Real Choices

A Reflection in Response to Proper 20, 18th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (Luke16:1-13)

 

Click here for biblical texts

 

A cool September morning, walking in the park,
my husband talking about work troubles,
our dog sniffing the ground and eying the scampering squirrels,
birds flitting and singing, we sharing good mornings
with those on the same path, admiring other dogs,
all the while I keep hearing Jesus, you cannot serve God and wealth,
or the way I learned it long ago, God versus Mammon,
the god of money, Caesar, evil chasing after wealth,
visions of an ugly beast with multiple tentacles
reaching out to ensnare us all
into putting the pursuit of worldly riches
at the center of life.

money-prisoner
godmammon.com

Sometimes he just gets in your head and you can’t stop it,
sort of like the manager in Jesus’ parable caught up in
what he saw as survival, leveraging what was not his
to keep him from money or Mammon ruin,
forgetting about honor or responsibility—
and strangely he seems to come out alright
avoiding the axe using other peoples’ money;
is this not what we read about with banks too big to fail?
Is Jesus recommending cheating those who are owed?
Or is he playing us, and his hearers?
I don’t claim to know, some scholars I read
seem unclear at best, so I can only say
the Jesus I know does not dismiss honor, care,
love, responsibility, moral judgment so easily.
You just have to take my word on that. Or not.

Wall Street, even lobby of my friendly local credit union,
feel far away, because I keep hearing Jesus who once again
sounds like a socialist, not a fan of free enterprise, or consumersm.
Ouch. Most U.S. citizens are not partial to that label,
despite The Bern, not ready to see the welfare of the mass
more important than the profit of the few who make it work,
no prophet of that ancient view accepted even in his hometown
or sanctuaries that claim him for their own.
Once again Jesus unsettles the easy assumptions
of my life and the lives of my comrades in the pews,
and so we look away, embarrassed by the demand
on our individual and collective soul.
Why does he do this again, force us to stand,
uncomfortable like school children found wanting,
not knowing our lessons and resentful that we cannot
go to recess and play as if we have no cares,
pretending that no one Is hungry, no one is shivering,
no one is dying from neglect?

A walk in the park is a choice for health and happiness;
the market says we have choices, and we do, between brands
of toothpaste and cars, but Jesus reminds us we have real choices,
life and death soul choices.  

 
About this poem . . . . This choice Jesus calls us to make, between focusing on God and focusing on wealth or money or Mammon, is perhaps the most difficult one there is, at least in the United States where the reigning ideology is about getting enough wealth to survive and then to do more, to become wealthy enough to live well and then better and better, until we die and leave it our loved ones who can continue the quest. We are, it seems a “more” culture—everyone wants, we are told by experts, 20% more than they have . . . and that is true if we are at the bottom of the economic pile or the top. Do not our things get in the way of our relationship with God? What are we supposed to do?

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit live above when this poem is published

Turned Upside Down

Reflection in response to Proper 19, 17th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

(click here for biblical texts)

Jesus’ long line coming before him, just like us, includes:
Moses being told by God to get down off the mountain
to stop the golden calf, Jeremiah speaking of God’s anger
at foolish people, psalmists singing of people, us, gone astray.
And then there are those who grumble because he dares
to hang out with, even like, wrong people, you know
those who still make golden stock portfolios, who make fools
of themselves denying God and others, who wander off
from divine connection, maybe never seeking that gift
so they do not even know what they are missing,
until they meet Jesus.

bayard-rustin-angelic-troublemakers
princetonlgbt.tumblr.com

That’s the point, right? Freshest recruits for spiritual awakening
are not among the practiced who already know
the answers everyone else knows, those running church affairs
who view order as the sign of their faithful stewardship,
or those who daily read their Bibles avoiding new ideas religiously.   
Moses was not the only one who encountered stiff-necked people,
and their descendants are all too sure of themselves today.
A question for this time: would Jesus join us for worship
or would he be on the wrong side of town
hanging out on the street asking passersby for spare change
for homeless people, or joining protests against police
brutality in the ‘hood, or maybe drawing crowds in alleys
as he healed the sick, lame, blind, and lonely?

