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<strong>PART</strong> M: Whom to love<br />

<strong>PART</strong> M: WHOM TO LOVE<br />

Even if you think you are in the right, Jesus makes it clear that you must love those<br />

whom you dislike.<br />

The rich and powerful are often small<br />

and so it was with Zacchaeus, a man<br />

well-known in Jericho because his post<br />

was Chief Collector of the taxes Rome<br />

imposed. When he heard rumour that a crowd<br />

was slowly passing through the town, and that<br />

a man called ‘Jesus’ was the reason for<br />

the crush, he dashed ahead to find a spot<br />

from which he could obtain a better view.<br />

A sycamore was just the place he sought<br />

and shinning up the trunk he lay in wait.<br />

But Jesus did not walk on by. He stopped<br />

and unexpectedly addressed the man<br />

half-hidden in the leafy sycamore.<br />

‘Come down at once, Zacheaus, for I want<br />

to claim your hospitality and share<br />

a meal with you.’ What! Share a meal with him?…<br />

With so respectable a Jew? Under<br />

his very roof!’ He slithered down to face<br />

the man who was to be his guest that day.<br />

Since he was hated by his fellow Jews<br />

as a collaborator and a cheat<br />

he was surprised to be addressed by one<br />

so honoured and renowned as Jesus was.<br />

The crowd were far less pleased at what transpired.<br />

There were loud shouts of horror and surprise<br />

That Jesus should not recognise the man<br />

as being a detested turncoat Jew<br />

and servant of the Roman Governor<br />

was cause enough for comment everywhere.<br />

But how amazed they were when suddenly<br />

Zacchaeus spoke, and in a voice that all<br />

could hear, announced that he would give away<br />

one half of everything he owned to feed<br />

the poor: and personally would repay<br />


A gospel in blank verse with rhymed parables<br />

fourfold the people whom he had by fraud<br />

deceived and overtaxed. And Jesus said<br />

when he was welcomed joyfully to feast,<br />

‘Salvation has today come to this house<br />

for he is also son of Abraham,<br />

and I, the Son of Man, have come to seek<br />

and save, and re-instate the lost.’<br />

As he sat by the roadside, begging alms<br />

a blind man, Bartimaeus, heard the sound<br />

of a great crowd, just leaving Jericho.<br />

As they were getting close, he no doubt thought<br />

that day would be a day his palm would fill.<br />

‘Why all the noise?’ he asked. ‘What’s happening?’<br />

‘Jesus of Nazareth,‘ someone explained,<br />

‘is passing by.’ This son of Timaeus<br />

had heard of him. The thought of pockets full<br />

of money left his mind. ‘Son of David!’<br />

he yelled out at once. ‘Great son of David,<br />

Pity me! Pity me!’ Folk in the crowd<br />

were keen to shut him up. He would not hear.<br />

His shouts grew louder still. ‘Oh, pity me,<br />

Jesus of Nazareth. Please pity me.’<br />

So Jesus stopped. He asked to see the man.<br />

‘Come on!’ they said and got him to his feet.<br />

‘The Nazarene is calling for you now.’<br />

He threw aside his coat, forgot his cash<br />

and found himself beside the man he sought.<br />

‘What do you want of me,’ Jesus enquired.<br />

‘I want to see,’ the blind man said in tears.<br />

‘You think that I can give you back your sight?<br />

‘I do. I really do,’ was the reply.<br />

Jesus came close and gently touched his eyes<br />

and he immediately could see. ‘Your faith<br />

has made this possible. Don’t tell the world.’<br />

But when the crowd moved on, then so did he.<br />

‘Praise God!’ he shouted, ‘Look! Now I can see.’<br />

And everyone took up the cry to shout<br />

their praise of God and wonder at the sign.<br />


<strong>PART</strong> M: Whom to love<br />

The Parable of the Lost Sheep<br />

O, lucky shepherd!<br />

It must give you pleasure<br />

To gaze at your flock<br />

And count your treasure.<br />

I’ve lost one!<br />

A hundred fat sheep<br />

Each valued! Each choice!<br />

That all turn their heads<br />

At the sound of your voice.<br />

One’s gone!<br />

Here! Keep an eye out<br />

That lamb’s perverse<br />

Maybe stuck in a pot-hole<br />

Or injured, or worse.<br />

I’ll look.<br />

I’ll try up the mountain<br />

I’m off! I’m away!<br />

It may take an hour or two<br />

Could be a day.<br />

I’ll take my crook.<br />

And so the good shepherd<br />

Goes seeking the lost<br />

Leaving the others<br />

