Beloveds of God

A Meditation in Response to Proper 14, 12th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (especially Luke 12:32-40)

Click here for biblical texts

Jesus tells us, several  times at least, that we have what we need,
but most of us worry, doubt even, that we are not good enough
to earn, deserve, what we have already received.
And then Jesus tells us more proof that the gifts will arrive,
perhaps when we least expect it, and it can sound like we
had better be sitting up all night with our ears attuned to every
sound—which one will be him or God or Spirit breaking in our lives?

What he is really saying is that it is always happening,
In fact we need to learn how to be open to all the gifts, so many
gifts, that God has for us each day, all day.

I hope someday you grasp how loved you are
ursulinesmsj.org

Did you see the glint in the person’s eye as you passed by
them at the mall, they were having a God moment,
you could have received it too if you had been paying attention.
Or what about the touch of your friend as you parted after lunch,
did you feel the embrace of the Holy Spirit,
did you feel electric current between you and
your friend as it traveled up your arm into your shoulder,
taking direct aim at your soul? I mean, did you really
feel deep holy warmth at your core?

And the simple Shasta daisies outside your neighbor’s door,
did you see heaven as you rushed by them
this morning on your way, late for work, not too late
for God’s presence if you could simply pause
long enough to breathe? The question is not only
where are you putting your treasure, your money, but also
your time, your energy, focus. Where is your heart?
Your mind, is your mind on God or your to-do list?
Indeed, is God on your to-do list? Does God have a time
on your calendar? Every day? More than once a day?

Jesus wandered around Palestine talking with people,
all sorts of people—including the local people of color
known as Samaritans, as well as hated tax agents,
listening to their troubles, worries, ailments, offering
healing  and hope and clarity about how God,
the holy, is not locked up in Temple or even a book, but
is on the loose, moving freely among us, like Jesus,
open to hearing us, sitting with us, even praying
with us—how about we stop praying to God, start
praying with God?—everywhere we are, all of us,
not limited to folks in a particular pew in a particular house
of worship, God in some ways less like a bridegroom,
more like a street person, a beggar, just hoping
we will notice and stop and pass the time of day,
perhaps sharing not only a quarter or a dollar
but also a word or two of connection, human connection,
divine connection, trusting that as we open ourselves
to the wonders of the universe we shall remember
from whence we come and whose we are.  And then
we shall be ready for the next moment we catch a glimpse
of the holy among us, in us, with us, and we shall
celebrate with God and know we have once again
been invited to sit at the holy table and feed until
we are full of our inheritance, ready and eager
to share the blessing with those who do not yet know
what a glory it is to be blessed, to be beloveds of God.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . It is so easy to get wound up in the literal text that we miss the larger message. In Luke 12:32-40, I don’t experience Jesus telling us to be in a literal vigil, not doing anything but sitting in readiness, day and night after day and night, but rather to be alert in all that we do and say and see and hear, in all moments, to the presence of God. We are given so much each day, each moment, and we, at least I, miss so much of it, busy fending off the vagaries and troubles of life that I forget to see the beauty and joy and holy power in each molecule, each atom, each moment.

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever and wherever this poem is published

 

Don’t Miss the Party!

A Reflection on Proper 11, 9th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

Click here for biblical texts
A leaky roof is a fearsome thing for a church
causing not only water damage but spiritual damage too,
as people focus on the building, money and contracts,
possibly forgetting who and what is central;
or maybe the damaged roof signifies a leak elsewhere,
inability to keep all things in balance or a failure
of people to invest enough of themselves to support
the whole church. Of course, Christ is the one foundation,
and the roof a very second-tier thing even though it
is on top, because even if the roof falls in the church remains.

