Shall Be Glad

All I want for your birthday, Jesus,
is your mother’s dream.
To see the lowly raised up high,
the proud confused, dispersed.
To see the drunk with power deposed,
the hungry without hunger any more.

All I want for your birthday, Jesus,
is the prophet’s dream.
A desert blooming beneath the sun,
a rainbow soaring above the sand,
the rocks a-blossom, the weeds a-fruit,
the shaken knees no longer afraid.

All I want for your birthday, Jesus,
is to believe in ancient dreams.
To trust in the promise, trust in
the promises, trust in assurances
repeated, repeated to Mary,
through Mary, to me, through me.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 1:46b-55 and Isaiah 35:1-10, the Revised Common Lectionary alternate reading and first reading for Year A, Third Sunday of Advent.

The image is The Visitation by Giotto di Bondone (1310s), found in the lower church of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12219735.

Harsh Prophet

Were I to descend to the riverside, John,
fiery prophet, baptizing fiercely,
were I to descend to seek holy forgiveness:
What would you call me? A viper? A snake?
What would you call me? A coward? A hoax?
What would you call me? Irrelevant? Dull?
What would you call me, religious authority…

And would I descend to the riverside, John,
fiery prophet, baptizing fiercely,
would I dare to seek holy forgiveness of you:
Not knowing if you would bring shame to my name.
Not knowing if you would despise my remorse.
Not knowing if you would discount my devotion.
Not knowing how deeply you see in my soul…

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 3:1-12, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year A, Second Sunday of Advent.

The image is a 19th century wood carving of John the Baptist preaching at the riverside in the Church of the Assumption and St Nicholas, Etchingham, England. Photo by Poliphilo – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80795653.

No One Knows… But…

A painting of a full figure of Christ, arms raised with brown-gold skin, on a white wall.

OK, I get it.
Nobody knows
the day or the hour,
not even the angels of heaven.

(Not being
one of the angels of
heaven, I know I don’t
know when that hour will come.)

And Jesus,
I know that you
know not the hour or the
day, but God alone has time’s command.

But to be perfectly honest, now,
if you could say to God, “Today
would be Just Fine
to return…”

That would be fine with me.

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 24:36-44, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year A, First Sunday of Advent.

The image of Christ is painted on the outside wall of the Church of Saint James the Greater, Sankt Georgen am Langsee, Carinthia, Austria. Photo by Johann Jaritz / CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43256814.

Today I am with You

Today I am with you, dear Jesus, drenched
with tears to see the shepherd-wolves, the ones
who bay and scatter all the desperate flock,
rapaciously defending their carnivorous pack.

Today I am with you, dear Jesus,
looking for that so elusive Righteous Branch,
and longing that the fear may fade in those
who seek a refuge from the flood incarnadine.

Today I am with you, dear Jesus, though
I hang not on a cross of my deserving,
save as witness horrified at this:
humanity’s appalling inhumanity.

I turn to look at you, dear Jesus, and
I see your tortured arms, your blood-streaked face,
and say, “Remember me, O Jesus, on
that precious day you come into your holy realm.”

And then, O Jesus, pray: What do you say?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 23:33-43, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Proper 29, Reign of Christ Sunday.

Photo of a Holy Week procession in Valladolid, Spain, by Porquenopuedo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2066881.

On this Old Earth

“They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” – Isaiah 65:21b

O God,
I’m doing fine.
Some days are long,
some short.
At each day’s end,
I eat and drink.
I am refreshed.

Yet half my neighbors,
half the households of this land,
bring home from labor
13% of total income,
while half the checks
increase the wealth
of 10% of earners.

They sweat and plant,
assemble and sell,
cook and clean,
press the grapes for wine
for wealthier homes
where wealthier people
eat and drink and sleep.

Do they not labor in vain?
Are not their children
born for calamity?
Where are those offspring
blessed by the LORD?
For, rich and poor alike,
are we not damned for this?

A poem/prayer based on Isaiah 65:17-25, the Revised Common Lectionary First reading for Year C, Proper 28.

Photo by fir0002/flagstaffotos – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=135212.

Income statistics for 2016 from “What Wealth Inequality in America Looks Like: Key Facts & Figures” from the Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis.

Bless This House

“The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.” – Haggai 2:9

With Zerubbabel and with Joshua
imagination stands and weeps to see
the scattered blocks of stone once standing proud,
now scattered with the blackened ruined beams.

A few would then recall those stones erect,
those beams above, a roof embellished with
a gilded glow. No doubt they wept and wept
to see their memory cast down in ash.

Imagination, yes, but also I
have seen the ruined churches, heiau – razed
sometimes by accidental flames, sometimes
by hands’ deliberate destructive force.

I turn to Zerubbabel and I turn
to Joshua, and part of me, so up
to here with things to fix and clean and paint,
the bulbs and window glass and water spouts,

Cries out, “Do you not see how you are blessed
to have no structure to maintain, no house
exacting so much toil, so much gold,
demanding much more worship than our God?”

Then silently and softly, Haggai’s God
replies, “Take courage, child of mine, despite
the costs and worries, for these houses make
a home for those who join their hearts in prayer.

“These spirits seek a shelter from the blast
of circumstance and ill intent, and so
we raise these walls of stone and wood and glass
to make for souls a refuge and a home.”

A poem/prayer based on Haggai 1:15b-2:9, the Revised Common Lectionary First reading for Year C, Proper 27.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

On a Limb

Hi, there, Zacchaeus, come down!

Who are you, Zacchaeus, you active tree-climber?
As a child you scamper up into the branches.
All eager you rattle the leaves with your grasping.
Will you be the last and the least to see Jesus? Oh, no!

Hi, there, Zacchaeus, come down!

Who are you, Zacchaeus, you chief tax collector?
We see through the leaves your elegant clothing.
The gleam of the gold even now catches sunlight.
What need has a wealthy man of this poor prophet?

Hi, there, Zacchaeus, come down!

Who are you, Zacchaeus, returned to ground panting?
A sinner reformed, or the one we misjudged?
Shall we read your salvation as urgent repentance
or sudden reunion with those who rejected you?

Hi, there, Zacchaeus, come down!

Who are you, Zacchaeus, mystery of ages?
Can I turn your lostness to my restoration?
Can I swing from branches and catch Jesus’ eye?
Will he call to me as to you on a limb?

Hi, there, Zacchaeus, come down!

A poem/prayer based on Luke 19:1-10, the Revised Common Lectionary Second reading for Year C, Proper 26.

The image is Zachée sur le sycomore attendant le passage de Jésus by James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2008, 00.159.189_PS2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10904526.