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

Again

Reflection on Resurrection of the Lord, Year A

 

Text focus: Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; John 20:1-18
Click here for biblical texts
Jesus Christ is risen today!

We rise to celebrate,
go to church, dinner, parade, egg hunt.
Are we raised, too,
on this New Year’s Day,
life no longer the same,
when we, like him,
have been changed,
given new spiritual garments,
shown new paths
as God’s beloveds
to navigate a world
that acts as if there is no God?

First Apostle Mary Magdalene
hung out at the tomb, waiting—
she feared all was lost
but we know otherwise,
God still active,
Jesus keeps rising,
Holy Spirit moving all the time,
we can miss it if we stop
witnessing, watching,
being open to the latest—
where are we waiting
and what are we waiting for?

Signs of the times were not good then,
not good now, powers of death
and oppression and hate
still strong, maybe stronger
in age of alt-whatever,
but during and after two dinners today—
the open meal in the sanctuary
and the ordinary one at home
or church basement or restaurant—
we can witness, we can follow
Mary as she followed Jesus,
share the good news,
tell the world that life and love
win, as they do when enough people show up
to testify, when we wake up, show up
stand up, act up, live up, speak up
so people still in their tombs,
captive to fear—
including ourselves—
put on the love and hope and power
of God, and go forth singing
Jesus Christ is risen today,
knowing we are raised, we are pulled up,
ready or not we are made new,
again.

 

  

About this poem . . . . Our voices, our spirits, our arms and hearts arc in successive crescendos as we feel the joy of Jesus breaking the bonds of death. It is about him, surely God, as well as Mary and Peter and the others. But it is us, too. I ask myself, how am I changed? Am I changed? Is this the New Year, and will I do better with resolutions—or do I need resolutions? Maybe I just need to listen and follow what I hear.
©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Blessed Are the Ones

Reflection on Palm Sunday, Year A

 

Textual focus: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Matthew 21:1-11
Click here for biblical texts
 

We say each week in church
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.”
Who do we mean? Are we thinking of Jesus
riding on the donkey in Jerusalem
or our pastor, preacher, other spiritual leader?
Or ourselves? Could we be the ones who are blessed
to come in the name of God?

When the alarm goes off in the morning,
do we come to in the name of God?
Pee and shower in the name of God,
eat breakfast, get dressed, go to work,
lunch, the store, return home, eat dinner,
bathe the children, tuck them in,
watch television, read the paper or our book,
have sex, go to sleep, in the name of God?

The crowds acclaimed the Son of Daivd
as he rode the donkey walking on their cloaks
and branches, a peoples’ carpet—
believing he was their champion
in the face of domination by Rome
and distance from religious authorities.
Today, without fanfare, in terror
of what lies behind and perhaps ahead,
refugees flee the devastation of war,
extremism, chemicals, poverty,
maybe all of the above,
Blessed are the ones who come,
claiming in Jerusalem and elsewhere
power that resists fear,
breaks institutional barriers,
defies narrowness, all in the name
of the God of of holiness everywhere,
in everyone.

Who knows what will happen—a dead body
hanging from a tree or lying on a street or the desert
with a chest full of bullet holes,
or sex work or drug-running for a pimp,
or maybe,
just maybe, a new life, dignity,
deepening of soul connection,
new love or better job,
appreciation by others for gifts
freely shared in sacred communion.

Whatever.
Blessed are the ones
who come,
and go,
in the name of God.  
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .It is easy to read or listen to this familiar story and see Jesus, the donkey, the disciples, the crowds, and to wave our own branches (although I have not seen coats laid on the ground), and feel good. But what about today? What are we doing that might cause others to see God riding or walking or loving or speaking in and/or through us? And do we allow ourselves to see, to experience, the blessing of ordinary, as well as extraordinary, others who come in the name of God?
 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

The Fast to Which We Are Called

Reflection on the 5th Sunday after the Epiphany

Textual Focus: Isaiah 58:1-12, Matthew 5:13-20
Click here for biblical texts

 

Being salt of the earth is not easy
nor is it simple to be the light of the world.
But Jesus told disciples that is what they are,
what we are, too, if we take our vocation seriously.
Salt enhances the flavor of our faith,
perhaps the faith of others because ours is so tasty,
helps preserve faith when times are tough.
Light can help us see, but what Jesus really means
is our light is meant to help others see.

