Annunciation

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.
 

God becomes present to you. An Awareness speaks to you:
“Greetings, Beloved. God is with you.”

You are perplexed, and wonder what it means
to hear this so clearly.

God says to you, “Do not be afraid. I think highly of you.
And now, you will conceive in your heart
and bear my love into the world.
It will be great, a gift from my inner heart,
and it will bear the power of the love of generations.
It will resound forever, and of its influence there will be no end.”

You wonder how this can be,
since you are just an ordinary person.

God says to you, “My Spirit will come upon you,
and my power will overshadow you;
therefore the love you bear will be holy;
it will be my love in you.

“And now, look, your siblings in Spirit also bear this same love,
they whom people thought were not capable of such love.
For nothing is impossible with me.”

And you say, “Here I am, the servant of Love.
May it be for me according to your word.”

And the moment fades.

         (Luke 1.26-38)

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

December 9, 2016  Leave a comment

The price of incarnation

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

          When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing…
                           —Matthew 11.2

Wait. John was in prison?
Oh, yeah. Right.
When you defy the Empire, it resists.
The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness doesn’t relent.
This is the awful rub of Incarnation.
God enters our suffering, and we object.
The Child of Heaven comes in human form
not just to enjoy the pleasures of having a body
but to endure the persecution of the body,
to resist evil with one’s flesh,
to thwart our systems of privilege and exclusion
with a vulnerable body,
to suffer many insults,
to see the inside of many prisons,
to die on many crosses.
And yet Christ comes.

We prepare for the coming of such a Christ
by mirroring the mystery of incarnation:
to touch the suffering of the world,
to mourn with those who mourn,
to enter into the prisons of those we love—
and to feel the teeth of evil fighting back,
and its anger and violence,
to endure recrimination from those we confront,
to bear the cost of justice, the price of flesh.
We will be punished for our light.
But take courage: in our lonely cells we will know
the Holy One is with us, the light within us.
Even in the shadow of the Empire
the poor hear good news, the oppressed are set free.
This is how Christ comes into the world.
This is how we prepare a way.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

December 8, 2016  Leave a comment

Incendiary Magnificat

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
                  and lifted up the lowly;
         God has filled the hungry with good things,
                  and sent the rich away empty.
         
                           —Luke 1.52-53

This is no lullaby.
God doesn’t just lift the lowly.
God brings down the mighty.
This is no rising tide lifting all boats.
It’s typhoon, a redistribution of wealth.
This lovely child of Mary,
this little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes,
will tear down our hierarchies,
assault our structures of injustice
and upend the world.
Greet the divine insurrectionist in the manger.
He will not comply: he will reign.
He will not be amenable to our economics,
our prisons and poverties,
or tolerant of our barbaric systems and slaveries.
Whether we like it or not
the Holy One will impose the Reign of Heaven upon us,
where there is no wealth or poverty,
no privilege, no caste.
To those with power, place and possession
the letting go will be robbery.
         (And your own place will crumble, your confidence
         in the world’s fairness though it favor you.
         From that throne you will be taken.)
They will react against equality.
Evil will defend itself from justice with violence.
They will crucify.

Still, Gabriel was right.
The gentle child will prevail.

         Let this lovely vision comfort you
         and strip you of all the fear and anger
         with which you resist it.

Rejoice in God your Savior,
for the Realm of Heaven is near.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

December 7, 2016  Leave a comment

The one

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         When John heard in prison
         what the Messiah was doing,
         he sent word by his disciples and said to him,
         “Are you the one who is to come,
         or are we to wait for another?”

                  —Matthew 11.1
                           
Someone you may not have noticed is waiting,
longing for healing, for justice, for hope.
You only mean to be passing by,
but they see you.
And even if they don’t know they are asking,
they are asking.
“Are you the one?”
Not necessarily the Messiah,
but perhaps one to bring hope,
to be a light in the darkness.
There may be someone in some kind of prison
looking for some kind of encouragement,
someone longing for healing or appreciation or forgiveness.
Will you be the one, or should they wait for another?
There may be people of color who see a white person
and assume racism, until they see otherwise.
There may be a non-conforming person
who assumes you will judge them
unless you clearly don’t.
Will you be the one to shine light in their darkness,
or are they to wait for another?

Sit still in the grace of God.
Let the light that is dawning for the world
dawn in you.
Let that light grow and radiate.
Bear it with you through the day.
You will meet someone who seeks grace,
who longs for a sign of hope.
And for them
you will be the one.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

December 6, 2016  Leave a comment

Wait

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing,
         he sent word by his disciples and said to him,
         “Are you the one who is to come,
         or are we to wait for another?”

                           —Matthew 11.2-3

Well, either way we have to wait.

And how we hate to wait.
Because waiting means being patient
“like the farmer waiting for the crop,”
powerless, not controlling,
allowing life to unfold,
trusting grace to emerge
among other things,
open to what may come,
including the unexpected.
To wait is both to hold
and to let go.

God, give me courage to wait,
not restless or pacing,
but ready, trusting, open,
caring without clinging,
mindful of your grace in all things,
even that which is troubled.
Help me stand with faith
on your love and its power,
for though it is invisible,
I know it. I know it deeply.

I turn to your love,
I open my heart,
and I wait.

__________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

December 5, 2016  Leave a comment

In darkness, light

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         By the tender mercy of our God,
                  the dawn from on high will break upon us,
         to give light to those who sit in darkness
                  and in the shadow of death,
                  to guide our feet into the way of peace.

                           —Luke 1.78-79

The coming of the dawn is not linear or constant. The darkness ebbs, then returns. Evil has its days. Sometimes the voice of hate and bigotry rallies its minions, and their cheers evoke dread in my soul. I see mean-spiritedness at work and my heart wrinkles up like a dried fruit. I went to bed last night wondering, “What can I say?” I awoke early, in darkness, unable to sleep. Despair lay on me, palpable as my blankets. I got up in the dark and lit my prayer candle.

