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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

Good Morning, God

Reflection on the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Textual focus: Psalm 116:1; Luke 24:13-35
Click here for biblical texts

 

He always says “Good morning,”  “Good afternoon”
or simple “Hello” as he meets others on walks.
“You never know what someone may want to tell you,
so I like to prepare the way with courtesy and care,”
he said in response to a friend who asked him about his habit.
“It might be Jesus out for a walk, or someone else
God has tapped with a message for me.
Besides,” he continued, “I believe
each of us is created in the image of God,
so when I greet someone I feel I am greeting
part of God. I really appreciate when God answers back.”

“Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus,
you just never know when a conversation
will change your life,” he said. “One thing is sure,
if you don’t engage others,
the conversation will not happen.  I am
not in charge of which conversations
God may use so I try to be open all the time.”

“Here’s the deal,” he said, “we pray
often for God to be present.
I wonder how God feels about that,
when in my experience God
already is here and now, everywhere,
all the time. There is no place, no time, God is not;
I figure my job is to be present,
so God can get through to me
when God wants. I even speak
to some trees, the squirrels, flowers, birds.
You just never know.
Like those disciples, I might get a message
from the food I eat—that’s why I give thanks,
not just physical nourishment
but also spiritual feeding.
Anything, everything, is possible with God.”
 

 

 

About this poem . . . As a boy, I remember wondering what it must have felt like for the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus to be engaged by, and to engage, Jesus. Later, thanks to some wonderful spiritual teachers and moments of my own, I began a lifelong journey into understanding I can experience that closeness, too. I am still learning, and receiving.

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

What Now?

Reflection on the Second Sunday of Easter, Year A

 

Text focus: John 20:19-31
Click here for biblical texts

 

Huddled in a room too small for their number
fearing for their lives 
keeping windows covered
password required for entry;
others hiding outside
praying ICE agents do not see them
or dogs smell them
before night when they slip across the border
trusting false IDS will be ready
so they can find work
a place to stay
a new life to build
in the land they hope
will accept their bravery
and award freedom;
or gay men, lesbians, trans people
hiding in closets,
wanting life, not sure
they have strength to claim wholeness.

An old story, fear driving people
into hiding, authorities, angry crowds,
vigilantes, pious rule-enforcers,
fundamentalists of one sort or another,
determined to tamp down
freedom movements, different religions,
new ideas, ways of living
beyond poverty and despair—
not unlike disciples
behind locked doors
the evening of the day Jesus rose,
afraid they would be next on crosses.

But Jesus visited them
to breathe Spirit into them
give them hope.
release them from their prison
get on with sharing good news
healing the sick
witnessing to divine love.

So today’s question:
whose prisons will we visit
whose cells will we unlock
which fugitives will we take in
which disciples of love and hope
and family and justice
will we welcome
to our churches, our homes
to keep them safe,
whose hearing will we attend
to speak on behalf of mercy and justice
for all
or at least for one or two or more
of those most vulnerable
most afraid
most at risk?

 

About this poem . . . . It is so easy to leave the disciples back there, knowing things will get better for them. But we have been, maybe are, afraid; and have received the Spirit too; what do we do with it? 

©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

Always

Reflection on Holy Saturday, Year A

 

Textual Focus: Job 14:1-14; Matthew 27:57-66; John 19:38-42
Click here for biblical texts
 

 

Can we pause today, take stock
of how we feel after watching Jesus
bleed to death on the cross?
We know he will come back,
we prepare for the feast to come
tomorrow, but today
can we find a way
to do as Joseph of Arimathea did,
care for the dead body,
or sit shiva as Jews and friends do?
Or do we, like some who opposed Jesus,
post a guard around our hearts
so he cannot touch us from the tomb?

This is the day God has made,
we may not wish to rejoice,
and yet cannot our tears water a tree
cut down that it may sprout again,
emerging from the womb of our soul,
leaking like tremors of pure sunlight
against tides of death and destruction,
reminding us in the quiet of desperation
that God is always more—
keep watch
bear witness.
 

 

 

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

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics 2017

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

 

On Our Feet

 

Reflection on Holy Thursday, Year A

 

Textual Focus: Exodus 12:1-14; John 13:1-17
Click here for biblical texts
 

Moses told the Hebrews to prepare
for their journey of liberation by eating
prescribed food and marking their doors
with the blood of lamb on which they feasted.
They set off, on foot,
through desert and sea
to and throughout the land promised by God.  

The ancients  used their feet, just as we do—
dirty, calloused, twisted, arthritic, gnarled, hard or soft,
massaged with oil, too, sweet scented or not,
smelly sweaty feet common—
all sorts and conditions of human feet.
on journeys called by God.

Now here is something very strange: 
Rabbi Jesus wants to wash our feet —
even Peter’s, who, of course, objects as he always does.
Is there ever a time when there is not
at least one Peter in the group,
one long ago offended by the idea
of his Lord stooping to wash feet,
like today’s recoiling at showing
the imperfection of feet, even more
at being asked to touch others’?

Today, on Passover, Jews everywhere,
believers or not, gather to share bitter herbs,
unleavened bread, greens, haroset, and lamb or substitute.
Most Christians avoid Jesus
when it comes to feet. Strange.
So many ask, “What would Jesus do?”
How about: what he did?
Just not with feet.

A preacher said, “Jesus touched his heart
and there was healing in his hands.”
I want healed feet
for miles ahead, years, I pray,
of journeying with God. I need strong, resilient feet
empowered to support journeys from my Egypts
to new worlds promised again and again.
I want company, too, I can’t make it alone.
Let me bless yours with living water, sacred touch,
our Jesus feet guiding us all the way together.  
 

 

 

About this poem . . .Every year on Holy Thursday, I am deeply moved by the washing of feet. It is such a humble act—to allow my feet to be washed and to wash others’—so like Jesus to assume the role of servant and invite us to do the same. The invitation, I hear command, is to be agents of healing and to allow ourselves to be healed by the human touch of others.
 

 

 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net