Holy Saturday

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Wait in this day of three days’ dark,
         a sabbath from knowing,

this forty hours’ wilderness, waiting
         without knowing we are waiting,

still, since nothing new is possible,
         sure of all we know, yet in the dark.

In dark all mysteries unfold:
         seeds grow, stars gleam, the sun

gathers itself to rise, roots touch,
         hearts beat, and love is made.

And in the still, dense dark great love
         says “Let light be.” The light shines

in the darkness, yes, this dark.
         The stone begins to roll away,

the light to rise, that we can’t see
         but only know.

.

.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Victory

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
God is love; sin is denial of love:
denial of God’s love for us,
of our love for one another,
of love’s power over all other powers.
We deny the Lord, we say “I do not know you,”
when we substitute deserving or order,
efficiency or security for love.
Our denial of love can only lead us
to violence, to evil, to harm.
Ah, how we wound each other
trying to be Safe.

But in the face of our violence
the Gentle One comes to show us the way,
the way of love, the triumphant way of love.

His friends misunderstand him,
fail him, deny and betray him;
and he loves them,
and gives himself to them.

People accuse him and humiliate him,
assault and arrest him;
and he loves them, and heals them.

They judge him and condemn him,
attack him in a mob, beat him
and torture him to death;
and he loves them and forgives them.

He will not deny them love.
Nothing can overcome his love.
In the end their righteousness fails;
their evil and its power,
even death and its power
are swallowed up in his life-giving love.
This is resurrection.

He has already won the victory
and we are still fighting him.

We wrench ourselves away from God
and one another, but love still holds us anyway;
our rebellion comes to nothing.
Even our deepest evil is overcome,
and we are left helplessly, completely
and purely beloved.
In the end we are left with nothing at all
but love.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Jesus, remember me

         
         
         

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

When you gather your Beloved into your Realm,
the disgraced and ashamed,
the twisted and helpless,
         remember me.

When you pronounce your law,
“Blessed are the poor,
for the Empire is theirs,”
         remember me.

When you raise up the brokenhearted,
forgive the guilty, heal the broken
and redeem those who struggle and fail,
         remember me.

When you spread your mercy over the land,
and your grace conquers all evil,
your love reigns supreme
and violence, even mine, is conquered,
         remember me.

When you take your throne of suffering,
and accept your blood-jeweled crown,
when you marshal your troops
armed with self-emptying love,
         remember me.

When I must choose
between love and comfort,
         remember me.

Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

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

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Stay awake

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         “Father, forgive them;
         for they do not know what they are doing.”

                  — Luke 23.34

         When he got up from prayer,
         he came to the disciples and found them
         sleeping because of grief.

                  — Luke 22.45

         They will look on the one
         whom they have pierced.

                  — John 19.37

         While Peter was still speaking, the cock crowed.
         The Lord turned and looked at him.
         And he went out and wept bitterly.

                  — Luke 22.60, 62

His grief as deep as death,
he takes us to the garden
to be mindful of this world’s
sorrowful brutality,

and how he bears it,
but we will sleep the night
of prayer away, until
some harsh alarm awaken us.

We slumber, in the dark
and the shadow of death,
asleep in grief, eyes closed
in pious calm, dead to the world

and to our cruelty, the blood
we draw in his defense,
that all is his. We lie
apart from him a way, until

his broken heart becomes
our own, and cries to us,
disturbs our dreams, and then
we look and see, and in our grief

the blessed cock crows
and we awaken to a new day,
and rise, awake enough
to weep, and stay awake.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Stay with me

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

         In his anguish he prayed more earnestly,
         and his sweat became like great drops of blood
         falling down on the ground.

                  — Luke 22.44

When the weight of the world is great,
when you do not know how to pray,
your faith is weak and your heart
has no strength in its hands,
don’t trouble yourself with praying.

Come into the garden
with him who bears you
and all Creation in his compassion.
He simply needs you
to be there for him while he prays,
to be with him, as with anyone you love,
to pray for him, as for anyone you love.

