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