If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
           if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
                           —John 20.23

When you forgive
you unbind someone,
like Lazarus emerging from the tomb
of your judgment.
Forgiveness is healing.

Love is concern for the other,
not resentment and concern for self,
and “what I am owed.”
When you forgive you are free to love.
Forgiveness is freedom.

If you retain the sins of any
and cling to a judgment,
you stay in the past,
still suffering the offense.
The condemnation you intend for another
you bear yourself.
You are bound by the need you imagine
for something in the past to be corrected.
When you forgive you come into the present,
which is the only place life is.
You come out of the dead past into the living present
like Christ emerging from the tomb,
walking in newness of life.
Forgiveness is resurrection.

God is in the present moment, not the past;
God is love, not resentment.
Even when being wronged,
like Christ on the cross, forgiving,
God’s judgment is always mercy.
Forgiveness is union with God.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Becoming the body

           Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
           As God has sent me, so I send you.”
           When he had said this, he breathed on them
           and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

                           —John 20.21-22

Jesus returned not to prove a point,
not to give us something to profess centuries later,
but to give us his spirit,
to breathe his eternal, loving Life into us
so that we would be his new risen body,
raised not as one individual but as a community.
He returned from his grave to send us out of our graves,
send us into the world to love, to forgive, to bless,
to do justice, to labor with God for the mending of the world,
empowered not merely by optimism
but by the infinite Spirit that cannot be killed,
that endures tragedy and overpowers evil
and burrows through death to new life.
Breathe deeply of this mystery.
As God breathes into Eden’s dirt and it becomes a living being,
Jesus breathes into us and we are transformed;
we rise from the dust of our own graves,
and become living beings, risen, reborn, truly alive.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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When you let go of your life
and hold only to love
then your whole life is love,
which is infinite.

When you let the river
of compassion and forgiveness
flow through you
it bears you
through everything,

You are changed,
for your life is not merely your own
but divine.

A vessel of the eternal,
no matter what you suffer,
the light is still in you.

Wounded, you shine.
Defeated, you triumph.
Even in death you live.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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           “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

I killed him, you see.
At the crucial moment I failed him. I ran away.
When they shouted for his death, did I defend him?
In my silence, in my vanishing into decency and decorum
it was I who hammered those nails into his hands.
It was I who died that day.
Peter, the drama major, had a scene.
Judas, always the extremist, got all the attention.
But did I feel better than they? No.
                                                              That death was mine.
So when you say he’s alive, don’t just give me a happy ending:
“Oh, it was nothing. I’m fine. And you?” No.
It’s not that I doubt he’s alive.
I just want to make sure he’s the one who was dead.
A nice recovery would please me, but not save me.
The one you say is risen,
did he rise from a real grave, or just an imagined one?
Did he overcome my sin, or just your disappointment?
I want to see the holes of the nails I put there.
I want to know that the one who’s living is the one I killed,
that my evil has been undone,
that my guilt has been forgiven.
If I touch his wounds maybe he will touch mine.
And in that touch, heal.
If the crucified one, not some eternally unhurt one,
but the wounded and dead and buried one is truly alive
then so am I, and I will kneel at the feet
of my Superior, my Savior, my God.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Easter Monday

The horror behind us has not vanished.
The stain on the wall hasn’t faded.
Your eyes are still red from weeping
at his sorrow, bearing yours.
How could you forget the burn of the nails
as he was hammered to your own heart,
and suffered for your selfishness?
Without doubt you felt the world collapse
as he breathed his last, the whole city shaken,
dust to dust, not one stone left upon another.
Surely you remember the travesty of his lifeless flesh,
the theft of your time with him.
Clearly, you saw the stone rolled onto the grave,
the granite weight of death so immovable.
This you know: that sin and sorrow killed him,
that the army that led him to his death
was quartered in your heart.

And yet he is alive. What do we make of this?
That there is a mercy more powerful than all that.
That all of this, the sin and sorrow, the guilt,
the stone hardness of death itself,
is no longer what it was.
What seemed absolute has become a mist,
changed by mystery, diluted with light,
confined by the certainty that despite all horror,
our graves, overpowered by love,
open like wings, and let go,
and we begin anew.

Now we know.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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We have witnessed our death.
Christ has carried our pain,
accepted our selfishness and fear,
been pierced with our wounds,
suffered our injustice.
The Beloved has borne us into our death.

But love like the holy bread
transforms that which swallows it.
Christ has broken the walls of the tomb—
our tomb.
Christ is risen,
and now we too are alive.


Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Holy Saturday

Grief is the friend
who teaches us what abides.

Emptiness is the gift
in which the struck bells ring.

Silence is the wonder
in which the next thing may unfold.

Nothingness is the air
that fills the sail.

Darkness is the mystery
where the tomb can become a womb.

Waiting is the discipline
that holds the moment open.

Mystery wraps its long arms around us,
knowing glory beyond our knowing.

This is every day’s holiness,
losses sinking in, miracles biding time,

sitting still, God holding our hand
without our knowing.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Eli, Eli

           My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
                      —Psalm 22.1

          Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
                    —Matthew 27.46

To you who despair, here is the voice of hope.
God has not abandoned Jesus, or turned away.
(There is no suffering God does not look upon, or share.)
The mystery of the cross is that both you and God hang on it.
It is you repeating the ancient cry of our deepest horror:
the fear that God doesn’t know where you are,
and doesn’t care, the fear that you are alone
and unaccounted for in this cold world.
But on the cross it is also God.
God knows what it is to feel abandoned by God.
God is with you in that terrible aloneness.
Your longing is God.
Nothing, even the sense God has abandoned you,
can separate you from God.
God is there in your feeling forsaken,
your feeling of unworthiness,
your life as small as a grave
in the great wideness of this world.
God is with you there in that tiny, dark alone place.
And that cross, that tomb, because God is in it,
is unable to be final or complete,
unable even merely to be what it appears to be at all.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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His blood

         Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks
         he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;
         for this is my blood of the covenant,
         which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

                  — Matthew 26. 27-28

         Pilate said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
         Then the people as a whole answered,
         “His blood be on us and on our children!”

                  — Matthew 27. 24-25

         We have been chosen and destined by God
         and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ
         and to be sprinkled with Christ’s blood.

                  —1 Peter 1.2

         The blood of Jesus God’s Begotten cleanses us from all sin.
                  — 1 John 1.7

God does not demand blood. That’s our sickness.
Jesus’ blood does not make Jews guilty and Christians saved.
The power of the cross is not in the blood. It’s in the forgiveness.
Jesus’ blood—his life—that flows from his heart is his love,
that forgives us all. The blood of forgiveness
is splattered on the guards and their thorns
and the women and their tears,
sprinkled on the men and their hammers
and the disciples and their fear,
falls on the soldiers and their spears
and the onlookers and their deadly silence.
It’s a grisly scene, with blood everywhere,
the blood of forgiveness sprinkled on us all.
None are clean. All are washed.
None are without guilt. All are saved.
Behold the mystery of the cross, the blood of Christ.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Jesus, flesh of God

Jesus presence of God
           peace amid our chaos

Jesus flesh of God
           suffering with us

Jesus wound of God
           receiving our sorrow

Jesus hope of God
           praying for us

Jesus prisoner of God
           freely surrendering to us

Jesus innocence of God
          our scapegoat

Jesus silence of God
           no answer to our accusations

Jesus tenderness of God
           dying with us

Jesus love of God
           take us

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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