[Placeholder] for Thanks

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If I were to thank you, God,
(I guess I should)
I’d be specific.
“Thank you for [this].”
“Thank you for [that].”
“Thank you for [this other thing].”

Like that.
Explicit.
Clear.
“Thank you for [my stuff].”
“Thank you for [my life].”
“Thank you for [my loves].”

If I were to thank you, God,
specifically,
as I guess I should:
“Thank you for [joy].”
“Thank you for [rescue].”
“Thank you for [success].”

Just wait, O God,
and I’ll sum up my blessings
(your blessings, come to think of it):
“Thank you for [today’s sunrise].”
“Thank you for [today’s lunch].”
“Thank you for [last night’s rest].”

Specific. Clear. Deliberate. And…
All about me, isn’t it?
Where are others’ joys?
“Thank you for knowledge.”
“Thank you for strength.”
“Thank you for food.”

More general, for sure,
but Hannah raised the thanks
of all creation with her own:
“Thank you for children.”
“Thank you for life.”
“Thank you for justice.”

And since I thank you, God
(as well I should),
I thank you for…


all.

A poem/prayer based on 1 Samuel 2:1-10, the Revised Common Lectionary Hebrew Bible reading for Year B, Proper 28.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

As We Embrace Destruction

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Holy One, God of life,
as we your living images
embrace destruction,
worshiping the tools
of death, counting cartridges
and corpses…

Please do not leave us to
our tragic, evil ways.
Embrace the fallen, comfort the grieving,
and wash away our willful sin
with Your angry tears.

Amen.

A prayer in sorrow for those killed at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 8, 2018.

All She Gave

IMG_4781Just two small coins – but coins of value, true,
not just the jingling metal that betrays
my presence with each step, the coins I will,
unthinking, toss upon my bureau at
day’s end, to languish unregarded and
unwanted, not to cross another palm
to settle my just debts. No, these small coins
would buy a loaf of bread, or maybe two,
to make a meal, to stave off hunger, bring
another anxious day comforting close.

Just two small coins – but coins not changed for bread,
nor flour, nor wine, nor clothing, nor for rent –
coins placed, their mild ring near lost amidst
the clattering rain of donors’ waterfalls.
The merry ring of silver and of gold,
coin falling onto coin, a music of
the givers’ generosity. Clink, clink:
her coins descend, to vanish from the sight
of those observing, buried by the stream
and weight and hue of coins worth more than hers.

To vanish from the sight of all but you,
the teacher come from Galilee, who sees
not just the copper, buried now beneath
the gold and silver, but the bread and wine
unpurchased and the ragged seams unsewn
for want of thread. You feel as hunger gnaws,
you hear her as she lifts her plaintive call
for “mercy on a widow.” Then you turn
to your disciples, and remind your friends
of what it means to offer all you have.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:38-44, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 27.

Photo of two U.S. pennies by Eric Anderson.

In the Silence

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“After that no one dared to ask him any question.”
— Mark 12:34

What had you to say that was so special, Jesus?
Not much. Just: “Love your God,” and “Love your neighbor.”
Hardly original. Hardly profound. Hardly unheard,
or unthought, or unsaid, or unique.
Not much. Just: “Love your God,” and, “Love your neighbor.”
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Ha! I’ve got questions, Jesus, yes, I’ve got questions.
Like: “What does it mean to love God?” After all,
this Blessed Creator needs nothing of me.
What have I to offer the Author of
Everything? “Love.” Love? Seriously, love?
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Ha! I’ve got questions, Jesus, yes, I’ve got questions.
Like: “Who is my neighbor?” (Oh, wait, you answered
that one, so…) “What does it mean to love
my neighbor?” Got you there, now didn’t I?
Except, of course, I know when I’ve been loved…
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Neither, then, my Savior, will I dare.
Why? I know the answers. All you did
was call me to the roots, the ground, the soil
of my faith, the seed which bears within it
the flower and the fruits of… love.
That. That is all.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:28-34, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 26. The commandment to love God is found in Deuteronomy 6, and the commandment to love the neighbor is found in Leviticus 19.

