Restoration: A Poem from the Land, Aaron, David, & God the Father

In the beginning there was God and there was me

Cyclones of chaos were my entire entity

Ever swirling, ever turbulent were my seas

But then I submitted to his divine authority

Who am I, you may wonder, what creature am I?

I am your voiceless sister, the land on which you live and die.

Gysers exploded, mud dried, stars filled the sky.

The world became His tabernacle – my lowest low – my highest high.

*

In the beginning there was God and there was me.

Then we were joined by an Adam, and an Eve.

Together we existed in complete harmony.

With you walking in my garden, eating all I could provide

Nothing was found lacking, and my waters never dried

But oh, how could you do it? Why did you want to live that lie?

Do not ask me to forgive you – you have forced my very rocks to cry.

*

In the beginning there was God and there was me.

But then God had to eradicate this Adam and this Eve

And I felt the fracture

These once-close traitors left me brown, let me bare

I am no longer lush, I am no longer fair.

They had two children, two clashing sons.

I never met them, but I tasted one.

I was powerless to reject the blood’s bitter tang,

I could not fight back, I don’t have fangs.

Why did you humans scar me? How could you abandon me so.

It was foreign, invasive – completely unknown

I had no defense mechanism against it.

I could not vomit it out

nor swallow it whole.

Instead it stewed into my inward parts.

My chaos, it seemed, has become reclaimed.

For chaos is now a human game.

Do you feel the shifting sands?

Can I no longer harbor you like the sister that I am?

Do you lament that God and I not longer walk hand-in-hand

. . . because of you
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30 Silver Coins: Judas’ Last Supper

On this resurrection day I am going to re-tell a familiar story that is found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 13. To do this, I’m going to do something that every Seminary student is told NOT to do: combine the 4 gospels together into one story.  I’m doing this because the character in question is painted differently in each gospel account – but I want to represent him as best as I can.

And so, without further ado, I would like to tell you the story of the first communion.

A young man entered into the upper room with his brothers; maybe he was laughing or maybe he was stoic, maybe he was looking for an opportunity to serve his own agenda. To be honest, I am not sure; I have heard it told different ways- four to be exact. What I do know is that he reclined on the floor with 12 other people – 11 teenagers, learning from one peculiar teacher. They gathered for the yearly feast in Jerusalem, not realizing that this particular Passover meal would be the unique – it would be the first of a new tradition – a new way of life. And so, these 13 people reclined on the floor, eating, celebrating their history, their friendship, and their God.

But at one point during the supper, the teacher, a man named Jesus, spoke odd words and the mood changed. He looked around the room, at the upturned faces of the twelve followers and said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” And then he continued to pass the bread. Immediately the young disciples turned to one another asking, “Is it me? Surely I wouldn’t do that!” There was terror in their voices for they loved their teacher. And according to the gospel of Mark, Jesus answered, “It is one of the twelve – one who is dipping bread into the dish with me”.

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Advent with King Herod: Peace

A note on the following:

First, this post is meant to be performed, therefore, the written form is missing an important element: Herod’s paranoia. When I perform this, the “craziness” starts to come out about half-way through and builds and builds until the end. So when reading, remember that there is a very unstable voice behind the words. Herod was brilliant – but he died  a very sick man.

Second, everything written is meant to be historically accurate. But for the purposes of simplicity, I wrote this with the omission of the Hasmonean Dynasty. Since only people who have studied Second Temple Judaism would be aware of it’s existence and political influence. Therefore, every time you see and asterisk*, know that I am referencing the Davidic monarchy instead of the recent Hasmonean one. 

Advent with King Herod: Peace

History has not been kind to me. And you, you people here in the pews are the ones who turned me into a villain. You have turned me into an old, fat King who gave orders to kill your favored child, the alleged King of the Jews. I have to scoff at that. There is no such thing as a King of the Jews, nor will there ever be! You call him a king? I’m not even a King, yet your silly Holy Book calls me one. So let me set the record straight. Maybe you care to hear my side of the story. My name is “King” Herod, and what I did – I did for peace.

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Advent with Mary: Joy

From the time I was old enough to help out my mother, my mom had a favored topic of conversation: pregnancy. She had trouble conceiving – so I grew up hearing about how I was her miracle child. I was conceived late in her life. And as I grew up, she told me how she related to the matriarchs of old. She told me she was like Sarah, who wanted a child. But it wasn’t until Sarah accepted the child God wanted that she bore one. She told me she was like Hannah, who wanted a child so bad that she was accused of being drunk as she prayed for a son. So my mother, being a godly woman, prayed that same prayer Hannah prayed. She asked for a child that was within God’s plan. Not for one that she wanted. I was the result and my name is Mary.

