Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 50:4-9
  • Psalm 31:9-16
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Matthew 27:11-54

A Moment of Kindness

It was a long time ago,
when I was young and in my prime.
I was entering the city for Passover. Lo and behold,

prisoners were leaving the city at the same time
for their executions. One was Jesus.
He was weak from scourging as he struggled to climb

to the place Golgotha while carrying the cross.
Seeing that I was a Jew,
a Roman soldier tapped me aside the face

with the flat of his sword, and said, “You.”
Pressed into lethal service for the Roman
state, I knew what I had to do.

“Brother, let me lift your burden,”
I said, as I hoisted the wood shoulder high.
Together, we walked the hill to his certain

death. I wonder why
happenstance put me in that time and space.
Why me? Of all the events under the sky,

why I was plucked to show some grace?
I was in the right place at the right time.
A moment of kindness can last a lifetime.

April 5, 2020

If you would like to comment about the poetry or contact me, you can reach me at davebaldwin37@gmail.com.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Year A Readings:

  • Ezekiel 37:1-14
  • Psalm 130
  • Romans 8:6-11
  • John 11:1-45

In the Valley of the Ghost Christians

The hand of the Lord came upon me
and led me on an uncertain mission
to a valley full of ghostly shapes
lying lifeless on the cold ground
in the sullen dawn. When he set me down
amid the valley, I was amazed to hear
the Lord’s voice calling me,
“Mortal, can these ghost Christians live?”
I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”

I began to speak at the Lord’s command.
Shapes rose like twisting smoke
with the rushing sounds of the four winds
as bones came together and flesh
took shape atop the bones, and skin
covered the flesh, and the ghost Christians
once again began to breathe.
The sun broke through the morning haze.
Ghost Christians shimmered in the light,
attentive, as if waiting for instructions.
Then the Lord said to me,
“Prophesy to these ghost Christians:
listen, hear the word of the Lord!”

I heard my voice fill up the valley.
“I do not promise you a land of your own
or sacred soil in our troubled world.
Put aside your worldly concerns
for living in comfort, buying and selling,
securing your place, displacing others.
Remember your baptism, your call to service.
Turn your attention to those in need.
Give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty,
clothe the naked and welcome the stranger,
heal the sick and visit the prisoner.
Now is the time to renew commitment
to the spirit of Christ, which dwells in you.”

When the last echo of my last words
settled into silence, I lowered my eyes
from the distant mountains and witnessed emptiness
in all directions. All of the silence
in this rib-cage valley undergirded
the wings and arc of a solitary raptor.

March 29, 2020

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New Poetry

I have three new poems published on MyEdmondsNews, an online journal for the city of Edmonds. Click this to view. When you open this page, you might get a request for a donation. This will block your view. Click the red button that says CLICK HERE. This opens a second web page where you can make a donation if you want to do that. Go back to the first web page to read the poem.

I wrote a poem about the Coronavirus for my faith community at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Snohomish, WA. It is titled “Mass in Times of a Pandemic.” Click this to view. Also, here is a video of my narration of the poem:

NOTE: A special thank you goes out to my 16-year-old grandson in Florida, Max Renner, for helping me create this video. Max is a skilled programmer already. It appears this young man has a bright future in software engineering. Thanks, Max!

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Fourth Sunday in Lent

Year A Readings:

  • 1 Samuel 16:1-13
  • Psalm 23
  • Ephesians 5:8-14
  • John 9:1-41

God Knows the Heart

We judge our fellow humans 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 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.

NOTE: This poem is now an anthem. My friend Kerry Lewis is the composer. Click this to view the score.

March 22, 2020

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Third Sunday in Lent

Year A Readings:

  • Exodus 17:1-7
  • Psalm 95
  • Romans 5:1-11
  • John 4:5-42

Breaking Bigotry

He broke a rule by talking to a woman.
Women are not to be diminished!
With the woman at the well, he shows us how
to break the rules of gender bigotry.

He broke a rule by talking to a Samaritan.
The woman at the well was part Assyrian.
With the woman at the well, he shows us how
to break the rules of racial bigotry.

He broke a rule by promising a schismatic
Israelite the gift of living water.
With the woman at the well, he shows us how
to break the rules of religious bigotry.

