Jesus Keeps Walking, God Keeps Moving

Reflection on the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

Focus: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23
Click here for biblical texts
 

Jesus kept walking no matter what was happening around him
whether John was arrested or Lazarus needed him;
he walked to the wedding in Cana though he may not have
known what he would be asked to do. He set his face and feet
towards Jerusalem even when he knew that was the way
to trouble with a capital T. Paul kept moving too,
knowing that his mission was to proclaim the gospel,
so when Corinthians began to mess things up
he wrote to them while on the road.
Isaiah knows God sends joy to those once bereft of hope.

God is always on the move, and not just walking, but touching
and blessing and inspiring and jostling status quos with new life.
Pharaohs. presidents, generals, moguls, dictators, pass through
on their way to self-described greatness,
but they are not really moving so much as walking
on the treadmill called success and power and wealth,
while God and faithful ones God touches
really move, living where things count less than soul,
where hearts are eager and minds open to receive and share,
not grab,  the gifts freely available to all.  
These are ones Jesus calls, the ones who answer,
putting down nets in which they have loaded all they own,
to be captured, raised up and sent forth
by a power greater than themselves, greater than
all of us, all the world.

It seems easiest to move with the world,
not trusting in God or prophets or others
who ask us to move in holy, other ways,
not out of the world but deeper in it
because we move knowing the truth
of the psalmist and Jesus and Paul,
and Mohammed and Moses, too,
God is my guide and my salvation,
whom shall I fear? God is the stronghold
of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Can we not be brave like the smallest seed
that pushes up from the soil into a world
it does not know, trusting in the rain, sunshine,
and nurture God provides and encourages us to offer, too?
Can we not become, like Simon and Andrew, and James and John,
mighty oaks of faith, the winds of God blowing in and through us,
gracing all around us , our roots going every deeper into earthy soul,
shedding leaves of faith, joy, hope, and love
wherever we stand, the never-ending melodies of God,
the ceaseless plea to care for the widow, orphan, immigrant,
divine prayer for us to love as God loves,
crossing our lips not just on Sunday mornings
but in every moment of every day?
 

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . God so often gets locked up somewhere—a book, a temple, an idea—for safe keeping. But the prophets and even the psalmists, in their better moments, knew better, and surely Jesus did, and he helped Paul figure it out, too. One of the problems with churches may be that we are locked up in one place, too, and forget that God is on the move, everywhere, all the time. Of course, God comes to us all the time, but we can easily miss the visit because we do not expect it right where are.
 

©Robin Gorsline 2017 FaithfulPoetics.net

When Jesus Says Hard Things

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

Click here for biblical texts

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
knightsofdivinemercy com

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

 

 

 

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

What Song Will You Sing?

A Meditation for the 7th Sunday of Easter
(click here for biblical texts)

The cynic’s saying No good deed goes unpunished
may have occurred to Paul in Philippi when—
after making common cause with Lydia and friends—he
ordered ugly spirits to leave a servant girl
who irritated him with public pronouncements .
We don’t know her feelings about being released
from demon’s power but Paul and Silas
find themselves on the wrong end of the law
because her owners are enriched from her fortune-telling.
Not for the first time or the last, emissaries
of The Way find themselves stripped, beaten, and locked up.

paul-and-silas-in-prison bloorlansdownechristianfellowship wordpress com
bloorlansdownechristianfellowship.wordpress.com

But the story takes an unexpected turn to become
one of the greatest liberation moments of all time,
perhaps ultimate in nonviolent revolution,
a model for how God works when we pray
and get out of the way.
Singing and praying in the night,
as their fellow prisoners listen,
some force—is it an act of nature or of God
or simply the earnest, faithful power
of their prayers and voices—
creates a midnight disturbance,
an earthquake we are told, that flings open every cell door
without so much as leaving a trace of damage
to the walls and foundation. Even more, no one
injured, not even the jailer who had confined
Paul and Silas to the worst of the puny accommodations.
In gratitude he takes his new friends home for blessing and supper.

