Wanderers

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Truly Human one has no place to lay his head.” . . . After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.
— Luke 9.58, 10.1

It’s the migration season. These are the days when United Methodists pastors are moving, to begin their new appointments on July 1. I know several (and some of other denominations, too) who are in the middle of cardboard boxes and address changes, goodbyes and hellos, endings and beginnings. It’s a strange existence, living as nomads, making and leaving friends, picking up and going, always going, with little or no control over where you are sent. (For all its benefits, the system contributes to a lot of hidden grief, loneliness, powerlessness and self-doubt among UM clergy, and churches, too. We seldom talk about it, but we should.)

Today I pray for all the world’s wanderers, for the nomads and the rootless, for the immigrants, the displaced and the perennial newcomers. For people who move for work, for the homeless, for illegal aliens, for migrant workers, for military families. For recent graduates who haven’t found their place. For runaway children. For foster children. For exiles. For refugees.

I pray for those who feel uprooted, when the world shifts and they no longer feel at home, for those who do not feel that they “belong.” For those who are searching for their place in the world. For those who are not welcomed.

Though you may feel alone, you are in good company. Jesus wanders with you. And there are others who wander with you, who know what you’re going through, and are thinking of you. Even on the strange road, you are among sisters and brothers, a communion of nomadic saints. We are people of the Exodus.

You do not wander aimlessly. Jesus himself, the Wandering One, has sent you ahead, where he himself intends to come. Wherever you are, Christ is with you. God is the land. Spirit is the road. Trust the Presence.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

In the beginning

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

.

Spirit, you hover over my water.
In morning darkness you breathe in

and the Word is gathered
from before time.

I am gathered from the universe.
I am made of your desire.

You breathe out and I become myself,
spoken into this day.

Like mist lifting off the silver river
I rise into your morning,

my purpose always, like the sun
ascending, just now disclosed.

The curtain parts, the sky opens.
The world is blank and beckoning.

Naked, unsolved, still condensing,
I get up from my umbilical prayers.

Can I let this beginning unfold
each moment today, each moment?

An egret swims up through the silence
above the water.

.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Losing things

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
.

That you have lost so much,
or are beginning to:
your keys and papers, passwords, notes and cash,
addresses, phone connections, card games, and friends,
your advantage, your touch,
your loves,

those big, tender hands that led you through
the brambled adventure of your childhood,
the hearts that accompanied you in darkest passages,
those places where there are still tangles
of your root hairs in the soil,

the favorite shirt, the books, pictures,
instruments, tickets stubs and uncounted sacred relics,
the aspirations and accomplishments,
the thanks, approval and understanding,

that youthful body, that flesh in all its allure,
its exceeding capacity, its sex and vigor and signature,
its thousand undeniable delights,
whereby, rightly, you have been madly in love,

those earnest thoughts, sincere beliefs,
convictions, prayers and memories,
and all manner of thing and place
and time and skill and beauty,
and soon all else as well, all comeliness, continence,
sentience and finally breath and flesh itself—

may well be,
despite all intertwining joy,
despite the gut’s first horror of truly empty hands,
despite the convincing gravity of desire—

because they have set you free
since you do not need each other, nor have you ever,
for you to be your own true
lovely
happy
self.

.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Canoe

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
.
.

Prayer is a canoe
that glides me through this liquid world
of God.

There are words
hanging in the shed.
I leave them there.

I don’t need to understand,
just sit and be rafted along,
taken.

Sometimes it fades away
and I am simply floating
in God.

