He’s 110 feet tall and has hands 20 feet long. He weighs over 750lbs and is filled with 258,000 cubic feet of air. It took 13 weeks to sew him together.And he’s quite simply the biggest Gadget for God known to man.
Jesus the Hot Air Balloon is based in Tracy, California, and is the latest evangelistic balloon project of The Merritt Ministry. The biggest challenge they faced was theological, it seems: “How do you create a hot air balloon that is both authentic and reverent in its mission of creating Jesus, the Son of God?” Er, quite. The answer? “Jesus, in a majestic purple robe, trimmed in gold, rising above a base of white clouds, in all power and majesty as is presented in the book of Revelation.” Right…
The balloon, which bears the slogan “King of kings, Lord of Lords” across the back of Jesus’s robe, is currently touring the United States. 1000 blessings to Renee Beihl from Colorado for alerting us to this gadget on a grand scale.
Darkness deserves gratitude.
It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand
that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.
And so… in the darkness seeds safely wait for their time. In the darkness nightmares are experienced and freedom can be gained.
Time may seem to slow where light is scarce but most new life requires the somber silence of deep night.
This passing night bears witness to the ultimate miracle as we witness the birth of new life. New life appearing from the hold of death’s darkness.
As dawn begins to raise her light on the distant horizon be prepared for life changing moments – where our greatest dream might swirl in the chaos of disbelief.
Already awake and prepared to face death’s horror, the women wait for the first sign of dawn. They will follow the path to the tomb that has quietly held the body of their beloved – of God’s beloved. If there was any hint of gratitude in their hearts it may have come as they watched the last moments of their Sabbath pass. Gratitude may have sparked as they heard the first note of the morning bird’s song.
How could they have been any more prepared? Arriving to offer their cleansing love, the darkest of night has rolled away leaving the soft light of morning to proclaim new life.
His is risen. The Alleluia moment has arrived. Darkness did not win. No- it only served as an incubator for within it life was being reclaimed.
The women’s duty had been redirected. They had witnessed an empty tomb and heard the Angels proclaim that He had risen. Life has overcome death and God’s good news would be spread throughout the world.
The moment has arrived! The first notes of the morning bird proclaims this news. Christ has risen. The news will spread quickly and soon all of creation will be filled with the song of Alleluia.
“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.
“There are as many ways to pray as there are moments in life. Sometimes we seek out a quiet spot and want to be alone, sometimes we look for a friend and want to be together… Sometimes we want to say it with words, sometimes with a deep silence.
In all these moments, we gradually make our lives more of a prayer and we open our hands to be led by God even to places we would rather not go.” Henri Nouwen
The church calendar waits for no one. As I write this reflection, people have received bulletins and read newsletters announcing pancake suppers, new study series’ and additional holy services in preparation for the season of Lent. For years we have collected a variety of ways to journey through Lent — depending on your age, depending on the year, depending on your energy/time and most definitely depending on the current buoyancy of your faith. We give up, we take on — we pray in the early light or late at night.
Beginning with all good intentions it may not be long before a daily spiritual routine can be scrambled and frustrations rise. If a practice is not exercised as it was designed is it cancelled? Is a whole plan discarded because of missing a couple of days? There are wise voices both past and present offering encouragement with reminders that the most important part of a spiritual practice is the journey itself.
Our Sunday scripture readings during Lent speak directly to this journey. With readings from the first five books of the Old Testament will hear sacred storied about the blessing and tension between God and God’s people. Covenants will be made by God with Noah, Abraham and Moses. Covenants that will bind these relationships and bring the promise of protection, the growth of nations and God’s guidance as the Hebrew people are led to a land of freedom. A land to call home. These stories will be filled with good news and fiery discourse (not uncommon when a covenant is made with God). In the New Testament the Gospel readings will tell of relationships formed and challenged. We will hear of Jesus baptism, public ministry and important conversation with his disciples. He nurtures these relationships and preaches the good news with a sense of urgency. There is little patience for misguided allegiance. He expresses frustration-tipping-to-anger as he sees corruption and injustice. These readings describe the work required to be in relationship with God. What better time than Lent to read about our faithful ancestors as they lived into their own commitment to God and God to them.
It is a good thing to consider during Lent. The sacrifices we make or practices we take on are ultimately intended to bind us closer to God and God to us. I began this reflection with a quote on prayer from Henri Nouwen. It simply describes the diversity of spiritual practices. His words are a welcome reminder. He makes no promise of an easier journey yet he offers little concern of failing a Lenten resolution.
Each one of these 40 days presents opportunities to learn and grow. The course taken is neither smooth nor straight. That is the way to Jerusalem. From deep within our faith story we know this road. May we meet its crooked path with curiosity and gratitude.
So this is how you swim inward. So this is how you flow outwards. So this is how you pray. Mary Oliver
On this quite night we come to the most important moments of our Advent journey. We feel the time for slumber with all projects complete and hearts and homes prepared. We were asked to be on alert and to get ready. We have watched for the signs and completed the tasks
But all the preparation leads us to this moment. For like midwives we must stand near, ready for the ultimate job. In prayerful presence as this young baby is born we are here at highest alert – to assist if needed. This is why we have been waiting. This is the moment, all of our preparation leads to ‘now’.
May we stay calm – to draw our breath as it swims inward and exhale as it flows outward; the rhythm of birth and the practice of prayer.
It is the early morning of Palm Sunday. Believing in the God of creation, we come to this day knowing how Jesus’ time on earth brought hope and promise to the depressed, the sick and outcast. Through his life and actions we learn that God’s kingdom is among us. Heavens doors are open wide awaiting a time future. Yet that kingdom is also here, in this place and moment.
This day begins a week filled with mystery. Sometimes we enter Holy Week with clear focus on the direction we are to take and other times we move one foot in front of the other with little sense of where we are to go next. Yet forward we go, the path only known through our relationship with an ever creating God.
God incarnate came among us. Our call to follow is filled with inspiration and instinct. From this Sunday onward we learn not only about the cost of following but also the call to lead.
The dance to follow and lead is found throughout nature. God’s creation is filled with movement and relationship. May we be inspired to move through this week renewed with the steps of a follower and given the insight of a leader.
May we trust the Spirit to move us swiftly and with confidence. May we take our inspiration from nature which knows how to lead and follow with grace and purpose.