An Unlectionary Poem For The Ending Of A Year

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE NEW YEAR’S . . .
(Suggested Texts: Genesis 1: 1-5; Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)

‘Twas the night before New Year’s and all through the nation
people celebrated with great festive elation
the end of the old year, the start of the new,
hoping for good cheer and of blessings, a few.

All through the nighttime in boisterous bunches,
friends and their families were slurping pink punches
and munching on sweets with the utmost of urgency,
taking on treats like it’s some kind of emergency;

mommas and poppas, and uncles and aunts,
in their glittery dresses and their glossiest pants,
laughing and dancing in houses and halls,
in funny hats prancing as at a grand ball;

some drinking, perhaps a bit more than they should,
but taking a taxi and trying to be good;
determined in turning from all thought of sorrow
to make from their yearning a happier tomorrow.

Well, up in God’s heaven the angels looked down,
and God could detect on their faces a frown.
“What’s the matter?” God asked, out of kindly concern.
“I am hearing you chatter, and why your downturn?”

“It’s their problem with time,” said one, after some thought.
“Your children seem to feel time’s an enemy plot!
For instance, they’re making those famed resolutions
of things to try changing: some problems’ solutions,

“and things they would like, this year, to be better;
like a smaller waist size, and to fit smaller sweaters.
Some have higher hopes than just improving their look:
dreams with wide scope, like writing a book

“or taking a trip to some exotic new place;
remaking their home with new colour and space.
And it’s all very well that they’re hatching these plans,
for they’re aware that they dwell in mortality’s land.

“For them, time’s a challenge; too often, it’s feared;
an enemy, a dilemma, a mystery unclear.
And so they have made this rather frenzied occasion
to mark one year’s fade, and the next one’s invasion.

“But underneath,” said the angel, “beneath all the gladness,
we believe we detect a few notes of sadness,
as if the calendar’s page that they now have to toss
is some kind of stage in an ongoing loss.”

“I think you are right,” said God in reply.
“Too many people greet the days with a sigh.
For some, days are quick, the time fast to go.
yet for some, if they’re sick, it’s too long, too slow.

“For some, time’s so short the years flash out of sight.
For others, days drag, and the dark, lonely nights.
For those in distress time’s a burden to bear;
but for those at their best, it’s a gift they can share.

“Yes!” said the angel, “that’s how you meant it,
when to the young world the first light you lent it.
‘Twas you, God, separating the dark and the light,
who created time, making the day and the night.

“And you kept to that rhythm as the world was warmed:
one day at a time was how everything formed!”
God nodded, agreeing: “Life progresses in stages,
ever in my keeping through eons and ages;

“and that’s how my people should look at time too:
one day at a time is the steadiest view.
For I am God-with-them each night and each day,
around them, within them; their companion, I stay.

“Time’s my creation, where with them I dwell;
and for the whole world I will make all things well.
Yet I know they grow weary for a new world to come;
I know their tears, hearing them cry out, ‘How long?’

“The first followers of Jesus were exactly that way,
begging to know when he’d bring the new day
that would end all oppression, mend the world of its sin.
Surely no more digression — when would that day begin?

“I know it’s not easy for humans to be patient.
But I am still active, my love’s not complacent.
As the world at the start was not instantly complete,
so my goals for all hearts may take time to meet.

“But as they hold hope for a more peaceful earth,
as they pray, work and strive to bring justice to birth,
I, with them in their caring, am countering hate:
I, with them, also bearing the long patient wait.

“So here’s another thing my children should recall:
that time comes for summer, and time comes for fall;
the season for reaping follows that which is sown;
there’s time for stones’ keeping, or a time they are thrown.

“Time means things happen like decay in the wood;
but time also means the chance comes to do good.
Time means: look not just at that which is frayed,
but see also in trust when repair can be made.

“In other words, the truth is that people must choose
the way they will fill up each moment they use.
Will they be helpful, and gentle, and kind;
or will they be hateful and bitter of mind?

“Will people choose justice; compassion, not greed?
Or will they be selfish, ignore others’ needs?
Each hour and each day of the time they’ve been given,
will they choose love’s way, the way of Jesus and heaven?

“For, each evening’s sunset, each morning’s sunrise,
each touch of beauty as light kisses the eyes,
each breath that is breathed, each hand’s loving lift
— each day that’s received — is God’s precious gift.”

The angels grew quiet as they pondered God’s words.
From around the wide earth the usual sounds could be heard.
They could see stress and worry in many folks’ faces,
and much frantic hurry in most of earth’s places.

How they longed for the world to experience God’s peace,
that it might be shared, among all and to each.
And especially, at the dawn of the calendar year
they hoped would be gone much of sadness and fear.

“So it’s about what they choose every day,” they sighed.
“Praise God, that God is with them to help them decide!
And may they from God’s table of love shared, divine,
spread joy, as they’re able, one thankful day at a time.”

(Yes, God is with us, beloved,
and ever will be.
Therefore: “Happy New Year”, many blessings
to all of you, and to me.)

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary – Advent 2, Yr A (2019)

OLD PROPHET
(Isaiah 11: 1-9)

The wolf yet sees no alternative
to the lamb it’s preparing to eat.
The lion knows no other narrative
but the one that says it must eat meat.

The violent, like vipers, still bite us;
the greedy still coil in their dens;
the cruel and uncaring still smite us
with so many still in poverty’s pen.

But your vision, old prophet, still lures us;
your promise still tugs at our hearts.
For the God that you know still assures us
that God will complete what God starts.

