Do Not Be Afraid, Little Flock

Do Not Be Afraid, Little Flock
Pentecost 9; Luke 12:32-40
Little flocks in our churches are dwindling.
Can we hear his words: “Don’t be afraid!”?
Is God’s Kingdom in need of rekindling,
or is Church a possession we’ve made?

If we’re asked what it is that we treasure,
is it prayer books and organs and stone,
or is meeting together our pleasure,
sharing caring and bread, not alone?

Are we waiting to hear Jesus knocking?
Do we find him already inside?
Are there spaces still needing unlocking?
Are we open, or hoarding our pride?

When we sing to God’s praise, are our voices
full of joy that the Kingdom is near?
Is the Spirit the guide to our choices?
In our love is Christ’s presence made clear?

Unexpected, he comes. Are we ready?
Will we know him stripped bare and made poor?
Can we step out to join him, unsteady
in our fear of the wind far from shore?

Can we reach for his hand and be lifted?
Do the waves of our chaos subside?
Can we wait in his peace, and be gifted
with the strength to move on at his side?
	Barbara Messner 3/08/2022

Beware Greed

Beware Greed
Pentecost 8; Luke 12:13-21
See, are not our nations like the rich man,
greedy to possess the earth’s abundance,
eager to build bigger and own more than
anyone could need, ignoring conscience?

White men came, built fences round this country,
hounded, killed, abused First Nations’ peoples,
trampled on millenia of their story.
Forests fell for skyscrapers and steeples.

Mining has invaded sacred places.
Stripped of bush, the ploughed land is denuded.
Human life, once honouring Earth’s graces,
risked extinction since our greed intruded.

Eating more and drinking, making merry,
came to be our substitute for sharing.
Fools, we’ll see the Earth rise up and bury
wealth that’s godless, profit without caring.
	Barbara Messner 27/07/2022

Stones or Bread

Stones or Bread
Pentecost 7; Luke 11:1-13
Who gives their child a stone instead of bread?
Who leaves the living land denuded, dead?
We give good gifts to nurture family;
Earth too is our responsibility.
God gives the Holy Spirit, if we ask,
to stir our will for each redemptive task.
Let’s knock and walk on through each opening door,
and ask for gifts to nurture and restore.
We will be given what we need to give,
and searching finds us better ways to live,
for those with vision can discern the way
that leads through darkness to the break of day.
Seek wisdom from the elders who love Earth,
and find the humble mid-wives guiding birth.
	Barbara Messner 1907/2022

Martha Revisited

Martha Revisited
Pentecost 6; Luke 10:38-42
Her resentfulness soon surfaced
when once more she’s left alone
with a meal to be provided.
She must make the task her own
since no helping hands are offered.
She drags out a hefty pot;
they’ll have needs and expectations,
whether verbalized or not.

They have gathered in the courtyard
to receive the teacher’s word.
She has seen her sister out there –
her own longing goes unheard.
What if she might sit and listen,
sitting rapt at Jesus’ feet?
Then their bellies would be empty 
when the teaching was complete.

When her friend appears, she’s hurting,
and she hears herself complain:
“Send my sister in to help me!”
(though there’s only points to gain,
for the food is now assembled).
Jesus sees the mood she brings.
“Martha! Martha! you’re distracted!
You take on too many things!

You are caught between your longing
and the role you’re taught to bear.
If you hadn’t catered for us,
do you think that I would care?
If it was your way of loving,
might you do it and be glad?
Now you bow to what’s expected,
then you’re seething and you’re sad.

Mary’s absence stirred your anger
since she claimed what you desire.
Come and sit, be present with me,
seek the source of sacred fire.
Find the Wisdom Woman in you,
speak the insights that ring true.
I’ll support your bid for freedom,
help you find yourself anew."
	Barbara Messner 12/07/2022

The Lawyer’s Test

The Lawyer’s Test
Pentecost 5; Luke 10:25-28
A lawyer came to test this man, but found
his plan exposed, the test turned round.
He’d thought to strip away a fake’s disguise,
but truth shone clear in Jesus’ eyes.
The lawyer claimed eternal life was sought,
but what he found could not be taught.

When Jesus asked, “What’s written in the law?
What do you read?” he thought he saw
that he was being asked what he found true,
not to recite some words he knew.
He started there, but felt his spirit led
beyond the well-known verse he said.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all …”
His glibness stumbled. Would it fall?
“with all your heart and soul and strength and mind.”
Had “mind” been added to remind
his trained intent to search for something more,
a hidden truth still to explore?

A fragment from Leviticus nineteen
emerged, demanding to be seen:
“You shall love your neighbour as yourself”
fell neatly from his inner shelf.
A sudden understanding shaped his soul:
“Love God and neighbour” makes life whole.
	Barbara Messner 5/07/2022

The Ordained

The Ordained
Pentecost 4; Luke 10:1-12, 17-24, Luke 9:1-6; Mark 6:30-52
In Luke’s gospel, chapter 9, 12 were sent out –
12 he had ordained, we might say –
New Creation version of the 12 tribes.
They brought good news and healing,
but they got back exhausted,
grieving the execution of the Baptist.
They could not cope with feeding 5,000,
and Mark says they were nearly swamped
until Jesus came to them on water,
saying, “Take heart: it is I.”

