Any More

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“Brood of vipers”? Now isn’t that a little harsh?
I only bite a little, and I hardly bark at all…
any more.

What shall I do to demonstrate
that I will neither bark nor bite
any more?

Give from my abundance? Sure,
I’ll give the coat away I don’t use
any more.

Don’t overcharge my creditors?
That’s easy! I don’t even bill my clients
any more.

Don’t line my pockets by abusing
my position? Easily done! So John, got
any more?

No? No more? You’re pretty gracious
for a prophet. I won’t fret about vipers
any more.

Now, Jesus, with his softer words,
he’d ask more. He’d say I’d know no safety
any more.

He’d say to leave my family, all
familiar things, and have no home
any more.

I guess that I won’t call you stern
and terrible, sweet Baptist,
any more.

Ah, John. We are alike, we two. We chose
to follow Jesus, and we are not the same
any more.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 3:7-18, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Advent 3.

The image is “Saint Jean Baptiste prêchant devant Hérode Antipas” by Pieter de Grebber.

The Way of Peace

IMG_4846What do I know
of a “way of peace,”
O God? I know
of competition,
games and grades,
measuring my salary
(comparing it with others’).

I know who wins.
I know who loses.

What do I know
of a “way of peace,”
O God? I know
of violence and power,
stern coercion,
strict adjudication
of all faults and crimes.

I know who wins.
I know who loses.

What do I know
of a “way of peace,”
O God? I know
poverty and wealth,
health and illness,
racism and sexism,
tear gas on the border.

I know who wins.
I know who loses.

What do I know
of a “way of peace,”
O God? I know
these many ways
of strife, and grief,
and harm, and death.
And one thing more, perhaps:

If everybody wins,
If not one person loses…

That is the way of peace.

A poem/prayer based on Luke 1:68-79, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year C, Advent 2.

Photo of a Hilo sunrise by Eric Anderson

Besieged

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O would I have the courage, Holy One,
arrested and confined by order of
a king whose patience I have tried again,
again, again; awaiting Babylon’s
revenge against this king I criticize;
now scorned by the religious leadership
who prate of Your assured deliverance
when I have thundered of your certain wrath —

O would I have the courage, Holy One,
to do as Jeremiah, change my tune,
and speak of righteous branches ripening
beyond my straining sight, to speak of hope
while watching the fulfillment of my words
in armies, soldiers, fire, blood, and death.
O would I have the courage, Holy One,
to testify to hope within the gloom?

A poem/prayer based on Jeremiah 33:14-16, the Revised Common Lectionary Hebrew Bible reading for Year C, Advent 1.

Photo by Eric Anderson

What is Truth?

DSC_0238If You should say,
“I come to testify
and tell you what is true,”

And were I to say
just, “What is truth?”
and walk away,

I would know
nothing more of truth
than I had before.

So why, O Lord
of truth, do I do
exactly that?

A poem/prayer based on John 18:33-38a, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading (though it actually stops at verse 37) for Year B, Reign of Christ Sunday.

Photo by Eric Anderson

 

[Placeholder] for Thanks

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If I were to thank you, God,
(I guess I should)
I’d be specific.
“Thank you for [this].”
“Thank you for [that].”
“Thank you for [this other thing].”

Like that.
Explicit.
Clear.
“Thank you for [my stuff].”
“Thank you for [my life].”
“Thank you for [my loves].”

If I were to thank you, God,
specifically,
as I guess I should:
“Thank you for [joy].”
“Thank you for [rescue].”
“Thank you for [success].”

Just wait, O God,
and I’ll sum up my blessings
(your blessings, come to think of it):
“Thank you for [today’s sunrise].”
“Thank you for [today’s lunch].”
“Thank you for [last night’s rest].”

Specific. Clear. Deliberate. And…
All about me, isn’t it?
Where are others’ joys?
“Thank you for knowledge.”
“Thank you for strength.”
“Thank you for food.”

More general, for sure,
but Hannah raised the thanks
of all creation with her own:
“Thank you for children.”
“Thank you for life.”
“Thank you for justice.”

And since I thank you, God
(as well I should),
I thank you for…


all.

A poem/prayer based on 1 Samuel 2:1-10, the Revised Common Lectionary Hebrew Bible reading for Year B, Proper 28.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

All She Gave

IMG_4781Just two small coins – but coins of value, true,
not just the jingling metal that betrays
my presence with each step, the coins I will,
unthinking, toss upon my bureau at
day’s end, to languish unregarded and
unwanted, not to cross another palm
to settle my just debts. No, these small coins
would buy a loaf of bread, or maybe two,
to make a meal, to stave off hunger, bring
another anxious day comforting close.

Just two small coins – but coins not changed for bread,
nor flour, nor wine, nor clothing, nor for rent –
coins placed, their mild ring near lost amidst
the clattering rain of donors’ waterfalls.
The merry ring of silver and of gold,
coin falling onto coin, a music of
the givers’ generosity. Clink, clink:
her coins descend, to vanish from the sight
of those observing, buried by the stream
and weight and hue of coins worth more than hers.

To vanish from the sight of all but you,
the teacher come from Galilee, who sees
not just the copper, buried now beneath
the gold and silver, but the bread and wine
unpurchased and the ragged seams unsewn
for want of thread. You feel as hunger gnaws,
you hear her as she lifts her plaintive call
for “mercy on a widow.” Then you turn
to your disciples, and remind your friends
of what it means to offer all you have.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:38-44, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 27.

Photo of two U.S. pennies by Eric Anderson.

In the Silence

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“After that no one dared to ask him any question.”
— Mark 12:34

What had you to say that was so special, Jesus?
Not much. Just: “Love your God,” and “Love your neighbor.”
Hardly original. Hardly profound. Hardly unheard,
or unthought, or unsaid, or unique.
Not much. Just: “Love your God,” and, “Love your neighbor.”
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Ha! I’ve got questions, Jesus, yes, I’ve got questions.
Like: “What does it mean to love God?” After all,
this Blessed Creator needs nothing of me.
What have I to offer the Author of
Everything? “Love.” Love? Seriously, love?
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Ha! I’ve got questions, Jesus, yes, I’ve got questions.
Like: “Who is my neighbor?” (Oh, wait, you answered
that one, so…) “What does it mean to love
my neighbor?” Got you there, now didn’t I?
Except, of course, I know when I’ve been loved…
That. That is all.

And after that no one dared to ask you any question.

Neither, then, my Savior, will I dare.
Why? I know the answers. All you did
was call me to the roots, the ground, the soil
of my faith, the seed which bears within it
the flower and the fruits of… love.
That. That is all.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:28-34, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 26. The commandment to love God is found in Deuteronomy 6, and the commandment to love the neighbor is found in Leviticus 19.

Photo of a seaside naupaka in blossom by Eric Anderson.