The Last Time


"The Last Supper", Jesus Mafa

Scripture Text:  John 13: 1-17, 31b-35

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?” 7Jesus 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.

“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.”

Sometimes life spins a little out of control. Sometimes things don’t go exactly like the carefully scripted plan we have in our own minds. Sometimes we have to let go or leave behind those in our lives before we’re actually ready to do so. Our lives are full of “last times”, those special, much-too-fleeting moments that we spend with those we love. It is those times when all we can do is trust that the groundwork has been laid for what must continue. That had to be a little of what Jesus was going through on this night. Think about it…he had spent his ministry gathering those around him, teaching them, loving them, and indeed shaping them into who they were. And now…here he was completely out of time…the end was approaching. Night had begun to fall. All he could do was trust that the seeds he had planted in his followers would continue to grow and flourish even in a new environment and a new time. So on this night, he invited all those who love him—this somewhat motley crew of misfits and ordinary ones to sit around the table and enjoy their time together. He knew what was about to happen. He knew that this would be the last.

That is where we enter the story…in the midst of this evening meal…this Passover meal…the last meal. The feast is prepared. The loved ones are gathered together. We have visions of a perfect meal and a perfect time together. But, as all of us know, that is not always the way that family meals come together. This was no exception. Nestled beneath this wonderful feeling of closeness and fellowship were chords of betrayal and distrust, signs of denial and misunderstandings, and an all-too-constant stream of arguing among the disciples. Does that sound familiar?

But in this Passover meal that we have come to call the Last Supper, Jesus chooses to share himself—his very body and blood with all of those that were gathered—this denying, betraying, bickering, and beloved lot. It was a way of giving them something to remember him so that they would not feel so alone without him. He gave them something to hold onto—to touch and to taste—something to do to keep Christ close in their hearts, to feel the very real Presence of Christ forever. On this night, Jesus gives the gift of himself and a way for all of us to remember who we are.

Our culture probably doesn’t do well with “lasts”.  We seem to be always rushing to the next thing, not wanting to hurt or grieve or even hold on to what may be somewhat painful moments in our lives.  We rush to get “over it”, to move on.  As many of you know, I am dealing with my own set of “lasts” right now.  As I prepare to close my chapter at St. Paul’s and begin a new chapter at FUMC, Cleveland, Tx, the “lasts” seem to be coming in a flurry right now.  I am such that I tear up and sometimes even blatantly bawl at the emptiness and, yet, I really want to savor it, to feel every moment of it, to remember it, to make it a part of me, and to leave a part of myself.  That is what Jesus was trying to do.  I don’t think he was trying to “get them through it” and he was definitely not wanting to rush for it to be over.  He was wanting them to experience it, to savor it, indeed, to remember it.  Do this in remembrance of me.  The beauty of this last meal was the intimacy and the relationship.  These were friends dining together–friends who had loved and argued, celebrated and cried, friends who had been called together one by one.  They were all different, coming from different lifestyles with different gifts to offer.  They were us.  We are them.  And this was the moment that they would remember when everything had changed.

For on this night of nights, Jesus drew them in, not to take care of them, but to help them remember. They had to remember enough to hand the memory on.  The Greek word for it is anamnesis.  We would translate it as remembering.  But it is more.  It is not merely remembering those things that happened to us; it is remembering what came before and what was passed on, remembering what was part of our tradition and our heart.  It is finding a memory of what came before that leads you on your journey beyond.  We often tout “institutional memory” as if it is a way of remembering what happened to whom and where and when.  But it is more.  It is a way of imparting what is important, what matters, what gives life to those that come next.  It is a way of giving it wings to fly and breath to survive.  That is why this night was so important.  Jesus did not choose to shut himself off and grieve what was coming but instead immersed himself in a circle of friends so that he could live through them.  Experiencing a “last time” alone is painful; experiencing a “last time” with a gift of friends and a meal will remain forever.

This is the night we remember, the night that Jesus broke the bread and shared the cup, the night that Jesus knelt and washed the feet of the disciples, the night that Jesus forgave betrayal and welcomed life.  A few hours later the soldiers would come and the end would begin.  But the memory of that last time will last forever.  Do this in remembrance of me.

