A Poem For Christ the King

This past Sunday, I preached another sermon in the style of spoken word poetry. A few people asked me for the text, which is below. Once the audio is posted on the Upper Room website, I’ll link it here. The Scripture texts are Ezekiel 34:1-11, Psalm 95, and Matthew 25:31-46 (with some added help from Mother Teresa of Calcutta).

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.

-Ezekiel 34:11

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

-Matthew 25:40

Today, if only you would hear his voice, Do not harden your hearts…

-Psalm 95:7b-8a

Can you hear him?

Can you hear the voice of the Shepherd?

Can you hear His call to eternal life?

Can you hear Him, scattered flock?

 

Listen!

Beyond the noise of chit chat…

Beyond the noise of iPods and radios

Beyond the noise of engines and horns

 

The Shepherd is calling.

Can you hear him?

Do you recognize his voice?

His sheep know his voice

 

Can you hear his voice?

calling from a distant land

around the world

the voice of a child,

malnourished and hungry.

The King who once

put on human flesh

now hidden…

in frail, naked bodies

with starved, bloated stomachs.

 

Can you hear his voice?

calling from a distant land

across the street

the voice of a man

begging for change.

The hands that formed

the depths of the earth

now hidden

in cracked, dirty hands

that hold a beggar’s cup.

 

Can you hear him?

Can you hear the Shepherd’s voice?

He’s calling for you.

He’s seeking his sheep.

He’s seeking us out.

 

But we are scattered.

We’ve wandered off into

clouds and darkness

blinded by green-hewed clouds

with presidential faces.

blinded by darkness that glows off of

flat-screens in high resolution

 

And we fall

into crevices of

to-do lists and

consumer debt and

desires for power

so the Shepherd

calls out our name

but we

 

Can’t hear his voice

because our hearts…. are hard.

 

We long to touch the hem of his garment

but his garment is disguised

as an orange jumpsuit

as a hospital gown

as a soiled overcoat

as the unused sweater

stuffed in a our dresser

but longing to embrace the shivering stranger.

 

But we can’t find the hem of his garment

because we think it’s hidden

on a Macy’s rack

or a

Parisian runway.

We look in the wrong places

because our hearts

are hard.

 

We long for the comfort of his rod and staff

but his rod and staff are disguised

as an empty cup

as iv needles

plunged into skin

as a cardboard sign

and a grocery cart

filled with things that we dare not touch.

 

But we can’t find his rod or his staff

because we think they’re hidden

in a 401k

or a

better credit score.

We look in the wrong places

because our hearts

are hard.

 

We long to hear his voice

and he calls out to us

the Shepherds voice rings out

out of dark prison cells

out from lonely hospital beds

out of kitchens lined with empty cupboards

and filled with hungry families.

 

But we can’t hear his voice

because we think his voice is calling

from a corner office

or in

friends’ flattery.

We listen to the wrong voices

because our hearts

are hard.

 

Our hearts are hard

and with

every rationalization and

selfish decision our

frozen hearts get even colder

until we’re blind and deaf

to the Shepherd’s search and call.

 

So we don’t see the Shepherd

when we walk by

the lonely homeless man

begging for change.

We don’t hear the shepherd

in the silent cries

of the poor woman

with no other income than

her own body.

 

The Shepherd calls out

cries out

SHOUTS OUT

for our attention

in the voice of

every “least of these.”

And we miss out

because our hearts

are hard.

Rock hard.

Stone-cold hard.

Frozen solid.

 

But the Shepherd

calls from

one more place.

 

The Shepherd calls

from a loaf of bread

and cup of wine

set on a table

prepared for us in

the presence of

our enemies.

In the presence of

our hard hearts.

 

We eat this bread and

our frozen hearts

begin to melt away in

the warmth of his own body.

 

We drink this cup and

our thawed-out hearts

begin to beat and pump

the Shepherd’s own blood.

 

And slowly

our eyes open

our ears unplug and

we hear and see the Shepherd in

all who hunger and thirst, and shiver and

we see that the “least of these”

are brothers and sisters.

 

And finally we hear the Shepherd’s call

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father.”

And we are led back to still waters

and back to the Shepherd’s house

where we will dwell

forever.

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Waiting for the Lord

Today, was my first day of sabbath since writing about “active,” “saying yes” sabbath. After preaching three times in three different churches yesterday, I was spiritually exhausted and ready for rest. After doing my running/psalm-chanting and doing some light reading, I decided to take some time in solitude and quiet. I drove out to North Park, found a quiet spot by the lake and read the daily lectionary readings for today. When I was finished reading, I got up and wandered the park. I eventually found the old nature access trail that my dad use to take my brother and I too when we were little.

As I walked, I cleared my mind and listened for God. A song kept coming to mind. It was one that we sang in the seminary choir, based on Isaiah 40:31 – “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

I began to talk with God about waiting. In many ways my work in ministry, and my life more broadly is in a season of waiting. Working in New Church Development has meant taking some big steps into unknown territory with the results still not finalized. We’re waiting on grants to be approved. We’re waiting to see who will be a part of the seed group. We’re waiting to see what form this church plant takes in coming months. When will we grow beyond Chris and Eileen’s living room and into a larger space? How will we build bridges with the international and racial-ethnic communities? Now that I’m also beginning with InterVarsity, that’s brought into play even more waiting. When will I have raised enough in support funds to begin? (And on top of that… HOW will I raise enough support???) In all of this, I’ve already seen God’s hand at work, and I know that God will bring the answers to these questions in the right time. Nevertheless, the waiting isn’t always a comfortable place.

God then used the Scripture I had read from lectionary readings to remind me of two things about waiting for the Lord. First, when waiting for the Lord is always a confident waiting. We always know that God will bring the work of the Kingdom to completion. Second, waiting for the Lord is an active, not a passive task.  We get to work with God in bringing his work to completion.

In the gospel lesson, the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, the wise virgins readied themselves by taking flasks of oil for the lamps. They knew the bridegroom was coming, and they actively prepared for his arrival. The foolish virgins, though, acted passively and brought no oil.

In the lesson from Romans 11, Paul alludes to his expectation of God’s faithfulness to Israel (v. 12: “… how much more will [Israel’s] full inclusion mean!”). Paul’s waiting for God to fulfill his covenant with Israel. He’s confident of it, and at the same actively pursuing the fulfillment of God’s promises with Him. In Acts, in every town he enters, he’s eager to go to the synagogue to proclaim Christ to his fellow Jews.

The author of Psalm 37 is waiting for God to deal with the wicked, and yet at the same time he remains confident in God’s faithfulness and exhorts the righteous to continue living faithfully.

I may be in a season of waiting, but that’s not the same as a season of uncertainty. God will bring this piece of his work to completion. Out of that confidence comes a desire to work with God in bringing about that completion.