When Jesus Says Hard Things

Reflection in response to Proper 15, 13th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

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When Jesus says hard things I want to turn away
but I know that is what others did to his face;
I see his eyes saddened by rejection
not just of him but of the one he called Abba.
Turning away from Jesus is like locking the church door
when he knocks, afraid to even look out to say,
“Not here, not today—no room for you now”
in this sanctuary where we worship and pray to you,
loving your gentle words and spirit, wanting you
the way we want you, not the way you are.

Jesus-angry-e1322078344383
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Feel-good religion is pleasant, helpful, available,
but just as often Jesus or Isaiah or other prophets
not to mention Paul (who can get under our skin),
have a mission bigger than our tender feelings,
and certainly our pocketbooks, despite proclamations
by those who wish to defend their own greed.
Our Lord says he came to bring fire to earth,
and wishes the blaze were going right now.
He warns us he did not come to bring peace
but division, and we scratch our heads, wondering
what happened to the Prince of Peace.
And he calls us hypocrites because we can read
the weather—and maybe the stock market report—
but not find and trust God in the current riot of trouble, pain,
racism, Islamophobia, assets gap, terror, misogyny,
and other ugliness we are creating, or letting others
create, as we wring our hands and our brains,
bleating like sheep (how Jesus loves his sheep!)
so much we rarely hear a divine word.

The writer of Hebrews 11, verses one, two,
speaks of the famous cloud of witnesses
encouraging us to run the race before us,
and we must, but this hard-edged (or another term?) Jesus
wants to know what we see, what we witness,
and most of all what we witness to, what matters
most to us. Do we open our hymnals and sing sweetly,
pray earnestly, open our mouths for bread and wine,
all good things, but then do we march, do we speak up,
do we tell the truth about poverty as well as wealth,
about hatred as well as love, about drones as well as guns,
about Israel as well as Palestine, about white as well as Black?

In short, as our Lord asks, do we know how to interpret the present time,
or have we put not our watches but our souls away for another day,
hoping somehow we can avoid the holy hard work
of being alive in faith here and now, walking rutty roads with Jesus
and lots of other folks, ready to tend that fire, feed the widow,
welcome the immigrant, even take a bullet for the Black man
as we stand to demand no more, and spread the love,
tell the truth, the whole truth, so help us God?

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . Gospel writers sometimes really hit it hard, recounting a time, or maybe it is a compilation of times and statements over time, when Jesus was not being so gentle, meek and mild. And it may be difficult for us not having been there to figure out exactly what set him off. However, if we look around, rather than looking back, we may garner some understanding.  And we may know more about what he calls us to do here and now.

 

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

 

 

 

Beloveds of God

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

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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
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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

 

Do We  Hear?

A Meditation in Response to Proper 13, 11th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C

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The speaker intones, A reading from the Gospel of Luke,
chapter twelve, beginning at verse thirteen.

In the pews, most waited to hear the word that could guide them
in the week ahead. They heard the reasonable question from an earnest
soul seeking what he calls the rightful share of his inheritance.
But Jesus will have none of it, refusing to arbitrate in this case,
then going way beyond that simple task
to declaim what must have sounded a strange idea then,
as now: keep yourself from covetousness,
abundant things are not the key to a good life.

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We may think Jesus’ response is wide of the mark,
all the good man seeks is what he is owed,
he has not earned a lecture about avarice or wealth.
But Jesus has a wider message not just for his interlocutor
then but also us today, a parable in which a successful man
has his priorities askew, spending his years
building an investment portfolio, not tending the wealth of his soul.

Someone might want to tell preachers extolling a prosperity gospel,
not to mention the local and national Chambers of Commerce
and politicians who think the first role of government
is to protect the wealth of the one percent and a few others,
that Jesus, the one so many claim to love, has a different message
“one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
(probably not one of his more popular lines).

If capitalism is the national creed of the United States—
many would claim it so—how can anyone call us a Christian nation—
not that we should be called that anyway, many of our people
are not of that faith, or any faith, and unlike Israel we were not
formed as a sanctuary for any one religion (Jews came pretty early)—
although some thought it then and persist in such un-Jesus thought today.

But if the One so many of us call Lord can mouth this economic heresy
how can we be sure of anything? Is Jesus less patriotic than we thought?
Does HUAC–House UnAmerican Activities Committee—
need to investigate church teaching to be sure
the freethinking does not go too far?
Do we need to remove the American flag from the sanctuary
(yes, long ago) so worshippers don’t confuse what they hear
on Sunday morning with the nation’s creed?

All this from one man’s simple question, and Jesus’ answer;
the challenge for us, like him, is do we really listen? And do we hear?

 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . Jesus said far more about economics than about sex, and his teaching about money and justice and community are very challenging to our contemporary consumer culture.  He is well connected to the Hebrew prophets who regularly denounced the practices of their people and leaders in creating false gods and denying their obligation to the welfare of the community. His response to the man in Luke 12 was most likely baffling in that time, but perhaps even more among us today.

©Robin Gorsline2016 Faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever this poem is published