On Our Feet

 

Reflection on Holy Thursday, Year A

 

Textual Focus: Exodus 12:1-14; John 13:1-17
Click here for biblical texts
 

Moses told the Hebrews to prepare
for their journey of liberation by eating
prescribed food and marking their doors
with the blood of lamb on which they feasted.
They set off, on foot,
through desert and sea
to and throughout the land promised by God.  

The ancients  used their feet, just as we do—
dirty, calloused, twisted, arthritic, gnarled, hard or soft,
massaged with oil, too, sweet scented or not,
smelly sweaty feet common—
all sorts and conditions of human feet.
on journeys called by God.

Now here is something very strange: 
Rabbi Jesus wants to wash our feet —
even Peter’s, who, of course, objects as he always does.
Is there ever a time when there is not
at least one Peter in the group,
one long ago offended by the idea
of his Lord stooping to wash feet,
like today’s recoiling at showing
the imperfection of feet, even more
at being asked to touch others’?

Today, on Passover, Jews everywhere,
believers or not, gather to share bitter herbs,
unleavened bread, greens, haroset, and lamb or substitute.
Most Christians avoid Jesus
when it comes to feet. Strange.
So many ask, “What would Jesus do?”
How about: what he did?
Just not with feet.

A preacher said, “Jesus touched his heart
and there was healing in his hands.”
I want healed feet
for miles ahead, years, I pray,
of journeying with God. I need strong, resilient feet
empowered to support journeys from my Egypts
to new worlds promised again and again.
I want company, too, I can’t make it alone.
Let me bless yours with living water, sacred touch,
our Jesus feet guiding us all the way together.  
 

 

 

About this poem . . .Every year on Holy Thursday, I am deeply moved by the washing of feet. It is such a humble act—to allow my feet to be washed and to wash others’—so like Jesus to assume the role of servant and invite us to do the same. The invitation, I hear command, is to be agents of healing and to allow ourselves to be healed by the human touch of others.
 

 

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

 

You Go First

Reflection on the 7th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

 

Textual focus: Leviticus 19:9-18; 1 Corinthians 3:18-19; Matthew 5:38-48
Click here for biblical texts

 

Give to everyone who begs from you,
Jesus says that, oh yes he does, and more, too:
Turn the other cheek, give up your cloak,
do not refuse anyone, anyone,
who wants to borrow from you.
How can we keep the economy going
with talk like that? And what about the beggars,
what if they use my money to buy booze?
What good is that?
Respond to being forced to go one mile
by going the second mile—what if I don’t have time
to go that far?
Don’t resist an evildoer, love your enemies,
pray for your persecutors:
How can we live in the world today
with attitudes like that? Does he even know, or care,
about ISIS and our opponents from the other party?

The world is a tough place; you’d think Jesus
would know that, given how Rome treated
the Jews, how Herod killed cousin John.
Sometimes, I think Jesus lives in another world.

Oh, right, he does.
And he keeps trying to get me to join him there,
except for him the there is here, now. 

This didn’t start with him either, he knows
Leviticus: leave the gleanings of fields
and vineyards for those in need
(remember Ruth?), no defrauding your neighbor,
no keeping wages of others, no false swearing,
no slander, no unjust judgments;
you shall love your neighbor as yourself
(yes, Jesus was repeating Leviticus).

So why is it so hard for me, maybe you, too,
to go where Jesus goes, to be one
of the people of the Way—some of his
early followers were called that—to live
with open heart and open hand,
to speak in love even to those
whose ugly words and deeds
cause me to shudder and rise in anger
to say No? Can I do both? Can I say no
and also say I love you? Why not?
Is not all possible with God?

Paul told Corinthians the wisdom
of this world is foolishness with God;
so, he said, become fools
that you may become wise.

So let us dance in the street
when there is no music
except the tapping of our souls,
let us toss coins in the air
and take beggars to lunch,
let us hug the racists and the thugs,
let us find men and women in need of coats
and strip ours off our backs,
and do all generous, foolish things that
will cause authorities,
and our families and churches,
to question our sanity,
believing, knowing(?), that is where and when
we will find Jesus.