Be still and stay with him.
Let him love the world.

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

The chosen

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Gabriel sticks his trumpet under his arm, pushes up his bifocals. He calls, “Next flight!” We gather around. A little nervous excitement, like kids waiting for grades. A few rookies ask things like, “Who do you want to be this time?” But most of us know better than to ask. He pulls the cards out like a Bible, holds them out at arms’ length, then brings them back to reading range. “OK, here we go. Listen up. Female. Middle class parents. High intelligence, large family. Bad lungs—watch out for asthma. Gifts: discernment, faith, humor, music, humility. Possibly a musical career. Handles fame well, but, uh, looks like a good deal of loneliness. Life line, not great. Maybe sixty.” He looks up.

“I’ll be that one,” an angel says, who takes the card, and goes to the back of the crowd to peruse it, and while the next scene is unfolding, disappears in a pink blush of light.

Meanwhile Gabriel is on the to the next card. “Male, lower class farm family. Nice setting. Not too sure of yourself, but kindhearted, good eye-hand coordination. Deep father wound. Allergies. A life of labor, but not grudging. Gifts: teaching, kindness, an even keel. Extreme trauma in your 40’s. Inner coping resources look pretty thin. You’re going to have to work at this one. But you’ll make it. Seventy to eighty years.”

“I’ll do that,” one says, comes forward for the card, reads it. A blush of pink light, the smell of alfalfa.

Gabriel looks at the next card, clears his throat, pauses. It’s a dead giveaway when he does that. “Male. Working class parents—well, single mom. But she’s great. She’s great. Gifts: sensitivity, perseverance, uh, good storyteller, physical prowess.” (It’s another giveaway when he starts with the gifts.) Someone murmurs, “Orange jumpsuit.” We wait for the rest. “Um, fetal alcohol, bipolar, early abuse, a mean uncle—” He stops himself, reads the card silently for a moment. “Really mean.” He tries to run quickly through the rest of it but it slows him down: “Addictions, anger problems, low IQ, life of drugs and crime. Heinous torture murders. Multiple…. No remorse—it was beaten out of you at three. Nobody’s going to like you. Ever. Execution by hanging. Thirty-four years.” He’s silent, keeps his eyes on the cards.

This is the part I hate. It always goes this way. We look at our shoes, pretend to find something very wrong with our fingernails, preen our feathers. God, I hate this. The little guy in the back with something wrong with his hands and no wings — why doesn’t he have wings? — he says gently, as if greeting a friend, “That one’s mine. I’ll do him.” He calmly walks though the midst of us and holds out his hand like he’s beckoning some lovely little daughter, receives the card and holds it to his chest. He closes his eyes and smiles. “Truly, I tell you, today—“ — ffftt — but he is gone, in a pink blush of light, the smell of urine and alcohol, the sound of shouting.

I don’t know how he does it, but he never misses a single one of those.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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Behold, the Lamb is God

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         Christ, though divine,
         did not cling to equality with God
         but became utterly empty,
         born a human,
         choosing the place of a slave,
         and in utter humility
         became obedient to death,
         even death on a cross.

                  —Philippians 2. 6-8

Watch the story, and don’t be lulled.
This is not God’s clever transaction—
to pay the fine with a slug, not the real thing,
or better yet pay in gold coin,
then get it back on a string.
This is not a trade: I’ll give you one Son
for all your stinking guilt,
a free pass for a little blood.
Long as somebody gets hurt, I’m fine.
This is not Jesus’ backroom deal with God,
finding a loophole, sealing a deal.
Don’t be blaming God for this wretched thing.
That’s our cross we set up, our rules.
(I wove that crown. I shouted crucify.)

