Renew me this night in the image of your love, renew me in the likeness of your mercy, O God. May any refusal to forgive that lingers with me from the day, any bitterness of soul that hardens my heart, be softened by your graces of the night.
Quote: Celtic Benediction, John Philip Newell
I have seen the Spirit moving behind the gathering clouds, with wings the color of rainbows. I have watched the light of creation split the sky, as angels pound the drums of heaven. What is holy is not what is tame, what is divine is as wild as a desert rain. Love is not a timid breeze, but a storm of change, sweeping the comfortable before it like leaves, blowing the dust off our ordered lives, challenging us to dare the elements of our own vision. What is holy is not what is tame, so when you stand to pray, stand facing the wind.
“Mary’s act of extravagant love does not stand in the way service to the poor. Far from it. It is the fount from which springs a lifetime of giving for the love of Jesus.” Fred Durham
Holy Monday. John’s gospel told the story of Mary bathing Jesus’ feet with costly and fragrant perfume. Oil, they called it. With each stroke of her hand and brush of her hair she quietly and purposefully offered the first anointing as Jesus moved closer to his death.
The story does not end with Mary’s gentle preparation. This act was noticed and berated. The sweet smell and intimate scene probably drew much attention. Judas Iscariot, already focused on his own betrayal, considered Mary’s offering as a waste. This fragrant oil could bring much money, he chided, money which could be given to those in need, the poor. Judas was indignant as so often seen in the guilty. The reading tells us he cared little about the poor but found more interest in what filled the common purse. A purse he kept and often gleaned from the top for his own purpose.
A familiar voice indeed. We hear much talk about how money is distributed to include support for those in need yet right beneath the surface a different intent appears to brew. Maybe humans are wired to be selfish, maybe the “survival of the fittest” is primary in our DNA. So the concern becomes what is rightfully mine, what is fair, or worse, what do the poor really deserve.
We may find ourselves in each person at one time or another – Mary’s extravagance, Judas’ judgment and Jesus pausing to receive. This story is rich for reflection. Take note, our call to care for one another is best heard when the buzz of what should be is silenced.
Today we have celebrated Palm Sunday. Once again I am intrigued by how chaotic and awkward the worship can feel. It can be a stretch to ‘connect the dots’ between triumphal entry and brutal death. Too much for one service, we attempt a flow of worship, where it appears none was intended. Frustrated – we force this story and its impact to fit our worship service and self-created time restraint.
The service for Palm Sunday is overwhelming. Even if the church designed this service to pack in the whole story, it could be the best way to begin Holy Week. On this day we enter a week filled with confusion, fear, pain and celebration. Was it not chaos for all involved during that week? Jesus had tried to explain all that was to come. But among this glorious entry into the city of ‘all that was sacred’, an entry that sung of victory and God’s blessing – who could have imagined that all would turn so horrible and tragic. The chaos certainly was overwhelming. Packed into a week – they went from certainty to despair.
And so packed into an hour and a half we, as followers of Jesus, share in this heart wrenching confusion – we enter with palms waving and exit in silent, somber awe. Exhausted we leave – wondering how all of these moments can happen so quickly.
Whether it is in an hour or a week, the moments happen quickly for they are out of our control, then and now. We walk the road this next week, invited to gather for the sacred meal, stay alert in the garden and know the sound of death’s silence. We know our hearts will rise with a dawn’s sun but for this moment we are invited to join in the journey of these six days. It does not matter how often you have experienced this Holy Week – the road is filled with new images and insights. Stay alert for the moments pass quickly.
I am fascinated with doors. Intrigued by their diversity it seems doors can describe so much about what is on the other side either by their detail or their simplicity. They often reflect the traveler’s relationship to a point of entry.
There are times when doors open onto a challenging and difficult path. Walking through these portals may call on as much courage as one can gather. Today I am at the entrance of such a door.
My cancer has returned. For the third time I have heard a doctor say ‘there is a small mass in your breast’. Malignant… but caught early! We discuss the options with little need for the explanations shared with a beginner.
Tomorrow morning I will enter the sterile doors of an operating room. I will be meeting these doors as I have for all of my other surgeries- with faith in God’s healing spirit, trust in those who will care for me and gratitude for all who hold me in their thoughts and prayers.
As I look at my life I see a series of amazing and beautiful doorways. Each have opened and encouraged my own growth and understanding. Not all are easy nor attractive I have moved through them with determination and the same curiosity as any other.
Like the wardrobe in CS Lewis’, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – many thresholds lead us into places where we must use strength, wisdom and courage we never knew was within us. Thresholds that lead us into places where our faith is enriched and we discover things new and filled with wonder.
With all of this in my mind and heart, I give thanks for God’s grace and care.