Help of the Helpless

Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious live in a parched land. – Psalm 68:5-6

I am grateful, O God, to know
the people for whom You labor,
the people for whom You care.

You care for the homeless.
You care for the resource-less.
You care for the refugee.

I am grateful, O God, to know
the people for whom You care.
Do You wonder why people do not?

A poem/prayer based on Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35, the Revised Common Lectionary Psalm Reading for Year A, seventh Sunday of Easter.

The image is a portrait of Tomomichi Yuuki, “Mizuhan portrait”, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64228756.

Orphaned

[Jesus said,] “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” – John 14:18

Technically, I have been an orphan now
for twenty months and three. My mother died
as I was starting to believe that I
was an adult – perhaps, of course, before
I had achieved that title – in the waning months
before my second decade reached its close.
It seems so odd to be now older than she ever was.

My father lived much longer, though afflicted so
in latter years by Parkinson’s Disease, he could
not make the trip to visit me, his eldest son,
in the Hawaiian Islands. The flowers of this place
adorned his passing when I wish they could
have welcomed him as honored guest.
But he greeted eighty years with such a smile.

So I have been left orphaned well into
my middle age, a kinder fate than many folk
endure. If none of us were perfect in our love,
we had at least the grace to learn and grow,
to love anew when older means to love had passed.
So Jesus, if you would, come visit me, I pray,
for I am orphaned, and I weep for your embrace.

A poem/prayer based on John 14:15-21, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, sixth Sunday of Easter.

The photo is of my father and my mother on their wedding day in 1962; photographer unknown.

This poem/prayer fails to honor the woman my father married in 1995; they met while both pursuing M.Div. degrees at Andover Newton Theological School. She has been the mother-to-an-adult my own mother could not be. My son said it best. His grandfather had had the privilege to marry the love of his life twice.

All I Ask

[Jesus said,] “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” – John 14:14

I’m asking.

I’m asking for deliverance from a virus.
I’m asking for deliverance from all-encompassing folly.
I’m asking for deliverance from the demands of greed.
I’m asking for deliverance from injustice.

I’m asking.

I’m asking for deliverance from my loneliness.
I’m asking for deliverance from my narcissism.
I’m asking for deliverance from my burdens.
I’m asking for deliverance from my sin.

I’m asking.

I’m asking for deliverance from my grief.
I’m asking for deliverance of the world’s grief.
I’m asking for deliverance of the world’s violence.
I’m asking for deliverance from… it all.

I’m asking.

What say you, Jesus?
Shall we wait at this table until it comes to pass?
Here, at least, we have the bread to sustain us…
Except that it has not been broken yet in you.

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 Jacopo Tintoretto – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15542032.

Reassure Me

It’s dark.

This is a valley of shadows.

This is a valley of death.

My grief and not my cup runs over.

Too many earthly shepherds flail
with rod and staff;
they maim and kill their flock,
and leave the predators untouched.

My enemies enjoy the feast
that I will never taste.

This is place from which I cry,
“De profudis clamavi ad te!”
“Mimma’amaqqim qeratika!”
“Mai loko o na wahi hohonu,
ua kahea aku au ia ‘oe!”
“Out of the depths I cry to you!”

Reassure me with your implements
of protection, Holy Shepherd,
for the night is long. I am afraid.
I turn my prayers to you.

A poem/prayer based on Psalm 23, the Revised Common Lectionary Psalm Reading for Year A, fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday.

Image of The Good Shepherd by Luca Giordano – http://www.gallery.am/hy/database/item/6772/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20019538.

Untasted

The truth is that I’m pretty hungry now.
This walk from city to Emmaus has
been tiring, more than any walk I can
remember, since my heart is wrapped in grief
and fear because, you know, you’re dead and gone
and I refused to take much comfort from
the words the women shared (is it because
they’re women, now, I ask “enlightened” me?).

So I am famished when I sit to eat
with you (the you I do not recognize)
and my companion (oops, whose name I have
forgotten to report to history).
Can we get to it now? Just break the bread
and share it round, replenish my depleted
stores of stamina and strength of mind.
I’ll wait. You break. Then we can eat in peace.

