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THE PARABLE OF THE TWO DEBTORS

Luke 7:36-50

Simon the Pharisee is a self-sufficient man.
He sees himself above the common crowd.

His bearing is proud in the sight of men and God.
Because he feels no need, he feels no love.

The woman of the city is deeply shamed
By her life of sin. She cannot stop her tears.

The woman of the city begs to be forgiven.
Because her need is great, her love is great.

Of the two, the one who loves the Lord the most
Is the one for whom he cancels the greater debt.

Of the two, the one who loves the Lord the most
Is the one for whom he cancels the greater debt.

September 13, 2017

EVENING, MIDNIGHT, COCKCROW, DAWN

Mark 13:35-36

Watchman, wake. Awake and rise!
You must be ready when the master comes.
Don’t let him catch you by surprise

In the evening,
At midnight,
At cockcrow
Or at dawn.

Watchman: this charge is yours to keep.
The master comes in a sudden rush.
Don’t let him find you sound asleep

In the evening,
At midnight,
At cockcrow
Or at dawn.

Watchman, wake. Open your eyes!
You cannot know the urgent hour,
The hour when the master of the house arrives

In the evening,
At midnight,
At cockcrow
Or at dawn.

September 5, 2017

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:1-15

He sowed the seed on the barren path.
The seed on the path was trampled down,
Trampled down and plucked by birds,
Plucked and eaten by birds of the air.

He sowed the seed on rocky ground.
The plants sprang up between the rocks.
The quickening plants had shallow roots.
They withered and died in the rising sun.

He sowed the seed among the thorns.
The thorns grew up and blocked the sun.
The thorns took over and choked the crop.
No yield was there at harvest time.

He sowed the seed on fertile soil.
Because the soil was deep and rich
And free of weeds, the yield was good:
Thirty, sixty, a hundredfold.

A sower went out to sow his seed.
Each seed is the trusted word of God.
But how it grows depends on you.
How it grows depends on you.

July 31, 2017

IMPERMANENCE

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103:15-18

Grass emerges from the winter snow.
Blades lengthen. Flowers grow.
Trees in the wind sway and sough.
The summer of life is all we know!

Autumn breezes start to blow
And all of life begins to slow.
Brown turf is snuffed in snow.
Life and death come and go.

Clouds roll in over the plain.
The clouds release their drops of rain.
The drops are lost in the narrowing drain
To the sea. Only to rise again.

The wheel of water is an endless chain,
An infinite loop of wax and wane.
The land upholds this loss and gain.
Yet the land itself cannot sustain.

Dust is molded, dust restored.
Not even the land can say: Never.
But for children of light who love the Lord,
The love of the Lord lasts forever.

July 3, 2017

ON THE LIBERTY OF WOMEN

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom
to know the difference.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr ~

Who makes the rules for things we cannot change?
We’ll decide which rules to ignore or keep.

We won’t accept the things we cannot change.
It’s time to change the things we can’t accept.

God, grant to us the wisdom to know the course
You set for us—and not the course by others.

God, grant to us the courage to be the force
To overturn the rules prescribed by brothers.

We won’t accept the things we cannot change.
It’s time to change the things we can’t accept.

July 1, 2017

Photo credit Yahoo.com (click to enlarge)

BREAKING BIGOTRY

John 4:1-40

1.

Jesus broke a rule
By talking to a woman.
The Lord did not accept
A lower state for women.

Jesus broke a rule
By talking to a Samaritan.
The woman at the well
Was part Assyrian.

Jesus broke a rule—
He did not mock her faith.
But he showed the way beyond
Samaria and Jerusalem.

[Refrain]

Jesus honors the life of every person,
Every man and woman, Jew and Samaritan,
Without regard for creed or race or nation.
He gives his love to all, and so should we.

2.

With the woman at the well,
Jesus shows us how
To break the common rules
Of gender bigotry.

With the woman at the well,
Jesus shows us how
To break the common rules
Of racial bigotry.

With the woman at the well,
Jesus shows us how
To break the common rules
Of religious bigotry.

[Refrain]

Jesus honors the life of every person,
Every man and woman, Jew and Samaritan,
Without regard for creed or race or nation.
He gives his love to all, and so should we.

May 20, 2017

PROLOGUE

John 1:1-18

When time begins, the Word and God are one.
At the end of time, the Word and God are one.
The Word and God transcend our cycle of life.