You go first, I’ll follow.

 

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem: As faithful people we really do love Jesus, want to serve God, but it can be very difficult when what we encounter in Scripture demands a whole different way of living, not just a way of life, but actual behavior changes in everyday life. The texts in this week’s lectionary really challenge me, and I imagine others, and frankly I am uncertain how to proceed. If I do as they instruct, it seems I shall soon be a pauper, probably begging myself. Can that be right? Maybe, if we all did it together…….would that work better? Is that what the writer of Leviticus, Paul, and Jesus are talking about?
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Loved Are We

Reflection on the 4th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

 

Text Focus: Micah 6:1-8, Matthew 5:1-12
Click here for biblical texts

 

Men strut across worldly stages
believing what counts is how big they are,
or how big others say they are,
but other measures come closer to God
whom they cannot surpass and who wants them,
us, to walk humbly, do justice, and love kindness
every moment of life we are given. Micah knew God
is not interested in show but in deeds
and intention, the heart always showing
through at least as much by what we do,
what we put first, as by what we say or by what we do not
do or say. Knowing this wisdom beyond understanding
into action, Jesus tells us what God seeks from us.

Loved are we when we are sad, angry, despairing,
when bad things happen to us and others,
when a Black brother or sister Is shot in our town:
heaven surrounds us to receive, share, healing we and others need.
Loved are we when we miss loved ones, when medicine
fails or age ends: God’s arms embrace and caress us.
Loved are we when we do not push others aside,
when we take our place beside, not over, others:
all creation welcomes us, siblings in the family of God.
Loved are we when we yearn so much for justice
we put our bodies on the line: the moral arc,
our moral arc, bends when we do our part.
Loved are we when we are tender not hard,
when we welcome immigrants, when we feed
and sit with the homeless: we receive more blessing
than we can possibly imagine or give.
Loved are we when we wrap our arms around divinity
in all, including ourselves and all of whom
we are taught to disapprove:
God becomes clear in our lives.
Loved are we when we do more than say no to violence,
when we lower our own walls and commune with those we oppose
and who oppose us: we know who we all are, children of God.
Loved are we when we do not flinch from speaking God’s truth
as we know it, no matter the cost: heaven glows in us.
Loved are we when we love everyone, everything, so much others say
we have lost our minds: we know we have found
and speak, live, from the heart of God.
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .  Preachers often find it difficult to preach on the beautitudes, in part because Jesus expresses such counter-intuitive wisdom (but perhaps that is the hallmark of wisdom?) it almost feels beyond our mind’s power to really comprehend. Yet, like so much he says, it is less about rules and more about daily living, about making choices in the midst of worldly stuff, choices that land us on a different plane right where we are.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Days of Turmoil

Reflection in response to the 1st Sunday after Christmas, Year A

Primary texts: Matthew 2:13-23; Isaiah 63:7-9
Click here for biblical texts

 

Refugees are people who flee to something less terrifying
than continuing to stay where they are or what they see coming,
often giving up what was once thought comfortable, pleasant, safe,
now untenable due to violence already inflicted
and/or more about to be dealt,
threats feeling so real you grab your clothes
and run, maybe a few pictures, a crust or two of bread,
your children of course, like Mary and Joseph grabbed
Jesus to escape to Egypt. This first-family-to-be
ran for their lives in the face of Herod’s
fear disguised as anger–tyrants, elected or not, everywhere
the same–to return later–tyrants die although they want us to forget–
to be replaced by a fearsome son–where have we heard that before–
so again this family finds another new home,
in Nazareth.
That is Matthew’s story, and he’s sticking to it.