Brother Bayard Rustin praised angelic troublemakers—
he was one himself—and he knew heaven rejoiced
when someone cared more for healing a hurt
or righting a wrong than for living decently
and in the correct order.
God is indeed merciful, waiting patiently for us
to get things turned upside down by worldly standards,
that is, divinely right side up.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem. . . It is easy to feel superior to those who questioned Jesus’ choice of companions, but do we really get the radical demand he places on us? How much time do we spend hunting for, caring for, the lost sheep, or do we just walk by them on the street?

 

©Robin Gorsline 2015 FaithfulPoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever this poem is published.

Not Too Late

A Reflection in Response to Proper 18, 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C,
(especially Luke 14:25-33)

Click here for biblical texts

Disciples walk, at least those following Jesus,
and not just the Galilean ones but today’s as well,
but not always a pleasant garden stroll,
chatting, admiring the flowers and butterflies;
more often a demanding call on our soul and body,
asking us to set aside important things, as we see,
for life-changing, even world-changing acts of faith,
trust, love and justice to transform ourselves,
maybe all God’s people,
and even save some corner of God’s earth.

Jesus discourse with disciples James Joseph Jacques Tissot Public domain, Brooklyn Museum
James Joseph Jacques Tissot, Brooklyn Museum (public domain)

A lesbian woman goes on a journey, connecting
with her soul and body, as loved ones reject her—
you are not our daughter, sister, they say, we no more family—
her walk feeling desert dry, dust caking her mouth
and her heart. She keeps walking with Jesus
her disciple walk of truth, wholeness, beside him.
A writer denying his craft for more lifetimes
than he cares to count hears the call,
laying down what he thought the world wanted from him
and walks not really knowing the direction but trusting
Jesus by his side. One, sometimes a man, sometimes woman,
 who has every possession, trips over all the stuff—
lands upside down hearing the voice
trying to get through for so many years,
gives up trying to decide which of six homes to visit,
what investments to sell, which party to attend—
breaks clean from that pursuit to kneel and pray
and then gives most all away save one little urban bungalow
and some green energy stocks and peace bonds,
to walk sweaty streets with the Lord, greeting homeless,
ex-cons, disturbed, old and young, inviting them home to a meal and shower,
lessons in self-care, clean clothes, job and education links,
like some latter day Paul saving souls they used to condemn.

Not all disciple walks are dramatic, a change in attitude
enough to turn around to walk with Jesus rather than against him.
What voice are you hearing , or refusing to hear?
Walking beside him may not be the same as following;
turning back is harder when you are shoulder to shoulder.
It’s not too late to turn aside from the demands we and the world
have put at the center to walk with the One who is the center.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . It is not easy being a disciple, and Jesus does not want to delude us with an easy invitation. So he makes it hard, really hard. We may even be shocked by talk of hating one’s family, but we surely know of family that hate their children, grandchildren, siblings. Sometimes, discipleship is not about our hate but others hating us. Or finding our own way even though we don’t know the way, or maybe we have to give up dreams of material abundance? He’s often gentle, but not often easy.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 Faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above wherever this poem is published.

Damn It, Jesus

A Reflection in Response to Proper 17, 15th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
(focusing on Luke 14 and Proverbs 25)

Click here for biblical texts

Jesus is a gracious guest, not grabbing
the best seat, not worrying for himself
about status—at the same time using status
to suggest that blessing
is more important than being blessed,
even as we bless others we are blessed.
He is such a good rabbi, reminding the gathering
as in Proverbs 25, “it is better to be told,
‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in
the presence of a noble,” but Jesus also, again,
makes a challenging claim on us—
“when you give a banquet, invite the poor,
the crippled, the lame, and the blind.”

beggar with hands out
vincentmars.com

There is a man at the Metro stop where I live
who sits often, saying “pennies, pennies, pennies . . . .”
in a small, rasping, needy voice.
Most of us pass him by, part of the everyday landscape
not unlike the Native woman who carries a crude sign,
“Single mother, 4 child,” holding the hand of one of them,
a girl about seven or eight, seeking donations on the train.
How do we invite them to share in the banquet?
So far all I know is to give them some
change, a dollar bill or a protein bar.
Most people seem to look away.
Is it enough for me to give that small support
or do I at least need to see doing this as a joyous act,
not a duty but a gift given to me to reach out
and invite them to the banquet?

