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Reflection in Response to Proper 9, 7th Sunday after Pentecost

(Click here for biblical texts)

We are descended from the seventy
appointed by Jesus to go to all the towns
where he intended to go. So we too must go,
offering like Elisha our version of God’s power
and wisdom to heal those who are sick or broken—
such as Naaman, the mighty warrior, commanding
troops but unable to command God’s man
who heals not on human order but on divine
grace—and so many today seeking help,
thinking they can gain blessed, fruitful life,
not from holy agents but from acquiring
more things, controlling more people, building
walls and attacking those they fear, not trusting God
or really anyone, even their sacred selves.

Sending-the-70-out-to-heal
diggingdeepernow.org

There seems so little faith today, even among
ones who proclaim how strong is their belief,
confusing belief with faith, the latter
being, as sainted Bill Coffin said long ago,
not believing without proof but trusting
without reservation.  Can we trust God,
will we trust Her to not only send us
out to the places we are needed but also
to give us the tools we need to do what
is right before us, the first tool being
sight clear enough to see the work,
brave enough not to look the other way,
smart enough to escape the snares
put in our way.

Can we be as wise as Naaman’s servants who counseled
him not to be dazzled by showy demonstrations of prophetic power
or in thinking it is he who knows the way of healing
because he is a man of earthly power—can we in short
go about God’s work, our work, with a quiet determination,
listening to deep parts of ourselves, seeing God
in the faces and lives of others, trusting our call—yes, you, me,
everyone, has a call, maybe more than one but often
we miss it, paying attention to life’s fluff and stuff,
thinking we can be made whole, and others as well,
through the market and social media, watching
videos, unreality television, celebrity sightings,
forgetting God comes so often in stillness, soft voices
gentle glances of care, loving touches of our sacred bodies.

It is easy to admire the 70 who went out for the Lord
and then to look askance at how they enjoyed their moments of fame,
as if we are so pure and unwilling to be drawn in by worldly lures—
indeed we best start by signing up to receive our assignments,
admitting we feel ill-prepared and need to lean on everlasting arms
that will carry us from place to place, errand to errand,
in humble service,  whose reward is not “volunteer of the year”
but rejoicing, as Jesus said, for our names written in heaven.  

 
About this poem . . . The story of Naaman’s healing by Elisha is a suitable backdrop for the account of Jesus sending the 70 into the field, neither the General nor the disciples aware of how dependent they are on God’s grace and power. And it causes me to recognize in myself certain tendencies of self-aggrandizement and congratulation, cutting me off from sacred union with the divine within.  

 

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

 

Where We Must Go

A reflection in response to Proper 8, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem
knowing he had to go to fulfill his mission
despite probable pain and rejection.
Mission. A word we associate with missionaries
going to foreign lands to spread Good News,
to convert, at least teach others
about Jesus, or to help with health and self-care
among those whose worlds are filled not
with science and modern learning
but with age-old remedies and ways of being.
Corporations and businesses have missions too,
principles designed to express the values and purpose
of the corporate culture, increase investment,
inspire workers to new heights
of achievement, more whole ways of toiling.

Jesus set his face medium com
medium.com

Do you have a mission? Do I?
Do we as the Body of Christ?
If we set our collective face,
even our individual, personal face,
to go to the Jerusalem, the hard place in our lives,
where would that be? Would we seek out
the person we have not yet forgiven,
be human and confess our sin
in order to set us, the world, more free?
Would we go, if we are white, to Baltimore or D.C.
or Ferguson, to engage in hard work
of undermining what white privilege has done,
is doing, to our siblings in Christ? Or
into corporate boardrooms to demand
an end to ceilings, Black and Brown and glass?
Or maybe all of us, regardless of
color or origin to stand outside the Pentagon
or White House demanding an end
to nuclear arms and a beginning to fund,
fully fund, programs to feed the hungry,
or health care for all? Or if we are L,G,B, or T,
do we bare our souls, maybe bodies, in places
of the greatest hate and intolerance,
go home to the small town we fled
and proclaim our embodied joy, or perhaps sit
in at a meeting of Catholic Bishops
or the Southern Baptists to ask them not
to talk to us but listen, just listen
to the truths of our lives? Or stand somewhere,
telling our government no walls,
return no immigrants other than criminals,
to open our hearts by the golden door
to all in need of new starts, a reprieve
from unrelenting violence in their own land.
Must we not take in the widows, orphans,
and sojourners in our midst? Is that not
holy teaching?