.
.
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Don’t look back

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9. 61-62

Jesus is not trying to make it hard to follow him. He’s setting us free. He’s naming what holds us back. When he says these startling things— “The Truly Human One has nowhere to lay his head… Let the dead bury the dead… Don’t look back”—he’s just noticing how we get wrapped up in social obligations, in our own attachments, and in our feelings about the past. We get so bound by fear, need and shame that it makes it hard for us to make a move. Sometimes we are so busy looking back at the way we wish things were that it keeps us from being present. So we find it hard to be ourselves and to commit to living with courageous authenticity. Jesus sets us free from those things. Jesus sees your self-doubt, your re-hashing old inadequacies, your guilt about how you’ve failed, your wishes that things were different. He sees all the entanglements that compete with your passion for the Holy. He sees how you think you need permission from somebody to do what you want to do. And he gives you permission to just walk away from all that. Never mind what could have been, what people expect of you, or how you’ve let down those you love. Never mind your faults and failings. Jesus is calling you. Don’t look back. Be present in this moment. Keep your eyes on what you have to do. Or even simply on what you can do. Keep your eyes on the You that God is creating moment by moment. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He’s not making it hard, he’s saying, “Here, today, without any prerequisite, you can follow me. You can. Will you?” He’s not pointing a finger. He’s holding out a hand.

Take it.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Let the dead bury the dead

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Jesus said, “Follow me.” But that one said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

—Luke 9. 59-60

Don’t worry, anxious one. There is still a place for decency, for honoring family, for social customs that extend care to others. Jesus is not banishing these things. It’s just that sometimes the customs and costumes wear thin and you can see right through the fabric, see the holy beneath it. And there comes a time when you just don’t bother with the costume. You leave behind expectations; you abandon what you think you “ought” to do. You let go of what you can’t control anyway. Yes, you loved your father, but he’s dead. You can’t do anything for him now, only for the living. So you turn away from everything but what God is doing in you. You disentangle yourself from a family and its thick web, its worn story and your narrow little place in it, and find your place in your own life— yours, not that of your parents, your ancestors, and a lot of dead people. Yes, it feels rude to separate yourself so fully, especially from family. But your life is yours, not theirs. You are no less connected to everyone else. Your “loved ones” include all living beings. Among them you have no heritage, no birthright, no legacy to fulfill— nor do you need any. You have whatever good news burns in you right now. You have who you are, which is noble and holy enough, and you have God’s blessing. You are beheld, not beholden. Your life, your passion, your Gift is immediate, present, eternal— not mediated by anyone living or dead. And you are called to love the living, whom you can love, not the dead, whom you cannot.

Jesus is not inviting you to stop caring for your loved ones. He is setting you free from depending on others to be yourself. You are free. Live your calling. Let go of what you cannot control. Go and let the living presence of the Holy One radiate from you.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Foxes have holes

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. . . . They entered a village of the Samaritans… but they did not receive him. . . . As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the True Human has nowhere to lay his head.”

from Luke 9. 51-58

Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem is the prophetic witness and the liberating miracle that is the center of his ministry. Jerusalem is the place of his greatest test, the final sifting of his life, the ultimate giving of his gift; and finally it will be his death. To follow Jesus is not merely to hold splendid thoughts about him; it is to go with him to your own Jerusalem. It is to commit yourself to justice and prophetic witness, to the liberating struggle, to practicing radical compassion, to giving your gifts without reservation, even to your death in small and great ways. To “follow Jesus” is serious stuff.

According to our baptismal vows, following Jesus means “resisting evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” Don’t you imagine that evil will fight back? If you follow Jesus don’t expect the world to accommodate you. If you, like Jesus, want to be a True Human, don’t expect to be rewarded or admired. Don’t expect to be made to feel like you belong. People will want you to feel like a misfit. They’ll try (mostly unconsciously) to trick you into giving up being Truly Human and instead get you to be Nice. Don’t fall for it.

Set your face toward authenticity. Accept discomfort. Make peace with vulnerability. Become accustomed to feeling like you don’t belong. Because you do not belong to what other people feel or believe. You belong to God. God will hold you on your journey. God will provide for you in your witness. The Holy One will defend your being Truly Human, Truly Yourself, Truly God’s.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Rain run

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

.

