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.

we are God’s garden

by Jeff Rainwater, 20 April 2017, Cheyenne, WY

Dark, fertile, earth hides
under my fingernails.
Compost’s sharp scent
fills my nostrils.
Aching back protests
a good day’s effort
in my garden.

I become aware
sometimes new life
needs a little help.

And I wonder,
Does God enjoy
getting hands
dirty as I do?

We are God’s garden.

“the Lord God formed the human
from the topsoil of the fertile land
and blew life’s breath into his nostrils.
The human came to life.”

-Genesis 2:7, CEB

why I preach

By Jeff Rainwater, Easter 2017, Cheyenne, Wuyoming

New life
surprises.

Mountain vales
suddenly greening.
Shattered relationships
miraculous mending.
A lost life (sometimes mine)
graciously turning.

Look here,
when did that
happen?

Astonished,
I stand in awe
in front of another
empty tomb, awaiting
the voice of One Reborn:
Go on now…
Tell the others.
Such news is
too good to
remain a
secret.

while it was still dark

by Jeff Rainwater, 3 April 2017, Cheyenne, WY

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed…”
-John 20:1

When there is still scent
of death upon the wind
and darkness hides all
but fear and despair
and hope is but
a memory…

That is the Beginning.

When root of green grass
yields to cold ground’s will
no more, when life trapped
in chrysalis first dreams
of flight, before first bloom
is ever seen…

That is the Beginning.

Before sparrow sings
or trumpet sounds or
the Lord calls out, “Arise!”
there is quiet, inward, breath
and determination
to silence break…

That is the Beginning.

When Night has become
a snare and all you believed
good and right and true
has failed, light the candle,
set the watch, stay awake.
God’s not done yet.

This is just the Beginning.

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.’

patience

IMG_1101

This poem brought to you by spending a day in our modern air transit system.
by Jeff Rainwater, 31 March 2017, Denver International Airport

A
fragile
resource
doomed ever
to encounter
inexhaustible
demand.
Wait
for
it…

before ezekiel speaks

by Jeff Rainwater, 27 March 2017, Denver, CO

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. -Ezekiel 37:1

How did the owners
of these bones die?
Should not that
have been asked?
That daughter’s femur,
This son’s metatarsal,
How came they to this
bitter end?
These bones, bereft
of life, still hold
a story.

Speak, O Bones!

Was it some great
Armageddon battle
fought valiantly against
enemy greater than you?
Was it God?…tired of
the stubbornness
and grumbling and
back-biting injustice?
(Not a very just
solution,
even for God,
if you ask me.)

Perhaps you simply
withered away from lack
of essentials holding
death at bay —
clean water, ample food,
shelter safe and secure.
Maybe the fatal loss
was deeper yet.
Compassion this
tibia lying here
required, as much as
sinew and skin.

Speak, O Bones,
before Ezekiel opens
his mouth!
Share your lessons,
for a biting wind I feel
in my country and
among my kin —
of a very different sort
than what breathed
into you Life
again.