In chapter 10, he sent out 70 (or 72) –
the number of nations after Noah and before Babel,
symbol of a restored and unified world.
This time he sent them in pairs
but with no means of sustenance.
If unwelcome, they were instructed
to shake the dust from their feet.
They returned with joy in achievement,
proud of their power over evil.
Jesus warned them not to savour that,
but to find joy in being called for service.
Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit,
pointing out that wisdom comes to infants,
and not to those who think themselves clever.

When I was ordained, we were few.
Did I scrape in because I was clever,
though too old, unconventional and female?
I have spent 15 years leaving behind 
academic achievement in the hope
of being open to Wisdom, and trying
to hear others respectfully.
The house I first entered had no peace;
the wolves wore gatekeepers’ clothing,
yet I was welcomed by many.
I might have had a purse, but still
felt stripped of security, even identity:
I wish we had been sent out in pairs.
I have tried to shake off the dust,
but it clings, it clings, blurring my eyes.
Yet I know at times the Kingdom of God
comes near, and the Son seems clear.
Sometimes I think I hear what others desire to hear.
 	Barbara Messner 28/06/2022

Winter Solstice in Covid Isolation

Winter Solstice in Covid Isolation
The longest night has passed. I can expect
light sooner as each stretch of dark goes by.
I creep from isolation to the deck,
watch foam-white clouds ride currents in the sky.
Seen through the carded white, the blue’s immense;
my walls await but here let spirit stretch,
and face without a mask become less tense.
My thoughts play gently with the words they fetch.
Constraint impairs what has been my release:
to let myself expand in quiet space,
less pressured from outside, less taut within.
Here sight of sun and sky bring healing grace,
and words bring promise from beyond the walls
that though I now feel stuck, potential calls.
	Barbara Messner 27/06/2022

Somewhere Beside the Road

Somewhere Beside the Road (lyrics)
Pentecost 3; Luke 9:57-62
1.Somewhere beside the road
someone was moved to say:
“I want to follow you!
Near you, I know the way.”
“Birds of the air have nests,
and foxes have holes,” he said,
“but home among humankind,
where can I lay my head?”

2. No room for him within,
not even to be born!
Kings but no kingdom come;
straw feels as harsh as thorn.
“Here in my Father’s house,
you know I’ll be found,” he said,
but those whom he challenged there
plotted to see him dead.

3. “Dance when I play your tune; 
mourn when it’s time to weep.”
Words fall on deafened ears,
tears on eyes blind with sleep.
“Deafness can ask to hear,
and blindness can seek for sight.
Just knock and I’ll let you in;
darkness gives way to light.”

4. See where he laid his head,
pierced by the mocking crown!
Empty the shroud is left;
death could not pin him down.
“Follow and don’t look back,
but leave to the dead what’s dead.
Come all who bear a load;
welcome! There’s wine and bread.”
	Barbara Messner January 2008
The Song

Ceasefire

Ceasefire
Pentecost 3; Luke 9:51-62
He had no truck with hatred’s tit-for-tat.
His face was set towards Jerusalem:
Samaritans rejected him for that.
The brothers wanted fire called down on them.
They’d answer coldness with destructive heat,
but he rebuked them, simply went elsewhere,
no honour lost, no shame for humble feet.
Forget reprisals, his main goal was care.
If only human history had learned,
but fire so often fell from vengeful skies,
and treasures of the ages then lay burned,
and escalating fire to fire replies.
He showed the way to peace the world must seek:
he loved his enemies and turned his cheek.
	Barbara Messner 21/06/2022



In the Land Opposite Galilee

In the Land Opposite Galilee
Pentecost 2; Luke 8: 26-39
He’d break his bonds and flee into the wild –
a city man by unclean powers possessed,
in lands the Roman legions occupied.
The spirits said that “Legion” was their name.
When demon-driven pigs fell in the lake,
was that a portent of defeat of arms?
If we could exorcize the power of guns,
would fewer people die when violence harms?

Should faith be exiled from affairs of state,
or is it side-lined by our arrogance?
The games that rival politicians play
are tuned to profit, privilege and pride –
dominions Jesus died to set aside.
Can we speak out to sweep our unclean rooms,
and exorcize the madness of our day
that leaves us chained and naked among tombs?

Some say the Spirit transformed Roman rape
to birth upon the earth the Son of God.
Empire and temple certainly conspired
to nail upon the cross the Son of Man,
but soldiers guarding could not keep the stone
upon a tomb now empty to the light.
When Saul set out to use self-righteous force,
he found himself upended, without sight.

The people who had owned the herd of pigs
told Jesus to depart and let them be.
He sent the man who now was clothed and sane
to tell the truth of how he was set free.
The power to speak and hear at Pentecost
was felt by those who came from many lands.
Do we share eloquence to name and cleanse?
Can Wisdom’s words inspire restoring hands?
	Barbara Messner 17/06/2022