“With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good,
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice and to love kindness
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8

Look, God, I’m happier when you are vague,
when there’s some wiggle, some uncertainty,
when I can find a space to justify
the things I want, I’d rather, do.

Or, better, when the clarity shines on
the things that hide the errors of the days behind,
that shield me from their consequence,
excuse me without need to change my course.

Look, God, I’m wise enough to leave the lambs
and rams behind. I’ll make my sacrifices with
my time (and maybe with my treasure; we will see).
I don’t intend to buy your favor, no.

Intend to, no. Attempt to… that’s a yes.

You have told me, God, what things are good,
and I have heard, and taken them to heart,
and held them close, and meditated on them, and…
sometimes I’ve done them. Sometimes I have not.

‘Cause damn it, God, your justice is beyond me,
beyond us, so it seems. Your love of mercy breaks
my heart with all its blinding brightness. How
can I do other than come humbly to you on our walk?

So that is why I pour my time into the almost just,
the near-to-mercy, all the things that don’t quite work.
With all this busyness, how could you notice, God,
that am running round, not walking by your side?

It’s easier, you see, to place my energy
upon the altar as a sacrifice of praise
than to do justice well, to love with steadfast mercy, and
walk humbly with the God of my salvation.

A poem/prayer based on Micah 6:1-8, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.

The image is “High priest offering incense on the altar, as in Leviticus 16:12,” by Illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s Treasures of the Bible, 1894 – http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Treasures%20of%20the%20Bible%20(Moses)/target20a.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6611903.

3 thoughts on “Distracted

  1. So real, honest and challenging. Thank you. Can we ever get past “Sometimes I’ve done them. Sometimes I have not.”? Or is that awareness part of what it means to be “poor in spirit”, and included in the kingdom of heaven?

  2. Oh, my! “Distracted” speaks of me as much as to me, Eric. Thank you. Bekah and Brendan were with me, driven here by Chris and Linda, on Sunday last. It was a wonderful visit, maybe because it was long overdue. Wish our time difference weren’t so great. We would have face-timed or Skyped. With that time difference, we’d have joined you in the midst of your sermon. Not good. Christmas (and Thanksgiving) was/were a blur. Both were spent here, so knot alone, but certainly without family. I did have Christmas dinner with Carol’s family. That was delightful. My Christmas letters are way behind as has been the case too often in my past. And, I’m not sure I talked with you! You will receive a late Christmas…early birthday gift some time in February. Your calendar is always welcome as is the cookie/candy selection. I think the latter disappeared more quickly than usual. Thank you! A friend and I bought several Amaryllis bulbs and distributed them at the beginning of December to about a dozen folks. The bulbs were accompanied by a chart on which to note growth. We met after the holiday to measure and compare. We all agreed that it was great fun! Little Myrtle, our wanderer, had two bulbs both with stalks nearing 2 feet! She had ignored all the care directions, over watering them. But hers hadn’t read the instructions, I guess. I attached a photo of Myrtle and her prize winning plants. My results were unremarkable until this week when a second stalk out did Myrtle’s by over an inch! Dad and I gave many an Amaryllis as Christmas gifts over the years. Nancy doesn’t remember, but Dan named one of theirs “Phyllis the Amaryllis” and sent pictures to note her progress. I think she produced 11 flowers on 2 stalks when one would expect no more than 8. ( Or was that one of ours???) Simple pleasures! Everyone received a Certificate of Participation as one of the women is very much into Native American spirituality and finds competition abhorrent. Considering native games, trials of initiation and counting coup, I’m not sure where she gets that notion. She’s vocal enough to determine what we do. She’ll be moving back home soon, having completed her rehab following an amputation. Eric, I hope you are enjoying the sun and warmth of your beautiful island paradise. I also hope that Kilauea is resting quietly. Have a great visit with Chris and Linda. With love, Shirley

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