Boundary to benedictus

A meditation on Zechariah

hillbilly priest of the
Abijarian house of Aaron,
himself the brother and mouthpiece
for “slow-tongued” Moses—
What lesion confounds your speech?

With Elizabeth—
cousin of Mary, spiritual heir of
Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah—
barren and bereft, seedless and sorrowful,
pledged to you, a priest of impotent prayer.
A union with no yield but malignant shame.
What boundary of belief constricts your credulity?

Afflicted with aphasia by Gabriel’s reproach
’mid the cloud of incense.
The Holy of Holies,
designed to regulate the presence of
(the unspoken name of) YHWH, now
overwhelmed with dumbfounding Presence.

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The work of praise

Portending peace for the earth

The Blessed One does not stand in need of our praise;
nor sits impatiently, impudently, awaiting our
genuflection; nor strides restively, demandingly,
threateningly, toward our cowering pose.

No, none of this. There is no protection to be warranted by
proper groveling, calculated flattery, sustained applause,
pleading curtsies or bargaining bows.

It is, rather, we who need to praise. By it we transcend
self-serving ways. By it beggarly egos loosen their grip;
anxious trembling and toil, stilled and rested; fury, calmed;
moans, soothed; regrets, unknotted.

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Behold, the Lamb!

O Lamb of God
fruit of the Spirit
flesh-giv’n of Mary
creation shall hear it!

O Lamb of God
Joseph sits shiv’ring
Mary lies aching
creatures stir, restless.

O Lamb of God
Herod stomps, raging
shepherds peer, trembling
wise ones kneel, puzzling.

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All flesh is destined for glory

Cristes mæsse.
Ritual reminder of
a Palestinian promise
announcing Holy Intent in
swaddling attire, manager laid:
All flesh is destined for Glory.
For God
is more taken
with earth’s agony
than heaven’s ecstasy.

©Ken Sehested @ Advent 2009. Inspired by Luke 3:6.

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Advent longing

O Wondrous One,
Who rides the skies
and consorts with the earth,
haunting the heavens,
hounding mere mortals
with the expectation of ecstasy,
come and rouse hungry hearts
wandering this famined land
with the aroma of your presence.

Come, angelic envoys,
with renewed announcement
of glory (to God) and
peace (for the earth).
Your people long for
Messiah’s rejoinder,
through wombs made welcome
to the news of reversal:
the annulment of enmity
and the Advent of promise.

From Jesse’s ancient stump
raise again a voice consonant
with hope’s manger-laid disclosure,
of delight with wolf and lamb,
and children marshalling the
cavalcade astride the Lion of Judah.

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Celebrant of mercy

From the Beginning, the Sovereign’s harness of the seer’s
     tongue assures a turbulent course. Announcing the
           surety of Providence among scarce-minded
           people—that’s no way to cover a mortgage.

            Blessed is the tongue that proclaims God’s ciphering.

To where may we turn for food that does not spoil,
for water that does not spill, for the bounty which neither
     rusts nor rots, unthreatened by thieves of every kind?

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By the Beautiful Gate

By the Beautiful Gate doth my heart lie abandoned,
confined to the dust by crippled estate, dependent on
shame for a shekel’s remorse and a pitiful glance.

                  Look at me,
if you dare to compare your lofty composure.

Season by season, we watch for the light of the sun’s
promised rise and Messiah’s awaited approach.
We long for redemption beyond silver and gold,
           beyond every imperial consent.

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Bread baking God

by Ken Sehested

Bread-baking, kitchen-dwelling, breast-feeding God,
We return to your lap and to your table
because we are hungry and thirsty.
Fill us again
with the bread that satisfies,
with milk that nourishes.
Drench parched throats with wet wonder;
feed us ‘til we want no more.
We come to your lap and to your table
We come to your lap and to your table
and rediscover your romance with the world.
As you nourish us with the bread of life and the milk of your word,
let your Spirit hang an apron around our necks.
Fashioned and patterned like that worn
by our Lord-become-friend, Jesus.
Instruct us,
Instruct us here in the halls of your kitchen-kingdom,
with the recipes of mercy and forgiveness,
of compassion and redemption.
Leaven our lives
‘til they rise in praise:
Offered, blessed and broken
for the healing of the nations.

©Ken Sehested @ A Mother’s Day poem, 1994, in honor of my mother, Joyce Sehested, recalling her labors on the day of my birth.

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Bread and breast of heaven

The signal of Moses’ ordination
erupted as bread, from the sky—
and water, from the rock—amid the
trackless and barren waste where
no tillage is found, no rivulet is formed.

      Bread and Breast of Heaven,
      feed me ’til I want no more.

Nourishment appears where none is
warranted, save by those who dare the
departure from Pharaoh’s granary.

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Blistering Hope

A stonemason’s meditation on perseverance

When cutting capstone, carefully
measured, from a larger block with
nothing but hammer and chisel, you
come to know the necessity of blister-raising
toil to achieve envisioned result.

No guarantees are to be had, of course. Sometimes,
despite calculated scoring, tracing a careful contour
across one edge, ‘round to another, and another, and yet another,
with metered strokes and measured aim (fingers
are no match against the carom of sledge)
the rock stubbornly declares it own gnarly cleft.

Some fractures are costly; some rocks
just don’t cooperate in the prestige of
being mortared atop crafted columns.
(But even these—the jagged rubble hidden
behind hewn face—have their
anonymous, reinforcing roles.)

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