Waiting in Hope: Brought to our Senses

trilliumbud

By these three days all the world is called to attention.
Everything that is and ever was and ever will be,
the macro and the micro,
the galaxies beyond number and the microbes beyond notice –
everything is mysteriously entangled with what happened,
with what happens, in these days.…
Every human life,
conceived from eternity and destined to eternity,
here finds its story truly told.
In this killing that some call senseless
we are brought to our senses.
Here we find out who we most truly are because
here is the One who is what we are called to be.
The derelict cries, “Come, follow me.”
Follow him there?
We recoil.
We close our ears.
We hurry on to Easter.
But we will not know what to do with Easter’s light
if we shun the friendship of the darkness that is wisdom’s way to light.
~Richard Neuhaus from Death on a Friday Afternoon

 

 

applebuds

So many killings in the last two weeks — needless, heartbreaking death at the hands of others — people abruptly wrenched from their routine lives, their families left with empty arms and filling eyes spilling endlessly with tears.

Such senseless tragedies, we say, recoiling and withdrawing as if we can close our ears to more bad news.  How to make sense of deaths that arise from the darkness found in every soul?

This is the day in between when nothing makes sense;  we are lost, hopeless, grieving.

Yet we are brought to our senses by this one Death, this premeditated killing, this senseless act that darkened the skies, shook the earth and tore down the curtained barriers to the Living Eternal God.
The worst has already happened, no matter how horrific are the events that fill the headlines.

Today we are in between, stumbling in the darkness but aware of hints of light, of buds, of life, of promised fruit to come.

The best has already happened.  Happening now even when we are oblivious.

We move through this day, doing what is possible even when it feels senseless.  Tomorrow it will all make sense: our hope brings us face to face with our God who only does the impossible.

 

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The Holy Saturday of our life must be the preparation for Easter,
the persistent hope for the final glory of God.

The virtue of our daily life is the hope which does what is possible
and expects God to do the impossible.

To express it somewhat paradoxically, but nevertheless seriously:
the worst has actually already happened;
we exist,
and even death cannot deprive us of this.

Now is the Holy Saturday of our ordinary life,
but there will also be Easter, our true and eternal life.
~Karl Rahner “Holy Saturday” in The Great Church Year

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Prepare for Sorrow: The Unstilled World

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cherrymorning

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.
~T.S. Eliot from “Ash Wednesday”

 

In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope.
~T.S. Eliot from “East Coker”

 

On Maundy Thursday, I arrive back to the beginning,  six weeks later returning to Eliot:
“the unstilled world whirled/About the centre of the silent Word.”

This day:

a day of disquiet and silence,
of Christ taking towel and water to disciples’ dirty feet,
of bread broken and fruit crushed and consumed,
of anguished prayer and the kiss of betrayal,
of stilling the sword,
of watching those He loved run off in fear
and deny they ever knew Him.

In my beginning is my end.
And now the light falls and the darkness begins.
We wait, sorrow-filled, our unstilled souls stilled
by our betrayal, our denial, our hopelessness without Him.

 

cherrymorning2

Prepare for Joy: Blown Away

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It has been a relatively warm wet week in the northwest, so it seemed reasonable after finishing up farm chores last night to leave the large rolling north-south doors wide open in the barn where the horses are housed.  Then I woke suddenly at midnight hearing powerful gusts of a southerly wind buffeting the house.  Knowing what havoc a wind can do inside an open barn, I went out in pajamas and muck boots to roll the doors closed before the storm could reach inside, a true barnstorming as has happened here before on Holy Week…

 

An unexpected southerly wind hit suddenly late Sunday night, gusting up to 40 miles an hour and slamming the house with drenching rain as we prepared to go to bed. Chores in the barn had been done hours before, but as we had not been expecting a storm, the north/south center aisle doors were still open, and I could hear banging and rattling as they were buffeted in the wind. I quickly dressed to go latch the doors for the night, but the tempest had done its damage. Hay, empty buckets, horse blankets, tack and cat food had blown all over, while the Haflingers stood wide-eyed and fretful in their stalls. A storm was blowing inside the barn as well as outside it.

It took some time to tidy up the mess after the doors were secured but all was soon made right. The wind continued to bash at the doors, but it no longer could touch anything inside them. The horses relaxed and got back to their evening meal though the noise coming from outside was deafening. I headed back up to the house and slept fitfully listening to the wind blow all night, wondering if the metal barn roof might pull off in a gust, exposing everything within.

Yet in the new daylight on Monday morning, all was calm. The barn was still there, the roof still on, the horses where they belonged and all seemed to be as it was before the barnstorming wind.

