Frances Ellen Watkins Harper-The Sparrow’s Fall-Poem for the First Sunday of Lent, Year 1B

The Englewood Review of Books curates a weekly series of classic and contemporary poems that resonate with the themes of the lectionary readings. Here is one of the poems for this coming Sunday (More poems for Lent 1B can be found here)

 

The Sparrow’s Fall

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

to accompany the lectionary reading: Psalm 25:1-10

Too frail to soar — a feeble thing —

It fell to earth with fluttering wing;

But God, who watches over all,

Beheld that little sparrow’s fall.

 

‘Twas not a bird with plumage gay,

Filling the air with its morning lay;

‘Twas not an eagle bold and strong,

Borne on the tempest’s wing along.

 

Only a brown and weesome thing,

With drooping head and listless wing;

It could not drift beyond His sight

Who marshals the splendid stars of night.

 

Its dying chirp fell on His ears,

Who tunes the music of the spheres,

Who hears the hungry lion’s call,

And spreads a table for us all.

 

Its mission of song at last is done,

No more will it greet the rising sun;

That tiny bird has found a rest

More calm than its mother’s downy breast

 

Oh, restless heart, learn thou to trust

In God, so tender, strong and just;

In whose love and mercy everywhere

His humblest children have a share.

 

If in love He numbers ev’ry hair,

Whether the strands be dark or fair,

Shall we not learn to calmly rest,

Like children, on our Father’s breast?

 

*** This poem is in the public domain,

  and may be read in a live-streamed worship service.

 

 


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer. She was one of the first African American women to be published in the United States. Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, Harper had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20. At 67, she published her widely-praised novel Iola Leroy (1892), placing her among the first Black women to publish a novel.  (
Wikipedia)

In the Wilderness

First Sunday of Lent
So many moments fold into this one. 
 
A few weeks ago, my friend Shannon Schaefer wrote a stirring post on the baptism of the Lord. This week, we return to that moment in the first Sunday of a new season: Lent. 
 
In Epiphany, the baptism is a birth narrative, as Shannon wrote: “It’s a different kind of birth narrative, wherein the people of the story—past, present, future—are the family to which Jesus is born, and the prophet John becomes an unlikely midwife, handing us the Messiah. “
 
This week, as we begin the season of Lent and set our feet on the path towards the cross, this moment becomes a promise. The text reminds us of this, pointing back to the promise God gave to Noah in Genesis, “Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
 
As Jesus rises out of the flood of the Jordan, a voice comes from heaven and declares, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased.”
 
On the first Sunday after Epiphany, Shannon noted that “this is the moment of incarnation for Mark’s gospel.” This is the moment when the “Word of God is once again placed in the hands of the prophets . . . the God who entrusts self to human tellings.”
 
On the first Sunday of Lent, this moment takes on a different sheen. It is still the beginning, but now it is the beginning of our path to Easter Sunday when the Word of God will be hanged on the Tree of Life. As a Catechist, I have had the privilege of walking along this path with many people over the last several years. Typically, I come across four kinds of Lenten travelers: those who are actively deconstructing the faith of their childhood, those who are actively reconstructing a child-like faith, and those who feel lost in the despair that so often comes between deconstruction and reconstruction. The fourth type are those travelers who have walked this path before and are returning to see it with new eyes. 
 
As we enter into the wilderness with Jesus, which traveler are you this year? These aren’t one-and-done phases—most Christians I know are usually actively reconstructing, deconstructing, despairing, or seeing anew some facet of their spiritual life. Oftentimes, all four things are going on at once—but usually one will rise to the top for a season. So, how are you embarking on this Lenten journey this year? 
 
As Stephen Fowl reminded us last week, the life of faith is like “an invitation to your own funeral . . . the closer we follow [Jesus], the more we will die.” Stephen goes on to say that “this is the death that leads to true life . . . our lives cannot be one constant demolition site.”
 
So, where are you this Lent? Are you actively de-constructing something which was once the Gospel-truth? Are you caught in the despair that so often accompanies this demolition? Are you engaged in the hard work of picking up the pieces and building something new? Or have you returned from your wanderings in another place to see your faith with new eyes? 
 
However you are engaging this Lenten journey, remember you are not alone. Jesus is in the wilderness with you, and so are we. If the darkness closes in and you feel lost and bereft of all hope, I pray that God will remind you of the covenant made with Noah – that never again would total destruction be visited upon the earth. In your darkest moments when the rain is pouring down and all hope seems to have fled, I pray that you will look up and behold a rainbow. In those moments, I pray that the words of God will come back to you and you will remember that you are beloved. 
 
May the peace of Christ go with you, wherever God may send you. 
May God guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. 
May God bring you home rejoicing at all the many wonders God has shown you.
May God bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors. 
Amen. 
 
Photo Credit: Luca Galuzzi

Lenten Prayer Sessions

We are grateful that several endorsers and friends of the Ekklesia Project have agreed to lead prayer sessions on Zoom during the season of Lent. We hope these topics will be helpful to you during this time in the church year.

There is no charge for the sessions, but we are using Eventbrite for registration. To help us properly plan for the sessions, please register here.

We will also continue to have our weekly Thursday evening prayers at 9 p.m. Eastern. You can join us on Zoom (password 841883). If you have any questions, please contact us at info@ekklesiaproject.org.

