Gospel Poems


Much of the New Testament is written in prose. Many texts and stories begin to look different when accessed through poetry. Perhaps poetry better honours the Aramaic language of Jesus' homeland, but also something of the oral tradition from which much of the New Testament has arisen. 

Zebedee’s Plight (Matt.4:21-22)  

(Background notes in Rick F. Talbot (2008), “Nazareth’s Rebellious Son: Deviance and Downward mobility in the Galilean Jesus Movement,” Biblical Theology Bull Vol.38 (2008), 99-113).


Imagine the look as Zebedee gazed,

The shock of betrayal and his feelings of rage.

The sons have abandoned the family trace,

The fallout could linger in shame and disgrace.

And the servants essential to business afloat

Afford he to pay them, mid ill fame so wrought.

And the heirs to the business upon which he hoped

Have turned their backs and for mission eloped.


The cost of discipleship we oft glamorise,

Suggesting ‘twas worth it to gain such a prize.

We tend to ignore the disruption ensued,

Undermining the power of a family ruined.

Two sons to abandon a home enterprise

Dismantles the hope for a future to rise.

And a family unit with sonship deprived

Faces social exclusion and much hope denied.


The sons also face a future unknown,

They’ve severed the links with the loved ones they’ve known.

And there’s no turning back when you opt out like that,

You’re seen as a traitor, a callous upstart.

The call for disciples no glory nor power,

Yet some took the option new hope to empower.

The radical turn God’s new reign on earth,

With the hand to the plough, they must never regret.


But a thought we must spare for Zebedee’s plight,

His future uncertain,

His family fortune.

Let’s hope he survived the big price he paid!


Sinning Against the Holy Spirit  (Mk. 3:20-35)


The family thought he was out of his mind,

And hoped to restrain his perversion.

And the Scribes were convinced he too was possessed,

Bad spirits invaded his inner recess,

Dementing his vision and actions.


The mother and brothers had tried very hard

To ensconce him again with his siblings.

They feel so embarrassed by this new-found repute,

This dabbling with spirits they cannot refute,

As they strive to imprison his spirit.


The family system, a paradigm shift,

A household in turmoil, relations adrift.

The strong man who binds by force of control,

No longer in charge, unsure of his role,

It feels like a spirit’s perversion.


The gap that is bridged in the Jesus response

Creates only more dislocation.

“Who is my mother and brethren beside?

Those with big vision and eyes opened wide,

A household embracing all nations.”


Patriarchal dominion invested so long

In the family system with a power-base so strong,

Gives way to another inspirited force,

Empowering the masses to dream a new course,

The dawn of a new liberation.


And the Sin of the Spirit we duly betray,

When we fail to become the new household.

The Spirit who dwells in communal breakthrough,

The disciples who gather empowering anew,

With a family trace re-invented.


The mother and brethren left gaping aghast,

Their cherished tradition fragmenting.

They’ve always been faithful to holy decree,

Observing the law like a good family.

One day they’ll embrace the new vision.


 The Parable of Enlightened Confusion (based on Mark 4:10-12)

The stories Jesus told them turned their world upside-down,

Bombarding every certainty they held.

The boundaries were disrupted,

Their sacred creeds corrupted,

Every hope they had constructed

Was questioned to the core!

By the time the story ended,

Stretching meaning so distended,

On one truth their life depended,

What they’d known for long before.


Some disciples who were ready he called them to one side,

Inviting them to risk a dream come true.

Companions for empowerment,

A sacred new endowment,

Ready for a new announcement,

The breakthrough long proclaimed.

Those yet who cannot see it,

No riddles to perceive it,

Confused they only flee it,

And cling on to ancient lore.


The connection with Isaiah he thought might do the trick,

Their hist’ry might illuminate the way.

Unless the eye is open wide,

Unless the ear echoes from inside,

Unless the heart risks to confide,

You’ll miss the haunting truth.

Like seeds that fall upon the ground,

Some parched and lost cannot rebound,

Yet much will flourish tall and sound,

And yield one-hundred fold.


It’s a text of ambiguity, true to parabolic lore,

Disrupting every certainty we hold.

With the scholars out of season,

There’s another way to reason,

And to some it feels like treason,

To the powers who long control.

So embrace new liberation,

In the heart of God’s creation,

And in storied proclamation,

Let the seeds of hope sprout forth.


