Standing Up in the Hard Places

Reflection in response to Proper 16, 14th Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (focus on Luke: 13:10-17)

Click here for biblical texts

The bent over woman stood up straight, praising God,
when Jesus touched her, erasing her long disfigurement,
and people in the synagogue rejoiced.
Scholars agree Jesus did not violate halakhah,
the compilation of Jewish law governing worship,
even as Luke records objection by the synagogue leader.
Rules often help communities to be strong, orderly,
but leaders, not just in synagogues to be sure,
can confuse order they want with order God wants—
not always the same.  When health, liberation, mercy, are at stake,
as then, like now, the rules enabling those outcomes control.
But do really follow those rules all the time?
If we did, would health care and prisons be run for profit,
would anyone be allowed to carry firearms in school,
would we then allow God’s creation to be spoiled by greed,
dictators to fire poison at their people,
officers to shoot Black men just because they can,
Palestinians to be denied their own true homeland?

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It is tempting to leave Jesus back there in synagogue,
upending the claim of power by the leader,
feeling all righteous, critical, about the leader then,
instead of hearing our Lord here and now, saying
about rules of today, Stop! Indeed laying holy hands
on victims of health care and prison profit rules
so they, and more importantly we, can stand straight
and throw off the tyranny keeping them bent down.
And he, then as now, weeping not only over Jerusalem—
but also the earth despoiled by our careless selfishness,
children at risk in school, brave citizens gassed by their own leaders,
our streets war zones where peace officers shoot first, ask later—
he touches us as he touched the crippled woman
so that finally we can take his power, his love, his peace
from the sanctuary where we too often embalm it
into the world that too is bent over, crippled,
crying out in pain, and need.

There is hope, yes, always hope, but its wealth
cannot be shared if we do not follow him in
breaking the rules of oppression and keeping rules that liberate.
Jesus asks us to go to the hard places, and stand up.

 
writing+poetryAbout this poem…..The text does not say it, but the synagogue ruler was probably a Pharisee, and it is so easy to poke not only fun but also righteous judgment at them—forgetting our own Pharisaic ways, and our own resort to rules to keep order rather than freedom and liberation. This incident is not intended to be about people long ago so much as it is a caution to us. Can we overcome rules of today—stuff we breathe so much we cannot see its effect, like thinking “for profit” means better care, that authorities must know what they are doing, that guns save lives, that the survival of one people is more important than the survival of another?

 

©RobinGorsline 2016 faithfulpoetics.net
Please use the credit line above whenever this poem is published

Lead Me Not into Temptation

(First Sunday in Lent, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

Lead me not into temptation.
I go there all the time. Jesus
went too into the wilderness
forty days with only water  
and how much water do you find
in that part of the world
must have been dehydrated and
don’t think that was the only time
his throat and soul were dry.
He was full human as we say
surely he was tempted
to avoid horror of Calvary

but he did not and wilderness devil
failed to snare him. So what
does it mean to say no
to a tempting proposition– 
How about some nooky
your spouse won’t know,
I have a deal for you
no one will know but us,
So what if the ad is a lie they all
do it that’s politics.
Can it be as simple not easy as
putting God first– which means
to seek our personal wellness,
commonwealth’s righteousness
first–not to sell out for snake oil
no matter how pretty sexy
alluring fun profitable it seems?
Jesus did it and we can too
that’s what he says check John
chapter fourteen and know we can
avoid easy answers that hurt
others no walls against strangers
denying health insurance to poor
people or shoot first ask later.
We heal by believing
tell the truth even when it hurts
we can pass the test like

Abram going into Egypt,
the psalmist trusting the
God refuge a mighty fortress,
Paul walking the talk all the way.
When temptation beckons
leading us into wilderness
with ringed finger and charming smile
incantations of temporal pleasure
whose end is injuring loved ones
abusing our common humanity
denying our holy beauty,
go there but then
claim the shelter of the Most High and love the Lord
bring Holy One to the party and watch
how the game changes instantly,
led home whole loved and free.

©Robin Gorsline2016  lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . As I encounter Jesus in the wilderness, I think of my own each day, when I am tempted by something, someone, to act, think, speak in ways that are not whole. So often, it is a personal thing, what tempts me may not tempt you, but in another way it is all the same, pulling me, pulling you, out of our God selves. Loving Jesus, we face the truth of how often he shows us just the way to go, heading right into our wilderness and coming out the better for it.

Elder Wisdom

(Presentation of the Lord, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

Elder wisdom carries authority beyond its years
we sense more than passing of time
deep joyful gravity unafraid to speak whole
a word a paragraph a book to testify when asked or not
it needs to be said I will speak even if forbidden so says
the ancient wise one to remind the rest of us that modern facts
cannot replace aged sagacity to stretch horizons well past prime
time as Simeon and Anna proclaim in the Jerusalem temple
what they see in Jesus circumcised as a boy
the promised Messiah in the flesh before them,
even as our postmodern minds wonder how can they know
such profound spiritual truth from a baby.
How did it come to the gospel writer
Did Mary recount the story later or Dad Joseph
maybe writing it in his baby book Jewish parents recording
Important moments in the life of their precious son
Yes he was a Jewish boy a rabbi teacher
growing up to speak unconventional
ideas. Did he learn to speak power
from Simeon and Anna at eight days
their spirits passed to him through Adonai
touching his soul to grow strong with wisdom
beyond his years the one who did not survive to
elderhood yet touched and spoke as one blessed
beyond all around him with truth alive today
still changing lives upending old ways even as others
use him to enforce their narrow rules.
So we need descendants of Simeon
and Anna elders for this day to speak
breaking open new wisdom wine
that we may drain the cup of truth and live
the love and hope and joy and peace
of God in all we are and do.

