Category Archives: Poetry

ADVENT POEM by Carina Schiltz, Final Year MDiv Student

Written on internship in Milwaukee, 2014.
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord”
The words echo in the huge sanctuary
On a Thursday at noon.
It is food pantry day.
Up front sits the man who
Does not speak in full sentences,
Behind him sits the proud mother,
To the side, a man new to the neighborhood,
And back to the left, the Italian who always says,
“BE-A MY GUEST!” and flings his arms wide open
When he says it. Many filter in late to hear
The story.
Mary, the unsuspecting,
Has just learned she is to have a baby.
And not just any baby, but the baby
Who will change
Everything.
“Who wants to change the world?”
Every person raises their hands,
Even the child sitting with his mother,
Who later gives the pastor a high-five
During the peace.
“How will you do it?

How can we do it?

How do we bring hope

To a broken world?”

Mary, who is
Perplexed by the greeting:
“The Lord is with you”
Thinks “wait…me? I’m not
Special. I am not favored…how
Can you mean me? How can this be?
Bear the child whose kingdom will
Have no end?”
In the gathered congregation,
Leaning forward expectantly,
One woman looks at the preacher,
Who asks,
“Has anyone ever told you that
They believed in you?”
The young, slim woman shakes her head
Almost imperceptibly.
No one
Believes
In
Me.
“But how did Mary do it? How did she have
The courage to say, “Here am I. . .Let it be with me
According to your word” ?’
How can we change the world? How can someone
Like me
Possibly bear
Any hope
In this desperate
Painful
Violent
Place?
But you are the one.
“How can this be, since I am still—”
Alone.
Depressed.
Grieving.
Old.
Young.
Tired.
Hungry.
How can this be?
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you
And the power of the Most High will
Overshadow you”.
You, favored one, have been given gifts in order to bear
The Christ child
Into this terrible mess. For the Lord is with you.
You are the one who will bring Christ
To the world. And you will be strengthened
By him.
After the peace was shared
And the bread was broken,
The congregation departed to receive their
Groceries.
The young woman who had shaken
Her head when asked “has anyone ever
Told you they believed in you?”
Was gathering up her things.
Slowly, the pastor approaches her, scared, but
The words come out anyway.
“I saw you shake your head during the message,
That no one has ever said they believe in you.
I want you to know that I believe in you.
The Holy Spirit is with you.”
The woman looks at me,
And replying without words,
opens her arms wide.

A MICRO-MANAGER FINDS FREEDOM IN ADVENT by Alexandra Hjerpe, 2nd Year MDiv Student

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have picked a place that smelled like donkey—
but then again, God chooses to make beautiful things
out of stuff like dust, and wet nose-breath.

Personally, I like to imagine that there were velvet-nosed cattle, lowing a lullaby;
Stars dazzling a midnight-blue sky;
a sleeping, baby, white guy.

But, thankfully!, God is bigger, and better, and bolder, beyond anything
That I can comprehend with my own particular culture, and image, and mind.
God has a way of illuminating what I see as the stagnant, smelly, unwanted places—
and turning them into pools of healing and rivers of life:
into leaves for the healing of the nations.

With God’s mud on my eyes, I am allowed the clarity see created things as they always were meant to be seen— and not what I just couldn’t see them as, before.

Maybe it did involve rough blankets, and callous hands, and flies buzzing around and landing on a blanket mid-swaddle. But, all of it’s beautiful—
in the context of God.

Hope has been born. And now,
All of creation will be held together.

What could be more worthy, more beautiful, more perfectly perfect than that?

This, overwhelmingly, is God’s way: it is a springing forth, a pouring out, a blazing into new life.
it sweeps away the cobwebs and danglies of the old, dead soul, and cries, “Light em’ up!”
as green bursts from the earth in a sweaty tangle of love.

Can you imagine how fresh, and how free,
the soul was on that night God when came in person—
all straw, and placenta, and dust from here to Bethlehem?

NOW THE BIRTH OF JESUS TOOK PLACE IN THIS WAY By David R. Weiss, WTS MA graduate

Written in Feminist Theology Class, 1994. As a man he simply asked women, “What is it like to give birth?”