 “Have I Made another blunder?” (Herod) (Based on Mk.6:14-16).

 Don’t tell me its John come back to life!

How many more errors will I contrive;

How many more posing as new Messiahs;

Will somebody tell me what the hell’s going on?

I can’t control this crazy plot,

Am I in charge or am I not?

If the dead come back to haunt me,

What will the living do?


Is this revenge for my conjured trick

Trying to rid the world of a godless freak

Who’s turning the tables making my power weak;

Will somebody tell me what the hell’s going on?

I’m not in control as I used to be,

Other forces question my due decree.

If the dead come back to haunt me

What will the living do?


I wish Herodias with her stupid prank

Had chosen another one to attack

Instead of that silly ascetical wank.

I wish I knew what the hell’s going on!

And halt this messianic fervour,

With a firm hand of real endeavour.

So that the dead no longer haunt me

And Messiah upstarts no longer flaunt me.

After all, by God’s decree I rule;

I know what I’m about – I’m not a fool!


The Jericho Road full of Questions (Based on Luke 10:30ff)  

Every bone in my body was aching,

And a gash just below my left eye

Left me dazed with confusion and anger,

One more victim as crime rates soar high!

I had heard many stories and warnings,

That road should not travel alone.

But I thought I was fit and impervious

A lesson too late to bemoan!


Many passed me and stared in amazement,

I never felt so much betrayed,

As I glimpsed the far priest and the levite

My stomach it groaned in despair.

Till a guy with a donkey approached me,

A stranger so thoughtful and rare.

And he mounted me on to his donkey

And rushed me for medical care.


Next, I knew I was sleeping in comfort

And sustained with some food of the best.

But in nervous concern I queried

What ‘twould cost me to be such a guest.

No worry but trust in the carer,

Had accounted for every expense,

With such care I could quickly recover

And no one would ask recompense.


But then came the shock and the quandary.

O Dear! How it made my heart sink!

Compromising my whole reputation,

Betraying my unique Jewish rank.

Samaritans we always have hated,

For me they’re the lowest of low.

How disgusting – he handled my body,

I better let nobody know!


But why did he do this good turn?

Now surely he too must have known

That Jews and Samaritans differ

And should keep far apart on their own.

I’m confused and unsure of my grounding,

I don’t understand what’s going on.

While the Jews all passed by and ignored me,

A Samaritan lifted my hand!


Who said we should hate all who differ?

On our own we should only rely?

And why is religion so righteous

Leaving people like me in the mire?

The Samaritans I still do not like them.

After all, I’ve been told that from youth.

But I can’t trust the Jews any longer

‘Cos I doubt if they’re telling the truth.


And I wonder about all this religion,

Is it leading God’s people astray?

When the outcast can glow in compassion

While the righteous pile rules to obey!

I am and We are (Reflection on John's Gospel)

I am the light of the world made new
And together with you my friends
  We bring the light of enduring liberation,
From all those trapped
in slavish concentration.
And radiate the promise
that will every heart renew.
Behold I make all things new,
Together we can do it, me and you!

I am the bread to alleviate their hunger,
And together with you my friends,
We’ll reverse the cruel curse
of aching empty bowels,
The petrified hopelessness
in which starvation howls.
And release the crushed abundance
the wealthy oft accrue,
Behold I make all things new,
Together we can do it, me and you!
I am the vine and you the branches lush,
And together with you my friends,
We’ll inebriate the vineyards
of parabolic lore,
And pour out for all to drink
what others hoard in store.
Clean drinking water
every country to imbue.
Behold I make all things new.
Together we can do it, me and you!

I am the Good Shepherd
attending to the flock.
And together with you my friends,
We’ll build communities
of love and care,
An open table for everyone to share,
With justice to the fore
in everything we do.
Behold I make all things new.
Together we can do it, me and you!

I am the way to truth and life,
And together with you my friends,
We’ll level out the shoddy
pathways of a broken world
To reconcile and heal
the many hearts so troubled.
Transcending what divides us,
together we’ll construe.
Behold I make all things new.
Together we can do it, me and you!

I am the Resurrection for new life,
And together with you my friends,
Our earth will rise again beyond
the shackles and the pain
Of human’s crude pursuit
of selfish greed and gain.
Cosmic justice in our planet
we’ll pursue.
Behold I make all things new.
Together we can do it, me and you!