as gay men, lesbian women, transgender siblings,
rescuing themselves from closets, breathe freer
where spirits and bodies
live in wholesome union,
no longer victims of anti-sex and gender wars .

Tombs are everywhere,
rulers building more private prisons,
hells hundreds of miles from somewhere,
Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)
freezing folks out,
police continuing urban carnage
within walls of despair and fear.
Lazarus was lucky,
love that freed his entombed body
seems in short supply today.

The Mary-Martha-Lazarus-Jesus Family home
a center where ties that bind are love,
where even when he is late, Jesus is welcomed,
freed to be himself,
to do impossible things that look easy
because he wastes no words in argument,
going right to freeing the captive,
not seeking applause
or waiting for authorization
from any ruler except the One
whose decrees are freedom,
life, love, hope.

Lazarus, come out!
Everyone else, too.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem…..It can be difficult for us, so rational in our scientifically conditioned minds, to accept the idea that dead bodies can be brought back to life—certainly after four days in a tomb, let alone an entire valley of bones. In the latter case, it may be metaphor, but even the metaphor has power. I have been down, way down, a few times, filled with despair, and I was raised up; I know others, too.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Standing Up in the Hard Places

Reflection in response to Proper 16, 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (focus on Luke: 13:10-17)

Click here for biblical texts

The bent over woman stood up straight, praising God,
when Jesus touched her, erasing her long disfigurement,
and people in the synagogue rejoiced.
Scholars agree Jesus did not violate halakhah,
the compilation of Jewish law governing worship,
even as Luke records objection by the synagogue leader.
Rules often help communities to be strong, orderly,
but leaders, not just in synagogues to be sure,
can confuse order they want with order God wants—
not always the same.  When health, liberation, mercy, are at stake,
as then, like now, the rules enabling those outcomes control.
But do really follow those rules all the time?
If we did, would health care and prisons be run for profit,
would anyone be allowed to carry firearms in school,
would we then allow God’s creation to be spoiled by greed,
dictators to fire poison at their people,
officers to shoot Black men just because they can,
Palestinians to be denied their own true homeland?

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It is tempting to leave Jesus back there in synagogue,
upending the claim of power by the leader,
feeling all righteous, critical, about the leader then,
instead of hearing our Lord here and now, saying
about rules of today, Stop! Indeed laying holy hands
on victims of health care and prison profit rules
so they, and more importantly we, can stand straight
and throw off the tyranny keeping them bent down.
And he, then as now, weeping not only over Jerusalem—
but also the earth despoiled by our careless selfishness,
children at risk in school, brave citizens gassed by their own leaders,
our streets war zones where peace officers shoot first, ask later—
he touches us as he touched the crippled woman
so that finally we can take his power, his love, his peace
from the sanctuary where we too often embalm it
into the world that too is bent over, crippled,
crying out in pain, and need.

There is hope, yes, always hope, but its wealth
cannot be shared if we do not follow him in
breaking the rules of oppression and keeping rules that liberate.
Jesus asks us to go to the hard places, and stand up.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem…..The text does not say it, but the synagogue ruler was probably a Pharisee, and it is so easy to poke not only fun but also righteous judgment at them—forgetting our own Pharisaic ways, and our own resort to rules to keep order rather than freedom and liberation. This incident is not intended to be about people long ago so much as it is a caution to us. Can we overcome rules of today—stuff we breathe so much we cannot see its effect, like thinking “for profit” means better care, that authorities must know what they are doing, that guns save lives, that the survival of one people is more important than the survival of another?

 

©RobinGorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever this poem is published

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?

 

Praying to Change the World

Written for and Delivered at the
Interfaith Passover Seder
sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace – Metro DC Chapter
at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
April 3, 2016/5776

Praying to Change the World

I join you tonight in prayer and hope and peace and love,
even joy, as a queer Christian minister and theologian,
married to a beautiful Jewish man, a father, grandfather,  brother, uncle,
member of Jewish Voice for Peace and Conservative/Reconstructionist
synagogue and an LGBTQI affirming, multi-racial Protestant church,
citizen of this land that is still far from free,
that still imprisons Native peoples on reservations
and kills descendants of slaves on the streets
for crimes of living while Red and/or Black
where ethnic, gender, religious, bodily, and sexual hates
are often the center of our national dialogue,
and embraced by some who want to be our leaders.
That is my personal context; it probably bears at least some
relation to yours. We are in this together, one way or another.

We gather with our own histories and our shared history.
We know that we are not alone in taking land from those
who lived on the land before us, we know its ancient roots
as recorded in Torah and we know countless ones today who
are displaced, unplaced, misplaced, replaced as were hundreds of thousands
in the Nakba, just as we know that second class citizens live
not only in prisons and jails here but also on streets
and in neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

So we gather in the truth of this time with all its ugliness
and fear and othering, but we are here also because we claim
our inheritance as people who know something about liberation,
our own and that of others, and because we know 
this day like all other days is made for us to wake up,
grow up, look up, act up, stand up, live up, speak up
from our heritage as people whose Creator breathes life
into all beings, pouring sacred water down
for all beings without exception, not based on any
puny criteria of mortals who walk among us.

What makes this night different from all other nights?
Only this: we are gathered  here today in an ancient
and honorable ritual, but if all we do is recite the words,
sing the songs, eat the food, say the prayers it will
fade like so many other days into the cavernous
space of forgotten promises, avoided truths, fearful
inaction, well-meaning but empty expressions of care.

So as we proclaim again, Next Year In Jerusalem,
we don’t want it to be the same one it is now,
we want it to be a truly golden city, of real
peace.  We intend to do our part to make it so, because
we are drawing this day on the power of each other
and all sacred beings who roam among us, and we know,
we believe, that it is our mission, our divinely inspired
mission, to join with others, many others here and there,
to create the new Jerusalem, the new Israel,
the new Palestine, the new USA,
the new people there and here, everywhere,
no longer living and walking in fear, no longer dispossessed,
no longer forgotten, no longer denied entry, exit, jobs, housing,
life, or dignity for being on the wrong side
of one line, one wall, one gate, one identity, or another.

We pray tonight, whether prayers be traditional
or postmodern, whether they be to a power greater than ourselves
or desire spoken in unbelief only to ourselves, or perhaps
not spoken with lips at all but on our posters and in letters to editors—
because we are all in this together, one way or another,
and because I know, and I believe you know,
we can change the world.
Amen.

©Robin Gorsline2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form