Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Easter 3)

ROAD, TABLE, ROAD
(Luke 24: 13-35)

The weary miles coat our feet in the dust
of the Emmaus road. Afternoon sky
shimmers with heat, and the light, like a crust

of fire cast off by the sun, scrapes at eyes
already raw from weeping. We have left
Jerusalem, but not our grief – he died,

the one we called our Lord – and we, bereft
of purpose, joy and hope, now try to find
our way without his leading. Like a cleft

tree or uprooted vine, our hurting minds,
stung by the strength of death, cannot conceive
of anything greater still; thus we’re blind

to hope too wild for cracked hearts to receive –
angels saying Christ’s risen from the tomb –
the news the women would have us believe.

So we dully plod the dusty road, gloom
our only companion until someone
joins our journey: just a man, we assume,

like us; and while we talk of all just done
in Jerusalem, he listens, mildness
in his voice as he probes our words, tale spun

from our bewildered thoughts. Though the blindness
of our sad minds to who he is remains,
yet our hearts begin to feel a lightness

as this one stranger, his words kindling flame,
shows from Scripture what Christ had come to do.
Uplifted, rapt (though still he gives no name),

surprised to find that hope has surged anew,
we beg his presence at our evening meal.
But when he takes the bread, gives thanks, the view

we have of him is changed, for now his real
identity is revealed: Christ, who gave
himself for the life of the world, who sealed

the new covenant in which we are saved
by his body given, his blood shed – and
who, raised by God, triumphed over the grave.

Questions will wait; we don’t, can’t understand
it all, but hardly care. Weary no more,
we want to tell the others what we can;

hurrying we head through the open door
to the road again, to Jerusalem.
Sensing how much more there now is in store

for the hungry of the world, we’ll tell them
that Jesus who died and rose is our bread –
that he is life, greater than death. Praise him!

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

A Poem For My Father – II

Robert M. C. King turned 88 this month.

HAND

Laid across my face once, made me
see stars, my left ear ringing.
Both our cheeks burning.

In the car for church, smoothed
my morning hair, his pocket comb
repeating (his own hair mostly missing).

Summer Saturdays crusted, stained
with soil (his hoe a cane until he gained
the garden, then weeds flailing –

his leg that had been lamed, not
his hand). How strange to me
to see it age, the slow deforming.

Long so deft at carving beef,
correcting math, pressing the pants
for Sunday, shoes polishing,

here it is in the last weekend ritual:
stiff, bent, wrinkled,
shakily placing each cribbage peg.

The cards carefully dealing.

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Easter 2)

THOMAS THE TWIN
(John 20: 19-31)

John 11:16 – Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

1.
But you fled, as the others did, when he was arrested.
From a distance you watched him suffer, die on the cross.
That night you lay down on a bed of hot coals,
and the fire of your words burned your eyes.

2.
All day the memories came like old boats beached in darkness.
You couldn’t seem to recall the shapes of simple flowers
yet could not forget the faces turned toward
him on the Galilean hills.
The wet clouds in your eyes hid the sun.

3.
You were not with the others when the women told their news.
You found it hard to breathe behind the shut doors of the house;
your legs needed movement, your eyes wanted sky, as if trying
to prove your soul was not entombed.

4.
Grief circled you like a city, you circled in your despair,
you circled back to the house, a moth in shadow, seeking light.

Faces smiled, filling your eyes like bright candles,
holding out to you astonishing news, a hot flame.

You wondered: is this what the moth sees
before it dies?

5.
How you longed for the news to be true,
longed as the stilled ship longs for new wind in its sails,
as eyes in a deep cave long for light.
Longed to be able to touch him again.
For him to be able to touch you.

6.
Now he is here, and let your heart lift from hurting.
Now he is here, let your lungs fill with breath.
Now he is here: your mind kneels in wonder.

Touch him in the midst of your fellow disciples,
see him, your crucified and living Lord,
listen as he speaks to you the blessing of peace.

7.
Let your eyes be filled, Thomas, with horizons of light.

You died with him.

Now rise with him too.