Nothing by itself creates itself.
All creatures come to be through God alone.
The life God gives is the light of all the people.

The light of all the people turns night to noon.
The forces of darkness cannot dim the light.
The light of enlightenment shines throughout the world.

He was in the world, the world he helped create,
But the world did not quite know who he was.
Some of his own people resisted his call.

But to each who did accept, who did believe,
He gave the power to be a child of God,
Born of God’s love and not of human passion.

The Word is flesh and we have seen his glory.
The law indeed was given by the prophet Moses,
And grace and truth are given through Jesus Christ.

May 7, 2017

BE IN THE WORLD, NOT OF THE WORLD

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14

To you who leave the promised land
To live in distant Babylon,
Do not believe the false seer
Who tells you what you want to hear.
False prophets never learn:
The Lord decides when you return.

Be in the world, not of the world.
Be in the world, not of the world.

Settle down and build a life.
Raise your children, as man and wife,
And urge your children to raise their own.
Build your nation’s flesh and bone.
Follow the law when living abroad,
But always worship the one true God.

Be in the world, not of the world.
Be in the world, not of the world.

We who have one life to give
Should well consider how we live—
Ruled by God and not by sin.
The Lord will gather all our kin
When the time is right, and then restore
The fortunes of Israel as before.

Be in the world, not of the world.
Be in the world, not of the world.

Written for Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday (11/26/2017)

April 30, 2017

LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY INTO DAY

Isaiah 9:1-7

In former times, we toiled at night.
We toiled in shadows from black to gray.
But then, behold! The emerging light!
In our long night’s journey into day.

In our long night’s journey into day,
The light of the Lord is beaming bright.
We praise the Lord and dance for joy.
The Lord of Hosts relieves our plight.

All the boots of tramping warriors
And bloody garments torn asunder
Are burning now in pungent fires.
We exult like a people dividing plunder.

A child is born; a son is given;
Authority rests in Him today.
We thank the Lord for sins forgiven
And our long night’s journey into day.

Written for the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (11/19/2017)

April 27, 2017

JUSTICE

Amos 1:1-2; 5:14-15; and 5:21-24

Listen, Israel! Listen, sons and daughters
Of Joseph: Justice is not a distant dream.

Let justice roll down the mountain like mighty waters.
Let righteousness be an ever-flowing stream.

Water cleanses the face of the evil and the good;
Let justice be like that for one and all.

Make the law the same for the evil and the good
Without regard for station great or small.

Let justice roll down the mountain like mighty waters.
Let righteousness be an ever-flowing stream.

Written for the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (11/12/2017)

April 22, 2017

ARK OF THE COVENANT

1 Kings 5:1-5 and 1 Kings 8:1-13

1.

In the red morning on the umber sea,
None of the tall ships, wind or lee,
Is lovelier than you, proud lady.
O, wandering bark, come home to me!

2.

The storm is passed. Sailors rest.
The People are safe, no longer oppressed.
The Lord is calling: Be my guest.
You are the chosen. You are the blessed.

3.

The throne of God is in this space.
The Holy of Holies is now in place.
From tent to temple, the race is over.
You are safe at last in Yahweh’s grace.

Written for the twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost; also, Reformation Sunday (10/29/2017)

April 16, 2017—Easter Sunday

GOD KNOWS THE HEART

I Samuel 16:1-13 and Psalm 51:10-14

We judge our fellow men by what we see.
We cannot know for sure what’s in the heart.
God ignores what works for you and me.
God knows the honest truth in every heart.

All of Jesse’s sons were tall and strong.
On their looks alone, they set themselves apart.
Samuel was sure that one would be the king.
But God discerned in each a wavering heart.

Samuel anointed Jesse’s youngest son.
For God, David was the future still untold.
David promised to always be at one
With God—and return all sinners to the fold.

Create in me a clean heart, O Lord,
And bring to me a new and willing spirit.
Restore to me the joy of your accord.
Sustain in me forever your Holy Spirit.

Written for the twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (10/22/2017)

April 10, 2017

CHRISTIAN NATION

A Christian nation is one
Who follows Jesus Christ.
A Christian nation does not
Ignore the words of Christ.

We pledge the civic slogan,
“One nation under God.”
Are we a Christian nation?
What would Jesus say?

