Praying John 20.19-29

Jesus, I confess: at times my doors are locked in fear.

You respect my defenses, yet you step through my fears and come to me.

You grant me your peace. You breathe your spirit into me, a Pentecost, a new birth.

You give me power to forgive, the choice to be free of other’s sins or to stay burdened by them.

You send me, as you are sent, to those who long for you but need to see and touch.

In your Spirit may I meet them as one who has felt the wounds of the world and still stands among them in love.

May Love be my Lord and my God. Give me courage, Jesus, to unlock those doors.

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

I reach out my hand

         
         “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
         and put my finger in the mark of the nails
         and my hand in his side,
         I will not believe.”

                  —John 20.25

It’s not that I don’t believe,
it’s just that I don’t feel you,
solid, right here,
and sometimes, Lord, I need to.
I need you more than I have you.
I don’t hear your voice,
calm and clear and sweet in my ear
like some people do,
and I want to.
I know you are here,
but I want to feel you.
Forgive my neediness—
but Beloved, come to me.

You give me this grace,
that faith is not certainty
but turning toward you.

You teach me to hear you
in the silence within,
to see you where I do see you,
to feel your wounds
in the wounds of the world.

So I reach out my hand.

I reach out my hand.

I reach out my hand.

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

For the dullness I pray

         
         

         
For the dullness that encloses me I pray
your grace burn off the morning fog.

That the dream of doubt I wear like clothes
I pray may in your light dissolve, and fall away.

For healing of the wound that is a world that is a wall
between me and your delight, and mine, I pray.

From the coma of my fears awaken me
with your warming, seeing sun.

For my eyes, sleep-sealed and glazed, I pray
to see the nub and fullness of what is.

From the soft bed of my grave
raise me into this day amazed and new.

         
         

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight (at)gmail.com

Light in the tomb

         

         Why do you seek the living
         among the dead? 
                 
                  —Luke 24.5

Easter God,
roll away the stone
from the tomb of my heart.

Let the morning light
of your love
shine in.

As light forgives darkness,
fills it,
transforms it,

your love forgives me,
fills me,
transforms me.

I am not among the dead—
my guilt, my shame, my fear.
You have brought me to life.

The light of your love raises me,
sets me free,
leads me out into this new day,

beloved,
living,
made new.

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Good Friday, March 25

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Sometimes it happens that Good Friday
falls on the twenty-fifth of March,
for literalists who count such things,
nine months before Jesus’ birth:
the day Mary supposedly conceived.
This day of death and our great No
is the very day of Gabriel’s promise
and Mary’s great Yes. The very day.

You come among us,
knowing.

Even as we fall away
you fall into us.

Even deep in our fear and rage
your seed opens.

You bless our failure,
make death into life,

our unsteady hearts
worthy.

What is love
but your grace in our weakness?

In the darkness
light shines.

Love
and the cost of love,
both kinds of tears
fall mingled.

 

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Gethsemane

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
He’s on his knees,
not all pious like the paintings
but on his hands and knees
trying to breathe,
forehead in the dirt,
unraveled
by the cup that won’t pass from him.

No one loves life more,
has faced death down and won,
has pulled people back from the dark
like he has. But now?

What changes?
What makes him take the cup?
A voice in the garden isn’t enough.

He prays over his death,
the cup of his life poured out in love,
all of it,
he prays for his life,
prays for the love that is his life,
and finds himself praying
for the people he loves.
And it is they who change him.

By the end
he is not praying for release.
He is praying for us.

It is you
who makes him know
that this is worth it.

He stands and turns.

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Open arms

         
         
Yes

I stretch out
my arms

and bear
your cross

Your fear
that wells up and overflows

your sorrow
that haunts

the most awful pain
you endure

and you cause
I embrace

I gather into myself
with open arms

to swallow it
in love

I drown your No in my Yes
to a deeper Yes

The grave itself I smother
in love

until there is
nothing left

but Yes
and still

even later and always
my open arms

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Holy Crap Week

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
We get dragged into Holy Week, or, theologically speaking, Holy Crap Week, though in the original Aramaic it’s not as polite as “crap.” It feels like that for us pastors who have to crank out extra worship services all week long, and then a Big Multi-Media Production on Easter Sunday, and it had better be good, because all those once-a-year folks are there and it’s our one chance to impress them. Then we do our taxes.

