Zacchaeus on Halloween

I’m invited to a dinner, OK? Weird thing is, it’s at my place. Get this: I’m invited to be the host… invited to invite… Yeah, weird. What’s even weirder: it’s a costume party—you know, Halloween— and I’m coming disguised as myself. It’s a crazy disguise, actually. Starts in a tree. Well, that’s me disguised as a tall person. And disguised as somebody who doesn’t really care. You know, at a bit of a distance, above it all, just curious, but not serious? Yeah, right. I would have died to be close to that guy, but I’m not about to let anybody see. So…. so the disguise.

But—the disguise doesn’t fool him for a minute. He sees right thought it. “Hey, Zacchaeus!” (How the heck did he know it was me?) “I’m coming to your place. Lunch.” Whoa. Me? Who does he think I am? So we go. Now I’ve still got on a great disguise, a disguise that’s fooled everybody forever: I go as a monster. An ogre. You know, like a tax collector, a greedy, slimy guy wallowing in stolen riches, living off other people’s suffering. A scary dude. And again— it doesn’t work! Dang if he doesn’t see right through it. He knows it’s a disguise, knows that it’s really me under there. Only, OK, here’s the really weird part: I don’t know it. I don’t realize that this is not the real me.

Until we sit down to eat. What is it about eating with thus guy? And he looks right through me, right through this thing that everybody else sees but isn’t true, and he sees the real me beneath the costume, the me I’ve never even seen. And he respects that Zacchaeus that he sees, loves me, even. And, you know what? I love that Zacchaeus, too. And I think I’d love being that Zacchaeus. I think I will! I don’t need to wear that costume, don’t need to carry around this image of someone I’m not, somebody other than my real self, my real soul. No disguise.

So I take it off. I get rid of the whole thing. All the trappings. The greed, the money, the callousness. I give it away until there’s nothing left but the person Jesus sees, this grateful, generous guy. I give it all away like party favors. And it is a party. It’s like my birth day party! I’m a new person. I’m free! I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.

Which, I guess, I have. Maybe that’s what he means when he says, “Salvation has come to this house. I came to seek and to save the lost.” Well, I don’t know exactly what he was seeking, but I know what I’ve found. No fooling.

         

Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Live by faith

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

O Lord, how long shall I cry to you “Violence!”
         and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
         and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
         strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
         and justice never prevails.

Then the Lord answered me and said:
         there is still a vision for the appointed time.
It knows how this all will end;
         it does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
         it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them,
         but the righteous live by their faith.

                  —from Habakkuk 1.2-4; 2. 2-4

You who continually pray for peace, who long for wisdom from our leaders and healing and reconciliation among all peoples, who labor for justice for the dispossessed and who wait for the day of joy for all who are sorrowful, who dream of the angel of forgiveness laying her wings over the world and the spirit of gentleness walking among all people—you who wait for the Day of God—take heart. In times of violence and greed, times of fear and bitterness, we may lose courage, lose our hope in the vision. But God is at work in this world. Grace hides in all things. Uncounted souls are giving of themselves to the mending of the world in ways we cannot see or know. But listen: the mighty Day of Joy will not come because we labor to produce it; it will be given as a gift from beyond time, and therefore we labor to prepare for it.

Our faith is not optimism that the “good guys” will win. It is trust that Being itself is good, and enfolds even evil. God includes all things, even our struggles. Even death itself is swallowed up in resurrection. Faith is trust in the hidden blessing in all things, even things fraught with evil and suffering. When we live by fear, our spirit is not right in us. But we who love, live by our faith in God.

Trust in the vision. Wait for it. It will surely come.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Treed

         (Luke 19.1-10, Zacchaeus)

You’ve got me treed,
held in the cross-hairs
of your sharpshooter grace
up here with all my complications,
trapped among these anxious limbs
(we hold each other nervously).
I just wanted to peek,
to keep my distance,
observe and play it safe—
but now you’ve named me,
nailed me
(I could just die)—
and there is no way to save myself
from this tree of my undoing
(I could just fall)
but through you,
through your grave command,
your invitation
to become the host
in breaking bread
(still clinging, white-knuckled)
where I will recognize myself at last,
at last let go,
and rise from the table
into a spacious place,
a future I can’t imagine
until it cuts me loose.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

The heart sits

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

The eye wanders around the room
picking up things, dropping them,
not feeling them, just pointing,

the ear pokes around another room,
not really getting the full taste,
just the drift of things,

fingers fidget as they are wont,
and the tongue is way too busy
to notice any of them—

while the heart sits
in darkness and silence within,
and opens

to the One Who Embraces,
the One Who Fills,
the One Who Adores.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

The other wing

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

We don’t recognize the bright shapes
passing overhead
nor clearly ourselves
as we stump along the bitter ground,
enfolding burdens at our side,
trailing our one wing in the dirt
or flapping it desperately.

