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 (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 +10, Yr C)

SONNET FOR AN UNFINISHED GROWER
(Isaiah 5: 1-7; Psalm 80: 8-19)

She steps among the briers and the thorns,
her grieving heart unsure of what she’ll find.
The ruin of what once were luscious vines,
the wreck of so much love: it makes her mourn.

Here and there among the tangle of weeds
a lonely vine still shows, and small clusters
of green globes defiant; and she musters
hope that it can be saved. She knows the need

will be for sweat and toil and tears, love’s pain.
She sighs, her bent knees touch the soil, fingers
reach and tug. Is thus how God’s love lingers
to till our hearts and tangled world again?

Perhaps this vineyard yet can grow as meant
the fruits of justice, leaves of peace unbent.

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For the Sunday Lectionary, Epiphany 2, Yr. C

FOR THE JAR OF THE EMPTY HEART
(John 2: 1-11)

Sometimes, through no particular fault
of your own, the accumulated cares
of life build up and the storage vault
that holds your strength and hope goes bare.

Sometimes you gaze in longing east
to see the light of the dawn breaking
but clouds block the sun. And that feast,
that celebration you intended making

of life: sometimes the songs won’t come,
laughter fades, and like wine run dry
the jar of joy stands empty, a hollow drum.
But what if God knows this, and why

Jesus came to the wedding feast that day
was to show that God is with us in those
times of barren dryness, when what may
fill our heart’s jar are only tears, lid closed,

and lost the way to hope’s refreshing well. . .
What if Jesus comes that day expressly to spill
into that void his fresh and living water, telling
darkness to roll back for light, filling

the waiting jar of the empty heart
with Love’s own Presence: finest wine indeed.
Yes, Christ comes that life’s feast may truly start —
Love both source and goal, our deepest need.

So fill us to our brims, life-giving One;
may we be sharers in your earthly story.
May we spill love and joy ‘til that realm has come
that fills this precious world with all your glory.

Copyright ©2019 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Advent IV, Yr. C)

THE CHILD LEAPS IN ELIZABETH’S WOMB
(Luke 1: 39-45)

The child leaps in Elizabeth’s womb
to greet God’s coming gift:
may mothers and infants everywhere
share in that blesséd lift.

May hungry children leap for joy
that hunger soon will end;
that suffering ones, that fearful ones,
find help from heaven’s friends.

In this world so torn by hate, may
each know love’s embrace.
May those who’ve felt the pain of war
know peace is heaven’s face.

The child leaps in Elizabeth’s womb.
In us is there a twin?
May hearts everywhere join in eager response
to God’s love, near, within.

Copyright ©2018 by Andrew King

Poem For the Sunday Lectionary (Advent 2, Yr C)

THE RIGHT TIME
(Luke 3: 1-6)

It had lain in the corner of the room,
an old box long unopened, collecting dust.
It had stood upon the top shelf of the cupboard,
a jar almost forgotten, tightly sealed.
But it was time.

The sun had risen as it always does,
people moved through streets, the thirsty fields.
The rulers of the world still issued edicts.
The poor still suffered and struggled.
Aching hearts in shadow.
The empire complacent in its harsh control.

Everywhere the accepted routines of life.

But in this John knew that the time had come.
Time to take down the almost forgotten jar,
to open at long last the dusty box of hope
and set free the contents strong as
pungent clouds of incense, strong as
inescapable swarms of stinging bees.
Time to disrupt the usual routine.
Time to release the remembered promise
of a God who is out to shake the empires
of the trapped and desperately dreamless
sleeping world.
John knew it was the right time then.
It remains the right time now.

Copyright ©2018 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +26, Yr B)

PRAY FOR US, HANNAH
(1 Samuel 1: 4-20)

Pray for us, Hannah, in our bleakness, our barrenness,
God’s realm in us slow in coming to birth.
Pray for us here in our struggles, our brokenness,
yearning for justice to come to the earth.

Pray for us, Hannah, in the world’s night of lovelessness,
around us the hurting so often unheard.
Pray that all those who cry out in their helplessness
receive for their cries an answering word.

Pray for us, Hannah: the foundations are shaking
that underlie hope for a new world to come.
Pray that we discover God’s will in us waking,
calling forth faithful response to love’s drum.

Copyright ©2018 by Andrew King

For a poem on the Gospel lesson for this Sunday,
may I suggest “With Painful Groans

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Pentecost +25, Yr B)

CHOICES OF GOD
(Ruth 3: 1-5, 4:13-17)

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” 1 Cor. 1:27

How foolish of you, God, to choose
these weak ones, these widows,

these powerless in their poverty,
these vulnerable, so needy,

migrants seeking refuge,
landless, needing shelter,
hungry and hurting for food.

What use can the weak ever possibly be
to your hope for an earth made new,
your will for a world transformed?

What use can they be, so often ignored
by the rich, abused by the strong?

But we see these seemingly
insignificant women
become agents of your power in the world,

agents of history, progenitors of change,
contributors to our hoped-for salvation.

How foolish your choices
may seem to us, Holy One.
Yet how wise and how mighty
in the end.

Copyright ©2018 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Easter 3, Yr A)

EMMAUS ROAD
(Luke 24: 13-35)

What do I know of the Emmaus road,
except that I think it passes not far from my church,
runs through the local shopping mall,
runs through the main street of town,
through the neighborhoods where the houses
are so close together;
runs almost anywhere today.

What do I know of the Emmaus road,
except that maybe those who walk on it,
lonely in their grieving, stressed in their worrying,
fearful and anxious and searching for hope,
they look like me in the mirror some days,
and sometimes they look like you,
like just about anybody today.

What do I know of the Emmaus road,
except that the place where Jesus meets us,
where he shows up to walk and talk with us,
to come into our kitchens and break bread with us,
or where he reveals himself to us in the stranger,
in the person we can’t imagine as God’s beloved,
that place could be almost anyplace today.

What do I know of the Emmaus road,
except that I think I have some of the smell of it
soaking through to my skin when it rains;
have some of the dust of it sticking right here
on the leather of my worn-out shoes;
and this morning, in the sanctuary, the light
pouring in, isn’t that Christ sitting next to me
in the pew?

Copyright ©2017 by Andrew King