Nobody Asked

“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?'” – Mark 12:28

You thought it was a worthy question, Jesus,
so worthy that you did what you so often
did not do: you answered it. With quotes.
“Deuteronomy six, verses four and five,” you said.
“The second is much like it, but you’ll have to turn
the pages to Leviticus nineteen, the eighteenth verse.”

Well, no, you didn’t tell him that,
and force him to refresh his memory for numbers
rather than the force of God’s commands:
“The first is ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD is one,
so love the LORD with heart and soul and mind and strength.
The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.”

An honest earnest question and an honest earnest answer,
so you and he agreed. “Yes Teacher, you have truly said
that God is One, there is no other, to love the LORD
so well, to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is better
than the offerings and sacrifices of this Temple.
And so you told him he was near the Realm of God.

“After that no one dared to ask him any question…” but
I wish they had. For if to know that loving God and
loving neighbor is to stand upon the verge
of God’s expanding realm, the question still remains:
How do we cross the border from its edge
and find ourselves as citizens of God?

I see that steady, steely gaze, of course.
You have no need to answer what you’ve answered
time and time and time again. To know
we are to love our God, to know we are to love
our neighbor, these bring us to the gate.
To make the crossing, we must bring the love.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:28-34, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 26 (31).

The image is Caritas by William Wilson, 1905-1972. From Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved October 27, 2021]. Original source:


“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” – 1 John 4:7-8

The Bible is complicated – Love one another.
Faith requires discernment – Love one another.
Righteousness needs consideration – Love one another.
Perfection results from preparation – Love one another.

In the meantime, I’ll carry on with what I’ve been doing.

Love one another.

A poem/prayer based on 1 John 4:7-21, the Revised Common Lectionary Second Reading for Year B, Fifth Sunday of Easter.

The image is The Head of Christ Carrying the Cross, a wood sculpture by Heinrich Douvermann (ca. 1520-1530) – Photograph from Bildindex der Kunst und Architektur: object 20603132 – photograph number RBA 608 899 – image file mi10859f02a.jpg, Public Domain,

I Pray for a Miracle

O, God,

I pray for a miracle.

I pray for weary bodies to find strength
and in resilience live beyond a virus.

I pray for souls who lack compassion
to find empathy for suffering.

I pray for those augmenting their own power
to embrace compassion and its sharing.

I pray for those obsessed with their self-image
to be filled with overflowing love.

I pray for those in pain of injury
to be comforted in justice.

I pray for those dismissive of their neighbors
to be startled at the gifts their neighbors share.

I pray, O God, for miracles
to erupt within the human soul.

Holy Week 2019: Thursday

Mosaic of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice

I’m sorry, guys, I’m not in the mood.
For a solemn celebration
I’ve got solemn down, for sure.
Celebration: not so much.

The liberation gained in ancient days
is wonderful. The trials, though,
of my own present day,
have just begun.

You can call me “Debbie Downer”
if you like. It’s fine.
If you knew what I know, well:
how about I share?

But when I share, you don’t believe,
as “It is I?” transforms to “Never me!”
As if it took a prophet’s insight
to unveil your fears.

Can we do this, just this, tonight?
Can I confess my love for you
and you, for once, accept it?
Can you confess your love for me?

Perhaps you can’t. At least
with cleaner feet you’ll sleep
while I am praying:
on cleaner feet you’ll run.

The image is a mosaic in Saint Mark’s Basilica, Venice, by Unknown – Web Gallery of Art, Public Domain,

In the Silence


“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.

Hardness of Heart

Heart_of_stone_Israel“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Where is my heart hard, O God?
I know, to my shame, of my hardness
of heart to one who I loved. Love ends
in pain: pain I inflicted on myself.

“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Where is my heart hard, O God?
Am I so conditioned to suffering
and sighs that I turn away? A hard heart
would break at the wails of caged children.

“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Where is my heart hard, O God?
Must I shout “Not me!” when they cry,
“Me, too!” No fingers point my way…
Unless they point toward a frozen heart.

“Because of your hardness of heart
he wrote this commandment for you.”

Let the little children come to me, you said.
Let the women come to me, you said.
Let the suffering and the sick come to me, you said.
Let the broken, the poor, the unprivileged.

Now I come, my Savior, to offer my hard heart.

