Vine and branches

           I am the vine, you are the branches.
           Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit;
           apart from me you can do nothing.
                                              —John 15.5

Christ, you are the vine.
We are your branches.
We are all part of one another.

I am rooted in you,
your life flowing through me.
In you I flourish.
It is not by my talent or capacity,
but your love in me, by which I bear fruit.
When I am wounded your life renews me.
When I am weak other branches sustain me.
When I lose my way your hold on me restores me.
Your Spirit bears fruit in me, and I offer it to the world.
Prune in me what does not bear fruit,
and nourish what does, by your grace.

You, the thriving vine,
I your love-bearing branch.

P.S. Here’s Vine and Branches set for congregational singing.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Winter, spring, winter, spring

The joke in Montana was that the season go:
summer, fall, winter, spring, winter, spring,
winter, spring…
One year it snowed in June, heavy. Leaves were out;
we’d been mowing lawns for a month.
Trees and branches fell under the weight.
We stood in the street assessing the damage
when up popped the neighbor’s automatic sprinklers,
faithfully watering eight inches of snow.

There are frogs whose blood chemistry enables them
to freeze solid in the winter. In the spring they thaw out
and carry on as before. They can freeze and thaw
multiple times in one season.

The seasons of the soul don’t progress smoothly,
or even always forward. Sometimes winter follows spring.
When your secret life is dark and cold,
when prayer has become strangely pointless
and God, once warm and near, is now a sheet of ice,
fear not. This happens.
The Mysterious One is not absent;
the world hasn’t slipped on its axis;
there’s nothing wrong with you.
The little frog of your soul has gone into hibernation,
waiting for a season only it knows.
God is right there, frozen solid with you.
Be patient. Look for little bits of love and beauty.
Don’t expect a warm spring sunrise. Just little bits.
In time your inner frog will thaw out and once again
you’ll hear its warbly little song.

Weather Report

expect violent thunderstorms,
warm zephyrs and hard freezes
in no particular order.
Be prepared to enjoy, or shelter in place.
Conditions will pass,
but the Invisible One will abide.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Earth Day

We are part of earth, not separate, not foreign.
Earthlings. We are not the whole earth,
but we are not anything else.
Every molecule of our flesh
is from the planet’s dirt and water.
The tides in our veins, the forests in our gut,
our mountains and valleys of bones,
our breathing in and out, all are of the Earth.
The red oak and the white tailed deer,
the water buffalo, the giraffe and the penguin,
the worm and mycelium,
the springs and rivers and the wandering winds,
all embrace us, include us, flow in and out of us.
Here we belong.

And so it is true of God. We belong.
We are not God, or even a great part of God.
But we are nothing else. Godlings.
Made of God, contained in God,
belonging in God. We are God’s microbiome.
God flows in and out of us.
We will never comprehend the Infinite One,
but only know that God is in everything we do.

Our calling, on earth and in God,
is to honor our belonging.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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In Maine woods

Last month’s storm was a hard one
in these Maine woods,
trees hacked and shorn,
and felled before their time.
From mud -caked hillocks,
gifts of winter’s floods,
and disheveled piles
of last autumn’s leaf fall plastered now
against the trunks of trees,
the smallest fingertips of green
find new ways to the light.
Little threads of fungus
re-route through the gravel wash.
Mending from shoulder surgery,
one arm useless, I walk carefully
among the storm-strewn trees and branches.
I pass among the dead and wounded.
I won’t be clearing this path until
I have two hands and can swing an axe.
A giant limb, wind-wrenched,
hangs by its flayed tendons,
drooped across the path,
but won’t be moved; it’s still attached.
It’s silent about this misfortune.
But among its many-candled fingers
its tiny red buds uncurl anyway,
the doomed green leaves ready, regardless.
I think of ligaments that heal, unseen,
and life that finds a way.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Take courage

           We know love by this,
           that he laid down his life for us—
           and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
                                              —1 John 3.16

The one whose heart was broken for the people,
who, powerless, lifted up the powerless,
who, wounded, overthrew all shame and judgment
and stood against oppression,
who was rejected by shame and judgment
and crushed by oppression—the crucified one —
that one has been made new and whole.
The life that was laid down has been raised,
and given the power of infinite life.
Into this death we have been baptized,
and into this resurrection we have been raised.
This spirit is now in us; this love is now ours to steward.
Let us then live with that spirit,
with compassion, generosity, trust, and courage;
and lay down our lives that have already been raised up.