A Christian nation feeds
Those who want for food.
A Christian nation heals
The sick, the maimed, the lame.

A Christian nation helps
The homeless find a home.
A Christian nation rescues
The fearful refugee.

A Christian nation expects
The rich to lift the poor.
In a truly Christian nation,
Mammon is second to God.

There are nations in the world
Who practice the words of Christ.
There are nations in the world
Who act the Christian life.

The truly Christian nation
Obeys the teachings of Christ,
Transcending pious slogans
With actions that honor Christ.

April 9, 2017

HERE ON EARTH

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven,
[louder] On earth as it is in heaven.

The Social Gospel is calling us
To feed the hungry and heal the sick;
To clothe the naked and guard the weak;
To shelter those without a home.

The Social Gospel is calling us
To change the things that never change:
The painful poverty of the least of us,
The bland indifference of the rich.

The Social Gospel is calling us
To shock the conscience of the prosperous few.
Tell the rich to rise and serve!
Rise and serve your fellow man!

The Social Gospel is calling us
To take a stand for righteousness.
Take a stand and bring about
The Kingdom of God here on earth.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven,
On earth as it is in heaven.

[louder]
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven,
On earth as it is in heaven.

April 8, 2017

CHANGE

For a Memorial Service

The sacred sea defines
Our summed collective soul.

Our infinite designs
Are in the sea’s control.

We scarcely understand
Our fundamental start.

We cannot comprehend
The sum of every part.

As the aeons come and go,
Its silent flow and blend
Is all we ever know;
But now we feel the wind.

A molecule of water
That skims the sacred sea
And breathes corporeal air
Resembles you and me.

As soon as we are tossed
Above the nurturing foam,
This flesh, from found to lost,
Obscures our natural home
In such a pleasing way
We lose the cosmic sweep
Of comely, sunborne spray
Rounded by the deep.

Written for a dying friend in 1992; revised March 9, 2017

STRENGTH AND POWER

1 Corinthians 10:13

The trials we bear are nothing new.
We have the strength.
We have the power.

God is with us; we know it’s true.
We have the strength.
We have the power.

We trust in God day by day.
We have the strength.
We have the power.

We trust in God to show us the way.
We have the strength.
We have the power.

The Lord will grant His saving grace.
The Lord resolves the trials we face.

We have the strength.
We have the power.
Our strength and power come from God.

March 5, 2017

THE PARABLE OF THE HIDDEN TREASURE

Matthew 13:44

The treasure hidden in the field
Is like the kingdom of God.
The treasure hidden in the field
Is being at one with God.

It’s more than health, more than fame,
More than wealth or a proud name.

Eternal pleasure is hard to find.
Your hidden treasure is peace of mind.

If you have the will, you have the way.
Prepare to sell your cares today.

The hidden treasure in the field
Is making your peace with God.
Would you sell all you own
To be at one with God?

February 25, 2017

THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

Matthew 13:31-31, Mark 4:30-32, and Luke 13:18-19

The kingdom of God began
With a solitary man.

The solitary man
Was a tiny seed of one.

Growth began the hour
Jesus revealed his power.

The kingdom of God grew
When Jesus added two.

The kingdom grew some more
When followers numbered four.

There were twelve until the day
A follower fell away.

A handful grew into thousands
And thousands into millions.

Nothing on this earth
Is fully formed at birth.

From a tiny seed of one
A mighty tree was born.

We rose from the garden sod:
Behold the kingdom of God.

February 20, 2017

BRIGHT STARS

Philippians 2:13-15 and 4:6-7

1.

Our will to work for good comes from God.
Live without complaint, without debate.

Be honest; be pure; be perfect children of God.
Live without blemish amid the crowd.

You will shine upon the world like bright stars.
You will shine because you bring the word of life.

2.

There is no need to worry. Live without care.
Don’t be anxious. Take no thought for life.

If you have a need, turn to God in prayer.
Turn to God in prayer and give Him thanks.

May the peace of God that passes understanding
Guard your hearts and thoughts in Jesus Christ.

 

NOTE: Hat tip to W.B. Yeats. Can you find the reference?

February 19, 2017

WE STAND AS ONE

In the place of freedom, here we stand.
In the love of God, here we stand.
In the arms of the savior, here we stand.
We stand as one to praise the Lord.

By the light of scripture, here we stand.
By the rule of reason, here we stand.
By faith alone, here we stand.
We stand as one to praise the Lord.