Mark Jarman-A Poem for Transfiguration Sunday, Year B

The Englewood Review of Books curates a weekly series of classic and contemporary poems that resonate with the themes of the lectionary readings. Here is one of the poems for this coming Sunday (More poems for Transfiguration Sunday can be found here)

 

Transfiguration

Mark Jarman

to accompany the lectionary reading: Mark 9:2-9

 

SNIPPET:

They were talking to him about resurrection, about law,

about the suffering ahead.

They were talking as if to remind him who he was and

who they were. He was not

Like his three friends watching a little way off, not like

the crowd

At the foot of the hill. A gray-green thunderhead massed

from the sea

And God spoke from it and said he was his. They were

talking

About how the body, broken or burned, could live again,

remade.

 

[ READ THE FULL POEM ]


Mark F. Jarman (born 1952 in Mount Sterling, Kentucky) is an American poet and critic often identified with the New Narrative branch of the New Formalism; he was co-editor with Robert McDowell of The Reaper throughout the 1980s. Centennial Professor of English, Emeritus, at Vanderbilt University, he is the author of eleven books of poetry, three books of essays, and a book of essays co-authored with Robert McDowell.  (
Wikipedia)

Transfiguration

Transfiguration Sunday

Mark 9:2-9

 

“Six days later.” That is a strange way to begin a reading.  If you are at all curious, you are probably asking, “six days after what?” The answer, of course, is found in the previous chapter.  In Mark 8, six days before our reading begins, Jesus has one of his most significant conversations with his disciples.  In that conversation Jesus asks his followers “Who do people say that I am?” After spending so much time preaching, teaching, doing miracles, engaging in arguments over how best to follow God, Jesus wants to know what people make of him.  The response seems to indicate that people think Jesus is a prophet.  Then Jesus asks his closest followers, “Who do you think I am?”  Peter quickly responds, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Read more

It is Still Very Dark

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

 

Isaiah 40:21-31

Mark 1:29-39

it is still very dark: a poem

I have not known,
nor have I heard,
and if I ever did,
I have forgotten in this
travailing dark.
I have not known starlight
for many weeks,
I have not heard shouts of good news
for many months,
but I am searching for it.
Searching for things restored,
for things to be again
in all their strength.
Searching for
that memory once forgotten,
that news once heard—
knowing well I will remember
and the sparrows will sing good news—
knowing well I will forget again
and will get up and search again,
but that is well
for there is time to search again
because it is still very dark. Read more

Certified Prophet

Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B
Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Mark 1:21-28

Of all the the signs of crisis in our culture one of the most subtle is the proliferation of certificates.  It seems that there is a certificate for everything now, along with some official group to issue it and, most likely, take our money for the service.  For instance, one can become a Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP) or hold a Certificate in Career Readiness.  There are certificates for the mastery of various software programs, planning methodologies, and fitness routines.  There are Certified Dog Psychologists and Certified Beer Judges.  From one top tier university I found 31 certifications in leadership alone, from a Certification in Critical Thinking Leadership to a Certification in Servant Leadership.

Not all certifications are bad, of course, but their proliferation signals a crisis of legitimacy and competency.  What were once basic human skills, shared freely and developed in community, have become certificates that are given only after the consumption of some educational product.  And our judgement of those who are competent no longer requires our discernment of clear outcomes, but rather a glance at the frames on a person’s office wall.

Though there was no proliferation of certifications in 1st Century Palestine, the Gospel of Mark presents us with a Jesus who is stepping into a similar crisis of legitimacy.  Read more

An Identity Not My Own

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

 

1 Samuel 3:1-20

Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

John 1:43-51

Not having grown up with the practice of following the Lectionary readings means I am constantly intrigued by the groupings of Scripture texts that get packaged together. Sometimes I must admit that a particular combination is at first baffling, leading me to wonder what sorts of substances the team was sipping on while they made their decisions. Other times a theme seems to rise slowly to the surface the way your answer used to in the Magic 8 Ball (ask an older person what this is!). I have tried several times and failed to talk myself out of a problematic theme that seems to emerge from the murkiness for this week, but here it is: Identity. And yes, I know just how problematic that is. Read more

Where Else?

 

Baptism of the Lord/First Sunday after Epiphany

Genesis 1:1-5

Psalm 29

Mark 1:4-11

 So many moments fold into this one.

Here the One before all time who sweeps over the face of the waters, dividing light from dark and making days, now stands within them.

Here the Lord of glory, holy splendor, majesty, power, and strength in the psalms stands ankle deep in the mud of the Jordan River, yielding power to the hands of the baptizer. The breath of life which spoke a world and animated living beings will now stop in the chest, held in the cheeks, as body is pressed under the current and pulled back to the surface.

He will open his mouth and take a breath, blinking into the sun.

Like the moment after the press of labor stops and slippery child has emerged, now held in hands and gathering breath to announce himself in the world, the heavens like lips will part with joy. Here come the pronouncements: “It’s a son! My son – He is beloved! I am well pleased!”

Here in the Jordan River, Jesus held in the hands of John the baptizer, the Word of God is once again placed in the hands of the prophets as it has always been since the beginning – the God who entrusts self to human tellings. Read more