A Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Epiphany 2)

ANDREW AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL
(John 1: 29-42)

I remember that first time he spoke to me,
that first day we met him, I and Simon,
how there had been rain just before
and flowers beginning to bloom,
pink, white and yellow opening to the sun,
fragrances fresh on the air and John saying
look over there,
at him, the one God has chosen
to save the world;

how when I walked over, my eyes squinting to
see clearly against the afternoon sun
the first thing he said to me was that one
sharp, knowing question,
“What are you looking for?” –
how there seemed to be a sudden
knot in my tongue, the hundred things
I could have said all stopped in my mouth:
that even as John’s follower I still felt empty,
restless as a breeze on the lake,
impatient with the unchanged world
hard and hurting, with the way life
pressed in with need all around me
as if I were one of the fish caught in my nets;
the heart of me so hungry, so like an unfilled jar,
the mind in me itself a net 
being cast in unknown waters, uncertain
even of what answers to seek, what to ask –

the hundred things I could have said
coming out instead as this question:
“Rabbi, where are you dwelling?” Where
can I find you if finally I feel
able to sort through my thoughts, when I can speak
of my aching, my hopes, desperate yearnings?
Where can I find you should John be right
and you the answer for a world so struggling,
so suffering in its separation from God?
Am I able to find you when I am lost
in my wandering, adrift as a boat on the sea?

I remember his smile so wide, warm with welcome,
his hand held out like a bridge to cross.
“Come,” he said.
“Come and see.”

How easy it was to be with him, listening and still,
the knots falling loose in my chest,
the empty jar of my heart beginning to be filled.

How brother had to share it with brother.
And how different all the days ever since.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

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Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Epiphany 1; The Baptism of Jesus)

JOHN BAPTIZES JESUS

(MATTHEW 3: 13-17)

He takes the light that dances on the flowing surface of the water.
He takes the dancing water that is filled with the flowing light.
He has waded into the river that is umbilical with life.
He is waist deep in the life that flows umbilical through the river.

He stands with the man whose words are pitchers of grace and light.
Stands with the man whose grace is like life, like a flowing river.
He fills his pitcher with the water, with the light, with the flow of life.
He pours it over the man waist deep with him in the water.

Grace descends, glittering, like wings unfurling in the air.
The air shimmers, it dances with sound, sounds of the river
flowing, the water pouring, the men breathing; the light glittering,
grace flooding, the wings beating, words surfacing: God’s son.

He hears, he sees, he is soaked in the sound and the light and the water.
He rejoices in the gift of it, he rejoices in the grace, in the one
who is standing there with him in the water.
For he knows that all of it is goodness. That all is a new beginning.
That all of it is part of God’s river.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Sunday of the Epiphany)

MATTHEW 2: 1-12

Where will our journey take us this year,
we travellers?
Into what vistas of discovery, memory, euphoria, sorrow
will our breath exhale?
What textures of wisdom, sharp or smooth,
will touch our skin?
What light will draw our eyes through
each day’s doorway,
upward into the nighttime seeking beacons,
flashes of strange stars?

We have been searchers, felt yearnings,
felt the power and pull
of the unknown, sometimes fleeing, sometimes facing
its challenges and terrors.
We have travelled alone in hope and ambition,
joined caravans of curiosity and fad.
These have taken us to places
familiar and unexpected, to successes, disappointments,
victories, defeats.
We cannot see where the journey leads, but our yearnings
compel us, and we go.

Come into this tent, traveller. Come join
this caravan of pilgrims.
There are other travellers here, seekers like ourselves.
Called wise by some –
though they have known other titles –
they are the ancestors of all who journey
for wisdom,
for understanding, for experience of something
or someone
they might name God.

They have crossed deserts and rivers,
inhaled the scent of wild grasses,
the perfume of strange blossoms,
tasted the dust of roads of sorrow
upon their tongues.
Their minds are open to possibility, to discovery,
they have watched the fresh sky,
they have scanned the old Scriptures,
they dared the deep questions,
persevering in the journey
until they found One they believed was
their destination:
One for whom prophecies had been written,
for whom new stars had shined,
toward whom their roads had long been bending.

But let us listen to the message of the Magi,
fellow travellers:
The journey is not done. The Babe
will grow, will beckon to newer ways
and to lifelong following.
Finding this One is but a beginning, an awakening,
an opening up of greater doors,
an invitation to horizons, farther roads
that lead to greater understanding –
and to greater challenges,
fresher questions,
and quite possibly to the kind of joy
that outlasts dusty grief.

Come into this tent, traveller. Let us join
this caravan of pilgrims,
follow the One who has given us the journey,
grow on his paths as they lead through the year.

Copyright © 2014 by Andrew King

A Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (First Sunday After Christmas)

THE SHADOW FALLS PAST CHRISTMAS
Matthew 2: 13-23

Hear the broken-hearted weeping
in the blooded streets, see
the frightened family fleeing
the night so gouged and torn
with loss. We cannot forget
the shadow that falls past Christmas.

Sometimes the tree falls down and the lights
are crushed. The car goes off the road
driving home from the party. Storm
sets in, shutting down festive celebration.