Not only did I grow up hearing about my mother’s barrenness – but I also heard about it from my cousin Elizabeth who we visited every year after the barley harvest. Although Elizabeth is my cousin, she is my mother’s age – the child of my mother’s oldest sister. And Elizabeth and my mother held something in common: they simply struggled to conceive.

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Advent with Joseph: Love

Out of all the people in our Holy Book, I think I might be one of the most mysterious. People debate about me all the time. Some say that I was young, in my early twenties, when I decided to marry. After all, that is when the average man got married in my day. Then others say that I was older when I married her, that it was my second marriage, that I already had a few kids by my first wife who died young.

Some say I was a well-learned man, that I had a formal education, that I taught my son the Law. Then others claim that I didn’t know much at all, at least in book smarts. The truth is, you don’t read much about me in scripture at all. My name is Joseph, the carpenter. And I am the earthly father of Jesus Christ.

If you came here today seeking the details of my life, I must confess, you will be disappointed. But if you came to hear to listen to my story – and the struggle I’ve been in – then maybe you won’t be disappointed at all.

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Advent with Gabriel: Hope

This is intended to be performed as a monologue for the first week of Advent:

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you” – no that doesn’t sound right. “Greetings.” Clears throat. “Greetings. Behold, you will conceive and bear a son” I’ve delivered a lot of messages in my lifetime. More than you can imagine – most of them have never been recorded, not even in your holy text. But this message, this new message I’ve been practicing is confounding even for me: the ever-watchful Gabriel, one of the 7 archangels of heaven.

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Forgotten: Giving Voice to the Genesis Serpent

I have always been fascinated by the recurrence of Serpents in Ancient Near Eastern literature (this is the literature that matches the Bible in both geography and time). I have also found myself frustrated with views that place the Serpent in Genesis 3 as Satan (something that was not a concept at the writing of Genesis) as well has being frustrated with those who say that the Serpent is nothing more than an animal.  For Serpents were seen as cunning agents of wisdom – something that comes to light when one reads ancient literature. Therefore, I decided to give the Serpent that is displayed in Ancient literature (including Genesis) a voice.

The following story is told from the Serpent’s perspective.  And this Serpent combines three famous Serpents into one character.  These serpents come from Genesis, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Atrahasis. Some readers may have a problem in the way I approach the subject becaue I do not start the story at Genesis. To this, I will answer that I approach the subject as the scribe going throughout the major written works and putting them in written order.  My intent it to give modern readers an ancient understanding of what snakes were and how that image influenced the philosophy of the Serpent. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to: The Serpent.

——————

I’m disappointed in you. I’m sad that I need an introduction to be recognized. Is it true that you don’t know who I am? After all, I am very familiar with you.

Oh how far you’ve fallen!

Allow me to tell you my proliferate history: I once knew all the ancient gods, I knew their names and I knew when they were born. I knew what gods loved what goddesses, and who lusted after whom. But most importantly, I knew who wanted to kill who. And . . . if it was in my best interest – I may have been known to assist in those deaths. (Always behind closed doors of course.) And yet . . . you still don’t recognize me. You and I share an intimate history, yet . . . you don’t remember me at all? Am I not worth remembrance?

I go by many names. I have been called Cunning. I have been called Wise. But you – you pitiful creatures – call me Serpent, reducing me to nothing more than a dumb beast that wanders the land! To be nothing more than one line in your holy book!

Oh how far I’ve fallen!

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Day of Atonement: Thoughts After Ash Wednesday

 This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.– Leviticus 16:34
“Remember that you are dust, and to the dust you will return” – Anglican Liturgy

 

Jerusalem, 50 BC:

Baruch felt a lump rise in his throat as he approached the walls of the Temple Court in Jerusalem. His small flock of goats had traveled with him from Bethlehem to Jerusalem over the last few days, and sadly, he knew the lives of four of them were coming to an end.

Baruch was no stranger to the death of his animals. As a shepherd among the priestly order, he was used to making the five mile trip to Jerusalem; used to handing the best of his goats over to the Levites. But today was a personal first; today he would be handing over the four best of his flock for a very specific purpose.

So it was with a heavy heart that Baruch entered the temple courts as his flock was picked over.  While four of the unblemished animals were taken, he looked over and saw a large bull being brought through the southern temple door, a doorway that was reserved only for the transportation of animals to sacrifice.

Baruch felt out of place on this dawn morning. Normally, the temple would be rowdy with sound. Horns would be blown to welcome the new day, coins could be heard rattling as they fell into clay pots, the hooting of hundreds of pigeons would resound, teachers would yell across the courtyard while observant women chanted from the upper walls. But not on this dawning day.

Today, the court and the temple stood silent.