Whatever the cost.<br />

Up the track.<br />

(Then)… Who’s in the distance?<br />

To surprise the beholder!<br />

With joy in his stride<br />

And a sheep on his shoulder?<br />

The shepherd’s back!<br />


A gospel in blank verse with rhymed parables<br />

He’s shouting, he’s laughing,<br />

He’s waving to friends<br />

‘Come round for a drink!’…<br />

Thus our story ends.<br />

No longer a flock<br />

Of just ninety and nine.<br />

All are together now:<br />

Everything’s fine.<br />

Accountants can argue.<br />

They may stand their ground.<br />

But the one that’s most valued<br />

Is the lost that’s been found.<br />

Not only was it in the synagogue<br />

that people heard what Jesus had proclaimed<br />

about the bread from Heaven and the need<br />

to eat his flesh and blood. It got about,<br />

and many found it difficult to grasp.<br />

It seemed offensive and impossible<br />

and many former followers withdrew.<br />

There’s no doubt Jesus was aware of this.<br />

At Caesarea Philippi the Lord<br />

confronted all the Twelve and asked them whom<br />

the people thought that he might be. Some said<br />

they thought he was Elijah, or perhaps<br />

the Baptist, or maybe Jeremiah,<br />

or almost anyone who’d prophesied.<br />

‘Do any of you wish to go away?<br />

Perhaps you’ve heard enough from me’, he said.<br />

Peter replied and spoke up for them all.<br />

‘For us, you are no prophet from the dead.<br />

You have the message of eternal life<br />

and we’ve believed and we have come to know<br />

that you’re the Christ, God’s Holy One, the Son –<br />

the only Son of He who reigns in Heaven.’<br />

‘Blessed are you, good Simon, Jonah’s son,<br />

for no man could have ever told you this.<br />

It is a revelation that has come<br />

direct from Heaven, from my Father there.<br />

And I’ll tell you this -- I named you Peter<br />

because upon this rock, this massive rock,<br />


<strong>PART</strong> M: Whom to love<br />

I’ll build my church. Neither the powers of death<br />

nor yet the ways of evil will destroy<br />

what I shall build on you. The keys of Heav’n<br />

itself I’ll give to you. Whatever’s bound in Heaven<br />

you’ll bind on earth; whatever’s lawful there<br />

you will allow. On no account,’ he said<br />

to all of them, ‘are you to make this known.<br />

Oh, yes, I know that I can trust you all.<br />

I am the one who chose my faithful Twelve…<br />

and yet… and yet… there’s one of you will fall.’<br />

He meant Iscariot, of course, the one<br />

Who played him false for silver, later on.’<br />

Jesus was in the hinterland between<br />

Samaria and part of Galilee<br />

when, in a village, he was hailed by ten<br />

dejected sufferers from leprosy.<br />

They called out from a distance since the Law<br />

required them to avoid all contact with<br />

anyone except their fellow-lepers.<br />

The fear was, that infection might be spread,<br />

so lepers were condemned to lead a life<br />

of isolation, with no hope unless<br />

a priest should certify that they were cured.<br />

‘Have mercy on us, Healer!’ they all yelled.<br />

Without a moment’s pause, the Lord called back,<br />

‘Just find a priest and show yourselves to him!’<br />

As they moved off, they found their symptoms gone.<br />

They had been cured and cleansed, but only one<br />

returned to see the man to whom they owed<br />

so much – and he no Jew – but yet he threw<br />

himself upon the ground before the Lord<br />

to show his thanks, and praise Almighty God.<br />

Jesus enquired of his followers,<br />

‘Where are the others? Surely there were ten!<br />

Is this Samaritan – this foreigner –<br />

the only one to show some gratitude?’<br />

Then to the prostrate man he said,’ Stand up,<br />

and go. Your faith has made you well again.’<br />


A gospel in blank verse with rhymed parables<br />

The Parable of the Good Samaritan<br />

It’s a dangerous road to Jericho<br />

A place of stifling heat<br />

There’s gangsters and there’s robbers there<br />

And you don’t know who you’ll meet.<br />

They come upon you unawares<br />

Steal everything you’ve got<br />

They’ll take the clothes from off your back<br />

And leave you there to rot.<br />

Alive or dead, you’re no concern<br />

Once they’ve have their way<br />

Why! You’ll be lucky to survive<br />

To live another day.<br />

Well, this happened to a traveller<br />

And the rogues left him half dead<br />

