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

Get Up. Now.

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

Tabitha, get up! Has someone said that to you?
Perhaps your mother or father when you
overslept—You’ll miss the school bus. Up! Now!
But this is different, Tabitha was not late, she was dead,
surrounded by her friends, grieving widows
telling stories about her good deeds, her sewing
for others. In their distress they called Peter, her leader
among the disciples—yes, she was a disciple, they
were not all men, you know; in the Greek text, Luke used
mathētria, the feminine form of the word  
disciple, when speaking of Tabitha—
we do not know what they asked of him but
he, perhaps burning with the spirit of resurrection,
sent them out of the room, as Jesus did
with Lazarus, and prayed. What did he pray?
Luke does not say, but we know what he said to Tabitha,
and more to the point what she did was this:
Opening her eyes, and seeing him she sat up;
Then taking his hand, she stood. Whether we
believe or not, she did. She got up.

Tabitha with Peter grieving
womeninthebible.net

Is there some part of you that is dead, cut off from
your soul perhaps, some injured place you keep hiding
rather than healing, a wound that wants to cry out,
or maybe it does in the silence of a broken heart ,
but you have succumbed to today’s truth that
this Tabitha thing never happened, not really; science
has no explanation for a dead woman, or even
a dead man, rising, so it did not happen. But
still deep down, in the inner quiet place
you rarely visit you yearn to hear Peter or someone
say, Get Up! if only from the job you hate or
the debt you don’t know how to pay or the
cell of fear you live in every moment , the depression
that has you in its thrall. There are answers you know,
therapy of course, or a new job or marrying riches,
or drugs, weed might tide you over, but then
tomorrow your soul still feels dead, broken, or lost.

So maybe, just maybe, you can ask God
to stop by; you don’t know who will come in God’s name,
it might be a friend or a trusted leader like Peter
or a stranger you meet in a long check-out line
or when sitting quietly in the back of the church you
decide to visit on your lunch hour just because
you feel an urge to chat with God, to be fed spiritual food,
or perhaps you suddenly know how desperate you are
to feel the love of God, the embrace of Jesus, the hope
of the Holy Spirit, to be carried forward by that power
of wholeness rather than human power that seems
to keep you trapped in an unending cycle of sadness
and despair, anxiety that things will never get better in your life.

But the truth is this: you can get up, you can be lifted
like Tabitha, like Lazarus, like Jesus, like all the disciples
before you, Peter and the whole gang, and those around you
now, who trust God to bring us back from wherever we have
let the world and others toss us like so much trash
or if not trash at least what they, whoever the they are
in our lives, call unnecessary baggage on the route
they say we are supposed to travel all our days.

But you have to want to get up, you have to be ready to take
good orderly direction, you have to open your eyes
and see what you have not allowed yourself to see before,
and walk, now alive, among the dead and dying all around you,
offering yourself to them by saying, if you really mean it, Get Up!

It’s simple, though not always easy.  Why wait? Get up. Now.

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The book known as Acts of the Apostles often challenges us because so many things happen that in our modernity and post-modernity we question—like Peter raising Tabitha from the dead. It becomes easy to dismiss it as a charming tale, and thus easy to miss the importanceof bringing people back to life from whatever death they may be living.

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.

Holy Feet, Jesus!

Holy Thursday, Year C (click here for biblical texts)

Feet, the bottom of the human body,
 dirty, calloused, twisted, arthritic, gnarled,
even hard, but some are soft with pretty
nails painted, massaged with oil sweet scented
or maybe not, smelly sweaty feet common—
all sorts and conditions of human worldly feet.
Who knows about Peter’s feet, a disciple’s feet,
and the other feet in that upper room
when Jesus took off his outer robe revealing
perhaps more of himself than normal among the
band of holy land walkers  who have shared
so much already.  Now here is something
very strange:  the rabbi wants to wash our dirty
feet as he has already invited us to share our
dirty linen—the same Jesus who is ready
to receive and wash our feet and linen today—even Peter’s,
who, of course, objects as he often does.
Is there ever a time when there is not
at least one Peter in every group ,
the long ago one offended by the
very idea of his Lord stooping to wash
feet, like today’s recoiling at showing
the imperfection of feet, even more
at being asked to wash others’.
How far we have fallen back, afraid of showing
in faith just our feet, not our private parts,
to one another in a sacred act
of service, not to mention dipping hands
into warm water to bathe tired feet—
are not feet nearly always tired, they
carry us wherever we go and if we have
not feet we must ride on chair or human back
or hop with crutches, feet efficiently
carrying us wherever we want to go—these are
feet of our neighbors, fellow congregants,
feet which trod on the same church floor as ours,
not the feet of strangers but fellow worshippers,
like us, Friends of Jesus who says
love one another, even your dirty, smelly,
calloused, hard or soft, ugly or pretty
feet.
If we cannot wash these feet, how can we
care for, let alone love, any others?

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

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .As a pastor who loves the service of foot washing, not because I have a foot fetish but because it makes Jesus so clear, I was often amazed by parishioners who drew back, almost in horror, at the idea of exposing their feet or touching any others. It was a recurring annual moment when I understood how thorough has been the domestication of Jesus within the church.

 

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?