Unholy Dominion

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

I look to Your face, O Righteous and Holy One.
It should be beaming bright as noonday sun,
and in its radiance my eyes should be dazzled.
Then why instead do Your hands obscure Your face?
Why does Your forehead tremble? Why do
Your shoulders shake? Why does a river run
from both Your eyes down to Your feet?

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet…

Why do the heavens wail? Why does the lightning strike?
Why do Your eyes flash amidst Your tears,
rising suddenly above Your trembling hands?
Why do Your brows draw together
in holy wrath arising from Your sorrow?
You have made us, after all, a little less than You.
We stand in crowns of glory and of honor.

You stand. I fall. My face is to the ground.
Your glory is too wonderful for me, too great
Your anger, and too great Your grief.
Your foot descends to hover just above
my neck. “Is this,” You ask, “dominion you
would choose? It’s not? Then why,” You whisper,
“do you force it on My children?”

A poem/prayer based on Psalm 8, the Revised Common Lectionary Psalm Reading for Year A, Trinity Sunday.

Detail of a large gypsum relief showing the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III placing his foot on the neck of an enemy. From the North-West Palace, reused in South-West Palace at Nimrud, Iraq. ca. 728 BCE. The relief is now in the British Museum. Photo by Dr. Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90697184.

Go Tell that Fox

Salomé with the Head of John the Baptist by Caravaggio
Oil on canvas, 114 x 137 cm, 1606 – 1607

“Go tell that fox for me…”

Are you kidding, Jesus? I’m not telling Herod
anything. I know the risks. And if you don’t,
might you recall the head of John
the Baptist on a platter?

“…’Listen, I am casting out demons
and performing cures today
and tomorrow…”

That’s great for you, Messiah, but,
I’m no messiah (if you hadn’t noticed).
I stand by beds of illness impotent,
and listen to my breaking heart.

“‘…and on the third day finish my work.”

Ha! That’s a good one, Jesus. Yes, I know
the joke, that preachers only work one day
a week. Not even I believe I’ll finish –
or you’ll finish – in just three.

“‘…Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day
I must be on my way.'”

Oh, must you leave so soon? No longer to
encourage me to take on earthly powers,
summon them to righteousness,
decry their foul abuses?

Yes, there you go, into your self-proclaimed
three days of labor, leaving me…
leaving me… commissioned
to confront the Herod of today.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 13:31-35, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Second Sunday in Lent.

The image is “Salome with the Head of John the Baptist” by Caravaggio, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=509510.