So Hard to Believe

13th century manuscript illustration of picking cherries.

“When [Jesus’] mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 1:18b

It’s all very well for me, you know.
He gave the plot away, the evangelist did,
for all his readers to know what Joseph could not:
Mary told the truth.

I feel no gut-wrenched shock, no rising fire,
no heart-destroying grief and pain
to close my mind against the simple fact that
Mary told the truth.

“Hey, Joseph,” I whisper over the centuries,
“What need of angels visiting in dreams
if you could only hold your faith and trust that
Mary told the truth?”

What need, indeed? Except that I rely far more
upon my keen discernment of the world’s
condition. It took Matthew to assure me that
Mary told the truth.

Officiously I do declare that voices often
silenced – women, children, refugees –
should be attended, but: would I have trusted
Mary told the truth?

For love, perhaps. For faith, perhaps.
For trust, perhaps. For God, perhaps.
For obeisance of a cherry, then:
Mary told the truth.

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 1:18-25, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year A, Fourth Sunday of Advent.



Summit summer-shaken
Rocks now resting
Like tumbled tumuli
Buried in basalt.

Lava languishes
Column cobble-choked
Yet vapor venting
Exhaust ethereal.

Caldera collapsed:
Like a soul subsiding,
Deeply dismayed,
Grieving and groaning.

“Give up your gifts,”
Unwelcomely uttered,
“Present to the poor,”
Displeasing decree.

You discourage discipleship,
Demanding Deliverer,
Boost bar to barrier,
from fracture to fence.

You ask all my all,
My self and my substance –
So my character crumbles,
And my features fall.

Just one hope for the helpless,
To comfort your companions:
The preposterous for people
Is the greatness of God.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 10:17-31, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 23.

Photo of the Kilauea caldera – showing rockfalls from the earthquakes and collapses of the summer of 2018 – was taken by Eric Anderson on October 8, 2018.

Inviting Questions


What would you ask of us, O Jesus, by
Our well of Jacob? How would you secure
Our trust, invite our glance to catch your eye,
Persuade us of your power by flesh obscure?

We keep the treasures of our souls at depths
Much like a well’s, and hide them even from
Ourselves. The treasures! Though our halting steps
You know from rising dawn to setting sun.

What may we ask of you, O Jesus, by
Our well of Jacob? What great secrets tease
From you, who’d see our downcast spirits fly
From mountain to the ever-rolling seas.

With questions let us comprehend your grace
That others may in you find, too, their place.

This poem was written for a sermon of the same title to be preached on March 19, 2017. As it happens, it didn’t make it into the sermon after all.

The image is “Christ and the Samaritan Woman” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, painted ca. 1311.