Not Too Late

A Reflection in Response to Proper 18, 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C,
(especially Luke 14:25-33)

Click here for biblical texts

Disciples walk, at least those following Jesus,
and not just the Galilean ones but today’s as well,
but not always a pleasant garden stroll,
chatting, admiring the flowers and butterflies;
more often a demanding call on our soul and body,
asking us to set aside important things, as we see,
for life-changing, even world-changing acts of faith,
trust, love and justice to transform ourselves,
maybe all God’s people,
and even save some corner of God’s earth.

Jesus discourse with disciples James Joseph Jacques Tissot Public domain, Brooklyn Museum
James Joseph Jacques Tissot, Brooklyn Museum (public domain)

A lesbian woman goes on a journey, connecting
with her soul and body, as loved ones reject her—
you are not our daughter, sister, they say, we no more family—
her walk feeling desert dry, dust caking her mouth
and her heart. She keeps walking with Jesus
her disciple walk of truth, wholeness, beside him.
A writer denying his craft for more lifetimes
than he cares to count hears the call,
laying down what he thought the world wanted from him
and walks not really knowing the direction but trusting
Jesus by his side. One, sometimes a man, sometimes woman,
 who has every possession, trips over all the stuff—
lands upside down hearing the voice
trying to get through for so many years,
gives up trying to decide which of six homes to visit,
what investments to sell, which party to attend—
breaks clean from that pursuit to kneel and pray
and then gives most all away save one little urban bungalow
and some green energy stocks and peace bonds,
to walk sweaty streets with the Lord, greeting homeless,
ex-cons, disturbed, old and young, inviting them home to a meal and shower,
lessons in self-care, clean clothes, job and education links,
like some latter day Paul saving souls they used to condemn.

Not all disciple walks are dramatic, a change in attitude
enough to turn around to walk with Jesus rather than against him.
What voice are you hearing , or refusing to hear?
Walking beside him may not be the same as following;
turning back is harder when you are shoulder to shoulder.
It’s not too late to turn aside from the demands we and the world
have put at the center to walk with the One who is the center.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . It is not easy being a disciple, and Jesus does not want to delude us with an easy invitation. So he makes it hard, really hard. We may even be shocked by talk of hating one’s family, but we surely know of family that hate their children, grandchildren, siblings. Sometimes, discipleship is not about our hate but others hating us. Or finding our own way even though we don’t know the way, or maybe we have to give up dreams of material abundance? He’s often gentle, but not often easy.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 Faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above wherever this poem is published.

Praying beside Jesus

A Reflection in Response to Proper 12, 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts

Please rise as you are able and join in singing
the prayer that Jesus taught us.
Have you ever wondered as I have what sort of voice Jesus had?
Deep, high-pitched, booming, thin, clear, orotund, reverberant?
Did he sing? Was he baritone(my choice), bass, or tenor?
And why do we sing this simple prayer? Because we love Jesus,
and we love his prayer, surely, and singing connects us all,
especially when we hold hands and even raise our arms
as the tune soars with the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, forever and ever. Amen—
an ending not recorded in either Luke or Matthew,
sometimes seeming unlike the simple style
of Jesus throughout the New Testament.

Jesus teaching 2 obrerofiel com
obrerofiel.com

Can you imagine praying with Jesus, I mean really
praying right beside him, perhaps kneeling, even standing,
silently or aloud or both, feeling the power of his embodied presence,
his breathing, perhaps even warmth of his body,
the smell of sweat rolling down his face or chest in Judean heat,
and as you finish, you ask, as did the disciples, to teach you
how to pray? Can you feel your eagerness, desire to learn
all he has to teach, yearning to hear yet more, be more close
to him, indeed simply be more of the human God calls
you to be? Can you imagine being that close, in that intimacy
with our Lord, whom we call Savior, Brother, Liberator?

This prayer is about relationship with our Holy Parent,
and with Jesus, something we can see in Lucan
verses that follow the prayer, about friends who respond
to your persistence, your reaching out in need, love,
hope and peace, wanting always to give each other
the best we have, even when we are tired or angry or hurt.
Might we want sometimes to say or sing this prayer
not just in massed group but perhaps turning to your neighbor,
taking each other’s hands, offering the sacred prayer
to each other, not closing your eyes but looking deeply
into each other’s eyes so you can see Jesus
in that child of God facing you  as they see him
in the child of God facing them?