Sweat and rain

run mingled down my face

and grace and effort

stain my brindled shirt

as I run drenched and greening

through the cleaning flood

that flows as smooth

as blood runs in the river

of my veins, flows strong

among green things

that grow along the banks,

and I give thanks for

all that washes, blesses

and increases life

upon this earth, for strength

and health and length of days,

for each breath’s birth,

for God’s life-giving power

to amaze, in this co-Creation’s

sweet, baptismal shower.

.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Beneath the veil

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

I’m off to Annual Conference, where we will spend most of our time talking about the Institutional Church, while the Risen Christ haunts us.  We will talk about budgets and policies and resolutions, while all about us and within us the Overwhelming Presence deeply and quietly breathes.  We will argue and vote and fret and take ourselves very seriously and when we are not looking, even in our dullness and oblivion, Life will give herself unceasingly to us.  Love will happen, justice and injustice will arise before us, lungs will somehow turn air into blood, death will pass into resurrection, and upon acceptance of the Committee’s Report we will break for lunch.

So our consciousness proceeds, from duty to detail, while all around us Life unfolds, from miracle to wonder. Incarnation weds the mundane and the numinous. Holiness throbs right beneath the veil of outward appearances.  So as you make your way through the brittle mechanics of our political and industrial culture, don’t be taken in by the ways of the world.  Play the game but remember that that’s what it is. Argue your points, fill out your paperwork and by all means call the question on the substitution of the amendment to the original motion.  Just remember to take yourself lightly.  Remember that none of this is real. What’s real is in another dimension within, in the world of awe and miracle and gratitude. Stay mindful of the Passionate One who caresses us even as we fiddle with the knobs.   Keep your heart tuned to the Mystery.  Pay attention. Do the chores and keep your eyes peeled for the Light.  It takes guts and wisdom, but stay faithful here: be ready at any moment to abandon the apparently necessary task for the crucial work of love and wonder.

I’ll be off tomorrow and Friday.  See you Monday.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright ©  2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com

Sparrow

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Whether or not there are literally angels flying around, I do believe that the Divine Presence companions us in ways we can’t see. Angels of some kind accompany us, though we do not usually have ways of noticing them. They shelter us under their wings; they go with us in our hardest times. Even in death we are borne in their feathered care.

In 1973 my family crossed the Atlantic on a freighter carrying wheat to England. Birds descended on the ship as it was being loaded, feasting on spilled grain. We left in the middle of the night. At sea, we discovered a sparrow on board. We figured it had perched on the ship overnight and not realized it was a mobile vessel, until it was too late. The German crew and our small handful of passengers—half of us American, half German— adopted her as our pet.

On our journey we skirted Hurricane Elsie. Huge waves broke over the ship; harsh winds blasted us. As large as the ship was, the waves tossed it around like a stick. We knew how tiny we were in such a vast ocean, how vulnerable we were in such a powerful storm. All of us in our own ways hoped for safety, prayed for protection. The captain prohibited anyone from going out on deck. Of course we all worried about the sparrow. No one saw any sign of her anywhere.

After the storm, we felt a deep sense of relief and renewal as we emerged and could walk about the deck safely again. That first morning everyone searched for the sparrow, but no one saw her. An odd quiet settled over us at lunch, as if we had lost a friend. But after lunch news quickly spread around the ship, in English and German: She was alive! She had been spotted by a crewmember. By that afternoon, several of us had seen her.

That she had somehow been spared—angels must have protected her—gave us a gift of hope and courage and gratitude. Knowing that every grain of wheat had been blown off the ship in the storm, we put out bread and water for her in little dishes for the rest of the trip, marveling that she had survived such a deathly storm.

When we came in sight of land, we knew we’d lose her. Sure enough, she circled up high above the ship. Knowing that we no longer needed her, our little guardian ascended into the heavens above us and headed off toward the white cliffs of Dover that shone in the morning sun. We, who had been so bravely accompanied, stood there, looking up into the air under the light, feathery clouds.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight@hotmail.com