It was Good

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31

Well, God, what is good?
Hold on, I’ll see.

When Earth was a chaotic void
amidst a formless universe,
You made the light, and see!
You called it good.

When sky and planet took their shapes
and water rolled alone,
You raised the land and blessed the sea.
You called it good.

When land and ocean bore no life
You whispered to the sands and rocks.
They sprouted greens and reds and blues.
You called it good.

When light was general, You rolled
its radiance into the burning stars,
and gentled night with moonbeams.
You called it good.

When Earth was green but silent
You scattered creatures in the sea and air,
from ocean’s depth to dizzying heights.
You called it good.

When land remained bereft of creatures You
supplied the lack of things that crawl or run.
They slithered and they leapt from pole to pole.
You called it good.

Then You considered all this life
and made anew a pair like You,
created in Your image, and you blessed them.
You called it good.

From tiniest seed to leaf-crowned stem,
from drifting plankton to leviathan,
from wren to soaring albatross,
from smallest ant to elephant,

From woman on to mahu and to man,
from skin of ebony to cinnamon to tan,
from farthest north to deepest south,
from those who speak a myriad of tongues,

You called it good. You called them good.
You called us good. You called Creation good.
And we in foolish bravery would contradict
Your words, and claim that “those” do not deserve our care,

When You declared them good.

A poem/prayer based on Genesis 1:1-2:4a, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Trinity Sunday.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Are They Prophets, Too?

“And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.'” – Numbers 11:27

“But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.'” – Acts 2:13

Oh, what we would not give for prophecy with order.
These seventy we know.
These two we will ignore.
Oh, what we would not give for prophecy predictable.
Seventy selected
to tell us what we know.

Your Spirit raises prophets without due regard to order.
We’d all do well with twelve.
We’ve no great need for more.
With twelve we’d know the words before the prophets even voice them,
saving time, so much time
we might have to discern.

Why is the Spirit’s call so destructive of our order?
We know our daily ways.
We follow our set hours
Until a strident voice, just like the nails upon a blackboard
unsettles our assurance
and overturns our peace.

Oh, have your own way, Spirit, in the wreckage of our order.
They’ll call us drunk, you know,
Or they’ll run and tattletale.
With Moses, Peter, Matthias, we’ll join the Spirit’s order
alongside Eldad, Mary, Justus,
Medad – and Mary, too.

A poem/prayer based on Acts 2:1-21 and Numbers 11:24-30, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading and Alternate First Reading for Year A, Pentecost Sunday.

The image is Moses Elects the Council of Seventy Elders by Jacob de Wit (1737) – AQGtI5P6nkpYyw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

This lectionprayer gets a lot of inspiration from Maren Tirabassi’s Blessing the Dice and Barbara Messner’s Variations on Pentecost.

Just One More Question

“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?'” – Acts 1:6

One question, Lord! Is this the time
to make the world we think it ought to be?

Instead of looking to the future, could
you not improve the world yourselves?

A question, Lord! What will we see
as long as eyes are straining toward you?

Well, if you focus on the cloud, you’ll see a mist,
but if you look in people’s faces, there I’ll be.

A question, Lord! Should we wait here
until the day of your return?

If you stay here, who will you tell
about the things I’ve told you these three years?

A question, Lord! If you’ll return just as you left,
should we not set our eyes upon the sky?

Look up as often as you will, but do look down
because you’ll trip and fall, you know as well as I.

A question, Lord! If you’ll return just as you left,
when will that be? How soon? How long?

Oh, friends. My love is with you still.
You’ll see me in each other, and in all.

A poem/prayer based on Act 1:6-14, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Seventh Sunday of Easter.

The image is The Ascension by Theophanes the Cretan (1546) – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain,

This poem rose from imagining Jesus’ conversation with his disciples as he ascended like a press conference. Can’t you just hear them calling their questions as the distance increased?

Blessings for Mother’s Day

Blessings on the mothers rejoicing in their children.
Blessings on the mothers in deep fear for their children.
Blessings on the mothers whose children remember to call.
Blessings on the mothers whose children refuse to call.
Blessings on the mothers whose children are not related by blood.
Blessings on the mothers heartbroken because they could never become a mother.

Blessings on the children rejoicing in their mothers.
Blessings on the children in deep fear for their mothers.
Blessings on the children whose calls end with “I love you so much.”
Blessings on the children whose mothers keep breaking their hearts.
Blessings on the children with more mothers than they can count.
Blessings on the children still seeking a mother’s love.

Blessings on those who have lost.
Blessings on those that have.
Blessings on those that have never had.
Blessings on those who seek.

Blessings for Mother’s Day.

First written as a Facebook post on May 10, 2020.

The image is Jesus retrouvé dans le temple (Jesus Found in the Temple) by James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007, 00.159.41_PS2.jpg, Public Domain,

To an Unknown God

[Paul said,] “For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.'” – Acts 17:23

We didn’t have an altar in
the church where I was raised.
A table bore communion’s bread
and cup before us all.

