In the fears and uncertainties of first century Jewish politics
an insecure monarch lusts after the niece
who also doubles as his step-daughter.
At a birthday banquet,
the girl entices the gathered dignitaries
with a dance.
teasing and taunting;
she knows how to shake it.
In the old man’s fantasy foolishness
half a kingdom is offered
as the prize for his pleasant titillation.
A prophet’s head,
severed from its outspoken owner’’s body
and proffered upon a platter,
is the price prescribed
by the girl’s vengeful mother.
A king’s self-importance is never a small thing.
His ego expands even further
in the presence of multiple weighty witnesses;
the offending voice will be silenced.
It’s been all about power, lust, politics, pride, and retribution.
Between them, over the next two millennia and beyond,
these evils will account for the larger part
of the world’s pain and sorrow.
During that time other offensive voices will be raised
and many will be silenced.
But an outrageous few will recklessly persist
so that the kingdom,
the kingdom grounded in love and truth and sacrifice
For seven weeks the season called Easter
stretches out, long after the eggs
have been divested of their foil
and the chocolate has been consumed.
It persistently recalls the mystery,
as we read, in episodes,
the story of women and men
who met unexpectedly with their risen Lord.
Luke, teller of good news,
offers us a sometimes ghostly,
sometimes fleshly, Jesus;
both of whom lead us to renewed wondering.
We hear, again,
the familiar but unlikely resurrection tales,
and are faced with the same worrisome possibilities
of all past Easters.
The narratives call loudly,
and reach deeply,
as the spirit of Jesus invites us
to take our part in the great ongoing drama.
He challenges us to take courage,
to walk his road of love and forgiveness,
and to carry in our own bodies
the defiant confrontation,
and costly sacrifice
that may yet redeem the world.
stepping from wave to wave
and the laws of gravity,
at least according to the story.
This, of course, is a sticking point
for many in our sceptical scientific age,
“Come,” says the journeying man.
“Come to me,
come with me.
Together we shall travel
to the shadowed places;
where despair is deep, fears imprison,
and worries and concerns threaten to overwhelm.
We shall whisper hope,
touch with love and life,
and bring to birth the peace
for which our weeping planet yearns.
And should the waves rise to engulf us,
and should the primeval chaos
reassert itself to swallow us up,
then we shall sink together;
and finding fulfilment.”
A teacher come from God;
that’s what we all need.
Recognising him or her
might be the challenge, though;
and which God?
we’ve had more than a few
across the millennia;
prophets, messiahs, gurus and the like,
not to mention all the mystics, visionaries
and spiritual guides
who we didn’t even notice at the time
or dismissed as fanatics.
In John’s classic nocturnal encounter
Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel,
affirms the educational credentials
of one called Jesus.
A teacher come from God:
speaking to remind us
about generosity, justice, grace
and truth, (whatever that is),
and of living with courage;
recklessly, passionately and outrageously.
Fully alive, for the sake of love,
the children, and the planet.
If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming
The vigilant householder;
an illustration of security,
or, rather, insecurity,
to convince the believer
to be awake and alert.
A warning to be ready
for that uncertain moment
when the Son of Man comes.
No need to stay awake today;
the gates, deadlocks,
screens, alarms, cameras,
and, if required, armed personnel,
will do the job for us
while we sleep on, oblivious.
This image inhabits a changed context,
and is not longer at home;
always a limitation
when we take the stories literally.
No. Not wakefulness;
Living with truth,
courage, generosity and love;
this is the house
into which no robber can break,
the life that no thief can steal.
They are heroes,
the men, the women,
and all the children, too;
who stand up to the bullies.
Like Jesus, who refused to be intimidated
by Herod’s threats;
or Rosa Parks, defying centuries
of white superiority;
or Malala, Pakistan’s daughter,
standing her ground to confront Taliban misogyny.
There is a choice set before each of us,
the poet said: love and fear.*
Bullies are cowards, we are told,
and will flee in the face of resolute opposition.
But with the support of institutional wealth,
power, soldiers and guns,
the bullies may be blind to the scrawled messages
on their crumbling walls, and don’t always go quietly.
The raw ferocity of fear can be a terrible thing,
the consequences; dreadful.
and many more whose stories we may never hear,
knew what was right.
Driven by a vision of all that might be,
they found the courage to live towards it.
Setting their sights upon the hoped-for goal,
refusing the temptations to avert their gaze
towards something simpler and less demanding,
they tread determinedly towards their Jerusalem..