2018 Sonnet 67

I’m hearing voices from the other side.
And colors: pink or blue? Is it a boy?
A girl. That’s right. I see her take a ride
On horseback. No? No, wait. A bike. Some toy.

Her name is Cindy? Catherine? That’s right; Sue!
I see her wearing skirts and shirts. She must be
Very dear to you that she would find you
Right here. Today. Of course; she speaks through me.

She seems to oft go barefoot; sometimes shoes.
They’re black and leather, cloth, maybe vinyl
Heels or flats. Sandals? Flip-flops. Now, here’s news:
She loved them so, those shoes, and here’s what’s final:

She used to be but now knows she is not.
She wants to say she still loves you a lot.

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Sheep Without a Shepherd

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

— Mark 6:30-34

When I was associate pastor in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, one of several hurricanes missed us and crossed the state a few miles north of us. One Sunday, a very weary woman came into our service. She introduced herself as a Disciples minister, then broke down crying. She was from San Diego and had come here to help with the destruction from the hurricane.

She told heart-wrenching stories about people living in their storage sheds, with plastic tarps for roofs and wood fires for cooking. She told us about her work with the physical needs of the people she met, but also about the extreme emotional toll the storm had on the people. She was from out of town, so she did not represent an area church.

We discussed ways that we could help in an already crowded field of volunteers. She suggested that if we volunteered, we might be able to recruit people into the church.

I’m sure you know that Disciples churches aren’t exactly evangelical. My senior pastor and I had a sense that although there were no Disciples churches in the affected area, there were plenty of churches where people could and perhaps should attend. Besides, we were too far away. We just had a sense that it would be taking unfair advantage of a natural disaster if we used it as a platform to gain members.

Her response was, “Well, SOMEBODY should bring them in!”

I will never forget that event. We were convicted of finding an excuse to avoid recruiting new church members. Our excuse sounded legitimate – that there were other churches closer, that the people probably had a different denominational background, and so on. But while we were making excuses to not evangelize, apparently so was everybody else. In the midst of the destruction, the people were like sheep without a spiritual shepherd.

I bet we have excuses for not evangelizing. There are a lot of churches in Guyton. A lot of people have backgrounds and families in other denominations. We aren’t big enough for some people. We don’t have a big singles group. We are too liberal for some people and too conservative for others. But the lesson I learned is that if we are not shepherding people into the kingdom of God, they are likely to be sheep without a shepherd.

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus has taken His disciples by boat to a solitary place. Jesus had sent them out two by two to evangelize, and they had returned to report on their success. Jesus was suggesting that they all take a break in a solitary place. But the people figured out where they were going, and when they landed the boat, that place was not so solitary. It was full of people looking for answers, looking for a teacher, looking for a shepherd. Jesus and the disciples needed a break, but the people needed a shepherd. So Jesus forgot about his needed break and started teaching the people.

This story comes just before the feeding of the five-thousand, which comes before the event of Jesus walking on water and calming a storm. Between those two events, Jesus was praying alone on a mountaintop. That was His time to recharge.

The story says that Jesus had pity on the people, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The same phrase is used in Matthew. Let’s look at that, in Matthew 9:35-38:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” There were plenty of people working the field after the hurricane, but there was nobody harvesting those who were ripe for spiritual revival. In John 4, Jesus has so impressed a Samaritan woman that she brought the whole town out to hear him. It was another time that Jesus needed a break.

The disciples had gone to get food. “Rabbi, eat something,” they said. Jesus answered, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest.’?” How is that a saying? It must have been that when one person says, “We can’t take a break,” or “Why are you doing nothing?”, the person resting might say, “It’s still four months until harvest.” It’s kind of like saying, “What’s the hurry?”

Jesus goes on to say, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

We all tend to make excuses for why we aren’t out inviting people to church, or testifying about the Kingdom of God. There’s lots of time, we say. What’s the hurry? The people aren’t ready. Somebody else will do it. Our barns are not big enough.

