“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” – Ephesians 6:11
“Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.’ So David removed them.” – 1 Samuel 17:38-39
Truth? You want me to wear truth? That’s a heavy burden to carry on the belt. My hips are groaning just to think of carrying the truth. I cannot walk with these.
Righteousness? You want me to wear righteousness, to face the world with generosity presented as my face? I can’t imagine feeling any more vulnerable than that. I cannot walk with these.
Faith? You want me to bear faith? I tell that, as bucklers go, faith wears a little thin. The barbed and flaming arrows pierce it through even as I strain to lift it. No; I cannot walk with these.
Salvation? You want me to wear salvation? This one sounds good, I grant you, but it bows the head. I’d rather revel in my sovereignty than yours, which makes me bow. I cannot walk with these.
The hardest of all to wear are the shoes that make me ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Where might they take me? Into what risks? And what protection do they offer? None.
No and no and no. I cannot walk with these.
And yet… I try.
A poem/prayer based on Ephesians 6:10-20, the Revised Common Lectionary Second Reading for Year B, Proper 16 (21).
[Jesus said,] “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” – John 6:51
I, well…. Jesus, I do not approve.
The metaphor is… gross. For me, the living bread is molding in the back of my refrigerator. Whoever eats that bread may never die because the penicillin analogues within it will suffice to sweep the viruses and bacilli away.
The metaphor is gross. Not stopping there, you up the stakes, from moldy bread (OK, my imagery) to feast of cannibals (and that, my Savior, is entirely on you). Though not quite two millennia have passed with broken bread/Christ’s body, it’s still a foul thing to say.
The metaphor is gross, not just for what it pictures, but for what it then demands. Your flesh, our bread? Then you are what sustains, on you we must rely, in you we find our nourishment, in you we live our life. No wonder they protested, knowing that you claimed the place and power of God.
The metaphor is gross, the message so demanding, that despite my many years of faith, despite my years of leadership within the Church, the gathering we grossly call your body, I still hesitate, still wonder: Can a human body really mediate for God? Oh, I believe, but help, I pray, my unbelief.
A poem/prayer based on John 6:51-58, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 15 (20).
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'” – Exodus 16:9
May I have the form, please? Thank you.
[Divine Complaint Form: Form 2, Revision 4,917,824,718]
[For Internal Use Only: Complaint Reference: Exodus 16]
Complainant: Hebrew Refugees
Complaint Date: Now
Complaint Received and Delivered by: Moses and Aaron
Complaint Type: [Checkbox] Hunger
Desired Timeframe for Response: [Checkbox] Immediate
Related Previous Complaints: Enslavement, legal murder, tasked with making bricks without straw, military pursuit, bitter water.
Disposition of Previous Complaints: Emancipation, murder now illegal, emancipation, military pursuers overthrown, water made drinkable.
Further Factors in Current Complaint:
While warned to provide ourselves with unleavened bread – there was not time for it to rise before fleeing Egypt – we did not have time to bake enough to provide for a journey which has now extended to forty-five days. The people are camped in a wilderness without bread ovens, with questionable amounts of firewood, with uncertain water sources, without adequate cooking oil, without flour, without mill stones, and without grain.
Further, we are unhappy with our leadership. They don’t seem to have plans for reliably obtaining food or water, and we are not confident in their ability to navigate through this wilderness to our destination in Canaan. It could take us forty years at this rate.
While the disposition of previous complaints tends toward confidence, the simple truth is that we will not survive without a reliable source of food. We do not accept that we are free only to starve.
[For Internal Use Only: Resolution of Complaint: Manna.]
[For Internal Use Only: Notes on Resolution of Complaint:]
[They didn’t know what it was.]
[For Internal Use Only: Notes for Future Planning:]
[Lay in a forty year supply.]
A (semi-)poem/prayer based on Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15, the Revised Common Lectionary First Alternate Reading for Year B, Proper 13 (18).
“But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion…” – Mark 4:38
Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to wake him up.
You, Peter, have been shouting for a half an hour. You, Andrew, have been shouting back. James and John have been pulling on the same rope in opposite directions. And you’re the experts.
I never thought I’d hear the Sons of Thunder overmatched by screech of wind and wave. Shout away, boys. I can’t hear you. You can’t hear you. For sure the wind can’t hear you and it doesn’t care.
Thomas looks like he can’t believe what’s happening. Philip, Bartholomew, and Judas all are seasick. James son of Alphaeus is pretending to be a son of Zebedee, but he knows nothing at all about boats.
Thaddeus and Matthew are praying beneath the thwarts. I’m pulling on a rope when it’s handed to me, and releasing it when Peter, Andrew, James, or John snatches it away. At least two lines are streaming in the wind.
So, yes, I’m going to wake him up. I can’t believe he’s not awake already. Peter’s stepped upon him twice, and Philip tripped on him when making for the gunwale. He’s soaked with spray amidst the pounding roar.
Maybe he can bring some order to this chaos. Maybe he can heal the seasick. Maybe he can bless us in the baptism of death. Maybe he can just be with us as we drown.
That, at least, would be a comfort. It hasn’t been a lengthy journey with the Teacher, and I wish it wouldn’t end like this, but if we drown, let’s drown together with the Master wide awake.
But man. That guy can sleep.
A poem/prayer based on Mark 4:35-41, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 7 (12).