Presence

 


            An angel of the Lord, descending from heaven,
                        came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. …
                        For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
            But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid;
                        I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
                        He is not here; for he has been raised...”

                                       —Matthew 28.2-6


They've been through hell, these women.
Unlike the men who ran they stayed close,
they saw him killed, they stood by him faithfully,
they showed up at his grave.
See how they've been resurrected now,
and passed from death to life:
though hardened soldiers faint
the women are too close to God
to be so frightened of angels.

God, bear me through,
and give me faith to stay present
in the face of holiness.


Breath prayer: + Holy ... presence +
 

                                       —April 21, 2017

Breathe deeply and go

            Jesus said, "Peace be with you.
                        As God has sent me, so I send you."
            When he had said this, he breathed on them
                        and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
            If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
                        if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
                           —John 20.21-23

This is why Jesus has been raised from the dead:
to give us his Spirit.
This is how Jesus has been raised from the dead:
not in his own body now but ours:
we, the Body of the risen Christ.
God now sends us as Jesus,
to forgive.

When we forgive, all are set free.
When we retain sins we are stuck with them,
the burden ours as much as theirs.
But we are Spirit, sent to be free,
and to set free.
Breathe in all judgment.
Breathe out God's grace.

God breathes us into the world,
grace-filled and free.
Breathe deeply, and go.

Breath prayer: + Free … to forgive +


                           —April 20, 2017

Thomas, undone


            “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
            and put my finger in the mark of the nails
            and my hand in his side,
            I will not believe”

                           —John 20.25

The unease you feel is not doubt.
It is hunger to go deeper.
You are not done yet.

Learn from Thomas,
who, when Jesus planned to go to Bethany
where they had tried to stone him,
said, “Let us go die with him.”

You want to see the scar of your betrayal
and how love bears it.

You want to touch the wounds
and enter the heart of The One
Who Suffers for the World
and lives.

Now, more than before,
you are ready to come and die with him,
let love undo you and begin agin.

Don't belittle your restlessness.
Let it lead you.
Reach out.
Even now he is saying your name.
 

 

Your adoration

       
The meadow is anointed with fresh light.
The dancing sun hangs ribbons in the trees.
The woods break forth in flecks of green,
and birds of praise fly up into your eye-blue sky.
Earth knows how to adore you:
she blossoms forth without her thought or strain.
We, too, no less than rising daffodils,
are all ourselves your exaltation,
each raised up from our winter's deathly sleep,
each breathed to life eternal by your joy,
your joy in us, in us your life, your light.
The seeds and buds and bulbs and roots don't wait
form some far distant rescue to arrive;
they rise from life within, your passion's flow,
your pure delight embodied, just like us.
O Holy One, we are your resurrection,
we your beauty, we your Life made flesh.
May we then live this day in gratitude
and love, your holy ones, your adoration.
 

 

Easter prayer


Holy One,
Holy Oneness,
Loving Self-Giver,

I am a clear glass.
You pour yourself into me
until I am all love,

and I pour my love,
which is all of myself,
into the world

and the glass is forgotten,
and the water flows out
and wherever it is,

tasted or spilled,
it is still water,
un-buriable,

blessing the earth;
it is still love, still you,
still eternal.


Christ. you pour yourself into me.
I pour myself out
and live beyond myself,

in you, as you,
resurrected:
life eternal.
 

 

Christ is risen

         
Christ, you have occupied our humanity
more deeply than we,
bearing our sin and sorrow,
receiving our shame, our despair.
You, the Human One,
have borne our whole burden,
our separateness, our death.
You poured yourself out
into us until there was nothing left but God.
When we have poured ourselves into you
until there is nothing in us but you,
in the darkness of the tomb,
you who are life and light
unfold and break even the bonds of death itself
and there is only light and life,
and everything is changed.

Death is weak.
A door easily swung open.
Love is our grave and our womb,
and the flowing of our lives,
always out of ourselves into you.