©Robin Gorsline2016  lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . Biblical stories sometimes challenge our credulity as people living in the age of science and cynicism, and yet it is not the details that matter so much as the deeper truth. I have known elders who make strong statements about the soul, the future, of young people. Sometimes the prophecies come true, sometimes not. But I have come to trust their knowing even if life, circumstances, outside forces, stand in the way of fulfillment.  

 

 

The Next Prophet

(4th Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C; click here for biblical texts)

Now the word of God came telling Jeremiah
I appointed you a prophet to the nations
But prophets are more numerous speaking
unstoppable truths no matter some try to bury them.
God testifies from unlikely places a southern white
matron organizes spy ring to  undermine the Confederacy
a rabbi speaks for whole justice for Palestinians
Jesus pokes at ancient insularity by harking back to
Elijah and the poor unnamed widow at Zaraphath
in Sidon Elisha’s healing the leprous Syrian army leader
Naaman while white people march with Dr. King heterosexual couples
refuse to wed until their lesbian gay friends can be married.
Prophets often pay dear especially when some perceive
them breaking social rules undermining the status quo
that protects their shared group.
Membership carries privilege conditional at best
the price often too high we look the other way
keep heads down but there are always some who are reached
by God even those who do not believe.
Their bravery changes things us the world
saves lives even as it may cost them theirs.
And they like Jesus walk through angry crowds proving
once again divine truth love peace joy hope will not be stopped
always another day another voice the next prophet
could it be you?

©Robin Gorsline2016  lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . We tend to think of prophets as the ones with big names—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Dr. King, Mohammed. We don’t usually think of Jesus precisely in that way, but in Nazareth, among his home folks, he learned that telling too much truth can land you in hot water (and then he just kept doing it). Many people, even ones of lesser note, throughout history and today have done or are doing the same thing, sometimes on a grand scale, sometimes smaller. It’s how things change.  

Hear the Word of God

(3rd Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

The reader stands at the pulpit
opening the book before the people
Hear the word of God she exclaims
a poignant echo of Ezra opening Torah
before the Hebrews returning from Exile
shivers up and down many spines
as she  reads Isaiah
proclaiming release to captives
good news to the poor recovery of sight to the blind
freedom for the oppressed
in the mouth and person of Jesus
homeboy in Nazareth
channeled in the modern sanctuary.
We feel the drama in those fateful long ago words
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Do we hear them today do we respond
Do we proclaim release to anyone
black men herded into prisons
Good news for folks trying to cross the tracks from the wrong side
Syrians Mexicans Salvadorans Muslims everywhere
Recovery of sight and life to those forgotten on the margins
ghetto kids sick African babies
Freedom for those held down in our very neighborhood
down the street across the globe
woman wanting control of their bodies.
We know the glory of God the heavens tell us every day
if and when we listen and watch
but what of the justice of God
peace that passes all our wisdom
Does reading by Ezra’s today daughter
cause us like the ancient Hebrews
to weep and more to act
push the world into peace justice
by moving ourselves more into wholeness.
Hear the word of God she exclaims
Hear it now says Jesus
Make it happen here.

©Robin Gorsline2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem……

This poem was inspired by the powerful reading of Scripture by a lay woman at Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C. recently. It was a different text, but as she proclaimed the word I thought of Jesus in the temple in Nazareth. When later  I encountered the text for this Sunday, and remembered her reading, I realized it is possible for us today to bring God to life in the word just as Jesus and Ezra and Isaiah did.

The Temple of Never Ending Love

(1st Sunday after Christmas, Year C; click here for lectionary texts)

Belief takes us familiar places
Passover at table Christmas midnight
mass Easter at sunrise weekly worship
choir practice Bible study groups
but sometimes we wander off caught up
in new understanding or led in a direction we
do not know maybe even want finding ourselves
like pre-teen Jesus in the temple listening asking questions
speaking words beyond what we and others
thought we knew.  Then we see the hand of God
caressing our lives touching intimately our
souls to awaken the true potential
we are blessed to become not God
but one with God born of God one
of God and one in God. What Jesus tells
us is that it could be us at temple
speaking wisdom way beyond we
are told we can know.  We must free
ourselves.  God is ready to loose the chains
of convention and rules when we say yes.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us
dwells among us Christ is not just coming
again Christ is here now inviting us
to sit with him grow in him to become
not him but our full selves in the beauty
of holiness wholeness shalom passing
all understanding going beyond all human
knowledge to the holy of holies
within us the temple of never ending love.
©RobinGorsline2015 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form