In the Silence

“And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” – Mark 1:18

Here you come again, O Jesus,
striding on the (rocky? sandy? weedy?) shore
to where I’m busy – busy, Christ, I tell you! –
with the labor of your call.

And you – oh, you – you have another call,
I’m sure, to summon me away
from this old fishing style to some new one,
from catching those… well, catching… what?

For if I am a fisher, then I fish the ponds
of fish you’ve caught before, and rarely reach
the waves upon the beach, and never stretch
beneath the ocean billowing.

Instead, I try to show the long-caught fish
just what it is to be a fish of yours,
to be a fishing fish, a loving fish,
a sharing-of-your-loving fishing fish.

As dear Mark left unspoken your
persuasive words to Simon, Andrew, James and John,
I wait within the silence yet to hear
your summons to be…?

A poem/prayer based on Mark 1:14-20, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Third Sunday after the Epiphany.

The image is a painting of the call of Simon and Andrew in the La Barca de la Fé, Templo Parroquial de San Andrés Buenavista, Tlaxco, Tlaxcala, México. Photo by Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca – https://www.flickr.com/photos/eltb/8399897831/sizes/o/in/photostream/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24055602.

Fig Tree

“Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you get to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.'” – John 1:48

It was long ago, my Savior, that you called me
out from under my fig tree.
Neither then nor now do I pretend to understand
just what you saw.

I strive, Redeemer, to become a person without guile –
sometimes successfully.
I’ve found your awkward knowing words and silences
correct me more than praise.

Still, knowing what you know, you sent the call
to summon me from shelter, and
I came to come and see, and seeing, echoed those old words:
You are the Son of God.

A poem/prayer based on John 1:43-51, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Second Sunday after the Epiphany.

The image is Bartholomew the Apostle by El Greco – lAHToi0sj3MVQw at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29844192. Nathanael, named only in John’s Gospel, has traditionally been identified with Bartholomew, one of the Twelve in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Repentance

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” – Mark 1:4

I am more accustomed to proclaiming
a baptism of forgiveness, Jesus, a baptism
of the Holy Spirit, a baptism of renewal.

I am more accustomed to confining
the language of repentance to my own
inadequacies, imperfections.

But as the pictures flicker on the screens,
and as the lies continue multiplying, then
I know I must repent a frightened silence, and

I summon up the words of John. Repent, you brood
of vipers, shed delusion, accept truth, and turn
from violent desecration of the nation

that you claim to love.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 1:4-11, the Revised Common Lectionary Alternate Psalm Reading for Year B, First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of Christ.

The image is Preaching of John the Baptist by Rembrandt – Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41608726.

Nothing Will Be…

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37

I am content with ordinary miracles:
the way my day speeds up and slows
as down or up my foot puts pressure on
the accelerator pedal.

I am content with ordinary miracles:
the way I skip from isle to isle,
sometimes a-soaring o’er the sea,
sometimes with figures on a screen.

I am content with ordinary miracles
compressing space and time, compressing this
small planet into yet a smaller sphere,
connecting over oceans, over time.

I am content with ordinary miracles
that God concerns God’s self with women’s lives,
in resolute rejection of self-centered males,
unlikely to embrace a Savior.

I am content with ordinary miracles
so like the one in which a woman played
her necessary part, to bear and raise and love
a child, a sage, a Savior.

I am content with ordinary miracles
that mean my vision of the future with
its frights and fears and failings is,
most likely, wrong.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 1:26-38, the Revised Common Lectionary Alternate Psalm Reading for Year B, Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Mosaic of the Annunciation from the Cathedral of San Marco, Venice, by unknown author – http://azbyka.ru/forum/blog.php?b=1579, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34067815.

Mary, Can We Talk?

Mary, can we talk?

You sang your magnifying song
in present tense, with “is” and “is”
relieved, just here and there, by a “has done.”
Did all this grace go by, or is it still to come?

For truly Mary, as your soul rejoices still,
and as a planet calls you blessed,
the generations still cry out for mercy and
relief from our unholy strife and greed.

The arrogant are scattered only in
imagination and in heart-felt hope.
The powerful are happy on their thrones;
the lowly wonder when they will be lifted up.

The hungry still are hungry while the rich
are filled with comfortable certainty.
A servant nation – any servant nation – shrouds
the light of love with its “my people first.”

