Where is the Laughter?

Now Sarah said, “God has brought laughter for me…” – Genesis 21:6

Where is the laughter, O God?
Where is the delight in your created multiverse?
Where is the wonder that bubbles up
in human beings rejoicing?

But who can laugh in days like these?
Who can laugh? Four hundred thousand people
now have died around the world?
One hundred thousand of our closer neighbors?

Yes, who can laugh in days like these,
when the essential work and heightened risk
and sickening and dying falls upon
the people burdened by the sin of racism?

Yes, who can laugh when clubs and shields
and “rubber bullets” strike, when tear gas
drives the ministers from holy ground,
when violence asserts the mantle of Christ’s Church.

Yes, who can laugh, for who can breathe?
Who can laugh, for who can see for tears?
Who can laugh, for who do so through a mask?
Who can laugh, for who can see their neighbor smile?

The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?…
Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?”

O LORD, let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,
and we
will
laugh.

A poem/prayer based on Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Proper 6 (11).

A stained glass window in the Collegiale Notre Dame de Dinant in Walloon, Belgium. Photo by Vassil – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17808949.

Unholy Dominion

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

I look to Your face, O Righteous and Holy One.
It should be beaming bright as noonday sun,
and in its radiance my eyes should be dazzled.
Then why instead do Your hands obscure Your face?
Why does Your forehead tremble? Why do
Your shoulders shake? Why does a river run
from both Your eyes down to Your feet?

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet…

Why do the heavens wail? Why does the lightning strike?
Why do Your eyes flash amidst Your tears,
rising suddenly above Your trembling hands?
Why do Your brows draw together
in holy wrath arising from Your sorrow?
You have made us, after all, a little less than You.
We stand in crowns of glory and of honor.

You stand. I fall. My face is to the ground.
Your glory is too wonderful for me, too great
Your anger, and too great Your grief.
Your foot descends to hover just above
my neck. “Is this,” You ask, “dominion you
would choose? It’s not? Then why,” You whisper,
“do you force it on My children?”

A poem/prayer based on Psalm 8, the Revised Common Lectionary Psalm Reading for Year A, Trinity Sunday.

Detail of a large gypsum relief showing the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III placing his foot on the neck of an enemy. From the North-West Palace, reused in South-West Palace at Nimrud, Iraq. ca. 728 BCE. The relief is now in the British Museum. Photo by Dr. Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90697184.

Pentecost 2020

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

They were together in their humiliation.
They were together in their grief.
They were together in their rage.
They were together in their humanity.

And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind…

A man bleeding, collapsing on the road.
A woman dying in her own apartment.
A man gasping that he couldn’t breathe.

And at this sound the crowd gathered…

They gathered to grieve.
They gathered to protest.
They gathered to demand.
They gathered to declare their humanity.

Amazed and astonished, [the crowd] asked…

They asked why you deserved this.
They asked for submission to violence.
They asked for time for the process.
They offered… nothing.

…In our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.

God made us children.
God made us adults.
God made us human.
God made us the equal of anyone.

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Do you have to ask?
If you have to ask,
how can you know?

But others sneered.

Oh, yes. We have heard this before.

But Peter… raised his voice and addressed them, “…This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…'”

We will declare the justice of the Creator.
We will declare the injuries of the Created.
We will demand the justice of the order.
We will defy the structures of the racists.

May everyone who calls on the name of the LORD be saved.

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

The image is “Pentecost” by JESUS MAFA. Used by permission under Creative Commons Attribution/Noncommercial/ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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.