We are not Jesus, or Elijah, you say, not needing
to defeat the gods of Baal or of mighty Rome
or even rules of the ancient temple.
It is so, and yet, and yet, Baal walks among us
in many forms, and our nation is perilously close
to Rome despite our good intentions, our religious rules
often not far removed from the law from which Paul
told Galatians, and us, we were liberated.
We cannot condemn Pharisees
for short-sightedness when our own vision is small.
Like those whom Jesus met on his way to Jerusalem
we have many reasons to say “Okay,
just not now.” Or we can, like disciples,
threaten to destroy those from whom we feel
rejected, but Jesus, Jesus of Easy Yoke
and Hard Way, calls us to put hand to plow,
set our jaw, with confidence in God if not joy,
turn our face to the Jerusalem of our day,
our life, whatever it may be,
knowing, as it happened for Elisha
as he followed heaven-bound Elijah,
that the waters will part and we can go
where we are called to go,
where we must go.

About this poem . . . This is not an easy lectionary collection. Today’s gospel has hard sayings from Jesus, and the Hebrew accounts of Elijah and Elisha can seem too fantastic to our modern sensibilities, and even Paul, seeming to say flesh is bad in and of itself. And yet, there is through here, for me at least, a thread of engagement with the world, of being empowered and guided by divine forces to participate in co-creating the world God wants us to share.

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

Demons, Be Gone!

  • Reflection on Proper 7, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, and “Juneteenth”
    (click here for biblical texts)

When you want to drive out a demon or maybe more than one,
an addiction perhaps or a fear that saps life and energy,
or maybe a really big demon that runs and ruins many lives,
an ideology of hate or greed masked as business as usual,
you need divine help—a prayer is good, a plea for help
from on high, or if Jesus is nearby his touch or blessing works
wonders.  In Gerasene land, across from Galilee, one body’s worth of demons
is moved and then destroyed; perhaps some are aware
that in Galveston in Texas land almost two millennia later,
with what seems like less holy help,
a big demon was, for a while at least,
moved, although not destroyed (indeed it lives today,
but disguised for many).

Juneteenth
swlajuneteenth.org

On June 19, 1865, 151 years ago—known today as Juneteenth—
when General Grainger and Union troops entered Galveston
he issued General Order No. 3, putting into effect
what Lincoln had decreed more than two years earlier:
the slaves are free. Demon slavery had not gone willingly,
hanging on through a war of rebellion that cost more lives
than any other in our national saga; and in places like
Texas, far from the fighting, ignoring whatever transformation
the local powers did not entertain or accept in what
they perceived to be their own interest. But with
the new order, now freed slaves celebrated, as we continue
to celebrate today.

The powers that were in Texas probably felt like the locals
of Gerasene, opposite Galilee, when Jesus arrived, upsetting
local customs and freeing one man from demons
who enslaved him in self-hatred and destruction.  
In Galveston, this was an act of restoration, renewal
of identity—each slave’s humanity affirmed, their community
suddenly, in law at least, given recognition and perhaps
glimmerings of social power (sadly all too soon erased,
deliberately, viciously replaced by the
caste system called Jim Crow).
In the country opposite Galilee suddenly order
is overturned as the man’s demons, cast out of him,
enter swine, destroying herds,
and the local population see the formerly naked,
incomprehensible man now dressed and in his
right mind. Afraid of what has come to pass
and what it portends, the locals
ask Jesus to leave—just as federal troops and others
would be recalled from Texas and elsewhere.
The old order it seems must always be restored,
demons given their due.

And yet, and yet, the blessed man lives to tell his tale
of liberation and we read it still today, just as former
slaves—technically free while burdened
with old racist ways dressed in new fashions
of oppression, abuse, degradation—carried and shared
body memories of those few short years,
to be and live more or less free.  Today we remember
the hope and joy that was then and join the struggle
yet raging to free people and their demons everywhere—
God’s claim on us to topple diabolical powers
raging inside addicted fearful souls
and resist daily hell on earth
that is war, misery, poverty, racism, religious prejudice
(massacres of innocents in the name of God?),
proclaiming and instituting divine reality:
all our demons, be gone!

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . I appreciate the confluence of two events on the same day this year: the reading of the Lucan text involving the healing of the Gerasene demoniac and the 151st anniversary of Juneteenth, the day the slaves in Galveston were told of their freedom. Demons come in many forms, and they are often persistent, baffling, and cunning.  Yet God continues to give us authority to cast them out, if we choose to confront them and risk creating a new world.

 

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

Of Human Bonds, and Bondage

Reflection on 2nd Sunday after the Day of Pentecost, Proper 4
(Click here for biblical texts)

If ever we needed proof that healing
happens communally ask Luke’s Roman
centurion. Dramatis personae include
the soldier and his cohorts, the Jewish leaders
he turns to for help to contact Jesus,
the slave near death and other regimental slaves,
Jesus and disciples, and most likely a host
of others who heard of the plea for help
and its magnificent outcome. In our today,
the news would have blanketed internet,
Dr. Oz probably jealous,
and most likely Ellen’s next guest would be
the centurion, probably without his slave
or lover or whatever he is—we are not able
to imagine people owning their love objects,
even as bodies are sold every day, vulnerable
young and older women, young men, enslaved
for the sexual pleasure of others—because
this story is about one kind of healing from
sickness and almost death, but not being
liberated from inhuman bondage.