Fourteen and frightened
“Behold, a young woman shall conceive”
Mary, handmaid of the Lord
More than a youth
But hardly a woman
“Overshadowed by the power of the Most high”
Shaking her head in disbelief but not in doubt
Me?
“Then let it be according to your word”
For months the constant awareness
The tethering of two lives, one to the other
The mystery within
Growing, stretching, becoming
The simply and wondrous inevitability
A child is going to be born
“Blessed are you, and blessed
is the fruit of your womb”
At meals, in her eating and drinking
Thinking to herself
And smiling quietly at the miracle
Here, child, this is my body
This is my blood
Be nourished and grow strong
“And of his kingdom there will be not end”
Weary and hot
Sweat glistening on her young brow
Eyes squinting against the sun
And her belly a burden never set down
“And they went up from Nazareth unto Bethlehem”
Slow and steady over the donkey’s feet beneath her
Quick and anxious moved the child’s feet within
Counting the days
Trudging from inn to inn
Tired and impatient
Angelic visits only a dim memory
“And the time came for her to be delivered”
At last a stable
Only a stable
At least a stable
With coarse straw, and just in time
“On that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth”
Water breaking, gushing endlessly, endlessly!
Parting that the child might cross
A shiver
Counting the minutes
“And she gave birth”
Fifteen now, still frightened
Her whole world absorbed into contractions
Muscles wave-like setting the rhythm of birth
The whole season of Advent
Painfully compressed into hours
Spine-tingling anticipation, excitement
“In the beginning”
This is it, child
There’s no more turning back
Sweat glistening on her brow again
Chilled in the night air
Eyes opened wide, seeing little and pushing
“In pain you shall bring forth children”
And pushing
Laboring, breathing, straining
Salvation is hard work
And pushing
Fingers clenched, then stretched
And clenched again
The pressure of Advent
Between her legs, painful
And pushing
“as the mountains were brought forth”
Gasping to herself, and vomiting
So this is the majesty of creation!
And pushing
All thought of the child, any child
Buried in the pain
Eyes opened more than wide, peering into darkness
And exhaustion
Please can I stop?
But there is no more turning back
Only pushing
And prayers uttered in gasping breaths
And pain
“All creation groaning in travail”
And Mary pushing, aching
Praying
Must I die Lord?
In order to save your people must I die?!
“Not my will, but thine”
And more pushing
Eyes staring wildly into pure darkness
And pain
Hair stringy with sweat
And pushing
Oh, God, still pushing
And screaming
Fingers stretching to nowhere
And a head
At last a head
In the darkness, a child’s head
“Glory to God in the highest”
And renewed pushing
Then a body, a child’s body
Comes forth like a rushing wave
Wet and bloody and struggling
Already impatient with this world
Panting in aching exhilaration
Eyes closed but seeing so much more than dark
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”
A new life, no longer within, untethered
Sensing that now
I must share this child with the world
Mary, handmaid of the Lord
Soaked in sweat
Peacefully holding her child, the child
“And she wrapped him in swaddling clothes”
Rags, and yet priceless tonight
Watching the child, her child
In wonder
Checking every feature and detail
Marveling, so this is a baby!
My, oh my, so this is a baby!
How can the world ever be the same again?
Lifting the child gently to her breast
Tiny fingers touching a whole new world
A whole new world!
A tiny mouth gently tugging
At Mary’s nipple
“And you shall call his name
Immanuel
God is us”

David Weiss is a theologian, writer, poet and hymnist committed to doing “public theology” around issues of sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. In his work he seeks to use his gifts as a writer and poet to bring the strength of his academic training into fruitful conversation with the wider audiences of church and society. A graduate of Wartburg College, Wartburg Seminary, and the University of Notre Dame, he has taught religion and theology at the University of Notre Dame, Luther College, Augsburg College, St. Catherine University, and Hamline University. He is husband, parent and now, grandparent. He is the author of To the Tune of a Welcoming God (2008) and When God Was a Little Girl (2013)  Click here to go to David’s Blog

 

ADVENT, A CYNIC PSALM  by Alexandra Hjerpe, 2nd Year MDiv Student

Hope is not a posture with which I am familiar; or maybe, even, comfortable.
And yet, I cannot forget the call that comes to me, commandingly:
“Listen! You shall be more than this.”

This! What, this human life—this human death! that spasms with violence, and pain—
That cracks with gunshots upon school children—
That refuses to take in drowning refugees—
That plunges my faith into darkness?