African church leaky roof picssr com
picssr.com

Maybe Jesus is showing Martha just that truth,
suggesting hierarchy of value—it is not that dinner
does not require preparation by us but it cannot replace
or subsume the feeding of our souls. The most important
hour at church is not the potluck nor is the building our center;
indeed, if it is, as it seems to be for some, Jesus, Holy Spirit,
Holy Parent will wonder where and who we are.
And if our focus neglects the poor, the immigrant, the widow,
too, if we feed only ourselves and our friends, then
as Amos says, our feasts, like our roof, may be turned
into mourning as for an only child, our songs into lamentations.

What we want, need, from the Holy One by whatever name
we call, is Presence, as appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre,
so we can greet and offer refreshment, hospitality, listening;
then we can hear what is intended for us, what we need;
but if we focus first or only on the sagging, leaking roof,
we can so easily miss the visit, like Jesus coming to our door
and we mistake him for a door-to-door salesman, saying
“Not today, thank you.” Abraham listened though he doubted
Sarah could bear a son, but the key was his open arms and ears.

It is always that way. Do we welcome unexpected visits,
do we listen even when we have work to do, or do we think
God must conform to our schedule, priority, need, fear?
I know I am so often Martha, and perhaps you, too;
that does not make us bad people, it just means we will miss
the best stuff, we will miss the icing and the cake, ice cream
and candles too, and even the singing, maybe the whole party
which is the gift of God for us all every day without end.
 

About this poem . . . . Jesus’ exchange with Martha always feels uncomfortable to me. I remember that someone has to make dinner, and do the dishes, etc. and it seems easy for Jesus, as a man in a society even more patriarchal than our own, to tell her to stop her chores—if she does not do these things, will the slaves do it,  or will there be no dinner? But then I remember how often I complain about all the work I have to do, and how it becomes an excuse to skip meditation and prayer, and how often the busy-ness of church (and so much else) overwhelms my need to slow down and listen for the still, small voice wanting to break through easy, ordinary resistance.

 

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

It Is Always Them and Us

Reflection for Proper 6, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

(click here for biblical texts)

Sin is the great human equalizer
even though some always point with alarm
at sins of others and often manage
to sin really big as they hide behind
their judgments. A great gift King David shares
with us is the largeness of his sinning—
no petty morality thief he—this impregnator
of Bathsheba, murderer of Uriah did it big
not for the first or last time in his storied life.
Nor is it only once that loyal counselor Nathan
conveys God’s displeasure—can you just see
him, smacking his head perhaps, thinking how could he
do this, when will he learn there are limits
even for kings? Even great kings basking
in God’s favor.

Luke tells of less violent but still a disrespectful
act of Pharasaic inhospitality toward the woman
who dared show love and care for Jesus invited
to his home for dinner; this woman, labeled a sinner,
is judged unworthy by the host to grace his home—
can you not see him looking down his privileged
nose at her, even as she bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears
and alabaster ointment—and Jesus assumes Nathan’s
role to show the eminent one that etiquette
counts less than ethics, that generosity begins
in simple acts of kindness—greeting all your guests
invited or not with dignity, an embrace or kiss,
water for hands dirtied in the ordinariness of life
and for dried throats, perhaps even ointment
for weary brow and aching feet, none of this shared
by he who sits as judge.

This leader is to be sure well-meaning,
conscious of what he and others see as his role
and duty to keep rules of social decorum in place—
how will the others know where to sit without a place card,
and know if there is no such marker they are not welcome.
Order matters for him, as for many, maybe even for you and me;
It is so easy to sit on our own throne of judgment
but when did you last invite a homeless person to dine
with you, or even stoop to share a dollar with the beggar
lying rudely in his rags on the street?

As for David, those despicable acts are in a class
by themselves, so surely we can judge righteously,
not being rapists or murderers ourselves—but,
and think carefully before answering, when was
the last time you marched into your bosses’ office
and told her the company’s investments in the
West Bank, resulting in Palestinians being moved
off their land against their will, were immoral, or even spoke up
to object to the telling of a racist or homophobic
or transphobic joke, or went to an abortion clinic
to stand with women having to brave the pickets
standing in judgment of their need for help,
or if you are a person who considers himself white,
when was the last time you tried to organize your neighbors,
all of whom look like you, into protesting policies
and practices that make black men as many as ten times
more likely to be arrested than you and your friends?

