Thank you (again), Carrie Newcomer for your new song "Abide." The melody follows the lead of the words and the notion of the gift of being in it with someone who knows your story and cares about you. Deeply. There is an entering in that happens when we risk opening our hearts to another for this life journey that we're on:
"Let us ponder the unknown, what is hidden and what's whole...and finally learn to travel at the speed of our own soul." It's not always easy. It rarely is easy when it comes down to it.
Healing well from the March 13th sinus surgery. I truly feel so much better. I've been trying to remember what my "new normal" is. So these past couple of weeks I've been trying to do one of my favorite things - walking. For me walking is praying and listening; it's observing and and remembering. Whether I'm listening to Phil Collins or Jimmy Buffett or the Braves on the radio. It's one of my favorite ways of enjoying the passing time. As I've begun walking again, I've been aware that in addition to not having the stamina I've had in the past, I had developed a limp. Right knee. My 2002 torn (and repaired) meniscus knee.
So imagine my shock (shock, I tell you) when I went to the Orthopedic doc this morning to request some really cool gel they've developed to help cushion the knee cartilage. Imagine my true disappointment when, after looking at the x-rays, she shook her head and said those two famous words: "knee placement." Sooner rather than later (read: 4-5 months).
Ah, come on.
Linda just shook her head when I told her and she started reviewing the vows from our service: "better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and health..." Growing older is a privilege. Many of us know it in our spirits most days, but it's not that often the notion works her way into our heads. And even in the midst of these growing-up and growing-older days, I am trying to breathe it all in.
These past months have been teaching me about thankfulness. I've learned several lessons I never expected about vulnerability. I've been so very much aware of the privilege of healthcare insurance. But/and there comes a time when you wonder: is this how it's gonna be...this medical gift leading to the next and then next.
(maybe I've just had a long day...)
Days like today stop me in my limping tracks. And as I am catching my breath I wonder about the gift of traveling at the speed of my soul. Can I transform ways I've been moving into ways I'm choosing to, as opposed to reacting to? Is it possible? Is it life-giving? Is there any other authentic way to make our way through these tender days of holding on and letting go?
All of what's next is unknown. We can plan for and work toward and pray with ~ but it's unknown. I am grateful to Carrie for giving me this compass for this day and for tomorrow. I am grateful for companions along the way who I know will "Abide." Deep breath in, deep breath out (and repeat).
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 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, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
~ Matthew 28:1–10
Breath Prayer: “do not be afraid” “go and tell”
“They will see me,” Alleluia! Christ lives again this day in us and through us. Death where is thy victory, where is they sting? The stone that held him, has been rolled away. Light is greater than darkness, love is greater than fear, life is greater than death. Our journey of 40 days in the wilderness ends here. Or does it? Can it? We are not the same as were weeks ago when we set our. Life has been transforming all around us, and we with it.
We are being called from what has been into this moment. We are being called in a great and joyous “ALLELUIA!” There is light here, there is love, there is life. No stone can hold us, Christ has rolled each away. We are being called into this new beginning and beginning again. No longer the same.
Healed. Renewed. Transformed. Morning has broken this day, and we are now welcomed into the love that holds us and the joy that lead us ahead. Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Prayer: Journeying God you have traveled with us each step of the way on our Lenten pilgrimage. On this Easter Sunday we are mindful of the holiness of our days. Your promise of Emmanuel lives in us. In our prayers and songs we have heard your laughter and felt your tears. In your story we have heard echoes of our own. As the stone was rolled away that Easter morning long ago, you have rolled away the stone that has kept us captive this day. Let your light shine in and through us as we step out into a new world beginning this day. Alleluia! You are with us. Amen.
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
~ Matthew 27:62-66
Breath Prayer: “hold” “on”
The day in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Holy Saturday. The day after the believers witnessed Jesus' death. The day after they had lived through the loss of hope and vision. The day after life as they'd believed it to be had died. Death was witnessed in front of their eyes. The One who had come and turned water into wine, despair into hope, brokenness into healing, this One was now gone.
I wonder what it must have been like. What was it like to have watched the daylight of that Friday leave and to have the nighttime come. To watch this endless night finally come. I wonder if anyone slept at all. Pacing. Weeping. Sobbing. And then after the hours in the dark, when the light of the morning was finally dawning ~ what did they think? I wonder what they imagined their lives would be like on this next day, on this Holy Saturday.
I have not experienced that devastation. But I have witnessed the death of what I thought to be true, what I thought my life would be like. I have experienced that long, dark night.
There is a faithfulness about living in and through Holy Saturday. Easter had not yet come to the followers of Jesus. There was no rolling away of the stone yet for them. There was just the echo of his stories and memories of times on the hillside or by the lake. There is a core-strength that lives into what is not yet seen, but held tightly. There is a strength that truly passes our understanding. There is a strength....