The Holy Spirit calls us now
To serve the Lord in Jesus’ name.
We bear our witness to His love.
We stand as one to praise the Lord.

In the fog of doubt, here we stand.
In the face of chaos, here we stand.
In the darkest time, here we stand.
We stand as one to praise the Lord

Grounded in faith, here we stand.
Justified by faith, here we stand.
We stand as one to praise the Lord.
We stand as one to praise the Lord.

February 14, 2017

AUGSBURG

Holy Roman Empire, 1530

We cannot justify ourselves before the Lord;
We ask the Lord to grant our justification.

Faith is not the fruit of doing good;
Good works are the fruit of faith and salvation.

Our wrong conduct reveals a lack of faith;
It is faith itself that shows us what is right.

Good works are not the price we pay for faith;
Give us faith, O Lord, to be your children of the light.

January 8, 2017

PETER’S TURNING POINT

Acts 10:1-35

Simon Peter learned a double truth:
That Christ fulfilled the purity laws for food;

What God creates, you must not call common—
What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.

Peter learned that God does not proscribe.
God embraces every tongue and tribe.

Cornelius the gentile was Peter’s turning point.
For you: What will be your turning point?

What God creates, you must not call common—
What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.

January 1, 2017

FAITH AND LOVE

Matthew 25:34-46 and Hebrews 11:1

Faith is trust in the things you cannot see.
Love is service to the least who are plain to see.

Faith without love is life without compassion.
Love without faith is life without a mission.

You honor the Lord by giving your best to others.
Do all you can to help your sisters and brothers.

Walk by confident faith, not by sight.
Trust the Lord to bring you into the light.

Faith and love inspire both head and heart.
This is how the saints are set apart.

December 23, 2016

LOVE THE STRANGER AS YOURSELF

Leviticus 19:33-34, Matthew 25:35, and Romans 10:12

Do not oppress the stranger.
Show your kindness to the stranger.

Do unto the stranger as you
Would have him do to you.

You were once a stranger yourself.
In Egypt, you were kept in thrall.

You know the feeling well.
But God is the Lord of all.

God is the Lord of all
Regardless of race or creed.

Remember, we are called
To help a stranger in need.

Share your shelter and food.
Share your clothing and love.

Love for the greater good.
And be mindful—God is love.

Do not oppress the stranger.
Show your kindness to the stranger.

Do unto the stranger as you
Would have him do to you.

December 17, 2016

WITHOUT INTERMEDIARY

I Samuel 1:1–2:10

1.

Hannah was bitter because
She could not bear a child.

At Shiloh, she rose, weeping,
And stood before the Lord.

O Lord of hosts, she prayed,
Look upon your servant.

Remember me, O Lord.
Don’t forget your servant.

Grant me a male child.
In turn, he’ll live instead

With the Lord for all his days.
No razor shall touch his head.

Eli, the Shiloh priest, thought
Her silent prayer was a sign

Of rudeness and too much drink.
Woman: Put away your wine.

Oh no, I drank no wine.
I am pouring out my heart

To the Lord for my distress.
I am troubled in my heart.

Eli said, Go in peace.
He sent her off with a blessing:

May the God of Israel grant
What you have asked of him.

2.

Though Eli did not know
What Hannah asked of the Lord,

Her humility won him over.
He held her in high regard.

The Lord remembered Hannah.
She conceived and bore a son.

When Samuel, her son, was weaned,
To Shiloh she returned.

She gave her son to Eli
To meet her end of the vow.

3.

Her private plea to God
Is a perfect model for prayer.

Brave Hannah made
A plain appeal to the Lord.

He listens to all: Priests
And persons without regard.

December 10, 2016

A TALE THAT IS TOLD

Psalm 90:9 (Hebrew Bible version)

The storyteller tells our years.
For each of us, the events are new.

The storyteller gives us tears
And laughter, and love false and true.

The days unfold from birth to death.
We cannot keep from growing old.

Our lives are over as in a breath.
Our journey ends as a tale that is told.

December 7, 2016

THE PARABLE OF THE GROWING SEED

Mark 4:26-29

1.

The kingdom of God is like a seed
The farmer pushes into the soil.

Seed and soil produce themselves,
But growth quickens through the farmer’s toil.

After the planting, the farmer waits.
He sleeps and rises night and day.