Roman centurion
shalominthestorm.blogspot.com

But can we imagine a new ending—
when the centurion/owner sees his great love
healed, in the pink of health; in gratitude
he orders a party at which he pronounces to all the world
not only his love but also that he purchased
an end to bondage—larger story where love not only
heals but also frees both parties
from entanglement in a system that values
people as spoils of war, conquered peoples
as machines to be chained for what they can
produce, including, in some cases, sexual pleasure.
Pleasure, did I say pleasure?  It may be one thing
to pay for pleasure from a willing seller but it is,
isn’t it, different not to pay but to own body
if not soul of another to receive the divine gift
of intimate lovemaking as if one’s command
can create bonding of such power, grace, and love.

Yes, this is an old story without this happy ending
and still it tells of faith profound, true, real,
strong enough to cause Jesus’ amazement
but even more to clear away all bars
to healing and then to welcome holy power
that heals wherever it is allowed to land. Was it words
from Jesus, not recorded here, or was it faith
from the centurion/lover that healed?
Or Jesus’ recognition of that faith?
We shall never know for sure, but this we do know:
faith can move mountains and does, but sometimes
the mountain must want to be moved
or at least its many admirers know it must
be moved—God has the power to do all,
but counts on us to lend our shoulders, hearts,
minds, feet, and hands in the struggle.

Whose healing, whose liberation, have we
made more possible, more real, today?

 

About this poem . . .This beautiful story of love and healing leaves a number of unanswered questions, including just how was the healing accomplished? And like many stories from a vastly different age, things we abhor today are unremarked and unchanged. That does not leave us unaccountable for who we are and what we do today; instead, it reminds us that holy testimony of old is still in need of new holy interpretation today.

 

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

Endless Dance

Reflection on Trinity Sunday, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Ghost).
This the formula by which all things holy are done in Christian contexts.
But what does it mean? Does anyone really know?
Trinity Sunday—first after the Day of Pentecost–is intended
by liturgical planners to help us understand the ancient doctrine
containing all the power of our faith.
But what kind of power is it?
A cleric intones the words, all respond Amen, seeming to say
the deed, whatever it is, is now done.

But what if the Trinity is not done, what if instead
of finality it is just the beginning?  What if that Blessed three-sided
family is always on the move in a dance of divine proportions,
touching, engaging each other and all living beings in an endless
do-si-do, moving themselves and us to embrace and part over
and over to create new life, new meaning, without end?

trinity theologybyheart com
theologybyheart.com

And more, why does it have to be Father, white Father with white beard
at that? If the Creator is old why is he, or she, not black—the first
humans were Black in Africa, and their parent surely could be, should be
it seems to me, the same. And why not mother, does not a woman
give birth to all life of all sorts? Holy Mother God, an ample bosomed
Parent in whose loins all are birthed and at whose breasts all are suckled!
But more than a birthing, nursing machine, She sets the beat
of the dance, teaches the steps, commissions her two cohorts
to go forth to touch, empower, raise up, renew all life .

And they, Blessed Son and Holy Spirit, eager always to engage life,
on the move, being fed and taught by Mother, bring fierce truth
and energy everywhere whether invited or not, even as
they know rejection and avoidance from all at least some of the time.
But they do not stop, when dismissed or slain they do not truly leave
or die but await a new opening to heal the breach and recreate
the love of life they carried and taught the first time, indeed
every time, world without end.

Blessed Son is male, with penis and all that signs maleness,
going forth among us from time immemorial to teach and counsel and lead,
daring to be what no man before or since has been or will be.

Could then Holy Blessed Spirit be some of both, Mother and Son, transcending,
indeed expanding, preciously paltry ideas of gender?
So that where She/He goes we are impregnated and birthed
at the same time, to join the endless dance, the do-si-do
of eternal creation, growing, when we listen to the divine beat,
in spiritual strength, claiming our holy origins,
unafraid to be really alive from the soul out to
pulsing fingertips and toes, whirring brain
energy seeking not stasis but vibration that moves
all life to be in relation with Holy Mother God
and all She creates and nurtures.

In the Name of the Mother, Blessed Son, and Holy Spirit,
may it be so, and more, may we not miss the dance!

 
©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The Trinity seems to most of us a mystery explaining a mystery. And sermons seeking to explain it can become pedantic, especially if they are consumed with the need to defend that which really needs no defense. Doctrine rarely makes good homiletics, or indeed poetry. I am indebted to a somewhat mediocre yet strangely powerful work of fiction, The Shack, by William Paul Young, for sharing a glimmer I have long had of these three-in-one moving, alive, laughing, living to the fullest in all directions, dancing because there is no tomorrow, only always today.