Faith needs pepper too, black for sure, maybe cayenne,
surely garlic and oregano, even paprika
if it is to be strong, resilient and ready to upend us
from our lethargy and acquiescence
to the way things have always been.
We need  full-bodied faith, richly textured,
deeply flavored, pungent to attract attention
not to us but to God working in us.  
The prophet says shout loudly, don’t hold back,
lift every volce and sing,
and I say people need not only to hear our faith but also
to smell it, to be drawn from spiritual emptiness,
aromas reminding them how hungry they are
for the more they know exists but cannot
seem to find in the usual holy places, showing them
there is a source, a spiritual diner, cafeteria,
just waiting to feed them
with love and glory of God all their lives.
This the fast to which we are called:
to open our repast to the hungry,
to bring scents of heaven to the outcast,
to feed the lost with the succulent,
never-ending feast of God.

There needs to be more than light, too.  
To see the stars we must be in the dark,
heavens more visible at night,
often a time when divine stillness settles in,
and souls brood in their native habitat,
primordial darkness from which God made, makes, light.
We need to be more than the light,
others need us to share
luminous darkness of our souls
buried deep in first threads of life
where we were created
and in whom we move and have our being.
We need to bring the dark night of our souls
Into the temple, freely, fully, offering ourselves,
letting go of our attachments to things
and places, turning all over to God,
falling in love again with God,
not so much for our sake but for God’s sake.
This the fast to which we are called:
to go to our deepest, darkest places
and know how lovable we are,
how lovable all are,
stars shining in darkest heaven
right here on earth, world without end.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem: Sometimes it feels that Jesus’ words have become such spiritual clichés that if we really want to get into them, or for them to get inside us, we have entertain the opposite, or at least the opposite of what we have been taught, pushing against conventional wisdom (just as he so often did). As someone who enjoys cooking, I know the importance of salt, but I also know it is rarely enough to make a savory dish. And light is only half of God’s story, so we need to welcome the dark, not only in nature but also ourselves.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

Where Are the Shepherds?

Reflection on Nativity of the Lord, Year A

 

Focus: Luke 2:1-20
Click here for biblical texts

 
In those days a decree went out
from Caesar Agustus that all the world should be registered,
but did that include the shepherds? 
If so, what were they doing in the fields?
Waiting for the angels?
Are you waiting, too? Or has the story
become so worn, predictable, that it no longer sends shudders
down your spine, as it did when angels shone
in the sky, proclaiming the best news of that, and our, time.
‘Tis the season of outcasts, and none were more scorned
than shepherds—so of course angels appeared to them,
not magistrates or merchants or certainly kings.
Indeed, the story of Christmas is about the lowly,
not just Mary but Joseph too and all the rest
of Israel under the heel of Rome
and those on the margins of the marginalized.

But it is not only that angels appeared to shepherds,
God doing what God does so often—appearing to,
speaking with, the powerless not the powerful—
but that shepherds became angels themselves,
testifying for and to those gathered in the stable,
agents of the Holy One to the world.
Is not that our call as well, to witness
to the grace, truth and love of God
wherever we are—hillsides, homes, small towns,
big cities, churches and temples,
family dinners, public places, casual conversations,
anywhere we hear good news that needs to be shared
with a world hungry for more than increasing stock prices,
celebrity misbehaviors and divorces, political tweeting,
and mad attacks on shoppers and students.

Shepherds in the church are expected to be calm,
perhaps even quiet, always kind and gentle,
and it is good when they do not yell or condemn,
but to get excited, to be eager,
is what we need, and God wants, to share love and hope and joy
and peace, too, with strong voices , heartfelt expressions,
souls bursting with deep truths of divinely inspired lives.
Not sure what to say? Maybe we can venture to nearby hillsides
or other quiet places under the stars
and wait, like shepherds, for the angels on their way—
there are always angels, God makes sure of that—
the question is, for us, will the shepherds show up again?
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .Jesus and his parents are the focus of course, and yet there are all these others playing important roles, the animals in the stable, of course, as well as shepherds and angels. I used to raise sheep—a small flock for a 4-H project on the farm long ago—and I continue to wonder at the many times sheep and shepherds are central to the biblical record.  I know I have been at times a sheep (and beautiful though they can be, that is not necessarily a compliment) and as a pastor some called me a shepherd.  But maybe, just maybe, shepherds are supposed to do more than keep the sheep in line, maybe we, all of us, shepherds ourselves, are called to testify in our own ways to the presence of God in our lives.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net