The seed will grow; he knows not how.
He watches and waits for the wakening day.

First the stalk, and then the head,
And then the full grain at the top.

When the grain is full, the farmer goes
In with his sickle to harvest the crop.

2.

Seed and soil produce themselves.
The patient farmer may water and weed

For myriad days without a sign.
It is just this way when you plant the Word.

Planting the Word is never enough.
You cannot plant and walk away.

While the Word and Faith produce themselves,
Our work goes on to the wakening day.

Be patient, be strong: Do not lose heart.
Wait for the rains, early and late.

We are God’s servants, working together.
Let us rejoice on the harvest date.

December 4, 2016

THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT BANQUET

Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-24

The wedding feast was ready.
Musicians were tuning up.
The table was groaning with food
And wine filled the cups.

The king invited the best
Of subjects, but all withdrew.
They turned him down because
They had better things to do.

One was busy with his oxen.
One was peddling his wares.
One was recently married.
They turned to their own affairs.

The king opened his doors
To all, both good and bad,
To the poor, the crippled, the blind,
And the lame—and they were glad!

They were glad to eat and drink.
As persons, they were the least.
But the king was glad his guests
Were grateful to join his feast.

Christian, are you prepared
For the king’s banquet fare?
Prepare your heart for God
And open your heart to the poor.

December 1, 2016

METTLE

Acts 6:1–7:2a; 44-60

1.

Our first martyr defied the Fates.
Stephen was not resigned and broken.

Stephen faced his trial unbroken.
He stood in the docket for the Christian faith.

Stephen Martyr showed his mettle.
He spoke with courage and affirmation

About his faith to a grim Sanhedrin.
His face looked like that of an angel.

2.

Stephen showed us how to cope.
Even after two thousand years,

We look to him to guard our fears.
Stephen’s mettle gives us hope.

No matter how your life is designed,
Mettle makes your own renown.

Mettle is how your worth is known
To the men and women you leave behind.

NOTE: The Fates were the weavers of predetermined destiny. This was a common pagan belief in the ancient world. This lyric is written for the third Sunday of Easter (4/30/2017).

November 26, 2016

THE PARABLE OF THE RICH FOOL

Luke 12:13-21

He who dies with the most toys wins,
A rich man said.
Today he is dead.
What do you win when death begins?

When death steals you before the dawn,
What is the measure
Of stored up treasure?
Who honors you when you are gone?

NOTE: The quote is attributed to Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990), the wealthy and flamboyant publisher of Forbes magazine. This lyric is written for the fourth Sunday in Lent (3/26/2017).

November 23, 2016

rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn, 1627

DIALOG BETWEEN ATHLETE AND COACH

A duet: Athlete (alto or tenor) and Coach (bass)

Hebrews 12:1-2

I ran my best, but failed to place.
My legs were dead the entire race.

I don’t have wind. I don’t feel strong.
Tell me: What am I doing wrong?

Unless you change, you’ll never win.
You are running races with the weight of sin.

The weight of sin drags you down.
A change of heart wins the crown.

I like the pleasures that come from sin.
Unless you change, you’ll never win.

Defeat or victory is yours to choose.
The life you live is yours to lose.

[Speaking to the congregation in unison]

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

November 22, 2016

THE ELDER CHILD

Luke 15:11-32

1.

Your father’s love is certain. This you know.
All that is his is yours. You know it’s true.

If you are safe and sound in your father’s love
And all his blessings still belong to you,

Why resent the feast for the prodigal son?
Why the sudden anger? Why the scorn?

Your brother once was lost, but now is found.
Your father must rejoice with love unbound.

Your father cares for you: What has changed?
All his goods are yours: What has changed?

2.

For us, this tale is one we understand.
We may be safely wrapped in our father’s love.

We may enjoy the gifts of his generous hand.
But a rush of jealousy can make us doubt his love.

We need to stop and ponder why we doubt.
Why the anger? What is this about?

Our father’s grace extends to every child.
It pleases him when all his children are reconciled.

Our father cares for us: What has changed?
All his goods are ours: What has changed?

Are you the elder child?
Are you the elder child?

NOTE: Written for the third Sunday in Lent (3/19/2017).

