The Poet’s Call to Connect

The Poet’s Call to Connect
Lent 5; Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11;1-45
To seek connection is the poet’s art.
In metaphor the meaning is revealed
to souls responding with a joyous start,
with ardent breath and spring of tears that yield
an opening into mystery’s large heart.

Then stories stir like bones at prophet’s word,
connecting, standing up to meet us now,
alive with Spirit breath that word has stirred.
Oh, do not ask for proof of when or how,
but recognize that somehow God is heard.

Can that dead brother, bound and in the tomb,
be likened to the soul of Western world,
awaiting calling out from that closed room?
Let stones be rolled aside and limbs unfurled,
and Spirit breathe new hope in place of doom.

Now women here might wait to greet the One
whose word can heal, and call soul out of death.
Let us, like Martha, recognize God’s Son,
and speak of the Messiah with Spirit breath
that stirs the dead and leaves the grave undone.
	Barbara Messner 22/03/2023

A Man Born Blind

A Man Born Blind
Lent 4; John 9:1-41
A man born blind finds more to see than those
who choose to set aside the gift of sight
for fear of what may face them in the light:
the chasms gaping in the path they chose,
the pools of darkness that their shadow throws;
for these, without awareness of their plight,
refuse the vision which might set them right,
and miss the hope which light might yet disclose.
The man born blind found light enough to see
the healing offered in the spit and dirt,
to find the pool to which he had been sent,
to wash away the darkness and be free,
and then despite rejection, scorn and hurt,
proclaim the truth of what his healing meant.
            Barbara Messner (date?)

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The Woman at the Well

The Woman at the Well
Lent 3; John 4:5-42
She came at noon to skip the village talk.
She’d rather have the heat than veiled disdain.
He stayed at noon and let disciples walk,
and when she came for water sensed her pain.
He broke taboos in asking for a drink.
“How is it, you, a Jew, ask that of me,
Samaritan and woman? Should you shrink
from this uncleanness that you see?”
He said, “I’m thirsty. This is Jacob’s well.
I see in you a heart from custom sore,
a mind with strength to range and power to tell;
so drink of who I am and thirst no more.”
She told them “Come and see,” and many came:
evangelist and woman without name.
	Barbara Messner 26/11/2022

Nicodemus at Night

Nicodemus at Night 
Lent 2; John 3:1-17
Then Nicodemus came by night –
a man of law-trained, literal mind
replete with Scripture he could cite.
He knew his peers would be unkind,
so sure of ways they thought were right,
but he must see what he would find.

Perhaps this Jesus came from God -
some words rang true, he’d seen the signs,
but what he heard this night was odd,
and blurred the clarity of lines
to which he’d always given the nod,
assured by what the law defines.

What might it mean to be reborn?
His reason would not give that room,
and challenged, he replied with scorn:
“A second time in mother’s womb?”
Yet hope was stirred like wind at dawn.
If God is love, the world might bloom.

“How can this be?” A longing doubt
unsettles all he thought he knew.
Sometimes like him we twist about,
and try to test what might be true,
but then God’s love will call us out,
and Spirit birth a life made new.
	Barbara Messner 26/05/2021

In the Wilderness

In the Wilderness
Lent 1; Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus fasted in the wilderness
at the beginning of his ministry.
Baptized, commissioned, 
he was led up by the Spirit
to be tempted by the devil –
holy and diabolical collaboration?
He rejected programs for happiness
based on instinctual needs
for security, esteem, power –
so writes Thomas Keating,
a wise one of the faith.

I look back at my ministry
from retirement, that genteel wilderness.
Where has the Spirit led me
into tempting and testing 
in harsh and lonely lands?

Security as a program for happiness?
My placements were often taxing, 
but paid part-time. Survival
seemed to demand extra work – 
a fast from needed rest.
Exhaustion served security,
rebuilding a home for retirement.
Was that a temptation,
or delayed self-care?

As for esteem, yes, I know,
for me that promises happiness,
false if it becomes a craving,
but affirmation is a connection,
a gift gratefully received,
and sometimes public esteem
enabled pursuit of vocation.
Jesus had his disciples
who affirmed his identity,
the voice of God that spoke
of love and listening.

Did I desire power? 
I lamented its lack,
my failure to make a difference.
I valued cooperation,
not dominance or manipulation,
but had no vision for effective change,
only for reflection and imagination.
I claimed time for the gifts
of poetry and performance,
and so exercised my power, 
gained supportive esteem,
made bread for survival.
Yes, it was for the kingdom,
but also for me, for whatever growth
I could wring from thin, dry earth.

How to defeat temptation?
Jesus answered with Scripture verses, 
spoken with appropriate authority.
The devil quoted Scripture,
but politely accepted that defence.
I write both questions and insights,
exploring the meaning, naming
the wilderness and temptations.
Do honest, painful words
keep the tempting shadow at bay,
or perhaps attempt detente?
After dialogue with the devil,
if I maintain some integrity,
will the wilderness flare
with Spirit flame as angels stoop?
	Barbara Messner 22/02/2023
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The Mountain (lyrics)

The Mountain (lyrics)
sung to Aberystwyth by Joseph Parry or Hollingside by John Bacchus Dykes (tunes for Jesus, lover of my soul)
Transfiguration; Matthew 17: 1-9
Climb this mountain path with me,
lest I slip or lose my way.
Show me vistas we can see
when we’ve scaled the heights and pray.
As I watch, my mind grows still,
so I see by inner sight –
not my dreams or restless will –
but you, bathed in radiant light.