Or so it might appear.

This wind heralds another storm coming this week that hits with such force that I’m knocked off my feet, swept away, and left bruised and breathless. No latches, locks, or barricades are strong enough to protect me from what will come over the next few days.

On Sunday he rode in on a donkey softly, humbly, and wept at what he knew was coming.

Yesterday, he withered the fruitless tree and overturned the tables in his fury.

Today the plans are made to betray him.

Tomorrow, he teaches the people to prepare them, then rests in anticipation.

On Thursday, he kneels as a servant, pours water over dusty feet, presides over a simple meal, and then, abandoned by his friends,  sweats blood in agonized prayer.

By Friday, all culminates in the perfect storm, transforming everything in its path, leaving nothing untouched.

The silence on Saturday is deafening.

Next Sunday, the Son rises and returns, all is calm, all is well, all set to right.  He calls my name, breaks bread with broken hands, my heart burns within me at his words and I can never be the same again.

Barnstormed to the depths of my soul. Doors flung open wide, the roof pulled off, everything I was before blown away and now replaced, renewed and reconciled.

So shall his spirit storm within us as he has said, again and yet again.

 

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Listening to Lent — Look on this Mystery

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Come and see
Look on this mystery
The Lord of the universe
Nailed to a tree
Christ our God
Spilling His only Blood
Bowing in anguish
His sacred head

Chorus 1
Sing to Jesus
Lord of our shame
Lord of our sinful hearts
He is our great redeemer
Sing to Jesus
Honor His name
Sing of His faithfulness
Pouring His life out unto death

Verse 2
Come you weary
And He will give you rest
Come you who mourn
Lay on His breast
Oh Christ who died
Risen in paradise
Giver of mercy
Giver of life
Sing to Jesus
His is the throne
Now and forever
He is the King of Heaven
Sing to Jesus
We are His own
Now and forever
Sing for the love our God has shown
~Robbie Seay

This in-between day
after all had gone so wrong
before all will go so right,
puts us between the rock
and the hard place:
all hope, love and faith is squeezed from us.

Today we are flattened,
dried like chaff,
ground to pulp,
our destiny with death sealed.

We lie still
as sprinkled spices
try to delay inevitable decay,
wrapped up tight,
stone cold and futile.

A rock placed
so we are caught in between-
entombed, inside,
our bodies like His-
weeping outside,
cut off and left behind.

We cannot know what is to come
in the dawn tomorrow
the stone lifted and rolled,
giving way,
the separation bridged,
darkness overwhelmed by light,
the crushed and broken rising to dance,
and inexplicably,
from the waiting stillness He stirs
and we,
finding death emptied,
are moved.

 

Lenten Reflection–She Did What She Could

stained glass from Meyers Studio, Munich 1899

She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.
Mark 14:8-9

We naturally wonder if our actions on this earth are pleasing to God, though we believe our faith, rather than good works we do, is the key to salvation.   Jesus’ response to Mary of Bethany’s anointing of His feet the day before He enters Jerusalem is provocative on a number of levels.  However, this story parallels the passion of this Passion week:

Mary acts out of faith even when she confronts a painful reality–she acknowledges Jesus’ predictions of His death and burial–she believes what His disciples refused to hear.

Jesus prays a few days later to have the reality of suffering lifted from Him, but in obedience, He perseveres out of faith and love for the Father.

Mary acts out of her steadfast love for the Master–she is showing single-minded devotion in the face of criticism from the disciples.

Jesus, on the cross,  shows forgiveness and love even to the men who deride and execute Him.

Mary acts out of significant personal sacrifice–pouring costly perfume worth a full year’s wages–showing her commitment to Christ.

Jesus willingly gives the ultimate sacrifice of Himself–there is no higher price to pay.

Mary responds to His need–she recognizes that this moment is her opportunity to anoint the living Christ, and His response clearly shows He is deeply moved by her action.

Jesus, as man Himself, recognizes humanity’s need to be saved, and places Himself in our place. We must respond, incredulous,  with gratitude.

Jesus tells Mary of Bethany (and us),  in response to the disciples’ rebukes, that it is her action that will be told and remembered.   She did what she could at that moment to ease His distress at what He would soon confront.  She did what she could for Him–humbly, beautifully, simply, sacrificially–and He is so grateful that He Himself washes the feet of His disciples a few days later in a personal act of devotion and servanthood.

And today we remember this Mary as the harbinger of His suffering and death, just as He said we would.  She did what she could as should we.

Rubens' Mary Anointing of Jesus