Saturday, March 28, 2020

They're Giving You A Number And Taking Way Your Name

I used to have a name, 
I don't remember it
They call me 67 now.
I lie in bed at night next to my wife
They call her 74 with pre-existing 
Sometimes I wake up 
2 or 3 in the morning
(no, those aren't our children, it's 
the time I wake up.
I know it's confusing 
but try to keep up...
Our children are 29, 35 and 42 they're doing okay
Going a little stir crazy 
they tell me when they facetime)
But anyway
I lie there, unable to sleep
74 reads her kindle 
we don't talk
To talk would mean to speak
About the horror of fading
into nameless numbers 
and the knowledge 
That if 74 goes into the hospital 
she will, as she tells me 
when we do speak of this thimg,
"Never come out again"
Because the others there
23, 12, 17, 36
will get the ventilators
Which will go to those 
most productive and likely 
to return to pushing the economy  uphill.
I lie here
And scream
How long O Lord 
and the worda come back
A long damned time
A long, Goddamned time.
But those are not 
the only words I hear.
On a good night 
I hear
Clear as day
This is what the Lord says
The One who created you
O Jacob
Who formed you
O Israel
Fear not
For I have redeemed you
I have called you BY NAME 
and you are MINE 
[italics aren't mine, they belong t
o the Voice]
When you pass through the waters
I will be with you 
and when you pass through the river
it shall not overcome you.
I remember my name 
and can close my eyes 
and sleep
For a while

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Tear In My Denial

I have spent most of my life
in a soft and pleasant denial 
Believing that I was
for the most part 
in charge of my own destiny. 
I would die one day 
but that day was a long way off
and I could keep it at arms length 
by eating right
not driving drunk
and saying my prayers. 
Oh there were times
when painful rips occurred 
in that denial. 
A painful, brutal divorce 
the temporary loss
of the profession I loved
restored, thank God
like the years eaten by locusts.
The death of my parents. 
But always 
A new start.
New love, restored profession
and end to grief, 
though the loss lingers on.
But this virus 
has torn a long gash in my denial, 
jagged and deep.
I may never totally feel safe again.
And that makes me afraid 
and angry.
I realize that in many ways 
this helplessness I feel
is no different than that
of much of  the world's marginalized 
Growing empathy is a good thing. 
But this...
a sense that at any time
like a character in a horror movie 
about posession 
where the demon can 
jump from person to person,
This terrifies me.
That this evil thing
might catch a ride on my shoulder 
Despite my best care taken
to jump from me to a loved one
upon my return home.
Or might chose
to take my life 
because our testing waits
til the demonic has already 
taken root,
And I might wind up in a hospital 
where scarcity 
makes medical personnel 
Choose between young and old
and I, of course, am old.
My only comfort,
Strange as it sounds, 
is that the Hebrews knew
this same fear
Etched into their lives 
by occupation and plague 
and bitter struggle. 
And so I read
and claim for myself 
The promises made 
to this traumatized people.
Job's cry that 
he has asked questions 
too great for him 
may be true, 
but I will ask them anyway ,
and like him, repent
in dust and sanitizer. 
Then scream into the darkness 
Though He slay me
Yet will I trust Him

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Trinity In A Time Of Coronavirus

I do not believe 
that God "caused" the corona virus to get our attention 
or to punish us for our sins.
What I do believe 
may be more terrible still.
For I believe the virus 
is in part
The result of how we 
have treated creation. 

And I believe that God 
seeing what our sin was causing 
Said to the Son 
and the Holy Ghost
Maybe now 
they will wake up, 
It's Lent you know
Maybe in some 
of that self examination 
they will open their eyes and see
Where their worship 
 of Power
and Money 
of Blood and Soil; 
the two headed monster  
of Racism and War 
perhaps they will see and repent
And I will touch the minds 
of those who seek cure 
touch the heart 
of those who have money  and power
I will see from Heaven 
and will heal the earth.

But if they do not,
If they continue in sin 
Profiting from the torment of others
Refusing to aid the weak 
or lift the helpless
Hoarding goods 
while others go without 
Selling the poor 
for the price of PPE
and the vulnerable  
for the price of a ventilator;
Then their own sin 
will tear their flesh and devour them.
Such carnage will be seen 
as has not visited earth before.

When it is over I will gather to Myself
a remnant with which to start again. 

But this time,
This time I hope they will take 
My help
Listen to the words 
of their Sacred Texts
To My still small voice
To the cries of their modern prophets 
And turn

So God and the Son and the Spirit 
wait to see
What we will do.
Heartbroken, tearful 
wracked with the anguish 
of incarnation 
They wait
They weep
They wait

Friday, March 13, 2020

Love In A Time Of Coronavirus

Of all the times that Jesus touched
there was one
when He did not.
Mary outside the tomb
reached for Him
in love and joy and amazement; 
Yet He said "do not cling to Me,
I haven't returned to My Father."
Such strange words.
Don't touch me.
Don't cling to me.
This one time,
sandwiched between
Touching and being touched, 
and inviting,  even commanding
Thomas to feel the wounds
in hands and side.
What kind of Jesus is this
that won't hug Mary?
Can't He see?
Doesn't He understand that she needs comforting;
that her confusion and sadness have nearly driven her mad?
All she needs is His touch, and everything will be okay.
But He says, "Don't touch me."
"I haven't yet returned to My Father."
Was the power flowing off Him
to much for her to bear?
Would exposure have been deadly?
I don't know...maybe. 
I even think so.
But more
I see in this moment 
An example for me, a way to think 
of not touching 
As an act of love.
In a time of coronavirus 
there may be times
when not touching
is to be like Jesus.
We will touch again 
We will embrace again
But love demands 
the love of distance 
and the creation of new ways
To be the Body of Christ 
broken and poured out