Sin is the great human equalizer
because it comes in so many forms
and maybe the best way to see it is to look
in the mirror, at least to start there as a reminder
that redemption begins at home, that forgiveness
is a gift that keeps on giving, mercy is rarely overdone,
kindness is always appropriate, greed is always wrong
whether it is a brutal taking or a sly shoplift, killing
is at the apex of the index, whether it is one-on-one
or we sit idly as our army kills whether we know
the cause or not, just because someone has told us
it’s them or us.

The truth, God’s truth, is that it is never
them or us, it is always them and us, just us.
The sooner we learn that, the sooner sin
will die a holy and natural death.

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . It can be comforting to read scriptural accounts of the failings of others, and to feel sorry for them, or judge them, or both, but in truth what if someone were writing down our acts, or our lack of acting in response to the wrongs we see? How would our story come out? Humility is a good place to live our faith. But boldness, too—when did you last bathe a stranger with your tears?
©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

Endless Dance

Reflection on Trinity Sunday, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Ghost).
This the formula by which all things holy are done in Christian contexts.
But what does it mean? Does anyone really know?
Trinity Sunday—first after the Day of Pentecost–is intended
by liturgical planners to help us understand the ancient doctrine
containing all the power of our faith.
But what kind of power is it?
A cleric intones the words, all respond Amen, seeming to say
the deed, whatever it is, is now done.

But what if the Trinity is not done, what if instead
of finality it is just the beginning?  What if that Blessed three-sided
family is always on the move in a dance of divine proportions,
touching, engaging each other and all living beings in an endless
do-si-do, moving themselves and us to embrace and part over
and over to create new life, new meaning, without end?

trinity theologybyheart com
theologybyheart.com

And more, why does it have to be Father, white Father with white beard
at that? If the Creator is old why is he, or she, not black—the first
humans were Black in Africa, and their parent surely could be, should be
it seems to me, the same. And why not mother, does not a woman
give birth to all life of all sorts? Holy Mother God, an ample bosomed
Parent in whose loins all are birthed and at whose breasts all are suckled!
But more than a birthing, nursing machine, She sets the beat
of the dance, teaches the steps, commissions her two cohorts
to go forth to touch, empower, raise up, renew all life .

And they, Blessed Son and Holy Spirit, eager always to engage life,
on the move, being fed and taught by Mother, bring fierce truth
and energy everywhere whether invited or not, even as
they know rejection and avoidance from all at least some of the time.
But they do not stop, when dismissed or slain they do not truly leave
or die but await a new opening to heal the breach and recreate
the love of life they carried and taught the first time, indeed
every time, world without end.

Blessed Son is male, with penis and all that signs maleness,
going forth among us from time immemorial to teach and counsel and lead,
daring to be what no man before or since has been or will be.

Could then Holy Blessed Spirit be some of both, Mother and Son, transcending,
indeed expanding, preciously paltry ideas of gender?
So that where She/He goes we are impregnated and birthed
at the same time, to join the endless dance, the do-si-do
of eternal creation, growing, when we listen to the divine beat,
in spiritual strength, claiming our holy origins,
unafraid to be really alive from the soul out to
pulsing fingertips and toes, whirring brain
energy seeking not stasis but vibration that moves
all life to be in relation with Holy Mother God
and all She creates and nurtures.

In the Name of the Mother, Blessed Son, and Holy Spirit,
may it be so, and more, may we not miss the dance!

 
©Robin Gorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The Trinity seems to most of us a mystery explaining a mystery. And sermons seeking to explain it can become pedantic, especially if they are consumed with the need to defend that which really needs no defense. Doctrine rarely makes good homiletics, or indeed poetry. I am indebted to a somewhat mediocre yet strangely powerful work of fiction, The Shack, by William Paul Young, for sharing a glimmer I have long had of these three-in-one moving, alive, laughing, living to the fullest in all directions, dancing because there is no tomorrow, only always today.

