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all are welcome

The sign outside the church
said “all are welcome.”

Perhaps they meant to say
all who look like us are welcome,
all who think like us are welcome,
all who believe like us are welcome,
all who wear masks like us are welcome,
all who don’t make a ruckus are welcome,
all who don’t shine the light of truth on us are welcome.

Come on in,
make yourself at home.

This is such a warm and friendly place,
such a nice community.

And we mean to keep it that way.

 

 

© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer

the Lord watch over your going out

Do you ever find it odd
that worshipers are greeted
as they leave the sanctuary?
This rite of transition
from comfort to challenge.
The grasping of hands, a warm smile,
a word of encouragement
as if to say
this was just the prelude—
worship begins outside these doors.
The one you seek is not here
he has gone ahead of you.
You will find him
amid the brokenness of the world.
For true worship does not consist
of heartfelt words,
of fervent prayer,
of bread and wine,
But of lives well lived
among those who need our love.

 

 

© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer

praying to God

I sometimes wonder if God
ever tires of our prayers.

Weekends must be the worst.
Friday prayers at the mosques,
Saturday appeals in the synagogues,
Sunday petitions from the churches.

An endless round of requests.
Do this, O Lord
and do that, Almighty God.
Watch over the sick,
care for the lonely,
help the poor,
encourage the unemployed,
bring peace among the nations.

As if addressing every human problem
great and small,
is part of God’s job description,
and somehow God has forgotten.

Someday I imagine
that God will lose patience
with our foolish words
and will tell us in no uncertain terms
that the care of the world,
the care of one another,
is our job.
Ours alone.

“This is your mess, not mine,” God will say.
“Get busy and stop bothering me.”
Perhaps God will add with a chuckle,
“Amen, so be it.”

 

 

© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer

the arms of love

I went to the funeral home last night
to see a friend whose life was entwined with mine.

Someone once told me
that if you want to know the truth about a person’s life,
go to their funeral.
Job, wealth, and possessions have no meaning.
Relationships and love are the only real measures
of one’s true worth.

The visitation is always a study in contrasts,
the living gathered around the dead,
the laughter amidst the grief and sorrow.
Photos of the past carefully displayed,
triggering memories of happier times.
Old friends meet again
reunited by relationships forged in youth.
We gather in community to say goodbye.

They say that she left us some time ago
lost in the arms of dementia.
Yet she died surrounded by those who loved her
in the warm embrace of her children.
And even though they may have seemed like strangers
she did not die alone.
She died in the arms of love.
And for that we are thankful.

 

 

© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer

a child is born

A darkened room
A trembling womb
Her sharp breaths cut the air
Now nearly done
The hour has come
They bring him forth with care

The child is born
In early morn
Their long-awaited one
With matted hair
He gasps for air
His journey has begun

A child’s first cries
A mother’s sighs
The sweetest song of all
Now put to breast
At last they rest
Asleep within the stall

Five fingers, toes
A button nose
Like any child, the same
His father’s son
His mother’s one
And Jesus is his name

 

 

© 2002 Kurt Struckmeyer

call me back

I am told that God answers prayer.
Always.

But then a few caveats are added,
meant to temper my expectation
for a quick and positive response.

First, they make it clear
that sometimes the answer will be “no.”
And secondly, I am told
I should not expect a speedy reply
because the answer will come in God’s time, not mine.

With seven billion people in the world,
if only a fraction pray every day
God’s in-box must be jammed 24/7.
The volume must be immense
since God also hears unspoken needs.

I wonder if God employs a triage system
so that brain cancer takes precedence over a math quiz.
Perhaps God weighs the requests on merit
based on an extraordinary need
or an intensity of feeling
or the strength of belief.
If so, my odds of getting through
are slim to none.

I have left messages, repeatedly,
but God never picks up.

Please.
Call me back.
I’m waiting.

 

 

© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer

be careful what you pray for

When we pray
come, Lord Jesus—

do we mean to say:
come, you malnourished stranger
come, you unwanted migrant
come, you ragged child
come, you crying crack baby
come, you dirty panhandler
come, you dying alcoholic
come, you addicted whore
come, you imprisoned gangbanger

Come, and join us.
Share our table.
Be our guest.

 

 

© 2014 Kurt Struckmeyer

the kingdom is at hand

Music: “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” by Johann Sebastian Bach / “American Tune” by Paul Simon

 

A young man roams the city
With anger in his eyes.
His rage glows like an ember,
His soul is cold as ice.
And he knows he’s going nowhere,
And he knows he cannot win.
But still he cries at the darkened skies,
While the kingdom is at hand.

