Absolute love

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… and you will be children of the Most High; for God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Mother is merciful.
— Luke 6. 27-28, 35-36

God, I am your beloved,
whom you love absolutely and perfectly.
No matter how good or bad I am , you love me wholly.
Help me to trust in your love,
your perfect, absolute, infinite love for me,
to trust that no matter what happens
I know that I am beloved.
Help me to love with your love,
love that is absolute and not conditional.
Give me the courage to love, the wisdom,
the freedom, the strength of heart.
Help me to surrender every desire but to love,
every wish to judge, to punish, to prevail.

God, I hold before you those whom I find it hard to bless.
They are your beloved, too, no matter what. Bless them.
Grant them healing, forgiveness and wholeness of life.
May the blessing you shower upon them
be the blessing you grant to me.
Amen.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

Wind

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and peace to you.

In the relentless wind
the people on the street stagger
to keep from crashing into each other.

We look most of the time like strangers,
like we’re ignoring each other,
as if we have nothing to do with each other,

but actually our lowered heads
and preoccupied gazes, our silences
and fastidious avoidances

are how we lurch and resist
the powerful wind howling within us, given,
that bends us with irresistible love

toward each other.

____________________

Weather Report

Overwhelming,
as the entire atmospheric condition
of our relatedness sweeps through us.
Invisible connection will prevail,
despite scattered areas of resistance.

Deep blessings,
Pastor Steve

___________________
Copyright © 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

One body

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Now you are the body of Christ
and individually members of it.

— 1 Corinthians 12.27

We are not separate things, but all parts of one living Being.
We are no more separate than the fingers on a hand,
the notes in a chord, the words in a sentence,
the flavors in a gourmet dish, the cells in a body.
We are part of one another; we are each other in different ways.
There is one body, and we are all it.

We serve the poor because they are us.
We love the stranger because in them we know ourselves.
We side with the oppressed because they hold our wisdom.
We honor those who are different because they complete us.
We respect those who horrify us, for they are within us.
We bring the Other to our table: it is theirs, for we are theirs.
We include them in our compassion, for we include them.

The Christ that is in you is not separate from the Christ
in the unclean and lepers and drug addicts and terrorists.
Your choosing may be different, but the Spirit is One.
You are not the One, but you are in the One.

This is the mystery of the Holy Trinity, that in all there is One.
There is One of us, and the oneness, the One, is Holy.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

What the doctor heard

You sit on the paper rolled out on the doctor’s bench.
With her stethoscope she listens at your back.
She pauses, stills, leans closer.
She comes around and listens at the front.
Her eyes widen.
She sits, staring into the distance.
“What did you hear?” you ask. She is silent.
“The voice of God,”
she says, and returns to her silence.

______________________

Weather Report

Partially spoken today
with periods of clearing,
as the Word, in its continual flow,
at times condenses around
and within us.
Fifty percent chance of participation.

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight-(at)-hotmail.com

Burdens

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

I shake mounded snow from the branches
I walk beneath, and they rise
from their burden of beauty, but most
in these woods are happy to bow
under the weight of the blessing
bestowed upon them in darkness
and brilliant now in the morning.
The sun will quietly bear
its bundle among the branches
that waited all through the night,
until, embraced in its beams,
they are patiently, softly unbound
and rise up into the light.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight (at) hotmail.com

Compassion for the poor

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because God has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

— Luke 4. 18-19

The radical message in scripture is not only that God has an intense care for the poor and powerless, but that the reason for this is that God is among them. God does not use power by domination, coercion and control; God is the quiet power within and beneath that raises up, gives life and resurrects. The God revealed in the crucified and risen Christ is a God who is poor and vulnerable, whose power is the power of no power. God is not Pilate and Herod; God is Christ. God is at the bottom of the heap, not the top. God is among the poor and lonely, the rejected, the powerless.

Our care for the poor does not come from guilt, or a sense of requirement, but mindfulness that God comes to us in poverty. We encounter God by serving and honoring those who are poor, and especially in experiencing our own poverty. “Compassion” literally means to “feel with.” Our care for the poor is not pity for people less fortunate than us, but sharing life with people who are just like us. For we have nothing with which to pay for our lives; we are utterly dependent on God’s grace, not our own abilities; we are captive to our own fears and desires, bound up in oppressive and exploitative social and political systems, and blind to the truth; we lack courage, trust and generosity; we are powerless to control the world. If we imagine ourselves standing in Judgment, we know we are poor. And God is compassionate and merciful, for God is among the poor.