Luke starts the story with a Nazorean family
forced to Bethlehem for the registration
who then return to Nazareth
to live and grow together in peace, love, and care.
Either way, a ruler, whether Emperor or lackey-King,
seems to control the earthly action.
It is good for us to remember in days of turmoil
that those who claim mandates to do as they wish,
no matter the needs of those less powerful,
do not in truth control everything or in some ways
much of anything. Who cares today what Herod thought
or even the august emperor, footnotes to history,
necessary props in the story that turns out to be
not about them at all, no matter how much they strut
and preen and issue a thousand tweets like a flock
of angry, self-absorbed starlings?

Isaiah and others knew all this so well–
tales of people pushed about by despots from afar
and often their own rulers, so that they lost their way–
prophets seeing God present in all things,
redeeming the people in divine love and pity
even when they did not know it, or denied
the very God who creates us all, of whom prophets
told repeated truths and angels in every sort of form
sang loud hosannas echoing across the skies of
slumbering yet unsteady, at risk, earth.

When will we learn, really learn and understand,
it is not tyrants, blowhards, insecure rulers
and small-minded puppets pretending to pull strings
of the rest of of us who matter, but God, the one who
refuses to treat us with other than respect and love,
whose gentle power is what really runs the show?
Not a puppet master, not even a taskmaster or
judge, but one whose desire for us, for us to live
whole lives as we are given at birth, exceeds all
negativity, all hate, all puny politics and war–that is
The One whom we worship, The One who touched the babe
in the manger and continues to touch us, too.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . . The familiar, though often forgotten story, of Herod’s mad rampage on feeling tricked and scared by challenges to his rule, is the backdrop for Joseph and the family, as it really is even today as in the midst of wonders and joys in our lives, and even our private sorrows, we continue to contend with small-minded, petty oligarchs of politics, business, militarism, etc., just to survive. But history is not really about them, any more than daily life is.

©Robin Gorslilne 2015 FaithfulPoetics.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

Beloveds of God

A Meditation in Response to Proper 14, 12th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (especially Luke 12:32-40)

Click here for biblical texts

Jesus tells us, several  times at least, that we have what we need,
but most of us worry, doubt even, that we are not good enough
to earn, deserve, what we have already received.
And then Jesus tells us more proof that the gifts will arrive,
perhaps when we least expect it, and it can sound like we
had better be sitting up all night with our ears attuned to every
sound—which one will be him or God or Spirit breaking in our lives?

What he is really saying is that it is always happening,
In fact we need to learn how to be open to all the gifts, so many
gifts, that God has for us each day, all day.

I hope someday you grasp how loved you are
ursulinesmsj.org

Did you see the glint in the person’s eye as you passed by
them at the mall, they were having a God moment,
you could have received it too if you had been paying attention.
Or what about the touch of your friend as you parted after lunch,
did you feel the embrace of the Holy Spirit,
did you feel electric current between you and
your friend as it traveled up your arm into your shoulder,
taking direct aim at your soul? I mean, did you really
feel deep holy warmth at your core?

And the simple Shasta daisies outside your neighbor’s door,
did you see heaven as you rushed by them
this morning on your way, late for work, not too late
for God’s presence if you could simply pause
long enough to breathe? The question is not only
where are you putting your treasure, your money, but also
your time, your energy, focus. Where is your heart?
Your mind, is your mind on God or your to-do list?
Indeed, is God on your to-do list? Does God have a time
on your calendar? Every day? More than once a day?

