Two Lents ago, I took on the spiritual practice of poetry. Instead of giving something up, I took something on. I love poetry. When my sister and brother-in-law traveled to Ireland they brought back two gifts for me: a Celtic cross necklace and a collection of poems by Irish poet William Butler Yeats (guess you could say they know me pretty well!) There’s a bookshelf at the parsonage full of poetry books—Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, David Whyte, Christian Wiman, etc.—collections of poems that are a balm for the soul.
So in taking on poetry for Lent, I decided to read and contemplate one poem a day. It took time to find poems with Lenten themes that would help go a little deeper. I compiled those poems to read every day of Lent. It was wonderful!
Though I also decided to challenge myself to actually write some poems. Now I am a wannabe poet. I write this with sincere humility, not as a humble brag. Sermons, history papers, and theology papers come far easier than poems. So I decided to just read the texts for the day and reflect on the stories as a way to get started. Put yourself in the position of various figures and wonder how it must have felt to be there and experience the story. It’s actually interesting to do for Holy Week in general. To follow the specific story arc of Jesus, Peter, Judas, Mary Magdalene, Pilate, Simon of Cyrene, etc. throughout the week to understand these central stories of our Christian faith more deeply.
So with that long caveat, here’s the poem I wrote for Maundy Thursday. Sharing today in the spirit of helping us enter the story that we will experience over these next few days.
Blessings in this holiest week,
(Maundy Thursday 2016, John 13:1-15, 34-35)
Peter responds with utter indignation, disgust, embarrassment, and pride.
“You will never wash my feet, Lord. That’s the job of servants, not you.”
Jesus persists.Then Peter wants washed, fully clean, all of him—his hands and head, too.
“Just your feet, Peter. You are clean already, but not all of you.”Jesus guides Peter’s feet into the basin of water.
He gently washes off the dirt and the grime,
showing tender compassion to the man who would all too soon deny that he even knew him.
Three times would deny him:
“Woman, I do not know him.”
“Man, I am not!”
“Man, I do not know what you are talking about.”*
And Peter will flee into the shadows of sin and despair, weeping bitterly.Though not yet, for in this moment,
as Jesus tenderly holds the feet of his
all too human
disciple Peter in his hands,
He loves Peter with a love greater than he had ever imagined possible.
Jesus’ love persists.