(For those who did this dreadful deed<br />

There’s nothing to be said.)<br />

But a priest on the way to Jericho<br />

Though he paused for a sec’ mid-stride<br />

Since he was busily saying his prayers<br />

Kept well to the other side.<br />

And a Levite, with a compassionate glance,<br />

Averted his eyes as he passed,<br />

‘The man’s beyond all help’ he said<br />

‘and probably breathing his last.’<br />

But a Samaritan, (well you know that lot:<br />

All good Jews hate their guts!)<br />

When he saw the state he was in<br />

Without any ‘if’s’ or ‘but’s’<br />

Stopped to look, and cleaned him up<br />

Poured oil and wine in each gash<br />

Lifted him on to his donkey’s back<br />

And was on the move in a flash.<br />

He hurried to get to the nearest inn<br />

Saw him settled in a bed<br />

He comforted and he cared for him<br />

And saw that he was fed.<br />


<strong>PART</strong> M: Whom to love<br />

Then since he’d business further on<br />

And had to leave for a while<br />

He took the innkeeper aside<br />

And said to him with a smile<br />

‘Look after him. Here’s money enough<br />

If there’s anything he should lack<br />

Or I’m delayed, or it costs you more<br />

I’ll settle when I come back.’<br />

You know they say, “Make sure you love your friends:<br />

do this and hate your enemies.” I say<br />

What you should do is love your enemies.<br />

If someone slaps you hard upon the cheek,<br />

-- a real back-hander that a slave might get –<br />

then offer him the other cheek to show<br />

you are his equal, and no child or slave.<br />

An open-handed blow would mean much less.<br />

Whoever struck you could well hesitate.<br />

There might be room to talk and not to fight.<br />

Or if you find yourself alone in court<br />

on trial for every penny that you’ve got –<br />

even your undergarments they would take –<br />

strip off your shirt and give them that as well<br />

to demonstrate their inhumanity<br />

and aim to shame them by your nakedness.<br />

The Romans force us all to mend their roads<br />

and fill the ruts their carts and chariots make.<br />

If a centurion knocks upon your door<br />

and tells you it’s your time to come and help:<br />

a mile of road is waiting. Bend your back!<br />

Inform him that you’ll double what’s required<br />

and give a hand for yet another mile.<br />

Or if a Roman soldier orders you<br />

to carry his equipment for one mile<br />

then carry it for two. And do not turn<br />

your back upon a beggar or refuse<br />

to satisfy a man who needs a loan.<br />

To those who hear my words and understand<br />

I’ve this to say, “You must love everyone –<br />

your enemies, whatever they have done --<br />

and you must bless the ones who swear at you,<br />

not call down curses on their heads: bless them!”<br />


A gospel in blank verse with rhymed parables<br />

And your abusers, pray for them as well.<br />

If you love only those who offer love,<br />

what is exceptional in that? Not much!<br />

Even the wicked do the same: and if<br />

you lend, hoping to have a good return<br />

to pile up yet more money in the bank<br />

there’s no real ‘credit’ there: don’t villains lend<br />

to villains in the hope of big returns?<br />

No! You must love your enemies and lend,<br />

expecting nothing in return. Do good!<br />

and prove yourself to be as merciful –<br />

as good and kind as are the very best.<br />

For if you do that, your reward will be<br />

beyond your reckoning, and you will count<br />

as “Sons of the Most High”, for He is kind<br />

even to sinners and the self-absorbed.<br />

Your watchwords should be ‘Mercy!’ and ‘Forgive!’<br />

Your Heavenly Father’(i)s merciful: you too<br />

should treat the blemished world as He treats you.’<br />

The Parable of the Prodigal Son.<br />

A good old man had two fine sons:<br />

At least they seemed to be.<br />

The elder was a stay-at-home<br />

Who worked there, steadily.<br />

He tilled the land, saw to the farm,<br />

And though he seldom smiled<br />

He’d always been at dad’s right hand<br />

Since when he was a child.<br />

The younger’s coat had a different cut:<br />

He longed to spread a wing.<br />

He found the farm a cramping place.<br />

Why not go travelling?<br />

He’d seek his fortune far away,<br />

And, give the boy his due,<br />

He’d like to taste the city life<br />

And kiss a girl or two.<br />

The trouble was, he hadn’t a cent<br />

And nothing would be his<br />