Christ has borne the love of God
even into hell,
and love, as always, has prevailed.
Christ is risen.
Christ is risen indeed.
        

 

Holy Saturday


Poor Holy Saturday,
hung out to dry between
Good Friday's drama
and Easter's miracle.
Not much going for it,
this empty day bereft of tradition,
just an in between time.
A day of waiting around,
a day of thinking we knew.

Welcome home.
This is the day we live most of our life in,
the wide space between tragedy and recovery,
the emptiness between the pain and the healing.

We don't always know know we're waiting
for something not in our hands,
that has already happened,
unknowingly included in a procession
toward someone who's already here.
Only later, not on this day, do we know
we're not waiting for a future;
we're watching God unfold.

That is enough.
That is why this day,
drab and ordinary,
is holy.
 

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?

            My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
                        Why are you so far from helping me,
                        from the words of my groaning?

                                       —Psalm 22.1

Jesus, fully human,
feels the anguish of God's distance,
the bare landscape of abandonment.
Jesus, fully divine, feels that anguish, too,
the ripping ache of aloneness.
This is not the cry of someone deserted by God
but of one who knows God listens
when we feel that way.
This is the cry of God, brokenhearted for us.
God does not peer into our loneliness from above,
but lives there, suffers there.
The void is the silence of the soul of God,
the desert of our exile,
whose sandstone canyons echo with God's own sobs.
This is the prayer of a lifeguard whose lungs cry for air
who has dived deep to rescue us from drowning.
This is the cry of a mother running into the flames
for her children.
This is the sigh of the Beloved
whose ear is pressed to the door of our hearts
from the inside.
This is the only voice of hope.

            My God, my God,
                        you have descended so deep into my suffering
                        that even I no longer see you.

 

A wreath of thorns

    
I wove a wreath of thorns one day
for some poor, ruined prisoner
whose name I don't recall and cannot say.
We got a laugh at him, all right,
who claimed, I guess, to be a king,
though he had never uttered such a thing,
but only spoke of love through bleeding lips.
He was a tramp, and not of royal birth,
so we would see just what his realm was worth.
I made a crown with kingly flowers entwined,
and thorns so sharp they lanced my hands,
and as I did I greeted all that pain,
for it contained the wounds and years of wounds
I'd borne and now could shove away,
and make another bear instead of me.
Oh, it was worth the pain to jeer
and jam it on his sorrowing head.
And as I crowned him with contempt,
my bleeding hands about his face,
thorns piercing me and him as one,
though mine sweet pain of causing pain,
and his the pain of suffering,
he looked me in the eye,
though trembling, tenderly,
as if I were the one now dying, or had died,
and reached with something, though his hands were tied,
and touched a place beyond that place,
and then it seemed that something drained away,
though what it was I could not say.

After we crowned that pitiful king,
and beat him some, to clarify some things,
we killed him, as we always do.
I took a rest and caught my breath,
and went home from that little hell
and met a different kind of death
that it would take me longer to endure,
the strangest thing: my hands were healed,
and something else as well.
 

 

Christ, arrested

            “Have you come out with swords and clubs
            to arrest me as though I were a bandit?”

                           —Matthew 26.55


I pray for you, Christ, arrested in the night.
I pray for you, held without bail.
I pray for you profiled, tasered, detained,
dragged out by force with my silent blessing.

I pray for you, Christ, tortured and beaten.
I pray for you Christ, held in my prisons,
my Correctional Facility, our Guantanamo.

And how many of you, Christ,
are in prisons without walls,
in cells of fear, of abuse, of shame?
How many innocent?
How many twisted not by your own choosing?

I pray for you, Curtis, and your children.
I pray for you, Juanita, and your baby.

You, too, are God's Beloved.
You all are divine.
Christ, I pray for you all,
and whatever we do to the least of you,
in all of your shackles.

