God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” – Genesis 9:12-13
I’m grateful for the promise, Holy One, to never raise a flood to sweep all life from Earth.
I cannot quite forget, however, that you did not say we could not do this thing ourselves.
As tides rise higher around my island, testimony to the human hubris that grieves you,
I am grateful for the sign that you, at least, keep faith.
A poem/prayer based on Genesis 9:8-17, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year B, First Sunday in Lent. And, er, it’s written late.
In my weary moments, I wonder: What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Your followers (including me) have found some other path than yours. You, after all, relieved the pains of those you met, while we who claim your name impose such pain to “save” our comfort or our power or this sad deluded shout of “righteousness!” We shame the poor; we spread disease; we wrap ourselves in violence. Were I you, Jesus, I would think to shed this ill-named Christianity, to wash it away, perhaps, and start anew.
In my lonely moments, I wonder: What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Oh, sometimes I can feel your breath upon my shoulder, sometimes feel your hand upon my arm, yes sometimes feel you pulling me into a new direction. But. Sometimes when evening falls or sunrise lifts I sense no company, no strong companion, and I long to know once more the certainty my memory’s fragility retains so fitfully of your once-lucent clarity.
In my awestruck moments, I wonder: What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
You could dance among the stars; perhaps you do. I would, I think, if I were you. You could speak and all the evils of this world would be resolved. Yes, bring the braided cords and clear the temple – well, unless you’d have to lay your sternness upon me. I’d settle then for mercy, thank you very much. No, with the ancient poet I repeat: What are human beings that you hold us in your mind; what are mortals that you care for us?
In truth, I have no ready answer for my weariness, my loneliness, or even for my awe. I can only be grateful, Jesus, that you have been with us – and are.
A poem/prayer based on Mark 1:21-28, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The image is Christ heals the possessed by engraver Jan Luyken. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 4234. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section D. Jesus confronts uncleanness. Mark 1:21-45, 2:1-12, 5:1-20, 25-34, 7:24-30. Image courtesy Phillip Vere – http://wfurl.com/a6ea272 (.pdf) “An illustrated commentary on the Gospel of Mark”. By Phillip Medhurst. .pdf file, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9393722.
“Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you get to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.'” – John 1:48
It was long ago, my Savior, that you called me out from under my fig tree. Neither then nor now do I pretend to understand just what you saw.
I strive, Redeemer, to become a person without guile – sometimes successfully. I’ve found your awkward knowing words and silences correct me more than praise.
Still, knowing what you know, you sent the call to summon me from shelter, and I came to come and see, and seeing, echoed those old words: You are the Son of God.
A poem/prayer based on John 1:43-51, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Second Sunday after the Epiphany.
The image is Bartholomew the Apostle by El Greco – lAHToi0sj3MVQw at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29844192. Nathanael, named only in John’s Gospel, has traditionally been identified with Bartholomew, one of the Twelve in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Far from a barn in Bethlehem in miles and in time, remembering the stories passed and wondering just how much was forgot, and how much lost, of Jesus’ birth that holy night.
Who will recall, in truth, the circumstances of this year? For though we think our times “unprecedented,” it is just a sign of swift forgetfulness, a well-established human trait.
The griefs so hard to bear will not be felt by our descendants, for we did not recall the sorrows of our ancestors, nor think to learn from their successes or their failures to protect ourselves from ill.
Nor will our children’s children hear of ti leaves waving gently in the breeze beyond the window’s Christmas glow. Why should they? They will have their own bedazzling sights and sounds at hand, their own deep scents to breathe.
Now my tree’s glow (in echo of ohi’a blossoming upon the slopes of Kilauea) takes on the shades of stone a-fountaining, a-flowing, and a-pooling at the mountain peak. This might be held in memory.
For this becomes a link between the distant island of Hawai’i and the inn of Bethlehem, the places where the Earth grows thin, and from the deepest places of the planet and the love of God there flows the light a-glowing bright.
Yes, here we have the breaking-in of grace: the one builds up the land and rises from the seas. The other builds up love and joy and peace, reclaiming souls from greed and other-disregarding sin. So come, Lord Jesus! Make the darkness bright.