Friday, November 13, 2015

This Evening's Prayer

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” ― Anne FrankThe Diary of a Young Girl

My heart is solemn.

My thoughts run around trying to make sense of hate.

Of violence.

Of noise,

Of chaos,

Of disdain.

I wonder how and why people's mouths grow such a distaste for certain members of humanity.
A humanity that we all share.

A humanity of which we all belong
and have a membership.
A humanity that unites and does not divide.
If we are all made by the same creator,
then why do we feel the need and the place for hate?

Are our differences really so distinct that they require death to equal out a wrong?
A wrong established in our creation?
Do we really give the Fall so much credit for our hatred that we don't recognize it as the reason that we have a Savior?

Perhaps I'm wrong.
Perhaps my own biases of perceived hatred are really perceiving fear.
Mistaken loyalty.

Lord, have mercy on us all.
Deliver those who are captured.
Heal those who are harmed.
Grieve with the grieving.
Respond with the responders.
Have grace and redemption for those who are in need of such things.

Forgive us in our wrongs and our hatred.
Unite us in our humanity.

Kyrie Eleison.  Lord, have mercy.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Thorn in the Palm Leafs

The fanfare starts and a choir and children make their way into the sanctuary waving palm leafs over their heads, singing “Hosanna in the highest!”  The congregation is filled with joy as the celebration of Jesus coming into Jerusalem begins.  We are replaying what is described in the Gospels as the Triumphal Entry of Jesus. 

I love this celebration.  It also makes me feel uncomfortable.

How could a day in which we celebrate the coming of the Messiah make me uncomfortable?  In the Gospel narratives, the Triumphal entry is the marking of when Jesus finally makes his way into Jerusalem.  This is a journey that he has been on for a while.  Jesus has been performing miracles, telling parables, proving the religious authorities wrong, posing more questions than answers, and doing God’s will for him.  When he rides into Jerusalem on that day, riding on a donkey as predicted in Zechariah 9, he is recognized as the Messiah by the people who enter him in.  He enters in to palm branches, songs of joy, wonderful music, and anticipation.  He enters with joy into what he knows will be his death.

My home church has a very intentional Good Friday service.  Every year it is the same service with the same music, same readings often led by the same people, and a black out at the end that represents the tearing of the curtain when Jesus died in Luke's Gospel, and the closing of the tomb after He has been placed within it.  I have realized that having this same service every year for the past eighteen years has been has been very significant to my faith development and my understanding of Jesus’ death.  We need to remember what happens between Palm Sunday and Easter.  Without taking the time to grieve the death of Jesus, it is harder for us to truly appreciate the empty tomb a few days later. 

Responsive readings are a part of the religious tradition I was brought up in.  For these readings there would be a narrator and then others would do the voices of the characters at play in the story of Jesus’ passion.  The congregation would play the part of the crowd.  So when they are reading Luke 25:15-23, when Pilate is asking the crowd gathered outside if they would rather have Barabbas, a murder, or Jesus released to them, the congregation would say, “Crucify him! Crucify him!  Release Barabbas to us.”

Palm Sunday makes me uncomfortable because as the word, “Hosanna,” escapes my lips, I foresee myself shouting, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” 

By placing myself in the story I have empathy for those characters.  I understand.  Or at least I try to.  I see how they betrayed Jesus in those days between his entry into Jerusalem and his death on the cross.  I see how I do too.  I become more aware of my sins, my failures, and my utter need for Jesus.  When I look at Palm Sunday and rejoice with Palm branches, I see myself forsaking Christ a little later that same week right along with the twelve disciples.

When I see myself shouting, “Hosanna,” I know the end.  I know that Jesus is going to end on that cross.  I know that everyone who loves Jesus is going to betray him.  The Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as being utterly abandoned by all his friends, followers, and even his god (“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani”) in Mark 15:34.   