Today, we are with you, in paradise....
 

 

Denial


            Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath,
            “I do not know the man!”
            At that moment the cock crowed.
            Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said:
            “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”
            And he went out and wept bitterly.

                           —Matthew 26.74-75

I deny you, Christ,
when I deny my own divinity.
I deny you when I deny
the divinity of those I condemn.
I deny you when I do not hear you
in the oppressed and rejected.
I deny you when I turn
from my glorious giftedness.
I deny you when I am afraid
to stand with those at risk.
I deny you when in my guilt
I doubt your love.
And still you love.

Let remembering's bitterness awaken me.
Let my weeping be my wisdom.

To the frightening, to the infinite,
to the compassionate, to the holy,
help me say yes.

Let me die with yes on my lips.


__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

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The Empire feeds


Cold and dark clamp down on us.
The Empire feeds itself,
human bodies as fuel,
boots tracking blood.
Rachel weeping for her children,
we've heard it before.
The man with the megaphone doesn't care.
The emperor has spoken.
Only the most fragile voice
cries out for hope.
The gentle bear it,
weeping in our language.
Always the target,
amid the smoke and carnage,
the fallen stones,
the ruined toddlers,
the Beloved stands,
a little tree—
who planted you here?—
offering fruit to anyone,
blood-red and life giving,
arms outstretched,
quietly crying,
“Fear not;
it is I.”
 

 

Unless the seed dies

Unless the seed dies

          Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
          it remains just a single grain;
          but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

                    — John 12. 24


What are you afraid of?
What are you holding onto?
What are you holding on for?

Let all things be,
let them be right there,
without having to hang onto them.

The last thing you let go of is your
self. This hard-shelled seed of who you are
you are trying so hard to build up

into something great and false.
Trying to build a fruit tree
out of sticks.

Let it go. Each moment, each breath,
surrender your favorite self.
Let it fall

into the earth of our being, the home
of our bones. All of our falling
is into God.

When at last the fist of your life
is opened, the grave of your heart
dug deep enough, and empty,

when you let the breathing darkness
and your unguarded nothingness
spill into each other

then something miraculous grows in you,
and out through every pore,
to the edge of the world:

a completely new and different life,
begotten, not made, that gives life,
that doesn’t look like a seed at all.

You don’t need to hang onto it.
It can’t be killed. Its roots
are in God.

 

 

Stay awake

            Could you not stay awake with me one hour?
            Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;
            the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

                           —Matthew 26.40-41

I slip into forgetting sleep,
a deadness I seek,
a trance of avoidance,
distraction's pleasant coma.
I am numb to your world, O Christ,
to your suffering, your love,
unconscious of you here.

Awaken me.
Breathe yourself into me
and rouse me
from my fearful distance.

Let even pain keep me awake,
attentive to your pain
in all who hurt,
your love keep me alert
to love in all your forms.

Grant me this simple gift,
all you ask:
that I may stay awake,
trusting I am not orphaned,
and pray with you,
so earnestly praying for me
and all the world.
just stay awake my little time
and pray with you.

Let all my waking hours
be wakeful hours.

 

This is my body

         This is my body.
                  —Matthew 26.26

Word made flesh,
flesh made holy,
blessed inescapability,
divine commitment
to these bags and baskets.
Did his fingers tremble?
Did he catch his breath,
just a little?
Did they think his hands and feet
different from theirs?

Weak knees, pooling eyes,
birthing wombs, arms around shoulders,
they speak. They shine.

Young men gunned down,
refugees turned back,
women used:
it's their bodies we address.

Fruit pickers, coal dust breathers,
trafficked children,
prison dwellers―
we ask of them their flesh.

Wheelchair riders,
queer teenagers,
the sick, the gorgeous,
the black, the trans, the aged:
Christ says “This is my body.”

When you take the bread
look at your hands.
Feel your tongue.
Notice your breath,
in and out.
Hear his words.