Jesus broke all the rules
that soured his world—and ours today.
Breaking bigotry is job one;
Jesus shows us how it’s done.

March 15, 2020

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Second Sunday in Lent

Year A Readings:

  • Genesis 12:1-4
  • Psalm 121
  • Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
  • John 3:1-17

A Father’s Love

A Father’s love does not depend
on good behavior by his child.
Bad behavior does not suspend
a Father’s love for his child.

A Father’s love is not transactional—
a running score of tit for tat.
A Father’s love is not conditional—
give me this, I’ll give you that.

A Father’s love is never earned
where deeds pile up like points in a game.
He won’t give up when love is spurned;
he patiently waits and won’t cast blame.

A Father’s love is an act of grace
freely given, no strings attached.
The child is sheltered in the sure embrace
of the gracious gift of love unmatched.

March 8, 2020

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First Sunday in Lent

Year A Readings:

  • Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
  • Psalm 32
  • Romans 5:12-19
  • Matthew 4:1-11

This is a Test

The verbs to tempt and to test are not the same.
God did not tempt Abraham to sacrifice his one
and only child, Isaac. For it is written,
“After these things God tested Abraham.”
The devil tempted Jesus to turn stones
into bread to prove he is the son of God.
The devil tempted Jesus to leap from the façade
of the temple and force the angels to cushion his bones.
The devil tempted Jesus with his biggest and best
offer: the splendor of earthly kingdoms if he,
in turn, would worship him; Jesus refused.
Temptations bedevil us every hour of every day
as befits our nature, but do not be confused
when the Lord requires your service: This is a test.

March 1, 2020

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Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Year A Readings:

  • Exodus 24:12-18
  • Psalm 2
  • 2 Peter 1:16-21
  • Matthew 17:1-9

On Prophesy

How do we know if a prophesy is actually true?
Peter says, “No prophecy of scripture is a matter
of one’s own interpretation.” The fakers flatter
themselves by promoting their own private views.

The Lord uses the prophet as a tool of his trade.
God is the inspired writer—the prophet, the pen;
God is the concertmaster—the prophet, the violin.
Trust the Holy Spirit to show you the way.

February 23, 2020

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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Year A Readings:

  • Deuteronomy 30:15-20
  • Psalm 119:1-8
  • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
  • Matthew 5:21-37

[haiku]

planting a dogwood sapling,
four hands pat down the compost…
commitment

[tanka]

we are on our knees
in the garden;
I am weeding, you are planting…
honey bees
move pause move pause

February 16, 2020

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 58:1-9
  • Psalm 112:1-9
  • 1 Corinthians 2:1-12
  • Matthew 5:13-20

The Way

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart
conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him—
these things God has revealed to us through the spirit.

The way eludes the snare
of language. It is hard to catch the wheeling birds
scurrying up helixing stairs,

but harder still to catch the way with words.
The heart that hangs stretched and framed
is not the heart of hearts;

the way that can be named
and then defined is not the way.
The way conceals itself by being nameless.

Abundantly clear from far away,
the mountain up close fades to shades of white;
such vastness mirrors the way.

The patient, widening eye controls the night.
Eventually, patterns emerge,
defining themselves with immanent light,

suggesting a subtle demiurge
behind a shadowy veil
behind another veil on heaven’s edge

behind the tangible veil
of earth; for earth is the pattern for humanity,
then heaven for earth; and through the farthest veil,
the way spins out our destiny.

February 9, 2020

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The Presentation of our Lord

Year A Readings:

  • Malachi 3:1-4
  • Psalm 84
  • Hebrews 2:14-18
  • Luke 2:22-40

What Kind of God?

The gods consume nectar and ambrosia on Olympus
and amuse themselves by looking down on us
dispassionately. Cool detachment is a sardonic business.
Hellenism insists we see things as they are.
For right thinking, the body and its desires are a barrier;
we are cautioned to keep the mind completely clear.

Hebraism counters that the body and its desires
are a barrier to right action. The Lord requires
clarity of thought chastened by strictness of conscience.
The principal rubric of the Law is studied obedience
to the will of God. The Lord has a vertical presence—
aloof except to chastise with corrective fires.

The unknown author of the book of Hebrews crystalizes
the Christology of Paul by defining a different kind
of divinity in which the pioneer of our salvation identifies
with the human condition. Jesus is wholly man
as well as divine and, thus, he thoroughly understands
what it means for us to live imperfect lives.

