Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 4, Yr C)

(Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32)

The shadow of a cloud moves over the road,
over the fields, passes the distant house.
You shade your eyes from uncovered sun,
your brown hand holding dirt
under brittle nails.

There in the fields your father’s workers
are bending. Your empty stomach moans.
You’ve rehearsed your speech. Shuffled the words
in your mouth like dusty pebbles – the taste
of shame, bitter, sharp as stone.

How frail those words seem now as you pause
on your oh-so-weary feet, the smell of the sows
still on your clothes, stuck like the memory
of other words: the ones you used that day
you demanded your inheritance –

as if your father, to you, were already dead.
Now you wonder what there will be
in those eyes, what words will come
from his mouth. Your brother you know:
strict, unbending, rigid as the tools

that work the crops; his words will be iron blades.
And you feel you deserve nothing else
from the ones you insulted and deserted.
But your hunger today overpowers your fear
and you start your feet on the long dirt lane

that leads to the house of your father.
There is a stir in the field. A figure shouts,
a man is running toward you. And suddenly
time seems to speed all motion as the earth
tilts down toward that figure, the familiar face,

the arms so strong, the arms that now reach
to enfold you; and the voice you’d forgotten
calls for a robe and a ring and a feast prepared;
and the world itself is blurring, it’s blazing,
as light through your tears begins dancing;

and there is your brother, last to come in,
and rather reluctantly smiling; but
the music plays, and you think what you hear
is all heaven and your father singing,
and the words to the song are all the same word,

for it’s love that you need:
love that you left,
love you have found in returning.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King


Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 3, Yr C)

(Luke 13: 1-9)

We can go there, to the vineyard,
where it’s still and green and lovely
in the luminous morning.

We can walk through
the tidy rows of vines,
to that corner with the leaning tree.
We can stand together
in the shadows of the leaves,
long and lush and fragrant.

We can touch our hands
to the gentle bark,
ask our bodies to sense
the hidden pulse of its life,
to hear the song of its veins.

I can show you the places
where the gardener turned
the sod that parted like flesh,
the dirt dripping from the shovel’s blade,
dropping like a kind of blood.

We will know how the gardener
mixed in the manure,
aromas rising
with the heat of the sun,
mingling with sweat from hot skin.

Imagine the roots newly hungry –
imagine them drinking, their thirsty tongues,
seeking the life-giving food.

Our gazes will lift and find
the ripening figs,
the fruit to be harvested in fall.

We can go there, to where
it’s green and lovely,
where the gardener does his hard work.

There is his spade.
See the wooden handle.
See its shape. So like a cross.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 2, Yr C)

(Luke 13: 31-35)

Today where sun rises on hills of fresh sorrow
          tomorrow where stars set upon fields of old pain
we will do the day’s work to bring comfort and healing
          for this is Christ’s labour, fulfilled the third day

Today where souls suffer, despairing and fearful
          tomorrow where whole lives are crushed under strain
we will do the day’s work to bring peace, to bring courage
          for this is Christ’s labour, fulfilled the third day

Today where the parched and scarred earth yields no bounty
          tomorrow where war-weary ground gives no grain
we will do the day’s work to bring hope to the hungry
          for this is Christ’s labour, fulfilled the third day

Today where the foxes of evil still threaten
          tomorrow where tenderness so often is maimed
we will do the day’s work to bring love and compassion
          for this is Christ’s labour, fulfilled the third day

Today where the forces of greed rule the kingdoms
          tomorrow where powers of death hold their sway
we will do the day’s work to bring justice and caring
          for we are Christ’s labour, fulfilled the third day

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 1, Yr C)

(Luke 4: 1-13)

We, with our stomachs so full of stone
dug from the deserts of apathy and dread,
our souls shrinking down toward skin and bone,

often miss much of that which is bread,
the things that would tell us that life is more
than what can be written in black or red

on a balance sheet. While we’re keeping score
of wealth won and lost – and fixing our eyes
on this world’s thrones, wishing for ever more

power or approval – to our surprise
sometimes, the richest blessings may be found
in service, in giving, in sacrifice.