Eat it.
Let it become yours.
Revere it, every instance,
its holy howeveritcomesness.
All flesh is holy,
all is God's.

This mystery contains you.
Serve her with your body.
 

The seat of greatest grace

           He said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
           And they began to say to him one after another,
           “Surely not I, Lord?” ...
           Then Jesus said to them,
           “You will all become deserters because of me this night.”
           Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you,
           I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

                           —from Matthew 26.21-35

Jesus, my Friend,
my Beloved, my Person,
I love you, and I will falter.
I will deny you. I will betray you.
Three times ten thousand times
I will deny you.
The silver pieces lie in my pocket.
I have the nails.
And you, knowing, invite me to your table,
to the place of honor even,
this seat of greatest grace,
beside you,
to share your bread with me,
and lay down your body for me.
I can hardly look into the sun
of such forgiveness,
love's empty tomb
that defeats me,
re-makes me.

I confess. I return.
Knowing, I follow,
drawn in your grace,
this burden that is light.
 

Anointing

             While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,
             a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment,
             and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. …
             Jesus said, “She has prepared me for burial.
             Truly I tell you, wherever this good news
             is proclaimed in the whole world,
             what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”          

                           —Matthew 26.6, 12-13

In one long, miserable story of fear and denial,
betrayal, delusion and cruelty,
here is one kind thing
that someone does for Jesus.
It is not much.
But he treasures it.
Don't underestimate the power of simple kindness.

             +

You need not be the Messiah.
It is enough to bring your simple gifts
and offer them for the sake of the One who Heals Us.
Even God needs healing.

             +

Jesus prepares himself for death.
He is continually pouring himself out,
emptying himself and receiving God,
dying and rising.
The disciples are clinging to survival.
Only this woman understands
and does not cling,
but in her own outpouring
empties herself in love and blessing
for Jesus' sake.
She, too, is ready.
 

Hosanna

         Hosanna to the Son of David!
         Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
         Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

                           —Matthew 21.9


Hosanna.
“Save us, O God!”
Save us. Not really a shout of praise
but a cry of desperation.

Only you, humble and riding on an ass,
can save us on our war horses.
Only you, pouring yourself out,
can save us from the wounds that swallow us.
Only you, suffering,
can save us, married to our comforts.
Only you, loving and forgiving,
can save us, so well defended.

Save us, O Vulnerable One,
from the fortresses we carry with us.

Give me faith to ride with you,
humble, disarmed, lovingly self-pouring,
with deep trust in your saving.

Hosanna.
Blessed is the one who comes
in the peace of God.



__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net
 

Fot Lazarus to rise


When Lazarus heard his name
he took a sudden breath.
With visceral trembling blood resurged.
But then, as when awakening some days,
he lay a moment, mired,
reluctant to rise from the familiar
swaddling of his death
Rising, even more than dying,
there could be no return:
for if he chose to stand,
all he knew would then be lost

And still now every morning,
each momentary wish for healing
is a risk, a wakening call
to change, to choose,
to leave so much behind,
and be again made new.



[1996]
__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net
 

Dry bones

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         God said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?”
         I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
         Then God said to me, “Prophesy to these bones,
         and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
         Thus says the Lord God to these bones:
         I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”

                           —Ezekiel 37.3-5

There are parts of you,
maybe great parts,
that have withered and died.

Maybe spiritual gifts that you have buried,
a face of yourself you have closeted,
wounds ignored, hopes starved.

Some have passed on, forever.
But some, God may breathe life into.
God may bring bone to bone and sinew to sinew.

You may be aware of it; a daily ache.
Or it may be unknown to you,
a hidden mystery.

What part of you is God bringing back to life?
Where is God's breath blowing,
the dry bones moving?

Don't direct the wind.
Don't even worry where it is.
Just prophesy to the dry bones.

Speak hope.
Be open to the miracle.
Let God breathe, and wait.




Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net