Sproing!

[Jesus said,] “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” – Luke 17:6

Look, Lord, I have faith!

Sproing!

You pointed at this mulberry tree, and look!

Sproing!

It’s gallivanting all about, prancing on the shore.
I know you said to tell it to take root, but look!
What eye could turn away from jigging roots
and twisting trunk, from limbs a-sweeping in the dance?

Sproing!

Now isn’t that great?

Sproing!

Jesus? Isn’t that good?

Sproing!

Look, Jesus, I admit that servants have to serve
and all, but look! A leaping tree!
The spray upon your cheek comes from its hula
in the waves!

Sproing!

What happened to, “Well done, my faithful one”
(now that I’ve demonstrated faith)?
What happened to, “Your faith has made you well” –
and in my case, not well, but great!

Sproing!

You really mean discipleship is not about
the majesty of miracle, but finds its roots
in gentler dance, in tender care,
in humble healing, and in righteousness?

Sproing!

All right, Jesus. Mulberry, take your place.
My place, it seems, is with
the cranky and demanding
healer.

A poem/prayer based on 17:5-10, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 22 (27).

Photo of a mulberry branch by Luis Fernández García – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85431793.

Go Buy a Field

“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.'” – Jeremiah 32:15

O, Jeremiah, what a run you’ve had.

God called you in your youth,
a prophet to the nations,
destroyer, overthrower,
whose words would bring the powerful down.

So to a people well assured
their safety and their righteousness
were beyond query, you announced
they’d changed their fountains for a leaky cistern.

You spoke your words to Baruch’s pen,
to read before the king and summon him
and all the nation to repent, reform, renew.
At king’s command your words were shriveled in the flame.

From summons to reform you turned to warning,
warning of disaster unavoidable,
while all this time the guilty prospered,
and the linen loincloth festered in the earth.

You languished in the stocks and raised your plaint
to God, whose flaming word would not relent
within you, making you a laughingstock
and grieving that you’d lived your life.

You watched your city fall, its leaders hauled
away and into exile, a monarch’s uncle crowned
as client king, and knew (as who would not)
that folly’s day of triumph still was yet to come.

And now, confined by royal order in
the palace guard, invading armies all
around the city walls, you hear the Divine Word:
Come, Jeremiah, buy a field.

Come, Jeremiah, buy a field,
because though armies yet will harrow
this beleaguered citadel, destroy its
ancient temple, spatter it with blood,

A day will come when land once more
will pass from family to family,
from ancestor to progeny,
and grain will ripen in the sun.

O Jeremiah, now I have to ask:
Of all the things you suffered
(cisterns, stocks, and ridicule),
was anything so challenging as hope?

A poem/prayer based on Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year C, Proper 21 (26).

The image is Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt (1630) – http://www.rijksmuseum.nl : Home : Info, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10720351.

Anticipatory Grief

“My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick.” – Jeremiah 8:18

Tell me, Jeremiah, down across the centuries,
just what you knew or thought you knew
when vainly seeking balm in Gilead?

Did you lament Josiah’s sad and foolish death?
Or did you hope that Judah would repent?
Or had you come to grieve disaster still to come?

Anticipatory grief.

Ah, Jeremiah, called so young, who saw
Josiah’s candle snuffed so raw,
whose life was marked by shameful taunts and blows,

Who raged anew at warnings burned,
who urged reform when few would hear,
who languished on a cistern’s sodden floor.

Anticipatory grief.

Your griefs indeed took form, took fire,
your people’s cries rebounded from
the city’s crumbling walls.

And so we hear again your warning to
avoid oppressing those at risk
or risk the consequences of our evil…

Anticipatory grief.

A poem/prayer based on Jeremiah 8:18-9:1, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year C, Proper 20 (25).

The image is Cry of prophet Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem by Ilya Repin (1870), http://www.art-catalog.ru/picture.php?id_picture=11437, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3257688.

Precious

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” – Luke 15:8

If my fortune were confined
to just ten coins, well, Jesus,
then I’d search and search
to find the one I’d lost.

And if my flock were just
a century, and one astray,
because I treasure life I’d search
until I found it safe and whole.

The trouble is, dear Jesus,
that you’ve used the coin and sheep
as if they represented people
lost and disregarded.

If they were precious, we would seek.
Because we do not seek, you know they’re not.
Not precious to us.
Not precious in the world we’ve made.