She Will Not Be Bound

 

Meditation for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C
(click here for biblical texts)

See I am making all things new;
is this verse from the last of the
Christian canonical biblical texts
not the whole truth of the creation,
byword of a God always on the move,
seeking us (as Rabbi Heschel said long ago,
the Bible is not the record of humans’
search for God but of God’s search
for humanity) so that somehow She
can get us to see that what we often
claim, namely that we have received
all God has for us between
covers of an often translated humanly
created set of texts, is only part
of the divine story–the rest being
God’s continuing revelation of all life.

Peter at Joppa pilgrimatthecrossroads com
pilgrimatthecrossroads.com

So we see Peter receiving a strange hieroglyphic,
a divine picture-text descending, not telling him to obey
old rules devoutly maintained for generations,
but to see the universe in a new way: what
God has made clean, namely every creature like snakes,
caterpillars, blue jays, frogs, wolves, bears, ants and anteaters,
do not despise or negate. And that applies not
just to dinner fare, but also to dinner companions—
God’s table excludes no one, forget human rules
of eligibility–God does not exclude
no matter how much human authorities try
to convince us and themselves otherwise.

And what about love? Does Jesus tell us
to love but warn that certain restrictions apply?
Or is love to be how we live as well
as the sign of who we are? Many think he meant
we do not need to love those who seek to harm us
or those of whom we are frightened  
or those who don’t obey Ten Commandments,
not wanting them chiseled on the courthouse wall,
but he did not say that. Love as I have loved you
is what he said.  I love you, Herod, I love you,
Pilate, and Judas, too, and the young man
who walked away downcast because you did not want
to give up your riches and privilege, I love you too.
Not just Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the beloved disciple,
and the others. No I love you all. All means all.

This no poetic license, despite objections
that there is no evidence that he loved Herod
or even those screaming for his execution.
Where are the harsh words, where the angry screeds
delivered in Gethsemane’s Garden?
Did he keep the disciples up with harangues against he
who betrayed him, did he allow Peter’s
sword to have the last word or did he heal the wound
and say no to more violence?  And did he tell
Herod he was evil or call for a revolt against
his authority? He did not feel bound
by the king’s rules, but he did that without
disrespect to the person, and that is the ground
in which love can thrive–you must respect the
personhood of another in order to love them (if only
Congress could remember that love comes first, before
scoring points against those with whom you disagree).

The truth is that God keeps showing up with
another textual sheet with truth we missed before
or forgot, or is especially apt for the moment.
Our job–really God’s gift to us–is to pay attention
and follow that wisdom even if it challenges rules
we have imbibed at mother church’s breast,
even if those who claim to know say no.
God is on the move reaching and teaching
well outside their control, which is why they
try so hard to lock Him up in that book
or any other holy jail they can find or construct.
But She will not be bound, and
there comes a time, and more than once,
we have to choose whom to trust: God,
the Holy One who makes all things new,
or the people who tell us who God is.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The account in Acts 11 of a new teaching–What God has made clean, you must not call profane—is a pivotal moment in the development of what eventually became Christianity. But so often we cling to the idea that revelation is over, that God has nothing new for us, that we have nothing new to learn, that to be faithful requires only that we repeat what was repeated to us. That is a God neither Jesus, nor Peter, nor Paul, would recognize.

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.

He Will Touch You

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

jesus_doubting-thomas-cropped
thejesusquestion.org

Some of us need proof beyond the testimony
of others—at least when it comes to things
out of the ordinary; like Thomas we want
to put our fingers in the holes, maybe even feel  the dried blood.
But can faith ever be dried, captured in a book
or locked up in systems that claim to explain everything?