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Image of God: Dust of the Earth

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26

  • “Then the LORD God formed the man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” – Genesis 2:7-8

Sumer, 2800 BC:

The largest city in the Fertile Crescent is home to hundreds of people, thousands of animals, family houses, and a giant Temple that stretches to the sky. But at night the bloated city sleeps. Except on this night an odd group of people move throughout the tired walls as the midnight darkness descends over the land. In the pale moonlight the small band of men move their way towards the sacred garden within the city walls.

Among this group of people are a few temple priests, an idol-maker, and his apprentice son. In the hands of the elder craftsman is an earthen idol, a little man with small arms, strong legs, and painted eyes. The craftsman’s son holds another idol, a stone woman with large breasts, wide hips, and a jeweled necklace. The men are careful as they bare these precious vessels across the city. And the tools that were used to make them hang from sacks across the idol-makers’ backs.

The group slows as they approach the city’s sacred garden. Once they cross the threshold into the lush greenery, the craftsmen hold out the idols for the priests to take. Once the priests take hold of them, they start to sing the sacred chants. The craftsman’s son tries to follow the priests to the center of the garden but his father grabs him by the arm and shakes his head. They are not needed yet – they should not approach the sacred births.

The priests place the wooden images on the ground at the foot of an Cedar tree. More incantations are sung as the minutes pass slowly. It is here, in this scared garden that the priests wash out the eyes and the mouths of the wooden idols: for they are about to witness the god’s births into the city.

 

Although the gods exist transcendent, high and mighty, it is this ceremony that will allow the deities to be born into the city walls and installed into the holy temple. Once the washing of the idols is complete, a heaviness falls in the garden for the idols have awakened. The small band of men now have an audience.  The priests turn towards the two idol-makers and call them forward. Both father and son walk slowly towards the priests, wary of looking the living idols in the eye.  The gods now live within these humanoid vessels – watching the next moments take place.

The priests pour water onto the hands of the craftsmen responsible for the creation of the idols.  Just as the gods had come alive in their washing, so too the hands of the craftsman must be put to death. And as the water is poured over the idol-maker’s hands, another chant is lifted up to the solid images, ever-watching. These men must be forgiven of their guilt; for they are guilty of making the gods. Once their hands are washed clean and the memory of their shame is removed, the small band of men take the living idols and the tools that were used to make them out of the garden and up to the temple.

Once they make the climb to the top of the temple, the priests install the idols to the highest place of worship. Now, the gods are able to oversee everything that happens within the city walls. But the gods have not been appeased yet. The craftsman have not been fully forgiven. The priests sacrifice a sheep on the grand altar. Once dead, the animal is cut open and the tools that were used to create the the idols are put within the sheep’s body. Then, the heavy carcass is carried out of the city gates and placed in the river where all memory will be washed from the tools. It can never be acknowledged that humans and metal made these gods incarnate.

As the dawn sun begins to rise and the city awakens to a new day, the small band return to their homes clean, having witnessed the birth of the gods, and their own forgiveness. For on this night, man created the gods in their own images, in the images of humanity they were created.

Nearly a thousand miles away in an unknown land, a man named Abraham tells his own son a different story about the God that they serve. This story does not involve idols and tools. Instead, it involves the dust of the earth.

In Genesis we read about a God who wants to make man in His image. This God is not interested in being created in our own humanoid likeness. Instead, both male and female are created to take form after Him. Genesis 2 demonstrates how God creates a man, much like the idol-makers do, and then brings him into a sacred garden. But instead of incantations and ritualistic washing, God simply breathes life into the dust, and man is formed. Then, this man is placed in God’s sacred garden to live. Man is not taken to temple to be worshiped like the idols were but stays in the garden so he might worship God instead.

Much like the Ancient cities of biblical times, I often find myself believing that within my solid walls, tall buildings, and financial security, the world revolves around myself. My money, my skills, and my abilities, like the jewels and paint placed on the idol, are what adorns me. I find myself believing that these things give me worth; give me life.  I start to think that the world, including God, is defined by me. He waits on my schedule, my skill, and my talent.  Often, my actions demonstrate that I control Him, make Him, and move Him wherever I want Him to go.  I fit Him into my life thinking that I can wash my hands of Him and bury the proof of my crimes in a river.

But in Genesis, God does not ask me to be adorned with jewels and paint. Instead, I am adorned with dust. I read about a God who calls me to be something more than my money, my shedule, my skill, and my talent.  He calls me instead, to look like Him in my most humble and barest form: the dust.

I am not supposed to make my life into a temple. I am not called to rely on myself for His benefit (as if I could) but to depend on Him. I am the created one in His everlasting garden. I am the one who was been molded together. I am the one who received His breath of life. For I have been made in the image of God; I have been created out of the dust of the earth.

So why do I constantly disguise myself a godlike jewel when I can rest in His garden as the dust?