new wine (annotated)

by Jeff Rainwater, 24 April 2017, Cheyenne, WY

Drunk![1]
you will say
I am,
and other names
may follow.
Rebel![2]
Heretic![3]
Crazy![4]
Disturber of the Peace![5]
of Beelzebul![6]
(my absolute favorite,
but only
if you use the word…
Beelzebul)
But were you there
when Mighty Wind
blew through
gently,
when Now walked in,
smiling,
to greet sacred Past
with love?
Drunk?
Perhaps
it is New Wine[7]
that was poured.
Spirit[8], Peter named it,
and I’m sure I heard
someone whisper,
Grace never tasted
so sweet.[9]

[1] Acts 2:13; Acts 2:15, Peter’s reply. There is an irony here I never caught before. The complaint was literally, “these men are full of sweet, new, wine.” The implication is clear, ‘they’re drunk.’ But Jesus has spoken of new wine before in Luke 5:37, comparing his presence with the disciples and perhaps the Kingdom itself as ‘new wine.’ (In Greek, a different word from Acts 2:13, but same idea). The complainers were more right than they knew. Were the disciples full of new, sweet, wine? Yes! Just not the wine the complainers were thinking of.
[2] John 19:12, of Jesus; Acts 21:38, of Paul, falsely
[3] Or blasphemer; Matthew 26:65, of Jesus; Acts 12:13, of Stephen, falsely
[4] Mark 3:20, of Jesus
[5] Acts 24:5, of Paul
[6] Matthew 12:24, of Jesus
[7] Luke 5:37
[8] Acts 2:17, referencing Joel 2:28-32, Joel suggests this is a singular event, but Acts later  attests to the Spirit being poured out on many occasions, as a continuing fulfillment, that I suggest continues through the present in new, sometimes equally disruptive, ways.
[9] Psalm 119:103; Psalm 34:8; and again, Acts 2:13, new, sweet, wine. Oh to taste sweet wine of Jesus’ grace given by the Spirit!

 

A note about this poem:  In July 2016, I was an observer privileged to be present for the election of the first openly gay Bishop within the United Methodist Church. She was elected because she was the best candidate, leading all ballots throughout the process. The election has been challenged because she chooses to live an authentic and open life in all its dimensions including her marriage to her spouse, Robin Ridenour.

Today, I leave for Newark, NJ, to stand with many others in support of Bishop Oliveto. Since her election 8 months ago in Arizona, it has been my great honor to serve on Bishop Oliveto’s Cabinet in my continuing appointment as Wyoming District Superintendent. She is my Bishop through and through, deserving in every way of the office she now holds, but to me she is more than that. Bishop Karen and Robin both have become family. As I pray for justice this week, I wish all could come to know this remarkable leader of our church as I have. I wish all could see how the Spirit is at work in the Mountain Sky Area.

For those that question the motives behind Bishop Oliveto’s election or object to my support of her or of the full inclusion the LGBTQ community within the life of our church, I offer this poem as a reflection on that day in July when history was made within the denomination I love. Whatever happens now, that moment cannot be undone.

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hidden hosanna

by Jeff Rainwater, Palm & Passion Sunday 2017, Worland, WY

How could they say it?
Why would they cry,

Crucify! Crucify! Crucify!

Don’t you know?
Haven’t you been told?
Beneath every “Crucify!”

is a “Hosanna,”

wrapped in anger,
hidden in fear,
as a wounded animal,
ready to strike, yet
struggling to be heard —

a desperate plea…

Save me, Son of David!
Save me!

A note on this poem and the word, Hosanna: There is a natural hidden quality to the word, Hosanna. First, in Greek and in English, it is a transliteration and not a translation of the Hebrew word. That’s because, at the time of Jesus, the word’s use had varied from it’s original meaning and had become a shout of acclamation or praise — something akin to “hooray!” But within that usage, especially on Palm Sunday, I believe there is still that deeper, original, meaning, ever so important, that this poem calls upon. Hosanna (in Hebrew, hosia na) in its original form means ‘Please save’ or ‘save me.’

were you there

by Jeff Rainwater, 3 March 2017, Cheyenne, WY

Were you there
that fateful day
our Shepherd died
as the Bandit went free,
when the mob
chose a rebel
over the King?

What lies were
whispered in your ear,
what promises made,
that turned hearts
from One who fed
and healed and forgave
to a man of violence?

Were you standing
on the side shaking
your head yet afraid
to speak? Or did you
find yourself convinced
to raise, in support,
cruel Barabbas’ name?

And please say
your lips did not
utter, your voice
was not heard
to proclaim,
in anger,
Crucify!
Crucify!
Crucify!

Were you there?

I only ask
because this road
my people walk today
seems all too
familiar.


As Holy Week approaches we turn our eyes toward Jerusalem, toward Golgotha, and after a time, toward an empty tomb. On Good Friday, many of us will find ourselves singing that well-known Negro spiritual, Were You There. It moves me every single time. I must also admit it troubles me. In particular, one word troubles me — they. “Were you there when
they (not I, not we) crucified my Lord.” Can I sing ‘they’ assured that I would’ve chosen Jesus over Barrabas? If I was there, would I have protested, or have clucked my tongue at the injustice of it all, or would the words ‘crucify!’ have passed my lips? Can I even feel assured, knowing the end of the story as I do, that I am on the right side of justice today? I’m not so sure I can. So I offer this poem as an alternative, a confession even, for those of us who may tremble before the Cross, or those of us who should, knowing the moral ground below our own feet is never so solid as we would claim. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.

witness woman

by Jeff Rainwater, 20 March 2017, Basin & Hyattville, WY

Inspired by John 4:1-29
In a world that is so adept at depersonalizing and dehumanizing,
the greatest gift we can give to someone is to see, really see, them,
as Jesus saw the woman at the well.

There you are,
Witness Woman,
strong in voice,
keen of mind,
brave at heart.

I see you.

There you are,
Witness Woman,
hidden by doubt,
held down by race,
buried by innuendo,
hemmed in by
loneliness.

I see you.

There you are,
Witness Woman.
Cast aside jar
and fear and
reputation.
You are so much
more than the
burdens you’ve
borne.

I see you.

You are my
Witness Woman,
strong, keen, and brave.
Now, drink deep!
Proclaim!
Live!

There you are,
Witness Woman,
I see you!

so much noise

by Jeff Rainwater, 10 March 2017, Cheyenne, WY

So many voices
all trading in fear
as if it’s precious gold
and anger as preferred currency.
state house, white house,
capital hill, television,
sadly even a pulpit or two —
all sounding the same refrain:

Be afraid! Get mad!

So, now I understand…
This is how Barrabas
was chosen to live
while the Prince of Peace
died.

I hope to walk
a different path.
“Do not be afraid,
I am with you,”
my Savior calls.
I pray I hear his voice
amidst all the
noise.

My colleague and friend, Rev. Paul Kottke, has been quite the inspiration for me lately. This poem was inspired by his devotional this morning during our Mountain Sky Area Lenten Daily Worship (want to know more about our morning worship services? click here.)

deporting Jesus

by Jeff Rainwater, 25 February 2017, Cheyenne, WY

I saw our Savior today,
looking more like
the first-century Jew
than any portrait
in my church.

I saw our Savior today,
but he was labeled
Illegal,
put on a truck
and sent away.

Inevitable tragedy
when no longer
can we see pattern
of the Divine
in each other.

I saw our Savior but
He was deported.
Did our salvation
go with him?

Image found on Google.