I mean whose banquet is it anyway?
And what kind of banquet is it,
where I, or we, invite the poor—I am afraid
to ask Penny Man home, would he leave
when the meal ends and how would I feel sending him
back on the street?
How could I forget him when I did that?
Damn it, Jesus, why do you leave us with these words
that challenged those long ago and can upend us
when—if –we allow ourselves to let them
get under our skin—when we usually resist
by hoping someone else will feed the poor
and the rest you mentioned, and more we know
need help? Can’t the government do something
or what about other churches or charities?

But you speak about more than helping; you want us
to become community with those we rarely see and never
consider part of our group, our social set, our tribe, our people.
That would mean digging deeper into understanding our neighbor;
who is my, who is our, neighbor really?
I know the immigrant is my neighbor,
and others who some despise, but what about Penny Man
and that desperate mother and the Black man and others
behind bars for being in the wrong place at the wrong time,
as well as those who really broke the law?
When was the last time I visited someone in prison?
At least they have a roof, three squares a day—
but not much dignity on the inside
and most often little help when they are allowed to rejoin
what we call society.

Thanks to you, Lord—yes, I mean that,
and my voice also carries an edge—I cannot get Penny Man
or the mother with her four kids,
out of my head, maybe even my heart.  
I’m on my knees, let this cup pass me by I say,
knowing how offensive that sounds compared
to your request in the garden long ago . . . so I keep
praying, trusting you will guide me to become both
my neighbor’s keeper and just a better neighbor.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .Sitting in a comfortable church and no matter the power of the excellent, liberating preaching, it is not always easy to hear and feel the discomfort Jesus intends with his modest words, especially when they can seem to be about others long ago. I have walked by, and even given money and food to, more homeless people than I can possibly count. I am not quite sure why this man at my Metro stop, and this mother with the haunting eyes and her daughter whose face registers both fear and gratitude when I hand over a dollar, have gotten under my skin, but I know some of it, much of it, has to do with Jesus, and not just this reading from Luke. I am feeling ‘buked for my years of what appear to be hard heart (and thus a little, maybe more than that, ticked off) and simultaneously blessed for being given a gift I do not yet understand.  Is this what faithfulness looks like, feels like?
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever this poem is published.

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?

AE24TVMAKERS
vivacolorado.com

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

When Jesus Says Hard Things

Reflection in response to Proper 15, 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts

When Jesus says hard things I want to turn away
but I know that is what others did to his face;
I see his eyes saddened by rejection
not just of him but of the one he called Abba.
Turning away from Jesus is like locking the church door
when he knocks, afraid to even look out to say,
“Not here, not today—no room for you now”
in this sanctuary where we worship and pray to you,
loving your gentle words and spirit, wanting you
the way we want you, not the way you are.

Jesus-angry-e1322078344383
knightsofdivinemercy com

Feel-good religion is pleasant, helpful, available,
but just as often Jesus or Isaiah or other prophets
not to mention Paul (who can get under our skin),
have a mission bigger than our tender feelings,
and certainly our pocketbooks, despite proclamations
by those who wish to defend their own greed.
Our Lord says he came to bring fire to earth,
and wishes the blaze were going right now.
He warns us he did not come to bring peace
but division, and we scratch our heads, wondering
what happened to the Prince of Peace.
And he calls us hypocrites because we can read
the weather—and maybe the stock market report—
but not find and trust God in the current riot of trouble, pain,
racism, Islamophobia, assets gap, terror, misogyny,
and other ugliness we are creating, or letting others
create, as we wring our hands and our brains,
bleating like sheep (how Jesus loves his sheep!)
so much we rarely hear a divine word.

The writer of Hebrews 11, verses one, two,
speaks of the famous cloud of witnesses
encouraging us to run the race before us,
and we must, but this hard-edged (or another term?) Jesus
wants to know what we see, what we witness,
and most of all what we witness to, what matters
most to us. Do we open our hymnals and sing sweetly,
pray earnestly, open our mouths for bread and wine,
all good things, but then do we march, do we speak up,
do we tell the truth about poverty as well as wealth,
about hatred as well as love, about drones as well as guns,
about Israel as well as Palestine, about white as well as Black?