A poem/prayer based on Mark 10:2-16, the Revised Common Lectionary reading for Year B, Proper 22.

The photo is of a beach sculpture in Israel. Photo by Peter van der Sluijs. Used by permission under Creative Commons license.

The Puzzled Nene

20170729 NeneThere was a young nene — that’s the Hawaiian goose, by the way, and did you know that it’s Hawai’i’s state bird? Good!

There was a young nene who lived on the slopes of Kilauea. Sometimes he’d be high up on the mountain, flying in search of ripe ‘ohelo or grass seeds or naupaka berries. Sometimes he’d fly makai, down to the rocky shoreline, where the other naupaka might be ripe.

It was on one of those days — when he was happily swallowing down the white ripe naupaka berries with some friends — when something unexpected appeared. A tall creature, standing easily five or six times his own height, came around a rock and stopped abruptly, standing on two legs. Three or four others appeared as well, stepping up onto rocks and coming into view.

The nene gave a small honk of greeting, but the creatures made no such understandable sound back. They did seem to be calling to each other.

They didn’t approach; in fact, they drew back some after the initial encounter. The nene found that puzzling. He was surprised that they didn’t come near.

Even more puzzling, they each produced flat rectangular objects that they held between themselves and the little group of nene. That made no sense at all to young bird, or to any of his friends. Did these creatures not want to look at them?

Most puzzling of all, after a time of box-holding, non-sensical noise-making, and back-drawing, the creatures turned on their two heels and walked away. Without eating a single naupaka berry.

To a hungry nene, that was the most puzzling thing of all.

If the nene ever learned what it was all about, I never heard about it. There were many things he didn’t know. He didn’t know that he and his friends were rather rare, and that humans had come to care about them. He didn’t know that humans aren’t supposed to approach nene, and if they do, they’re supposed to step away without troubling them. He didn’t know that humans are supposed to leave their food alone, so that the nene have enough to eat. He didn’t know any of that.

He didn’t know that there were people watching over him and his cousins, to see that they had every chance to live a good and healthy nene life.

Unlike the nene, we do know that God watches over us. We may not know precise how God is caring for us at any given moment, but we do know that God care at every single moment.

We know that God is always there.

Photo by Eric Anderson, taken with a flat rectangular object that shielded his face from the nene.

The Hungry Kohola

humpback calfShe was born in the waters that lie between Maui and the Kohala Peninsula of Hawai’i Island. At birth, she was already about twenty feet long.

Were any of you twenty feet long when you were born? No? Hm. I guess none of us are twenty feet long now, either.

She was, in fact, a whale. A humpback whale, a kohola. As she grew, she’d swim with her mother in the warm Pacific Ocean. She learned to eat the food that her mother and father and myriad cousins ate: She dive into the deeps, and open her mouth wide. As the water swirled in, it carried fish and shrimp and squid (it helps if you think of it as calamari) and tiny animals and floating plants. Then she’d close her mouth, push the water out, and sweeps everything else from her baleen plates with her tongue, and swallow.

Ah, now that’s a meal! If you’re a kohola, anyway.

But then her mother said it was time to leave Hawai’i and swim north to the Bering Sea. Away they went.

As they swam, the water got colder. The young kohola started to worry. The cool water felt fine to her, but what about the other creatures of the sea? More to the point, what about the ones she liked to eat? What if they didn’t like cold water? Would they still be there when she dove and opened her mouth wide?

What if there wasn’t any food in cold water?

But she’d follow her mother and the rest of the pod as they dove, and every time they did, they found fish and shrimp and squid (sorry, calamari) and everything else she liked to eat. They never had trouble keeping her growing belly full.

She rose to the surface to breathe, and sang, “They’re everywhere!”

Well, she was young. Fish and shrimp and squid (calamari) aren’t everywhere in the ocean, though it may seem so. What is everywhere, though, is the love of God. It always surrounds us, always feeds us, always sustains us, even when we don’t know.

The love of God is everywhere. You’ve nothing to worry about there.

The image of a kohola mother and calf was taken in the waters off Maui, and comes from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration collection. Public Domain,

Ahi Afloat

Yellowfin_tuna_nurpAs far as this one newly hatched ahi was concerned, it all happened very quickly. One moment he was floating, newly hatched, in a sea filled with eggs. The next moment he was surrounded by newly hatched ahi, a cloud of silvery motion.

