Injustice

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
                  —Isaiah 53.8

Some New Testament writers say Jesus was crucified “according to scripture,”  as “atonement for our sin.” This does not mean God intended the cross, that God demands a sacrifice, that God “sent Jesus to die.” No, God sent Jesus to live. God sent Jesus to love, and to forgive, and to show us how, knowing that love is willing to suffer.

God is not the one who demands sacrifice; we are. God said, “I demand mercy, not sacrifice” (Psalm 40, Ps. 51, Hosea 6.6, Mt. 9.13). Jesus was not crucified because God needed for that to happen. He was crucified because people wanted it to happen. He was crucified by the power of human evil and injustice. Scripture simply predicts that this is what happens when God comes into the world, when we love in humble vulnerability.

The story of Holy week that we are about to witness is not some complex procedure God cooked up to get us saved, not some weird hostage exchange, not some preordained divine “deal” to secure our forgiveness, but the plain story of God’s presence in an innocent person suffering at the hands of human fear and power—and the story of God’s forgiveness overpowering our evil.

What makes it a holy story is not that Jesus suffered—people suffer a lot more than that—but that he forgave. What makes it holy is that we see God’s grace toward us in Jesus’ nonviolent love and forgiveness in the face of evil. As Jesus had said, what we do to the “least,” we do to God. Jesus said, “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Mt. 12.17).  There is no valid condemnation. But we do condemn.  Yet the good news is, God forgives us.  Nothing, neither our suffering nor the suffering we cause, can separate us from God’s love. 

As you witness the events of Holy Week, resist the temptation to make it all seem long ago and far away. It’s about us. It’s about God’s condemnation of our violence, discrimination, judgment and oppression. It’s the story of Gandhi and King, the story of the Nazi Holocaust and the lynchings of blacks and the genocide of Native peoples. It’s the story of Palestine and Afghanistan and Columbia, the story of undocumented immigrants and torture victims, abused children and Trayvon Martin.

And it’s about how even amidst violence God’s love transforms people, and transforms life; God’s forgiveness changes us. It’s about how love is stronger than evil and life is stronger than death. It’s a love story, about us. It won’t be easy. But it is, as we say, “according to scripture,”—that is, it’s the truth.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

The song

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Jesus, prophet of justice,
knows the wrath of the mighty.
Jesus, lamb of God,
hears them sharpening their knives,
and chooses gentleness.

Even with his death rising on the horizon,
he gathers with his beloved
to celebrate the Passover,
the great feast of liberation,
the celebration of God’s overthrow
of the powers of oppression;
and he sings the song,
the song of dawn sung in the night,
the song prisoners sing,
the song that will lead them out,
that will save them and consume him.
         (How did the hymn of freedom
         become the threat of death?
         Who hired this angel,
         who sends us hunting for lambs?)

He sings the song,
but he changes the words.
         The sacrifice is the flaw.
         The need is the lie.
         Your victim is always God.
         The angel from your shadow has fled.
         Put away your knives.
         The only song is a love song.

He will climb up on the altar
of our violence and fear,
our bloodthirsty religion,
and rescue us from the god of our own unforgiveness,
and receive the blows with patience.
But first he will sit at the table with us,
with our knives under our cloaks,
and sing the song.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Palms

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

With sweaty palms
we wave these branches,
and quivering throats
we cry Hosanna?
save us, we beg you?
for our flesh knows
what our minds
do not yet remember,
how soon and badly
we will need you,
whom even now
in our sweet,
treacherous singing,
we condemn.

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

Lambs

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Beth and I walked up the road to see the sheep the other day, the trees still bare but the air gentle, and daffodils just making their appearance. Little lambs stumped behind their mamas on their stilty legs, suddenly running, then stalling, then nibbling at grass, uttering their bleats that sound halfway between laughing and crying. The moms munched unconcerned. In a separate pen, rams munched just like everybody else.

None of the lambs know that it’s the week before Passover. They seem perfectly happy. And none of the people notice Jesus among the lambs, bleating and cavorting and laughing with them.