A Poem For Easter Sunday

NOW FOR THE DAWNING
(John 20: 1-18)

Now for the dawning, now for the morning,
now for the chasing of sorrow’s night,
now for the rising, now for rejoicing,
now for darkness fleeing before light,

now for beginning after the ending,
now for the rolling of stone from tomb,
now for the dancing, now for the praising,
now for breaking the grip of gloom,

now for the greening, now for the flowering,
now for the garden bursting with life,
now for the singing, now for the sharing,
now for the peace in place of strife,

now for the laughing, now the embracing,
now for the joyful freedom of heart,
now for the healing, now for the caring,
now for nourishing the weaker part,

now for forgiveness, now for redemption,
now for repairing that which was torn,
now for the mercy, now for the justice,
now for the plowshare made from the sword,

now for believing, now for the hoping,
now for our lives and creation made new,
now for the giving, now for the serving,
ever celebrating what God’s love can do.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Palm Sunday)

THE STORY OF PALM SUNDAY (As Told For The Young)
(Matthew 21: 1-11, Mark 11: 1-11, John 12: 12-16)

Jerusalem’s past had been quite a blast
when David was monarch and splendid.
But centuries had gone since David passed on,
and God’s blessing seemed to have ended.

Jerusalem’s streets had seen happy feet
taking people to great holy places.
A place it was now of deep-furrowed brows,
on saddened and wearisome faces.

Rome, you recall, had control of it all,
and its soldiers could be pretty scary.
A grumbling noise might upset Caesar’s boys
so the people had learned to be wary.

How Jerusalem longed to sing happy songs
that would celebrate their story;
They dreamed and they prayed to give a parade
for a new David marching in glory.

Then came a year when they got some cheer:
there was a man to whom people pointed.
Of him it was said he could raise the dead –
he just might be God’s anointed!

A carpenter’s son, he’d become someone
with words that could set hearts singing;
His caring stand for woman and man
had the title “Messiah” now ringing.

“He’s coming straight to Jerusalem’s gate,”
the folks were excitedly saying;
“Let’s get out there in the open air
and show the Romans for what we’ve been praying.”

They cut branches down and handed them round,
a symbol of joy and praising.
And they lined the way for Jesus that day,
palms and voices ready for raising.

Jesus, meantime, had his followers find
a young donkey on which he could ride.
He’d come to that place to show God’s saving grace,
that God’s on the sufferer’s side.

Loving and meek, no power would he seek,
as he sat on the donkey so humble.
Soon enough on that road he’d be bearing a load:
a cross that would cause him to stumble.

So in Jesus came, and the strong and the lame
tossed their palm leaves and shouted their praise.
“Hosanna!” they cried. “The King has come by!
Hosanna! God grant us new days!”

Hosanna’s like “God save us”, and what Jesus gave
was the way that God’s love makes that happen.
So lift your up your palms, get your happy smile on,
and be ready for singin’ and clappin’,

Because every day can be Palm Sunday
when you know that Jesus is near you:
Give praise to God, from the sky to the sod;
shout “God saves!” so all folks can hear you!

Hosanna!

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (The Passion Of Christ)

SESTINA FOR THE PASSION OF CHRIST
(Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 or John 18:1 – 19:42)

He is alone in prayer in the garden, knowing the cost.
His followers care, but flesh is frail and they fail
to fend off sleep as Jesus endures his mortal fear
with faithfulness. This night will bring betrayal,
abandonment, suffering, and ultimately, a cross.
But he will not turn from obeying the will of God.

He is alone in facing trial for blaspheming God.
The religious rulers are determined at any cost
to be rid of this nuisance Jesus. But though they cross
words, set their traps for him, they almost fail.
Judas’ earlier duplicity is matched by betrayal
of truth; and the rest of Jesus’ followers have fled in fear.

He is alone in front of Pilate, but showing no fear.
Is he King of the Jews? Is he somehow from God?
Pilate doesn’t know, doesn’t really care. Betrayal
of justice doesn’t bother him much, the only cost
he worries about is the empire’s peace. Fail
and he’d pay the price; so send this King to the cross,

it’s an easy call. Kill the pest, quiet the Jews. The cross
is just another tool when you rule by fear,
after all, so why be worried about truth? (This fails,
somehow, to ease his mind; but he holds the power of God,
of life and death, so death it will be, at Jesus’ cost.)
And Pilate’s lethal injustice is the final betrayal.

Jesus is alone, crowned with the thorns of betrayals.
He is mocked and whipped and abused, and the cross
is placed on his shoulders, and the high cost
of love mounts the hill of the Skull. Fear
only forgetting love’s suffering; forget not the grief of God,
as the sky grows dark as if the sun itself has failed.

Do the women wonder if faith has failed
as Jesus is laid in the tomb? Is hope’s betrayal
on Joseph’s mind, as he wraps this man from God
in burial cloth? The death of Christ on the cross
for many meant grief, despair and fear;
only later would they understand what was worth the cost:

that we are not alone in times of fear, nor when we fail
– bearing the costs of our small and large betrayals –
nor even in death: for Jesus, God’s Son, died for us on the cross.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King