The glad hosannas are no longer heard.  The shouting is over, the palms are gathered; the shadows lengthen; the plotting begins in earnest. Knowing the outcome, we come with heavy hearts.  And what do we hear?  An unchanged and unchanging message of love; God’s love, a poet’s love, a woman’s love.  God’s love, foretold by Isaiah, in the shape of a servant.  (Moira B. Laidlaw)

On this night of nights, we remember.  But we also experience our own “lasts”.  What memories have been imparted to you?  What do you remember that makes you?  What can you impart to those that come after you?  Embrace your lasts, hold them, love them, and then pass them along.

Grace and Peace,






At the Gate

The Lion's Gate, Jerusalem

Scripture Text:  Matthew 21: 1-11 (Palm A)

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

I know…you were expecting palms.  Most of us love this day.  Since my childhood, I have been waving palm branches on Palm Sunday morning, shouting “Hosanna”, and reenacting that first century parade with Jesus riding on that donkey.  It was Jesus’ grand procession (or something like it) as he entered the city.  And so we wave our palm branches and try to pretend that we are oblivious to all that comes next.  We look at the palm branches and we ignore the heavy gate just up ahead.  You see, Jesus was already setting himself up for accusation.  He was entering through the East gate, the gate through which the prophets had long ago proclaimed the Messiah would enter.  So Jesus was setting himself up for blasphemy charges for claiming that he WAS the Messiah.  The truth is that this is not just a parade.  It is full of overtones of the suffering to come. The rumblings of what would come next were all around them. So, this “celebration” is not merely a parade; it is the beginning of where the journey will now take us.  It is the procession that takes us to the gate.

I think if we see this day as merely a parade, it is too easy to walk away, too easy to just lay our palm branch down, and fall off with the crowd.  The “hosannas” are easy.  The hard part is to stay with Jesus as he walks through the gate.  Because, sadly, the parade would fizzle. As it turns and begins moving toward Bethany, toward the edge of the walled city, people turn and go back to their lives. And Jesus, virtually alone, with a few disciples in tow, enters the gate. Jesus is in Jerusalem.

This procession represents transition, a movement from one life to the next, a change in the journey. Processions are a call to begin something different, to enter that new thing that God is doing. Essentially, this Palm Sunday processional is exactly that—a calling to move to a different place. The palm branch means nothing by itself.  In a way, it is a parody of our life as we know it, a life that reveres Christ without following and celebrates without speaking out.  This procession of palms is the way to the gate, the way to the threshold of what life holds.  It is scary for us because we know what lies ahead. We know that just beyond those city gates lies a city that will not be kind over the next several days, a city that will certainly not act in a way befitting of who it is and who it is called to be. It is a city that is not in procession, a city that will attempt to silence the cries to change the world.

The Eastern Gate (or Golden Gate), Jerusalem (sealed in 1541)

So where do we stand?  On this side of the gate, the one with all the palm branches, is celebration and safety and comfort and the way we’ve always been.  Beyond the gate is anointing and questions, betrayal and handing over, last meals together and mock trials, declarations of guilt and death.  But there is another gate beyond that, the one that brings us Life, the one that takes us to who we are called to be.  Havelock Ellis once said that “the promised land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.” This is our wilderness. This is our procession from slavery to freedom, from who we are to who we will be, from the life we’ve designed for ourselves to the one that God envisions for us. This is our procession to life. This is our journey to salvation.  This IS the Way. So, keep walking, no matter how treacherous the road may be. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Our hosannas sung, our palms waved, let us go with passion into this week…. It is a time to greet Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One,to lavishly break our alabaster and pour perfume out for him without counting the cost. It is a time for preparation. (Ann Weems, Kneeling in Jerusalem)

As this holiest of weeks begins, where are you standing?  The journey has brought you to a gate.  Jesus has entered Jerusalem.  Are you willing to give up what you know for Life?  What will you leave behind?

Grace and Peace,



REMEMBERING OUR JOURNEY: When We Started to Become

WaterScripture Text:  Mark 1: 4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Looking back from our journey, we remember, we remember the day that we started to become.  At this point, we remember that day in the Jordan, all of Creation dripping from the sacred waters. And, yet, that whole idea of Jesus being baptized is sometimes odd for us.  After all, part of what we associate with baptism is forgiveness.  How can one who is supposed to be sinless be forgiven?  But the fact that Jesus was baptized only suggests that Jesus associated himself with the need to gather God’s people and to prepare for the Lord’s coming with a gesture of repentance, an entrusting of oneself wholly and completely to God. It also reminds us that Baptism is not about us. We cannot baptize ourselves. It is about God’s presence in our life.

