Ash Wednesday: But There is More

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Before You, we will gather
in a sanctuary drained of its color.
The saints’ form will show,
but their vitality will seem lost for now.

How tempting it will be
to revel in the darkness,
to taste our bitter mortality,
to consider all we will lose,
to fall into the overwhelming sadness
over the fragility of it all.

But there is more.

There is the call to repentance –
turning our eyes away from self-pity
towards Christ’s pity for a world
aching with injustice and indifference
but filled with people making heroic efforts
to make a change.

See what breaks Jesus’ heart
and let it break my heart.
Let it break.
Let it be.

But there is more.

There is the call to redemption –
tasting despair, we know to ask,
we begin to yearn
for a God who has the power to save —

though that terrifies us
for it is beyond our understanding
(and therefore our control);
though we dismissed the thought of salvation
once we were too educated;
though we gave up on the
swoop-in-and-rescue salvation;
though we foolishly conflated fairy tales’ happily-ever-after
with the gospels.

Fragile, broken-hearted, redemption-hungry people
are the ones ready to begin the long journey.
Even in our standing to follow,
we are already being saved –
in the dark sanctuary, there is air in our lungs;
during the difficult times, there is resilience in our step;
though it will not come in this lifetime, there awaits a forever rest
that will come for all.

Look, there is more.
The Guide bids us follow.
Stand up, O Mortal, and come forward for the ashes.
“Dust you are,
to the dust, you will return,
redeemed and dancing.”

GOOD FRIDAY: Fellow Pilgrims on a Dangerous Road

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IMG_2923-2_previewTonight, our oldest will accompany me to our Tenebrae service. Seated next to me, I will envelop him with my black-robed arm wrapped around his little body, as he watches the scene that unfolds – haunting melodies, dramatic scripture readings, descending darkness.  I wonder how wide his eyes will become when we reach the pinnacle of the service and the Bible is slammed shut, the candle extinguished, and we sing in the dark. Continue reading

To Know Nothing

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It makes such sense that we resort to eggs filled with candy, bunny rabbits, elaborate lunches, and our finest clothes.  How else would we function without a few simple rituals while we immerse ourselves in the violence of Good Friday and the absurdity of Easter morning.

I read the Easter story to the boys last night.  In place of our regular bedtime books, I told them of bitter weeping and swords and clubs, the crowds and the single kiss, provocation and condemnation, pointed fingers and shouts of rage, denial and silence, isolation and public execution.

The boys’ eyes grew wide and little bodies so still.  They were captivated, confused, and even a bit scared.  They kept pushing for me to turn the page and read one more story as if that next page might resolve the tension or provide some absolution to the violence.  But I knew this wasn’t possible.  The next page merely added another layer to the complex mystery whose miracle exists with wounds still fresh.  I knew that the story of our resurrected Lord is one of a breathing but punctured body at the hands of human atrocity.

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EASTER: Unreasonable Requests

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IMG_1332John 20:1-18

God of the New Morning,

In the dark, after a long Lenten season, the Easter baskets on display for sleeping boys feels like whiplash.

Wasn’t Jesus’ body just taken down from the cross?  The lanterns, torches, and weapons.  The betrayal.  The aching final breath.  I do not blame the disciples who remain in locked rooms this morning.  Hope feels foolish after a night like that.

Stop my attempts to understand and simply speak my name.

Into the locked rooms, you go (as you always do).  Let the skeptical receive your persistent presence.  Let them hear your unreasonable requests – see, hear, receive, GO, rejoice, preach, testify, live without fear.

Wholeness and forgiveness may seem foolish.  But as the morning rises, they are all that my heart yearns to be true.

In the name of the One whose return from death means everything,

Amen

 

GOOD FRIDAY: Determination

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John 18-19

God of Determination,

Was it inevitable?  Did you see it coming even as the angels sang their alleluias over Bethlehem?  Were you prepared for the lanterns, the torches, and the weapons?

All the tools of torture and the words of shame display the power of human determination.  We must end that which we cannot understand and cannot control.  Our primal instincts sharpen the tools as we point them in your direction.

Just as unyielding in purpose, you step forward to receive the punishment and accept defeat by our hands.  You seem determined to let us act out our determination. Why did you not stop our shortsighted efforts?  Why did you enable our determination to run its course?

How do I trust that which I cannot understand and cannot control?
How do I recognize that my determination might be my own downfall?
How do I follow the One whose determination to care for humanity is unfazed by sharpened swords and shame-filled rants?

Did ever such love and sorrow meet?

In the name of the One who gave not answers but himself,

Amen

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MAUNDY THURSDAY: Remembrance

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1 Corinthians 11:23-26

God of Bread and Cup,The new covenant came on the night when your vulnerability was used against you.  Hours before the whole ordeal of torture tools, thorns, nails, and shame, you served your friends a meal and still spoke words of sustaining hope.

There you sat at the table, exposed to danger and violent threats and yet planted in the community you had formed.

It was one of those moments whose power could not be contained or understood in one night.  It spilled over into years of shared remembrance.  Even now, we gather tonight to reenact the night that vulnerable love persisted in the face of annihilation.

Could I be vulnerable enough to let an ancient night break my heart?
Could I grasp a story so powerful that its memory invades my present moment with a power that dismantles this heart of mine and changes the direction of my life?
Could I still take the bread and cup even though I cannot be sure if I would have been the women wailing or Peter saving himself?

I confess the utter foolishness of giving my present life to an ancient story.  I confess the gravitational pull I feel away from following the patient sufferer.  I confess that Holy Week takes work.  And yet, I confess this faith that I cannot understand is saving me.

For the endurance of the story, I stand in awe.
For the remembrance of a night, I take the bread and cup.
For the saving mystery, I give my life.

In the name of the One whose ancient act remains somehow just as powerful today,

Amen.Maundy-Thursday-1