Risen with holes in his hands

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.
    
     — John 20. 27

A risen Jesus with wounds still fresh can seem startling— shouldn’t he be perfect and shining like everybody in heaven? Raised from death, shouldn’t he be free of all suffering?

No. Suffering is a part of life. It is surely a part of love—the willingness to give of oneself even at cost. Life is a journey of vulnerability, and even in resurrection wounds do not suddenly vanish. What vanishes is their power to limit us, define us, or defeat us. Suffering does not end; it just doesn’t have the last word. Love has the last word. Our sin, pain, and even death are swallowed up in a greater reality, suffused with blessing, subject to grace, and powerless against the life-giving power of love. Even in our brokenness we are glorious; even in our suffering we belong to life, not death; even in our sin we are the way God loves us.

Resurrection is not about feeling good. It’s about our communion with God and our deep connection with life. It is God’s victory over all that could separate us from God and from life. It does not remove us from the struggles of life; it prevents them from removing us from life and from God. Like Jesus, we are wounded, and even wounded, we are raised to eternal life.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Wounds

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and peace to you.

Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
—John 21.27-28

You don’t need to be good enough.
You need to be real.
You don’t have to display your wounds,
but through them God can reveal glory.
In your vulnerability and humanness,
in your failures and brokenness,
in the calluses from your labors
and the scars from the journeys you have made,
and in the grace with which God has brought you through
people may find a connection
with a healing, resurrecting God.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Unless I touch the wounds

Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my finger where the nails were,
and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe it.”

     —John 20. 25

When Jesus wanted to go to Bethany to see Lazarus, his disciples worried that that was where people wanted to kill him. One of them said, “Let’s go also, so that we may die with him.”  That was Thomas.  Thomas was no doubter.  He knew the depth of Jesus’ love, love that would suffer in self-giving.  That’s why after his death he wasn’t interested in Jesus’ alluring smile or his famous way of breaking bread.  What he was interested in was his wounds.  Because Thomas knew Jesus was capable of a love that neither avoided suffering nor succumbed to it, but that transformed it.  He wanted to connect with Jesus’ suffering—to touch his wounds— in order to love him more deeply, just as Jesus had done.  Nothing less than that suffering self-giving would do for Thomas to “believe.”

In a way what Thomas was looking for was his own wounds— and for their transformation: his fear forgiven, failure redeemed and brokenness made holy.  He wasn’t looking for evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, but his own.  A perfect, unhurt and invincible Jesus who said, “Oh, it was nothing,” could not stir his heart. But one who had suffered deeply and still forgiven him would call Thomas back to life and revive his love.

Unless we embrace another’s suffering, and have forgiven the deepest wounds they have caused us, we have not fully loved them.  Suffering itself is not redemptive.  But reaching out to another in their suffering, and forgiving one who causes you suffering is the place where love happens. Resurrection does not remove suffering; it transforms it from a wall into a doorway.  With Thomas we reach out to the wounds of the world, receive forgiveness, and learn to love.

—April 27, 2011

Welcome to heaven

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
In great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials.

         —1 Peter 1.3-4, 6

What do you think “heaven” is like? A place of infinite joy and glory, a place where God is always and everywhere intimately present? A place where souls continually grow in love of God and one another? A world in which God’s miracles are abundant, sin and death are defeated and forgiveness is the very air? Well, what the resurrection of Christ says is that this is it. We are in a changed world.

Expectant parents know what it’s like. You live in a reality you haven’t actually seen yet. But it’s wholly real, and it changes everything. The resurrection of Christ is not just a promise that you get to go to “heaven” when you die. It’s a moment of clarity that heaven is at the heart of this world. It unveils the reality that God, who brings creation out of chaos and life out of death with loving grace, is actually the dominant force in the universe. Despite the appearances of this world, the anxious workings of our ego-minds, and the powers of this world that magnify them, despite the ravages of evil, fear and suffering, it is God and not they who reign supreme.

Even in this troubled world, we live in heaven. We haven’t learned to see it yet, but it is present, not just in the future, but here and now. The love of God throbs at the heart of all living things. The grace of God flows like electricity through all Creation. Forgiveness is like gravity, drawing us back into the present moment.