Jesus wandered around Palestine talking with people,
all sorts of people—including the local people of color
known as Samaritans, as well as hated tax agents,
listening to their troubles, worries, ailments, offering
healing  and hope and clarity about how God,
the holy, is not locked up in Temple or even a book, but
is on the loose, moving freely among us, like Jesus,
open to hearing us, sitting with us, even praying
with us—how about we stop praying to God, start
praying with God?—everywhere we are, all of us,
not limited to folks in a particular pew in a particular house
of worship, God in some ways less like a bridegroom,
more like a street person, a beggar, just hoping
we will notice and stop and pass the time of day,
perhaps sharing not only a quarter or a dollar
but also a word or two of connection, human connection,
divine connection, trusting that as we open ourselves
to the wonders of the universe we shall remember
from whence we come and whose we are.  And then
we shall be ready for the next moment we catch a glimpse
of the holy among us, in us, with us, and we shall
celebrate with God and know we have once again
been invited to sit at the holy table and feed until
we are full of our inheritance, ready and eager
to share the blessing with those who do not yet know
what a glory it is to be blessed, to be beloveds of God.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . It is so easy to get wound up in the literal text that we miss the larger message. In Luke 12:32-40, I don’t experience Jesus telling us to be in a literal vigil, not doing anything but sitting in readiness, day and night after day and night, but rather to be alert in all that we do and say and see and hear, in all moments, to the presence of God. We are given so much each day, each moment, and we, at least I, miss so much of it, busy fending off the vagaries and troubles of life that I forget to see the beauty and joy and holy power in each molecule, each atom, each moment.

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever and wherever this poem is published

 

Enough Is Enough

Enough is enough calls out the pastor again, again, again,
and the people respond in kind, round by round energy
rising, filling the sanctuary, layers of meaning
from shared history, older ones remembering Jim Crow,
younger ones feeling the endless string of indignities, living while Black,
all knowing that the latest brother gunned while down
could have been their son, their husband, their friend,
brother, neighbor, co-worker, and knowing it is not done,
that after seven years they are amazed the President
of the United States remains alive, while still victim of hate
that spreads across the web, doubting his religion,
even his birth, sure that a Black man cannot be trusted
to do more than loot or sit high in a hazy crack-filled
den or rape bodies of women the haters claim to own.

Alton Sterling
Alton Sterling youtube.com

Anger rises as tears flow, arms reach to heaven
a blend of righteous indignation and sacred supplication,
the preacher only pausing to catch her breath and renew
the claim on anger that can be turned not inward but out
in constructive action to change the world, undo old ways,
stand together even with white folk who love, care, and weep
in recognition of too long silence helping to create what is now
the crucible of death upon death, blood, more blood flowing,
urban rivers of mothers’ tears exposing like Jesus
on the cross the ugliness of humanity mocking God’s creation,
denying Her love that flows nonetheless with their tears.
Today is the day cries the pastor, today is the day
the people reply, we can do something to change this tortured world,
we have in us the power, God’s power since conception in our mothers’
wombs, and it is time to use it to stop the violence, to get the guns
off the streets, train the cops or remove them if they resist
the simple lesson that dark skin is not the enemy but friend,
neighbor, brother, sister, fellow child of the one and only God.

This has been going on a long time—whether we mean hate
or resistance to hate—and the tide keeps turning for love,
then falls back for hate, rolling to and fro, four hundred plus
years of enslavement first of African folk and now the
many descendants of slavers still chained to ugliness oozing
from every pore, spittle splattering what God intends to be hope,
while others use that hope to change direction, marching together
across the lines for justice, mercy, love.  We have had too much hate
and not enough love, so the pastor calls out, Love Is Love,
and the people respond in kind, in love for love, knowing,
believing in their depths, that it is the only power
to defeat hate. But this love must be more than sweet,
this love must overturn tables too, sometimes interrupting regular worship,
driving merchants of hate from sacred precincts, and back alleys and bayous,
by tidal wave upon tidal wave of love rising, cleansing sin
and the stain of sin from twisted white souls
yearning to be free, and bringing precious divine power
to the disinherited also yearning to be free.  
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom washing over me.  

Enough is enough. Love is love.
Love is enough.
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom washing over all.
Today. Now. Here.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . .Following a week of agony and anger about the killing of two unarmed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, as well as the killing of police officers in Dallas, and participation at a global church conference at which candidates for church office who are people of color did not generally fare well (with one exception), Rev. Cathy Alexander of Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C., chose to call congregants together Sunday morning to vent their frustration and anger and pain in order to begin a healing process leading to action. This is my take (and solely mine) on the powerful moments.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form