Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mary did you know?

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "Mary did you know?"  In it we picture Mary who is expecting this baby and wondering whether she really understood who he was and what was coming.  Here are some of the words:

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am

I thought about that - Mary did you know - when I was spending time this morning with the resurrection text of from the gospel of John as Mary meets Jesus in the garden.  It is a different Mary - but the same question comes - did you know?  how did you know?  what did you know?  when did you know?

What I noticed in this text is that Mary came to "know" very gradually.  She came to the tomb very early to take care of a dead body.  When the stone was rolled away and ran to get the disciples saying "they" have taken the body.  After the men came and went, Mary lingered and wept.

Then she had an encounter with the angels and said the same thing - "they" had taken him.

Then she saw Jesus and he spoke to her in the garden and she still did not know who he was.  It was only when he spoke her name that she realized that the one she mourned was present.

For me, this is a very familiar text, but I read it anew today and wonder, wonder, wonder about this whole understanding of faith and the gradual and sudden realizations that come to us when suddenly we "know" that we are in the presence of God.  And we are no longer at a tomb where there is no life but in a garden. 

There is so much on this faith journey that we never fully understand.  How did Mary conceive a child by the Holy Spirit?  What happened in that tomb on Holy Saturday?  How does Mary not recognize him at first and then know it is him?  How did the men at Emmaus walk with him and not know him until the breaking of the bread.

There is so much that Margot does not know.  But I find that more and more I trust that God is found in the gardens of our lives - places of growth and life.  Not in the tombs.  And in the garden we know that there are fallow times and fertile times, times of harvest and times of planting.  There is so much to Jesus in the garden.

My deepest insight this morning, however, was that Mary was the first one to encounter the risen Christ because she lingered and wept and - unbeknownst to her - waited.

Always, always, always - there seems to be a word to me to stop, wait, linger and trust that God is here.  Look around.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Weekend

Today I found myself just wondering at what an interesting and different Easter I had this year.

First of all, Friday and Saturday I spent time with a wedding - the rehearsal on Friday and the wedding itself on Saturday.  Saturday morning I wrote the homily.  It was a "non church" wedding for a couple who I grew to know and love this year as I spent time with them in conversations about marriage. (pre marital counseling)  It was the first marriage for the bride and the third for the groom.  They have a toddler who they obviously adore.  There is something that was sweet about all of it - the bride crying as she walked down the aisle, the groom transfixed by her beauty and the little boy running around.  A wedding is about new beginnings and starting over and lifetime (hopefully) commitments.  I did my usual talk about paying attention to the spiritual and God's presence in their lives and hope that they heard me.

I attended worship at Ascension Lutheran Church with Marnie, Reagan and Maggie.  We sat in the back and had a whole pew to ourselves.  Maggie was so cute and not shy at all and  insisted that she participate in the children's sermon.  Reagan is a champion big sister who - without complaint - left halfway through to change the baby's diapers.  It is a blessing to sit with them at church.  I felt like I was in and out of the service mentally  as I watched the children all around me and it still was meaningful and good.  I always felt that preparing for Easter was one of the hardest sermons because there were people who may only come once or twice a year.  Now I realize how hard it is to really concentrate on the sermon when you are sitting in the pew.   But the totality of the worship - the songs, the people, communion, flowers, prayers made it perfect for me.

We went to a brunch with Marnie's family afterward and got there early and were the first people to get our food.  There is nothing as nice as that!  I had prime rib, salmon, carrot cake, some great salad and a bloody Mary.  Then came the Easter Bunny and Maggie went in for a hug immediately.  After that she and Reagan went looking for Easter Eggs.  It could not have been a lovelier day.

At the same time, I am aware that not everyone in my life - and certainly in the world - is experiencing this kind of Easter.  My friend Susan's husband Ken has been in the hospital for two full weeks after surgery and has rehab ahead.  Their "new normal" is going to be different in the future and I hold both of them in prayer.  What I know is that we do go through "seasons" of our lives and right now they are suffering but surrounded by family and people who care about them.  And I pray from Ohio and know that it matters.

 I continue to be a woman of faith who knows that no matter what God is doing something with all of us - growing, healing, learning, strengthening, comforting, inspiring and most of all - surprising us with new life and hope no matter what.

