And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.
- William Blake
They fought on the way to church
this time ugly.
Was it the tone he took,
or her throbbing resentment
that kicked in the door
like a demon repo man
turning up to repossess their souls?
Mud rushed in
a roaring sludge
of sorrows, lashes
burying the light.
The back seat was silent.
In the sanctuary they stood mute
in the crowd of flourished palms
hosannas fluttering like petals
watching their kids in the happy throng
pass by with pain in their eyes.
Across town the detective
poured herself another cup of coffee
scanned reports from last night
homicide, hit and run
three break-ins, some domestics.
Robert rolled over,
knees up to his chin, gripping the covers.
He hurt so bad. He couldn’t get those feelings
for Andy to go away, nor the horror
in the cafeteria when they snickered and laughed.
Lester sat at his kitchen table, thumbing through his Bible.
He got the diagnosis the day before.
The words didn’t make sense.
He looked around.
Everything seemed tilted sideways.
Does cancer cause this? he wondered.
Alice in a back pew waved her palm like a white flag.
During the week she goes into a house full of roaches
and mice to treat the baby of a twelve year old girl.
People so desperate, so much pain. Plse pray,
she texts her friend and waves harder,
counting on this Jesus to make a difference.
Nations thrash and groan. Politicians rage.
The bomb ticks in the parked car.
Seas haul homes and lives
out to watery oblivion.
Some peasant playing a fool on a donkey
rides into town saying he is the King.
He is going to turn things around,
unseat the emperors,
release the grasp of greed,
cure the lust for money,
and heal the virus.
Sure enough the fool gets himself killed.
Everyone is looking for a goat to carry off
that mudslide of shame, regret, and responsibility.
For a while we can pimp up the peasant,
wave some foliage, call him king
as the bullies and the haters
the fear mongers and the betrayers
the self- righteous and the proud hitch
a ride on his back like fleas.
Then we can go home, relax
watch the ball game and root for our team.
But the peasant with pain in his eyes
on the donkey has his own agenda.
I am not your Palm Sunday ornament,
a wonder super hero
your ticket to respectability
a card to play in your political games.
Look again. I am you.
I am you riding high into town.
I am you awash in disgrace and humiliation.
I am you having done the unthinkable
and there is no way you can repair the damage you caused.
I am you, holiness, hawking yourselves day and night
in the holy places you have turned into markets.
I am you, holiness, stuck
right down in the middle of a profane life in a profane world.
I am you, holiness, betrayed by a sneer, or the grab for influence.
I am you, holiness, trampled on and defiled.
Will you duck out now
skip those other services
and only show up year after year
in your new clothes
to see the lilies and hear the music?
Or will you come back
to listen to my commandment
to let me wash your feet
and drink to a new covenant?
Will you stay awake with me
and with yourself one hour in our suffering?
Will you say, not my will, but thine?
Will you face your betrayer, see what you need to see
become truth in the face of authority?
Will you strip off all your disguises, costumes
facelifts, masks, and self-deceit?
Will you hand over your assets for others to toss the dice?
Will you watch at our dying?
Will you thirst?
Will you feel your own pain?
Will you cry out why has God forsaken us?
Will you rest in the tomb
that silent womb of mystery
dead with me?
Will you come early on the third day?
Lily (Photo credit: amitkotwal)
Note to readers: This blog is part of a series of Lenten “short takes” on the themes of lent, which follow more or less the lectionary Scripture lessons for this season. Like a note you find tucked under the bark of a tree, a lozenge to let melt in your mouth, an amulet to wear around your neck, I hope these little reflections may hold a small dose of truth or comfort or challenge for your life on the way to Easter.
In the abundance of words which inundate us daily, it is easy for the message of redemption to be buried under the latest disaster, outrage or scandal. Likewise the familiar stories and passages of lent may grow dull and trite to ears and hearts already stuffed with words.
I have noticed in my work as spiritual director that it is hard for many of us to take in the goodness and grace, as well as the challenge of the story of Jesus and God’s redeeming love. Perhaps we need to titrate the gospel. Sometimes a well- timed, tiny dose, carefully administered, may be what the Physician orders for our healing. And so slowly we build up our tolerance for love and more and more joy finds the faith in us through which to invade our being.
Dose titration: adjustment of the dose until the medication
has achieved the desired effect