But there is more. It is well and good to know
the Lord has empathy, unlike the dispassionate pantheon
or the distant God of Moses. It begs the question:
what can be done about our suffering and sorrow?
The pioneer of our salvation has come to earth to show us
exactly what we need for true consolation.

February 2, 2020

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Third Sunday After the Epiphany

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 9:1-4
  • Psalm 27:1, 5-13
  • 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
  • Matthew 4:12-23

Leaving Home

Jesus set out from the pinched, provincial town
of Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake,
one of many towns near the Sea of Galilee.
A fertile region with editable fish in the lake,
Galilee was a prosperous crossroads for trade.
It was also a fertile region for new ideas
where opinions mingled in the heated crucible of debate.
Jesus did not look back. He began his ministry
of teaching, of proclaiming the good news of the kingdom,
and of the healing of bodies and souls for those who asked.
By his example, we know that leaving home
can lead to liberating the best version of ourselves.
A hometown is more than a place: it is a state of mind.
What would it take for you who read these lines
to set out to be the best version of yourself?

January 26, 2020

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Second Sunday After the Epiphany

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 49:1-7
  • Psalm 40:1-12
  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
  • John 1:29-42

Cædmon’s Vision

In the Old English Style

I ken a cross        cleaving clouds
high in the heavens        of purple hue
the mark of my liege         in the middle of morning
suddenly streaming        strange ray-daggers
fiery flames        from Wayland’s forge
burnishing war-bucklers        baring souls
loosening artifice        from feckless lives
who lack conviction        leaving at the last
grim cobble-ground        the gut of groundlings
daring discernment        on judgment day

Who was Cædmon?

Cædmon was the earliest recorded writer of Old English poetry. He lived in seventh century according to Bede’s “Ecclesiastical History of the English people.” Bede translated “Cædmon’s Hymn” from Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon into Latin and praised him as the most inspiring writer of the sacred verse. Unfortunately, most of the poems written by Cædmon are not found. But according to Bede, Cædmon wrote on Christian themes like creation of the world, origin of man, Exodus, Jesus’ incarnation, resurrection, preaching of apostles, terrors of future judgment, pains of hell and delights of heaven.

Cædmon became a lay member of the monastery in his later life and he was not well-educated. But in his vision an angel appeared and blessed him with the gift of composing songs. Cædmon later became a monk and spent the rest of his life in Whitby monastery until he passed away peacefully in 680 A.D.

My poem on this page is based on a story about one of Cædmon’s poems. His actual poem is now lost.

January 19, 2020

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First Sunday After the Epiphany

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 42:1-9
  • Psalm 29
  • Acts 10:34-43
  • Matthew 3:13-17

All the Way to the Coastlands

Isaiah’s camera lens is zooming out
from a close-up shot showing the rubble and despair
of occupied Israel to a wide-angle view,
a cosmic view, of all the nations of the world.
God is not a tribal deity who assures
military mastery or material success for Israel.
He created the heavens and stretched out the earth.
He cares for all living and breathing creatures.

Isaiah promises a spirit-filled servant—
not a conqueror or a tyrant. The servant is the face of justice.
Hard power is swept aside by justice!
The servant will persist until a sense of fairness
holds sway all the way to the coastlands.
Even in this hour as it endures a humiliating plight,
Israel should look beyond itself and serve as a light
to the world by inspiring justice in every land.

January 12, 2020

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The Epiphany

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 60:1-6
  • Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
  • Ephesians 3:1-12
  • Matthew 2:1-12

Herod the Great

A popular belief was abroad in the kingdom of Judea.
Scholars concluded that seventy-six generations
had passed since the Creation, and that the next,
the seventy-seventh, would gift to Israel the Messiah
who was destined to deliver the nation from foreign rule.

A child born in Bethlehem would be the king
of the Jews—as foretold by the prophet Micah.
The Magi spoke these words to Herod the Great.
Herod was frightened, but he feigned excitement.
He said to the Magi, “Go and search diligently

for the child; and when you find him, bring me word
so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
At the time, he was terminally ill with a hideous disease.
His career was one with many bold accomplishments;
it was also one of cruelty, vengeance, and paranoia,

traits in overdrive at the time of the birth of Jesus.
Herod was thoroughly Roman in murdering each
and every rival to his rule, including his wife
and three of his sons. He murdered hundreds more
real and perceived enemies in his final years

as he assured his lasting legacy in the line of succession.
In the end, nothing happened to the child of Bethlehem.
No one mourned for Herod, a converted Jew—
the son of an Edomite father and an Arab mother—
who did the dirty work for the hated Roman state.

