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Reflections on Proper 7, Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

 

 

Textual focus: Jeremiah 20:7-13, Matthew 10:24-39
Click here for biblical texts

 

 

He was raking in 10 million
in leanest years, celebrated
for Midas ways with stocks,
his counsel sought by all
who wanted more and more
even as he felt less and less,
waking at night with scenes
of gaunt-faced children watching him
as he ate at Sardi’s and the White House.
He cried, he prayed, went to church every day,
gave away millions to hungry kids everywhere ,
still the money piled up
mocking his nightmares, misery and guilt.

Hurrying from one meeting to the next,
he heard a street evangelist quoting Jesus,
“Those who find their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
He was stopped, unable to move,
I want to lose this life—the voice sounded like his—
no more capital gains
no house in the Hamptons
no private jet.
He cried, right on Wall Street.
People stared, others averting their gaze,
most kept their distance as he tore
at his Armani uniform
thrusting his coat, then his tie, shirt, shoes, pants
at gaping tourists and brokers,
“I don’t need these, please take them, in the name of God,”
he said, and hearing himself thought,
where did that come from? Who said that?

He looked around, as if seeing the street
for the first time,
now knowing what he had to do.
He remembered hearing a preacher say
following a divine call is rarely easy,
Jeremiah and Jesus surely knew,
friends and family, authorities too
turn away, turn against,
the loneliness can overwhelm
even in the embrace of God.

But he felt raised up, resurrection-like,
his mind racing, his heart at peace,
beat of new life beckoning him
to become a disciple, a student
of the Lord, gentle Jesus whom he knew also said
some hard either/or words
about not bringing peace
setting children against parents
foes arising in the household
hierarchies of teachers above disciples
seeming normal
but masters over slaves grate against modern ears
can we love Jesus more than mother and father,
what about God?

He thought, I love God most of all,
and I want to serve with Jesus and the Holy Spirit;
this is my ‘I can’t not do it moment’
I heard my pastor describe, when he knew
he was called to share the Good News:
God’s total, unending, unconditional love.

Naked as Francis long ago,
he saw the church and went inside
to pray and to listen
for further instruction.

 

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem. . . So many of the really cool people in the Bible show us that following God is not a necessarily smooth way, that the challenges can be huge, daunting .  Upending a life is best done with divine direction and that can come in all sorts of ways to all sorts of people. Jeremiah and Jesus, two prophets who had hard things to say because they listened so carefully to God, surely must have felt, from time to time at least, why me? Of course, God’s answer to them, as to us, is, who else?

 

©Robin Gorsline 2015 FaithfulPoetics.net

The Lord’s Day

Reflection on Proper 6, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

 

Textual foci: Matthew 9:35-10:23; Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8
Click here for biblical texts
Sunday morning at the Metro Station
pleasant people staff stations for sharing
the truth they claim, they know, will set us free
pamphlets, magazines, personal testimony
and smiles, handshakes, even hugs too
to show the love of God
in case we don’t know it
already and to be sure our belief
is correct so when Jesus comes,
when Jesus comes,
we are counted worthy.

They smile and say “Good Morning” as I pass
clerical color and dangly earrings
marking me a man different from others
as I smile too—the politeness of our exchange
linking us strangely with the One
who was often impolite, or at least impolitic,
healing the wrong people on the wrong day
breaking bread with the disreputable
loving sinners as much as the pious—
or maybe more—the One
with big plans for his twelve
just as he has for us,
compassion to share with the lost,
curing disease, healing the sick
in body and heart, guiding sheep
who lose our way.

Yes we are the sheep called also
to be shepherds—there always is
someone who needs leading
to water or food or medical care
or encouraging words
like those some give
my friend Tyrone the Pennyman
at this same station but not on Sunday.
He does not sit in his usual spot to call out
“Pennies, pennies, pennies,”
to busy travelers
on the Lord’s Day,
we being fewer in number
(why is church attendance declining now?)
and perhaps more intent on filling the collection plate
than the stomach of one
with few teeth, many rags
and unkempt hair—
 yet in his cheerful countenance
reminds me of St. Paul who says
suffering produces endurance
and endurance produces character
and character produces hope.

I just pray Tyrone’s hope
does not disappoint him
and others who struggle in like manner,
that somehow divine love
moves enough sheep, and shepherds too,
you and me among them,
to help the lowly rise
that all may make a joyful noise
and worship God with joy.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem. . . . Jesus sent out the 12 and sends us out, too. The question, at least for me, is what is the mission to which I have been called? What is most needed in the world, and what is my part in meeting that need? And am I sure I am hearing the call correctly? Is it really Jesus or is it just my idea or the idea of others I like?  
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

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

Still Here

Reflection on Ascension Day and 7th Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Textual focus: Acts 1:1-14, Psalm 47, Luke 24:44-53, John 17:1-11
Click here, and here, for biblical texts

 
Hurry!
Limited time only—offer will not be repeated—
must liquidate all merchandise
Sale ends at midnight tomorrow!

Is this it, Lord, is it the time
You will restore
the kingdom to Israel?

Oh the questions they asked
as if he appeared on Fox News
to outline the latest theory
of how the world will end
or at least the Roman Empire.

