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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I take my failure to the Beloved,
like a sparrow fallen.
She holds it as if it were her own child,
which of course it was.
She sees my grief, the fracture.
But she smiles as if it is a beautiful gift,
which it is.
My sorrow, my regret she holds
as gently as the bird,
and smiles,
because she still hears the singing.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Watching the eclipse

On a snowy hilltop access to a wind farm in Maine
a couple dozen cars and trucks from several states
have crammed in. Trunks and van doors are open.
Lawn chairs abound. Pilgrims offer eclipse glasses,
share camera tips, ask where you’re from.

A rustle of excitement. It begins.
Glasses come out. A crescent of darkness:
the sun’s eyelid slowly closes.
Sky darkens. The last of the sun’s ring disappears.
Everything changes.

The light is thick, liquid, like mercury.
Waves of light-shadows shimmer across the ground.
In the sky, the pure black pupil of the sun,
surrounded by an iris of glacier-blue light,
on a field of purple sky with stars.
The eye of God.

Conversations break off, only pure utterances.
For two minutes, we stand on a strange planet,
merely beholding, citizens of the kingdom of awe.

Then the first glint emerges and the magic vanishes.
The glasses come back on, tracing the growing crescent.
Conversations resume, darkened with mystery, delight
and the humility of having witnessed together what exceeds us.
A minute later cars start up, and everyone joins a long,
long line of traffic down the country road in Maine,
back to the Interstate, to ordinary, fast, explicable life.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Eclipsed by your looming absence
you become strange, the light changed,
as if poured from a different vessel—
occasion for fears and fantasies.

And yet you are eclipsed
in every night of sleep,
and look, we have survived.

It is not your absence, or even your distance,
but what comes between that turns you strange,
that makes for unnerving incomprehension.

What we see and sense
is never the whole truth;
a radiance, more steady than our faith,

Why be afraid of the dark
when it shines so?

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Sometimes you are Thomas

           “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

Sometimes you are Thomas,
shattered, needing evidence
of the goodness of God, the power of grace,
and theories will not do. Stories are not enough.
Wounded, you need something you can see,
something you can touch and feel.
This is not doubt; this reaching out,
this wanting to connect: it’s faith. Bless it.

Sometimes you are Jesus
and around you are others, broken,
who need evidence of the goodness of God.
Stories will not do.
You will need to embody resurrection,
give flesh to forgiveness and the power of love over fear,
make real the grace that brings life out of death
and re-makes us when we have been ruined.
They will see it in your wounds.
They will touch it in your presence.
They will feel it in your life.
Their reaching out
is God coming near you.

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

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