For me again this year there are shadows and uncertainties with Holy Saturday. “Joy and suffering” accompany the days of Holy Week, but not this day. This in-between day holds the emptiness, the ache, the fear of unspeakable grief and loss. It is the faith that allows/enables/brings us to put one foot in front of the other and enter into the day ~ this is the “faith of our fathers and our mothers.”
Today is not a day to endure only. Today is not a day to rush through only. Today is not a day to shut-down and be numb only. Today is our day of walking with a presence that for all intents and purposes has gone, has left us.
Today is our day to step out in a faith that we claim and that claims us. More than any other day, this day teaches us to hold on and to see in the dark.
Prayer: Merciful God, as we wait we listen for you with our whole hearts. Amen.
What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this,
O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse
for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse
for my soul.
~ North American folk hymn
Breath Prayer: “wondrous” “love”
Some songs resonate in our bones. Some feel as though they have been sung for generations and yet sung for the first time for us. Sometimes it’s the words, sometimes the melody, sometimes both. This song feels like one of those songs.
We have heard the story of that long day Jesus endured: from his cell, through the trial, his pronouncement, carrying his cross through the city streets, climbing that hill, being nailed to cross and crucified. Step by step, we have heard of his last day.
I wonder what it was like to stand by and witness it taking place. I wonder what those who had journeyed with him so far, I wonder what they were feeling and thinking. I wonder if they could watch; could pray; could sing?
Visiting again this day this song What Wondrous Love watches, prays, sings for me. These words aren’t saying that a sacrifice was made to purchase my soul or salvation. These words say that in my deepest, loneliest, most broken place, the Son of God loved so greatly that he endured immeasurable agony, so that I might live, so that we might live. And this was done so that we all might know that this love is the greatest act possible, human and divine.
Prayer: Holy One, we give you thanks. For your life, for ours we give you thanks. We are drawn into the Passion of this day, enduring again your suffering. May there be grace enough for us hold on to the love that is greater than even death. In you, we pray. Amen.
In the singing, in the silence,
in the hands expectant, open
in the blessings, in the breaking,
in your presence at this table,
Jesus Christ, be the wine of grace;
Jesus Christ, be the bread of peace.
In the question, in the answer,
in the moment of acceptance,
in the heart’s cry, in the healing,
in the circle of your people
Jesus Christ, be the wine of grace;
Jesus Christ, be the bread of peace.
~ Shirley Erena Murray from “In the Singing,” Evangelical Lutheran Worship
“wine of grace”
“bread of peace”
For centuries we have gathered round a table, listening for the story that has been heard anew for each generation, “On the night that Jesus was betrayed, he gathered with his friends…” This story calls us again this day to remember.
As they had been doing for months Jesus gathered at the end of the day with his friends for food and drink. We now can only imagine, but I can hear sharing of stories of what they had experienced during the day. Stories of surprises, of disappointments and celebrations, of ah ha’s and uh oh’s. Men and women coming together at the end of the day to regroup with, renew with and remember with this man the stories of living love.
But this night in Jerusalem was not the same as the nights before. Everyone was on edge. Tensions were high; nerves frayed. And in the midst of that, Jesus gathered them close. And on this night everyone knew that what had been would never be the same. After taking the bread, and giving thanks for it, he broke the bread and gave it them. He spoke to his friends, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” And he took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it for all to drink, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
And this night we, too are remembering in our singing and in our silence, in our hands expectant for your presence at this table, for your presence in our hearts.
Prayer: Loving Christ, you have gathered us one by one and two by two. We are remembering your words of blessing of the bread and cup. We are remembering your love for us all, and your sacrifice for it. We are remembering your words, “taste and see,” and your encouragement to believe. For you and your love for us, we are grateful this night. Amen.
Breath Prayer: “air” “bound”
Our stories of Holy Week are seen by looking back in time. Centuries have past since the days following Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem on the donkey’s back. Although we can’t actually know what they were thinking or feeling, we continue to enter in as we can. There isn’t a first-person account of those Holy Days. We only have words written years later. We can only imagine.
I would imagine that his disciples and friends were growing more and more anxious. Seeing what they saw day-after-day makes me imagine that they were coming to be sorely afraid, almost as though they were running from something.
A few years ago my sister, Claudia and I were walking along a series of lagoons late on a Georgian night. We were walking back to our friend’s house after dinner and talking. Although I’d heard warnings about alligators in the waters, my Midwestern sensibilities didn’t truly take it in. We were almost home and we both heard the sound at the same time. We couldn’t see it, but we knew it was there. First we were air bound and when our feet finally touched the ground, we ran blindly into the closest neighbor’s yard. I remember that I didn’t know what to do, except run as fast as I could. (Editors note: we both lived to tell this tale)
I wonder if this was true as well of Jesus’ friends? They couldn’t see it, but they knew it was there. Change was coming. Soon nothing would be the same. They could feel it in their bones. But what was next for all of them?