I’ve seen so many tables since,
and many bear the words
inscribed “In Remembrance of Me”
(oft covered by a cloth).

Since youth I’ve been in churches where
an altar takes its place,
but rarely do they bear a word,
but speak with just their shape.

I wonder: might the wisdom of
those ancient Greeks guide us,
and note upon our altars that
we could know more of God?

Or just, perhaps, revise the way
we spell the “altar” word,
and be prepared at every point
to “alter” what we know.

A poem/prayer based on Act 17:22-31, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Sixth Sunday of Easter.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

I Just Want to See What I Expect to See

“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”‘?” – John 14:8-9

Like Philip, I’ll be satisfied to see
what I expect to see.
His vision might have been of swirling cloud,
or pillar of fire dancing in the night.

And Peter, what would he expect?
An army terrible beneath its banners?
A monarch mighty on a throne
whose feet were tended by his underlings?

The Magdalene anticipated… what?
A corpse? and did not see her friend
until he said her name. Her eyes
were drawn to death.

So I, like Philip, will be satisfied
to see what I expect, for you and I
know well who sets the courses of my soul…
Or, well, at least who claims to set them.

And I, like Philip, must be satisfied
with who you are, O God, and not
what I demand you be, and I, like Thomas, will
be your bewildered follower on the way.

A poem/prayer based on John 14:1-14, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, Fifth Sunday of Easter.

The image is The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci (painted between 1494-1498) – Unknown source, Public Domain,

The image is, of course, what I expect to see – and is therefore a warning against expecting to see it.


“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” – Acts 2:44-45

Bring me your time and a rose, apostles,
gathered in prayer; gathered to share.
Bring me your time and a rose-colored glass,
to which we’ll aspire and fail.

Bring me the needs that were met, apostles,
the poor lifted up, assembled to sup.
Bring me the gifts of the rich, apostles,
become poor in the blood of the cup.

Bring me the change – for it came, apostles.
The rich held their wealth despite failure of stealth.
Bring me the gifts for the saints, apostles,
they gave for Jerusalem’s health.

The rose-colored glass will not hide, apostles,
Saphira’s collapse, Ananias’ grim lapse.
Nor the laud that is given to greed, apostles,
however much time will elapse.

Bring me your time and a rose, apostles,
gathered in prayer; gathered to share.
Bring me your time and a rose-colored glass,
to which we’ll aspire and fail.

A poem/prayer based on Acts 2:42-47 (with some reference to Acts 5:1-11), the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Fourth Sunday of Easter.

The image is The Distribution of Alms and the Death of Ananias by Masaccio (ca. 1426-1427), a fresco in the Brancacci Chapel, Florence, Italy – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain,


[Cleopus and his companion replied,] “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” – Luke 24:21

We needed a savior,
we followed a healer,
learned some from a teacher.
We were crushed to see
our longed-for Messiah crucified
and slain, and know it was not he.

Judas Iscariot:
We needed a savior,
but he wouldn’t blink,
he wouldn’t lift up the sword.
The Zealot alike is tamed.
He must be forced his power,
even if by his friend he’s betrayed.

Simon Peter:
What shall I make of the winds
of these days? I ran, then I stopped.
I followed and denied.
I’ve looked in the empty tomb.
Between death and failure my heart
subsides, has settled into gloom.

Mary Magdalene:
He set me free from torment within.
I watched him set others free.
You wanted a Savior? You had one, you know!
Now the angels claim he lives once more
and I’ve come to spread the news
to find my word ignored.

You’ve disappointed us all, O Christ.
We’ve asked for the things you won’t give
(So we’ve taken them instead).
If we’re disappointed, what about you?
Abandoned, betrayed, denied, ignored,
as you labor to lead us to truth.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 24:13-35, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, Third Sunday of Easter.

The image is Cena in Emmaus (Supper in Emmaus) by Caravaggio (1601)- Own work, Public Domain,

I Have Seen

“So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.'” – John 20:25

I told you first, Peter. I told you first.
“I have seen the Lord,” I told you,
“after you had gone away from the grave.
He’s alive, I tell you, alive.
I have seen the Lord.”

I told you first, Peter, and you… well.
I’ve seen your eyes narrow before
when things don’t make sense, or you don’t
understand. Then you made a comforting noise, but:
I had seen the Lord.

Condescension from you isn’t new, Simon Peter.
You’re polite, but you’ll always rely
on the witness of your own two eyes –
or the witness of another guy – even though
I had seen the Lord.

Did you hear me that night when I laughed?
Oh, the sight of your faces was rich!
Where was your superior eye?
Though puzzled, your eyelids spread wide!
Now we had seen the Lord.

Is it mean of me to then delight
when Thomas repeated your cant:
“I’ll believe when I see it myself
and have touched what I know I can’t.”
Even though we had seen the Lord.

Will you learn, Simon Peter, from this?
Will you learn to trust more than yourself?
Will you learn to appreciate others?
Will you learn to believe when a woman tells you:
“I have seen the Lord.”

