Much of the New Testament is written in prose. Many texts and stories begin to look different when accessed through poetry. Perhaps poetry better honours the Aramaic language of Jesus' homeland, but also something of the oral tradition from which much of the New Testament has arisen.
Zebedee’s Plight (Matt.4:21-22)
(Background notes in Rick F. Talbot (2008), “Nazareth’s Rebellious Son: Deviance and Downward mobility in the Galilean Jesus Movement,” Biblical Theology Bull Vol.38 (2008), 99-113).
Imagine the look as Zebidee gazed,
The shock of betrayal and his feelings of rage.
The sons have abandoned the family trace,
The fallout could linger in shame and disgrace.
And the servants essential to business afloat
Afford he to pay them, mid ill fame so wrought.
And the heirs to the business upon which he hoped
Have turned their backs and for mission eloped.
The cost of discipleship we oft glamorise,
Suggesting ‘twas worth it to gain such a prize.
We tend to ignore the disruption ensued,
Undermining the power of a family ruined.
Two sons to abandon a home enterprise
Dismantles the hope for a future to rise.
And a family unit with sonship deprived
Faces social exclusion and much hope denied.
The sons also face a future unknown,
They’ve severed the links with the loved ones they’ve known.
And there’s no turning back when you opt out like that,
You’re seen as a traitor, a callous upstart.
The call for disciples no glory nor power,
Yet some took the option new hope to empower.
The radical turn God’s new reign on earth,
With the hand to the plough, they must never regret.
But a thought we must spare for Zebedee’s plight,
His future uncertain,
His family fortune.
Let’s hope he survived the big price he paid!
The Jericho Road full of Questions (Based on Luke 10:30ff)
Every bone in my body was aching,
And a gash just below my left eye
Left me dazed with confusion and anger,
One more victim as crime rates soar high!
I had heard many stories and warnings,
That road should not travel alone.
But I thought I was fit and impervious
A lesson too late to bemoan!
Many passed me and stared in amazement,
I never felt so much betrayed,
As I glimpsed the far priest and the levite
My stomach it groaned in despair.
Till a guy with a donkey approached me,
A stranger so thoughtful and rare.
And he mounted me on to his donkey
And rushed me for medical care.
Next, I knew I was sleeping in comfort
And sustained with some food of the best.
But in nervous concern I queried
What ‘twould cost me to be such a guest.
No worry but trust in the carer,
Had accounted for every expense,
With such care I could quickly recover
And no one would ask recompense.
But then came the shock and the quandary.
O Dear! How it made my heart sink!
Compromising my whole reputation,
Betraying my unique Jewish rank.
Samaritans we always have hated,
For me they’re the lowest of low.
How disgusting – he handled my body,
I better let nobody know!
But why did he do this good turn?
Now surely he too must have known
That Jews and Samaritans differ
And should keep far apart on their own.
I’m confused and unsure of my grounding,
I don’t understand what’s going on.
While the Jews all passed by and ignored me,
A Samaritan lifted my hand!
Who said we should hate all who differ?
On our own we should only rely?
And why is religion so righteous
Leaving people like me in the mire?
The Samaritans I still do not like them.
After all, I’ve been told that from youth.
But I can’t trust the Jews any longer
‘Cos I doubt if they’re telling the truth.
And I wonder about all this religion,
Is it leading God’s people astray?
When the outcast can glow in compassion
While the righteous pile rules to obey!
Who fed the 5,000 and with What?
They were weary and lonely, the disciples themselves,
Having buried the Baptist now martyred.
And they hungered for food to maintain their strength,
Re-establish the course they had chartered.
And the people who pestered began to annoy
Towards the end of a day feeling burdened.
And they pleaded with Jesus to send them away
And provide for themselves mid their kindred.
And then comes the retort they did not expect,
‘twas their duty the hungry to nourish.
“But where can we find food for this massive gang
In a place where there’s no food to flourish?”
But Jesus discerned the twinkling eye
Of a boy with a sandwich worth sharing.
And how many more had provisions as well
Mid the fear and the risk of declaring!
The disciples so hungry were aching inside,
But first they must tender their service.
Arrange them in groups, then seated at ease
And bring forth the food from their purses.
And Jesus declares the blessing so rare
When the generous Spirit sustains us.
And the little boy’s sandwich remains to this day
A symbol so powerful and gracious.
This miracle story all Gospels proclaim,
How a crowd could be fed with such caring.
We thought ‘t was a magic of multiplying lots
But in truth, ’t was miraculous sharing.
Creation abundant – there’s plenty for all,
Every time that we celebrate eucharist.
Transcending the fear which traps us in greed,
A nourishing Sabbath our future.
Alas, the disciples remained rather dumb,
And argued ‘bout bread to sustain them.
While the people so grateful, their baskets were filled
With the crumbs from the meal that maintained them.
Let’s never forget the mandate so clear:
To feed everyone at our table.
No more deprivation, starvation or pain,
Seek justice as much as we’re able!
Gospel Spirit of Fear
(Seeking to unravel the power of evil spirits in Mark’s Gospel)
The Gospels abound with strange stories,
of people possessed by deep fear,
of spirits so desperately seeking
to wreck, yet control human jeer.
Possession by spirit’s obsession,
the power of imperial restraint.
A shadow so shattered and broken,
a victim so powerless and faint.
A body locked subdued in its torture,
the crippled, the deaf and the dumb,
A spirit-force stuck and frustrated,
leaving onlookers baffled and numb.
The breakthrough for Jesus’ healing
confronting the spirit in rage.
releasing the bondage so frightening
As Spirit with spirit engage.
“Your needs I will meet if you leave him,
That hunger for power you let go.
Control of the empire is over,
It’s time all this violence outgrow.”
In fact there is only one Spirit
fragmented by imperial distortion.
By welcoming home the displaced one
we integrate the shadow’s misfortune.
Beyond the dualistic divisions
We search for an underlying whole
The depths of new integration
Another way caring for Soul.
Jesus did not destroy the false spirit.
Instead he reframed the whole plot.
The spirit set free from entrapment.
For the person new healing is wrought.
I am and We are (Reflection on John's Gospel)
And together with you my friends
And together with you my friends,
Jesus in the Power of Thomas
On the morning of the last day of the week,
Jesus says to Thomas:
Show me the holes the nails have made in your hands;
Show me the houses and sheds that you have built;
Show me the toil and sweat that you have spilt!
The bare hands removing
The blocks that obstruct.
The nails that have rusted
And must now be replaced
The threats are made safer
While your hands are defaced.
At noon, on the last day of the week,
Jesus says to Thomas:
Show me your body and the wounds you accrued;
Show me the risks you have taken so brave;
Assisting the weak, the poor, and the slave!
The wounds you incurred,
And the risks you embraced,
Protecting the weak,
So defenceless in place.
That struggle for justice,
Leaves a deep wounded trace.
In the evening of the last day of the week,
Jesus says to Thomas:
I know you are doubting with remorse, guilt and shame,
Aware of your weakness and the times you have failed.
Like other disciples, mistakes you have made.
But, Thomas, that’s incarnation,
You can’t heal the others
Unless deep pain you know.
Without doubt overcome,
There’s no faith to show.
Sometime late that night,
Jesus says to Thomas:
Look at those nails, wounds and doubts!
And when others see what I see
They, too, will acclaim:
My Lord and my God!