So we learn to live in this invisible world of grace that is hidden inside the visible world. We live with this inheritance, this belonging, that is already ours, cherished in the heart of Being itself. The troubles of this world don’t discourage us from our hope, because our hope is not wishing for what hasn’t come, but confidence in what hasn’t been revealed. The evils of this world do not intimidate us from seeking justice and resisting oppression, because we know that infinite power is on the side of liberation, reconciliation and healing. We learn to live as those who are newly born, with new eyes, with hope and wonder, love and courage. We love without fear, knowing that we’ve already died and gone to heaven.

Welcome!
         
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Love wins

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Christ is risen!

God has come among us in gentleness.
We have responded by assaulting
the Lamb of God with all our fear and violence—
and it has failed: God’s gentleness has prevailed.
Our violence has died, but forgiveness endures.

Christ is risen!

The angry mob has become dust,
and even the mighty Empire has vanished,
but the Loving One lives on.

Christ is risen!

Love is stronger than evil.
Gentleness is mightier than coercion.
Forgiveness is greater than fear.

Christ is risen!

The power of death is an illusion;
the machines of oppression are a sham,
but the grace of God is infinite,
and raises you to life that is eternal.

Christ is risen!

Love deeply, therefore,
and seek justice with courage;
bless and forgive extravagantly,
and be gentle without fear,
for Christ, the Gentle One, is risen.
Christ is risen indeed!

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

At the foot of the cross

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
God of love,
at the foot of the cross
we confess our violence,
our desire to make others
carry our suffering.
Forgive us.

We confess our fear,
our illusion of our unworthiness,
our anxiety to justify ourselves
rather than to love.
Forgive us.

We confess our self-centeredness:
that other people become
means or obstacles to our ends
instead of people,
sacred and beloved.
We hurt and judge,
we exploit and dehumanize.
We think that we or others
are unworthy.
We betray your love in us
and we crucify.
Forgive us.

At the foot of the cross
we behold this mystery:
that broken as we are,
we are sacred and beloved,
and you cherish us.
In our darkest violence
you forgive us.
In our deepest shame
you give yourself to us.
In our most adamant betrayals
you are one with us.

At the foot of the cross
give us the gift of sorrow,
the wisdom of an unflinching gaze.
Bless us, that we may know our brokenness,
that we may receive your presence,
that we may accept your forgiveness,
that we may be transformed by your love.

We pray for those whom we have hurt,
and bless those who have hurt us.
We ask and receive forgiveness of all.
We seek only to trust, only to love,
only to heal and to be healed.

At the foot of the cross,
may we die to our fear,
our self-centeredness,
our separation from others.
Take our old, mean lives
and give us new ones,
tender as new green shoots,
lives of grace,
lives of love, mercy and tenderness.

At the foot of the cross,
O gentle God,
may we die with Christ,
that you may raise us up in love.

Amen.
         

         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

A prayer for Christ imprisoned

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
They came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.

         — Matthew 26.50

O Christ in prison, God in human chains, hear our prayer.

We ask your forgiveness, healing and peace for all who are imprisoned, whether justly or unjustly. Though they are treated inhumanely may they know their humanity. In their confinement may they know their freedom in you. In their shame may they know your love. Among hard and angry people, may they keep their hearts. Though they are judged, may they know their belovedness. Give them hope and courage. Grant them the miracle that they not treat others as they are treated. May they experience the loving presence of Christ among them. Heal the wounds that have caused them to transgress. For all that is hurtful that they have done, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Guide all who defend and prosecute them, that they may do so with justice and respect. Grant your grace to all who guard them. Give them wisdom and respect, that they not abuse their power, for they hold under their authority the beloved of God. May they, and we, remember that it is you who guards us all.

We ask your forgiveness for presuming to judge or bind another. Grant us humility, forgiveness and compassion. May we who hire others to guard our prisons remember that it is we who turn the key. We confess that we desire to put away those who disturb us rather than to reach out to them in love. Forgive us for judging, and help us to repent of our sin. May we learn to order our society on justice, not revenge. May we remember that all are your children, even those who have done harm, that all are your beloved, even those who do not know love. Help us to see them with the eyes of Christ, who is among them.