A poem/prayer based on John 20:19-31, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, Second Sunday of Easter.

The image is Portrait of a Lady as Mary Magdalen by Bartolomeo Veneto (1520s) – lAF6gZfe-aeNCQ at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

I struggled a great deal to find an image of Mary Magdalene fit for this poem. There ought to be one depicting her declaration “I have seen the Lord!” to the male disciples, but I didn’t find one. She is frequently shown at the crucifixion and, of course, at the empty tomb. Most versions of “Noli me tangere” (Do not hold onto me) leave me cold. Mary has frequently been confused with other women in the Bible, partially because so many of them were named Mary (Miriam), and partially because of a strange tendency on the part of Christians to assume Jesus had few followers in his lifetime, so if two people look similar or have the same name, they must be the same. Pope Gregory I’s 591 Easter homily erroneously conflated Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the unnamed “sinful woman” of Luke 7. As a result, European Christians came to assume Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute and the misnomer has lingered and grown. Paintings of the “Penitent Magdalene” are… well. They’re awful. Truly awful.

Veneto’s portrait comes from the “Magdalene as Myrrhbearer” genre. The woman’s side-eye glance comes close to expressing what I imagine Mary Magdalene’s irritation with Jesus’ male disciples. Now if someone would only paint her rolling her eyes, that would be better.

Poetry for Good Friday

These seven poems and the song are based on Scriptures associated with “the Seven Last Words of Jesus” – strangely, there are eight lessons. The video includes reading of the Biblical texts, reading of the poems, and performance of the song, “As We Bring Him Down.” The poetry and the video were prepared for Good Friday in 2022; I am reposting them for Good Friday 2023.

First Reading: Luke 23:26-32

You strode those streets to teach,
to worship and to heal.
You strode those streets to cast
the moneychangers from the Temple courts.

And now, with failing strength, you stumble up the street,
too weak to bear the instrument of death.
Where once you rode in festival parade
they follow you to mourn for what has been and what will be.

Second Reading: Matthew 27:33, 34, 37

I’m sure that Pilate knew just what he said.
This is what happens to the ones who claim
they have no emperor but Caesar.
King of the Jews? Claim the title if you like,
but know that title brings you only here,
to die upon a cross, not reign upon a throne.
So Jesus, claiming spiritual rule, will offer up
his spirit to the Roman callousness and fear.

Third Reading: Luke 23:35, 36; 23:34, 39-43

How strange a criminal, whose deeds “deserved”
a death of torture, understood the reign of God
much better than the priests, much better than
the Roman Governor, much better than the monarch,
better even than the ones who followed Jesus.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
For Jesus, entry to that realm was not through gates of stone,
but gates of death. Beyond those gates our eyes
see only shadow, but to his, and to this criminal,
the shadows have been thrown by brilliant light.

Fourth Reading: John 19:25-27

Your friends look on, O Jesus. See?
Your mother Miriam: she weeps with Miriam
and Miriam. She will not urge you to a wedding feast,
not now, or prompt you to transform the vinegar
of death into a vintage rich with life.
Instead, as scarlet stains your hands and feet,
you transform stranger into son,
and woman into mother. Here amidst
the panoply of power and of hate,
you fill the purifying jars of love.

Fifth Reading: Luke 23:44-45

Who could not bear to watch from heaven?
Was it the sun, ashamed to the Savior die?
Was it the moon, unable to divert its gaze?
Was it the angels who had praised Messiah’s birth?
Or was it simply that the clouds must gather, too,
and witness bear, and mourn, and weep?

Sixth Reading: Matthew 27:46

Forsaken the Anointed One.
It seems so strange
that Son of God, Messiah
should cry out in
abandonment – or…
Does it?

Do we not hear the question echo
down the years, the centuries, and on,
“I was your God, and you my people,
and you turned away.”
We worship a forsaken God.

Seventh Reading: John 19:28-30

I could not blame you, Christ,
if you let “It is finished” be
your final word. You only came
to do us good, and we?
We desecrated you,
we desecrated the tree
on which we watched you die.

I could not blame you, Christ,
if you decided that we had
rejected your salvation – for we did –
and now could live in suffering – as we do.
And you, who stood for truth, nearly let
us live the lie, but you could not let
“It is finished” be the end.

Eighth Reading: Luke 23:46

“As We Bring Him Down”

The calloused feet that trod the miles.
The mobile lips the formed the smiles.
The fingers that bathed his friends’ toes
Are still – are unmoving –
Are released from the world and its woes.


Hold him gently as we bring him down.
Throw aside the bitter thorn crown.
Lay him in the cloth we could find.
The world has been cruel to the kind.

The sparkling eyes that held yours in peace.
The worker’s hands that feared no disease.
The ears that heard more than we knew
Are still – are unmoving –
Are now just memory for a few.


The open arms we have crossed on the chest
Where the loving heart beats not in his breast.
Draw the fabric across the dear face
So still – so unmoving
Oh to see it again. Oh to find such a place.


Poetry and music © 2022 by Eric Anderson