Holy One, focus Your truth within us, the light and dark—
Help us use it for You, Your world and people and ourselves. Amen.

 
writing+poetryAbout this prayer . . .  Who does not love the Lord’s Prayer? But what do we do with it? Do we not at least sometimes make it into some sort of triumphant evocation of God rather than the tender, intimate relationship Jesus had with the One he called Abba? I love to sing it as much as the next person, but sometimes I yearn to say it, perhaps to say it really slowly, savoring each word, hearing the holy resonance with which Jesus offered it. And then there are times when I wonder about him, when I daydream about him, when I do wonder how he sounded. I know how he sounds to me, at the few times when I have been blessed to hear his voice, but I do not know if I am hearing correctly. So I know what he really wants is for me to hear him, see him, be with him, with and through you, with and through my neighbors.

 

The pictures representing Jesus are from the Lumo Project, an award-winning DVD presentation of the four gospels. You can check them out here

©RobinGorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when the poem is published in any form

Time to Sign Up

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

 

Does Anyone Observe Ascension Day Today?

A Meditation on the Ascension of the Lord, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

Does anyone observe Ascension Day today?
Our Lord bade farewell to trusted comrades
and rose in the sky, as one irreverent person said,
like a balloon slowly drifting to heaven
out of sight but not out of mind. Did this really
happen or is it a way of expressing the feelings
of disciples knowing Jesus was gone,
like a young child watching a loved
parent drive away after the divorce,
the child not sure she will ever see the
other again. And Jesus, did Jesus sob like the sad
parent on his way up? But wait. Even if we observe,
do we believe? And does it matter either way?
To believe ascension is different from believing
in Ascension; do the details, as we have them,
have to be true in order to know, to know, that
his friends felt his absence—they, unlike us,
may not have known for sure he would still be around.
Or do we know, do we trust that Jesus is here,
even though he ascended? Or are we so jaded by
science, by incessant needs for proof, scientific proof,
that we cannot grant God the power to do this, to let
Jesus rise right before their, our, eyes? And return,
even if not in the flesh? If we cannot, and
for many it must be so, then we are more powerful
than God—or at least God can only do what we allow
Him to do. What kind of God would that be?

Ascension-Day ascensionday2016 com
ascensionday2016.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or can we understand with Karl Rahner that Ascension
tells us that God intends flesh be redeemed
and glorified? Flesh be glorified, is that even Christian?
So many years of hearing about flesh mortified, flesh
hung out to bleed and dry on crosses, flesh to be
tamed, can we think God really loves us, and our flesh,
enough to glorify and redeem it, not just
spiritually but even physically? Is God reveling
in our fleshiness? If not, what are we
to make of incarnation, Jesus fleshing God better
than any human, or as many say, the way only He can.
Whatever. Doctrine does not guarantee salvation
but following Jesus wherever he goes and
being with him wherever he is calling us
makes a good recipe for blessed, even holy, life.

May you feel Ascension in your heart and body,
if not your mind.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .So many of us have lost connection with special holy days, and if we observe them at all we have moved them to Sunday, to avoid inconvenience in our daily lives filled with so much important business. Yet is the pain the disciples, men and women, humans all, must have felt, not worthy of remembrance? And what of our blessed, holy flesh: will we ascend someday? Will anyone remember?

Get Up. Now.

(Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C; click here for biblical texts)

Tabitha, get up! Has someone said that to you?
Perhaps your mother or father when you
overslept—You’ll miss the school bus. Up! Now!
But this is different, Tabitha was not late, she was dead,
surrounded by her friends, grieving widows
telling stories about her good deeds, her sewing
for others. In their distress they called Peter, her leader
among the disciples—yes, she was a disciple, they
were not all men, you know; in the Greek text, Luke used
mathētria, the feminine form of the word  
disciple, when speaking of Tabitha—
we do not know what they asked of him but
he, perhaps burning with the spirit of resurrection,
sent them out of the room, as Jesus did
with Lazarus, and prayed. What did he pray?
Luke does not say, but we know what he said to Tabitha,
and more to the point what she did was this:
Opening her eyes, and seeing him she sat up;
Then taking his hand, she stood. Whether we
believe or not, she did. She got up.