And there you are, lamp-bearer,
there you are, sheep-seeker,
for those we do not treasure
are so precious in your sight.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 15:1-10, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 19: (24).

The image is Parable of the Lost Drachma (ca. 1618) by Domenico Fetti – Web Gallery of Art:   Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15453383.

Just Wait

“Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years.” – Luke 13:10-11

Wait now, just wait.
I know it hurts – I feel your pain.
But now is not the time.
The time will come when… it comes.
Until then, wait. Just wait.

Wait now, just wait.
I know you’re burdened – I carry it with you –
But things are just not ready.
You’ll have to carry it until the time is ripe.
Until then, wait. Just wait.

Wait now, just wait.
I know oppression harms you – I’m there with you.
But hearts have not been opened.
Hang on for just a little while.
Until then, wait. Just wait.

“But the Lord answered him and said… ‘And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?'” – Luke 13:15a, 16

A poem/prayer based on Luke 13:10-17, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 16 (21).

The image is Christ Heals the Hunchback Woman, a mosaic in the Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Photo by Sibeaster – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4470788.

Fire to the Earth

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!” – Luke 12:49-50

I do not see the flames alight
and sweeping through the trees,
charcoaling the grasses,
clouding out the sun.

I hear their crackling roar
in your frustrated voice,
creaking with impatience,
choking on anticipated smoke.

I do not see the water
beckoning you forward,
at once inviting and malignant,
that will close above your crown.

I see the falling water, Jesus,
streaking in the ever-present
dust its path from eye to lips:
the tracing of your tears.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 12:49-56, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 15 (20).

Photo of a statue of Mary Magdalene in the Sépulcre de l’église Saint-Martin (Arc-en-Barrois, France). Photo by User:Vassil – File:Sépulcre_Arc-en-Barrois_111008_12.jpg, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16942922.

A Mechanical God

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

Oh, for a mechanical God,
a God who spins when I pull down the lever,
a God who chimes when I haul on the rope,
a God whose actions I’d predict
infallibly each day.

Oh, for a magical God,
a God invoked by sound and tone,
a God directed by desire,
a God to do my will
infallibly each day.

Oh, for a predictable God,
a God whose rulings I affirm,
a God whose justice I approve,
a God whose mercy I… receive
infallibly each day.

Ah, but an uncontrollable God,
a God creating in profusion,
a God with greater grace than mine,
this God I humbly worship…
quite fallibly…
each day.

A poem/prayer based on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 14 (19).

Photo by Eric Anderson

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.

Knocking

“For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” – Luke 11:10

I’m knocking, Jesus.
I can’t say the door is opening.
I can’t say my search is finding anything.
I can’t say my asking is receiving very much at all.

But…

I can hear you knocking, Jesus.
I wonder if your asking is receiving very much from me?
I wonder if your search is finding anything from me?
I wonder if my heart’s door is opening to you?

Knock, knock.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 11:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 12 (17).

The image is a detail of a 19th century steel engraving by Peter Carl Geissler – scan of original engraving. Uploaded by Scoo., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1353191.

I’m Listening, Jesus

“[Martha] had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.” – Luke 10:38-42

I’m listening, Jesus. Can’t you hear me listening?

I’m listening while I’m working.
See how hard I’m working.
All alone I’m working.
Don’t you care? I’m working.

And I’m listening while I’m working.
Have no fear about that, now. I’m listening.

I’m working because there’s work.
So much need, so much work.
Who else is working?
Don’t you care I’m working?

Still listening; still working.
Don’t worry about listening. I am listening.

The needs, they keep shifting.
Some things I’ve done aren’t working.
I’ll try something new.
Don’t you care to share something new?

Let me get this done while I’m listening.
Speak your peace, Jesus. I’m listening.

Yes, I’m listening, Jesus.

Can’t you hear me listening?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 10:38-42, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Proper 11 (16).

The story of Mary and Martha has often been used to praise contemplative spirituality and criticize engagement with others. I think that’s a misleading reading. Jesus commented on Martha’s worry and distraction, not her activity. What distinguished the two women was that Mary listened. Someone with a spirituality of involvement can be an active listener to Jesus, and a contemplative can certainly listen to self rather than to Christ.

The photo is of a fresco depicting Mary, Martha, and Jesus in Martha’s house. The fresco is in the St. Lazarus Roman Catholic Church in al-Eizariah (Biblical Bethany). Photo by Fallaner – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72990656.