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Morning Call With HCPD

She was bent double
   sitting cross-legged
       crushed over like folded laundry
the grief pouring from her throat
  in grunts and wails
       "My baby's gone
              "my baby's gone
                    "my baby's gone"
The police officers
      called out in the early morning
  stand silent.
             the six year old
                lies quiet on the floor upstairs
  where mom had attempted CPR
 when waking her daughter for school proved futile.
The Officers have called the Chaplain
     who arrives and sits on the floor
                     next to the mother
                             present, silent
  "Why?"  that is all she says to him
"I do not know," he responds.
      "What does the Good Book say
               about times like these Reverent says that times liked?" her boyfriend speaks for the first time
The chaplain looks up from the floor
    "it says that times like this suck,
   that they are horrible
          but that we don't do them alone."
Boyfriend nods.
Momma paces
   her hands and arms repeating
              over and over
      like the scratched record of her memory
   the finding
         the turning
     hands pushing on that tiny chest
  til she sits.
      "We can pray now" and holds out her hand.
"What was her name?"
  "Osana, my baby was Osana."
                  It sounds like 'Hosannah' when she says it, the word raw in his ear.
And so the chaplain prays
   trying to give voice to
       anger and confusion and pain
  to represent a God big enough
           to handle this shitty moment of agony.
When they end
    mom speaks again,
  "my baby's gone
      my Osana's gone."
The chaplain things to himself
    "so is mine."

  Til later
     driving away
        he remembers
that the word
   means "Save Us,"  "Rescue Us."
       Sweet Jesus, Osana

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Meditation on Ash Wednesday

As I've been preparing for Ash Wednesday I was listening to a sermon that Rob Bell preached in June, 2012 at Willow Creek Community Church.  Bell made some comments about life in Ephesus during the time of the Roman Emperor Domitian (who, like many of the Emperors believe that he was a god) and the demands of the Emperor that people burn an incense offering to the Emperor before they could be involved in commerce.

It got me to thinking about the "Mark of the Beast" (which is thought to have been the proof that one had offered incense) and the ashes that we will wear today at the beginning of Lent.

It appears possible that the "Nicolaitans" mentioned in Revelation 2 were people who were Christians who offered the incense believing that since the Emperor wasn't God, and that they needed to survive economically, it didn't matter.  Scripture suggests that some Christians thought of them as being like the OT folks who, though they worshipped God, also crept out to offer sacrifices to the various gods of fertility and crops.

As I think about taking ashes today, I find myself wondering about the ways in which I "hedge my bets" about following Jesus.  What if this Lenten season became for us a time of experimenting in our own personal lives with what it would mean to give up those ways that we have "gone along to get along" with our culture?

They risked everything
death, torture, loss of home and business
rather than take the mark
that would allow them to buy and sell.
The mark that meant
they had bowed down to the Emperor.

I risk so little
preferring not to be inconvenienced
by relatives who disagree on social media
or being looked at strangely
by those in community or culture
who would find me strange
for truly following
this One
who is the opposite of every Emperor
who ever lived

I will take my ashes
few will think it worth noting
this smudge on my forehead
as I pass down the street.
What if it really meant something?
Would I still wear them?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Riff On James 2

What good is it
my brothers and sisters
to say to a fetus, "I will not let you die,
I will, in fact, force you to be brought into the world,"
And then abandon that newborn
to the ravages of a life of poverty?
What good does it do
if women are denied access to birth control?
What kind of faith is it
brothers and sisters
that leaves the "now born"
to deal with poisoned water,
food insecurity,
racial inequality,
and economic injustice?

You say to me,
"I will show you my commitment to Life
by fighting for the "unborn,"
And I say,
"I will show you my commitment to Life,
by fighting for justice and equity for all
from Womb to Tomb"

You say, "I will show you pictures of the unborn and audio of their heartbeats,"
And I say, "I will show you pictures of children in cages,
refugees massed in camps,
children starving or impacted by lead poisoning.
"I will show you aged ones huddled in public "nursing homes"
sitting in soiled diapers for hours."

I will say to you
that conversations about the complexity
of the questions you raise
need to happen.
But that the complexities need to include
issues of quality of life from cradle to the grave.

Brothers and sisters
if you show favoritism toward only those who are "unborn"
and ignore those who have come into the world
you do not love your neighbor as yourself
and you show no mercy to those in need.

Show me your faith by your hospitality and compassion to all
and I will join you in struggle to answer the difficult questions
of how we live out Christ's commandments
to welcome the stranger
and bring healing to our world.

But if you persist
in saying, "be born and good luck,"
ignoring the needs of the whole of life
I will say to you that you have ignored the commandments of Christ
Let us both be doers of the Word
in all it's completeness.