This Great Throng of Life

Spirit of Life, source and ground of our being:

The days come early and stay late now
their colors blue and green,
their fragrance rose and peony and jasmine.
The evenings are long with golden light
slanting through leaves and across fields.
The fluting call of a thrush
descends from high in the trees
and at night the frogs and the crickets
sing of love.

The beauty is so great
it near stops our hearts
and yet at the very same time
little children are being torn from their parents
teens are being shot in their schools
unarmed protestors are being massacred
and sea levels continue to rise.
The list goes on and on.

Spirit of Life, Love that holds all,
we need you now.
It is long past time for us
to pour out into the streets
and do what needs to be done.

And yet we are afraid.
You call us and call us
and we are afraid.

Help us remember Moses.

When G*d called him to lead his people
out of slavery
Moses was afraid
and said he couldn’t do it.
“I don’t speak well,” he said.
“I don’t know how to lead.”
G*d did not say
“Go do it by yourself!”
G*d said
“Then take your brother Aaron.”

Help us remember this
when we hear you calling
and we are afraid:
we do not have to do it alone.

You are with us
and so are all the beings
of this beautiful earth:
the blue skies and the green trees
the fragrant flowers and the birds
the crickets and the frogs
the children with their shining eyes
and our many friends and companions.

In this great throng of life
we are never alone
and we have more than enough power
to be the change we seek.
Help us rise up.

It is time.

Blessed be.

Afterward, Paradise

What if he hadn’t risen?
The first gospel written down
had no account of a risen Jesus.
The tomb was empty
and a man said he had been raised
but Jesus wasn’t actually there
and the women were so afraid
they ran away and said nothing.
They ran away.  That was the end.

The story had been carried orally,
as most stories were in those days,
until several decades had gone by.
Then it was written down,
and the women ran away.

This interests me.
A community of Jesus followers
cared so much about their teacher
and the beginning of their community
and the reasons they were still together
that they wrote everything they knew down
for others to see—
and there was no Jesus, resurrected,
just someone who said he had been,
and the women ran away in fear,
and the community still thought the story was a gospel:
the good news.

So perhaps it didn’t matter whether it happened or not:
perhaps the important thing was what the man taught.
His message of love was so powerful
that it ushered in paradise on earth
for those who lived it:
those who loved others as they loved themselves,
and shared all they had with those in need,
and gave thanks to God for their beautiful life.

Maybe the resurrection is beside the point.
Maybe it was an afterthought, a punctuation mark, italics:
a way to emphasize that the Empire cannot kill love.
Love wins.  Love wins and we need not fear death
because we will return to Love in the end.

Which is a good thing
because Stephon Clark is unlikely to rise again
and neither are all the other
brown and black folk shot by police
nor the teenagers shot by classmates
nor the women shot by their partners
unless we learn from their lives and their deaths
something so powerful and so transformative
that two hundred years from now the only way
we will be able to make sense of having sacrificed
these beautiful lives to the Empire
(which is us)
is to tell everyone:

“On the third day they rose from the dead,
and saved us from our sins,
and afterward, it was paradise.”

(Beloveds: This poem is revised from the first version, posted on 4/2/2018, with a not-quite-correct assertion about how the resurrection is treated in the Gospel of Mark, the first gospel to have been written down. The oldest version of Mark ends at 16:8. (See The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV with Apocrypha, Abingdon Press 2003.)  The women find the tomb empty and a man says Jesus is not there because he has been raised, but there is no actual encounter with a risen Jesus. The women run away in fear, and that is the end of the gospel.  The idea of the resurrection is there, but not the actual risen Jesus.  I have revised the poem and left it up, because the main points still stand.)


A Prayer for Grief and Courage

I am poured out like water;
my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted in my breast…
–Psalm 22

Spirit of Life, Infinite Love,
You in whom we live and move
and have our being:

How do such things happen?
How is it that children
can be shot in their schools?
How can we live with it?
The pain is so great that it seems
we might not.

Help us grieve in the way
humans need to grieve:
with wailing and sobbing
and tearing of hair and clothing.
Help us grieve.

And then help us rise up.

Help us rise up in grief and outrage.
Help us know in our bones
that we will NOT live with this.

Give us the courage to cry out,
“Enough! No more of this! Enough!
We will not stand helplessly by while children
are killed in their schools!
Or in their homes, or on their streets,
or anywhere our love can reach!”

Help us use all of our strength
and all of our skill
to make this world safe
for children everywhere.

May it be so. Blessed be. All our relations. Ashe. Amen.