No Palms?

“Luke! You forgot the palms!”

That’s not the shout of “preacher in a panic,” that.
Nor is it Jesus’ commentary on a new disciple who,
all eager, failed to strip the palm tree
of its fronds to deck the road for his approach.

I might imagine, though, the sad and smiling faces
of the other gospel writers who, whatever else
they may have written right or wrong, included palms
upon the road up to the city’s gate.

At least there’s clothes and cloaks to lay beneath the feet
of this strange-sought, strange-borrowed colt,
who probably could do without the noise
and would prefer the eat the absent fronds.

No, Luke, the colt does not awaken my concern,
nor do I worry that its burden misses leaf and branch.
Instead, imagination balks to think
of waving clothes, not palms, upon this Sunday morn.

Oh, yes. Imagination balks.

We’ll wave our palms, dear Luke, not clothes.
But really: how could you forget the palms?

A poem/prayer based on Luke 19:28-40 the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Sixth Sunday in Lent. In Luke’s account of Palm Sunday, he does not mention any palms.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

But Now…

I’ve never worried before, O God,
about the younger son’s repentance.
I’ve always gratefully assumed
he walked the roads of sackcloth
and of ashes. What a shock
his father’s welcome must have been!

But now… I wonder.

Was he another twister of the truth?
Was he another one who turns the world
around his little finger? Did Narcissus blush
with shame at his temerity, his lies?
And did the pounding of his heart betray
his gratitude or hidden glee?

And now… I wonder.

In that Great Somewhere, do you wait for me?
Do you wonder when I’ll lay aside deceit –
delusion sweet for me, unwitting lie to you –
and truly bring my starving soul back home?
Does the pounding of my heart betray
my gratitude or deeply hidden lies?

Yes now… I wonder.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 15:1-3, 11b- 32, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Fourth Sunday in Lent.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

No, Seriously

I knew it. It’s all about them.

Well, not every them. Just some of them.

No, seriously, Jesus, wait: I’m talking now.

Their sins caught up with them, those Galileans,
when their blood got mingled with
their sacrifices; not to mention,
those unspeakably perverse and foolish
people crushed by falling blocks
when Siloam’s tower fell: Well.
I knew it would catch up with them.

No, seriously, Jesus, wait. I’m talking now.

Have you not said that God is just?
Have you not said that God is righteous?
Have you not said that God will not be mocked?
Not even mocked by cracked foundation stones?

No, seriously, Jesus, wait. I’m talking now.

When I’ve been foolish, yes, and sinful,
I’ve owned up. I’ve said, “I’m sorry,” even
(sometimes) made amends. I’ve done my best
(sometimes) to make things right with them and you.

Should not your justice fall on them
as well as me?

OK. I’ll wait. You’re talking now.

No, seriously, Jesus, are you kidding me?
They weren’t egregious sinners? They
weren’t different from me? And what?
It’s me you summon to repentance?

Oh, great. So I’m a fruitless fig tree now?
Have you not noticed all this time I spend
proclaiming your divinity,
your righteousness, your way?
And while you’re looking, see where they
bear far less fruit that I…

Well, no, I know, I’m not exactly perfect…

Well, yes, I know, I’ve many things to change…

And yes, I know that I’m the only one
who really can change me,
and yes, I know I really can’t change anyone
else but me, but…

No, seriously, Jesus, wait. I ache for this
poor broken world, for all this suffering Creation.
Why can’t the evil suffer for the ills they bring?
Why must the good endure the pain instead?

No, seriously: Why?

Why?

All right.
In ignorance unblessed,
I’ll keep my eye
on me.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 13:1-9, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Third Sunday in Lent.

Photo of the And Jesus Wept statue at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, OK. Photo by Mike Krzeszak; used by permission under Creative Commons license.

Go Tell that Fox

Salomé with the Head of John the Baptist by Caravaggio
Oil on canvas, 114 x 137 cm, 1606 – 1607

“Go tell that fox for me…”

Are you kidding, Jesus? I’m not telling Herod
anything. I know the risks. And if you don’t,
might you recall the head of John
the Baptist on a platter?

“…’Listen, I am casting out demons
and performing cures today
and tomorrow…”

That’s great for you, Messiah, but,
I’m no messiah (if you hadn’t noticed).
I stand by beds of illness impotent,
and listen to my breaking heart.

“‘…and on the third day finish my work.”

Ha! That’s a good one, Jesus. Yes, I know
the joke, that preachers only work one day
a week. Not even I believe I’ll finish –
or you’ll finish – in just three.

“‘…Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day
I must be on my way.'”

Oh, must you leave so soon? No longer to
encourage me to take on earthly powers,
summon them to righteousness,
decry their foul abuses?

Yes, there you go, into your self-proclaimed
three days of labor, leaving me…
leaving me… commissioned
to confront the Herod of today.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 13:31-35, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Second Sunday in Lent.

The image is “Salome with the Head of John the Baptist” by Caravaggio, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=509510.

Messiah’s Temptations

Cliff edge on Hawai’i Island

I’m hungry, but…
I know that I’ll find bread
a step or two away.

I’m arrogant, but…
I can’t be sure
I’ll rule the world
any better than Satan.

(Isn’t that a kick in the head?)

I’m courageous, but…
I’m hardly likely to
accept this gracious offer
for a heavenly bungie jump .

(At least not without a harness
and a springy cord.)

They may have tempted you, Messiah,
but they don’t do much for me.

So I guess I’ll live in gratitude
you could resist the miracle,
the earthly power, the heady taste
of Godliness – and give yourself to me.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 4:1-13, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, First Sunday in Lent.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Booths

It’s good to be here.
I know what to do.
A booth for Moses.
A booth for Elijah.

And Jesus, a booth for you.

We’ll know who’s who.
We’ll know who belongs.
We’ll know where you are.
We’ll know you’re confined.

See, Jesus, a booth for you.

Don’t worry, Moses.
Don’t worry, Elijah.
We’re the booth-makers, and
we’ll be the booth-gatekeepers.

Look, Jesus: we’ll keep them from you.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 9:28-43a, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Transfiguration Sunday.

Color-adjusted photo of Mauna Kea by Eric Anderson.

Except…

Oh, yes. I see. Yes, this could work.

You see us here, all level on the plain,
and You, Yourself, are standing right with us.
You stand no higher than the lowest one,
and You look up to none.

Imagination strains, for sure, to see a world
that looks like this imagined plain,
a world where no one stands upon my toes
and claws my shoulders to step on my head.

And yes, You’re right to tell us how this comes about:
Abandon hate, do good to those who harm, bless those
who offer curses, pray for those who concentrate their power.
For certain, any violence we offer them will fail.

Far, far a surer thing to shame them, Jesus, yes.
They think, they say, believe they’re in the right
to pay so little for a day of labor, make us choose
between a tank of gas and visiting a doctor.

They’re wrong, but in their sense of righteousness is this:
They have a sense of shame. When we refrain
from violence, they pause, at least, and think.
“Am I so clearly in the right?”

Yes, Jesus, this could work.
Except… It… Almost… Works.
Come, Savior.
Your people need Your love.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 6:27-38, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, 7th Sunday after the Epiphany.

Photo by Eric Anderson.