For Good Friday 2021

The video will be available beginning at noon on Good Friday, April 2, 2021.

These eight poems are based on Scriptures associated with “the Seven Last Words of Jesus” – and yes, there are eight lessons. I read the Biblical texts as well as the poems in the video above.

First Reading: Luke 23:26-32

Good days, good days, he said,
but did they seem so green and good
to those who felt the yoke of Rome,
to those whose load was not relieved?

No doubt they felt the burden pressing down,
with no one seized to carry it behind,
but at least they had the means to grieve,
to shed their tears for one the cross would bear.

And surely, they would know that arrow, sword,
and torch would come for them in time
for he was right – in times not good, but not so hard,
they execute the Christ – far worse they did and do

When smoke and fire shrouds the sun.

Second Reading: Matthew 27:33, 34, 37

Rex Iudaeorum,
Basileus Ioudaios,
King of the Jews.
Title of contempt,
laced with bitterness.

Here, says Rome,
we slay pretenders
to the chair
we claim for Caesar,
the imperator.

Princeps senatus,
tribunicia potestas,
autocrator, basileus,
pontifex maximus,
no ruler but Rome.

No ruler but Rome,
except, ungalled,
the one upon
the cross who rules
in deed, rules indeed.

Third Reading: Luke 23:35, 36; 23:34, 39-43

O were the only source of sin my ignorance!
For then I’d claim the mercy of the Savior
freely, pleading only that I did not know
what I was doing.

But no, I must join the second soul suspended,
fully knowing that for all the good I seek to do,
my choices falter, resolution fails.
The ill I would not do – I do.

“Forgive them in their ignorance,” he said.
Forgive me in my knowledge.
May I hear the echo of your reassurance:
“You will be with me in Paradise.”

Fourth Reading: John 19:25-27

Cruel kindness, Christ, to hang before your loved ones
on the cross.

Cruel kindness, Christ, to use your waning breach to place
your mother in another’s care.

Cruel kindness, Christ, to let those loving eyes perceive
your agony.

Cruel kindness, Christ, but on that day, what other kindness
could you share?

Fifth Reading: Luke 23:44-45

No word from Jesus on the cross.
No word, but only clouds to dim the sun.
No word, but only fabric’s failure
and the curtain separating God from us
has plummeted, has torn in tears.

Sixth Reading: Matthew 27:46

A loud voice. A loud voice.
You cried out with a loud voice,
the opening words of David’s song:
“My God, my God, why am I left alone?”

Was no breath left to finish it,
to whisper, “You are holy,…
to you they cried and were saved;…
they were not put to shame”?

But no, they mocked and scorned
(as in the psalm), they shook their heads.
They might have recognized the words.
Did anyone, did even you, recognize their end?

Seventh Reading: John 19:28-30

Theologies of glory lie ahead
in days and years and hearts and minds.
For now, the Maker of the Universe
can only gasp, “I thirst,”
and wonder at the sour taste,
the halting breath,
the sweet-sick scent
of hovering Death.

Eighth Reading: Luke 23:46

One more loud cry, and so
the lungs exhale once more,
to fill no more, and so
the great heart beats no more,
and so the Savior dies.

Cross-posted at holycrosshilo.com

Holy Week 2020: Good Friday

Why am I here?
Why are we here?
Why watch and ache with anguish?
Why watch and hear your anguish?

My heart skipped every time
the hammer fell. One hand. Two.
Place a nail against your feet.
Beat (no beat). Beat (no beat). Beat (no beat).

Then as the upright rose I held
my breath. The rough beam stopped
and swayed and fell abruptly.
My lungs seized at your groan.

Since then… Jeers, then silence.
Rattling dice. My God, the guards
are making plans for dinner
as above them you hang dying.

Silence, then jeers. A little
conversation now between
the three who hang and groan
and breathe their lives away.

Why am I here?
Why are we here?
Mary and Mary and Mary
(our parents shared a common taste):

We share a common taste.
We know what true love is.
We know what healing is.
We know it hangs a-dying there.

