The Spirit of God Is Upon Me

John, moved by the spirit of God to testify, cries
make straight and smooth the way of the one who is to come–
this the one we recognize in the words of Isaiah:
The Spirit of God is upon me, for the Holy One has anointed me.
God has sent me to bring good news to those who are poor,
not more tax breaks for the rich nor crushing burdens for the rest;
to heal broken hearts, not turn them away nor deny them help;
to proclaim release to those held captive and liberation to those in prison,
not build more prisons nor make necessary more refugee camps
nor ignore those suffering through multiple viruses;
to announce a year of favor from God and the day of God’s vindication,
not mere greatness for our nation nor our political party
nor power over those of other faiths and no faith;
to comfort all who mourn,
not deny them their personhood and pain
nor trample on the memory of loved ones;
to provide for those who grieve in Zion, humans and all living beings,
not deny the truths of their lives;
to give the abused and molested and raped a wreath of flowers instead of ashes,
immigrants and dreamers the oil of gladness instead of tears,
all who resist evil and oppression a spirit of praise in place of a spirit of sadness.

God says I love justice so those who hear and respond to God’s call
will be known as oaks of righteousness, trees of integrity,
planted by God to show divine glory, to show God’s way forward.
They will renew ancient struggles for dignity, raising again the cries of the oppressed,
rebuild cities and communities neglected, injured, and left for devastation,
they will welcome the stranger, those in need of asylum, with grateful hearts,
they will overturn the rules that keep people down,
they will cultivate flourishing for all Creation.
Now is the time, this is the place,
is the Spirit of God upon me, you?
Is it upon us?

Texts for biblical readings for Advent 3, Year B, may be found at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=48

Advent Messages

Comfort, O comfort my people, says God, according to Isaiah.
Do we hear the melodic lift from Handel’s Messiah
and immediately feel better
or do we feel how much we need comforting,
knowing how much trauma is in the world—
not just in distant war-torn lands
but in our own where war rages too,
maybe not a shooting war,
although Black women and men
may have a different view, but war nonetheless,
ugly words, untrue claims, threats of violence
not just one virus but many,
do we wonder if comfort will ever come?

Mark begins by announcing the good news
of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
then repeats Isaiah
to assure his listeners that John the Messenger
will prepare the way for the people in the wilderness—
struggling under the heavy fist of Rome, desperate for a new life—
to be ready for a new reality
made possible through repentance and confession.

But does that sound like good news?
Does it sound comforting?
Repenting and confessing are not easy,
requiring honest examination of ourselves,
telling the truth even when it is not pleasant
facing things we want to forget.

In his own way, John reminds us of the need
to go back, to engage in a searching and honest look back—
being clothed in camel hair with a leather belt
was several centuries out of fashion,
and locusts and wild honey
hardly reflect success and power to lead.
Still, many responded to the gift, yearning for change,
for God who resides in human hearts.

Advent can be a nostalgic journey, even one of cheer,
remembering Christmas pageants of our younger years
now featuring children and grandchildren,
obscuring the unmistakable longing
for what is just out of sight,
the gift of wholeness we are promised
in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Is this not a season of comfort, gratitude, joy
and longing? 

Biblical texts for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B, can be found at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=49

I would appreciate knowing if you choose to part or all of this poetic reflection.
Please write me at fp@robinhawleygorsline.com 

Can It Be So with Us?

A Reflection in Response to the 3rd Sunday in Advent, Year A

 

Text Focus: Psalm 146:5-10, Luke 1:45b-55, Matthew 11:2-11
Click here for all biblical texts
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in their God—truth known by John
the Baptizer and Mary too. Can it be so with us?
Dare we open our eyes enough to see
God at work in every moment, read signs
of the times and feel joy as God takes us
on new journeys in faith? John did, and it led him
to prison and death, while Mary’s life grew
both inside and all about her, she proclaiming
the gift of God’s favor, mercy and strength.

They seem so different, rough-clothed, even angry,
on one hand (though might he be sweet in his own way),
soft-spoken, gentle on the other (but so strong as well);
yet both open to what God delivers—
promise of salvation through another
born to her, seen by him;
she births, nurtures, the sprout,
he witnesses the full-grown tree
standing tall, speaking true in biblical witness
in pages close together but separated
by decades, yet saga tells us
their births—John and Jesus—were close
in time and even blood so they
are cousins through their mothers’ line.

We know stories of these men as they live and die,
almost side by side in Jerusalem and countryside,
to carry God’s word to those who want to believe
so long as it does not cost more than they, or we, will pay.
If Mary had known she would weep at the foot of the cross
on which hung her beloved son would then she praise
or curse her fate, and his? And John, and his mother,
cousin Elizabeth, would they then sing
or speak in joy and love for the God of Jacob?
The answer is yes, they did not count the cost dear
but the chance to witness so much more than ever
they dreamed in ordinary lives, a gift so rich
their hearts ring full, Mary’s praises,
John’s hand pointing to the one he came to announce.

Can it be so with us?
Will we birth and nurture what God places in us
trusting Holy One who is our soul and knows us
inside out, from glowing darkness of God within,
calling us to abandon old and narrow habits
that block our own sacred living
in a world that wants control and substitutes order
for life?
Will we cast out fear and choose joy,
to take a chance on God?
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem……This week’s lectionary contains two gospel options, the Magnificat from Luke (My souls magnifies the Lord) and Matthew’s account of John asking Jesus, “Are you the one?” It got me thinking about these two powerful characters in the Jesus story, especially when I came across reference to the Isenheim Altarpiece (featured image above) by the Italian Renaissance painter Matthias Grunewald. It shows a bloody Jesus on the cross, with Mary, on the left, despairing in the arms of the Beloved Disciple, and John the Baptizer, on the right, holding a book and pointing to Jesus. These two figures, joined together by more than shared family connection, may help us be prepared for the journey we are soon to begin again, from birth to ministry to death and beyond, with Jesus and so many more.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

When Good News Doesn’t Sound So Good

(Advent 3 Year C; please click here for link to the biblical texts)

Advent’s third Sunday known for joy a pink candle
no one told John so he called out the brood of snakes
he saw slithering around claiming holy lives
keeping warm with coats some need more
cheating others of funds bullies for personal gain.
No mincing words still people thronged
wondering who John is and he tells them
I am the harbinger the forerunner of the One who will bless
and baptize and toss into the fire those who fail
to pay attention. This is Good News?
Directions yes but a recipe for happiness not
happiness overrated anyway
Joy is the bigger deal lasting a lifetime no matter
what comes even a crotchety prophet who points
in the right direction we fear to go
sheep bleating stammering backs up
unwilling to be the first to go through the gate
except to buy presents and pretend all is well
while the world continues teetering closer to the edge
of oblivion fail-safe trigger fingers cocked
just in case figures on the chess board bolt their squares.
In God We Trust we say but it is bombs armies soldiers
sailors marines tanks guns generals admirals leaders
who act tough
we trust more
markets tycoons corporations stocks bonds mortgages too
profiting perhaps most of all
But prophetic  preaching
was long ago another time another world
a curiosity in the shop of spiritual memorabilia.
Still he speaks. Will we catch the truth
of joy within bearing salvation fruit to share
with a frightened angry torn weary world
that only knows nine shopping days ‘til Christmas?

©Robin Gorsline 2015 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form