What Should I Ask?

Korb_mit_Brötchen

It wasn’t enough, you said,
to ask what you were doing here
(though that’s a loaded question,
to be sure).

“You didn’t come for me,” you said:
“You came for bread.”

But did you not direct us in
that famous prayer of yours to do
just that? “Give us this day
our daily bread.” Did not
your ancient people pray for bread,
emerging from their tents each morn
to gather manna from the ground?

It wasn’t enough, you said, to ask
what works we should be doing, lives
we should be working, bread
we should be gathering. “Seek for
the bread which comes from heaven!”

What can I do but join the crowd and say,
“Sir, give us this bread always”?

Is that enough? It’s not?

You are the bread of life. Well, then,
the only question I can ask is this:

“Oh, Jesus, would you, can you, won’t you
give me you, and you, and you
this day and always?” Yes:
and give us this bread always.

What other question could I ask?
What other gift would you present?

A poem/prayer based on John 6:24-35, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year B, Proper 13.

The photo is “Frühstückskorb mit Brötchen” by 3268zauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4298187

All the Reasons

Wilpert_028

For the love of Peter, Jesus
(not you, Simon, it’s just an expression,
for Pete’s sake—no, seriously, Peter,
not you!), Jesus, are you kidding?

Feed all these people? Feed
this multitude? With what?
“Where are we to buy bread?”
you ask. Oh, that’s a good one.
With what will we buy bread?
That’s even better. Now listen,
Jesus, and I’ll tell you
just what a Bad Idea this is.

First: Feed these people here,
and all you’ll be is “Jesus, bread-provider”
to them ever after. Heck, they’ll follow
you right on across this lake
as long as you’ll provide a meal
when they arrive. Come on!

These people are responsible adults.
Their hunger is their own affair.
They could have brought their meals:
Why, look what Andrew’s found!
A boy with better sense than all
these adults put together.
He brought his dinner. Let
them go and feed themselves.

Second: Now, you think you’ll make
stone soup? Oh, that’s a fairy tale.
I know I just called them all
responsible adults, but sure, that’s true
and false in every way that makes
a difference. Somewhere in this crowd
there’s probably another lad with sense
(or whose mother had the sense, more likely),
a girl with bread, a woman with cake,
but I don’t see another volunteer
with contributions for this meal.

Besides: who comes up to a hillside
carrying the makings of “stone soup?”
I guarantee you there’s no onions, there’s
no lentils, there’s no herbs, there’s
no chicken hiding in their bags. Oh,
and one more thing, my friend:
We didn’t bring a pot.

Third. We’re broke. And fourth,
we’re broke, and fifth (and if you
missed it when I said it twice),
sweet Jesus Christ, We’re broke.

The sum of all our wealth are these
five loaves, and these two fish,
and (pardon, please, this pun),
as we stand high upon this hillside,
I think the fish are smelling higher still.

That’s it. Five loaves. Two questionable
fish. That’s it. That’s all. That’s just…

Enough.

A poem/prayer based on John 6:1-21, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year B, Proper 12.

The image is of a fresco in the Catacomb of Callistus, Rome.

If at First…

Marlenheim_SteRicharde06Well.
That didn’t work.
I thought it might.
I thought it should.
And, well…
(OK, I thought it might not, too)
It didn’t.

So.

It’s comforting to know, my friend,
That you had bad days, too.
Remember Nazareth? Oh, my!
All the things you couldn’t do.
Yes, the things you couldn’t do.
Amazing (yes, your word), it was
Simply amazing.

So.

What if I take a page from out your book
(that’s from The Book, you know),
And gather up a team next time?
“Hey, followers! The class is done:
Now do the work your Teacher does.”

So.

Not One
(Even your amazing One).
Not just that inner group
Of Peter, James, and John
(and Mary and Mary and Salome).
Not just the Twelve,
But all I can (we can) inspire
And teach to be your body,
Do your work, love your love,
Shower your grace.

So.

If at first I don’t succeed, then…

We
Try
Again.

A prayer based on Mark 6:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year B, Proper 9.

The sculpture of “Christ with the apostles Peter and Paul” is found in Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France, on the Église Sainte-Richarde de Marlenheim. Photo by © Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia Commons – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18639532

Is This the Time?

For some who wonder
now, “Where is life’s
boundary?” The one who
wakes, confused, with speech
no one can understand,
and moans in
sleep; the spouse who
watches (he once
watched) to guess the tide of
life; the son who’s near,
the son who’s far; the
grandson and
granddaughter who
have lost two grandparents they
knew, and one they
never knew; the sister,
nieces, nephews, cousins.

Beyond the Jordan, do they
know? Do they know, is this their
time for love’s reunion?
Mother, father, wife, and
sister: they await.

Here, in tears, we ask:
“Is this the time?”

#prayer

Written on June 25, 2018, as we wondered whether my father was approaching his last days.

If I Could Only Touch

Byzantine_Mozaic_Italy6c-1

If I could only touch… Not grasp.
If I could only touch…

Would my loved ones be healed?

If I could only touch… Not hold.
If I could only touch…

Would my nation release the children it imprisons?

If I could only touch… Not seize.
If I could only touch…

Would my nation welcome refugees?

If I could only touch… Not clutch.
If I could only touch…

Would my heart swell with courage?
And power?
And grace?

If I could only touch?

A prayer based on Mark 5:21-43, the Gospel Lesson for Year B, Proper 8.

The image is of the woman touching Jesus’ hem, a sixth century mosaic found in the Church of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.

Do You Not Care?

Iesus_dormiens_in_media_tempestateWho would believe it? The man can sleep:
Sleep through the howls of wind,
the hiss of waves, the groan of wood,
the crack of timber, the despairing human voice!

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Who would believe it? That God can sleep:
Sleep through the howls of parents,
the hiss of falsehoods, the groan of defenders,
the crack of cages, the despairing voices of children!

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Do you not care?

And the Teacher stands and replies:

“Do you not care?
Rebuke this howling wind
that hisses falsehoods, makes the righteous groan,
confines weeping children in crashing cages.
Rebuke this wind, I say. Rebuke it.

“And then, let there be peace.”

A prayer based on Mark 4:35-41, the Gospel Lesson for Year B, Proper 7.

The image is an illustration from the Hitda Codex, commissioned about 1020 for Abbess Hitda of Meschede, Germany.

Yearning

IMG_4274All right. Let me hear it. Go ahead.
Because I’m one of Your Top Disciples, right?

I don’t need some mysterious story about
seeds growing, I-know-not-how,
beneath the soil. I’ve got it.
Faith takes time. Life happens while
you’re doing other things. Well,
while I’m doing other things.
You’re still doing, I’m sure.

But go on. Let me hear it. Go ahead.
Because I’m one of Your Top Disciples, right?

I don’t need some mysterious story about
how my devotion starts as just a seed,
a tiny seed by any estimation,
seed growing, I know-not-how,
beneath the soil. I’ve got it.
Faith can grow beyond anticipation.
Beyond mine, at any rate. Beyond
Yours? Well, perhaps even that.

So go on. Let me hear it. Go ahead.
Because I’m one of Your Top Disciples, right?

 

Or perhaps…

I yearn to feel the growth, to sense
the roots down-reaching, shoots
up-stretching, leaves unfolding.
I yearn to feel the growth, and so
I yearn for You to feed and water me.

A prayer based on Mark 4:26-34, the Gospel Lesson for Year B, Proper 6.