So Mary, can we talk, unhindered by
the sobs and weeping of the world?
Can I obtain your voice of confidence
without the growth of grace within?

If not, then let me sit here at your feet
a while to shut my eyes and listen to
your song that magnifies the LORD
rejoicing in our God, our Savior.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 1:46b-55, the Revised Common Lectionary Alternate Psalm Reading for Year B, Third Sunday of Advent.

The Virgin in the Garden by Unknown Master, German (active in 1490s in the Upper Rhineland) – Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15465829.

Highway

“Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” – Isaiah 40:3b

I hear the summons, Holy One, to lay aside
the poetry, the words and tunes, the voice,
and take up skills (I do not have) to build
a road, a path, a highway for your Way.

In my imagination, that highway would stream
across the plains into the setting sun
and I would squinting peer ahead
into the spreading light of glory.

My engineering skills, however, are more apt
to build a road that rolls and twists,
that dives precipitously down the hillsides, cracks
with perturbations of the Earth.

I am the grass, the flower of the field,
and with them I will grow and bloom,
then fall and fade. I cannot build a road
to match the word of God that stands forever.

A poem/prayer based on Isaiah 40;1-11, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year B, Second Sunday of Advent.

Photos by Eric Anderson.

Search for Your Sheep

Mauna Loa (where some sheep live).

Seek and you will find, O God.
(Who said that? You did, God, in Jesus.)
Seek and you will find, O God, and God:
Pray seek and search and find your sheep, O God.

Oh, we are lost. We are lost in fogs
of falsehood, lies, and gaslit speech.
Yes, we are lost in wealth’s allure
and power’s cravings – and we think we’re fine.

Yes, we are lost in understanding
what is great and what is craven bullying.
Are not the great hearts open to the world,
not walled into imaginary safety?

Yes, we are lost when shepherds seek their gain
and leave the sheep to sicken and to die,
reward the greedy with the choicest grass
and leave the thinner sheep unfed.

So, Holy One, pray save your flock, no more
to be the prey of ravishers. Yes, judge
between the shepherds and the sheep and sheep.
Feed us, one and all, with justice.

A poem/prayer based on Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Proper 29 (34), Reign of Christ Sunday.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Where is the Palm of Deborah?

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. – Judges 4:1-7

It’s good to know, O God, the place that I could go for wisdom,
between the villages of Ramah and Bethel. Between “the height”
and “House of God,” why, yes, assuredly, is wisdom found.

Oh, let me find the palm of Deborah in days
when folly struts across the land, a Siren song
of foolishness which some dismiss and some embrace.

For folly is a foe of deadly consequence as ever were
the soldiers of King Jabin or his captain Sisera.
A quarter million deaths are close at hand.

Send us a woman of discernment such as Deborah,
a woman of quick courage such as Jael,
a woman to dispel the clouds of complementarianism.

Send us a woman, a figure of Wisdom, to speak:
and let the posturing of men
be left in history’s bin.

A poem/prayer based on Judges 4:1-7, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Proper 28 (33).

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Oil Consumed

[The people said,] “Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God.” (Joshua 24:18-19)

[Jesus said,] “The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'” (Matthew 25:8)

My faithfulness is… erratic. Let’s get that right.
Strong in speech – sometimes.
Strong in action – well, it’s happened.
Strong in sustained endeavor… Um.

I’m cautious enough to carry extra oil
(batteries, cords, replacement lamps).
I’m aware enough to know the things
of human effort… tend to break.

I’m honest enough to look upon
my own faith practice with not
too much self-flagellation, not
too much contented self-approval.

I’m honest enough to see that as
I answer Joshua’s ageless question,
“Which God will you serve?” I am
likely to respond: “At this moment, me.”

In the next moment, though, I’ll say
with tears, “You have the words of life.
Who else should I follow? Who
to serve?” And then I’ll trim my lamp.

But…

In these days, I find, the lamp
is weighing less and less, the oil
level settling. The lamp still burns,
but for how long, O God? How long?

And where am I to find a store
of oil to replenish what I’ve saved,
and used, and burned? For light
is fleeting, and the night is long.

A poem/prayer based on Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 and Matthew 25:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading and Gospel Reading for Year A, Proper 27 (32).

Photo by Eric Anderson.

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.