Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +4)

THE YOKE
(Matthew 11: 25-30)

Consider the round necks of two oxen
bowed beneath a wooden yoke, its carved plank
wide and strong: the quiet beasts thus locked in

to shared attachment to the plow, lone flanks
bear less of the strain of the weighted pull.
The iron blade cuts the waiting earth, banks

of brown soil curling like waves caught mid-fall,
and the oxen walk on, hour after hour,
sharing the toil as they might share a stall.

The key to the endurance of their power
of course, is the yoke, its spread of the load,
millennia of bringing soil to flower.

Our culture favours choosing solo modes,
standing alone, self-sufficient, making
our individual way on the road.

But sometimes we must (on mornings waking
to burdens that we each can scarcely bear)
recall Christ’s words to those whose hearts, breaking

from the strain of pulling the plow of care,
long for lessening of the load, for rest
of weary souls. “Take my yoke”, says Christ – there

the burden’s eased; there a new path that’s zest
to walk – his purposes of love and grace;
and when struggling with a challenging test,

God’s harnessed care embraces. Lay your face
beside Christ’s own in the bond of mercy
and peace. Straighten your back; let the traces

tighten and the iron blade bite deep. See
how your own weight of weariness fades.
Find rest in the work of his love. Yoked. Free.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +3)

THE FIRE AND THE KNIFE
(Genesis 22: 1-14)

ISAAC
Mile after mile we have walked toward
a distant hill in silence.
The wood grows heavy on my shoulders,
sticks for the altar biting into my back.

My father carries a smoldering coal
in a pot which sends smoke rising
around his face. The smoke must sting
because I think he is weeping.

I see him touching the knife
in his belt, lifting it again
and again, as if its weight,
like the wood, is burdensome.

To distract myself from my burden
I ask, “Where is the lamb
for the sacrifice, Father?”
He turns his stung eyes toward me.

“God will provide the lamb,” he says,
and looks away again
toward the mountain as if
he must study the path up its flanks.

How old he looks,
walking beside me,
shoulders slumped beneath his beard,
his bent legs seeming to quiver.

ABRAHAM
Of all the miles I have travelled
in all the years of journeying
from Haran, this is the road
that’s been hardest to walk,

this fire I carry consuming me,
this knife cutting into the heart of me,
grief stealing the breath in me
as we near the chosen hill.

How hard it was to lose Ishmael,
whom I sent into the wilderness
with Hagar, though God has assured me
that the boy will be father

to his own nation. But is not Isaac
the child of God’s promise,
through whom my descendants
will be numerous as stars?

God, I have heeded your voice
from Chaldea to Canaan,
followed your calling with
trust in your word; I have faith

that you bless your servants.
Yet giving Isaac up may cost me more
than perhaps I have strength
to bear. I did not know that faith

was such fire. I did not know
that faith was so knife-edged.
God, is this wood he carries
meant for my son alone?

Or is the altar I will build
for my own heart?

ISAAC
At last I lay down the burden
of wood here at the top of the hill.
How carefully now my father arranges
each stone and stick of the altar,

each piece set in place like a gesture
of love. Again I ask him, “Where
is the lamb?” His eyes are wet
beneath his gray brows, his gray

beard trembles, like the hand
on my shoulder, his other hand
holding rope. “You know that I love you”
he whispers; and as he begins

to bind me, sobs it again,
and I begin to tremble too.
Both of us now are weeping as with
his old arms he lays me on the altar.

ABRAHAM
In my hand the knife, at my feet
the coal. The boy on the wood,
shaking and crying.
My own vision blurred with tears.

And then I hear the voice,
the angel saying, “Stop”,
and glad I am to stop,
and gladder still to see

the ram caught in a bush,
its horns tangled in branches,
and now I am crying with joy
as I cut loose my son

and seize the provided sheep
for the sacrifice, and I shout
praise to God for the giving
of the gift.

ISAAC
I give thanks to God
for the giving of the gift.
I am still shaking as the fire
consumes the altar.