Tabitha with Peter grieving
womeninthebible.net

Is there some part of you that is dead, cut off from
your soul perhaps, some injured place you keep hiding
rather than healing, a wound that wants to cry out,
or maybe it does in the silence of a broken heart ,
but you have succumbed to today’s truth that
this Tabitha thing never happened, not really; science
has no explanation for a dead woman, or even
a dead man, rising, so it did not happen. But
still deep down, in the inner quiet place
you rarely visit you yearn to hear Peter or someone
say, Get Up! if only from the job you hate or
the debt you don’t know how to pay or the
cell of fear you live in every moment , the depression
that has you in its thrall. There are answers you know,
therapy of course, or a new job or marrying riches,
or drugs, weed might tide you over, but then
tomorrow your soul still feels dead, broken, or lost.

So maybe, just maybe, you can ask God
to stop by; you don’t know who will come in God’s name,
it might be a friend or a trusted leader like Peter
or a stranger you meet in a long check-out line
or when sitting quietly in the back of the church you
decide to visit on your lunch hour just because
you feel an urge to chat with God, to be fed spiritual food,
or perhaps you suddenly know how desperate you are
to feel the love of God, the embrace of Jesus, the hope
of the Holy Spirit, to be carried forward by that power
of wholeness rather than human power that seems
to keep you trapped in an unending cycle of sadness
and despair, anxiety that things will never get better in your life.

But the truth is this: you can get up, you can be lifted
like Tabitha, like Lazarus, like Jesus, like all the disciples
before you, Peter and the whole gang, and those around you
now, who trust God to bring us back from wherever we have
let the world and others toss us like so much trash
or if not trash at least what they, whoever the they are
in our lives, call unnecessary baggage on the route
they say we are supposed to travel all our days.

But you have to want to get up, you have to be ready to take
good orderly direction, you have to open your eyes
and see what you have not allowed yourself to see before,
and walk, now alive, among the dead and dying all around you,
offering yourself to them by saying, if you really mean it, Get Up!

It’s simple, though not always easy.  Why wait? Get up. Now.

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The book known as Acts of the Apostles often challenges us because so many things happen that in our modernity and post-modernity we question—like Peter raising Tabitha from the dead. It becomes easy to dismiss it as a charming tale, and thus easy to miss the importanceof bringing people back to life from whatever death they may be living.

He Keeps Showing Up

(Third Sunday of Easter, Year C; click here for biblical texts)

Disciples-Fishing spiritofthescripture com
spiritofthescripture.com

Jesus keeps showing up—
In body and out of body—
on the Damascus Road
tapping Paul for new work
(and ending his old angry career),
and at the Tiberian Sea
filling the nets of Peter and others
with first fish then promises of people
who need like sheep to be tended and fed.
We are those sheep but do we know
we are feeders and tenders, too,
disciples of the risen Christ
whom we proclaim each eucharist, saying
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Could we not say as well that Christ is here?
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ is here,
and Christ will come again—the mystery
then is for us as for Peter and friends:
how can he be gone and yet here simultaneously?

When they sat on the beach eating fish he had helped
them catch and bread he broke for them
they knew it was him but they dared not ask—
why so timid? Are we like that? Are we afraid
to feel his presence when we cannot see his face?
I don’t know about you but Jesus keeps
showing up in my life, often at odd moments
as well as in worship, mostly in quiet times
when his gentle voice beckons me
to turn around, not so much to see him
as to face the right direction so we can walk
together towards my fellow rams and ewes,
all of us lambs in his tender shepherding care,
but more because he has called us shepherds
too, and charges us with encircling the whole flock
in arms of love.

But to love like that, like he did and does,
to feed his sheep, our fellow lambs, to tend
the flock, we have to put down our judgments,
drop the stones we want to hurl at those who hurt us,
tear down the walls we want to build to keep the other out,
stop being certain we know what is wrong
with them—instead using a spiritual stethoscope,
listening to our own souls to find out how
alive, how present, we are, to find out
if we are showing up to answer his knocking
or if, when he seeks us, he finds
the gate locked  and we and all our charges
missing in action, wandering among dried out
pastures looking for food and dodging wolves—
of self-importance, wealth-seeking, getting ahead—
who claim to be our friends as they devour
more than our beautiful broken bodies.

