What Have We Learned?

Reflection on Good Friday, Year A

 

Textual Focus: Psalm 22; John 18:1-19:42
Click here for biblical texts
 

 

When I was a boy in a small town
40 miles northwest of Detroit
I asked my Dad, “Why are stores closing at noon today?”
He told me it was because Jesus was killed.
I cried.
I loved Jesus.
We went to church and cried together.

Not so many stores close today, even then
the South Side Grocery on the wrong side of town
did not close. Years later, as a teen,
at noon on the day Jesus died,
I helped Dad clean out an apartment
when the tenant left unexpectedly;
new renters were due later that day.
I felt ashamed—we were on Main Street
with our truck loading trash for the dump
while Jesus was dying, and good people
were with him (a few people drove by,
they were not with Jesus either,
and did not seem bothered to see us).
Were we like disciples who disappeared—
maybe they had work to do at home
or needed to fix their nets and boats?

A body will be struck down as I write
and as you read this meditation.

What if we sat in church, or even home or a park,
by ourselves or with others,
three hours every time someone in our town,
or  Jerusalem and the West Bank, Chicago or Ferguson,
Syria or South Sudan, dies
a violent, avoidable, death, every time a child
dies of malnutrition, starvation, in a world
with enough food for all,  
every time a refugee is shot
struggling to get to a land where they can breathe?

We don’t have to wear church clothes,
just sit, and ask forgiveness.
Nothing else would get done. We’d be sitting all the time
no sleep, no reading, no eating, nothing but sitting,
praying, mourning the dead,
and our failure to stop the killing.

What have we learned
since Jesus and two others 
were hung out to die?  
 

About this poem . . . I will sit quietly in this space today.
©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

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