When Will We Find Healing?

Written for healing following the fatal shootings at the Pearl Harbor Naval Yard on December 4, 2019. The recording is live from an interfaith vigil at Church of the Holy Cross UCC, Hilo, Hawai’i, on December 5.

When will we find healing
When the night is long?
When will we find healing
In something more than song?
Bring your caring
To make our healing strong.
Bring your caring:
Make our healing strong.

When will we love mercy
As we know we may?
When will we love mercy
In the light of day?
Bring your healing
To make our mercy strong.
Bring your healing:
Make our mercy strong.

When will our humility
Overcome our pride?
When will our humility
Blossom deep inside?
Bring your mercy
And raise our souls to care.
Bring your mercy…
Bring your humility…
Bring your healing…

Make our spirits strong.

© 2019 by Eric Anderson

Harsh Prophet

Were I to descend to the riverside, John,
fiery prophet, baptizing fiercely,
were I to descend to seek holy forgiveness:
What would you call me? A viper? A snake?
What would you call me? A coward? A hoax?
What would you call me? Irrelevant? Dull?
What would you call me, religious authority…

And would I descend to the riverside, John,
fiery prophet, baptizing fiercely,
would I dare to seek holy forgiveness of you:
Not knowing if you would bring shame to my name.
Not knowing if you would despise my remorse.
Not knowing if you would discount my devotion.
Not knowing how deeply you see in my soul…

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 3:1-12, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year A, Second Sunday of Advent.

The image is a 19th century wood carving of John the Baptist preaching at the riverside in the Church of the Assumption and St Nicholas, Etchingham, England. Photo by Poliphilo – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80795653.

No One Knows… But…

A painting of a full figure of Christ, arms raised with brown-gold skin, on a white wall.

OK, I get it.
Nobody knows
the day or the hour,
not even the angels of heaven.

(Not being
one of the angels of
heaven, I know I don’t
know when that hour will come.)

And Jesus,
I know that you
know not the hour or the
day, but God alone has time’s command.

But to be perfectly honest, now,
if you could say to God, “Today
would be Just Fine
to return…”

That would be fine with me.

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 24:36-44, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year A, First Sunday of Advent.

The image of Christ is painted on the outside wall of the Church of Saint James the Greater, Sankt Georgen am Langsee, Carinthia, Austria. Photo by Johann Jaritz / CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43256814.

Today I am with You

Today I am with you, dear Jesus, drenched
with tears to see the shepherd-wolves, the ones
who bay and scatter all the desperate flock,
rapaciously defending their carnivorous pack.

Today I am with you, dear Jesus,
looking for that so elusive Righteous Branch,
and longing that the fear may fade in those
who seek a refuge from the flood incarnadine.

Today I am with you, dear Jesus, though
I hang not on a cross of my deserving,
save as witness horrified at this:
humanity’s appalling inhumanity.

I turn to look at you, dear Jesus, and
I see your tortured arms, your blood-streaked face,
and say, “Remember me, O Jesus, on
that precious day you come into your holy realm.”

And then, O Jesus, pray: What do you say?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 23:33-43, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Proper 29, Reign of Christ Sunday.

Photo of a Holy Week procession in Valladolid, Spain, by Porquenopuedo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2066881.

On this Old Earth

“They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” – Isaiah 65:21b

O God,
I’m doing fine.
Some days are long,
some short.
At each day’s end,
I eat and drink.
I am refreshed.

Yet half my neighbors,
half the households of this land,
bring home from labor
13% of total income,
while half the checks
increase the wealth
of 10% of earners.

They sweat and plant,
assemble and sell,
cook and clean,
press the grapes for wine
for wealthier homes
where wealthier people
eat and drink and sleep.

Do they not labor in vain?
Are not their children
born for calamity?
Where are those offspring
blessed by the LORD?
For, rich and poor alike,
are we not damned for this?

A poem/prayer based on Isaiah 65:17-25, the Revised Common Lectionary First reading for Year C, Proper 28.

Photo by fir0002/flagstaffotos – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=135212.

Income statistics for 2016 from “What Wealth Inequality in America Looks Like: Key Facts & Figures” from the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.

Meta-Reflection

I was putting the final touches to the sermon on Sunday morning in my study at Church of the Holy Cross. My brain was slowly turning to think about the children’s message – though I consider ideas through the week, the final story takes its final shape on Sunday morning.

It may not be the least anxiety-provoking method in the world, but that’s how it goes.

The usual calm of the morning suddenly vanished. Above my head, I heard the voices of the mynas suddenly rising in volume and intensity. The metal roof began to pound and thump as they beat their wings at one another, resonating like a great drum at me as I sat wondering below.

I’ve heard myna arguments before, but never anything quite this shrill, quite this loud, and frankly, quite this amplified.

Whatever the conflict was about, it seemed to involve several birds, each of them screeching with might and main. The pounding doubled and redoubled. The voices multiplied. Nobody was willing to give in, it seemed. It went on and on.

Suddenly, the source of the sound began to move. Slowly at first, and then accelerating, the screeches and pounding moved from my left to my right, sliding down the slippery slope of the aluminum roof toward the edge. I looked left in time to see the birds drop from the gutter to the sidewalk, still screaming at one another, but with the wingbeats now slowing their unplanned descent to the ground.

For a few seconds more the argument continued unabated, then abruptly ceased. Silence fell. Then the birds, as one and without a sound, took to their wings and flew off.

I promptly threw out all the ideas I’d had for a children’s message to talk about the mynas whose argument ended like this:

“Well, that’s not where I thought this argument was gonna go.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you remember what this argument was about?”

“No.”

“Maybe we should take this up later?”

“Yeah.”

“Somewhere where it isn’t quite so slippery.”

“Yeah.”

They all knew what the future was supposed to be: a winner to the argument. Instead, the future turned out to be an embarrassed group of dusty mynas.

The future, I told the children, is not always what you expect.

In reflecting on the reflection, however, I realized that the future wasn’t what I expected, either. The image of a group of fighting mynas sliding down the roof had never occurred to me until I heard them doing it.

In the midst of our work and efforts, in the midst of our dedication to service and our commitment to creativity, in the midst of our solemn self-reliance that is so common and yet so foreign to nearly every faith tradition I’ve ever learned about, the subtle (or screeching) movements of the world around us may yet become the inspiration, or the direction, or the guide for our continued journeys. For if the mynas were surprised to find themselves dumped off the roof onto the parking lot, so was I. And if the mynas were surprised to find that a change in circumstance had wiped away their argument, so was I.

The future doesn’t always hold what we think it does. Our lives of faith don’t always look like what it think it will, either. The world may, from time to time, teach us where to go. The Divine may, from time to time, give us the ingredients for our imagination.

The photo of a common myna is by Ilan Costica – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80664291

Hypothetical

So I know it’s just a hypothetical,
this woman widowed seven times,
a cynical construction built
for theological confounding, still…

Were I the seventh brother, I
would be reluctant to be wed
unto this agent of ill fortune,
no matter what her charms and grace.

And I’d be right.

A poem based on Luke 20:27-38, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Proper 27. Though technically not a prayer, I’ve tagged it as a lectionprayer anyway.

The image is Christ and the Samaritan Woman by Jacek Malczewski (1912) – Own work, photo by Lestat (Jan Mehlich), 2007-05-25, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2187398.