Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 1)

DESERT LESSON
(Matthew 4: 1-11)

It is the empty time just before morning,
the light just beginning to touch
the tops of the hills,
just beginning to palm the skins
of the desert stones.

First one stone and then another
begins to change colour as
in slow grandeur
the sun lifts
into red-orange sky.
First one stone and then another
emerges from shadow,
small solitudes of darkness
in the solitude of wilderness
in the emptiness of early morning.

Jesus is awake, blankets clutched
to keep out the cold
while he sits and watches stars
fade in the spreading dawn.
Hunger gnaws at his belly
like a dog chewing a bone.
Looking at a stone, he thinks,
How like a loaf of bread
this rock appears.
How comforting such
food would be. . .

Lifting his head in the direction
of the Holy City, Jesus pictures
the sunrise on the rooftops
of the Temple,
gleaming in the light like
the spires of marble mountains.
He imagines his feet astride
that proud building’s pinnacle
and himself not weak but mighty,
not being hungry but full,
not vulnerable,
not breakable should I fall. . .

The wind begins to rise, stirs
the dry and scrawny grasses.
Jesus ponders the passage
of time, the rise and fall
of kingdoms, the tides
of marching armies,
the endless quests for power
that sweep up people and nations
like sands in a desert wind.
He imagines himself
at the head of
a host of armoured thousands,
lands and nations to serve me
like the Pharoahs, like David,
like Caesar ruling from Rome. . .

Jesus sighs, and stands and stretches,
a solitary and hungry
yet somehow satisfied man,
and folds the dusty blankets.

He will not bid the stones
turn to bread today
to ease his pressing hunger:
for the hungry and poor
of the world cannot,
and he is in the world
to bear their burden.

He will not evade
frail humanness today,
or deny his utter mortality,
for even the mighty
of the world cannot,
and he is in the world
to bear their burden.

He will not seek
the throne of a kingdom today,
selfish wealth or glory:
for the outcasts and hurting
of the world cannot,
and he is in the world
to bear their burden.

Day has come to the wilderness around him.
The sun is full and blazing.
Saying, “Get away
from me, Satan,”

Jesus starts to walk from
the desert testing
toward the towns and the cities
where his ministry of love
will begin.

His feet leave firm prints in the sand.

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18 thoughts on “Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 1)

  1. You make Biblical stories understandable and beautiful for this post-Enlightenment age.

  2. Andy, you bring the dust to life. Thank you

  3. Barb Hobe says:

    I need your permission to read this to my congregation this Sunday. Rev. Barb Hobe

  4. Thank you for this very beautiful interpretation of the Gospel text. I am going to use it in my sermon this Sunday also. Many blessings, Jerry Carpenter

    • Andy King says:

      I am very grateful for your words, and for the honour of having my poem considered for inclusion in your sermon. Blessings to you and your congregation!

  5. Empy says:

    I too am thinking that I might like to read this to my congregation as well, and will of course credit you as the author. I especially like the repeating phrase, “and he is in the world to bear their burden.”

    • Andy King says:

      Thank you! I appreciate your visit and your comment, and am honoured by your interest. Blessings to your congregation!

  6. anneholcomb says:

    I stumbled on your “Desert Lesson” this evening like a treasure hidden in the sand. The imagery brings a freshness to the passage; it’s a nice change from the rather heavy-handed, literal pictures that so often accompany these verses. I’d like to credit you Sunday as well and use your poem in our service. I think it is the bridge I’ve been looking for. Many thanks in advance!

  7. Mary Lou Guarnera says:

    I also will include this beautiful and descriptive poem in my sermon on Sunday. God certainly inspired you!

  8. Joan Stott says:

    Joan Stott thanks you for your brilliant writing, and requests permission to print/use your resources in a small worship/study group of about a dozen people on a weekly basis, using your preferred acknowledgement if permission is granted.
    Joan Stott, “The Timeless Psalms”

  9. The Rev. Margot Critchfield says:

    Your poetry is awesome, Andrew—such a gift. Count me as one of those who stumbled upon this one on Textweek.com and I quoted it in my sermon this morning (also attached link on our blog). Such evocative imagery, thank you!

  10. […] I would like to conclude by sharing this poem by Andrew King: https://earth2earth.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/poem-for-the-sunday-lectionary/ […]

  11. Marguerite Walmsley says:

    May I have your permission to read this poem in my Lent service, Andrew, please? It brings the story into the immediate, rather than the distant. Thank you.

  12. Leslie Anthony says:

    Andrew, thank you for this gift. I am a lay worship leader and am requesting your permission to read your poem at worship this Sunday.

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