Reading the Gospel of Matthew in the summertime! A response from Aotearoa/ New Zealand

Rosalie Sugrue has responded to my post of two days ago with her seasonal take on the gospel of Matthew.

Reading the Gospel of Matthew in the summertime [improv on Maren Jan 22/2020]

There’s something old and dusty, the way
Matt lines up the begats,
yet those Hebrew Bible names,
that trickle through our heads
as mindlessly as a handful of sand
slides through our fingers,
connect us to forebears
who lazed in the same sands
idly noting some grains sparkle
brighter than others.
Heritage confirms our belonging
grounds the present and opens us to knowing more.

And how like thunder that sermon on the mount
with its impossible demands,
(like, hide your prayers and don’t even get angry)
threatens the blues skies of our contentment
and where sea water paints soft patterns
freak waves of rising beatitudes
roll the good fortune
of what we have, to summer disturbed,
on its nor’wester — poor in spirit,
mourning, meek, for Christ’s sake, persecuted.

And there are parables that scud clouds
the banquet we didn’t dress for,
that hungry, naked prisoner we thought
was only a hungry, naked prisoner
not Jesus, for Christ’s sake,

because, if we knew it was him,
we’d have wrapped him in our softest towel
and given the best meat on the barbecue.

certainly not complained we’d worked hard
and deserved our summer break
while God is loving just as much —
those who build sandcastles, add shells
or flagpoles, and dig fast-draining moats
or simply sit on the deck eating icecream.

We would not have betrayed with a warm kiss
or shouted with rabble-hot anger for Barabbas’
nor sweated tears with Peter
tormented by images … keys … rock …
a severed ear … impetuous words …
waiting for a wretched bird to crow thrice
or wrestle with sleep-disturbing dreams
of pregnancy, danger and flight
of Herod and magi and all those babies?

I mean to say, it would have been easier
(the surf ride of Christianity),
if this summer reading of the gospel
wasn’t so like a heat wave
draining, wilting, cracking, peeling,

changing everything —
unwilling to let its last page slip away
until the rainfall of the promise, for Christ’s sake,
brings new life,
long and sure as the close of the age.

Rosalie Sugrue 23 Jan/.2020

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