January 6, 2020

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Second Sunday After Christmas

Year A Readings:

  • Jeremiah 31:7-14
  • Psalm 84
  • Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19
  • Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Come Together

Come together,
come together
people of faith
from all the farthest parts of earth.

Come together
you who suffer
and you who weep.
A hopeful future lies ahead.

Come together
you with child
and you in labor.
With consolations, I’ll lead you back.

Come together!
The young women
rejoice in the dance
and young men and old are merry.

The Lord who scattered
the remnant of Israel
is gathering us now
as a shepherd keeps an errant flock.

Come together!
Our old mourning
turns to joy.
The people of faith are one again!

January 5, 2020

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First Sunday After Christmas

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 61:10–62:2
  • Psalm 147
  • Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
  • John 1:1-18

Son of Man

The son of man comes to earth.
Like you and me, he draws a breath.
His life is much like ours: a birth,
a coming of age, and then a death.

The son of man is the suffering servant.
He shoulders sins for a world in pain.
It is his role to lift our burden.
He suffers, he dies, he comes again.

The son of man is the sovereign power
to come in glory on judgment day.
No one knows the date and hour
our floating world will pass away.

The son of man is all in one:
person, servant, magistrate.
The faithful are one with the son of man.
He governs all, both small and great.

December 29, 2019

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Christmas Day

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 9:2-7
  • Psalm 96
  • Titus 2:11-14
  • Luke 2:1-14

Long Night’s Journey Into Day

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.

December 25, 2019

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Fourth Sunday in Advent

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 7:10-16
  • Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
  • Romans 1:1-17
  • Matthew 1:18-25

Passages

Passages
from tarn to tide—
a post-amble
to the old transformation,
a preamble to the new.

If I am only
what I am becoming,
I wonder
what matters
before I get there.

Assuming that God’s existence
might be proved
through logic,
would you and I believe
in such an elegant God?

December 22, 2019

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Third Sunday in Advent

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Psalm 146:4-9
  • James 5:7-10
  • Matthew 11:2-11

Our Responsibility

The Lord created the heaven and earth.
He created the seas, and all that is in them.
Man had nothing to do with this.

The Lord gives justice to the oppressed,
sets the prisoners free,
opens the eyes of the blind,

lifts up those who are bowed down,
cares for the stranger,
sustains the widow and orphan,

and frustrates the ways of the wicked.
How are these things done?
They are done by those who love the Lord,

by those who follow his commands.
Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the Lord their God.

December 15, 2019

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Second Sunday in Advent

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
  • Romans 15:4-13
  • Matthew 3:1-12

Bond of Unity

The weak in faith and the strong in faith
and the honest skeptic are bound as one.

The Easter Christian and the everyday saint;
the Jew and Gentile; every man,

woman, and child without regard
for homeland, language, or color of skin:

many differences, but one in faith.
In loyalty and love, we are one.

There is one Christ for all peoples;
the bond of unity is loyalty to him.

December 8, 2019

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First Sunday in Advent

Year A Readings:

  • Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Psalm 122
  • Romans 13:11-14
  • Matthew 24:36-44

Conversion of St. Augustine

In a little while, I’ll make up my mind
to turn away from a life of sin,
but not right now.

I have the want, but not the will.
I ask, O Lord, how long until?
Why not now?

Tolle lege! Tolle lege!
is rendered as, “Take it up and read it!”
You are free

to break the bonds that keep you accursed.
Open the Book and follow the first
verse you see.

Not in carousing, drunkenness, debauchery,
not in sensuality, quarrelling, or jealousy—
put on Christ as a woman or man
puts on a garment.

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ;
make no provisions for the flesh
to find fulfillment.

NOTE: In his Confessions, St. Augustine credits this specific passage in Romans as the scripture that finally prompted him to convert to Christianity.

December 1, 2019

This begins Year (cycle) A

ATTENTION: Click this to view poetry from December 2, 2018.

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