Misunderstood?

“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?'” – Luke 12:13-14

Greedy? Never! Jesus, you misunderstand!
Of course I come to you for aid
in seeking justice for myself
(and for my sisters, too, of course, which goes
without my even mentioning their needs to you).
You are a Teacher, you a specialist in Law,
in virtue, and in righteousness.
Who better to give me advice, or (better)
act for me in dealing with my brother, or
declaring in my favor (that would be the best).

But greedy? No! Oh, Jesus, you are just so wrong.
It’s just the justice of the thing. I did as much
(and more, much more) than he, my older brother, did.
We both were active on the land, but he, it must be said,
just doesn’t have the feel for farming, doesn’t have
the skill to know which crops to plant and plants to tend.
Left solely in his hands, our patrimony withers on the vine.
(Why yes, there’s grapes upon the land. How did you know?)

And – quietly into your ear, O Teacher of the Law,
he hasn’t really been the best of men. He stays up late.
Well, I do, too, but I still rise before the dawn and he
comes stumbling out just as the sunbeams gleam.
It’s not a major difference, sure, but which of us
should have the double portion, would you say?
The one born first, or me, the one who’s first to greet the day?

So Jesus, I don’t need a lecture on the sin of greed,
nor echoes of another ancient Teacher (“the things you have
prepared, whose will they be?”) when I’m arguing
quite clearly and with concrete proofs
my brother, though he’s mostly fine, is not
equipped to fairly manage this estate, and I,
in humble duty, must step forward, and
in justice, ask you to decide for me.

What are you saying now?

Didn’t I tell you I do not need to hear
a story about greed?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 12:13-21, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 13 (18).

The image is The Parable of the Rich Fool by Rembrandt (1627) – http://www.uni-leipzig.de : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5812686.

Devoured

Note that both Jesus and the widow are in the background of the painting. The foreground features a religious official who resembles those Jesus described as liking to walk around in long robes and be greeted with respect.

“They devour widows’ houses…” – Mark 12:40a

“…But she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” – Mark 12:44b

So what was your expression, Jesus,
when you called your friends to see
the widow whose last coins had rattled down
into the treasury collection?

Did you watch with soft, approving eyes,
to see such faith, such generosity,
such confidence of God’s aloha
to relieve the crisis now at hand?

Or did your brow bear furrows
of concern, of worry, for her poverty
had now reached destitution, and
her final meal had clinked into the box?

Or did you grind your teeth to witness on
the Temple grounds the very thing
of which you’d warned? For here
a widow’s house had been consumed.

Oh, Jesus! Have you any teeth remaining in
your jaws? Or do you lubricate
their grinding with your tears? For still
the widows bring their homes… and we devour.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:38-44, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 27 (32).

The image is O óbolo da viúva (The Widow’s Mite) by João Zeferino da Costa (1876) – Scan: MNBA/Banco Santos catalogue, São Paulo, 2002., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15742896.

Holy Week 2020: Monday

It’s all right, Jesus.
You don’t have to look.
We know what’s in the Temple –
our temples, not the one
in Jerusalem –
just the same thing you saw
that overwhelmed your soul
with rage and summoned you
to drive the money changers out.

We know what’s in the temple.
The demons that will place
economy ahead of life.
The devils that will hoard
the PPEs until they get
a higher price.
The monsters who once profited
from home foreclosures now
have charge of the nation’s wealth.

You warned us, Jesus, and we…
We have learned nothing.
People will die for others’ wealth.
People will die for others’ hubris.
People will die for others’ greed.
People will die for others’ faith,
a faith you long ago rejected.
People will die, and die, and die.
For God’s sake, Jesus, drive them all away.

The image is Christ Driving the Money-Changers from the Temple by Gaetano Previati – https://www.dorotheum.com/en/auctions/current-auctions/kataloge/list-lots-detail/auktion/12991-19th-century-paintings-and-watercolours/lotID/146/lot/2337326-gaetano-previati.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65830821.

These were my thoughts last year… Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose…

More Shrewd

Photo by Mohamed Rasheed Ahmed, used by permission.

I saw a photo once, a photo of three children.
One grinned a happy grin.
One wore the neutral look of child before a camera.
One’s eyes gazed into my soul.

I saw a photo once, a photo of three children,
“And these,” the speaker said,
“are children who will be homeless.”
Their island home is flanked by rising seas.

I saw a photo once, a photo of three children,
and that picture should have been enough,
the smile, the uncertainty, the soulful gaze
should have stopped us cold.

I saw a photo once, a photo of three children,
children whose homes will vanish due
to greed, to others’ comfort, and to lies.
Their truth overwhelmed in a wave of falsehood.

I saw a photo once, a photo of three children,
and I heard the voice of Jesus ask,
“How is it that the children of this age are shrewder
than the children of the light?”

“I see this photo, too, this photo of three children,
and I ask you, people, will you guard the wealth
of some and wreck the homes of many?
Are you less shrewd than these deceivers?”

I saw a photo once, a photo of three children,
children who will lose their homes to lies.
And I said to Jesus, “Yes. I am less shrewd.”
And wept.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 16:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Proper 20.

The photo by Mohamed Rasheed Amed was shared by 350.org on their Flickr site under the Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA/2.0.