        We know that we have passed from death to life
        because we love one another.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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           When the shepherd has brought out all their own,
           they go ahead of them, and the sheep follow
           because they know the shepherd’s voice.

                        —John 10.4

In the west our shepherds herd sheep from behind,
dogs nipping at their heels.
But in the Middle East the shepherds go in front,
and the sheep follow.

The best place isn’t the pen but the pasture,
not enfolded but led out.
The place closest to the Beloved’s sheltering arms
is on the way.

The psalm reminds us the paths of righteousness
lead us straight from the green pastures
to the valley of death.
But even entering the shadowed places
we know the good shepherd goes before,
and has already set the table.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Other sheep

          I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
           I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.

                        —John 10.16

We think we’re being open-minded
when we include “all of us,” Protestant and Catholic,
Orthodox and Coptic, as if we see the whole landscape.
But the pasture and the Shepherd, are far greater than that.
Believer, unbeliever and other-believer alike
are all shepherded, each in their own language.
And still there are more, and more other, sheep.
Like, well, sheep.
Do not the deer and otter, whale and fungus
follow the Shepherd faithfully?
Is not the bird migrating its continents shepherded as well?
Christ is not the partisan figurehead of a religion,
Christ is the infinite embodied grace of God,
the Shepherd of all Creation,
who leads rivers to the sea and winter into spring
and each of us into life.
So there are still other, and more “other,” sheep.
For Copernicus isn’t done with us yet:
we admit the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth,
but we still think God does.
No, little one: we are in a small corner.
Yet even the far galaxies,
the trillion trillions of stars and their planets,
and yes, their doubtless forms of life,
are also under the calm eye of the Shepherd,
and follow the Shepherd’s voice.
All of us, Baptist and Sufi, fish, bug and bird,
earthling and alien, village and nebula, all are one flock. One.
And, behold, even on the remotest planet
in the farthest flung galaxy—like ours—
or the most desolate spot in a life like yours,
under the loving gaze of the Shepherd who seeks out the one,
there is no one who is not at the center.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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           I am the good shepherd.
           I know my own and my own know me.

                        —John 10.14

Never mind that imagined judge
who sits at the end and judges:
trust instead the companion
who journeys with you and knows you,
knows the faults and struggles,
the wounds and sorrows,
the shadows needing forgiveness
and the gifts awaiting wings;
the one who knows you
like your blood knows you, who knows
who you are still being born to become.
The one who doesn’t need to judge,
because they know you—
follow that one.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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In the breaking of bread

           When he was at the table with them,
           he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. …

           They told what had happened on the road,
           and how he had been made known to them
           in the breaking of the bread.

                                              —Luke 24.30, 35

The prayers and doxologies are nice;
the creeds are splendid little things.
But sharing food is where we meet God.
Receiving what gives us life,
accepting it with gratitude, wonder and humility;
blessing it, dedicating it to the goodness of life;
dividing it up so it will be shared and not kept;
and placing sustenance in the hands of others:
this is how God is made known to us.

Not just in the bread,
but in the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread,
Word is made flesh.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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The Listener

           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

The Listener never leaves your side, but you won’t hear.
The Beloved holds your heart like a beautiful secret
they will never spill or forget, but that, too, is secret.
An envelope of humming bears you through this world, unheard,
a receiving, like the sound of wind in trees,
or the ocean, that we forget, even when we’re at the shore.
A gravitational hold that does not lose us or forget us.
Even in the most exotic jungle, the farthest desert,
you are recognized, your story heard clearly.
When, feeling abandoned, you cry out, “My God, my God,“
it is the Beloved crying out in you.
You who are despondent, remember:
knowing is partial, awareness is fickle, feeling is fleeting,
but the divine presence, attending, is constant.

The whole distance to Emmaus and back
is the breathing in and out of God.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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