As ahi do, he grew quickly, and with the others he swam with the school of larger adults. They taught him what fishes were good to eat, and they taught him what fishes were good to swim away from, and they taught him how to swim very very fast when other fishes thought he might be good to eat. He learned a lot.

After all, he was in school.

(Moans from the congregation)

Now, really. You knew I was telling a story about a schooling fish and thought I wouldn’t make that pun?

(Rueful laughter. The children, by the way, were not impressed with the pun.)

There was one other thing they taught him. They told him not to swim too deep. They probably didn’t have to, because when he looked down, he saw the water get darker and darker, and it seemed pretty threatening to him. He had no interest in falling into the depths.

But he did start wondering how he would keep from doing so.

You see, that was something of a mystery to him. He saw other things descending from above, and sinking down into the murky depths.

No, not rocks. There aren’t a lot of rocks coming down from the surface in the middle of the ocean. Just take it from me there’s stuff that goes down.

He didn’t want to go down with it. And he couldn’t figure out why he didn’t.

Because he could swim? Well, yes. That was part of it. But mostly, it was because he was surrounded by water. He didn’t even think about it, it was so much a part of his life. You and I, we move pretty easily through the air and don’t think much about it. He was pushing against the water all the time with his tail to get himself moving, and with his flippers to change direction, and never thought about the water being there to push against at all.

It was the very water whose depths frightened him that held him up.

Now, the love is God is not like the water. But just as the water surrounded him so much that he stopped being aware of it, God’s love is around us all the time, so that we might not be aware of it. It’s around us, and even inside us.

And because it’s there all the time, it’s easy to forget God’s love is there. Yet there it is.

Oh, yes: there it is.

Hidden Things

Pacific_Golden_Plover_hawaii_RWDAs I invited the young people to come forward, I gathered my notes and brought them down front with me. 

I don’t usually bring notes with me for these stories, but I’ve managed to get the name of this bird wrong five times this morning, and I want to get it right. Because this story is about a kolea.

There are a lot of kolea about this island these days. In English, they’re called the [look at notes] the Pacific Golden Plover (the Hawaiian name is easier, isn’t it?). They’re all born in Alaska, which is a long way from here, and they have the good sense to fly here to Hawai’i to spend the winter. That’s where they are now, but they’re all getting ready to go back to Alaska. There they’ll look to find mates, and build nests, and lay eggs, and hatch chicks, and raise the young birds.

And then they’ll fly three or four days, flying without landing, to come back to this island again.

Well, this one young kolea had only made one of those long flights: the time she flew here after her birth in Alaska. That had been a grueling four days, but she made it, and she had enjoyed her stay here on Hawai’i. The time is coming for her to make the trip to Alaska for the first time.

Which means that she eats pretty much anything she can find, so she’ll have the strength. But she’s also wondering what will happen back in Alaska.

Will she find someone to build a nest with, and raise a family with? Will she find love? And how will she know?

The older birds have been telling her not to worry. Male kolea fly and dive about to show their territory. There are calls and hops and ways to hold their wings.

One older female took her to a grassy place, maybe a little bit like our lanai, and said, “Look there. Is there anything to eat in that grassy place?”

The kolea looked, and quickly counted eight bugs and two slugs.

Yes, kolea like slugs. I’m glad something does. I’m really glad that something isn’t me!

“Yes,” she said, “I count eight bugs and two slugs.”

Why are you making that face? Oh. You don’t like thinking about eating slugs. Well, I don’t either. We’ll think about something else, then.

The older kolea said, “Look again. Now tell me, how many of those do you actually see?’

“Well,” said the younger one. “Just two, actually.”

“How do you know the other ones are there?”

“I can see that they must be there. It’s how the grass moves, or doesn’t move when the wind is blowing.”

“That’s right,” said the older bird. “We learn about what is hidden by how it changes what we see.

“So don’t worry. There will be a bird who loves you. And he’ll show it. You’ll know how he feels by how he acts toward you. You’ll see more than enough signs to know.”

I’m sure she will.

And it’s true of us, too. We learn about what is hidden by the way it influences what we can see. So we can see that others love us by how they act toward us, how they care for us, how they listen to us and talk to us.

So that when somebody loves and care about you, you will know.

Photo is by Dick Daniels ( – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Used by permission.