The world’s high pinnacles provide poor ground
for standing – grand is the view, great is the fall –
but God’s love, not needing such testing, surrounds,

nourishes, guides us into a higher call:
to serve others and not only self. This
the true wealth, bliss, bread: love. For all, is all.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Passion Of Christ, Yr B)

(Mark 14:1 – 15:47)

I tell of the hand, its suppleness, strength,
how it performs every wish of our thought:
subtlety to smooth and shape wood, clay, paint;

and by its powers great structures are wrought.
With the hand we salute, we show caring,
kindness; the hand undoes the tangled knot,

lifts the fallen and helps the ones bearing
the heavy load; the hand the instrument
of holding, releasing; keeping, sharing –

whatever it is that our hearts have meant
to accomplish. Consider then the hands
at work in this story. See the pair bent

to pour the perfume on Jesus. It lands
fragrant, filling the still air with rich breath,
gift of tenderness to one whose commands

had healed many, but for whom, she knows, death
looms. From hands flow love. But hands, too, clutch greed,
cruelty in their fists. See Judas, met

by the chief priests in the grip of their need
to be rid of Jesus. Judas’ hands reach
for the coins of betrayal. He will feed,

one of the twelve, at the table, where each
will protest steadfastness. See their hands dip
with Christ’s in the bowl. And what does it teach

when Christ’s hands break bread for us, when the sip
of the cup handed round is his blood? When
his hands wash our feet on their dusty trips

through the roughness of the world? Can we learn
forgiveness from his fingers? Or will ours
be the hands of injustice, those that spurn

mercy: swords waved in the garden, glowers
of fury on faces, hands tearing clothes,
hands striking, abusing him through the hours.

See the guards hang on him a purple robe.
The hands whipping. The ones placing the crown
of thorns. Words and hands conspiring as goads

as he stumbles on his way up the hill. Down
the long years we have seen what they did there,
the hands swinging hammers, nailing his own

to the cross. But see, with the curtain’s tear,
God’s hand at work too: the cross is the way
to salvation.
At last with Joseph’s care

hands are tender again, and thus display
again the heart’s power to love; and so
even a tomb, on this darkest of days,

becomes touched by the presence of grace. Go
to touch with that grace whatever you will.
Be Christ’s hands. Let the redeemed heart show,
that this crucifying world know his love still.

Copyright © 2015 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 5, Yr B)

(John 12: 20-36)

The time is here: be lifted, Human One,
to glorify the God whose rule is love;
the hour of sacrifice is why you’ve come.
Now may we hear the voice that speaks above!

The time is ripe: be planted, Faithful Seed,
to be the grain that life abundant gives.
Teach us the death-to-self that is our need —
that willingness to serve is how to live.

The time is now: shine out, O Lord of Light
into our hearts, into the shadowed earth;
show us the way to love; give us the sight
that sees in every soul eternal worth.

The time has come: be lifted, Holy One,
to draw all people to your saving grace;
as children of your light may we become
the ones who share your love through time and space.

Copyright ©2015 by Andrew King

Note: For use as a hymn (metre: 10 10 10 10), I might suggest the tunes Ellers or Harris. Other suggestions?

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Lent 4, Yr B)

(Numbers 21: 4-9; John 3: 14-21)

No need to explain how the serpent’s bite
surfaces (stealthy as the coming of night)
while you’re reading the news; or worried and alone;
or when suffering long; or when a doctor intones
challenging words; or when darkness falls;
or the voice on the end of the telephone call
declares a once-loved relationship done;
when hope seems lost, when joy seems gone.

No need to explain how this serpent hides
next door to our hearts, marks left inside
where poison drips from the tip of its fangs:
in rage, in bitterness, in lonely pangs
of guilt and regret; in the resentments we bear.
And in hurts that we cause we do our own share
of spreading its toxin and resulting grief.
The serpent is death – the fear of it.  Relief

ever seems to elude us; but we may declare
its ultimate defeat; for above its shadow there
rises greater light – see, lifted up,
the one who for us drank the cup
of suffering, whose love even in death
conquered its evil; by whose living breath
we also may thrive. We turn trusting eyes,
snake-bitten, upon Christ, and the serpent dies.

Copyright © 2015 by Andrew King