But my father does not clean
the knife.
“I think I will keep it like this,”
he says, his gaze on the blood red blade.

“I think I will keep it like this
as a reminder. Thanks
be to God
for the gift.”

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost + 2)

LET US TRUST
(Matthew 10: 24-39)

As Jesus’s disciples we’re urged not to dread:
the hairs are all counted on each of our heads.
For as God holds the sparrows in loving concern
so our lives are held too; and in life we can learn
that when hardship comes, as it will, to the just,
God’s love is still near: it calls us to trust.

Yes, to trust that even the people with whom
we’re in conflict are loved; that the rooms
in God’s house are not only for those
who agree with our views, wear similar clothes.
The “sword” Jesus brings – love, sharp as a knife –
divides the deathly from that which brings life;
but neither hatred nor rage is given excuse –
caring’s the reason that sword is turned loose;
and if on occasion a family’s at odds
it may help to recall that all members are God’s
children, and thus equally cherished:
forget not forgiveness; let anger soon perish.
For Christ did not say we’re forbidden to love
our children or parents, just not placed above
his way of the cross: his way of self-giving,
of mercy and grace – the way of full living.

Let us therefore repeat that we don’t need to dread
(though the follicles fall from each of our heads!)
Just as God holds the sparrows in loving concern
our lives are held too; thus in life may we learn
that when hardship comes, as it will, to the just,
God’s love remains near; and so, let us trust . . .

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Trinity Sunday)

THE COMMISSIONED
(Matthew 28: 16-20)

I.
At first it feels like a circle closed,
a journey completed,
this reminder of the mountain where
Peter, James and John saw the Lord transfigured,
speaking with Elijah and Moses,
the voice that thundered from the enclosing cloud
filling the disciples with fear.
It is Christ himself who speaks to us here,
the Lord crucified and now resurrected,
proclaiming his authority, and for a moment
the apostles might be tempted
to think the mission, surely, is accomplished,
goal achieved: God reigning through Christ;
and perhaps the eleven look around the peak
to see if Moses and Elijah will again appear
for congratulatory clasps of the hand.

But the circle has not closed; the journey
has not finished, it is open-ended
as the arching sky and as the road below
that leads to the distant horizon; open
as the mission that here Christ gives us,
as the promise he makes to be always with us,
from now to the end of days.
For disciples must be made
in and from every nation,
taught Christ’s ways and words and sent
anew to serve the men and women of the earth.

II.
See how the slanting sun, moving across
these Galilean hills, takes its seat on the rim
of the wider world, inviting our eyes
to seek, not the shades of prophets past,
but the shimmer of the new world to come.
See how, as we lift our heads in the gaze
that follows Christ’s lifting from the earth,
we discover no mystifying cloud,
nor faces from only scriptural glory.
Rather see the shapes of the yet-to-be
appearing in the echoes of his words:

There we see Paul, in conversation with Peter;
and there is Barnabas, and Phoebe, and Lydia
speaking with Thomas, who will travel to India;
we can see Boniface, and Patrick, and Columba,
standing beside Francis and John and Charles;
a little further over: Dorothy Ripley who laboured
for slaves in America; Mary Slessor, who served
so faithfully in Nigeria; Elizabeth Fry, who
did her work close to home; just a few
among hosts of other men and women
come to this summit, hearts receiving
Christ’s commission for them; whose
long shadows shine, but in whose shadow –

look, just over here – stands another
familiar figure who, like them, will be helping
to re-shape the world
that so needs our obedience to Christ’s love:

III.
Yes.
It is you.

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost Sunday)

PENTECOST FIRE
(Acts 2: 1-21)

A

new

kind of

fire, and

new speech

brought to voice:

words that are flames

through walls that divide;

language that’s praise sung

in harmonies of the Spirit;

inclusive vocabulary of love.

Drink deep the new wine of

freedom, all slaves. Dream

as equals, world’s sons and

daughters. See the visions

of the kingdom of peace.

Wherever wind blows

 the Spirit will flow:

the fire that

quenches

our

thirst

for

God’s love.