Justice: A Poem for the Third Week in Lent 2024

Fear with more Hope showing through
Large square banner is on the sanctuary wall, and the word FEAR is at the center. The words are all different fears, painted in dark colors. Three cut-outs show a few letters in brighter colors underneath. Image courtesy of Rachael Keefe.

This poem is an invitation to examine our own actions and make changes to enable justice to flow.

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by Rachael Keefe

A Chinese friend frequently hears “Go back where you came from!”
She is hurt more than she lets on but pretends to be numb.
How can hatred be based only on what we see?
Lord, have mercy.

An African neighbor has hateful words sprayed on his house
just because he wants to live in peace with his spouse.
When ugliness and fear step in where grace ought to be,
Christ, have mercy.

Young ones kill themselves when the bullies go unchecked
because no one can see the life that hateful words have wrecked.
How can we not learn this lesson when it’s shown so painfully?
Lord, have mercy.

Homeless women, men, and children hide in the shadows
we walk in a hurry—compassion is something fear overshadows.
For all the times we cannot tolerate, “This could be me,”
Christ, have mercy.

Muslims are suspect even when they are life-long citizens
of a country founded on religious freedom and welcome of others.
Is it impossible for us to accept someone who worships differently?
Lord, have mercy.

Black men and women crowd our jails with frustrated rage
as our laws uphold racism and so few recognize this outrage,
while others spew such hatred and violence freely and publicly.
Christ, have mercy.

Women are paid less and targeted more for perceived weakness
and, for some, abuse is still inflicted when there is a lack of meekness.
Why are laws so slow in changing what should not be?
Lord, have mercy.

The elderly are victimized by scammers who readily take what is not theirs
and it’s a shame when this happens with no one around who cares
enough to help and protect ones so vulnerable who deserve safety.
Christ, have mercy.

Gay men are beaten on the streets of cities known for their acceptance—
headlines and news stories report witnesses and their helpless tolerance.
For all the moments of learned helplessness and studious apathy,
Lord, have mercy.

Bigger walls and more border protections to keep illegals out
when all they want is a chance at a better life and, without a doubt,
they would find it here if there were such a thing as legal hospitality.
Christ, have mercy.

Surely the day is coming when fear, violence, hatred, and greed
will cease and loving kindness is the response to all human need.
Are we not called by God to rejoice and live peaceably?
Lord, let us be your mercy.

“Justice” by Rachael Keefe was originally published in Barefoot Theology: A Dictionary for Pilgrims, Priests, and Poets, Wipf & Stock, 2013.

About Rachael Keefe

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ. She was called to Living Table in 2015 after serving in many varied ministry settings since her ordination in 1992. She holds graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Seminary at Yale (formerly Andover Newton Theological School). Her ministry and leadership often center around advocacy and accessibility. Her writing has been published by Chalice Press, The Christian Century, Red Letter Christians, Working Preacher, RevGalBlogPals, and others. She is grateful to be in ministry with Living Table today.

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