Scripture for the Day:
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. – John 19:38-42
Often I try
To analyze the quality
Of its silences. Is this where God hides
From my searching? I have stopped to listen,
After the few people have gone,
To the air recomposing itself
For vigil. It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.
These are the hard ribs
Of a body that our prayers have failed
To animate. Shadows advance
From their corners to take possession
Of places the light held
For an hour. The bats resume
Their business. The uneasiness of the pews
Ceases. There is no other sound
In the darkness but the sound of a man
Breathing, testing his faith
On emptiness, nailing his questions
One by one to an untenanted cross.
R.S. Thomas, 1913-2000
Posted in Journeying Together - Lent 2013 | Comments Off March 29, 2013
I appreciate the story of the famous theologian of the past century, Reinhold Neibuhr, who reportedly attended “high” liturgical churches in New York City at Christmas and Easter, because as he well knew, “No preacher is up to the task at Christmas or Easter.” I recently sat laughing in my therapist’s office as he asked me how things were going, and I reflected on the task of preparing for Holy Week and Easter in particular. How can words possibly convey the great mystery of what reportedly happened that first Easter morning? How does one even begin to convey the deep and profound themes of Easter: redemption, liberation, freedom, and new life? And, perhaps most importantly, how do you convey these complex realities in a way that people just might hear them and feel moved, if only for a moment? At a certain point, you have to laugh, otherwise you’d cry.
Now, I am not encouraging you to go this Sunday to some “high” church liturgy where the smells and bells will certainly signal that something different is going on. Indeed, I wonder if Niebuhr got it partially wrong. That is, the place that you need to be at these major moments in the liturgical year is not necessarily away from the ordinary, but rather embedded in the ordinary, amidst what you see and with those whom you know week in and week out. Of course, all preachers will try their best to elucidate the mystery, inspire those in attendance, pique the interest or questioning of those who travel through at the C & E times of the year. Yet, what may engage people even more than a dramatic liturgy is worshiping in a space and with people that are known and recognized. The usual suspects as it were.
In fact, if we use Jesus’ life and ministry as a model, so much happens in the pauses and mundane moments. Of course, we all would appreciate a mountain top experience or one that confirms unequivocally the veracity of God’s presence and new life in the resurrected Christ. Yet, those moments are precious few in life, and they are highly elusive. It is hard to be in a place to experience them, and it is harder still to try and approximate repeating that moment.
However, what we do have is the everyday, the common, the mundane, the normal, that which we meet week in and week out. And one way of thinking about these individuals and moments that occupy our waking hours is as relative—if not pure—drudgery. We become so familiar that we lose any sense of wonder. We become so regimented that there is very little that would seem to surprise. We become so structured that nothing can break us out of the prison of normalcy that we inhabit.
Yet, when we find ourselves in those moments, it is not necessarily that the environment has nothing to offer. It is that we have lost our ability to see. Which is precisely what the disciples were dealing with. Their understanding of Jesus was largely shaped by a Messianic hope within Judaism that believed that peace would come to the world and Israel would regain power. It is no surprise, then, that Jesus’ end leaves almost everyone—save the women—running away. And even though the disciples did not see or could not recognize God active in Jesus in a profound way, God in Jesus communicates to the disciples that he sees them, loves them, abides with them in a way that can only be described as profound. And nothing—not even death—can separate them from that reality. The import of Easter is, in part, the reminder that this promise is not just for those who stumbled into the empty tomb. It’s for everyone who has ever heard of the tomb, experienced a tomb, or stumbles periodically into, yes, a tomb. We trust that the promise is also for us.
So, while we may put on the Easter best, and we hope that there is pause enough to enjoy a good meal with family and/or friends, it may be that that which we deem so ordinary, normal, and routine, could just be the very thing that holds a deeper sense and vision of the Holy as it invites us yet again—and again and again and again—to life.
Happy Easter!Posted in Prodigal God | Comments Off March 29, 2013
Scripture for the Day:
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – `Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” – John 12:27-35
Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
stood up in the boat
and the sea lay down,
silky and sorry.
So everybody was saved
But you know how it is
the threshold — the uncles
the women walk away,
the young brother begins
to sharpen his knife.
Nobody knows what the soul is.
It comes and goes
like the wind over the water –
sometimes, for days,
you don’t think of it.
Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
one or two of them felt
the soul slip forth
like a tremor of pure sunlight
that wants to swallow everything,
gripped their bones and left them
miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
how the wind tore at the sails
before he rose and talked to it –
tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was –
a thousand times more frightening
than the killer storm.
Posted in Journeying Together - Lent 2013 | Comments Off March 28, 2013
Scripture for the Day:
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:1-17, 31b-35
The Rarest Vintage
The Seder is over.
We rumble downstairs, heavy.
A hiccup, great sigh, stifled belch.
The treads groan with our fullness, the weight of our tunnoil.
Am I buzzing with worry, or is it the wine?
He spoke of blood.
Filing out into the dark,
we fan across the empty street.
Yawning, stretching, watching.
Lanterns sputter out behind every shutter and drape
where families have gathered to remember a story,
unaware that their exodus unfolds still.
His own blood, the wine we drank.
Why aren’t we home, we wonder.
Why cross this Kidron Valley? Why climb this Olivet Hill?
Under the branches we wait, shrugging off sleep.
Is it the lateness, or the wine?
The blood of a new covenant.
He pleads with us to stay awake,
our ready spirits trapped in lagging flesh. But night settles softly again ,
her felted sleeve spread over Gethsemane.
Following him a stone’s throwaway, I am stunned
by the shards of anguish scraping at his voice, his breath.
This cup he dreads to drink.
In the clutch of midnight,
when all fears rise like fever ,
he dares to speak his wish aloud
before casting it down the deepest well,
sinking his own desire into the mystery of God.
A new covenant, a further exodus, a final cup, -
The rarest vintage now poised to spill.
- Linda Larson Bergwall, Apri1 19, 2000
Posted in Journeying Together - Lent 2013 | Comments Off March 27, 2013
Scripture for the Day:
At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples – the one whom Jesus loved– was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.” – John 13:21-32
Reflection – Kate Heichler
The holiday meal.
We approach these feasts with anticipation of joy and connection, with family, with community. And often we experience tension and conflict, wearying family patterns as unvarying as the menu always set before us.
This Passover, the holiday feast seems to have been even more fraught with anxiety and foreboding for the disciples – the strange things Jesus was saying, the increase in threats to his life – and theirs.
Guilt by association.
And then there is also an internal threat, a betrayal – who is it who is bringing the power of state and religious authority down upon their heads? And what the hell is Jesus talking about, “glorified?” Please, just pass the bitter herbs and let us eat, and laugh… it’s all going to be okay.
Holy Week always has an underlying unease to it, as we dance closer and closer to the horrific injustice and violence of the Cross. How is it that salvation, freedom, transformation should come about through the very worst that human beings can be? Couldn’t God have chosen a nice, peaceful way to redeem a broken humanity?
We don’t know. These are mysteries. We might take a hint from the way we cure illnesses and heal wounded bodies – often by cutting, by poisoning, bringing a body to wholeness by wielding toxins and small amounts of the disease we are fighting. Was God fighting violence with violence? Subjecting himself to our disease in order to develop the antidote?
These are mysteries. I do believe there is healing in the blood, the blood poured out, the blood cleansed, the blood we receive in sign and symbol every week. Jesus is our Holy Transfusion, God’s answer to our violence. And we are set free.
Posted in Journeying Together - Lent 2013 | Comments Off ← Older posts