This is the way we want our world to work!
Hebrews escape between the walls of the Red Sea
but Egyptians are so overcome by the sight
they do not pursue and thus do not die.
Israelites advance into Canaan and locals
are so glad to see them they throw a neighborhood party.
In his determination to find the child born in Bethlehem
Herod throws a giant party, treating all the children
and their parents to dinner, games and magic show
before sending them home.
In our own version of Canaan
(recreated in Palestine in 1948?),
European settlers bring much wealth to share with natives,
no attacks are made by either side, no reservations
for native peoples are created and none die
from diseases imported from Europe.
And here’s one more: needing to import labor, recruiters
go to Africa with brochures and bonuses
for early signing, inviting locals onto cruise ships
for the voyage across the Atlantic
with secure, paying jobs and health care waiting here
for those who choose the journey to try a New World.

And how about this? Police, leaders, citizens learn to sit down
with young Black men, listen to what they  need
to gain self-respect, and then work to meet the need.

A utopia, you say?

But why not? Paul and Silas were
two men, people like us. God is still God. Let’s start
praying and singing (don’t worry about your voice, it is
the intention that matters), and expecting the
disturbance. The world is ready for change.
It begins when we unlock whatever cell of despair,
discouragement, and doubt where we have put ourselves
or have allowed others with a different agenda
to confine us.

What song will you sing? What disturbance do you seek?

 

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .Acts of the Apostles continues to share stories of divine intervention (at least that is how I see an earthquake that does no damage) that challenge our rational minds. But is that not the job of faith, to move us beyond our ordinary selves into the realm of Spirit where anything may happen, especially if it intends or results in liberation for the oppressed?

 

Picked Up by the Spirit

A Meditation for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

(click here for the biblical texts)

Lydia's baptism site en wikipedia org
A Greek orthodox chapel on the site where Lydia is thought to have been baptized en.wikipedia.org

Visions from God are rare for us but not for Paul
who is told where not to go, where to go, even
it seems at times what to say, to whom to say it.
He was sent to Lydia the dealer in purple cloth
and her women’s community gathered at riverside
outside the gate at Philippi, Paul’s first journey
to Europe, he an intercontinental figure
for the first time; more, he does a new thing,
baptizing women who listened without a man
to tell them it was okay and without Paul asking
for a man to authorize this church plant
far from headquarters at Jerusalem.

This woman Lydia, dealer in purple cloth,
a luxury only the wealthy can afford,
heads her own household, decides on her own
to be baptized, choosing for the rest of them, too,
and invites Paul and his companions to
stay at her home a few days—a woman
in charge of her own life and others’ too,
rare in this world where men rule all.

Can we see ourselves in Lydia, men, women
or in between, not constrained by gender,
sexuality or race or station, gathering with other
seekers, believers, to pray at chapel
or in our homes or riverside or park,
office, bar or restaurant, anywhere
people need prayer, desire union with the divine.
Must we wait until Sunday,
do we even need to be organized
or could the Spirit pick us up and draw
us together heart to heart, soul to soul,
on a street corner or in a Starbucks—
now wouldn’t that be novel, prayer and latté
with or without the whipped cream and cherry.

And could we pick a day and wear purple
not for Lent but for Lydia, claiming our spiritual
ancestor, the woman who stood up, was counted,
and many say was the first convert in Europe?
If we light a votive for St. Lydia, dedicate communion
In her name, we will help ourselves to be more brave,
open, outing ourselves as people of prayer, letting
visions take hold in us, going where Spirit calls
rather than where rote convention commands.
Can we, will we, do a new thing, honoring Lydia,
and yes Paul, boldly living out loud for God in Christ,
bending ourselves to Spirit’s way? O, what  a ride!

 

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The story of Lydia and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles intrigues many of us. There are many delicious details . . . the community of women, the significance of purple cloth, to name two, and then there are things we don’t exactly know, like how Paul, in many ways a very traditional man, felt being invited by a woman to her home. The Spirit is clearly at work here, and it is good to open ourselves as well.

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.