Prayer: Almighty and merciful God you lead us, sustain us, remind us each day. Continue to guide us, we pray. Lead us now in these Jerusalem days. May we have strength enough, courage enough, faith enough to follow you tomorrow and tomorrow. Amen.
God gave us a gift of wisdom, and we made it a burden and a curse. God gave us peaceful living in community, and we chose the way of alienation and selfishness. God offered us life and life abundant, and we invented economies of scarcity.
~ Prayer of Confession (and Assurance of Grace below) from worship at NDPC Feb 2014
Breath Prayer: “teach us” “to pray”
In this Holy Week we remember our story in God’s greater one. Somehow these days often feel longer, drawn out. With each step we are mindful of the steps of Jesus growing more and more precious. We feel in our hearts and guts his days and hours numbered now. In these days it is as though a part of us is there, with the others who companioned him, we are recognizing that what has been started cannot, will not be stopped.
In these days, may we be intentional with our participation in the brokenness of our lives, and our world. We are not in the audience, merely watching some great drama unfold. We are living this one, precious life, one action at a time. We have been given gifts and graces. We have been given a community in which to participate. We have been given a good and gracious plenty.
We have been given this day.
Prayer: The grace poured out in the life of Christ is never ending. Teach us this day to believe the good news of the gospel: in Christ, we are forgiven, loved and freed. Amen.
Our steps have brought us here. Following him on his donkey, we enter into Jerusalem. Beginning today using your senses and your imagination open yourself to the experience of Holy Week. One day, imagine what you would here in the streets, in the singing, in the prayers. Another day, imagine what textures would surround you. What would you be tasting? Smelling?
Enter in and sing, pray, whisper, shout. Enter in and participate in these holy days with the One who led you here step-by-step.
Breath Prayer: “Enter in” “Jerusalem”
Prayer: Loving Spirit fill our senses with these holy days. Draw us close, so that when the Alleluia’s grow silent and the weeping fills the night, we feel your loving presence. Amen.
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!’
~ Matthew 21: 6-11
Breath prayer: “Blessed is the One” “who comes”
As this Lenten journey enters into Jerusalem and this Holy Week begins, I am mindful of the sounds of the procession heard long ago on Palm Sunday. We are told that Jesus entered on the back of a donkey and many threw down their coats and palm branches. They were shouting and singing loud Hosannas.
He had come back.
Jesus returned to Jerusalem with a loving and compassionate heart. Tensions ran high all around him. Listening closely, he might have heard the Hosannas sung a little too loudly. These shouts also held their political hopes and dreams. He was coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Holy Days with his friends. He was returning to share the table and hear again the stories remembered. His was a faithful son returning to the Holy City.
He brought with him his stories of the road. These stories he’d told again and again to all who would listen, “Love the Lord your God;” “Love your neighbor as yourself;” “Seek first God’s righteousness and everything will be given you.”
Those who had ears heard.
Prayer: Hosanna’s from our hearts to the One who will come and change darkness to light, fear into love. Lead us, O Holy One and we will follow. Amen.
God of love and faithfulness,
We are no longer our own, but yours. Put us with what you will, rank us with whom you will; put us to doing, put us to suffering; let us be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let us be full, let us be empty; let us have all things, let us have nothing; we freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. Amen.
Scottish Church's Book of Common Order.
Breath Prayer “let us be full” “let us be empty”
Was it that long ago that we were packing our bags and setting out on this Lenten journey? Hours into days and days into weeks, and now as we are turning our hearts to Jerusalem, it’s important that we stop long enough to look and see where we’ve been.
I invite you to ask someone to read aloud with you this prayer we began with back on March 6th. Remember? Do the words sound the same, feel the same as they did at the beginning of this season? What words are alive differently for you now? Has there been any shifts in you? And if so are you able to identify them? Lean into them? Celebrate them?
“We freely yield…” now as we look back on these past weeks may these words come alive anew in us and may our lives be a reflection of all that we have been given to us along the way.
Prayer: God of love and faithfulness, you have led us this far on the way. We know now that we cannot turn back, because you are the Source of who we are and who we are becoming. Take our lives, this day ~ we freely yield them to you and to what is next for us all. We pray we humble and loving hearts, Amen.
Working in Family Experience at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Lesley is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. A Candler School of Theology graduate, Lesley has just published her second book, Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon for 29 Days (available on this website). She and her partner, Linda Ellis are raising their two sons, Brogan and Sam in Decatur, GA.