God.
The weight of the world is pounding in my ears:
My heart races from a mortality
that shall never be outrun.

And yet.
And yet. You promise me: “It shall be more than this.”

It will involve, as some tell it, thundering clouds—which birth golden fruit!—that pour out juices and leaves for the healing of the nations.

It will look something like, as I have heard, radiant beams of light—driving out death!—which banish every shadow of despair from our hearts.

It will taste, as I have read it, cool and sweet—a fountain of the purest water, gushing down from the rock that is your cornerstone—removing the tang of grief, forever.

It will feel, as I have known it, like velvet cattle and bristling hay—the bed of a god, among us, wrapped up in a manger.

DESKCHAIR by Carina Schiltz, Final Year MDiv Student

This is a poem for all the people who have ever sat in a desk

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for some

October 26, 2015 Spring Valley High School, Colombia, South Carolina
Apparently
You refusing to get off your
Cell phone while in class
Posed a threat
Not only to “the authority”
But to all this
Country holds
Dear:
Namely,
Profit based on oppression.
You are a child,
You are a criminal,
Or at least that’s what they see when they
See you.
And so you were body-slammed
For the sake of the status quo,
Made an example of,
Your worth assigned to you
By society
Reinforced as you were flung
To the ground
While all around you, people sat
Frozen.

O God,
Unfreeze our hearts and hands and mouths.
The lie we are living CANNOT get any bigger than this.
This brutality that erases humanity.
God, it has happened again
And now I see this is not the exception,
It is the rule.
The rule of centuries of slavery, rape,
Lynching, segregation, Jim Crow,
colored only, redlining,
School-to-prison pipeline.
This is how black people
Black children,
Are treated daily.
And meanwhile
Day in and day out
For twenty years
I have sat in a school desk
And have never
Once
Considered it to be a place
That holds the possibility
Of assault.

My white skin blinds people with my
Assigned innocence.

But maybe today, this desk connects me to you
You who aren’t safe even in a classroom
And me—
Who sits in a desk hearing about how God loves the world.

And now I know what I have to do.
Open my eyes. To my privilege, and your pain.

I have to ask forgiveness.
But I know forgiveness is dangerous
Because I know it will change me,
And I won’t be able to just sit silently in my desk
Any longer
And pretend like you are not beaten down
Every
day

Forgiveness forces me to look
Into your eyes and see the centuries of
Pain under which you live
Opens my ear to hear your story
Your story.
And forgiveness
Then turns my head to look into
The mirror and see the layer,
A shield of invisibility
My white protection,
My instant “in”

But there is something else.
I reach up and feel the wet cross on my forehead and know
We belong to each other.
Forgive me for not knowing until now.
I’m sorry.

I AM . . . by Mytch Dorvilier, Final Year MDiv Student

I am a woman.
I am a black woman.
I am a non-African, American black woman.
I am a non-African, American black woman with a strong accent.
I am a Haitian woman.
I am a product of slavery.
I am a foreigner in a foreign land.
I am a foreigner with a strong French/Creole accent.
I am a human being created in the image of God.
I am a human being for whom the Son of God incarnates.
I am a human being God calls “my beloved child” the day of my baptism.
I am a human being for whom Jesus died on the cross.
I am a human being who longs for relationships as God shows us in the Trinity.
I am a human being who regards every other human being for whom Christ has died.
I am a human being who by vocation loves the neighbor as Christ loves me.
I am a human being who every day sees God’s work in the world.
I am a human being.

A VOICE KEPT SAYING … a poem and photo by Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student

A Voice Kept Saying….Lake Superior

It took many years to find my voice.

Years of digging through the rubble that was dumped upon me.

A  Voice kept saying “You cannot be silent.”

So I dug.

My fingers bruised and scraped, bloody from pulling and tugging.

A Voice kept saying “This is not right, do something!”

A spark of light was revealed through the cracks of rubble.

I grasped toward the light.

A Voice kept saying “You must speak your truth.”

The light shone brightly as I stood upon the pile of rubble,

wearing a coat of courage given to me by my Beloved.

The Voice said “You are a beloved Child of God.

You have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

You must speak your truth!”

And the Voice kept saying “Expose the darkness, so that the Light may be seen.”

RISE ~ SPEAK

“Do not be afraid for I am with you”

So I found my voice, and began to speak of the injustices being done.

~Tammy K. Barthels