In my Bible reading I’m currently making my way through 2 Chronicles and Hebrews, and always, a couple of Psalms a day. This morning in the dark I read by candlelight: “O grant us help against the foe, for human strength is worthless” (Ps. 108.12). “Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chron. 20.15). “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11.1). I prayed till the sun came up. Then I went for my morning walk in the woods.

The sun stretched itself, climbed into lower branches and sat there. Migrating ducks and geese chatted on the pond. Upper branches began to light up like candelabras. Somewhere, beyond my seeing, the Milky Way spun silently, elegantly. And somewhere beyond my seeing, good people were kind and courageous for justice.

When I despair for the world I am looking at it from a human point of view: I see the evil we are capable of, and I am afraid for us. I am like Job, asking. “Why is there evil?” And God invites me, like Job, to see it from God’s point of view. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38.4). Our suffering and our evil—even the seething mass of all the deepest evil in the world—is a tiny speck in God’s wonderful Creation. God is not weak or far away: this world exists entirely within God, in God’s heart. God’s goodness infinitely outweighs and overpowers the forces of evil. I just can’t see it, like the Milky Way I’m part of.

But if I look with the eyes of faith, I will see signs. The dawn comes for me when I remember that there is more at work than meets the eye, especially the eye of fear. The dawn from on high breaks upon me when I remember, in the words of Tutu’s African Prayer Book, “Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Victory is ours, through the One who loves us.”

It is into darkness that God sends light. Christ is coming into the world. God’s dawn from on high breaks upon us—but it is not a disembodied light. The way the dawn comes is that God sends people into the darkness—people like Jesus, like us—who shine with God’s light. It rises in us. We embody it. Our simple acts of love and courage, every act of kindness, every witness for justice, every prayer for another, no matter how feeble, no matter how doubtful or conflicted, every tear shed for the world, no matter how fragile, is light that transforms the darkness, that gives light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guides our feet into the way of peace.

I walked home from the woods this morning warm with hope and shining with a Presence I had not expected. I hear geese above my house. I pray that the light of Advent may dawn in your heart as well.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

____________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily email
write to me at unfoldinglight (at) gmail.com

December 2, 2016  Leave a comment

You shall blossom

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

Read Isiah 11.1-9 and instead of “him” read “you”—
you, and all of us in the community of faith.

Notice God’s power in us,
even against great forces of evil,
even throughout all Creation.

Meditate on this:
make this your Christmas wish—
that this may be true for you.

You are shoots from the root of God;
         you shall sprout and blossom.
The spirit of the Blessed One shall rest on you,
         the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
         the spirit of mindfulness and reverence for God.
Your delight shall be in obedience of the Holy One.
You will not judge by appearances,
         or make decisions according to hearsay;
but act with respect toward the poor,
         and choose for the well being of the powerless.
With a word you will disarm tyrants,
         and you will blow away all oppression.
Justice shall be the belt around your waist,
         and faithfulness the coat around your shoulders.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
         the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion together,
         and a little child shall lead them.
No one will harm or destroy on all my holy mountain;
         for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Beloved
         as the waters cover the sea.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

____________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily email
write to me at unfoldinglight (at) gmail.com

December 1, 2016  Leave a comment

Fruit of repentance

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         Bear the fruit that comes from repentance.
                  —Matthew 3.8

         The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth,
         being patient with it
         until it receives the early and the late rains.

                  —James 5.7

At the word of the prophet
we seize our cutting tools
as if repentance is all slashing and lopping,
and, yes there is pruning,
but the real energy that gives light in this darkness
is not shame at what is wrong or dead,
but delight and hope for the fruit that is alive,
that is hidden deep in soil, deep in winter’s buds.
Repentance is not the “No” of self-disappointment
but the “Yes” of seeking, protecting, nourishing
what might otherwise be choked off.
It’s not mere impatience with what is,
but patience for what is coming to be.
Don’t start with the dead branches.
Start with the fruit. It’s in you.
That’s what kind of tree you are.

 
 

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

____________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily email
write to me at unfoldinglight (at) gmail.com

November 30, 2016  Leave a comment

Prepare

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         Prepare a way for the Holy One.
         Clear a path of God to come by.

                  —Matthew 3.3

The prophet cries to prepare a way
for the Promised One,
and we panic.
We write shopping lists,
and head to the store for the treasures
we must surely present.
We survey with dread the mess of a heart
we must clean up for the holy visitor.

But after all the cleansing the house is still
just our little place.
The Gift is not to be found in any market.
We fear our unpreparedness,
our failure to adequately repent,
still rushing, still dusting this
and hiding that.

In the din the Spirit speaks softy.
We are not asked to clean the house
for the weekend
to impress the Unexpected Guest.
We are asked to prepare a room
and set a place at the table
for the rest of our lives
for the Beloved,
the child who already dwells within.

 

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

____________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily email
write to me at unfoldinglight (at) gmail.com

November 29, 2016  Leave a comment

The ax at the root

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.

         Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
         The ax is lying at the root of the trees;
         every tree that does not bear good fruit
         is cut down and thrown into the fire.

                  —Matthew 3.8,10

What is fruitful in your life?
What grows from God,
bears life-giving energy
or grace that blesses?

How might you do more of that,
and nurture that tree in you?

It’s that root
Jesus comes to feed.

What is not fruitful in your life?

How might you prune that,
cut down that fruitless tree?

Why don’t you?

It’s that root
Jesus comes to deal with.

 

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

____________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily email
write to me at unfoldinglight (at) gmail.com

November 28, 2016  Leave a comment

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