Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Sunday of the Epiphany)

MATTHEW 2: 1-12

Where will our journey take us this year,
we travellers?
Into what vistas of discovery, memory, euphoria, sorrow
will our breath exhale?
What textures of wisdom, sharp or smooth,
will touch our skin?
What light will draw our eyes through
each day’s doorway,
upward into the nighttime seeking beacons,
flashes of strange stars?

We have been searchers, felt yearnings,
felt the power and pull
of the unknown, sometimes fleeing, sometimes facing
its challenges and terrors.
We have travelled alone in hope and ambition,
joined caravans of curiosity and fad.
These have taken us to places
familiar and unexpected, to successes, disappointments,
victories, defeats.
We cannot see where the journey leads, but our yearnings
compel us, and we go.

Come into this tent, traveller. Come join
this caravan of pilgrims.
There are other travellers here, seekers like ourselves.
Called wise by some –
though they have known other titles –
they are the ancestors of all who journey
for wisdom,
for understanding, for experience of something
or someone
they might name God.

They have crossed deserts and rivers,
inhaled the scent of wild grasses,
the perfume of strange blossoms,
tasted the dust of roads of sorrow
upon their tongues.
Their minds are open to possibility, to discovery,
they have watched the fresh sky,
they have scanned the old Scriptures,
they dared the deep questions,
persevering in the journey
until they found One they believed was
their destination:
One for whom prophecies had been written,
for whom new stars had shined,
toward whom their roads had long been bending.

But let us listen to the message of the Magi,
fellow travellers:
The journey is not done. The Babe
will grow, will beckon to newer ways
and to lifelong following.
Finding this One is but a beginning, an awakening,
an opening up of greater doors,
an invitation to horizons, farther roads
that lead to greater understanding –
and to greater challenges,
fresher questions,
and quite possibly to the kind of joy
that outlasts dusty grief.

Come into this tent, traveller. Let us join
this caravan of pilgrims,
follow the One who has given us the journey,
grow on his paths as they lead through the year.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

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A Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (First Sunday After Christmas)

THE SHADOW FALLS PAST CHRISTMAS
Matthew 2: 13-23

Hear the broken-hearted weeping
in the blooded streets, see
the frightened family fleeing
the night so gouged and torn
with loss. We cannot forget
the shadow that falls past Christmas.

Sometimes the tree falls down and the lights
are crushed. The car goes off the road
driving home from the party. Storm
sets in, shutting down festive celebration.

Shadow falls past Christmas:
the Herod dark of hatred, shattered
lives and homes, cruelty
and the killing power of greed;
dreams of joy chased down by fear and grief.

Infants dying of neglect and malnutrition,
oppression claiming victims every day,
and so frequently corruption unabated:
the songs of hope that came like dreams
seem easily defeated.

But see the infant Christ
not among the murdered.
Untrapped by hatred’s reach, by
greed’s cold grasp, by the power
of death so constantly pursuing,
infant Love lives on, the hope
and will for justice and peace
persisting.

Shadow falls past Christmas. But
see the light still shining;
faith and hope still singing; the contest
for the human heart goes on.

May we, as Joseph did, keep
listening to the words of dreams.
Keep moving the feet
toward morning’s hope,
free as a gift of love,
however distant the dawn.

And may the darkness fail to chase us down.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King

A Poem For Christmas Eve

STILL LIFTING US TO LEAN TOWARD PEACE

(LUKE 2: 1-20)

Enter it anywhere, this old tale so familiar:
enter where shepherds huddle around a tiny fire
to guard flocks on the echoing hills

     the deep cold midnight dark of it

or where Caesar choreographs
the captive masses’ moves, or where
the couple are turned away from the sold-out inn

     the impersonal imperial indifference of it

or where the shepherds search for a certain trough
of hay in a small town that might have had dozens,
this one holding a baby born in the cold

     the rich earthy animal smell of it

or where the startling messengers fill the dazzled skies

     the astounding earth-circling sound of it.

Enter it anywhere, this story so familiar:
where babies still hold on for their threatened lives
to the thin breasts of refugee mothers. Where
masses are still on the move from armed might;
where terror still holds people captive. Where
the poor cling to margins of civilized life
and we watch over reality shows by night.

Enter and feel midnight still pressing our world,
the fear, loneliness, hunger still aching.

But perhaps entering this tale deeply enough
we begin anew to recognize angels
(some with names like Theresa, or Nelson)
still startling us with challenging presence,

     the presence of the God of love in it

still announcing joy in the darkness.
Still, courageously, singing

     the enduring power of the hope of it.

Still lifting us to lean toward peace.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King

A Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Advent 4)

CONSIDER JOSEPH

(MATTHEW 1: 18-25)

He considers wood,
its resistance to touch,
the nature of its rigidity
out of which timber becomes table,
becomes chair seat and leg,
yielding in their making only to axe blade
and nail point, but unbending to the pressure
of the leaning arm, the weight of the body at rest.
Too much pressure at a single point, though,
and even wood will give way, table buckling,
chair leg snapping, the body dropping, bruised.

He considers flesh,
its awareness of touch,
the nature of its flexibility
out of which tissue becomes muscle,
becomes eyes, lips and fingers,
bone joining bone, skin growing,
body moving, hands readying for work.