We are not all birds with one wing.
We are moths with one wing,
beautiful dragonflies
with one transparent wing,
majestic eagles who strike fear
into little ones with our talons, our beaks,
our one wing.

Isn’t there another wing?
Something in us knows.
We search, we steal, we build them,
glorious and strong and false,
we bind another to us whole,
or sever wings and strap them on,
or lop the first for symmetry.

But all of us should have two wings.
Where is the other one?
The beauty, the balance, the natural
lift and soar and fearless grace?

It is here.
         Let me touch you.
It is here.
         Let me look at you.
It is here.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Fire

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

I walk in falling flames of leaves
leaping to the heavens at my feet.
I am like a figure walking
in the fiery furnace.
How is it I am not consumed?
How is it I do not catch fire?

Ah, but I do. And I am.
How is it I do not wake up?

_____________________________
Weather Report

Incendiary,
If you get close enough.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
______________________
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Sooner or later

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
You can believe that you know
all the good stuff
pass by the altar with a knowing smile
nod at the prayer book the candle the mat
remembering that you’ve mastered it
carry the wise precepts in your wallet
as you go on
and on.

But sooner or later
in life or in death
you become still
lay down your burden
notice the weight absent from your shoulders
notice the sensation of not running in your feet
in your head
forget all you can do
everything you know
do this difficult thing
of being withheld
from the desperate chaos
being addressed
being loved
being not the One
who is doing the doing.

Sooner or later
and as often as you wish
you stop thinking
you are saved
and let it happen.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

The Pharisee and the tax collector

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         1.

Two men went up to pray,
one good enough and one not.
Neither you nor God, adoring,
can tell which is which.

Unless you’re so damn sure
you know,
in which case we can tell
which one you’re not.

         2.

The fruit of the tree
of Good and Evil
wasn’t knowing the difference
but thinking it was best.

Stop trying to guess
how good you are
and fall in love with God,
whose mercy is all there is.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Listening

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

God, how are you speaking to me today?
With what tiny voice,
what weary but persistent voice,
like an resilient widow,
coming to me quietly again and again?
With the silence voice of the heavens,
of the created order—your Word made flesh?

What murmurings stir in my heart,
what subtle leanings, what recurring awareness?

Is there some gratitude, some blessing
that wants me to give it voice?
Is there some compassion that rises in me,
some yearning on behalf of my sisters and brothers?
Is there someone crying out
whom my hearts wants to hear?
Who is on my heart this day?

Might your truth be written already on my heart?
What truth, or insight, or question,
what unspoken wonder emerges from my silence?
What presence grants itself to me?
What invites my presence?

God, this is my faith, and my prayer:
I am listening.
Give me grace to hear.
Amen.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

God got tired

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         

God got tired of office work,
the endless lists,
the promotions and demotions,
the staff, so sure of themselves,
yet sucking up all the time.
God got tired of the theorems,
the measurements, the grading.
(The one rubber stamp that said SAVED
was weary from overuse, the S and D
worn away so that it just said AVE;
the others languished in a drawer.)
God got tired of the office politics,
the micromanagement, the power.
God got tired of being right,
being the only one who had any brains,
being in charge of every damn little thing.
So God left the paperwork undone,
rose, stretched, and walked off,
passing under the official portrait
(in oils, not photography, so quaint!)
with its distant, imperious gaze
(and those eyebrows!)—
headed for the enormous door,
and then thought better of it, turned around
and slipped out the service entrance,
into the breeze, the light,
the greening spring,
into children looking up at parents,
into moments of doubt and wonder,
into the smallest acts of love,
into ordinary things around the house,
into the chalice of this day.

         
         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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