Some people appear to freeze-dry their beliefs and then
add water when needed and call it faith;
others quote a verse or two and claim that resolves it all.
But faith is a more lively affair, lived in ups and downs,
not without doubt or fear, often messy, unpredictable like
soft ripe pears, juicy peaches, grapefruit squirting all over,
sweet liquids running down my chest
rivulets of nectar coursing through hair over nipples
reminding me of tactile sensations—
like Jesus healing the leper with his fingers,
life poured out and on a hungry soul and body
made whole by faith, in faith, working in ways
reason always fails; logic has limits beyond
which God continually goes, inviting us
to cast aside fear and doubt which hold us
back. Yet doubt is part of faith if we dare
to really go where God leads—walking in
clouds of unknowing, not always able to see
through the fog of our own creation let alone
glimpsing far off a divine horizon we will never
reach but whose power when we let it in
draws and drives us forward. But it is right
for Thomas to want to touch Jesus’ wounds—
it is often in our wounds that we find deeper
faith, and why not in our Lord’s wounds
as well—to learn how to see all that God
has for us and all that the world creates,
including death and destruction and oppression,
too often in God’s name however wrong
it may be. God works with our doubt as well
as our faith—there is nothing God will not,
cannot, use to lead us forward where we
fear to go. Let us then not judge Thomas—
have you not demanded proof, have you not
doubted? So, let us go on the journey
with him and the others who scattered like
holy seed to the east, the west, the south
and north, knowing that they had a story to tell.

What is your story, what is your witness,
when have you said, I have seen the Lord! Are
you even looking? If not, you may miss him, too.
But trust that he will come by if you ask.
He will touch you even if you cannot touch him.

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .As a preacher, I got tired of the story about Thomas, the same year in and year out—as if the Lectionary architects felt we needed a dose of doubting every year after the big Sunday of the Resurrection. It does get me ponder doubt, however, and how essential it is to living in the midst of the ups and downs of faith.  

What Are We Waiting for?

(Sunday of the Resurrection, Year C; click here for biblical texts)

I.
I have seen the Lord! proclaims Mary Magdalene,
beginning a new, never-ending adventure In faith.
Again, God has worked through the unlikely,
now a woman whom some once considered tainted,
but the only person in all four gospels to have testified,
from direct observation and even divine exposition,
to the resurrection of Jesus, she called the apostle to the apostles
by one early church father—an astounding claim by a
patriarch, a sign of things turned upside
down, reflecting the wonder of the empty tomb,
God’s power working through one of us—this Nazarene man—
to do what many call impossible.

II.
Colorful eggs, hopping bunnies, are nice,
even fun, but a man rising alive from a tomb of the dead—
now that’s worth the world, which is what
God intended to say: I want all to live full
of joy and love and peace, to trust divine
power more than any other, to know that I,
God, am always here, at the ready, present for
all life which comes from me eternally.

III.
That is why the empty tomb is such a potent marker,
even as it is not an easy marketing symbol any more than
the stone rolled away. But when Mary and the others
arrived they were not seeking the cross. They were
coming to care for the dead body of their Lord.
That they did not find it, that in one account Mary
found him and talked to him, that is the news,
that is the miracle, that is the sign of the victory
over death-dealing injustice and hate that affects
and infests us all to this day. We can’t get to the
empty tomb without the cross, but what truly is
the mark of God’s reign in this world—a bloodied
man-made tree erected by an ugly regime based on the
fear and anger of otherwise good, faithful people, or
the fact that ultimately none of us need be
governed by such ugliness and fear and anger?

IV.
We crucify people all the time, on the streets,
In jails, subway stations, public markets, as lethally—
though sometimes with less agony—and legally as was
done by Pilate and his minions, when what we need
is resurrection, new life, a raising, rising, of walking dead
to live not as the world makes it happen but full,
vibrant, vital human beings striding forth Lazarus-like from
tombs, theirs and ours, to claim divine birthright
belonging to all. God is ready to empty our tombs.