Why are we here?
Why are you there?
See, that’s the reason in the end:
Where else could you or I be?

The image is a photo of “The Three Marys” by Master of the Rimini Crucifixion, found in the National Museum in Warsaw – Photo: Own work (BurgererSF), CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20397119.

De Profundis

De profundis
De profundis
Clamavi ad te
Clamavi ad te
Out of the depths
Out of the depths
I cry to thee, O Lord
I cry to thee, O Lord

When into darkness I have fallen
When a cloud obscures my way
I raise my voice: and who will hear my crying?
My soul hopes for thee.

Mai loko o no wahi hohonu
Mai loko o no wahi hohonu
Ua kahea aku au ia ‘oe,
‘O Iehova
Out of the depths
Out of the depths
I cry to thee, O Lord
I cry to thee, O Lord

When all I drink of life is bitter,
When those I love refuse their hand,
I raise my voice: and who will hear my crying?
My soul longs for thee.

De profundis
De profundis
Clamavi ad te
Clamavi ad te
Out of the depths
Out of the depths
I cry to thee, O Lord
I cry to thee, O Lord

If you should note my countless failings
How could I ever stand?
Yet you are grace and love and comfort all my crying:
My soul waits for thee.

De profundis
De profundis
De profundis
De profundis

Holy Week 2019: Good Friday

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
– Isaiah 53:7-8a

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
– Luke 23:34

Silence, Jesus? Excuses, Jesus?
In truth, I want a louder Savior.
I want a firebrand, I want a chief.
I want a voice that echoes from the hills.

I do not want excuses.
I do not want a suffering servant
satisfied with our perverted justice,
consenting with your silence.

For heaven’s sake, shake the heavens!
For earth’s sake, rattle the earth!
For the oppressed’s sake, break the bonds!
For humanity’s sake, do something!

Don’t – don’t – make excuses.
Not for them. Not for us.
Not even – dare I say it?
Don’t make excuses for me.

I do not need excusing, Jesus.
No, I need forgiving.
Excuses will not change the world:
Repentance and forgiveness might.

Suffering Savior, keep your silence:
but do not keep your peace.
We who witness your great love
weep for your peace.

Photo by Eric Anderson

Friday

Christ on the Cross

It’s getting hard to breathe.

So many blows from whips and hands.
Half led, half dragged from place to place
Throughout the night. I haven’t slept.
When they ceased to lash with whips
They lashed with words.
Question after question
As if my answers mattered.
I hope my friends escaped.
I wish the ones I barely see
Through swollen, blurry eyes
Would go. Their weeping just might break
My heart. I hear their tears
Above the jeers.

It’s getting hard to breathe.

I have to wonder why
They jeer. Why bother?
They can have their triumph
Without mocking me.
They have my life.
What more can they desire?

It’s getting hard to breathe.

They tried to give me wormwood,
But I wouldn’t take it.
Best to bear the worst
That human beings can do –
Oh, I pray this is the worst!
Every muscle screams
From hanging by my hands
Afire with pain
Around the nails.
I’d scream, but…

It’s getting hard to breathe.

Father, forgive them
For they do not know…
Breathe.
What they are doing.

Do I know
What I’m doing?

Breathe.
Breathe.

Eli! Eli!
Lama!
Breathe.
Sabachtani!

It’s getting
Hard to breathe.

Breathe.

Is it dark?
I can’t tell.

A sponge.
Breathe.
Sour wine.
Breathe.

It’s hard
Too hard
To breathe.

Breathe.

Tear’s salt.
Last
Flavor.

Breathe.

Into
Your hands…
Breathe.
I commend…
Breathe.
My spirit.
Breathe.

It’s hard
To
Breathe.

Breathe.

It
Is
Finished.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Brea…

Image by Unknown or not provided – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17069459

This page was updated on April 18, 2019, to add the image and place the words of Jesus from the cross in italics.