Christ is risen - and my prayer is always for opennness to all the ways in which he continues to appear.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Holy Saturday

This is the day after Good Friday and the events of the crucifixion and  the day before our celebration of Easter.  Sometimes it is called Holy Saturday and sometimes it is Black Saturday.

When I pastoring a church it was the day to decorate for Easter and finish up perhaps that Easter sermon.  It was easy to blow past the darkness of this day.  Like all of our facebook posts: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”

Today however I sit in what Holy Saturday really is.  Jesus for his believers was dead physically and they are left behind and bereft.  There is nothing more to do, is there?  The movement is over and he is gone.

I think of the time after the death of a loved one and before the funeral.  There is a lot of planning and preparing and at the same time there is this awful darkness.  What is next?  How do I go on?  What will it be like without them?  I know those feelings.

And yet, what looked like the end was not.  And something was happening in the tomb.  When I was a Presbyterian we spoke aloud the “Apostles Creed” which said – “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;  he descended to hell.  I repeated them and did not know what that meant and I still don’t.  Is that what is happening on Holy Saturday?  
     All I know is that something happened in that tomb that changed death to life. 
      Something happened that reveals the power of God and the love of God. 
       Something happened that day that brings hope.

We celebrate the good news tomorrow and today live in the reality of the times of suffering, pain and wondering where God is and what God is doing when all appears lost. 

And so today I am not moving so fast to Sunday or even preparing for it.  I am sitting in my reality of Holy Saturday and waiting for Sunday and trusting that in the middle of what looks like death, there will be life.  Trusting in God’s steadfast love.

Here is one of the readings for today. 
Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.

Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.

You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.

My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.

Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

On the Night that he was Betrayed

On the night that he was betrayed

We remember that night tonight.
I will not be going to church but today I spend time with Jesus and remember.
The betrayal of one,
          the denial of another,
                       the falling away of the rest of the disciples
    The plotting and planning of the religious establishment
                       The collusion of the government. 
                                       Which takes us  to the cross.

But tonight we are at a table.
And I remember another table: You prepare a table in the midst of my enemies.  This is the table. Which represents self giving love of Jesus.
And so I think today about enemies. 

  •  Our enemies in ISIS or North Korea or Iran.  That kind of enemies

  • our enemies are our political foes – as our  language is heating up and there is so much polarization and brokenness in our country

  • our  enemies are within us all – our shadow selves of pride, arrogance, fear, anxiety that lead us to betrayal, denial and falling away

But we come to the table aware of the reality of enemies and there we encounter Jesus who gives us himself.  I found this picture that helps to capture what my mind's eye sees - a gathering around Jesus in the midst of darkness.  This is a moment of light. 

They are with him and experiencing his warmth and love and in the bread and the wine they are "receiving" what He can give:  
   Strength for the journey,
                     faith in the midst of confusion and doubt,
                                      courage to stand tall in the face of hate.

One more time Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for what is coming, but probably they do not understand much.  And I wonder – how much do we understand ever about the mystery of this meal in the midst of the violence and the darkness  of holy week.

I am grateful today to have the time to reflect on all of it: 
  On the night that he was betrayed, he broke bread with his flawed and fallible followers 
and in a symbolic act  handed  himself over to them 
so that they might be fed now and 
remember later his promise of the new covenant.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I wrote this for my writing class after spending time with the story of the raising of Lazarus. 


She is  curled up in  a dark cave
She entered after facing the error of her ways
Her lack of responsibility
                 Her failure to respond
                            Her sleeping through class
You may not  know that she is really in that cave
Even while she is cleaning the kitchen
                  And  Shopping at the grocery store
                                And Speaking to you
What is she doing there? 
She is not: licking her wounds,     
            Or drowning her sorrows,       
                        Or having a pity party
She is:  berating,   blaming,      shaming,     condemning,     hating                Herself
              She is bound and tight
                        She feels worthless   
At last,  a  glimmer of light appears and a quiet footfall reveals the presence of another

                  Who sits with her in the dark

                  And then says: “what is my grace for, if not for you?”  

The light grows and illuminates the cave 

             a hand helps  her to her feet

                        she hears the  invitation to come out   

Let’s remove the bonds of shame

         And be free 

                 and imperfectly alive today!