So in our poverty we extend Gods’s compassion for all who suffer. You don’t have to accomplish great things. Just hold the poor in your heart, and act in compassion. Let this question guide you: Is my life good news to the poor? Does my living proclaim freedom to people who are bound up? Do I help people see, do I shed light in someone’s darkness? Do my thoughts and actions honor and serve those who are poor and powerless, abused or exploited, rejected or forgotten? Pray that by God’s grace in you, the way that you think, pray and act may give others hope and freedom.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright © 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

I am a man

In the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968 in Memphis, the African American demonstrators carried placards that read simply, “I am a man.” It seems obvious— but it was news to the city: that they were human beings worthy of respect. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that we celebrate today is the heart of both social justice and contemplative presence: the commitment to see others as people rather than as symbols or roles or projections of our own feelings.

Today you will encounter people who may be far away, or very different from you, your political opposite, or someone with a history of annoying or offending you. You will be temped to judge, categorize, or dehumanize them. Resist the temptation. Stay present. See them. Allow them to be real, whole people. Beneath their strangeness, politics, or annoying behavior, there is a heart with hurts and hopes, equal to yours and close to you. You are one in the Beloved. Love them. Even if they are your enemy, love them. More than all the political and economic reform in the world, seeing people as people and loving your enemies is the one thing that will actually change everything.

_______________________________

Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

Outsiders

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Jesus said, “There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. — Luke 4. 27-30

When Jesus preached his message of the universal inclusiveness of God’s love—that God would heal a pagan foreigner—those who wanted “insiders” and “outsiders” were threatened. So those who moments before had approved of Jesus as one of their own quickly made him into an outsider.

We all need to feel that we Belong and that the Universe approves of us. And it’s natural (original, actually: original sin) to believe that there’s a reason for that, not just God’s grace. It’s hard not to suppose there’s something about us that makes us more worthy than others. Of course someone who seems less worthy messes up our system and threatens our security. So we compare. We don’t just judge and oppose those who threaten our sense of belonging and approval, we also want to get them out of our way: to eliminate them. Slamming the door on someone, cutting off a relationship, executing someone, genocide—they all come from the same spirit.

We all have a different set of people that we want to drive out of town: gays or gay-bashers, terrorists or corrupt CEOs, the people who annoy or offend us. But the impulse is the same. As we resist evil and injustice the real challenge is to stay in relationship with the people we want to eliminate. To bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us. This doesn’t mean staying in an abusive relationship. But it does mean staying in the human family, and letting others, even the demon-possessed, stay here, too. There is always Christ in the ones we want to reject. And he always slips through the midst of us and goes on his way.

As Jesus points out, it’s the outsiders God blesses first.

Deep Blessings, Pastor Steve

_______________________________ Copyright (c) 2010 Steve Garnaas-Holmes unfoldinglight(at)hotmail.com

Baptism

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
— Luke 3.21-22

Out of the desert, the chapped land, the scrub and scumble,
you come to a calm river, deep and green,
where the Beloved invites you in. You enter the water,
and you are immersed in this Presence
that holds every inch of your body.
You and the Beloved are inside each other.
A voice says, “I love you. I am with you. You are mine.”

You rise from the water, but it clings to you.
You drip with it all day long, soaked in the presence,
immersed in the promise: “I love you. I am with you.
You are mine.”

This is all you need to know, all you need to believe.
When you are in danger, or alone,
when another is in danger, or alone, let this guide you.
All doctrine, all goodness, all justice, all righteousness
flow from this fountain, flow to this sea.

When you drink, or bathe, when you cross the river,
when you weep or walk through rain, remember.
Even now as you read this, you are suspended
in deep, green, life-giving water. Held. Blessed.
A dove lights on your shoulder.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________
Copyright (c) 2010
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
unfoldinglight (at)hotmail.com

Sunday After Christmas – December 26, 2021

Lectionary Texts


In 1 Samuel 2.18-20, Samuel is a young boy who lives and serves in the temple. His mother comes every year to bring him a robe. Eli, the priest, blesses the family.

Psalm 148 calls all Creation to praise God, who has raised up a source of salvation for us. Every tree and mountain and even the sea creatures get involved—and all sorts of people, too!

Colossians 3.12-17 teaches us how to live as God’s Beloved Ones: with kindness,
compassion, gentleness, generosity, forgiveness, and above all, love.

In Luke 2.41-52 When Jesus’ family goes to Jerusalem to worship in the temple, they accidentally leave him behind. They find him talking with the teachers, who are amazed at his understanding.