The widow makes her daily meal
Of stale toast and tea.
Her money gone, her days grow long,
And fill with memories.
She dreams of friends and family
Of the life that they had planned;
Shadows loom in the empty room
While the kingdom is at hand.

The young girl on the corner
Makes her living on the street.
In motels and bars she bears the scars
Of lovers and defeat.
Then getting stoned, she goes back home
With another faceless man.
Two empty lives drift through the night
While the kingdom is at hand.

The children cry from hunger
As their listless bodies lie
In rooms they share with vacant stares
And silent weeping eyes.
Their stunted minds and shunted lives
Are a curse upon the land.
The children’s tears fill up their years
While the kingdom is at hand.

To those who have no future,
To those who have no hope;
To those who know no kindness,
To those who grasp and grope;
To those whose lives are empty,
To those who need a friend;
The Word of Life has come to you
For the kingdom is at hand.

The Holy Spirit gathers
The lost and lonely ones.
She takes them from their darkness
And bathes them in the sun.
She sends her church into the world
To those whose lives are damned,
To live and die with the joyful cry
That the kingdom is at hand.

To every generation,
To every race and land;
In city or in country,
The kingdom is at hand.
The Lord is here among us,
His promises are true.
The kingdom lives forever,
The kingdom is in you!

Yes, the kingdom is in you.

 

© September 1976, Kurt Struckmeyer

advent: the waiting is over

The season of Advent is upon us. For most people it is a flurry of activity to prepare for the Christmas and New Year holidays: a time of decoration, a time of shopping, a time of baking, a time of lights and candles. For some, it is simply the most stressful time of the year. But historically, advent has been a time of inward preparation in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. It recalls the themes of a late-term pregnancy: waiting and suspense, hope and expectation. Advent literally means “arrival.”

During the season of Advent, we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world and watch with expectant hope for his coming again. We are reminded that we live in a time between Arrival One and Arrival Two.

In the biblical story, especially in readings from Isaiah, Advent reflects a people waiting for a messiah—an anointed conquering king—who will save them from oppression and despair. Themes of darkness and light, of night and a new dawn, provide metaphors for a dramatic change to come. In Christian theology, Advent reflects the idea that God is coming into our midst, that a divine child is arriving who will restore creation and set things right—to make us better individuals, to heal our broken relationships, to transform our world with justice and peace. Those were the promises of Arrival One. However, things are not better. The world is still mired in darkness and despair. Arrival One was insufficient. So we wait for Arrival Two. Ultimately, we are still looking for a messiah to save us from the mess we have gotten ourselves into. And so we wait. And we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

But perhaps we have it all backwards. Instead of waiting for God to act to set things right, perhaps God has been waiting for us to act. The message of Jesus is that we are the ones who are called to make a better world. If you are looking for a messiah, wait no longer; simply look into the mirror.

The readings for Arrival Two remind us that Christ will come again, and we are to prepare for the momentous day. But perhaps the return of Jesus is not found in the future. Maybe his return is found daily in those who follow him and embody his message and mission. Christian theology, beginning with the Apostle Paul, reminds us that we are the body of Christ. Jesus has returned in us and through us and among us. We are the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus. If the spirit of Jesus is to be manifested in the world today, we are the divine actors who will play the role. The truth is that Christ is always coming—through us.

The message of the Arrival Two lessons is one of preparedness. Be vigilant, we are told. You are to be the light of the world. Keep your lamps trimmed and burning. Prepare for the task ahead, and do so quickly. For soon the seasons of Advent and Christmas will be over and as Howard Thurman wrote, then “the work of Christmas begins.”

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.”

God is waiting. We have much work to do. What are we waiting for?

prayer for discipleship

God of love,
source of mercy and compassion,
weave your dream for the world
into the fabric of our lives. 

Remove the scales from our eyes
and lift the indifference from our hearts,
so that we may see your vision –
a new reign of justice and compassion
that will renew the earth.

Transform our lives,
so that we may accomplish your purpose.

Anoint us with your spirit of love
that we might bring good news to the oppressed,
bind up the brokenhearted,
and proclaim release to the captive.

Give us a new urgency
and a new commitment
to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless,
and visit those who live in isolation.

Help us to reach out to those
whom no one else will touch,
to accept the unacceptable,
and to embrace the enemy.

Surround us with your love,
fill us with your grace,
and strengthen us for your service.

Empower us to respond to the call of Jesus –
to deny ourselves,
to take up our crosses,
and to follow.

Make us your disciples.

Amen

 

© 2010 Kurt Struckmeyer

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