November 18, 2016

GEWISSEN†

For Reformation Day on October 31, 2017

Da „mein Gewissen in den Worten Gottes gefangen ist, ich kann und will nichts widerrufen, weil es gefährlich und unmöglich ist, etwas gegen das Gewissen zu tun. Gott helfe mir. Amen.“‡

Unless convinced by the holy scriptures
And the rule of reason, I won’t be moved.
The laws of popes and councils are flawed.
My conscience is captive to the word of God.

I cannot go against my conscience.

Unless convinced by the holy scriptures
And the rule of reason, I rest my case:
It is clear and certain we are justified by faith
And faith alone—and we are saved by grace.

I cannot go against my conscience.

†Gewissen = conscience
‡ Quoted from the German language Wikipedia article about Martin Luther. Here is my translation:

Therefore, my conscience is captive to the word of God, and I cannot and I will not retract anything because it is perilous and wrong to go against conscience. God help me. Amen.

November 5, 2016

luther

My Own Martin Luther Story

I took German for my graduation requirement when I was at Berkeley. German was a difficult language for me. At the time, I was living at Westminster House, the Presbyterian Campus Ministry then on the corner of College Avenue and Bancroft Way.

The receptionist/admin assistant was a young German woman named Sigrid. Her husband was a graduate student. I mentioned to her I was struggling with the German language. She suggested I start reading the Bible in German.

Sigrid found me a Luther Bible in the spring of 1964. I think I paid $5 for it. It is shown in the pictures below. The picture on the left shows the weathered cover with the title Die Heilige Schrift (The Holy Bible). The picture on the right shows the title page, which states: Die Bibel oder die ganze Heilige Schrift des Alten und Neuen Testaments Nach der Übersetzung Martin Luthers (The Bible or the complete Holy Bible with the Old and New Testaments according to the translation of Martin Luther).

It was a great solution for me because I was already very familiar with the Bible and it was easy for me to read the German version without constantly looking up words in the dictionary.

Years later, I was a graduate student myself, and I had to pass the German language test to get my masters degree. I prepared for the test by doing just one thing for an entire year. I read my Luther Bible for about one half hour each day. I was perfectly prepared and I aced the test.

Click to enlarge: luther_bible

Thank you, Dr. Luther!

NOW

James 4:14

Life is like a mist.
It is here for a little while
And then it vanishes.

What is your life?
What is your brother’s life?

Have you sinned against your brother?
Tell your brother you are sorry
Today.

Has your brother sinned against you?
Do your best to reconcile
Today.

It is easy too easy to say, Tomorrow.
When morning comes, we say again,
Tomorrow.

The time will come when you and the sun
Will lay your heads beneath the rim
Of the hills;

In the morning, only the sun will rise.
The time for brothers to heal the hurt
Is now.

What is your life?
What is your brother’s life?

Life is like a mist.
It is here for a little while
And then it vanishes.

October 31, 2016

ALL WE HAVE

Psalm 104: A Setting for Choir

Clothed with honor, wrapped in a robe of light,
You stretch out the heavens like a mighty tent.
You set the beams of your chambers on the waters.
You ride the gliding clouds on wings of the wind.

You make the land; the earth shall never be shaken.
You cover the earth with water like a cloak.
Waters stand above the highest mountain.
But then the waters flee at your rebuke.

O Lord, all we have comes from you.
In death, all we have returns to you.

At the sound of thunder, the waters take to flight.
They roll down to the valleys designed for them.
You set the boundaries that waters may not pass.
Never again will waters cover the earth.

Springs pour out of the ground. Rainwater falls
For the animals and birds and every wild beast.
These waters enable grass and crops to grow.
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of your works.

O Lord, all we have comes from you.
In death, all we have returns to you.

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle in the field.
You grow the plants so people can bring forth
Food from the earth and wine for cheerfulness
And daily bread to strengthen the human heart.

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly.
Birds build their nests in the cedars of Lebanon.
The stork finds his home on the highest branches.
Wild goats are free to roam the mountains.

O Lord, all we have comes from you.
In death, all we have returns to you.

You made the ivory moon to tell the seasons.
The sun knows its time to rise and set.
You made the night when all the forest animals
Come creeping out and return at the break of day.

The young lions seek their food from God.
When the sun rises, they lie down in their dens.
People go out to their labor until the dusk.
In your wisdom, O Lord, everything is arranged.

O Lord, all we have comes from you.
In death, all we have returns to you.

Our world is full of the disparate things you made.
Yonder is the vast expanse of the emerald sea,
Filled with living things both small and great.
The Leviathan is playing. Ships go to and fro.