I think the Baptism account from the Gospel According to Mark is my favorite.  Only in this version do we hear of the “heavens being torn apart”—not opened for a time as in Matthew and Luke—but torn apart. The Greek word for this means “schism” (which, interestingly enough, is similar to chaos, similar to what God’s Creation ordered.). It’s not the same as the word open. You open a door; you close a door; the door still looks the same. But torn—the ragged edges never go back in quite the same way again. At this point of Jesus’ baptism, God’s Spirit becomes present on earth in a new way. A brand new ordering of Creation has begun. The heavens have torn apart. They cannot go back. Nothing will ever be the same. Everything that we have known, everything that we have thought has been torn apart and that is the place where God comes through. And the heavens can never again close as tightly as before.  This is when we started to become.

This story of Jesus’ Baptism calls us to remember our own. It is more than being showered or sprinkled with remnants of God’s forgiveness.  It is our beginning, our very “becoming”, as the gift of God’s grace washes away those things that impede our relationship with God and gives us new birth, new life. Just as God swept over the waters when Creation came to be, God swept across the waters so that we would become.  And it calls us to do something with our life.  But I actually don’t remember the day of my baptism. It happened when I was a little over seven months old, on Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962. It was at First United Methodist Church, Brookshire, TX and Rev. Bert Condrey was the officiant. I had a special dress and lots of family present. That would be all I really know.  And yet we are reminded to “remember our baptism”. What does that mean for those of us who don’t? I think “remembering” is something bigger than a chronological recount of our own memories. It is bigger than remembering what we wore or where we stood or who the actual person was that touched our head with or even immersed us in water. It means remembering our very identity, our creation, what it is that made us, that collective memory that is part of our tradition, our liturgy, our family.  It means remembering not just how the journey began but that in its very beginning we became part of it.  And now this same journey takes us to the cross.

That is what “remembering” our baptism is. It’s not just remembering the moment that we felt that baptismal stream; it is remembering the story into which we entered. It is at that point that the Christian family became our own as we began to become who God intends us to be. And for each of us, whether or not we noticed it, the heavens tore apart, spilled out, and the Holy Spirit emerged. And we, too, were conferred with a title. “This is my child, my daughter or son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  You are part of something beyond yourself, beyond what you know, and beyond what you can remember. Rainer Maria Rilke once said that “the future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” Your past now reaches far back before you were here and your future is being transformed and redeemed in you even as we speak.

After he was baptized, Jesus stood, dripping wet, to enter his ministry. The heavens tore apart and poured into the earth. All of humanity was there in that moment—those gone, those to come, you, me. So we remember now how we still stand, wet with those same waters, as we, too, are called into ministry in the name of Christ. It is up to us to further the story. This day and every day, remember your baptism, remember that you are a daughter or son of God with whom God is well pleased and be thankful. You are now part of the story, part of this ordering of chaos, part of light emerging from darkness, part of life born from death. You are part of God’s re-creation. And it is very, very good.  This is the journey for which we live; this is the journey for which we were created; this is the journey that gives us Life.  And, in this moment, we remember when we started to Become.

Your life is shaped by the end you live for.  You are made in the image of what you desire. (Thomas Merton)

On this Lenten journey, we continue to gather our past into our Lives and we remember what made us, remember when we became who we are, when we began this journey.  What does it mean to you to “Remember your Baptism”?  What does it mean to wade into the waters where God awaits?

Grace and Peace,



The Unmasking

UnmaskingScripture Passage:  2 Corinthians 5: 16-21

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So what does that mean to no longer look at others or even Christ from a human point of view?  I mean, how can we do anything different?  We ARE human.  And we are meant to be human, human as Christ was human, fully human. It means that, once again, we are called not to jump away from this world but to look at things differently, to bring this perspective of this “new creation” into not only our lives but the lives of others as well.  We have been reconciled with God through Christ, according to Paul.  The Divine presence of God has come to dwell with humanity for all.  We have been given that which will sustain us beyond what we perceive as our wants, our desires, and even our needs.