In short, as our Lord asks, do we know how to interpret the present time,
or have we put not our watches but our souls away for another day,
hoping somehow we can avoid the holy hard work
of being alive in faith here and now, walking rutty roads with Jesus
and lots of other folks, ready to tend that fire, feed the widow,
welcome the immigrant, even take a bullet for the Black man
as we stand to demand no more, and spread the love,
tell the truth, the whole truth, so help us God?

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . Gospel writers sometimes really hit it hard, recounting a time, or maybe it is a compilation of times and statements over time, when Jesus was not being so gentle, meek and mild. And it may be difficult for us not having been there to figure out exactly what set him off. However, if we look around, rather than looking back, we may garner some understanding.  And we may know more about what he calls us to do here and now.

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

Do We  Hear?

A Meditation in Response to Proper 13, 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts

The speaker intones, A reading from the Gospel of Luke,
chapter twelve, beginning at verse thirteen.

In the pews, most waited to hear the word that could guide them
in the week ahead. They heard the reasonable question from an earnest
soul seeking what he calls the rightful share of his inheritance.
But Jesus will have none of it, refusing to arbitrate in this case,
then going way beyond that simple task
to declaim what must have sounded a strange idea then,
as now: keep yourself from covetousness,
abundant things are not the key to a good life.

Jesus money payitfwd wordpress com
payitfwd.wordpress.com

We may think Jesus’ response is wide of the mark,
all the good man seeks is what he is owed,
he has not earned a lecture about avarice or wealth.
But Jesus has a wider message not just for his interlocutor
then but also us today, a parable in which a successful man
has his priorities askew, spending his years
building an investment portfolio, not tending the wealth of his soul.

Someone might want to tell preachers extolling a prosperity gospel,
not to mention the local and national Chambers of Commerce
and politicians who think the first role of government
is to protect the wealth of the one percent and a few others,
that Jesus, the one so many claim to love, has a different message
“one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
(probably not one of his more popular lines).

If capitalism is the national creed of the United States—
many would claim it so—how can anyone call us a Christian nation—
not that we should be called that anyway, many of our people
are not of that faith, or any faith, and unlike Israel we were not
formed as a sanctuary for any one religion (Jews came pretty early)—
although some thought it then and persist in such un-Jesus thought today.

But if the One so many of us call Lord can mouth this economic heresy
how can we be sure of anything? Is Jesus less patriotic than we thought?
Does HUAC–House UnAmerican Activities Committee—
need to investigate church teaching to be sure
the freethinking does not go too far?
Do we need to remove the American flag from the sanctuary
(yes, long ago) so worshippers don’t confuse what they hear
on Sunday morning with the nation’s creed?

All this from one man’s simple question, and Jesus’ answer;
the challenge for us, like him, is do we really listen? And do we hear?

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . Jesus said far more about economics than about sex, and his teaching about money and justice and community are very challenging to our contemporary consumer culture.  He is well connected to the Hebrew prophets who regularly denounced the practices of their people and leaders in creating false gods and denying their obligation to the welfare of the community. His response to the man in Luke 12 was most likely baffling in that time, but perhaps even more among us today.

©Robin Gorsline2016 Faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever this poem is published

 

 

Praying beside Jesus

A Reflection in Response to Proper 12, 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts

Please rise as you are able and join in singing
the prayer that Jesus taught us.
Have you ever wondered as I have what sort of voice Jesus had?
Deep, high-pitched, booming, thin, clear, orotund, reverberant?
Did he sing? Was he baritone(my choice), bass, or tenor?
And why do we sing this simple prayer? Because we love Jesus,
and we love his prayer, surely, and singing connects us all,
especially when we hold hands and even raise our arms
as the tune soars with the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, forever and ever. Amen—
an ending not recorded in either Luke or Matthew,
sometimes seeming unlike the simple style
of Jesus throughout the New Testament.

Jesus teaching 2 obrerofiel com
obrerofiel.com

Can you imagine praying with Jesus, I mean really
praying right beside him, perhaps kneeling, even standing,
silently or aloud or both, feeling the power of his embodied presence,
his breathing, perhaps even warmth of his body,
the smell of sweat rolling down his face or chest in Judean heat,
and as you finish, you ask, as did the disciples, to teach you
how to pray? Can you feel your eagerness, desire to learn
all he has to teach, yearning to hear yet more, be more close
to him, indeed simply be more of the human God calls
you to be? Can you imagine being that close, in that intimacy
with our Lord, whom we call Savior, Brother, Liberator?