Until the old man popped his clogs<br />

…Roll on the obsequies!<br />

By Hebrew law, when father died<br />

The elder got two thirds<br />


<strong>PART</strong> M: Whom to love<br />

The younger would take what was left<br />

…Still, he was undeterred.<br />

Such thoughts as these filled all the head<br />

Of the restless younger son<br />

Shuffling round the family farm<br />

When he could have been having fun.<br />

One day, he stood and braced himself<br />

Then told his father straight<br />

He’d rather have his money now<br />

Than hang about and wait.<br />

His father then, with heavy heart<br />

Counted out his share<br />

And in a day or two he left<br />

No longer son, or heir.<br />

And what a time he had at first<br />

With everyone his friend!<br />

Economy? Why, what was that?<br />

The game was spend… spend… spend!<br />

And (the) girls dressed in their finery<br />

Fluttered their eyes as he passed<br />

He thought that life was a laugh and a song<br />

And would last and last and last.<br />

But when, quite soon, his funds ran dry<br />

He found to his dismay<br />

His so-called friends had disappeared<br />

Upped sticks and gone away.<br />

A famine too, had gripped the land.<br />

Farewell to feast and wine.<br />

Barefooted, cold and hungry<br />

He found himself tending swine.<br />

Tending swine! And him a Jew<br />

No further could he fall<br />

He’d have bought the swill that fed the pigs<br />

If he’d had the wherewithal.<br />

Then suddenly the thought occurred<br />

Penniless, homesick and mired<br />

That he had a much more miserable life<br />

Than the men his father hired.<br />

He would go back to his father’s house<br />

Go to his father and plead<br />

Ask for a job on the farm he’d left<br />

And admit his sad misdeed.<br />


A gospel in blank verse with rhymed parables<br />

And so he struggled the same way back<br />

As he’d trod when he’d left to roam<br />

And rehearsed what he’d have to say to his dad<br />

When he got within sight of home.<br />

But never a single day went by<br />

When father, without a doubt<br />

Would check for signs on the distant hills<br />

Always on watch… looking out.<br />

And though he was a long way off<br />

When father saw his son<br />

He recognised him instantly<br />

And was out of the house at a run.<br />

He threw his arms round the prodigal’s neck<br />

And not a whit he cared<br />

To hear the speech the young man made<br />

So carefully prepared.<br />

‘Father, I’ve sinned before heaven and you<br />

I no longer deserve your name.<br />

I’ve nothing to say that’s good for myself<br />

I’m covered with pig-muck and shame’.<br />

‘Oh, fetch a cloak for my long-lost son<br />

And a golden finger-ring<br />

Everyone must celebrate<br />

We’ll feast and dance and sing!<br />

Find sandals for my boy’s sore feet<br />

Slave he’ll no longer be<br />

Go and kill the fatted calf<br />

He’s home, and loved and free.’<br />

Hearing the noise a long way off<br />

Hard at work on the land<br />

The elder asked a servant lad<br />

To find out what was planned.<br />

When he discovered the reason was<br />

His brother’s safe return<br />

He wouldn’t budge: he wouldn’t join in.<br />

‘What has he done to earn<br />

This music and this junketing?’<br />

Even his father’s call<br />

Failed to move the elder son.<br />

Hadn’t he given his all?<br />


<strong>PART</strong> M: Whom to love<br />

Hadn’t he worked himself to bone<br />

Harvested wheat and fruit<br />

Whatever his wastrel brother had done<br />

He’d done with a prostitute.<br />

Always he’d bent to his father’s will<br />

And done as he’d been bid<br />

And what had he got for all his work<br />

Not a day off, not a kid.’<br />

Not even a mangy little kid<br />

Let alone a fatted calf.<br />

He couldn’t bring himself to sing<br />

Or dance or eat or laugh.<br />

But, his father said to him<br />

‘All that I have is yours.<br />

Your wandering brother has come back home<br />

Before you get cross, just pause.<br />

My son, whom I thought I would never see<br />

Is home now, safe and sound<br />

He whom I thought irretrievably lost<br />

Is back here, on home ground.<br />

That is the reason I sing for joy.<br />

What is past is done.<br />

He is here, once again. Let’s celebrate.<br />

Come in. Embrace him. Please come!<br />


A gospel in blank verse with rhymed parables<br />


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