A disrupting branch

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
                  —Jeremiah 33.15

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken…. When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
                  —Luke 21.25-26, 28
         
         
Beside the brick retaining wall, the old tree grew, and its roots reached and swelled and buckled the wall. Eventually someone removed the bricks, cut through the roots, and erected a new cement wall. And the old tree grew with the great force that was in it, and its roots reached and swelled, and buckled the wall.

Jesus is not coming into the world to leave it the way he found it. He is bringing with him a reign of justice and mercy. Because our sin is so deep, and the systems, habits and economies of violence and injustice are so entrenched, the coming of that reign is gong to buckle some retaining walls. The birth of a new world means the death of this one. If we are attached to the walls, we will be distressed. But for those who long for freedom, the upheaval will be welcome birth pangs.

This Advent as you hear these scriptures of tumult and transformation, if they sound like fantasy, or dark apocalypse, think of the people who suffer injustice, the oppressed and imprisoned, the abused and exploited, those who live in terror or war or poverty. These words are for them. They are for those who long for a different world, those who long for freedom. You may choose to be among them; if so, lift up your head, for your redemption is drawing near.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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A life-giving branch

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         In those days and at that time
         I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David;
         and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

                  —Jeremiah 33.15

From your heart’s dry clay a green sprig rises,
         life-giving, wealthy with buds
                  of fruit to come.

Your doubt is too small
         to keep the Holy One
                  from breaking forth.

A tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.
         What, that it should grow out from you!
                  What, that you did not notice!

Maybe what you know as pain
         is the swelling
                  of this strange, small, greening branch.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Pregnant pause

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
The Realm of God is near. Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with being scattered and attached to things, and with the worries of this life, so that that day does not catch you unexpectedly like a trap.
                  —Luke 21.31, 34

The secular, commercial world thinks that the Christmas season just started, and will end on Dec. 25. But Christians follow a different calendar. Sunday we begin Advent, a season of preparation, repentance and waiting. We’re not good at that. We are in a hurry. We drive fast, even up to a red light. We hate standing in line. We “keep busy.” We’re like kids whining in the back seat, “Are we there yet?”

Well, we are there yet. We are here now. But we’re so busy being busy, and whining about it, that we don’t notice. Our busyness is not fruitfulness; it’s fear. We’re afraid of the stillness, afraid of the dark, afraid of what might come up in the silence. We’re afraid of not being in control and of being dependent, afraid of not knowing. We keep busy to stay unconscious.

Advent invites us into the dark, into the silence, into wakefulness. It is a time of preparing, yes, but also of waiting. Just sitting. Doing nothing, just being. It’s like being pregnant. God is doing miraculous things in us, and in the world, and there’s nothing we can do to make it happen or hasten. Like Mary, we just wait. Not wanting the child to be born prematurely, we wait the whole term. We enter into the mystery of not being in control, the darkness of trusting what is coming without seeing it, the silence of listening for what is beyond words. We enter into the stillness of paying attention. And we “wait upon the Lord.”

Each day, give some time to pause. Be free of the attachments of this world. Step out of the prison of busyness, the chains of having to justify yourself. Let go and be still. Deep within, let the miraculous child come to you. Wake up in the dark. Watch and listen. Trust what is coming. Don’t be afraid to wait. Perhaps then the day—even today—will not catch you unexpectedly like a trap but unwrap itself like a long-awaited gift.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Your redemption is drawing near

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

                  —Luke 13.25-28

Perhaps Jesus saw global climate change and Superstorm Sandy coming. Or think of it this way: sometimes the holy erupts in our lives from somewhere so deep that it seems that it’s from another world. It often feels threatening because the changes that it brings are so profound; it dismantles much of our world. But isn’t there much of your world that needs to be dismantled? Injustice, dehumanization and cruelty are so widespread in the world around us, and guilt, shame, sorrow and fear make up so much of the infrastructure of our inner worlds that the whole thing needs to be taken apart and re-made. Jesus’ vision is not about destruction but re-creation. It’s an invitation to let go of what has been and accept what is, to receive what is coming.

Whenever our world shakes or changes, or needs to, we allow ourselves to be reborn. We let go of outward things and go deeper to the core of our being, where God gives us new life moment by moment. God enters our world and our lives and our hearts through the cracks and broken places, and changes everything. In the cold of winter, homeless and hunted by soldiers, a baby is born in a manger, who awakens us to love.

When things begin to crack, we know this is about to take place, and our salvation is near. We long for such a coming, and we wait with hope.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Supplications

         
         

Night of God,
pour your darkness into me
until I am nothing but your mystery.

                  •

Silence of God,
envelop me in your whole sky
until among the stars
I do not hear myself.

                  •

Holy gravity,
pull me into you,
leaving everything behind;
leave nothing behind.

                  •

Dark Energy of God,
move vastly in me,
between the trees and houses,
in the corridors,
unfold immensely in me.