This prayer is about relationship with our Holy Parent,
and with Jesus, something we can see in Lucan
verses that follow the prayer, about friends who respond
to your persistence, your reaching out in need, love,
hope and peace, wanting always to give each other
the best we have, even when we are tired or angry or hurt.
Might we want sometimes to say or sing this prayer
not just in massed group but perhaps turning to your neighbor,
taking each other’s hands, offering the sacred prayer
to each other, not closing your eyes but looking deeply
into each other’s eyes so you can see Jesus
in that child of God facing you  as they see him
in the child of God facing them?

Holy One, focus Your truth within us, the light and dark—
Help us use it for You, Your world and people and ourselves. Amen.

 
writing+poetryAbout this prayer . . .  Who does not love the Lord’s Prayer? But what do we do with it? Do we not at least sometimes make it into some sort of triumphant evocation of God rather than the tender, intimate relationship Jesus had with the One he called Abba? I love to sing it as much as the next person, but sometimes I yearn to say it, perhaps to say it really slowly, savoring each word, hearing the holy resonance with which Jesus offered it. And then there are times when I wonder about him, when I daydream about him, when I do wonder how he sounded. I know how he sounds to me, at the few times when I have been blessed to hear his voice, but I do not know if I am hearing correctly. So I know what he really wants is for me to hear him, see him, be with him, with and through you, with and through my neighbors.

 

The pictures representing Jesus are from the Lumo Project, an award-winning DVD presentation of the four gospels. You can check them out here

©RobinGorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when the poem is published in any form

Don’t Miss the Party!

A Reflection on Proper 11, 9th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts
A leaky roof is a fearsome thing for a church
causing not only water damage but spiritual damage too,
as people focus on the building, money and contracts,
possibly forgetting who and what is central;
or maybe the damaged roof signifies a leak elsewhere,
inability to keep all things in balance or a failure
of people to invest enough of themselves to support
the whole church. Of course, Christ is the one foundation,
and the roof a very second-tier thing even though it
is on top, because even if the roof falls in the church remains.

African church leaky roof picssr com
picssr.com

Maybe Jesus is showing Martha just that truth,
suggesting hierarchy of value—it is not that dinner
does not require preparation by us but it cannot replace
or subsume the feeding of our souls. The most important
hour at church is not the potluck nor is the building our center;
indeed, if it is, as it seems to be for some, Jesus, Holy Spirit,
Holy Parent will wonder where and who we are.
And if our focus neglects the poor, the immigrant, the widow,
too, if we feed only ourselves and our friends, then
as Amos says, our feasts, like our roof, may be turned
into mourning as for an only child, our songs into lamentations.

What we want, need, from the Holy One by whatever name
we call, is Presence, as appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre,
so we can greet and offer refreshment, hospitality, listening;
then we can hear what is intended for us, what we need;
but if we focus first or only on the sagging, leaking roof,
we can so easily miss the visit, like Jesus coming to our door
and we mistake him for a door-to-door salesman, saying
“Not today, thank you.” Abraham listened though he doubted
Sarah could bear a son, but the key was his open arms and ears.

It is always that way. Do we welcome unexpected visits,
do we listen even when we have work to do, or do we think
God must conform to our schedule, priority, need, fear?
I know I am so often Martha, and perhaps you, too;
that does not make us bad people, it just means we will miss
the best stuff, we will miss the icing and the cake, ice cream
and candles too, and even the singing, maybe the whole party
which is the gift of God for us all every day without end.
 

About this poem . . . . Jesus’ exchange with Martha always feels uncomfortable to me. I remember that someone has to make dinner, and do the dishes, etc. and it seems easy for Jesus, as a man in a society even more patriarchal than our own, to tell her to stop her chores—if she does not do these things, will the slaves do it,  or will there be no dinner? But then I remember how often I complain about all the work I have to do, and how it becomes an excuse to skip meditation and prayer, and how often the busy-ness of church (and so much else) overwhelms my need to slow down and listen for the still, small voice wanting to break through easy, ordinary resistance.

 

©RobinGorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.net
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