Shining

Reflection on Transfiguration Sunday, Year A

 

Textual focus: Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
Click here for biblical texts

 

She began slowly,
so softly we had to quiet ourselves to hear
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia,
and again, many repetitions
as she mined the word-notes for all their life—

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John
and led them up a high mountain by themselves—

the purity of her contralto
caught us as she moved to Bless the Lord, O my soul,
many more now singing and beginning to stand,
arms in the air, and all that is within me,
bless His holy name, her eyes begin to glisten—

And he was transfigured before them,
and his face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became dazzling white—

her voice stronger, He has done great things
her face begins to glow, bless His holy name—

suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him—

then This Little Light of Mine, almost all of us
on our feet, singing, tears of joy and thanks,
I’m gonna let it shine,
glow spreading face to face—

suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them,
and from the cloud a voice said,
“This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased;
listen to him!”—

I’m gonna let it shine,
bodies swaying
our collective gleam radiating through walls
all the way to heaven and back,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

As the applause and tears and hugs
roll across the sanctuary
the preacher says,
“Jesus told the disciples on that mountain,
‘get up, don’t be afraid,’
meaning living belongs to those who stand
even when it is difficult,
who rise not just in church
but when we come down from holy highs,
Spirit touching us deep as our bones and more,
knowing sacred work begins
when we stand where bodies are needed
to say no to injustice,
yes to justice, or both,
to remind America First, to remind ourselves,
God is first.”

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . To our rationalist eyes and ears, the story of Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop can sound too much like Christian scripture writers trying to outdo, or at least, match the glow of Moses’ face or the divine blessing of Elijah. But such transfiguration, on a more human scale, happens fairly often, at least it seems so to me, when one of those truly holy gospel church moments begins to capture all within hearing distance, when a singer or choir and instrumentalists take us out of the room, certainly out of our seats, and we feel the gleam of heaven’s bright sun and stars not only on us but in us, not only shining on us but glowing out from us. And that is when we can get the courage to go forth and “god” (a wonderful verb) in the world.

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

Where We Must Go

A reflection in response to Proper 8, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem
knowing he had to go to fulfill his mission
despite probable pain and rejection.
Mission. A word we associate with missionaries
going to foreign lands to spread Good News,
to convert, at least teach others
about Jesus, or to help with health and self-care
among those whose worlds are filled not
with science and modern learning
but with age-old remedies and ways of being.
Corporations and businesses have missions too,
principles designed to express the values and purpose
of the corporate culture, increase investment,
inspire workers to new heights
of achievement, more whole ways of toiling.

Jesus set his face medium com
medium.com

Do you have a mission? Do I?
Do we as the Body of Christ?
If we set our collective face,
even our individual, personal face,
to go to the Jerusalem, the hard place in our lives,
where would that be? Would we seek out
the person we have not yet forgiven,
be human and confess our sin
in order to set us, the world, more free?
Would we go, if we are white, to Baltimore or D.C.
or Ferguson, to engage in hard work
of undermining what white privilege has done,
is doing, to our siblings in Christ? Or
into corporate boardrooms to demand
an end to ceilings, Black and Brown and glass?
Or maybe all of us, regardless of
color or origin to stand outside the Pentagon
or White House demanding an end
to nuclear arms and a beginning to fund,
fully fund, programs to feed the hungry,
or health care for all? Or if we are L,G,B, or T,
do we bare our souls, maybe bodies, in places
of the greatest hate and intolerance,
go home to the small town we fled
and proclaim our embodied joy, or perhaps sit
in at a meeting of Catholic Bishops
or the Southern Baptists to ask them not
to talk to us but listen, just listen
to the truths of our lives? Or stand somewhere,
telling our government no walls,
return no immigrants other than criminals,
to open our hearts by the golden door
to all in need of new starts, a reprieve
from unrelenting violence in their own land.
Must we not take in the widows, orphans,
and sojourners in our midst? Is that not
holy teaching?

We are not Jesus, or Elijah, you say, not needing
to defeat the gods of Baal or of mighty Rome
or even rules of the ancient temple.
It is so, and yet, and yet, Baal walks among us
in many forms, and our nation is perilously close
to Rome despite our good intentions, our religious rules
often not far removed from the law from which Paul
told Galatians, and us, we were liberated.
We cannot condemn Pharisees
for short-sightedness when our own vision is small.
Like those whom Jesus met on his way to Jerusalem
we have many reasons to say “Okay,
just not now.” Or we can, like disciples,
threaten to destroy those from whom we feel
rejected, but Jesus, Jesus of Easy Yoke
and Hard Way, calls us to put hand to plow,
set our jaw, with confidence in God if not joy,
turn our face to the Jerusalem of our day,
our life, whatever it may be,
knowing, as it happened for Elisha
as he followed heaven-bound Elijah,
that the waters will part and we can go
where we are called to go,
where we must go.

About this poem . . . This is not an easy lectionary collection. Today’s gospel has hard sayings from Jesus, and the Hebrew accounts of Elijah and Elisha can seem too fantastic to our modern sensibilities, and even Paul, seeming to say flesh is bad in and of itself. And yet, there is through here, for me at least, a thread of engagement with the world, of being empowered and guided by divine forces to participate in co-creating the world God wants us to share.

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

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?

The Next Prophet

(4th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C; click here for biblical texts)

Now the word of God came telling Jeremiah
I appointed you a prophet to the nations
But prophets are more numerous speaking
unstoppable truths no matter some try to bury them.
God testifies from unlikely places a southern white
matron organizes spy ring to  undermine the Confederacy
a rabbi speaks for whole justice for Palestinians
Jesus pokes at ancient insularity by harking back to
Elijah and the poor unnamed widow at Zaraphath
in Sidon Elisha’s healing the leprous Syrian army leader
Naaman while white people march with Dr. King heterosexual couples
refuse to wed until their lesbian gay friends can be married.
Prophets often pay dear especially when some perceive
them breaking social rules undermining the status quo
that protects their shared group.
Membership carries privilege conditional at best
the price often too high we look the other way
keep heads down but there are always some who are reached
by God even those who do not believe.
Their bravery changes things us the world
saves lives even as it may cost them theirs.
And they like Jesus walk through angry crowds proving
once again divine truth love peace joy hope will not be stopped
always another day another voice the next prophet
could it be you?

©Robin Gorsline2016  lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . We tend to think of prophets as the ones with big names—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Dr. King, Mohammed. We don’t usually think of Jesus precisely in that way, but in Nazareth, among his home folks, he learned that telling too much truth can land you in hot water (and then he just kept doing it). Many people, even ones of lesser note, throughout history and today have done or are doing the same thing, sometimes on a grand scale, sometimes smaller. It’s how things change.