All creatures look to you to give them food.
You open your generous hand and they are filled.
When you hide your face, they grieve. When you take
Away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

O Lord, all we have comes from you.
In death, all we have returns to you.

May the glory of the Lord endure to the end of time.
May the Lord always rejoice in his wondrous works—
He who looks on the earth and it trembles,
He who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord for as long as I live.
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

O Lord, all we have comes from you.
In death, all we have returns to you.

NOTE: This anthem is intended for both Jewish and Christian congregants.

†This is an abridged version of Psalm 104. This anthem contains about 90 percent of the original. Also, the words are arranged to conform to the rhythm and meter of blank verse.

October 15, 2016

THE GRAFTING OF A NATION

Ruth 2:10-12

When we graft the tissues of plants,
They continue to grow as one.
The lower part is the stock;
The upper part, the scion.

If the grower does it right,
The new improves the old.
The aging stock revives.
A spurt of life takes hold.

Strangers come to our shore.
They worry if they belong.
Our nation is grafting, too.
Are we doing it right or wrong?

Parents work to the bone
So their children are free from fears.
It’s always been this way—
For four hundred years.

When we graft the tissues of people,
They continue to grow as one.
It’s up to us to perfect
The grafting of stock and scion.

October 9, 2016

AT NIGHT

O Lord, support us
All the day long
Until the shadows lengthen

And the evening comes
And the busy world is hushed
And the fever of life is over
And our work is done.

Then in thy mercy
Grant us a safe lodging
And a holy rest
And peace at the last.

NOTE: This is a found poem. It is a family prayer taken from the 1928 U.S. Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal), pp. 594-595.

October 5, 2016

THE YOKE

Matthew 11:29-30

1.

The yoke you wear is the load you bear.
Who will make the yoke you wear?

The yoke you wear is yours alone.
Will you design and build it on your own?

Will you fashion failure for your load?
Will fear burden you on the darkened road?

Will you shoulder anger on the morrow
Or shoulder some remembered sorrow?

2.

A worker in wood has a better way
To lighten your load in every way.

You can trust the carpenter’s son.
He knows why and how it’s done.

Jesus knows the grain of oak.
He will make you a gentle yoke.

His heart is humble—learn from him.
Take his yoke and walk with him.

October 1, 2016

 

BECAUSE OF FAITH

Galatians 3

Because of faith, Abraham’s heirs
Are as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Because of faith, Mosaic law
Kept the people under guard.

Because of faith, you who are called
By Christ Jesus are the children of God.

Because of faith, not works of the flesh,
You already have all you need.

Christians, listen: Do not be fooled.
You cannot work your way to God.

Because of faith and faith alone…
Because of faith and faith alone.

NOTE: Written for the seventh Sunday of Easter (5/28/2017).

September 24, 2016

 

THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM

Acts 15:1-18

Follow the Law or follow the Lord.
In the early church, the Fathers quarreled.
Follow the Law or follow the Lord.
The split was a source of deep discord.

Pharisees who joined the Christian fold
Argued their case for the purity laws.
Converted men from the pagan world
Were bound to follow Mosaic law.

The Apostle Paul disagreed.
The Holy Spirit was more than enough
To bring the pagan world to God.
Paul the lawyer opposed the Law.

The Fathers met in Jerusalem.
A great debate consumed the hall.
Then Peter spoke with his thundering voice:
We are saved by Grace, one and all.

From a tiny sect to a world-wide tent,
History turned on this key event.
The Council rose from out of the fray
To launch the church we know today.

NOTE: Written for the fifth Sunday of Easter (5/14/2017).

September 22, 2016

OPEN MY MIND

Open my mind to the stranger who differs from me.
Empty my mind, O Lord, of ignorance and fear.
Allow me to live in a world where knowledge is free.
Give me a mind, O Lord, that is always clear.

Open my mind to the stranger of another race.
Let me see him as a friend and not the other.
Allow him to be the gracious guest in my space.
As host, I am pleased to do my best for a brother.

Empty my mind, O Lord, of conventional bias.
Open my mind to the norm of same-sex love.
Give me the courage to resist the spitefully pious.
Allow me to assert that love is simply love.

Open my mind to the stranger from a foreign land.
Let me share the warmth of our country’s sun.
If he wants to be my neighbor, I’ll lend a hand.
Our nation’s motto is “Out of many, one.”