This is God going up against our violence,
especially the violence we blame on God,
“It was necessary that one should suffer.”
It’s Auschwitz, Selma, Wounded Knee,
Abu Ghraib, oil spills, fires of hell,
every war we ever fought, God bless us,
better living through suffering.
It’s God coming at our politics, our religion,
our economics, our human sacrifices,
over and over our human sacrifices,
our sacred systems of blaming
things on the weak, the strange, the Other,
exposing how neatly we avoid the nails
by nailing others in the name of God and
country, order, righteousness and calm.
It’s God hollowing out our evil by being our victim.
It’s Occupy Death Row.

Once you see, you can’t miss it:
God is the Victim, always the victim.
Behold, the Lamb is God,
who takes away the sins of the world.
If they had realized it was the Son of God
and set him free, embarrassed,
then the Son of God would have been
the other two thieves. Was, in fact.
Still is, every time. Every thief,
every murderer or terrorist,
every one we say ought to suffer.
Every time you judge, you create a Messiah,
the Humbled One. The Unloved One.
That is God. The One who becomes empty
and takes the place of the lowest.
The lowest. Always. All of them.

God is love, not revenge; forgiveness,
not payment for incalculable sins.
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
Watch the story, and see the Suffering One
go up against all violence, all judgment,
all satisfaction with the proper torture,
(anybody but one like me), watch
the Gentle One face our evil,
face our armies and laws and prisons,
our angry mobs, our legislating mobs,
our clerical mobs, our waterboarding mobs,
our shopping mobs, our La-Z-Boy mobs,
face evil in all its presentable outfits,
face them all with the terrible judgment
of forgiveness, with nothing but love, nothing
but love,

which, as you watch, it turns out,
dies in the end, miserable and alone,
and alone in all the world able
to change it.

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

A Lenten prayer

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.

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

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The stones would cry out

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
As he rode along… the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would cry out.”
         —Luke 19.36-40

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

         — Genesis 4.9-10

The voice of God cries out
from beneath:
the blood of the victim,
the stones of the earth.

The Holy One,
not mighty among us,
but scorned and accused,
flows among the stones,
living, forgiving, beckoning.

Jesus rides the little donkey
up the road downward, down
into the teeth of our judgment,
the stones of our justice,
the blood of our human
sacrifices.

The One who comes
in the name of the Lord
goes down into the darkness
of the death farthest from God,
silent, where, I tell you,
the stone
of the tomb
will cry out.

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

Winter, spring, winter

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Tomorrow is the first day of Spring, but there’s six inches of snow in the yard and it’s still coming down. In the woods where days ago there were pools there are now piles of snow. We are ready for spring to come, but it comes in fits and starts. As a little girl once said, “I’ve figured out the seasons. It goes summer, autumn, winter, spring, winter, spring, winter, spring.” Of course all the seasons do that. This is just the Vernal version of Indian Winter. We notice it most in spring because we long so deeply for renewal.

Sunday is Palm Sunday, and as Jesus enters Jerusalem we’ll celebrate him as a king, shouting praise. But before the service is over we’ll be shouting, “Crucify him!” Winter, spring, winter…. We are saved, but we are still working out our salvation. We are one with God and with all Creation, but we trust our oneness only in fits and starts. We who are made new still long for renewal. We believe; God help our unbelief.

Neither we nor the Church nor society are “getting better every day.” Some days we get worse. But Jesus understands. He knows his disciples will deny him, but says, “Listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your sisters and brothers” (Lk. 22.31-32).

Neither our inner nor our outer lives are one smooth, simple arc like a hit baseball. The path is rough and winding. We rise and fall, dip and swing, lurch and stop and lurch again. Stuff happens. But through it all, Jesus walks with us and prays for us. The Spirit bears us on. Spring is in us still, working its life-giving magic, producing renewal. It just doesn’t come all at once, forever. The Beloved breathes in us, and even in our failures and desolations we are becoming more fully the beloved people God creates us to be. Under the snow the crocuses keep pushing up; the buds still swell on the trees.

Even when spring reverts to winter in your soul, shovel the snow, but keep the faith. We are being transformed, from one degree of glory to another. We are being re-created. The world is turning, and our inconsistencies can’t stop it. The Spirit is living and growing in you. Wait for the Lord.

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