Still he keeps showing up
like a homeless person, hoping this time
we will give something more than a quarter,
more than a dollar or a protein bar,
or even a meal in a diner—this time he
hopes we will give ourselves, knowing
that he not only has died, is risen,
and will come again, but really truly
he is here now . . .right here . . .right now.

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .Many faithful Christians confess confusion about the relationship between Jesus and the Christ, this human divinity many call Jesus Christ (no, Christ is not his last name).  So, when we read Gospel accounts of his post-resurrection appearances to groups of disciples we may rightly wonder, just who was showing up? I am suggesting here, as in so much of our faith journey, that this is not a case of either/or but both/and. We don’t get to touch his literal physical body, but Jesus is still here and Christ is still risen, so be ready, because they are, he is, knocking at the gate to your heart. Now.

Holy Feet, Jesus!

Holy Thursday, Year C (click here for biblical texts)

Feet, the bottom of the human body,
 dirty, calloused, twisted, arthritic, gnarled,
even hard, but some are soft with pretty
nails painted, massaged with oil sweet scented
or maybe not, smelly sweaty feet common—
all sorts and conditions of human worldly feet.
Who knows about Peter’s feet, a disciple’s feet,
and the other feet in that upper room
when Jesus took off his outer robe revealing
perhaps more of himself than normal among the
band of holy land walkers  who have shared
so much already.  Now here is something
very strange:  the rabbi wants to wash our dirty
feet as he has already invited us to share our
dirty linen—the same Jesus who is ready
to receive and wash our feet and linen today—even Peter’s,
who, of course, objects as he often does.
Is there ever a time when there is not
at least one Peter in every group ,
the long ago one offended by the
very idea of his Lord stooping to wash
feet, like today’s recoiling at showing
the imperfection of feet, even more
at being asked to wash others’.
How far we have fallen back, afraid of showing
in faith just our feet, not our private parts,
to one another in a sacred act
of service, not to mention dipping hands
into warm water to bathe tired feet—
are not feet nearly always tired, they
carry us wherever we go and if we have
not feet we must ride on chair or human back
or hop with crutches, feet efficiently
carrying us wherever we want to go—these are
feet of our neighbors, fellow congregants,
feet which trod on the same church floor as ours,
not the feet of strangers but fellow worshippers,
like us, Friends of Jesus who says
love one another, even your dirty, smelly,
calloused, hard or soft, ugly or pretty
feet.
If we cannot wash these feet, how can we
care for, let alone love, any others?

@Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .As a pastor who loves the service of foot washing, not because I have a foot fetish but because it makes Jesus so clear, I was often amazed by parishioners who drew back, almost in horror, at the idea of exposing their feet or touching any others. It was a recurring annual moment when I understood how thorough has been the domestication of Jesus within the church.

 

We Glow

(Transfiguration Sunday, Year C; see biblical texts here)

Prayer changes us even our faces
like Jesus with Peter James John
on the mountain we glow
when a devotion catches us
a song sends us reeling soul-ward
preacher pronounces profound truth
we rise shout wave Hallelujah!
But do we see Moses and Elijah
can we even imagine them
together our being there too?
Find our own mountain climb
to sit with Jesus talk
listen more to this holy trinity
receiving in one moment more
than we know to ask for in a
lifetime, hearing heavenly voice
tell us what we now know even
more than before: Follow this Son
My Son you his siblings in Me
our holy family united in healing
the children hungry sick lonely
afraid dying Love the loveless
Bring hope Undo despair Raise up
the lowly Free the prisoners
Cast out demons our own
and others. So as we come down
we glow, others seeing what we cannot,
like Moses changed on mountaintop
inside out upside down
never again the same.
©Robin Gorsline2016  lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .As with other stories about transcendent spiritual experiences—Jesus, Moses, Elijah, others—our postmodern minds can often get bogged down in questions of “fact.” Did this really happen or perhaps it is simply the imagination of devoted,  awed disciples? But, do we then fail to see the glow on faces, maybe even on our own, during mountaintop experiences? Do we understand we are members of the holy family, and glowing runs in the family?