Impossible Is Opinion Not Fact

Meditation on Proper 22, 20th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (Luke 17:5-10)

Click here for biblical texts

When I hear Jesus speak of mustard seed,
like a Mighty Mouse of faithful living,
I think of Muhammad Ali,
whose faith was awe-inspiring;
it matters not to me whether his faith
was in himself or in Allah
or something else, in fact he moved mountains—
he beat systems stacked against him and earned
respect even from those who hated him.
Would that I could be so faithful!!!

muhammad-ali
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I was raised to hear Jesus shaming disciples,
us, for not having enough faith—
not even as much as a tiny mustard seed—
when what he is offering is encouragement,
indeed saying we have more than we need
to do what we are called to do, who we are called
to be in God’s economy of life and grace.
We need not be slaves to former understandings,
a Christianity that is about obligation,
hard rules, having to earn God’s love, and falling short.
Instead, we can break guilt-inducing chains,
even turning his lesson about doing what is commanded,
as if we have no choice,
into a commitment to live joyously, exuberantly
the way he did, not focused on duty alone
but also on the gift that comes from being all
we can be, of knowing that God calls us
not to perfection but to faithfulness.

Hard to hear Jesus speak of slaves, given our history,
how it continues to infect our world;
I choose not to hear this parable as an endorsement
of human cruelty. Instead, within the world he inhabits,
he speaks of a system of mutual accountability,
where each party provides what is expected: work  
by one and food, rest, care, and protection by the other.
Might this be a way to understand faith—with one
big difference: God provides the faith and the care,
and hopes we will use them to make our whole selves and our world
in God’s image? No divine punishment if we do or don’t, but
we are accountable to God and each other
for how we use God’s gifts, how we claim the power—
do we hide our soul lamp under blankets of fear
or do we boldly proclaim and live our mission,
do we don our cape, remember with Muhammad Ali:
impossible is opinion not fact?

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . This reading seems to combine two distinct strands and many wonder why the author of Luke chose to bring them together. And yet they are both about how we can live God’s truth and power—either claiming them or not, being accountable or not. In our today, mustard comes in a jar and slavery is ugly, so we can miss the message, or even choose to do so. But I hear power and I hear . . .  get to work, there’s a world to heal, a world to save.
©Robin Gorsline 2016 FaithfulPoetics.net

Of Human Bonds, and Bondage

Reflection on 2nd Sunday after the Day of Pentecost, Proper 4
(Click here for biblical texts)

If ever we needed proof that healing
happens communally ask Luke’s Roman
centurion. Dramatis personae include
the soldier and his cohorts, the Jewish leaders
he turns to for help to contact Jesus,
the slave near death and other regimental slaves,
Jesus and disciples, and most likely a host
of others who heard of the plea for help
and its magnificent outcome. In our today,
the news would have blanketed internet,
Dr. Oz probably jealous,
and most likely Ellen’s next guest would be
the centurion, probably without his slave
or lover or whatever he is—we are not able
to imagine people owning their love objects,
even as bodies are sold every day, vulnerable
young and older women, young men, enslaved
for the sexual pleasure of others—because
this story is about one kind of healing from
sickness and almost death, but not being
liberated from inhuman bondage.

Roman centurion
shalominthestorm.blogspot.com

But can we imagine a new ending—
when the centurion/owner sees his great love
healed, in the pink of health; in gratitude
he orders a party at which he pronounces to all the world
not only his love but also that he purchased
an end to bondage—larger story where love not only
heals but also frees both parties
from entanglement in a system that values
people as spoils of war, conquered peoples
as machines to be chained for what they can
produce, including, in some cases, sexual pleasure.
Pleasure, did I say pleasure?  It may be one thing
to pay for pleasure from a willing seller but it is,
isn’t it, different not to pay but to own body
if not soul of another to receive the divine gift
of intimate lovemaking as if one’s command
can create bonding of such power, grace, and love.

Yes, this is an old story without this happy ending
and still it tells of faith profound, true, real,
strong enough to cause Jesus’ amazement
but even more to clear away all bars
to healing and then to welcome holy power
that heals wherever it is allowed to land. Was it words
from Jesus, not recorded here, or was it faith
from the centurion/lover that healed?
Or Jesus’ recognition of that faith?
We shall never know for sure, but this we do know:
faith can move mountains and does, but sometimes
the mountain must want to be moved
or at least its many admirers know it must
be moved—God has the power to do all,
but counts on us to lend our shoulders, hearts,
minds, feet, and hands in the struggle.

Whose healing, whose liberation, have we
made more possible, more real, today?

 

About this poem . . .This beautiful story of love and healing leaves a number of unanswered questions, including just how was the healing accomplished? And like many stories from a vastly different age, things we abhor today are unremarked and unchanged. That does not leave us unaccountable for who we are and what we do today; instead, it reminds us that holy testimony of old is still in need of new holy interpretation today.

 

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