Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Advent 2, Yr B)

(Mark 1: 1-8)

You shuffle your feet at the water’s edge,
shield your eyes with your hand
from the blaze of the sun,
take another glance at the face
of the man in the river
that long ago was the boundary

between an old life and new, and you hear
his word of summons, words
that urge repentance for preparation
for the Anointed,
and he offers the water to flow
over your skin as a sign

that your sins have been forgiven,
and he’s saying there is One
coming after him to baptize
not with water but the Holy Spirit of God,
so that you think, as you stand there
at the edge of the river, how on the edge

you are of something quite powerful
that feels larger than words, than
the mightiest river, washing over and into you,
drowning your heart with something
like joy, like the goodness of a hope
you’re almost afraid to believe in,

but every time you shuffle
your feet as if to leave
they grow a little wetter with the water,
until at last you take a step, and then
another, and again, until it’s you
waist deep with John the Baptizer,

and the sun beating down on the flowing
surface seems to say
“Yes!” to your heart
which isn’t drowning after all,
which in fact, in your chest,
has gone striding into the world,

following the sun past the river to
what comes next on the horizon,
amazed, expectant, praising.

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Advent 1, Yr B)

(Mark 13: 24-37)

From the fig tree learn this lesson:
budding leaves say summer’s near,
sign of joy in time of dryness,
sign of hope in time of fear.

Tree of joy bloom in our sorrow,
tree of hope bloom in despair,
tree of peace bloom from tomorrow;
show us that there’s new life there.

Show us those who wait for justice
will not have to wait in vain.
Show the hungering and thirsting
they will find release from pain.

Word of joy speak in our sorrow,
word of hope speak in despair,
word of peace speak from tomorrow;
point us to the new life there.

Help us stay awake and watching
till the weary night is o’er.
Help us be alert and faithful
to the One who’s at the door.

Lord of joy break through our sorrow,
Lord of hope break through despair,
Lord of peace come from tomorrow;
lead us to the new life there.

© Copyright 2014 by Andrew King

NOTE: If you have interest in this as an Advent song, allow me to suggest further verses for each week, each based on one of the lectionary readings, which could be substituted in turn for the final verse (“Help us stay awake”) above:

See the grass, how soon it withers;
see the flower quickly fade.
But God’s word will stand forever,
faithful to the promise made.
  (Isaiah 40: 1-11)

Wear the garland, not the ashes;
turn your mourning into joy;
clothe yourselves in robes of gladness
for salvation comes today.
  (Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11)

Hear the angel greet the virgin:
“You will bear a holy Son,
he will be a king eternal,
David’s heir, the promised One.”
  (Luke 1: 26-38)

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Christ The King)

(Matthew 25: 31-46)

The jittering snow flakes chase one another
in flight from the knuckles of wind

that sway the abandoned branches of trees
in their inaudible dirge of loss

and scatter the dust that lines the street
where blank windows stare at the gray.

A fragment of newspaper rolls by, revealing and hiding
its jumble of pain under clouds the colour of bruises.

And the torn creation seems to live in the lines
of the face of this solitary woman,

old coat buttoned high and frayed hat pulled hard
on a forehead furrowed with years,

eyelids pinched from the chill of the air
as she shifts, from one hand to the other,

the heavy weight of two bags that might
carry all that she cares about today.

See how carefully she opens her thin wallet
at the counter of the McDonald’s.

How each coin is cradled like a departing child
by wrinkled and shaking fingers.

How, when she lifts her face to yours and you
smile, and she smiles in return of your greeting

something crosses the space between you
like a bridge spanning unseen waters

and across that bridge moves a gentle light,
a glow of kindness, of friendship, of grace.

Is that you in those eyes, O Beloved Redeemer,
in that smile, in that bridge, in that light?

Is that you in the lines on all our weathered faces,
in all our hands that count out life’s coins?

Grant me grace to see you looking back at me
with the love you have for all creation,

to see you, O King, in all of your glory,
beneath the folds of each old hat, worn coat.

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +23)

(Matthew 25: 14-30)

It could be me, standing there with the spade,
the crate of money beside me on the ground,
thoughts as bleak as the late-day twilight’s fade,
house lamps all lit but the darkness around

growing within, where fists clench my soul
and I know by the claws the cold-boned fear
that scrapes from my heart’s slender soil a hole
of its own, and leaves there, hidden but near,

shadows of despair. It’s fear of defeat
brings the shovel here, the fear of failure
that digs traps for faith on so many streets,
causes the loss of so much that is treasure.

Faith that fears loss and fails to try, can’t see
that such fear, not loss, is the enemy. And
this too I know: sometimes that has been me.
But maybe the story does not have to end

there – the one with dirt still on his fingers
standing alone in the darkness, the only
thing left to him regret, raw, lingering . . .
What if there’s One who pities the lonely,

the lost, the defeated; who, loving the failed,
the fallen ones, the ones who are broken,
allowed himself to know darkness; was nailed
to the cross; and who rose again, token

of a new day? In the shine of his light
we see all our sad failures overcome;
treasure – a buried soul – redeemed . . . and life,
once again, and not death, will have won.