I think that most of us sort of pretend to be human.  We know what is right and good and we try but fear and our need for security seeps in when we least expect it.  So we once again don our masks so that we will look faithful and righteous and more put together.  But we read here that we are called to look at everything with a different point of view, something other than a “human” point of view.  It’s about a change in perception.  That’s what this journey does.  It changes our perspective.  Where we once believed in Jesus as the one to emulate, the one who came to bring us eternal life, we now view Christ as the Savior of the world, the one that has ushered the Kingdom of God into everything, even our humanness.  It changes not only the way we view Christ, but also the way we view the world.  We live as if the Kingdom of God is in our very midst–because it is. Our change in perception means that we unmask, that we find our real self, that self that sees Christ’s presence even now and sees all of God’s children as part of that Presence.

Andre Berthiame once said that “we all wear masks and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.”  In other words, sometimes it is hard and perhaps a little painful, but it is the way to reveal who we are called to be.  No longer do we live our lives with some faint vision of a “someday” or a “somewhere” that is out there and to which we’re trying to journey.  God’s Presence, God’s Kingdom, is here, now.  And as God’s new creation, we see that the air is thick with its presence.  And as God’s children, our very lives are so full with God’s Presence that we can do nothing else but journey with it.

In his book, “Simply Christian“, N.T. Wright contends that “Christians are those who are already living “after death,” since Christ has raised us from the grave.  We ought more properly to speak of the world to come as “life after life after death.”  This is the change in perception.  It is looking beyond, living “as if” the Kingdom of God is here in its fullness, because that is how it will be.  It means that we live open to what God is showing us rather than walking through life with our eyes masked because we already know the way.  There is a story from the tradition of the 4th century Desert Mothers and Fathers that tells of a judge who goes into the desert looking for Abba Moses, who could provide him spiritual direction.  But he returned disappointed, complaining that the only person he met was an old man, tall and dark, wearing old clothes.  And he was told, “that was Abba Moses.”  He had been so affected by his perceptions, his view of what he should find through his human view–perhaps looking for a more “cleaned up, appropriate teacher”, that he wasn’t open to all that the Kingdom held for him to learn.  That is what we are called to do on this Lenten journey–change our perceptions, unmask, begin to view our life “as if”, as if the Kingdom of God were already in our midst (because it is.)

There is no creature, regardless creature, regardless of its apparent insignificance that fails to show us something of God’s goodness. (Thomas A’Kempis)

As you journey through this Lenten season, begin to look at things differently.  Rather than limiting yourself to a human view with your pre-conceived perceptions, open yourself to what God is showing you and begin to live “as if”.

Grace and Peace,




The Judean Wilderness, February, 2010

Scripture Passage:  Matthew 4: 1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Well, you know that we’re coming up on the first Sunday in Lent when you read of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness.  To be honest, most of us are incredibly uncomfortable with this passage.  After all, how can Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, the gift of the father’s unfailing grace, Emmanuel, God With Us, the Savior of the World be tempted?  How can that even be possible? And why would someone like Jesus even risk it?  What, really, is Jesus doing out in the wilderness all by himself?  What, really, is the purpose at all?  I mean, it almost sounds like this was an attempt to gather some sort of proof that Jesus was who he was.  I’ve always been just a bit distrustful of “proof” of the Divine.  So, what is this all about?

In Russian (because THAT’S current), the word poustinia means “a desert, a lonely and silent place”.  It is a place of solitude.  In the Russian Orthodox tradition, a poustinik was one who was called by God to live alone in the desert with God.  But the notion was not looked upon as a solitary life removed from the rest of the world.  Because it was there that he or she prayed, fasted, and made oneself available to humanity.  Think of the poustinik as humanity’s listener.  The idea was that even though the poustinik lived in solitude, there was always a part of him or her that was open to the world, a door to a life of solitude that invited the world in and sent the person forth.

And yet, this pilgrimage into the wilderness is not really part of the world in which most of us live.  Our culture may be a bit too goal-oriented and scheduled for that.  We tend to respond better to words like “connection”, “community”, and “fellowship”.  (Those are the words on which religious entities build good mission statements, aren’t they?)  Going out into the desert or the wilderness alone to find oneself or center oneself sometimes sounds to us a little selfish, as if the person is not participating with others, not caring for others.  Maybe our problem is that we’ve forgotten the door, the threshold.  We forgot that there is always a door between solitude with God and the world, between the community of faith and that part of the Godself that each of us hold inside of us.  It is not an either-or.  The poustiniks understood that.  They stepped into the solitude to connect with God while at the same time keeping a foothold on the world, being available in case the world needed them or open to what God needed them to take into the world.  It was a way of listening and a way of active faith.

