[Jesus said,] “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” – Luke 17:6

Look, Lord, I have faith!


You pointed at this mulberry tree, and look!


It’s gallivanting all about, prancing on the shore.
I know you said to tell it to take root, but look!
What eye could turn away from jigging roots
and twisting trunk, from limbs a-sweeping in the dance?


Now isn’t that great?


Jesus? Isn’t that good?


Look, Jesus, I admit that servants have to serve
and all, but look! A leaping tree!
The spray upon your cheek comes from its hula
in the waves!


What happened to, “Well done, my faithful one”
(now that I’ve demonstrated faith)?
What happened to, “Your faith has made you well” –
and in my case, not well, but great!


You really mean discipleship is not about
the majesty of miracle, but finds its roots
in gentler dance, in tender care,
in humble healing, and in righteousness?


All right, Jesus. Mulberry, take your place.
My place, it seems, is with
the cranky and demanding

A poem/prayer based on 17:5-10, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 22 (27).

Photo of a mulberry branch by Luis Fernández García – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85431793.

Wait. What?

[Jesus said,] “But woe to you who are rich… who are full now… who are laughing now… when all speak well of you…” – Luke 6:24-26, excerpted

Oh, thank you, Jesus, for those comforting words!

“Blessed are the poor.”
Did you forget “in spirit”?

“Blessed are the hungry.”
“For righteousness,” you mean.

“Blessed are those who weep.”
Didn’t you mean, “those who mourn”?

“Blessed are you when people hate you.”
Isn’t it amazing, Jesus, that people could hate me?

Wait. What?

You have more to say?
Oh, I don’t like that. Oh, no.

“Woe to the rich”?
They seem pleased with their consolation.

“Woe to those who are full”?
Well, sure they’ll be hungry again. And filled again, I’m sure.

“Woe to those who laugh”?
Honestly, don’t we need more laughter in this world?

“Woe to you when all speak well of you”?
Oh, that one stings. I want to be remembered well,
and even honored, for…

Helping the poor gain the realm of God.
Helping the hungry be filled.
Helping the weeping find comfort.
Amplifying the silenced voices.

Wait. What?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 6:17-26, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. 

The image is Blessed Are Those by Hochhalter, Cara B., from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=59299 [retrieved February 8, 2022]. Original source: Cara B. Hochhalter, A Challenging Peace in the Life and Stories of Jesus, 2019.

Don’t Tell Anyone

He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. – Mark 8:29-30

Could I become your follower
without the burden of a cross?
The walk would be so easy then,
a spiritual stroll, an amble down
the garden path of soul, refreshed with rain.

Could I become your follower
and leave aside the self-denial?
I look around and see so clearly that
a number of your followers have done
this very thing. As I could, too.

And I could cheerily obey your word
to keep my silence, tell nobody
of your puzzling riddles: save my life
by losing it? Lose my life by saving it?
I can produce such nonsense without help.

But what temptation do I have for you?
Now Peter tried by loyalty and love
to make you do what you, right near the end,
preferred: to let the cup go by
and take the simple way of power.

You turned away from tempter’s lure.
You took the road. You dared rejection, found
rejection. You were faithful unto death.
Now through that course, temptation has
no power over you forever more.

In these five stanzas, though, you’ll find
temptation has its power still, not over you,
but over me, to choose the words which ask
the least of me, and leave aside the words
which ask my height and depth.

Reluctantly, then, Sufferer
of Calvary, I lift the burden of
the day, and hope it is, indeed, a cross,
and that a Simon of Cyrene might help
me bear it to the place where life meets life.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 8:27-38, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 19 (24).

The image is Christ Carrying the Cross by Titian (ca. 1585). Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15501461.

The Wind is Against Us

We left you there upon the mountain, Lord.
The safest place for you – or well, for us –
well insulated from the crowd’s demands
for things that we, in truth, cannot provide.

If you are there upon the mountain, Lord,
then you will not repeat those awkward words,
“You give them something now to eat.” With just
five loaves of bread at hand (as well you knew).

If we had known about that pair of fish,
well, that would surely make the difference
in our well-meaning cluelessness. “Bring them
to me,” was all you said, and all were fed.

So you are there upon the mountain, Lord,
and when we have once more resumed our breath,
when we are not so weary carrying
those baskets full, we will be there for you.

But now that you are on the mountain, Lord,
we find that we cannot return to you
with quite the ease we promised. Now a wind
opposes our return to land and you.

We’d rather be upon the mountain, Lord,
instead of struggling with our oars and sail
to make some headway into this head wind.
How can we find your presence once again?

But now the wind blows from the mountain, Lord,
and with it moves a terrifying shape,
a figure of the dead and of our deaths,
to take us from your side for now and ever.

“Take heart!” we hear. “Do not now be afraid!”
Oh, these, we know, are words of angels, heard
by those they summon to great deeds, the likes
of which are not within our feeble skills.

And, “It is I!” you cry, O Lord, a word
of doubtful reassurance. Who is that
who walks upon the gale-tossed sea? A ghost
we comprehend; a Savior, not as much.

But when you were upon the mountain, Lord,
we strove to come to you despite the wind
and now see you come to us, and how
can we do other but to meet you here?

So call us from the mountain, Lord, and call
us from the heaving sea, and may we take
our faltering steps upon the waves and reach –
and find – and grasp – your outstretched loving hand.

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 14:22-33, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Proper 14 (19).

Panel from a Christopher Whall window in Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire. Church (St Peter and St Paul). Photo by jmc4 Church Explorerhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/52219527@N00/5384683573/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18275704.

You Want to Know Where I’m Staying?

Well, no. I don’t.
Well actually I do. Because it’s heaven, right?
But no. Not now. It doesn’t really matter because
what I really want to know is:

Who you are.

He said to them, “Come and see.” (John 1:39a)

A poem/prayer based on John 1:29-42, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year A, Second Sunday after Epiphany.

The image is The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by Caravaggio – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1734712.


The Raising of Tabitha

Oh, what if they’d called me?

They sent for you, dear Simon,
Cephas, Petros: You’re the Rock.
They sent for you, dear Simon,
when their dear Tabitha had died.

Oh, what if they’d called me?

My heart would have been pounding in
my chest so loud the village could
have heard. Why send them all
away (except to miss my failure)?

Oh, what if they’d called me?

A prayer. A tender summons: “Tabitha,
get up!” That heart whose love so
overflowed is beating even louder
than my own. Look, she lives!

Oh, what if they’d called me?

Did you feel you were holding Jesus’ place?
Did you ache for the Master’s steady poise?
Did your heart falter before hers revived?
How did you dare to call her name?

Oh, what if they’d called me?

A poem/prayer based on Acts 9:36-43, the Revised Common Lectionary first reading for Year C, Fourth Sunday of Easter.

The image is the raising of Tabitha in the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, Italy, a 12th century mosaic. Photo by Rmsrga – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31666134.