Meanwhile, lost and hurting people are looking for a shepherd. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t good enough, big enough, rich enough, loud enough, contemporary enough. It doesn’t matter if we need a break. No excuse matters, because we are not the shepherd; Jesus is.

Here’s the question: Are we going to go another week without inviting someone to church? Why? Do we really think everybody has a church, or are we just afraid to ask? Look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest! There are workers in the field who really have their hands full, and they are asking the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers.

Guess what? We are more workers. We are those who are too often sitting on the sidelines, waiting for instructions or for the ideal opportunity. Meanwhile, there are people who are lost and confused – Matthew says they are harassed and helpless – and they are like sheep without a shepherd.

You can be an answer to prayer. We can be workers in the field, gathering the harvest, bringing in the sheaves. We may need rest, we may be few, we may be busy, and none of that matters. Look! The field is ripe for harvest! Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send workers into His field! I pray that when He sends us, we will go into the field, harvest the grain, and introduce those harassed and helpless sheep to the Good Shepherd who leads this church.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

2018 Sonnet 66

I take no offense; I make no excuse,
But I wonder if more people would buy
Sonnets invaded by children of Zeus
Than those hinting at Christ. I wonder why

Egyptian/Tibetan Books of the Dead
And Bhagavad Gita don’t get a rise.
The Koran owns the Rubaiyat instead
Of the Holy Bible, considered wise

Though more for poetry, language and plot.
Not rare, as I think of it, just passé.
I live in the scriptures, use them a lot.
I wonder: Am I out of step with today?

It would be great if my sonnets would sell.
Better yet to steer someone clear of hell.

2018 Sonnet 65

I’m always giving my mailbox the eyes,
Checking my email, waiting by the phone,
Looking for likes, loves, and replies,
Whatever it takes to feel less alone.

Trolls are trying to get a reaction
May be lonely people just trying to see,
If there might be any satisfaction
In being acknowledged. Is that less lonely?

We need to spend less time behind the screen.
The people we meet just might become friends.
It’s time to unmask, big reveal and come clean,
Get out and meet people. Let’s make amends

For wasting our time like birds on a perch.
Here’s a solution: We’ll see you in church.

2018 Sonnet 64

Them! Yes, all of them! Yes, you know their name!
They always do, always say, never will
Get it right. Lay the blame! They’re all the same!
Yes, them! All of them! It’s a bitter pill.

They’ve got it all wrong! They never do right.
They’re just like those others, just more recent.
They say white is black. They say black is white.
They oppose all that is right and decent.

They’re all taking over! Better watch out!
We’ll soon be outnumbered if we don’t act.
And won’t that be bad? That’s what it’s about.
It’s bad! Getting worse! My friend, that’s a fact!

They battle us, rattle us, make us cuss.
To us “they” is them; to them “they” is us.

2018 Sonnet 63

Act now! Don’t miss this exciting offer
A fool would pay thousands more for this thing.
But here’s your chance to fill up my coffer
Visit the website. Have a toll-free ring!

How are you living without this device?
Doesn’t your family deserve such as this?
You need this for dicing, for mincing, to slice!
Your spouse will love you and give you a kiss!

But wait! There’s more! For the next ten minutes
We’ll throw in another and you only just pay
For shipping and handling. The benefits
Won’t last, so act now! Order yours today!

Don’t wait and don’t think! Not one second thought!
And soon you’ll be tossing this junk that you bought.

2018 Sonnet 62

Burrow in the dark, beneath the surface.
We see his mounded trails beneath the grass.
Barely hidden, with trails easy to trace.
We picture him denying, bold and crass:

“Not my trail! You must have snakes! They want me!
Out to get me, ah, but I’m too clever!
They don’t love your yard. They want to haunt me!
Ugly! Wicked! Stupid! Catch me? Never!”

Little backward hands and teeth like razors.
Cute, in his own way, with those squinty eyes.
Goals in mind, if not in sight, like lasers.
Booby trap the yard with holes. Surprise!

He’s been here all along to dig that hole.
You thought he was a snake? He’s just a mole.