Now hours and miles later, gasping with
the sweet exhaustion of a joy-filled run,
I find that you have traveled swifter yet
than I, to share the miracle of your
renewed and resurrected life. I share
the wonder that “The Lord has risen indeed;”
because I left the bread untasted on
the table when the Lord appeared to me.

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

Image by RvdWeyer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27519876.

Untouched

[Thomas] said to them, “Unless I… put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” – John 20:25

I don’t want to make this a condition
of belief, my Friend. I don’t want
to make this a condition
of relationship; oh, no.

But.

While I don’t desire so to place
my finger on or in your wounds,
I crave in separation time your touch,
A hand, a breath, a deep embrace.

Just that.

So great a thing as that.

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 The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio – http://www.christusrex.org/www2/art/images/carav10.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6804893.

Holy Week 2020: Easter Sunday

This is, perhaps, my way of emulating
your three days away, to let a silence
fall between a midday and a morn, to
wait and see if resurrection lifts the weary
bones once more, restores connections,
grants the boon of inspiration.

Perhaps.

But truth to tell, my risen friend,
I yearn much more that you would speak
to me and all the weary world
as you addressed your friends that night
behind the fast-closed door. Come wish me peace,
dear Jesus. Come and wish us peace.

A poem/prayer based on John 20:1-18 the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year A, Easter Sunday.

Image of Christ greeting his disciples by Duccio di Buoninsegna – http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/d/duccio/buoninse/index.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3925674.

Holy Week 2020: Holy Saturday

Speak to the spirits in prison, Jesus.
Speak to them words of release.

Speak to the souls behind bars, Savior.
Tell them that they might be free,
free of the cell and the guards,
free of addiction and need.

Speak to the ones kept at home, Jesus.
Tell them that this time will end.
Assure them that illnesses pass,
even if we cannot know the day.

Speak to the ones in the shackles
of greed and of greed and of greed.
Tell them their souls need not bow
to the folly of selfish pursuit.

Speak to the ones whose emotions
cannot be controlled by their minds.
Speak peace, reassurance, and comfort.
Grant them a shoulder to cry.

Speak to the braggarts and blowhards.
Persuade them the curse of their pride,
a torrent of crass self-deception
in which the Truth often dies.

Speak to the spirits in prison, Jesus.
Let all human souls find release.

The image is a detail from the upper right panel of “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10895578.

Holy Week 2020: Good Friday

Why am I here?
Why are we here?
Why watch and ache with anguish?
Why watch and hear your anguish?

My heart skipped every time
the hammer fell. One hand. Two.
Place a nail against your feet.
Beat (no beat). Beat (no beat). Beat (no beat).

Then as the upright rose I held
my breath. The rough beam stopped
and swayed and fell abruptly.
My lungs seized at your groan.

Since then… Jeers, then silence.
Rattling dice. My God, the guards
are making plans for dinner
as above them you hang dying.

Silence, then jeers. A little
conversation now between
the three who hang and groan
and breathe their lives away.

Why am I here?
Why are we here?
Mary and Mary and Mary
(our parents shared a common taste):

We share a common taste.
We know what true love is.
We know what healing is.
We know it hangs a-dying there.

Why are we here?
Why are you there?
See, that’s the reason in the end:
Where else could you or I be?

The image is a photo of “The Three Marys” by Master of the Rimini Crucifixion, found in the National Museum in Warsaw – Photo: Own work (BurgererSF), CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20397119.

Holy Week 2020: Maundy Thursday

[Jesus said,] “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)

In any other year, O God, it would seem
simple enough. Remove shoes. Remove socks.
Place feet in water. Lave. Bathe.
Dry with towel.

For those few, at least, who are willing.

It was always a deceptive ease.
I rarely found the willing in an
abundance overwhelming.
“I’ll keep my dirty feet.”

Rather than let them be cleansed.

And so it falls once more
as it did so long ago.
Too few will take on “dirty work;”
too few will be cleaned.

Both cleaned and cleaners scorned.

Cleanse us, Lord, of our disdain
for cleaned and cleaners both.
May we find kinship with
forgiven and forgivers.

Perhaps you’d better wash our head and hands as well.

The image is of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, a mosaic in the Duomo di Monreale, Monreale, Sicily, Italy. Photo by Sibeaster – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10756980.