God’s Weeping

Hosea

My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.
– Hosea 11:8

What do I hear on the wind?

Is it the sighing of a dove?
Or the sighing of a deity
watching warmly, tenderly
as the Creator’s children stray?

What do I hear in the trees?

Is it resilience in motion?
Or the groans of a deity
swaying in unison
with the Earth’s moaning?

What do I hear on the waves?

Is it the rhythm of ocean?
Or the sobs of a deity
embracing the suffering
of all They have made?

What do I hear in the cosmos?

Is it the cry of expansion?
Or the wrath of a deity
frustrated with evil
beyond all endurance?

What do I hear in the Earth?

Is it the silence of affection?
Or a deity’s anger
cooling, reforming,
bearing us upon forgiveness?

What do I hear?

A poem/prayer based on Hosea 11:1-11, the Revised Common Lectionary alternate first reading for Year C, Proper 13.

The image of Hosea comes from the Menologion of Basileiou, an 11th century illuminated Byzantine manuscript. Artist unknown – http://digi.vatlib.it/view/MSS_Vat.gr.1613/0141?sid=a7590df9b8aca22111c8359533716419&zoomlevel=4, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20645325.

And… That Prayer

Photo of two plaques on a wall. On the left is a text of the Lord's Prayer in Tahitian; on the right is the text in Japanese. A cross hangs on the wall between them.

[Jesus] said to them, “When you pray, say:…
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive
everyone indebted to us.”

– Luke 11:2a, 4a

Teach me to pray, Jesus.
Teach me to pray to the One in Heaven.
Teach me to pray to the Hallowed Name.
Teach me to pray for a Peaceable Realm.
Teach me to pray for the Needs of Today.
Teach me to pray that You will Forgive.

Qualified forgiveness, of course.
It would hardly be right
if All and Sundry received forgiveness.
So forgive me only if…

Wait.

What?

If I forgive?

You have got to be joking.

Let’s take a good look at this.

Shouldn’t it be God, or shouldn’t it be You,
responsible for forgiveness here?
Can’t you make the choice?
Can’t you make the call?
Aren’t you far more dependable than I?

When you told bold Cephas
that he held the keys to heaven and hell,
did you tell him they were the keys to his own?
That grace received depends on grace extended?
Did you?

Good God, Jesus, don’t give those keys to me.

Seriously, don’t give those keys to me.

Damn it.

What’s that jingling noise?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 11:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary alternate first reading for Year C, Proper 12.

The picture shows the Lord’s Prayer in two languages – Tahitian and Japanese – at the Church of the Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Photo by Ori~ – Own work, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19733724

Mary’s Prayer

O Jesus, I can hear
the clatter of the crockery,
the puffing of the bellows,
the swirling of the aprons.

O Jesus, I can hear
the half-resentful voice
my sister raised to you;
I hear her dripping sweat.

And Jesus, I can hear the wailing
children, crying refugees,
groaning sufferers, weeping
hungry seekers after justice.

And Jesus, I can hear the silence:
Silence of the powerful.
Silence of the privileged.
Silence of the unjust judges.

What I strain to hear, sweet Jesus,
is your voice. I long to hear
the words of comfort, words of
challenge, words of love.

I long to hear the words
that will unbreak my heart
and melt it into Martha’s,
love showering in tears.

Hold me, Martha, as we weep
together for these words of hope.
I’ll tune my ears to hear your voice
declare your faith in life renewed.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 10:38-42, the Revised Common Lectionary alternate first reading for Year C, Proper 11.

The image is Russian; I regret that I cannot translate the attribution that follows: By Владимир Шелгунов – фотографии переданы представителем ИППО, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33504499

Martha’s Prayer

Worried and distracted
by many things?
O, Jesus, if you knew!
Yes, if you only knew!

It’s not the bread and cookies
or the trays of snacks,
nor the fraying linens
or the dusty sills:

It’s the wailing children, Jesus.
It’s the hopeless refugees.
It’s the pain-wracked sufferers.
It’s the justice-denied and hungry.

It’s the comfortable oppressors.
It’s their eager lackeys.
It’s the ones determined
that they will not see injustice.

Worried and distracted
by many things?
O Jesus, if you knew!
But then, you did; you knew.

Breads and cakes forsaken,
I will shed my tears upon your feet.
How will we dry the moisture
lavished there from streaming eyes?

Hold me, Mary, as we weep
together for the long-awaited reign of God.
Unbind your hair, to wipe away
betraying symbols of our grief.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 10:38-42, the Revised Common Lectionary alternate first reading for Year C, Proper 11.

The image is Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, by Johannes Vermeer. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21865869

Sanctuaries Dance

Imagine these beams dancing…

Perhaps the music welled up from the deepest
liquid heart of Earth, a thudding planetary beat.
Perhaps the music rained down from the clouds,
a pitter-patter drumming, flowing sound.

Perhaps the music swelled as oceans kept the time,
perhaps the music eddied with the whirling cyclones,
perhaps the music sailed across the universe
upon the wings of light: to make the churches dance.