Shadow falls past Christmas:
the Herod dark of hatred, shattered
lives and homes, cruelty
and the killing power of greed;
dreams of joy chased down by fear and grief.

Infants dying of neglect and malnutrition,
oppression claiming victims every day,
and so frequently corruption unabated:
the songs of hope that came like dreams
seem easily defeated.

But see the infant Christ
not among the murdered.
Untrapped by hatred’s reach, by
greed’s cold grasp, by the power
of death so constantly pursuing,
infant Love lives on, the hope
and will for justice and peace
persisting.

Shadow falls past Christmas. But
see the light still shining;
faith and hope still singing; the contest
for the human heart goes on.

May we, as Joseph did, keep
listening to the words of dreams.
Keep moving the feet
toward morning’s hope,
free as a gift of love,
however distant the dawn.

And may the darkness fail to chase us down.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King

A Poem For Christmas Eve

STILL LIFTING US TO LEAN TOWARD PEACE

(LUKE 2: 1-20)

Enter it anywhere, this old tale so familiar:
enter where shepherds huddle around a tiny fire
to guard flocks on the echoing hills

     the deep cold midnight dark of it

or where Caesar choreographs
the captive masses’ moves, or where
the couple are turned away from the sold-out inn

     the impersonal imperial indifference of it

or where the shepherds search for a certain trough
of hay in a small town that might have had dozens,
this one holding a baby born in the cold

     the rich earthy animal smell of it

or where the startling messengers fill the dazzled skies

     the astounding earth-circling sound of it.

Enter it anywhere, this story so familiar:
where babies still hold on for their threatened lives
to the thin breasts of refugee mothers. Where
masses are still on the move from armed might;
where terror still holds people captive. Where
the poor cling to margins of civilized life
and we watch over reality shows by night.

Enter and feel midnight still pressing our world,
the fear, loneliness, hunger still aching.

But perhaps entering this tale deeply enough
we begin anew to recognize angels
(some with names like Theresa, or Nelson)
still startling us with challenging presence,

     the presence of the God of love in it

still announcing joy in the darkness.
Still, courageously, singing

     the enduring power of the hope of it.

Still lifting us to lean toward peace.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King

A Poem For The Sunday Lectionary (Advent 4)

CONSIDER JOSEPH

(MATTHEW 1: 18-25)

He considers wood,
its resistance to touch,
the nature of its rigidity
out of which timber becomes table,
becomes chair seat and leg,
yielding in their making only to axe blade
and nail point, but unbending to the pressure
of the leaning arm, the weight of the body at rest.
Too much pressure at a single point, though,
and even wood will give way, table buckling,
chair leg snapping, the body dropping, bruised.

He considers flesh,
its awareness of touch,
the nature of its flexibility
out of which tissue becomes muscle,
becomes eyes, lips and fingers,
bone joining bone, skin growing,
body moving, hands readying for work.

He considers spirit,
its lifts, its leaps,
its sometimes feathery touch,
its toughness sometimes
like wood or bone.
Too much pressure at a single point, though,
and spirit, like skin that bruises and splits,
can break like rigid wood.

He considers laws of nature
and the nature of laws
lying beyond his touch,
their seeming inflexibility,
coldness like that of wood,
pressure like that of hammers
on the slenderness of nails.

He considers the heart,
its many feelings; things like love,
the gentle power of its touch,
durable, strong like spirit and skin:
bendable, adaptable, able to grow,
yet something easily broken in unmendable wounds
for which he knows no nail exists.

He considers dreams.
Dreams of healing, of people saved,
dreams of being blessed with good.
And of all that he considers,
of brokenness and repair,
he considers the decision he makes
to resist the splintering of disgrace
as good as anything he’s ever made with wood.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King

A Poem for the Sunday Lectionary (Advent 3)

To John, In Prison (Matthew 11: 2-11)

We walked with you into the ancestral river,
up to our knees in the noisy past
– feeling the way it constantly
pushes against us – hearing
with you the river retell our story:
the journeys made to new beginnings,
the missteps, the slips, the falls
that overwhelmed us, nearly drowned,
swept away – seeming to regain
just enough of our footing as the tides
of nations surged, as they surge
around us today.

In the hurts we suffered and committed
you saturated us,
in our regrets and in our prayers
you immersed us, lifting us then
not just from the river but
toward the air and the sun.

With you we smelled the freshness of the water,
shook off insincerity, duplicity like dust.
With you we’ve breathed hope, prophets remembered,
promises rehearsing of a joyful day to come.
With you we’ve stood and waited,
even in present imprisonment,
even as stuttering torches spit light at shadows
that seem to mock all hoping, all night long;
waiting to be reassured that justice will be done.

We continue to be with you, John, in the darkness,
yearning for more than another day to dread:
yearning for a sign that old promises can be trusted,
that prophet visions can be touched at last –
that life can be renewed wherever death has entered.
We are yearning for the river to refresh us again.
We are yearning for someone to refresh us again.

Copyright © 2013 by Andrew King