Call to Worship

1. From Psalm 148, paraphrased
Leader: Praise our God! Praise God to the top of the sky!
       All: Praise God all the angels, sun and moon and shining stars!
Praise God, sea monsters and the ocean deep, fire and hail, snow and smoke!
        mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars!
Bees and cattle, creeping things and flying birds!
       Powerful ones, rulers and all people!
       
Men: Praise God! Women: Praise God Young: Praise God! Old: Praise God!
Leader: Praise God, whose glory fills the world.
       For God’s wonders, we give God our joyful praise!

2.
Leader: Behold! I bring you good news of great joy for all people,
for to you is born a savior who is Christ the Lord!
       All: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
       who has visited and redeemed the people.
He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Life-Giver, Prince of Peace.
       Hosanna in the highest!
He is named Jesus, for he shall save us from our sins.
He is called Emmanuel, God with us.
       Glory to God in the highest,
       and peace on earth among al!


3.
Leader: Gentle God, we rejoice in awe and wonder:
for your mystery unfolds before us.
All: You have sent a Savior to be with us,
       Emmanuel, your Presence, among us.
A child is born, to give light to those who live in darkness.
       Glory to God in the highest,
       and on earth peace among all, and God’s favor and good will.
In the presence of angels, we sing your praise.
       Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and renew in us the mystery of life. Alleluia!

4.
Leader: Creator God, in the birth of Christ you have given yourself to the world.
All: Bless us that we may receive you with faith.
Living Christ, you dwell among us, sharing our human struggles and delights.
       Be born in our hearts, save us from our sin, and lead us in the way of life.
Holy Spirit, by your grace Mary conceived and bore a son. Work in us also, and restore within us the image and likeness of our Creator.
       We open our hearts to you now. Bless us, that we may be transformed
       into the Body of Christ, and bring your love into the world. Amen.

Collect / Prayer of the Day

1.
God of love, you have come among us in Jesus. Open our eyes to see you. Open our ears to listen for you. Open our hearts, and come to us. By your birth in us, give us new birth. May your Word be made flesh. Amen.

2.
Gracious God, in the birth of Christ you have given us light in our darkness and companionship on our way. As the young Jesus questioned and listened in the temple, we open our hearts to your Word. Speak to us, and shape us by your Word. Amen.

3.
Loving God, as a child Jesus sought you in the temple, talking with the elders. We seek you, too. We come seeking, though others may think we are lost. We come with our experience and our questions, though others may dismiss them. Bless us now that we may speak with clarity and listen with courage, that your Word may shape us, for the sake of the whole world. Amen.

4.
Eternal God, in the birth of Jesus you have come to us in grace. You have made a place among us to accompany us, to save us, to re-create us in your image. Grant that, being born in our hearts, Christ may give us life by the power of your Spirit, so that we may always live according to your delight. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Loving God, we confess the ways we have wandered from your care.
We are sorry, and we ask your forgiveness.
We have not always listened to your guidance.
Forgive us, heal us, and speak your wisdom to us.
Bless us that through our faith
we may continually be in your house.
Loving God, redeem us, and give us life. Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

         We give our hearts to God, Creator of all that is and all that is to come, Source of Life and eternal Presence, who is our temple and our home.
         We follow Jesus, who lived among us as a child, learning and growing, exploring and wondering, questioning and making mistakes. As a teacher and healer he continued to question and wonder, to challenge, and to upset those in authority by his allegiance to the truth. He was crucified, but was raised from the dead, and still lives to guide and to question, to teach and to heal and to feed our souls.
         We live by the Holy Spirit, who is our wisdom and our law, who guides us in the ways of peace, who helps us grow as young Jesus did, and who gives us the gift of trust in God’s unfailing grace. By the power of that Spirit we devote our lives of justice and beauty and the way of love, for the sake of the mending of the world. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Jesus in the temple, what are you seeking?
Grant us your curiosity.
Young boy among elders, confident in your truth,
grant us your trust.
You were not lost; you were exploring.
Are you among us as well?
Give us faith to speak without fear,
and to listen.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending / after Communion

Gracious God, we thank you that you have given yourself to us. O Radiant One, with our eyes we have seen your salvation, and feasted on your grace. Emmanuel, God With Us, fill us with the curiosity of the young Jesus, to seek you wherever we may find you. May your Word take flesh in us, that we may be your holy people, revealing the glory of your love. Send us into the world, to be your light, by the grace of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Available on the Music page. Click titles to view songs.)

Holy Child
Lyrics: Holy child, holy child,
grant one blessing from above.
Holy child, holy child,
grant the joy of giving you my love.

If the Gospel text you choose is Luke 2.22-40,
Anna and Simeon’s song.