Go Well into the Good Night

Reflection in response to Proper 27, 25th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
(Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38)

Click here for biblical texts

 

Sing to God a new song because of the marvelous things
God has done! The psalmist often plays this tune and Jesus
repeats it, too, especially when skeptics try to use
what they believe are settled Mosaic axioms to trap him
in embarrassment. Jesus is too wily to be trapped
because he refuses to be locked behind boundaries
set by his critics and by ancient texts of which they claim to be
the sole interpreters.

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Sadducees not alone; other people, even ourselves,
spouting things we have been taught and accept without question,
trying to maintain control of our lives and maybe others,
too, even when they, we, have no evil intent. Others
use intimidation, base intent, to squelch those
they hate, burning Black churches in Mississippi,
erecting walls to keep Mexicans and Palestinians out,
police shooting unarmed men first, checking, asking, later.

Jesus knows we are free in God, not to abuse others or God
or do evil; but God likes free thinkers,
people faithful enough to trust God’s love does not
depend on their parroting human doctrines and judgments.
Seven dead husbands/brothers, one wife, no child—they become,
if flesh and blood or not, the center of an argument
whose purpose is to entangle Jesus and his hearers,
endless hairsplitting as if the point of religion is debate.

Yet discussion is good, even debate, about important stuff,
deep enough issues to really matter in people’s lives,
soulful digging into the ground of all being.
Trouble is too often debaters think someone has to win,
and someone lose. Religion is not free from politics
inside itself, jockeying for human advantage in the name of God,
the search for truth used to create disadvantage
for those with whom we disagree.

Before Catholics were Sadducees, before Protestants Pharisees,
religious people always dividing into groups to be sure
the right side wins. Yet the main response from Jesus
to the provocation about divorce and afterlife
is that God is not God of the dead but of the living,
saying arcane and yet important arguments
over points of doctrine and practice matter less
than trusting God to orient our lives.

Predictions of the Lord’s return just that,
no more, hopeful guesses perhaps sincerely arrived at
and intended, yet merely claims of insider knowledge
about an event of which we can know little.
Our real task is to wait and be ready
for whatever God has in store, our faith to trust
God and go forward whether we know the actual way
or not, traveling mercies being God’s specialty.

We can go well into the good night, singing a new song
not only for what God has done
but also for what God is doing, and will do.

 
About this poem . . .  Doctrinaire believers are nothing new, and they generally are sincere in believing what they profess. At the same time, the debates can so often become like erecting walls to keep some in and others out, perfecting points to demolish one’s opponents, or at least attempting to make them look foolish or uninformed or ignorant. In the record we have, Jesus was deft in deflecting others who seemed to want to trap him, without demeaning them. It is a skill many of us could learn more fully. It probably begins with an admission that what we believe is, at best, a partial truth, God being far bigger than all of us combined.

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

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.