Epiphany Sunday

Bitingly cold
Mom moves even more slowly
Than usual

Afternoon mass
In a nursing home’s
Round meeting room
With large windows
It’s light and warm
Even on this freezing day

The priest waits quietly
On a folding chair
At the altar’s side
Small portable altar
Small portable keyboard
Small portable lectern
White linen cloth over the altar
Paten and chalice
Water and wine
Hosts and linens
Candles and altar book
All in place

A simple mass begins
We sing We Three Kings
Everyone stays seated throughout
Mostly elderly residents
Some with family members
Walkers and wheelchairs
Cracking, catching voices
Wandering attention
Long lives lived
Who knows how
To bring them here
To this home, this time
This mass, this community

Mass continues
Readings, prayers, familiar hymns
Then the words of consecration
“This is my body”
Elevation of the host
Someone coughs
“This is my blood”
Elevation of the chalice
The highly polished gold chalice
And I see
I see the room and the people
Reflected
Reflected on the cup of the chalice
Like a wide angle lens
The chalice captures and holds us all
Together
Imprinted shining
On the golden chalice

We are so lucky
We do not have to follow
A strange star
To an unknown destination
God comes to us
Where we are
Gathers us in
A shining community

A reflection
A revelation
An epiphany

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The Midwife

Ruth, the innkeeper’s daughter, came for me
Sarah, her mother, had sent her
“Mom says she thinks
The young woman will need help soon”
So I went.
The innkeeper
With a worry frown
Called his wife to the door.
Sarah came with a lantern
And led us around back
To the caves
There we found the young woman
Her eyes wide with fear and hope
Leaning against her husband
As they sat on a blanket
Stretched over the straw
I knelt next to her, spoke gently
Let my hand rest for long moments on her huge belly
Sarah sent Ruth back to the house with instructions
I took the young husband’s place
And set him to heating water
At the courtyard fire
Ruth returned with Leah, the serving girl
Their arms full of cloth
Rags and sheets and swaddling
We replaced the good blanket with old sheets
We waited, we comforted, we encouraged
We had the whispering girls ready a bed for the baby.
When it was time
Sarah and I got her onto the low stool
Sarah behind her, supporting arms around her
One last gasp, groan, push, gush
And I gently guided another wet baby
Out of another mother
Thank the Lord the night is mild
The young mother is strong
The baby is healthy and crying loudly
Even before I deliver the afterbirth
Sarah spoke quietly to the young mother
“Praise and thank the Lord, a healthy boy
You have done well.”
I tied and cut the cord
Cleaned and swaddled the baby
We kept the girls busy helping to clean up
When we left
The young mother lay on the blanket
Stretched again over clean straw
Suckling her newborn son
Her husband at her side
Stroking his firstborn’s head
Holding his wife’s hand.
I told them I would return later in the day
To check mother and child
He shyly asked about my fee
I told him to rest, to enjoy
We would talk about that later
Sarah said she would send Leah back
With bread and hot sweet tea
They smiled their weary thanks
We left then
Sarah, Ruth, Leah and I
Tired but pleased
The baby was healthy
The young mother was strong
The girls had learned more about birth
A good birth
That was all I ever asked of the Lord
Praise and thanksgiving for a good birth
Such a birth always made a night’s work
Holy work

Distracted Driving

In a big blue Dodge pickup in front of me
I can see the back of his black baseball cap
Her blond ponytail swaying
He reaches over and tickles her neck
She squirms
I can’t see the smiles, can’t hear the giggles
But I feel it, I know
They lean together and apart
Moving like young people
Like young people in easy love
Then he runs a red light

Privilege

[In memoriam: Sandra Annette Bland (February 7, 1987 – July 13, 2015)]

I can feel her
Doing what she can
To fight the depression
Defy the discouragement
Control the rage

She takes a job in southern Texas
Southern Texas! Saints preserve us
Almost there and she is pulled over

Pulled over for no good reason
And one bad one
Told to put out her cigarette
Her cigarette in her car

I can feel her
If I let it start, it will never stop
No, just no

I can feel her
Ordered
Threatened, grabbed, thrown down

I can feel her
Defiant
Protesting, screaming, crying

I can feel her
Scared
Then in a cell
Dead

I can feel her
Remember her
Mourn her
Though I am white

Every time. Every time
I change lanes without signaling
I think, “Sandra Bland”
And then,
“I am white though.”

How All Events Do Conspire

Arrowhead spruce
Pointed to pierce heaven
Frame a pyramid mountain
Enticing but unchosen
Not our destination
As we drive the gray road
We follow directions
With clear intent
We will stop at our friends’ home

But this world pays no attention
To our puny plans
God-made and human-made
Equally ignore us
Conspire to stop us
Fallen trees and power lines
Turn us back
Forcing a retreat

My Mary

An angel describes,
Passionately,
How great her son will be.
A teenager asks,
Sassily,
“Aren’t you forgetting one thing –
I’m a virgin.”

A mother speaks to her grown son,
Gives him THAT LOOK.
He sighs,
And takes care of the wine problem.

A woman stands erect and unmoving,
Defying Romans, Jews and grief itself,
To watch her son die a criminal.

The church statues?
No time for them.
The meek mild ever virgin?
No need for her.

Mary the impudent,
Mary the importunate,
Mary the brave,
She is my Mary.