And it feels like Holy Crap Week for the choir director, who’d love to do a lot of really cool upbeat anthems but instead has to provide the sound track for the Bubonic Plague all week.

And it’s Holy Crap week for the janitor who has to clean the place up after all the palms and donkey poop on Sunday, then after all the bread and wine and soap suds on Thursday, and then all the blood on Friday… Well, kidding about the blood.

And it’s Holy Crap Week for people who just really don’t want to have to do all the Doom and Gloom and stuff, who really want to jump from palms to lilies, no thorns or nails in between, thank you. Or at least wait till Friday to get too gory, OK? And we can skip that anyway, right?

Meanwhile it actually is Holy Crap Week for some people. Now, parent alert: I’m using the original language here. For the sake of those who actually suffer this is Holy Shit Week. The week we face the worst about our lives. This week we look at our worst nightmares. Not just our bad feelings but our actual, real deep down evil. We face our fear and judgment and self-enclosure. And how our crap affects everybody else. We spend time with the folks on death row, and the chronically abused, the mentally ill, the desperate refugees. For a week we face the looming cancer, the floundering marriage, the festering shame. We don’t get to skip facing how people are tortured for our sake. And we don’t get to complain, because it’s not for us. It’s for them. We stand at the unyielding grave, we sit in the hard prison cell, the doomed hospital room, the cruel courtroom, the dangerous bedroom. We sit with the condemned, the trafficked, the shamed, the bullied, the beaten, the broken, and there’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all, because it’s not for us. It’s just where Jesus goes, so we go with him, and we sit here. No whining. In this deep hole there’s really nothing honest to say but, Holy Crap. Or worse.

And the worst part is Jesus is not going to cure them, or rescue them, or even make them feel better. He’s just going to sit there with them, suffer with them, die with them. Because he is one with us even in our deepest sin and worst suffering and cruelest failures. Because God is.

So we go with Jesus to the cross, and it takes a whole week, shaking our heads and weeping as we face how really, really mean we sometimes are, and how really, really despairing and alone we sometimes feel. And even still he chooses to be with us. And incredulously we say, “Seriously? Holy Crap.”

We don’t have to believe. We don’t have to trust the future. All we have to do is let him be here. And because he does want to be with us, even before we get to Easter, holding us close in love, even the deepest crap is indeed made holy. Because God is here. All we can do is be astonished.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

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write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Palm Sunday, spring

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Buds emerge on trees
unimpressing the snow, falling
on the first day of spring.

They are patient: they know.
They slowly open their hands anyway,
waving palms to the hidden sun.

Green living things know
the difference between what is passing
and what is coming.

Jesus rides into the frozen city,
sure. Yes, they will kill him,
but it is already spring.

 

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com

Holy Week

         
         
God, save me from the lie
of an acceptable death,
the heroic sacrifice (too many spent),
a crazed god’s scheme
to sell forgiveness for blood.
Save me from the anticipated gesture,
the deal agreed upon.
Deliver me instead into truth’s sordid lap,
the bewildering perversion
that comes of fear, and death its only issue,
violence its only hands and feet;
the way we judge, the way we think we can.
Let me not blame this on you.

No: only in the jumpy torchlight
of the unnecessary flames
of another lynching, another rape,
a war, an execution,
the tragedy of power,
only here in honest horror
do we see your awful love in all its range,
your inexplicable grace unbending,
mercy nailed and crowned with thorns.
Only here in our deepest depravity,
not planned, not paid for, but accepted,
can I know love strong enough
to save me and all this trembling world
not from that but this,
not from the fear of hell
but from the hell itself of fear.
Only in my deepest loss, and yours,
do I see love win
and raise me up to something new
and really alive.

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

To receive Unfolding Light as a daily e-mail,
write to me at unfoldinglight(at) gmail.com