Give me the strength, O Lord, not to wait
For a thousand tomorrows to live in brotherly love.
Empty my mind, O Lord, of the ruin of hate.
Open my mind, O Lord, to the rule of love.

September 11, 2016

CELEBRATING PEACE

1.

Today we gather in this faraway space
To celebrate what never took place.

Under this cloudless sky
The Unknown Soldier did not die.

No one was wounded on this spot.
Nary a soldier fired a shot.

No soldier sang a battle hymn
Or killed or died or lost a limb.

On this our distant grassy field,
No corpse was lifted onto a shield.

The world at war is far away;
Let peace begin with us today.

2.

Fog is rising from the thawing ground.
Birds are soaring without a sound.

Cedars shimmer in the morning breeze.
Snowy mountains back the trees.

For a world at war, where do we start?
Peace begins in the human heart.

By changing hearts one by one,
Changed hearts lower the gun.

Today we promise to work for peace,
Changing hearts in the name of peace.

The world at war is far away;
Let peace begin with us today.

September 5, 2016; revised January 31, 2017

Unknown

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery

THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS

Matthew 25:14-30

[Refrain] The master demands a doubling,
Light compounding light.

The master demands a doubling
Of the talents we are given.
The first servant trades
His talents five for ten.

[Refrain] The master demands a doubling,
Light compounding light.

The second servant knows
The master is wanting more
When he returns. He trades
His talents two for four.

[Refrain] The master demands a doubling,
Light compounding light.

The master demands a doubling,
Light compounding light.
For doing nothing,
The fearful servant reaps the night.

[Refrain] The master demands a doubling,
Light compounding light.

For the master, it is troubling
When we choose a blinkered vision.
Let us work at doubling
The talents we are given!

[Refrain] The master demands a doubling,
Light compounding light.

August 27, 2016

THE PROMISE OF PASSOVER

Luke 22

When the hour came, he took his place
With us at table in the upper room
To celebrate in this darkened space
The Passover. The air was laden with gloom;

Retribution would come soon enough.
Then Jesus said, I longed to eat
This meal with you before I suffer;
But until Fulfillment, I must wait.

In the Old Covenant, a spring lamb
Or goat without a blemish was killed.
In the New Covenant—behold the lamb
Who takes away the sin of the world!

This is my body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me, he said.
This cup that is poured out for you
Is the new covenant in my blood.

It was then we knew our Passover feast
Redirected the memory of an old deliverance:
To serve the Lord, despite the cost,
And deliver men from the bonds of sin.

NOTE: Written for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost (10/2/2016).

August 19, 2016

BREAKING THE CONSECRATED BREAD

The condor rises on wings of the present and past.
Warm thermals lift these wings of time.

One wing is all of us in this sacred place.
The other bears the souls of every age.

We fold the Common Era into a single day.
Time slows to a stop with the bread and cup.

And now we eat this bread and drink this cup.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

August 8, 2016

ABRAHAM’S BARGAIN

Genesis 18:16-32

The Lord is angry. I ask the Lord,
“Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
If you are just, would that be fair?”

I stand before the Lord and ask,
“If fifty are righteous, will all be swept away?”
The Lord responds, “For the sake of fifty,
I’ll save them all.”

I am the master of the deal.
I got it down to fifty.
But then I wonder if we have that many.
I’ll bargain for a lower count.

I stand before the Lord and ask,
“If thirty are righteous, will all be swept away?”
The Lord responds, “For the sake of thirty,
I’ll save them all.”

I am the master of the deal.
I got it down to thirty.
But then I wonder if we have that many.
I’ll bargain for a lower count.

I stand before the Lord and ask,
“If ten are righteous, will all be swept away?”
The Lord responds, “For the sake of ten,
I’ll save them all.”

I am the master of the deal.
I got it down to ten.

(Slower)

Then the Lord went his way
And I returned to my place.

(Resume)

The Lord is angry.
I ask the Lord, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
If you are just, would that be fair?”

I am the master of the deal.
But I knew not the hearts of men.
Even ten was a count too high.
Ten souls was a count too high.

In the end, he saved the righteous.
The children of my children fan the earth
Because he was just, he was fair.

(All face the congregation, raise your arms, smile and shout)

I am the master of the deal!

August 2, 2016