Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Surprise Upon Surprise....

You, whose conceiving 
was predicted by that incensed angel
In answer to a prayer by parents 
long past creating.
You, whose birth was unannounced 
by your voiceless father,
Whose doubts had dared to question,
And…then…mutely waited-out 
some pregnancy of his own.
Your name scribbled 
by that still-silent father.

(Because who on earth would listen to a mother!)

And…then…with new voice suddenly birthed,
That father breaks into Holy Ghost song:
"And you, my child, 'Prophet of the Highest,"
Will go ahead of the Master to prepare His ways."*

—Surprise upon surprise—

You, who grew up healthy and spirited out in your desert,
Until that voice of yours had to cry
(or else bust your soul wide open)
That message sent from God,
"Prepare for God's arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!
Every ditch will be filled in,
Every bump smoothed out...."

(And who doesn't want that?)

So they came to your riverbank,
Expecting filled-in ditches and smoothed-out bumps.
Oh, to have seen their faces when you greeted,
"Brood of snakes!
Why are you slithering down here to this river?
You think a bit of water on your snakeskins
Deflects God's judgment?
Change your life, not your skin.
And don't even think about pulling rank
By claiming Abraham as your father--
God can make children from stones if He wants."

—Surprise upon surprise—

But something—sickness of themselves,
Desperation for change,
Fascination with you and those camel-haired coverings
And honey-covered bugs,
Some primal, cosmic longing—welled up in them to beg,
(or else bust their souls wide open)
“What can we do to change from snakes to children?”
To which you cried, 
“Quit hoarding and extorting!
Quit beating, bribing and blackmailing!”
Which made those wannabe children wonder,
“Could this camel-covered, bug-eating voice be Him?
Be Messiah…?”

—Surprise upon surprise—

Even Herod got wind of you;
Courted that wild voice of yours.
But got stung by it instead
“On the matter of Herodias,” sister-in-law-turned-wife.
And, so, stung back—that’s what Herods do.
And there you sit, in that prison cell
Cut off from your saving riverbank.

And, because sometimes cells wear down voices
--no matter how wild and free they once were--
You begin to wonder about that cousin of yours,
The One you baptized,
“Are you the One?”
“Or are we still waiting?”
Waiting in that prison cell
With worn-down voice and worn-out heart.
How many doubt-growing days passed, John?
Until you send heart-sick followers to ask,
“Are you the One?”

And…for 3 hours…
(at least not with words)
He’s too busy—
Curing. Casting. Causing.

—Surprise upon surprise—

And then, as if 3 seconds had passed,
He answers your question with His own,
“Is this what you were expecting?
...The blind see, the lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth
Have God's salvation extended to them."

And your followers return to that cell where you wait,
Telling their own stories of what they saw Him do
--with their own now-opened eyes;
And echo words they heard Him speak
--with their own now-dug-out ears.
Did their stories answer your questions?
Did His question quiet your doubts?
(I ask because I know how hearing of others' miracles
Can cause the question, "Why can't I have one of my own?")

But, your cousin, The One you baptized in that river,
He doesn’t seem offended by questions:
"What did you expect?
When you went to see John in the wild?
A weekend camper?
A sheik in silk pajamas?
Not by a long shot.
What then?
God's messenger?
That's right...
Probably the greatest messenger you'll ever hear."

—Surprise upon surprise—

Then Herod has a birthday,
And a young beauty
—the girl of that sister-in-law-turned-wife—
Gifts him a dance.
What a dance it must have been!
A dance that birthed a vow,
“I’ll give you anything you want!”
But the young dancer has no wants.
And, so, asks her still-stinging mother, who hisses,
“That meddling Baptizer’s head on a platter!”

—Surprise upon surprise—

And so the birthday encore:
That plattered head—eyes and mouth open—
Looks straight at Herod.
(No wonder his dreams turned to nightmares)
And that headless body is buried
By stomach-sick, heart-broken followers
Who must tell his cousin, The One,
That the voice crying in the wilderness is silenced.
But wait…
—Surprise upon surprise—

(*All Scripture references are based on The Message.)