An opening

           Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
Whoever enters by me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

                           —John 10.7, 9

He says he’s a gate but we make him a wall.
An obstacle. A closure. A restriction
that limits access to God to the right people.

Jesus is here to let people in, not to keep them out.
He’s not a wall, but a door. Not a fence but a gateway.
An opening.
Jesus is for those who are searching for God,
sheep searching for good pasture,
who keep coming up against walls.
Fear is a wall.
Doubt and distrust is a wall.
People’s judgment and expectations are a wall.
Religion can be a wall.
But Jesus is an opening.
Through all the walls of right religion and being good enough
Jesus holds an opening. A gateway.
He says, “I am your opening.
Come in and go out, and find good pasture.
Let me love you. That is the gateway to everything.”

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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The voice

           The sheep follow the shepherd
           because they know the shepherd’s voice.
                           —John 10.4

Many try to do a good impression of God
but they all fail.

Something in you knows the true voice,
resonates as to no other voice, vibrates

in the orchestra pit of your soul,
to the voice that in the beginning uttered the Word,

the voice of who you are, that calls you into being,
that calls you deeper into life, into the mystery.

You won’t hear it in the noise out there,
or even the noise within, but underneath that,

speaking out of silence, heard only by sensing beyond sense.
You follow in the dark purely by the sound of the voice.

The more keenly you listen,
the more you make listening your prayer,

the more you realize you are already following,
without even having set out.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Your name

           The shepherd calls their own sheep by name
           and leads them out.

                           —John 10.3

I bet God doesn’t call you Robert or Elizabeth.
The Beloved has a name for you
no one else has given you,
a name no one else has. No one.
Better than a nickname,
or even a heartfelt term of endearment.
The name of your soul,
declared to the universe in the language of mystery,
pronounceable only by God.
When you pray, it is for that name you are listening.
When God speaks your name
it is as when God says “Let there be light.”
It is the name of who you alone are created to be,
the name by which God knows you,
calls you into life.

Listen for the silence in which that name is spoken.
(It takes time; it’s a deep and wide silence.)
Listen for that name.
Let the one who alone calls you by name lead you out.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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What if God is joy?

What if God is joy?
What if the Father is bliss and the Son is gratitude
and the Holy Spirit is gleeful wonder?
What if creating is God’s play,
and the big bang was an outburst of happiness
and the galaxies are spun from pure delight?
What if gravity, that holds the universe together,
is simply the pleasure of harmony,
and every created thing’s ecstatic desire for one another?
What if earth is God’s great celebration,
spinning and dancing and making music and beauty
and inviting everyone in to feast and wonder?
What if being itself is such a miracle
that God gets endless enjoyment out of it?
What if God doesn’t own a throne (most uncomfortable)
and has never handled a gavel,
but has a million musical instruments?
What if God goes to hell every weekend
with a load of tissues and listens to everybody
who’s locked themselves up in there
until they’ve cried out all their sorrows,
and they come out laughing and dancing?
What if what it means to come to God
is to enter into God’s joy?
What if the work of justice
is to enable everyone to truly know joy?
(And would that not mean that cruelty and injustice
are most heinously sinful?)
What if even in our grief and our despair
the root of our being is joy,
and resurrection means passing through our sorrow
into God’s delight?
What if salvation means
being rescued from our inability to rejoice?
Why not? Why not? Do you think you can convince me
that God is all somber and serious?
What if even now, as you consider this,
and think it’s kind of silly,
God is laughing… and waiting?

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Drawn out

God reaches into the dark
         and through the chaos pulls out light.

God reaches into the pit
         and through the walls of fate pulls out Joseph.

God reaches into the slave colonies of Egypt
         and through the sea pulls out a people.

God reaches into the dank despair of the tomb
         and through the pain and loss pulls out Jesus.

God reaches into the soil…
         into the broken heart…
                  into the wound…

Like a magician God draws out
         what we didn’t know could possibly be there,
                  through the struggle draws out new life.

This tugging at you, this pull you feel—
         listen to the midwife’s gentle voice.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Earth Day prayer

Dear Mother Earth, gift of God, we thank you,
for you are our life, our breath and our blood.
You bear us in your arms and receive us at our death,
and will never refuse us.
The rolling sea in our heart, the mountains in our bones,
the wind in our lungs, the flowing rivers in our blood,
the many-splendored creatures living within us
all sing praise to God and remind us we are of you.

Dear Mother Earth, we confess:
though the forest and desert are our own flesh
we have wounded you,
we have treated you selfishly, as “the least of these.”
We have betrayed our oneness
with the grasses and the hawk, the beetle and the whale.
Even as we use you, we repent;
even as we torture you you forgive us.

Dear Mother of Life,
as you renew the earth in spring, restore our mercy;
return us to our place in the great circle of life;
give us the generosity of your fields,
the humility and wisdom of your small creatures.

Dear Mother God, hear our praise and our confession,
and renew in us the beauty of the earth,
for the sake of all life. Amen.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Realizing resurrection

           Were not our hearts burning within us
           while he was talking to us on the road?

                           —Luke 24.32

Our deepest grief
is not that we have lost what we loved
but that in our aloneness
our hearts burned within us
and we didn’t notice.

That as we walked
through the shadowed valleys
we were accompanied
and didn’t believe it.

That we were in the presence of the holy
and weren’t aware.

That we, too,
because we are so beloved, are holy,
and held in the umbilical arms of life
and raised from death
and don’t even realize it.

Our deepest grief
is the burning of our hearts,
not a hankering back
but a reaching forward,
the labor pain of a birth unbirthed,
a newness we haven’t embraced yet,
a resurrection we haven’t yet made real.

As our holiness blossoms within us
we allow ourselves to be led
by the burning of our hearts,
shedding what is expected of us—molting—
and becoming, always newly becoming
who were are created to be,
real-izing resurrection.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:


           While they were talking and discussing,
           Jesus himself came near and went with them,
           but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

                           —Luke 24.15-16

All those times you walked through loss,
wandered in disorientation,
trudged on an endless trek to nowhere…

and thought you were alone.

There is a kind of being held
that, if you let it hold you, holds you
through the deepest abyss, the bleakest ruin,
and never loses you.

But the Unseen One gives no clues,
you can’t detect your being held
any more than a fetus can.
Only afterward can the child
recognize the mother.

Even only now, late in the poem,
do you see:
someone has been reading with you
from the first word.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Yom Hashoah

Holocaust Remembrance

Oh, we remember the ovens.
The gas chambers, the piles of shoes.

What we don’t remember is the silence.
Our silence. We don’t remember the life as usual,

walking on shattered glass to the grocery store.
We don’t remember smelling something

in the air, feeling something and replacing it
with some other feeling.

We don’t remember the nothing we said
when the policies were instituted,

the nothing we did
when our neighbors disappeared.

We forget how we practiced
not seeing what we were seeing.

We pray not that we remember
but that we see.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:


We gather in the name of the Mother-Father,
the companionship of Christ,
and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We join a journey that began before us,
that stretches back, and also onward.
The Unknown One joins us, and hears.
We tender our brokenness.
The Storyteller tells the old story in a new way
and we see in a new way. It is our story.
Our hearts burn within us.
Drawn together, we invite the Stranger to our table,
offering our gifts and hospitality.
We break bread,
and in the sharing we behold the Holy.
Our eyes are opened.
Wonder, reverence, awe and gratitude
swell in us, and raise us up
and send us out to tell others.
We go with haste, rejoicing.

The service is ended.
Go in peace and serve God with joy.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

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