He considers spirit,
its lifts, its leaps,
its sometimes feathery touch,
its toughness sometimes
like wood or bone.
Too much pressure at a single point, though,
and spirit, like skin that bruises and splits,
can break like rigid wood.

He considers laws of nature
and the nature of laws
lying beyond his touch,
their seeming inflexibility,
coldness like that of wood,
pressure like that of hammers
on the slenderness of nails.

He considers the heart,
its many feelings; things like love,
the gentle power of its touch,
durable, strong like spirit and skin:
bendable, adaptable, able to grow,
yet something easily broken in unmendable wounds
for which he knows no nail exists.

He considers dreams.
Dreams of healing, of people saved,
dreams of being blessed with good.
And of all that he considers,
of brokenness and repair,
he considers the decision he makes
to resist the splintering of disgrace
as good as anything he’s ever made with wood.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King

A Poem for the Sunday Lectionary (Advent 3)

To John, In Prison (Matthew 11: 2-11)

We walked with you into the ancestral river,
up to our knees in the noisy past
– feeling the way it constantly
pushes against us – hearing
with you the river retell our story:
the journeys made to new beginnings,
the missteps, the slips, the falls
that overwhelmed us, nearly drowned,
swept away – seeming to regain
just enough of our footing as the tides
of nations surged, as they surge
around us today.

In the hurts we suffered and committed
you saturated us,
in our regrets and in our prayers
you immersed us, lifting us then
not just from the river but
toward the air and the sun.

With you we smelled the freshness of the water,
shook off insincerity, duplicity like dust.
With you we’ve breathed hope, prophets remembered,
promises rehearsing of a joyful day to come.
With you we’ve stood and waited,
even in present imprisonment,
even as stuttering torches spit light at shadows
that seem to mock all hoping, all night long;
waiting to be reassured that justice will be done.

We continue to be with you, John, in the darkness,
yearning for more than another day to dread:
yearning for a sign that old promises can be trusted,
that prophet visions can be touched at last –
that life can be renewed wherever death has entered.
We are yearning for the river to refresh us again.
We are yearning for someone to refresh us again.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King

A Poem For My Father

There was a huge police funeral in Toronto this week for an officer who died in the course of his duty — tributes poured out for the kind of man he was. And of course the tributes flowed at the massive memorial service — as they have around the world — for Nelson Mandela, as inspirational a human as history has given us.

To me this is a good time, then, to share a poem about a man who has personally been an inspiration to me, whose example in life I wish I could live up to; whose attributes of courage, faithfulness, kindness I wish I had more of; whose love for family and optimism in daily living continue to buoy himself as well as those who visit him. The man I speak of is my father, now living in the Northridge nursing  home in north Oakville.

Here is a poem I wrote a while ago:

THE WALKER

The old man tells his children of the summer
after the war he laboured on the bridge
over the muddy Humber

at lunchtimes wrestling, just for fun,
with men who’d fought as soldiers overseas;
of high school football years, one of

the 60-minute men, practically padless
(knocked out once tackling a future pro);
how at U of T he’d run to classes

across the width of campus, rarely late,
barely out of breath. . . . Almost never
does any conversation take

a turn to that which, 50 years ago,
laid him flat-backed months long, more
than a little near death — the polio —

except to tell last of what pace,
past the pain and the white walls,
he successfully got rid of the brace.

________

His home now a room, one of many in halls.
In his chair he wheels each metre,
and though the courtyard is small

he repeats every corner, sometimes in snow
(though jacketed just to comfort his children).
Not all of them live near, but on his phone,

tireless hunter, he tracks their lives,
dutifulness pinned to his calendar;
calls often to ensure they’re on time

for chat, a game of cards. Then the old man
grasping, standing on the handles of his walker.
While his grown child hovers, hiding hands,

eyes tensed on each jelly-jointed step,
he makes his march of the carpeted street,
arthritic knobbed knuckles clenched,

bent shoulders shaking, breaths hissing.
And long before the chair can take him once more
the floor cracks open:

the muddy Humber glistens
beneath his feet.

A Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Advent 2)

FROM THESE STONES
Matthew 3: 1-10

If I had come to John back then,
one of the crowd of the curious clothed
in self-satisfaction like armoured vests,

him in his camel skins, sunburned and bearded,
the locusts barely nourishing his stick-thin face,
hands bee-stung from foraging wild honey –

would his flinty eyes find mine as if
seeing into my stung and hungry soul,
seeing my heart heavy and jagged as stone,

as he says “Do not proclaim ‘I’m
Abraham’s child’ with your withered
love, your hopes such sand,

the forgotten good so shrunken inside
your skin…” And would he draw breath
then, seeing my own breath held

like an empty bowl, before those words
from which to make my meal:
“God can raise children of Abraham

from the desert stones.” From
these broken stones? the hardened
chalk that forms my heart? the blown dust

of my tired mind? From the raw dirt of
dailiness I drag around, that drags down me?
Then raise new life in me, good God,

beacon of believing Abraham, giver
of the locust and the wild bee,
God of the silent stones and the
water that changes them.