We pray for those unjustly accused, for those imprisoned for acts of conscience, for victims of prejudice and persecution. Watch over them in love and grant them justice, that we may hear the cry of their hearts. For you cry out to us in the voice of those whom we reject.

We pray for the families and loved ones of all who are incarcerated. May the bonds of love survive their separation. Give them comfort, strength and hope. As they extend their love to those behind bars, so you reach out to them. Accompany them in love, and help them be as faithful to their beloved ones as you are to us.

O God, by your grace help us transform the nations, societies and systems that rely on oppression, abuse, enslavement and imprisonment to sustain their power. May your justice prevail; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

O Christ, accused, imprisoned and scorned, we thank you that in compassion you share our deepest sufferings and shame. In peace may we be present with you, who are present to all. Remember us when you come into your kingdom. Amen.
         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Betrayal

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

First comes the forgiveness,
your heart laid out like a banquet.
(Later, after the bitter rain, the torrential fire,
it is all that will remain.)

         
Our betrayal always seems like an accident,
but we’ve already plundered the sanctuary.
Once we’ve lost you,
we find ways to throw you away.

         
Our fear is just waiting to happen,
the tumor that spreads.
When the shoddy bridge collapses,
we always grab at somebody.

         
So comes the heart failure,
the drunken stabbing of the lover,
burning the house with the children in it.
So cleverly we outsource our suicides.

         
How much of our struggle in this world
is our writhing in pain
from the knife of sorrow
over what we have done?

         
O Lord of mercy,
do not save us from our anguish,
but give us your soft arms
in which bitterly to weep.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

The power to lay it down

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
         —Isaiah 53.7

I lay down my life for the sheep. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.

         —John 10.15, 18

To take up your cross and follow Jesus means to be gentle and loving in the face of abuse—but it does not mean to be a victim, or to put up with injustice. It does not mean that you suffer for the sake of suffering; it means that you are loving for the sake of changing people, beginning with yourself. Taking up your cross is different from being a victim in that it is free, it is loving, and it is for the purpose of transformation.

The cross symbolizes our injustice and all the ways we hurt each other, whenever we judge, exploit and dehumanize people. It symbolizes the abuse of the weak by the strong. Jesus suffers the cross in love, not in fearful submission. He “takes it up,” freely entering into suffering that is not his (he is innocent) in solidarity with all who are judged, both the guilty and the innocent. He endures it with love toward all who despise and abuse him.

He does so freely. His life is not taken from him; he lays it down of his own accord, from a place of power—not the power of coercion, but the power of love, the power of God.

And he does this as an act of insurrection/resurrection, to transform both himself and his persecutors. He confronts evil and robs it of its power. He who is innocent faces our condemnation, he who is gentle faces our violence, and he denies them their power and authority. He does this to draw his abusers (including us) into his love and forgiveness. He does it to change us.

It is wrong to tell victims of injustice—a woman in an abusive relationship, workers denied rights, the millions who are exploited and persecuted—to “take up their cross” by enduring their suffering in silence. That is just imposing another cross on them. According to our baptismal vows we take up the cross by “accepting the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”

We do not turn the other cheek in helplessness, we do it as an act of power. “I have the power to lay it down,” Jesus says. We do it in love and freedom, in order to change the situation. We feed the hungry, befriend the prisoner, defend the rights of the poor and oppressed, confront systemic evil and change power structures not as victims, but as agents of change, because we trust that when we lay down our lives in love, resurrection happens. And the point is not suffering. It’s resurrection.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Stay with me

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
         — Matthew 26.36
         
         
                  I
He does not ask great faith of me,
but only that I stay awake
to the prayers of the suffering.
         
         
                  II
In every faltering morning meditation,
my prayer mere tissue in the wind,
in every half-hearted afternoon,
heart drifting in and out of sleep,
there is One, soggy-kneed and steady,
who is praying
with all the heart of heaven,
unceasingly
                  praying
                              for me.
         
         
                  III
You are my prayer.
You are my companion,
my garden,
my sleep.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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