Timeless wisdom greets the wise,
those who spoke out for the One;
cloud of glory sails the skies,
voice of God tells love of Son.
How to keep this vision clear?
I would grasp it, hold it fast.
Revelation has come near;
closed in stone, will knowing last?

Overwhelmed am I with fear,
falling to the bruising ground.
Seems I may not linger here
with that light of love around.
I must face a dark descent,
silent, dazed, inside my head.
Glory briefly came and went -
showed him risen from the dead?
	Barbara Messner 16/02/2023

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Passive Resistance

Passive Resistance
Epiphany 7; Matthew 5:38-48
On mount or plain he teaches wisdom’s word:
“When someone strikes you, turn the other cheek!”
So counter-cultural, it seems absurd:
how can he dare to claim: “Blessed are the meek?”
You can’t defend your land if hands are slack.
The law says: “Tooth for tooth and eye for eye!”
Why then give up the right to hurt them back?
Survival instinct urges: “Fight or fly!”
while he goes silent, undefended to his death.
There’s courage there, but can he claim to win?
The enemies he loves deny him breath;
no heavenly hosts descend to conquer sin:
and yet, there’s Gandhi, Martin Luther King:
their deaths life-giving, like the thorn-crowned King.
         Barbara Messner February 2017
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Walking in the Ways of God (lyrics)

Walking in the Ways of God (Lyrics of a Song)
Epiphany 6; Matthew 5: 21-48
1.When you’re angry, find some space;
(walking in the ways of God)
breathe and seek a healing place.
(talking in the ways of God)
Don’t insult or call them names!
Leave their tit-for-tatting games!
(walking in the ways of God;
talking in the ways of God.)

2. If they claim your word offends,
(walking in the ways of God)
be the one to make amends.
(talking in the ways of God)
Anger at the wrongs you see
can inspire a fervent plea.
(walking in the ways of God;
talking in the ways of God.)

3. When relationships grow sour,
(walking in the ways of God)
try to change abuse of power.
(talking in the ways of God.)
Women, children, in harm’s way -
turn the cheek does not mean stay.
(walking in the ways of God;
talking in the ways of God.)

4. Help the ones who spoil your day;
(walking in the ways of God)
love your enemies and pray.
(talking in the ways of God)
God gives love, like rain and sun,
judgement free for everyone.
(walking in the ways of God;
talking in the ways of God.)
	Barbara Messner 3/02/2023

Click to access walking-in-the-ways-of-god.pdf

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Salt of the Earth, Light of the World

Salt of the earth, light of the world

Epiphany 5; Matthew 5:13-20
If we, like salt, bring savour, and conserve
the earth, can we retain that quality?
Will words that sparkle on the tongue preserve
creation’s rights, and battle entropy?
If we are light that’s set upon a hill,
can we remain connected to a power
that through all blackouts keeps light burning still,
a glow of promise in the darkest hour?
If God’s commandments are our salt and light
to share with others in our dubious world,
how might we read that compass in the night,
and in the tempest, hold that map unfurled,
until like prisms, hearts share rainbow light,
while fields of salt beneath the sun flare white.
Barbara Messner February 2020

Blessed are Those, but What about Me?

Blessed are those, but what about me?
Epiphany 4; Matthew 5:1-12
Ah! the Beatitudes!
Why do I read them with unease?
Do I flinch from the suffering,
dare not claim the virtues?
Can I see them as be-attitudes,
sometimes experienced, often not,
seldom attained by will and effort,
their blessings paradoxical?

Consider my poverty of spirit.
It’s not a chosen humility,
but an unstable mix of insecure self-blame
and acceptance of my gifts and confidence.
Chaotic emotions have always been 
close to my surface, soon exposed
when problems multiply.
Then I teeter on the edge of darkness
with tears slippery underfoot.
Perhaps it is the kingdom of heaven
that baptizes me with weeping
and sets me upright again.

Of course I mourn, who does not?
Life brings losses, deaths and failure.
I seek the illusion of comfort
in distraction, though I know
only sitting with grief and sharing it
bring the blessing of real comfort.

Meekness is not a state I trust.
I have been mild too often
when I wanted to stand up and speak out.
Then perhaps I might have been blessed 
with hunger and thirst for righteousness
which earn the right to be filled.

Mercy I desire but don’t often dispense:
annual donations, some time as a chaplain,
this ongoing domestic caring,
minor but sometimes onerous.

Perhaps there are patches of pure heartedness,
or at least a grateful awareness
where I do see God in a bird
and a tree, a word and worship.

I want to be a peacemaker,
but more often I’m an accommodator
who longs to avoid conflict.
God still loves that child in me.

As for being reviled and persecuted,
given the world’s history of cruelty,
what’s the small suffering of being bullied,
receiving criticism, being pressured to conform?
I acknowledge the pettiness of such pain,
but don’t manage to rejoice.
Though I try to write honestly
when prophetic words come,
I don’t relish a prophet’s fate.

Yet blessings have come to me
through grief and struggle,
humiliation and failure,
and my all too human vulnerability.
Like Job hearing God in the whirlwind,
I have received the blessing
of God’s bracing presence.
	Barbara Messner 24/01/2023