V.
What are we waiting for?

@Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .I have long strained against using the cross as the universal symbol of Christian faith and life, because it is the mark of neither. It is the sign of evil and ugliness, of human fear gone amok,  unchecked by those in authority. Their actions were understandable, so very human, but the result on that hill is not, to me at least, the marker of my faith. My faith lies in the empty tomb, in the natural boulder rolled away that death could emerge and live again. That is Easter faith, the truly good news.

Freed for Extravagance

(Lent 5, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

The poor we always have with us,
so God’s truth is:  reach out, feed, house,
clothe, care—but not in tightfisted
begrudging dutiful charity ways,
and certainly not to pretend
poor people alone are to blame
for their reality and we who are not poor
are innocent—embrace God’s beloved,
all of us siblings in the divine family.

Let’s follow Mary at table,  
pouring the gift of our soul—a gift from God—
like cheap wine at a block party
where no one has to worry about driving home,
a fountain of living loving liquid
to quench the dried out hearts
and weary bodies of neighbors in need
of laughter, joy, mountains of love
to feed children’s empty bellies,
to ease pains of living on edge,  
not sure when the next paycheck comes
if it will, or whether there even is a job.

Mary chose expensive ointment, showing
how to value those we love by stretching
beyond the comfortable to extravagance,
doing a new thing dazzling in simplicity,
grace and intimacy, using her own hair
as the agent of anointing, adoration,
and announcement of devotion to Lord Jesus
beyond the well-trod  ways.
Can you imagine presidential candidates
really hugging people, not photo ops,
really listening, not video opportunities,
telling whole truths in love, not advantage
against the other side?
That’s the revolution Mary began
and we are called to continue.

So when will you let your hair down
long enough to bathe your neighbor
and the world in endless pure love,
no conditions, no ugly boundaries
just love, more love still, an extravagance of love?

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . The story in John 12 about Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly oil and her hair seems to stand in stark contrast to the last line about the inevitability of poor people—at least that is how it has often been interpreted. But what if her actions are the template by which we learn to care for each other, and perhaps especially for the poor?

 

Lost and Found

(Lent 4, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

If you’ve ever been lost—scared out of your mind lost,
so lost you despair coming out alive, maybe unsure if you are really you—
you know how good it feels to find your way or to be found,
almost as good as, maybe better than, arriving in the Promised Land
or the welcome given the wastrel son embraced by his father,
robed, feted, made whole again.
Most equate ourselves with the virtues of the non-prodigal son number one,
loyal responsible no blame no shame, but the real center of Jesus’ story
is the father who loves both sons, perhaps seeing himself in each of them.
Are we not both/and rather than either/or?
Yet Pharisees among us delight in judging who can be found
or invited to a celebration of the finding. 
Think what they would do if we held parties to welcome immigrants
escaping from tyranny, violence, abuse in their native lands–but why not
celebrate their finding new homes with us?
They say sinners need not apply except who would be left if we are excluded? 
It is so easy to get caught up in blame, judgment, setting rules for who will
get into heaven, who will not, a game we play often, amusing
God who long ago decided on one gate only, unless there
is a crowd then two gates open, same rules apply: all are welcome
to this place that is not somewhere else but right here and now
up to us to live whole, faithful, hopeful, eager to open the gates of our hearts
as wide as God’s, grateful when loved ones find their way back and more so
when we don’t have to climb the fence because the gate again
again and again swings open
wrapping our bodies, spirits in everlasting
embraces of love and welcome.

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . This parable is so well-known, but it can yield nuggets each time we ponder it. Henri Nouwen and others have helped us see it is really the parable of the generous father more than the prodigal son (as many of us were told when growing up). We still see so many “fathers” who seem ungenerous, stingy even, no matter who the lost may be (and if you are like me, you have been lost in a big way at least once).  Jesus never turned any of the lost away, just as God does not, in fact, we are welcomed.