Be Honest with Me this Holy Week


“As a model for Christian discipleship, this passage assumes that we will not always prove faithful. We will fail despite our best intentions and the Lord’s intercession, but the passage is open-ended. The end of the story has yet to be written. What do we do with our failures? Do we let them stand as the final verdict on us, or do we turn back from them and use them to strengthen our resolve in the future and help those who face trials that we now know from the inside out? Peter is the model disciple, not because he never failed, but because he turned back.”

R. Alan Culpepper in New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Volume VIII: Luke and John

Simon Peter: I confess that I have often simplified your story to build distance between us. Your extravagant gestures of faith feel jarring compared to your hiding and denying in the darkness. But Luke 22:31-34 stopped me cold this morning. I kept pouring over the words.

“Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your siblings.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”

Luke 22:31-34

Jesus prays for you, knowing what is to come. You assume yourself to be strong, knowing not how you will respond when it all goes down. We see your folly and weep at your foolishness. You are our teachable moment of naïve faith, boasting before entering the true darkness where only God-incarnate can endure the raging violence.

This juxtaposition is something that I would want to hide if it had happened to me. I would like to forget this part of the story and hide it away in the basement cellar. I would wrap it tightly in old clothes and cover it with trinkets from the past, which no one would ever find.

But not you. Your history isn’t hidden but takes center stage in Holy Week. Every year, we retell how you denied Jesus in his time of need.

“This man was also with him,” a girl says, pointing as you try to avoid recognition.

“I do not know what you are talking about!

This morning, what shocked me is that this isn’t just a story that the early church told. This story is one that you regularly told. You became an apostle, turning your private testimony into public record: what Jesus warned you, how you responded, the cock crowing, your tears falling. You didn’t shy away from the details of how and when your faith failed. You did what Jesus had prayed you would: you strengthened your siblings with this embarrassing tale.

Conversations with a mentor have got me thinking recently about stories that I hide from myself – the ones that are complicated and messy, best suited for hiding in the basement. Uncovering and telling the stories requires wading courageously through vulnerable waters with faith in something other than myself.

Simon Peter: you turned back and told the truth, even when it must have hurt to expose how your faith failed. You knew that a faith that returns is a powerful one. Your honest truth-telling invites us to join you, remembering the stories of when our faith failed, sifted like wheat. We can connect with you, for we are all like you – both Simon (mortal, flawed, complicated, messy, of the earth) and Peter (called, prayed for by Jesus, forgiven, sanctified, sent out).

This Holy Week, I’m trusting you to be honest about how it all happened. Tell me, again, about your darkest hour, which coincided with The Darkest Hour for our savior. I don’t trust Judas to tell me how the story goes, for he didn’t return and share his truth. He hid from the disciples and feared there would be no forgiveness in this mortal life.

Mince not the words, hide not the reality. Show me what happens when our faith is sifted like wheat. And then teach me how to come out of hiding. Lead me to find the tomb empty and forgiveness emanating from our crucified, risen Lord.

GOOD FRIDAY: Fellow Pilgrims on a Dangerous Road


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

Already Resurrection


IMG_3727Soft green bundles hang outside our upstairs window with stringy tufts dripping below. Our grand tree in our backyard is coming back to life. It has been a long winter. Its bare branches have survived the winter winds and freezing temps. The tree’s trunk has survived with the melted snow, even if it took weeks to seep into the frozen ground.

It has not yet reached its full maturity of summer leaves that will sway with the summer winds and give shade to the summer play of young ones below.

These soft green bundles speak the promise of its coming. They whisper to me that even if not fully formed, there is already promise of summer. There is already resurrection.

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Palm Sunday: A few words



The youngest rises early and is fully alive at 6:15 a.m. Perhaps he is his mother’s son. Breakfast consumed quickly, he begins his play. He shouts at objects in repeated indecipherable words. They are unknown to the untrained ear. But to us, with visual cues of context, we discern what they mean. As he shouts in repeated fashion, we echo back our confirmation that we heard.


His attempt to name is intense and urgent. He shouts them like cannonballs hurling towards the target until affirmed that we heard and understood him.

May my prayers be the same – eyes open to the world, to that which delights my eyes and that which frustrates my heart.

May I launch it all, in few words, towards the Eternal Listener until I hear it reverberate back my way. Continue reading

The Framework that Remains


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The two men carefully bend sticks and tie them in place. Held together with scraps of clothing and rags, the sticks create a frame for a tent in the midst of the Gourougou Mountain. Random pieces of tarp tied onto the frame transform into a shelter. Meticulously, with patience to execute it well and urgency because their well-being depended on it, they turn nature’s leftovers and human leftovers into a home. The Land Between, a documentary we’re showing at Highland on Sunday as part of our Moroccan partnership, tells the stories of those who are stuck between the home they have fled and a future they cannot grasp.

I sat in my office as I previewed the film and I marveled at their survival skills, ingenuity, and teamwork. Then I marveled at their suffering and resiliency when the journalist takes us back a few days later to see the bare bones of the shelter. The sticks stand but the tarps so carefully tied have vanished. The men share the story of how the authorities chased them out of the camp and burned all their things.

The journalist leaves the camera unnervingly on the framework of sticks. Hollow. Empty.   Bare to the bone. It tells of the death chasing after them AND the life enduring despite it. Continue reading

Patching a Few Words Together



I fill my days rushing around, worshiping the gods of efficiency and productivity. I thrive off of checking the boxes on my to-do list and I plan my day down the hour. I value a clean house and an empty counter.

So when the morning comes with the child hot with fever, my whole day feels ruined and I spend the next hours attempting to work and watch kids, aware that any attempt to juggle kids, my computer, and all the germs spreading is impossible.

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Love on the Edge



Thrashing around, their little bodies twist and turn. Couch cushions lay on a heap in the floor – collateral damage from brothers wrestling. I’m in the thick of it, tickling belies and shielding my face from injury. It is raucous and joy-filled. It is a moment of brothers let loose to be brothers… living this life together that is messy and dangerous and beautiful.

It is love on the edge.

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HOLY SATURDAY: For today, there is Life.


photoWhile the sun still sleeps and darkness hangs out, I gather my things. Race bib, shoes, headphones. I review the logistics in my head. Many steps stand between me and my first half-marathon.

My mind wanders to the sanctuary, where we sat last night in darkness at the end of our Tenebrae service. A service of shadows. A service of death. Black fabric still drapes the communion table and pulpit. As the birds began their day’s song, I know that the darkness sits in silence even now.

The complex theological questions of Good Friday swirl in my head (where was Jesus’ father, Joseph, while Mary wailed? Where was Jesus’ father, the Holy One, while love and sorrow flowed mingled down?). Yesterday the questions seemed important to think through. Today, they seem rhetorical. On the silence of Holy Saturday, faith is not about understanding the mystery. It is about communion with the mystery. Continue reading