Although, as soon as I realize this, my mind flickers to what I know as the ultimate end.  I know that in the end he is going to rise from the dead.  I know that despite my forsaking him, he loves me anyway.  He died for me anyway.  I completely betray him and he dies for me.  He redeems me.  He loves me.

Palm Sunday makes me uncomfortable because it reminds me of my frailty and God's worthiness.  But it also means that not only is the death of my savior coming, but also his resurrection.  It gives me hope.

Maybe it is silly that Palm Sunday makes me uneasy.  Maybe it is silly that I remember all this in the shouting of one word – “Hosanna”.  But perhaps it is a good thing.  Because in this struggle I realize how fallen I am and how good and faithful God is.  I realize once again the message of the Gospel.  It is one that is transforming.  It is renewing.  It is so easy to not really think of what the story of Jesus' passion means for us.  It gives us hope that even as we wave these branches and shout, "Hosanna, blessed be the one who comes in the way of the Lord," there is something larger at work.  We are on our way to betraying our Christ, but Sunday is a-coming.  Behold the risen Lord—greater than all my failures.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Strawberry and the Fennel

I used to journal.  a lot.  Since my brain surgery I haven't for some reason.  I have felt like there is something missing.  Writers block to no end.  When I come to my blog it stunts me and the words do not come.

Last weekend, I went to a conference and we talked about creativity in ministry.  We talked about using different elements of who we are as a person to be creative.  I sat down and wrote.  I allowed myself the space to sit with my journal and a pen and to let the pen take me where I wanted me to go.  That's generally what seems to happen anyway.

I decided that I want to start writing more.  For Lent I decided to give up eating out -- with a few exceptions.... with groups of friends, for work.  Just not by myself when I don't feel like cooking.  I decided to add onto that a to start writing something, anything, everyday.

What I mean by that is that occasionally throughout the Lenten season I will be putting things that I write onto here as I see fit.  Sometimes about faith.  Sometimes not.  It's generally in loose verse poetry I guess.  I don't know much about all those terms and distinctions.  I just write and read and write so more.  Or I try to.  God willing.


I know no answers.  
I know only questions.
My uncertainty is why I come back.
My uncertainty is in part why I believe.

Because how could I know all the answers and still believe in a God that created 
the buffalo and the fly.
The wolf and the lamb.
The man and the woman.
The victim and the guilty. 
The popular and the outsider.
The strawberry and the fennel.
The rose and the ivy that is poison.

If I start putting my faith in black and white,  I'm afraid that I'll put God in a box that I'll store on my shelf.  A box that I'll creek open when I need to know that Jesus saves of God creates.  And by sliding open the corner of the box, I get concrete answers to my no so concrete questions.  
Questions about what Paul says about women.  
Questions of whether God's plan for creation could involve evolution.  
Living in fear of the almighty God that erupts when he comes out 
of my own boxes and expectations of how I want God to act.

My boxes mean that my God, 
my Jesus, 
is mine.

He is what I want him to be.
He is not who he is really.

My God is not white, 
not black,
not me.

My Jesus is a Jew is Israel.
To take him away from there makes him no longer God and puts me in his place.

So Lord, 
may you come out of the box that I put you in as a genie comes out of it's lamp.

Surround me.

Allow me to know that arriving at grey is fine.
That arriving with more questions is fine.
Because somehow in my questions I do understand.

I understand that I am smaller than I know and that you are larger.
If truly you created the entire cosmos, 
then my box, 
my walls, 
my black and my white, 
they cannot contain you.

My Lord and my God,
allow me to sit within the grey.
Allow me to sit with my questions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dust like us

Today is Ash Wednesday.

It seems only right that as we prepare for Jesus' death on a cross we remember our own humanity.  

Our frailty.  

That to which our own humanity reminds us that Jesus was human. 
And as we well recall, he was also divine. 

That Jesus is both man, 
and to the ashes he will return, 

but also God, 
And he will live again.  
Truly rising at the end of the Lenten season.

From dust I came,
And to dust I shall return.