When Jesus left the disciples—
modern minds wonder about Ascension,
what principle of physics allows it—
they looked up, what else can they do,
we too thinking God is above,
heaven and all angels
dancing on high.

And God is up, but also down,
nowhere God is not
can pray everywhere—
where is your upstairs room,
or woods, office, hammock,
mountain top, backyard, busy avenue
to wait for God
who is already here?

Prayer and much else comes to those who wait,
not filling the air with our words
as God prays in and through us;
all is gift, Jesus says
everything You have given me I give to them,
no special Easter sale,
we, living in post-Resurrection time,
look up, down, around, world without end.
He’s still here though he rose.

Christ has died.
Christ has risen.
Christ is here.
Christ will come again.

Oh yes.

 
About this poem . . . In the church’s calendar, it is still Easter, although the hoopla has ended. And finally Jesus rises not only from the dead but from the earth, the disciples’ mouths agape at the sight. But is it so? Do we also only look up, or can we look within and around at others and know he remains, seeing him perhaps even in ourselves? Can we pray and wait and know there is always more, for the asking? Often even without asking? 
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Aisles of Love

A Reflection for the Sixth Sunday after Easter, Year A

Textual focus: Acts 17:22-31, John 14:15-21
Click here for biblical texts
 

Worship
at many temples,
god of fossil fuel by Shell
money at First National Bank
sugar and fat by Dunkin’ Donuts
country at Washington’s obelisk
buff bodies by LA Fitness
hard to stop
bending the knee
making offering
when so many shrines and their gods beckon
street corner after street corner
mile by mile
IHOP has more Sunday morning worshippers
than St. John’s, First Baptist, and Trinity Lutheran
together
St. Walmart and Holy Costco compete
across town
lines of communicants
approach the check-out altar
awaiting blessing by swipe or insertion.

St. Paul would feel at home,
so many monuments
rise Athens-like,
but Jesus might wonder
if we can pause long enough
to see God in the aisles
or the eyes of credit card curates
or understand the movement
of love through those
who stock shelves
teach aerobics
cook
wait tables and drive-through windows

It takes courage to love
when it’s not on the printed menu
but we are not orphans,
no place no time God is not.
 

About this poem . . . Paul’s commentary and caution to the Athenians, recorded in Acts, speaks from the aversion to idols grounded in the commandment given to Moses.  It is easy to think that it is the Greeks or pagans of long ago who have idols, graven images. But there are many among us today. At the same time, these temples of commerce and more are also human gathering places, and God often shows up—probably is there all the time (as in Athens long ago).

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Where?

An Unfinished Reflection on the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

 

Textual focus: John 14:1-14
Click here for biblical texts
 

 

Easter is not ended officially
yet it seems long ago that we sang Alleluia!
wore our Sunday best, feasted at two tables,
maybe looked for a certain rabbit
to entertain our children—
do we still proclaim resurrection
and if we do, are we ready to follow
the risen Christ wherever he leads us?

We don’t know exactly where he is calling us
though many claim to know—
earnestly telling us they have the inside scoop
because they have the key to scriptural truth,
God not having said a new thing for several
millennia—and we must learn to trust,
sometimes what we see when following Jesus
looks unfamiliar even strange
but that does not make it less godly,
after all Jesus was always going places, doing things
those in the know knew were wrong.

God’s house is said to be roomy
at least that is what Jesus said
whether some of his latter day disciples
still see it that way;
no longer whites only on the main floor
but nursing moms and their babes
may be segregated to be sure
no one glimpses part of a holy body
and gays may want to be quiet
lest they be asked to leave.

Going with Jesus is a challenge—
he said we will do what he does
and even greater things
but when was your last miracle,
and who knows if he really meant that
even though he was not one for idle chatter or boasts—
easier just to read and ride along
and not get too engaged or eager
nor too far in front where we might be tempted
to look down like Peter and sink.
 

 

About this poem . . . .Did Easter really happen? Is it over? The church calendar says no, but what about in daily life?

 

 

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Complete

Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Textual focus: Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, John 10:1-10
Click here for biblical texts

 

It’s not just wolves that cause sheep
to run in the wrong direction,
fellow sheep do, too;
some wolves pretend to be shepherds
(see Sunday morning cable).

A good shepherd is needed
in personal and community life,
especially if we seek a world
where people care for one another,
where works and blessings of God are manifest.

Church is best known by its relationship with the Shepherd
the earliest disciple-sheep knew, loved, and followed,
but there are churches where he might not be welcome
when he approves of selling their possessions and goods,
and distributing proceeds to those in need.

Sounds un-American, socialist even—
how we want to claim religion
to support what we already do, who we already are,
planting our national flag in God’s house
as if God cares about lines on a map.

Following the Shepherd means going where he goes,
not necessarily where we have been or want to go,
trusting he knows where water and food are,
how to avoid wolves and other dangers,
protecting us and our lambs.

Abundant life is the promise,
we do not want
when we let him lead us there.

 
About this poem . . . All we like sheep have gone astray, haunting words from Isaiah and melody from Handel, point to the need for not just a leader but the Shepherd of the shepherds.  The payoff is huge, but we cannot know for sure what it will look like, or how we will get there.

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net