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 (Pentecost +6)

BECOMING OUR CALLING
(Matthew 13: 24-43, Genesis 28: 10-19)

We start from where we are
on this journey of becoming
our calling, God-given and God-accepted:

a field of weeds and wheat
growing in us together
(God will do and does the harvesting);

handfuls of dough
prepared for the leaven
that empowers becoming bread;

a small seed of mustard
newly planted, destined for
a sheltering shrub.

We start from where we are
on this journey of becoming
our calling, God-given and God-accepted:

lost or wandering to a future
less than certain, or fleeing
from fears or regrets of the past,

making our bed in
night-time wilderness,
pillow feeling like stone.

Let the hungering world
remind each field of
its importance; let the flying

birds tell the shrubs
of their significance;
let the descending night

speak to wanderers
of our neediness, but let
the stars part their curtain

and let the stairway
be revealed, let the angels
appear that travel its

open doorway, that are
with us on our journey
wherever we are.

Let the hand of God
be seen at work already
in our harvest;

let the yeast of God
be revealed at work
already in our dough;

let the voice of God
be heard from where
the angels reach,

and in the barren night-time,
lifting our head
from lying upon stone.

Let the voice remind us
we are in God’s keeping
and that wherever we are

is Bethel.

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