A storefront plate glass window was the first
to “step onto the floor,” reflections shifting, mazing,
scribing curves on the straight sides of the decal cross,
swaying side to side and back and forth.

On village greens and at the edge of prairies,
along the streets and in the city centers,
clapboards hummed as steeples bowed,
copper clappers tapping as they circled.

Stained glass sparkled, catching light, returning it
in new directions. Saints and prophets twisted
gracefully, plaster no longer rigid, marble arms
extending, reaching, drawing near, relaxed.

Granite groaned to twist and turn, towers bowing.
Magen David whirled. Crosses leapt. Buddhas bowed.
Tabernacles, altars, tables, all their leggy footwork pounded.
Minarets described a stately pirouette.

In praise of all creation, we could watch.
In praise of holy and celestial music, we could watch.
In praise of all this Goodness, we could watch:
To see the sanctuaries dance.

This poem emerged from work on a UCC Daily Devotional, one about individual people dancing for the joy of God’s love. It placed an image in my head, however, of the Church dancing – or at least of church buildings dancing.

Photo of Church of the Holy Cross UCC in Hilo, Hawai’i, by Eric Anderson.

Yours

Amos

“King’s sanctuary,” Amaziah said:
“A temple of the kingdom.”

“I am no prophet,” Amos returned.
“I am a herdsman, summoned to speak.”

Which is to say, O Blessed One:
“I am Yours. This place is Yours.

“This house is Yours. This voice is Yours.
Temple, sanctuary: these are Yours.”

And I, even I, for what it’s worth:
I, too, am Yours.

A poem/prayer based on Amos 7:7-17, the Revised Common Lectionary alternate first reading for Year C, Proper 10.

The image is a depiction of the prophet Amos in an 18th century Russian Orthodox icon, found in the Kizhi Monastery. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3232602

I Wrote a Thing: Stories for the UCC’s 2019 General Synod

Hawai’i Conference delegates present lei to the officers of the United Church of Christ

This is not the first time I’ve written (and photographed, and even shot video) for the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, the denomination’s biennial deliberative meeting. I first wrote about the 1999 Synod in Providence, Rhode Island. Since the 2007 Synod in Hartford, Connecticut, I have reported for various bodies of the UCC, including United Church News beginning in 2011.

This year, I filed stories with both the Hawai’i Conference and United Church News. Here they are, organized by date:

A vision of endless possibilities for changing the world (June 22, United Church News)

  • The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, nominee for Associate General Minister for Global Engagement, addressed the Synod on the first night.

General Synod Opens its Celebration of Light (June 22, Hawai’i Conference)

  • The General Synod themes, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, took center place during the opening day and its evening worship service.

The challenging choice of workshops (June 23, United Church News)

  • Summarizing the wide range of workshop choices is, shall we say somewhere between a challenge and impossible. I confess that only one of the workshops during the second block received any attention at all. That may have had something to do with who the presenter was…

Repudiating ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ is life’s work for Ho Chunk church member (June 23, United Church News)

  • Sometimes stories get handed to you. I’d been interviewing Hawai’i Conference delegates for the summary just below and a delegate overheard me saying that I was a reporter. He spoke to me on the street, telling me that there was somebody I needed to talk to – and a moment later, spotted Larry Littlegeorge and put us together.

Learning at General Synod (June 23, Hawai’i Conference)

  • “Learning” refers both to the emphasis of the schedule – lots of workshops on Sunday – and also to the experience of the delegates that day.

Two United Church of Christ national officers elected Monday morning in Milwaukee (June 24, United Church News)

  • This was supposed to be a simple story. But when the debate gets complicated, so does the reporting. The editors and I worked hard to make it clear and accurate – and still had to make changes later when people had questions.

General Synod Delegates Work and Worship Through Sunday (June 24, Hawai’i Conference)

  • Sundays at Synod are given to delegates’ work on committees, and to the major worship service of the day, which is open to anyone. There were very few empty seats for that service.

Pacific and Asian voices praise the light amidst the darkness (June 25, United Church News)

  • Monday night’s service really caught my heart and soul. Usually, I can’t both cover worship and participate in it. This time, I could. I was so glad I’d been assigned to write about it.

From East and West, father and daughter come to Synod (June 25, United Church News)

  • The original purpose of this story was to explain why I spent all my time covering one workshop. It took on its own life, of course.

Synod calls U.S. to pull back from brink of nuclear war (June 25, United Church News)

  • A last-minute assignment as we headed off to cover committee work, this reconfirms long-time views of the UCC.

Synod Recognizes Mental Health Network as Historically Underrepresented Group (June 25, United Church News)

  • And yes, I did quote my daughter in this story. For, um, the third time this Synod.

Colectivo de UCC Latinx Ministries becomes Historically Underrepresented Group (June 25, United Church News)

  • This was an interesting story to follow, as the changes in emphasis with the new way to organize Latinx ministries aren’t easy to distinguish.

General Synod Elects Officers and Calls for Justice (June 25, Hawai’i Conference

  • There probably should have been a summary story on June 26, but I was traveling, so…