Maybe that’s why this passage is so difficult for us.  We forgot that there was always a door.  Jesus was not shutting himself away from the world.  Jesus was called to the world (good grief, he was the Savior of the World, was he not?).  But in the bustling and noisy ways of the world, it is important to find the door, to listen to God, to enter the solitude of our deepest self so that we can finally hear where we are called to go.  There will always be voices pulling us away, pulling us toward things that we think we need, things that we think will help us in life, or things that will give us the power to do what we think we should do.  But deep within us is a holy place of solitude, a place where we can listen to God unencumbered by the voices of the world.   Some of us need to go into the wilderness to hear it; others need to only listen where we are.  Jesus trek into the wilderness was not because he needed to get away from the world but rather so that he could hear the world’s needs and God’s calling to fill them with grace.

The poustinia is within, and one is forever immersed in the silence of God. foreverlistening to the word of God, forever repeating it to others in word and deed.  (Catherine Doherty)

On this Lenten journey as we traverse through the wilderness, think of those place of solitude in your life.  Where are those place where you are at your best at listening to the needs of the world, at listening to what God is calling you to do?

Grace and Peace,


Mary’s Song

Lectionary Text: John [18:1-19:15] 16-19 [20-25] 26-30 [31-42]
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified…So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew* is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth,* the King of the Jews.’…When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

I am standing here but it does not seem real.  I want to hold him, to comfort him, to cradle him in my arms like I did when he was a baby.  But the guards are holding us back.  Oh, please, I don’t think I can stand anymore.  But I must stand.  He has to know that I am here with him.  He has to know how much I love him, how much I hurt for him, how I would trade places with him if I could.

All of the memories are flooding into my head.  I remember that night when the angel came to me.  I did not understand.  I was so afraid.  But I knew I had to say yes.  I had no idea what I was agreeing to do.  And then for nine months I carried the baby in my womb. It was joyous.  In one respect, it was just like any other pregnancy, like the others I had after that.  And yet, it was different.  I always felt like there was someone there with me, guiding me, loving me, helping me through it.  It’s hard to explain.  The birth itself was hard, downright scary in fact.  We traveled to Bethlehem.  It was so far, so painful.  And then when we finally arrived, it was so crowded.  The streets were wild.  I remember that nice man who let us bed down in the room that housed his animals.  I remember the first time I looked into his eyes–those dark, compassionate eyes.  Even as a baby, he had compassionate, loving eyes.  He was special.  I knew that he was special when he came into the world.  I just didn’t know how wonderful he would be.  I remember the day that my cousin’s son baptized him.  He didn’t know I was there.  I hid behind the trees.  After all, he was an adult; he didn’t need his mother always looking on.  And I remember when his ministry started.  He was so brave, so fearless.  It scared me at times.  I thought something like this might happen.  But I am so incredibly proud of him.  I am so proud of what he became, what he made others become that he touched in his life.  He was special.

No, this does not seem real.  Somebody needs to help him.  Please, please, he’s asking for water.  Please, someone give him water.  I’m afraid this is it.  I’m afraid he cannot take it anymore.  I’m afraid he’s going to give up.  Perhaps it would be better.  Perhaps it is better to let go…Oh, how I love him! How I want to go back, to hold him just once more!  It is over.  It is all over.  He is gone.  What was this for?  I don’t understand.  Why the angel?  Why the star?  Why did it all happen if it was going to end this way?  What does God have in mind for him?  He promised me that it would be for good.  He promised me that it would be OK.  I guess I have to believe that, hold on to it, hope.  Someday maybe I’ll see it.

I wanted to stay here until they gave me his body, but I don’t think I can.  There are others here too–Jesus’ friend Mary, who has always been so lovely toward me, and the disciples.  I hope they all realized how much he loved them, how he would do anything for them.  The rain is really coming down now and the skies are angry, angry like me.  The wind is blowing so hard, I can no longer stand against it.  There are rocks and debris sliding down the mountain above us.  It seems that the world is breaking apart.  Will the world ever know what it has lost?  Will the world ever know what it did?  Will God ever forgive this world for killing my son, their son?  Someone just told me that the temple curtain has split in two.  It is as if the holy has spilled into the world.  I can’t explain it.

