Tumbled

The Conversion of Saint Paul by Caravaggio

Strike me down, Jesus.
Strike me from my certainty.
Strike me from my patriarchy.
Strike me from my privilege.

Strike me down.

Strike me down, Jesus.
Strike me from my violence.
Strike me from my power.
Strike me from my rectitude.

Strike me down.

In the dust of the road,
With my eyes full of tears,
With my pride in its ashes:
Demand justice of me.

Strike me down.

A poem/prayer based on Acts 9:1-20, the Revised Common Lectionary first reading for Year C, Third Sunday of Easter.

The image is Conversione de San Paulo by Caravaggio,
Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Photo by Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44143233.

I Know Where I Stand

The Arrest of Saint Peter

When the council summoned Peter and the twelve,
when the elders and the priests reviewed their crimes,
I know that I was there.
O Jesus, I was there.

When authority demanded explanation,
why apostles disregarded their commands,
I know that I was there.
O Jesus, I was there.

When the fisherman replied, “We must obey.
We must obey the words of God, not your demands,”
I know that I was there.
O Jesus, I was there.

I know that I was there among the elders,
an authority and leader in the land.
I know that I was there.
O Jesus, I was there.

So now I listen closely to my own words
and the the words of prophets You have called.
I know that I am here.
O Jesus, I am here.

I listen for a heavenly defiance,
for questions of an evil status quo.
I know that I am here.
O Jesus, I am here.

Pray guide me, Holy Spirit, in discerning.
Bring wisdom to my seeking for Your will.
I know that I am here.
O Jesus, I am here.

I know that I am here.
Yes, Jesus, I am here.

A poem/prayer based on Acts 5:27-32, the Revised Common Lectionary first reading for Year C, Second Sunday of Easter.

Photo by Dick Stracke – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31956813.

From the Wikimedia Commons description of the photo: “The Sarcophagus of Marcus Claudianus (ca. 330-335, Palazzo Massimo, Rome): Detail, The Arrest of Peter. Peter is taken away by two soldiers in pillbox hats. On the left, the person pointing to Peter is most likely Herod, who orders his arrest in Acts 12. Or possibly the rolled-up scroll in his hands signifies that he is the high priest who orders all the apostles imprisoned in Acts 5.”

In Shadow

In shadow I approach you, Lord.
Though other times, I would embrace the light
this morning I will seek the dark
avoiding watching hostile eyes.

An alleyway for shelter, then
moon shadow of an overhanging roof.
Step slowly, lest a watcher spot
the motion of my furtive form.

I make this journey into shadow, Lord,
as you embraced the darkness not three days
ago, and gasped that it was finished
to the broken beating of my heart.

And now, one shadow still remains,
a deeper blanker blackness that
should not be there. My heartbeat
hammers in my throat to see

an open tomb.

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

Photo of the lunar eclipse of January 31, 2018, by Eric Anderson.

Holy Week 2019: Good Friday

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
– Isaiah 53:7-8a

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
– Luke 23:34

Silence, Jesus? Excuses, Jesus?
In truth, I want a louder Savior.
I want a firebrand, I want a chief.
I want a voice that echoes from the hills.

I do not want excuses.
I do not want a suffering servant
satisfied with our perverted justice,
consenting with your silence.

For heaven’s sake, shake the heavens!
For earth’s sake, rattle the earth!
For the oppressed’s sake, break the bonds!
For humanity’s sake, do something!

Don’t – don’t – make excuses.
Not for them. Not for us.
Not even – dare I say it?
Don’t make excuses for me.

I do not need excusing, Jesus.
No, I need forgiving.
Excuses will not change the world:
Repentance and forgiveness might.

Suffering Savior, keep your silence:
but do not keep your peace.
We who witness your great love
weep for your peace.

Photo by Eric Anderson

Holy Week 2019: Monday

Where the Gold Lies

I wrote this song in the fall of 2018, when a number of conversations turned to a wish for Jesus to come along and start to flip some tables. I expected it to be a rousing, even raucous anthem: but it turned to lament.

They’re changing money in the temple, Jesus.
They’re not giving full value for each coin.
They’re changing money in the temple, Jesus.
They’ve turned a house of prayer…
Into a house of thieves…

[Chorus]

What are you going to do about it, Jesus?
The gold is piled high…
What are you going to do about it, Jesus?
Do you see where the gold… lies?

They’re piling money in the towers, Jesus.
They won’t even pay the builders their full coin.
They’re piling money in the towers, Jesus.
They’ve given all that power…
Into the hands of thieves…

[Chorus]
Listen… to the gold lies.
Listen… to the golden lies.

We’ve exchanged our priests for tycoons, Jesus.
We’ve given our worship to the coin.
We’ve traded priests for tycoons, Jesus.
We’ve given our allegiance…
To generations of thieves…

[Final Chorus]

What are you going to do about it, Jesus?
The gold is piled high…
What are you going to do about it, Jesus?
Or the tables, where the gold… lies?

Flip the tables: the gold… flies!
Toss the tables, Jesus. Make the gold… fly!

© 2018 by Eric Anderson

No Palms?

“Luke! You forgot the palms!”

That’s not the shout of “preacher in a panic,” that.
Nor is it Jesus’ commentary on a new disciple who,
all eager, failed to strip the palm tree
of its fronds to deck the road for his approach.

I might imagine, though, the sad and smiling faces
of the other gospel writers who, whatever else
they may have written right or wrong, included palms
upon the road up to the city’s gate.

At least there’s clothes and cloaks to lay beneath the feet
of this strange-sought, strange-borrowed colt,
who probably could do without the noise
and would prefer the eat the absent fronds.

No, Luke, the colt does not awaken my concern,
nor do I worry that its burden misses leaf and branch.
Instead, imagination balks to think
of waving clothes, not palms, upon this Sunday morn.

Oh, yes. Imagination balks.

We’ll wave our palms, dear Luke, not clothes.
But really: how could you forget the palms?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 19:28-40 the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Sixth Sunday in Lent. In Luke’s account of Palm Sunday, he does not mention any palms.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Hair and Perfume


Mary Anoints Jesus by Ilyas Basim Khuri Bazzi Rahib

Jar a-tilting, oil spilling,
aroma filling, nostrils widen.

Hair uncovered, tresses flowing,
oil clutching to her locks.

Soft voice speaking to her weeping:
“Thank you, Mary, for your gift.”

A poem/prayer based on John 12:1-8, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Fifth Sunday in Lent.

Illustration from a 1684 Arabic manuscript of the Gospels, copied in Egypt by Ilyas Basim Khuri Bazzi Rahib (likely a Coptic monk). In the collection of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Md. (on page 51 of the .pdf copy of the document released by the museum under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license).