__________________
Weather Report

Sheep-like clouds all day
and a gentle breeze like lambs
gone to the slaughter;
darkness increasing
to a nearly unbearable degree,
but it will be spent at the last,
giving way to light,
and sheep.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Occupy Jerusalem

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” And he entered Jerusalem.
         —Mark 11.8-11

There is this little political demonstration– not too big, or the authorities would have crushed it, but enough to make a statement. Maybe a few dozen people. Jesus, the country healer, riding into town on a colt, a royal symbol. Jesus with his dreams of a world of justice, a world ruled not by force or fiat but by love. Of course the powerful, at this point, can ignore him. A laughable nobody comes to town telling people to change the world. Right. Let him make a little scene. Then take him out. Have him disappear along with all those other victims of death squads. Or better, string him up in public and make a spectacle of him.

But for now, he’s making a fine spectacle of himself as it is. Who cares? Let him assemble his little ragtag hodgepodge of the hopeful, homeless and hapless, the sad, mangled and quiet folks, the the poor and humiliated—the blessed, by his accounting. Let them sing their songs. Let him do his street theater, proclaim his dream, do a few healings, raise somebody from the dead even. What does that mater to you? This will all blow over.

How crazy can he be to think this amounts to anything? How naïve can he be to think he can go up against Caesar and even last the weekend? History will swallow him. Obviously, he doesn’t understand power and how it works. Power belongs in the hands of those who know how to wield it. The weak have no place here.

Don’t worry—order will be restored. The cloaks and branches, the tents and signs will be hauled off. Just ignore him. Go back to your prayers. It’s between you and God. How does this concern you? What is it going to change, that he rides into Jerusalem—or even into your heart, this funny little man on a donkey?

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Words

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

When words have succeeded in my hands,
performed splendidly in their traces,

and have become my world,
the window glass crowded with them,

I set them all out by the curb,
and walk away,

naked of all speaking,
beggared of understanding,

into a meadow of silence,
the air clear, the grass in tufts,

where even You
have no words for this

but close your eyes
and hold me.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Let me die

Loving God,
let me die in your arms.
I am your child;
take me up in your loving hands
and wash me clean of all that I have been,
so that I may be made new.
In your love, I shed my illusions;
I surrender my desires,
I offer you my broken heart.
Forgive me and heal me.
Draw me close to you and hold me
where I can truly become myself.
Create in me a clean heart, a newborn spirit.
Write your love on my soul.
I die in your mercy: I surrender my life to you,
so that I may have your life alone,
and rise to bear the fruit of your love.
Open my lips, Beloved,
and my life will sing your praise.
Amen.

         

         

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

Seeds of light

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies
         it remains a single grain.
         But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
         Those who love their life lose it,
         and those who hate their life in this world
         will keep it for eternal life.

                  —John 12. 24-25

         
         

Seeds of light,
we aren’t afraid
to go down into the darkness
of the despairing world,

for in the dark
is where the light
breaks forth
and rolls whole stones away.

Only the broken heart is holy.
Those who weep with them
who are veiled in black
are robed in white.

In the losing of all we cling to
is the granting of what can’t be taken.
In the giving of all that we are
we become.

Buried in that grave
we are no longer seeds
but only
light.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Batting

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Toward the end of winter I came upon
the Lord on a diamond, batting.

I said, “ Lord, what are you doing?”
“These are your sins,” he said,

as a shadowy figure on the mound
with a vicious arm pitched.

He had no instinct: swung at everything,
even dirtballs. And hit ’em every time.

He had a beautiful swing,
fluid, sure, and joyful.

He hit pitch after pitch, endlessly.
I lost myself, watching.

“Out of the park” he said, his eye
on a nasty looking knuckleball,

and swung like a dancer,
gracefully unwinding. Chock!

It rose up over the fence, over the trees,
released from all earthly bonds,

floating free until it disappeared,
infinitely gone, still rising.

He watched it go, as if
he’d never seen such a beautiful thing.

“I love this game,” he grinned,
and set for another pitch.

I think he was honestly
pleased with himself.

         

         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

The light’s judgment

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         
         
         This is the judgment:
         that light has come into the world.

                  —John 3.19

         
         

The verdict is in:
you are beautiful, beloved,
and necessary to God.
You may not think so;
whatever within that is dirty,
shattered, barren or banal
may seem otherwise.
But the robe of light God gives you
changes all that.
In the light of grace,
the wedding gown of blessing,
you are radiant and desirable.
Look at the moon, hovering,
angelic and luminous,
made of dirt.

         
         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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