My son came into this world wrapped in so much hope.  He was supposed to change the world.  He was supposed to open the eyes of the world to what it could be, what it could become.  Is it all for naught?  Or, someday, will we finally understand why he came?  Someday, I know, that God will make it make sense.  But, now, today, I am grieving more than I could know.  But what a gift I’ve had!  What an incredible gift that was taken away all too soon!  I have to leave this place, as hard as it is.  Shabbat is starting in a few minutes.  I must go prepare, light the candles, and usher in the joy of the Sabbath.  I must go rest.  I need it.  I need it to resurrect my hurting soul.  God will be with me.  Let it be.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  (Luke 1:46-55)

Shalom, my dear Son!  May God’s Light stay with you!

The point of Holy Week is to empty.  It is the completion of the process of Lent in which we have made room for our death…Resurrection is finding that place that is just for us.  In the beginning of Holy Week, we find ourselves spiritually homeless.  But when we are homeless, we are ready to be sheltered.  The shelter from death, in life, is on its way.  We don’t need to fear the emptiness. (Donna Schaper)


FOR TODAY:  On this day when we remember the Crucifixion, let us grieve for awhile and then keep vigil with the expectant hope of whatever it is God will do next!

Grace and Peace,


As If Everything Were Downside Up


upsidedownworldScripture Text: John 2: 13-17

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”


We don’t know what to make of this passage. Oh, we try to make sense of it, sort of clean it up so that it doesn’t look so bad. After all, what happened to that loving, mild-mannered Savior that we knew? What happened to the consummate storyteller that knew how to get everyone to listen to him? What happened to Jesus? Here he is, whip raised like some sort of drunken cowboy herding all the sheep and cattle out of the square outside the temple. And then grabbing all of the baskets of coins from the money changers and throwing them on the ground. So, when he walked away there were animals scattered into the town, tables turned over, coins strewn everywhere, and, I’m assuming, some pretty flabbergasted merchants standing around not knowing what to do.


Well, of course, we know why. After all, the temple is God’s house; the temple is a place of reverence and worship. Well, OK, BUT, remember that God dwells everywhere—in you, in me. Remember…God made flesh, Emmanuel, Dwelt among us,..all that stuff. So what exactly was wrong? After all, that was the way society ran. No one was breaking the law. No one was mistreating anyone (or at least not in any way that was not properly sanctioned by both the community and the religious tradition) So what was wrong? Why was Jesus so upset? Because, there they were…essentially selling worship, selling religious practice, selling God.


“Horrible!,” we sigh. But think about our own society.  Think about us. Our lives are reward-driven and because of it we live with the idea that we should get what is “due” to us. We believe that by working hard and doing the right things we will be rewarded. And often that carries into our spiritual lives. How many of us do the things we do because we think we should, because we think that it will in some way earn us points with God, or, even, because we think that we are the only ones that can do them? Oh, you know the stuff. If I pray really hard, God will answer. If I have faith, God will reward me. If I serve God, I will feel good. If I study and try my best to make sense of God, God will guide me and everything will turn out alright. It is our own way of merchandising. What do we do because we love God and what do we do because we think that will reap a reward (or at least insure us against future calamity)?


Meister Eckhart (13th-14th century German mystic) said that “as long as we strive to get something from God on some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God.” Eckhart then exhorts us to “live as if you do not exist…then God alone dwells there.” So what would that mean, then, to live as if we do not exist? It means to live without an “if-then” statement. It means to live “as if”, as if God’s Kingdom is here in its fullness and glory, as if all of Creation echoes the song of God, as if God dwells in our midst and you are God’s holy temple (oh, yeah…that one IS supposed to be an already one). We live between the already and the not yet. This season of Lent makes that oh so much more real to us as we journey in the wilderness knowing that the Cross, and, indeed, the Resurrection, God’s ultimate act of bringing the downside up, is up ahead.  But that does not mean that the tables cannot be turned—even now. So, to live as if you do not exist, to live as if God dwells in you as a holy temple, what tables in your life does Jesus need to turn downside up to get your attention? (Or what do you need to do to at least live as if it were that way?)


The noblest prayer is when [one] who prays is inwardly transformed into what [one] kneels before. (Angelus Silesius, 17th century)


FOR TODAY:  Think about what tables Jesus need to turn downside up in your life so that you can live as if you do not exist.


Grace and Peace,