So we’ll go on proclaiming this story
of a hurt world radically new,
when the earth fills at last with love’s glory,
and to all comes the peace that is due.

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary – Advent 1, Year A (2019)

ABOUT THAT DAY AND HOUR NO ONE KNOWS
(Matthew 24: 36-44)

The ordinary morning, through the kitchen windows
the sun coming in, the sounds of the waking street.
Your daughter’s hands exploring
her neck, plaintive voice at the breakfast table:
“Mommy, what’s this lump right here?”

It’s the end of the shift, you’re thinking
of home, the softness of the waiting chair.
The foreman has called the entire line
to meet first here in the lunchroom.
His eyes go wet, there’s a quiet whisper.
“They’re shutting the plant,” he says.

The busy afternoon, an acre of papers
upon your desk, your eyes on the demanding
screen. The cell phone chimes,
words in your ear like a distant siren’s wail:
“You’d better come. Better make it quick.
There’s been a terrible accident.”

They’ve given you something for the immediate
pain, from the hall the sound of someone hurrying.
Somewhere a beeping machine.
The doctor stiff beside your bed, her face
as still as the wall. “I’m afraid,”
she begins, “the X-rays show. . .” and
your eyes trace the veins on your hands.

An ordinary day. An ordinary hour.
The earth in its usual turning.
The breath in your lungs,
the blood in your heart.
And suddenly the thief
breaking into your world.
Suddenly the cry. The bell.

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +23, Yr. C 2019)

WHAT RISES FROM THE WRECKAGE
(Luke 21: 5-19, Isaiah 65: 17-25)

It is the Empire that attacks
the walls that support the spirit.
The Empire of greed. Of domination. Of selfishness.
The Empire of scorn
for those of justice who condemn it.
The Empire of contempt
for those of mercy who resist it.
The Empire of hate
for those of love who oppose it.
The Empire that tries to convince us that
there is no possible alternative,
that all resistance is futile,
that its power lasts forever and ever,

as it pulls the stones it hates from the walls of hope,
wields its iron rage against the buttresses of truth,
hammers at the foundations of love.

But see what the eyes of Christ, looking beyond, can see:
what rises from the wreckage of pulled-down stones:
see the faith that will not be forsaken,
truth that will not be abandoned,
see the love that will not be broken,
and the hope that endures like One who has overcome
the Empire of injustice and death.

See the cracks already forming
in the Empire’s own walls.
See a new earth, that is God’s realm, arise.

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +21, Yr C 2019)

HERE
(Luke 19: 1-10)

Of course it’s all different here.
No sycamores, mostly maples on this gray street,
the weakened light of pre-winter sun
washing half-bare branches.

But then, you wouldn’t need to climb
to see him pass through town —
there’d probably be video on the Internet.
Perhaps of some reporters holding mikes up

to his face, in hopes of a soundbite
for the news. Perhaps he’d look
into the camera, a kindly smile
on his lips, to say: “I’ll be staying with a friend

while I’m here.” Perhaps he’d board
a transit bus, doors hissing shut.
Maybe that bus, approaching now.
That lone passenger getting off,

right where you’re walking with your dog.
Perhaps that’s his voice asking you
if he can visit for a while. Talk with you
a little, for today.

Of course it’s all different here.
The bus passenger walks by. The voice
could have been just rustling leaves.
Perhaps the leaves of a sycamore, where you wait.

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +19, Yr C 2019)

With apologies, I am re-posting this from three years ago)

OLD WOMAN
(Luke 18: 1-8)

Here you come again, old woman,
holding your hands out in pleading,
your worn hands, your wrinkled fingers

that have endured through such long holding,
holding the broken-hearted,
your back bent to carry their burdens,

your face so lined with compassion,
your eyes so calm yet piercing,
gazing steadily into our own

as again you plead your case to us,
asking us for justice for your little ones,
for the suffering and for the powerless,

for the hungry and hopeless and fearful,
pleading with us to enact the mercy
that fills your own heart forever,

while we in the robes of our self-importance
examine all our options,
consider our many excuses,

consider perhaps an adjournment
to get ourselves a coffee,
to look up the legal loopholes,

but unable to get you out of our minds,
you with your stubborn persistence,
your dogged determination,

your unwillingness to be silent or to let us go
until we, too,
have been saved.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

Poem For the Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +18, Yr C)

ONE PERSON’S THANKSGIVING
(Luke 17: 11-19)

I have never been blighted by leprosy,
nor lived in a place called Samaria.
I have not known the rejection, the hate
that some people have known
because of the colour of their skin
or because of the way they pray
or the gender of the person that they love.
And for that I am thankful, thankful.

I have never been homeless because of war,
or afraid of my government’s soldiers.
I have never had to carry my possessions
on my back as, desperate, I flee from terror.
I have never been so poor I could not pay rent
nor find food for tomorrow’s small meal.
I have never gotten sick because of bad water,
nor suffered in inadequate shelter.
And for that I am thankful, thankful.

I drink coffee whose ripened beans
were picked by somebody else;
I wear a shirt sewn by hands overseas.
The grain for my bread did not grow
where I live. This keyboard was not made by me.
I am enriched by the labours
of countless, nameless others,
and for that I am thankful, thankful.

Holy One, when I pass by you
in the glory-coloured autumns,
miss you on city sidewalks, the crowds
hurrying past; when I fail to notice
your presence in the day and world I take for granted:
have mercy on my selfish coarsened soul,
and prod me once again to be conscious,
caring. And thus show I’m thankful, thankful.

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King