Moses’ Seat

To be quite truthful, Jesus:
I cannot really claim to know
just what you meant by “Moses’ seat,”
and what you meant to say about
authority, interpretation of the law,
or representing God. For certain
we have called a host of people “Lord,”
or “Teacher,” “my Professor,” “Mom,” or “Dad.”

Whatever may be true about the Truth
Divine, how cloudy and obscured it is
when heard from human tongues or hands!
Just like a cosmic game of “Telephone”
in which the loss of clarity means life for some
and death for many more. But Jesus, we
have heard your words through intermediaries,
assembled generations after you had taught.

From you to eager followers who did not, I know,
take notes, from them to others who, perhaps,
would write a word or two, to others yet
who finally recorded what they heard on reeds,
on parchment, vellum, paper, with a press,
and on to me today reminding me once more
that greatness is the act of service,
and hubris is just asking to be tumbled into dust.

Once more my memory returns to a great soul,
who truly in her life embodied what you said
was great, whose smile was the mirror of her soul,
who sparked new life in all who saw her,
who heard her words, who knew with her such joy.
I’m sure she was a human, not a plaster saint,
because her passing pains me still, and woe, ye world,
that misappraises pride for what what is truly great.

Ignorant Clay

The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him. – Jeremiah 18:4

Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. – Philemon 1:11

I can make no excuse for Paul, O God.
He knew the story of the Exodus,
he knew that you are LORD of people free,
and still he sent a man to be a slave.

Rework me, LORD, into a useful cup.

He knew, but still he did not know, O God,
he did not draw the straight and simple line
from Egypt and Mount Sinai to the life
of Christ, in whom are no more slave or free.

Rework me, LORD, into a useful cup.

He knew, but still he did not know, O God.
And I? What do I know yet do not know?
What insights will seem obvious to those
in times to come so shrouded still from me?

Rework me, LORD, into a useful cup.

So obvious to me, these lacks in Paul.
So obvious to them, the people who
will judge my ignorance. So obvious
that we should give ourselves to be reshaped.

Rework me, LORD, into a useful cup.

A poem/prayer based on Jeremiah 18:1-11, the Revised Common Lectionary alternate first reading, and on Philemon 1:1-21, the RCL second reading for Year C, Proper 18.

Photo by Eric Anderson.


The Conversion of Saint Paul by Caravaggio

Strike me down, Jesus.
Strike me from my certainty.
Strike me from my patriarchy.
Strike me from my privilege.

Strike me down.

Strike me down, Jesus.
Strike me from my violence.
Strike me from my power.
Strike me from my rectitude.

Strike me down.

In the dust of the road,
With my eyes full of tears,
With my pride in its ashes:
Demand justice of me.

Strike me down.

A poem/prayer based on Acts 9:1-20, the Revised Common Lectionary first reading for Year C, Third Sunday of Easter.

The image is Conversione de San Paulo by Caravaggio,
Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome. Photo by Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,