Thomas and Jesus

Thomas and Jesus
Easter 2; John 20:19-31
“Then let us go that we may die with him.”
Brave words of love were these that Thomas spoke.
Could such commitment suddenly grow dim,
or hope destroyed make love a bitter joke?
Why was he absent when Christ first appeared?
Had grief and anger kept him from that sight,
or had the cross become the fate he feared,
and robbed of self-esteem, he turned to flight?
He longed for faith restored, but feared they lied:
their talk of resurrection seemed absurd.
He had to touch Christ’s wounded hands and side,
not stake his life on someone else’s word.
But then Christ came to let him touch and see;
his pain reached out to wounds that set him free.
	Barbara Messner April 2020
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With Fear and Great Joy

With Fear and Great Joy
Easter Day; Matthew 28:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4
Come in, stranger! Be welcome among us,
though I fear you will shrink in discomfort
from uncomfortable seats and page turning,
and from songs about dying and rising
in the old-fashioned words of our hymn book.

I fear scorn as I try to imagine
how communion might seem to a stranger:
wine and bread as Christ’s blood and his body.
It’s no wonder historical gossip
talked of cannibal rites among Christians.

Though perhaps your attendance at Easter
counts with Gran as a sign of your caring,
still you hold yourself tight, at a distance,
eyes averted and crossed arms defensive,
as though fearing that faith might be catching.

Can you see in my face real thanksgiving,
though traditional words may not reach you?
I say, “Lift up your hearts!” and I’m lifted
to rejoice in his words, consecrating
bread and wine and these people for service.

Celebrating, communing, connected,
I enact once again Jesus with us.
Bread and wine are the gift of his loving,
broken body entombed and then rising
to include us in his living presence.

The communicants slowly move forward.
If you dare to look up, you might see them,
faces lit by a shared expectation.
At the altar, they swallow the wafer,
thin and dry as a circle of cardboard.

Then the people return to their places,
calm and thankful, or glowing and dreamy.
Can you sense they’ve done something with meaning?
Wafer dotted with wine seems a token,
but for us it embodies the sacred.

We commune in our grief and our sharing,
in our prayer for the world and creation.
Broken bread and wine poured in the chalice
become more than remembrance of Jesus.
Bread and wine are transformed and transforming.

We commune in the stirring of Spirit
as each Sunday affirms love is risen,
and we know that the tomb is left empty.
Here we share in his wholeness and wisdom,
his compassion and fervour for justice.

Stranger, look, let your sight turn to vision!
Stranger, listen, as words turn to singing!
Then like bread that is changed in the oven,
or like wine that matures to enliven,
this communion might feed and delight you.
	Barbara Messner 4/04/2023

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The Path from Palms to Cross

The Path from Palms to Cross
Palm Sunday; Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
Short is the path linking palms to cross:
mockery waits for the fall of fame;
hope of gain turns at the threat of loss;
those who would idolize him now blame.

God seems reluctant to do our will;
we need a hero who’ll help us win.
Then if the Chosen won’t fit the bill,
make him a scapegoat to bear our sin.

They think they’re paying us to betray;
we hope to motivate his attack.
When he’s condemned, we throw down our pay;
by then, that silver can’t buy him back.

We might despair at the wrong we’ve done,
seeing him go to the cross and grave,
but he forgives, and we see what’s won
by one who dies that new life might save.
	Barbara Messner 28/03/2023
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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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