Photo of a seaside naupaka in blossom by Eric Anderson.

The Man Who Defined His Healing

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O, let me play God, God.
Or at least let me play Jesus
in homage to his own classic performance
as Jesus of Nazareth in:…
The Man Who Defined His Healing!

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
OK, that wouldn’t be my line, but what a line it is!
What better way to grab for Christ’s attention
(my attention, if I get the role)
than to use that risky title of Messiah?

And then, O God, I’ll hear the shushing crowd,
that doesn’t want to risk the Roman wrath
and refreshing lack of discrimination
in the application of most deadly force —
they’ll kill everybody —

with cool consideration wrinkling my brow.
I’ll let it build — “Have mercy!” “Oh, be silent!” —
and at the height of tension, stop, and say,
“Now call him here.” Take note, dear God:
“Now call him here.” He takes those steps himself.

As word arrives, he rises — leaps, perhaps
(You’re the director) — in my direction,
guided by the helpful (and confusing) shouts
of those around, in chaotic compensation
for the eyes that cannot lead him here.

And here he is, brought here himself.
He made it happen, instigated what’s to come,
cried out for me, cried my name,
cried my title, cried for mercy. And now,
what can I do but ask: “What do you want?”

It might be healing for his eyes,
it might be dinner for his family,
might be that someone remember his own name,
not just the patronymic
“Bar Timaeus.” “What do you want?”

As he names it, God, to see again,
You can let Your camera linger
on my softening eyes, compassion and
respect commingled, love in echo
of Your own. For power, though:

we’ll have to count on Your Most
Special Effects Department for its work.
And then, ’tis done. He has achieved
the goal for which he struggled, shouted, strode.
With his healed eyes, he’ll see the tears in mine.

I hope, director God, that You won’t choose
to pull the camera back to show the crowd,
but rather, as they cheer, let the picture linger
on this man, and me, and pan down to our feet
as, side by side, we take the Way together.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 10:46-52, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 25.

The underexposed photo of a sunset in Kona was taken by Eric Anderson on October 13, 2018.

Collapsed

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Summit summer-shaken
Rocks now resting
Like tumbled tumuli
Buried in basalt.

Lava languishes
Column cobble-choked
Yet vapor venting
Exhaust ethereal.

Caldera collapsed:
Like a soul subsiding,
Deeply dismayed,
Grieving and groaning.

“Give up your gifts,”
Unwelcomely uttered,
“Present to the poor,”
Displeasing decree.

You discourage discipleship,
Demanding Deliverer,
Boost bar to barrier,
from fracture to fence.

You ask all my all,
My self and my substance –
So my character crumbles,
And my features fall.

Just one hope for the helpless,
To comfort your companions:
The preposterous for people
Is the greatness of God.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 10:17-31, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 23.

Photo of the Kilauea caldera – showing rockfalls from the earthquakes and collapses of the summer of 2018 – was taken by Eric Anderson on October 8, 2018.

Hardness of Heart

Heart_of_stone_Israel“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Where is my heart hard, O God?
I know, to my shame, of my hardness
of heart to one who I loved. Love ends
in pain: pain I inflicted on myself.

“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Where is my heart hard, O God?
Am I so conditioned to suffering
and sighs that I turn away? A hard heart
would break at the wails of caged children.

“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Where is my heart hard, O God?
Must I shout “Not me!” when they cry,
“Me, too!” No fingers point my way…
Unless they point toward a frozen heart.

“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Let the little children come to me, you said.
Let the women come to me, you said.
Let the suffering and the sick come to me, you said.
Let the broken, the poor, the unprivileged.

Now I come, my Savior, to offer my hard heart.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 10:2-16, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 22.

The photo is of a beach sculpture in Israel. Photo by Peter van der Sluijs. Used by permission under Creative Commons license.