         

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

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Bright Friday

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
This day has come to be called “Black Friday” because in these “Christmas sales” (that have little to do with Christmas) for the first time all year many retailers sell enough stuff to get out of the “red” and into the “black.” The phrase originated in accounting departments and has become popular lingo. Consumption has become our popular religion.

On Thanksgiving we usually gather with family or close friends and eat a lot, in celebration of all that we have. So on the day after Thanksgiving, why not give energy to others who are in need or who suffer injustice? Why not observe a “commercial sabbath” on which we do works of mercy and justice? Instead of a Black Friday rooted in consumption, why not observe a Bright Friday that gives hope to a hurting world? Reach out to someone marginalized. Send a letter to Congress on behalf of the poor. Spend some time in prayer for those who are hurting. Clean up some litter. Or, if you really want to go shopping, go shopping for a local food bank or homeless program, domestic violence shelter or teen home, or a family of a prisoner. Or put together an UMCOR relief supply kit (http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies). (Take it to a Methodist Church. They’ll know what to do with it. )

Let’s not let our Thanksgiving be all for ourselves. Now that we’ve stuffed ourselves, let’s show some actual gratitude and look to the mending of the world. Let it be a Bright Friday.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight8(at)hotmail.com

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Thanksgiving

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Generous God, thank you.
For the gift of life, the gift of creation, and this amazing world, thank you.
For the gift of lungs that know how to breathe without my telling them,
for galaxies that spin without my spinning them,
for living beings that surround me and give life, I thank you.
For the mystery of my life, the path that has brought me this far,
for all those who have been part of my story, all of them, I thank you.
I am grateful for loved ones near and far,
for those I live with and those I seldom see,
and those who have touched me only once,
for they are the tree that holds the nest of my life.
For the wonders that surround me, the beauty and strangeness,
the color and music of this life, I thank you,
and pray for eyes and ears of wonder.
For the mystery of your presence within me,
your attentiveness to my every heartbeat,
your unfathomable delight in my being, your forgiveness and healing,
for your gift of renewal and your resurrecting in me,
and for your energy in me, the shining sun of you in me,
I give you thanks and pray that I may always be mindful.
For all your gifts I am grateful, delighted and amazed,
and pray that I may ever be so.
For all that is to come, I ask not for goods or favors,
but only this: a heart of wonder, humility, gratitude and delight.
Amen.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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The Empire strikes out

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         Plate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
         Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world.”
         Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?”
         Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.
         For this I was born, and for this I came into the world,
         to testify to the truth.”

                  —from John 18.32-37

Pilate thinks and operates in a world of power—the ability to coerce, to get what you want through force or fear. But Jesus knows that’s an imaginary world; he lives in the real world, the world of God’s love. He bears witness to that love. He embodies it unmistakably. He is its proof. His being has authority, and his love reigns over the world. But in this play-acting world of appearances, what kind of power is that? Is Jesus a king or not?

Of course he is. He has a greater power than Pilate, and Pilate unconsciously knows it, or he would not be so threatened. Well, he will show Jesus power. The Empire will strike Jesus down with the one power that Empire has: the power to destroy, the power of fear.

And the Empire will lose. Rome will impose death, for that is all Rome can do. But God will give life, for that is what God does. And life will win out over death. Caesar will exercise power and Jesus will exercise love, and in the end Jesus will change the world and Caesar will get a salad named after him.

Empire always loses. Exploiting people as pawns in one’s power drama, rather than meeting them in love as they are, always fails. Domination is illusory. Love overpowers power. It is stronger than fear or death. In Empire’s imaginary world power, security and status, wearing costumes, pretend to have authority and to give life, and pretend that love is powerless. But don’t be fooled by the weapons and costumes. In the real world, this world, love is the only power. Resurrection, not death, is always the last word. Love, not force, reigns supreme. This what it means to say that Christ is “Lord.” God’s love enfleshed reigns supreme throughout the universe. This is worth trusting with your life.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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On the subway

pressed together
reaching up for the straps
lurched alike
hands in the air
all these faces
trying not to touch
so many stories silent
all of us reaching up
choosing our way
not saying what
so deeply we hope
borne along
on the way to somewhere
together on this train
leaving what we have left
secretly longing
all of us reaching
borne along.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Moon walk

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Her black skin disappears in the black night
but her eyes are open.
At the end of the street is the half moon,
her eyes open, too.
She watches the moon down the street,
turns the corner, stays on the near side
so she can see the moon above the fence.
Stops to see the moon under the branches of the tree,
then passes the house.
There is the moon, between houses.
And between the next two.
Now a little park, where the moon slides
through the trees, watching her,
and over the low roof of the garage,
reflected in the car hoods out front,
bulging and receding over one hood and the next.
Now down the hill, the moon moving
in and out between roofs and chimneys,
always coming back.
Finally she comes to her house, up the steps,
where the moon is between the posts
and inside and up to her room
where it looks in her window in wonder
at her full moon eyes,
two kindred spirits, who sometimes disappear
but who are always watching.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To subscribe to Unfolding Light by daily e-mail write to unfoldinglight5(at)hotmail.com

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