Lightened

“Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.” – Mark 10:49-50

He heard the Nazarene was near.
He called the name,
He shouted “Jesus, Son of David!
Come and bring me mercy!”

He saw more clearly than the ones
Who sought to quell his voice.

They sternly ordered him,
But quiet would not serve the time.
“Son of David, come!
Come and bring me mercy!”

He saw more clearly than the ones
Who shortly would declare, “Hosanna!”

They would acclaim a conquering prince.
He shouted for a healer’s power.
They would prefer their preconceptions
To the Way the Christ would tread.

He saw more clearly than the ones
Who sought to sit at left and right.

“The Teacher calls,” the word had spread,
And hearing, he erupted from the ground,
Now lighter in his movements as
His cloak was left a-flutter in the dust.

He saw more clearly than the ones
Who’d take two tunics on the Jesus road.

So Jesus, tell me true,
Because I find myself confused.
Why when he asked to see again,
You said, “Your faith has made you well”?

You might have said, in deepest truth,
“My friend, you see. You do.”

A poem/prayer based on Mark 10:46-52, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 25 (30).

The image is Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus by William Blake – XQENbMVCvBS7kw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22207218.

Weighed Down

“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).

The image is Philistine Shields and Spears from The pictorial Bible and commentator: presenting the great truths of God’s word in the most simple, pleasing, affectionate, and instructive manner, by Ingram Cobbin, Daniel March, L. P. Brockett, and Hesba Stretton. Image obtained through the Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14763830682/ Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/pictorialbibleco00cobb/pictorialbibleco00cobb#page/n301/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43907449.

Reassure Me

It’s dark.

This is a valley of shadows.

This is a valley of death.

My grief and not my cup runs over.

Too many earthly shepherds flail
with rod and staff;
they maim and kill their flock,
and leave the predators untouched.

My enemies enjoy the feast
that I will never taste.

This is place from which I cry,
“De profudis clamavi ad te!”
“Mimma’amaqqim qeratika!”
“Mai loko o na wahi hohonu,
ua kahea aku au ia ‘oe!”
“Out of the depths I cry to you!”

Reassure me with your implements
of protection, Holy Shepherd,
for the night is long. I am afraid.
I turn my prayers to you.

A poem/prayer based on Psalm 23, the Revised Common Lectionary Psalm Reading for Year A, fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday.

Image of The Good Shepherd by Luca Giordano – http://www.gallery.am/hy/database/item/6772/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20019538.

Meta-Reflection

I was putting the final touches to the sermon on Sunday morning in my study at Church of the Holy Cross. My brain was slowly turning to think about the children’s message – though I consider ideas through the week, the final story takes its final shape on Sunday morning.

It may not be the least anxiety-provoking method in the world, but that’s how it goes.

The usual calm of the morning suddenly vanished. Above my head, I heard the voices of the mynas suddenly rising in volume and intensity. The metal roof began to pound and thump as they beat their wings at one another, resonating like a great drum at me as I sat wondering below.

I’ve heard myna arguments before, but never anything quite this shrill, quite this loud, and frankly, quite this amplified.

Whatever the conflict was about, it seemed to involve several birds, each of them screeching with might and main. The pounding doubled and redoubled. The voices multiplied. Nobody was willing to give in, it seemed. It went on and on.

Suddenly, the source of the sound began to move. Slowly at first, and then accelerating, the screeches and pounding moved from my left to my right, sliding down the slippery slope of the aluminum roof toward the edge. I looked left in time to see the birds drop from the gutter to the sidewalk, still screaming at one another, but with the wingbeats now slowing their unplanned descent to the ground.

For a few seconds more the argument continued unabated, then abruptly ceased. Silence fell. Then the birds, as one and without a sound, took to their wings and flew off.

I promptly threw out all the ideas I’d had for a children’s message to talk about the mynas whose argument ended like this:

“Well, that’s not where I thought this argument was gonna go.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you remember what this argument was about?”

“No.”

“Maybe we should take this up later?”

“Yeah.”

“Somewhere where it isn’t quite so slippery.”

“Yeah.”

They all knew what the future was supposed to be: a winner to the argument. Instead, the future turned out to be an embarrassed group of dusty mynas.

The future, I told the children, is not always what you expect.

In reflecting on the reflection, however, I realized that the future wasn’t what I expected, either. The image of a group of fighting mynas sliding down the roof had never occurred to me until I heard them doing it.

In the midst of our work and efforts, in the midst of our dedication to service and our commitment to creativity, in the midst of our solemn self-reliance that is so common and yet so foreign to nearly every faith tradition I’ve ever learned about, the subtle (or screeching) movements of the world around us may yet become the inspiration, or the direction, or the guide for our continued journeys. For if the mynas were surprised to find themselves dumped off the roof onto the parking lot, so was I. And if the mynas were surprised to find that a change in circumstance had wiped away their argument, so was I.

The future doesn’t always hold what we think it does. Our lives of faith don’t always look like what it think it will, either. The world may, from time to time, teach us where to go. The Divine may, from time to time, give us the ingredients for our imagination.

The photo of a common myna is by Ilan Costica – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80664291

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