Stretch out your hands

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

— John 21.17-18

But it’s not a belt,
nothing so solid and irrefutable,
more like silence,
more like a nudging, a slight vacuum,
an intent beyond our choosing,
a recognition rising slowly like fish.
We are led, allured, invited,
not yanked, by a wisp of grace,
a smell of food on a charcoal fire,
a possibility.

In silence, in the mystery, we are
taken from our lives,
—drawn up out of dark waters,
blessed by grace greater than ourselves,
—fed the bread and fish of miracles,
broken open to the our deepest hearts,
—confessing our love, and
given to the world,
—led by a belt of love.

And so we go.
We look up from our half-eaten fish,
recognize the One who has hauled us
in a net of mystery out of our disconnected lives,
and step into the new world.

So now, enter the stillness.
Stretch out your hands.
Stop trying to push yourself through life.
Wait, ’till, like a fish you are drawn up in darkness,
and led into the rising day.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

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

Greening

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

In the woods, the smallest fingers of green
emerge from within.
What has seemed dead wood exults.
The little greenings are incarnations
of an eternal force, divine presence,
angels of a mighty heaven hidden within all things.

God is not some guy out there pulling strings to make things happen. God is the force of life within you, welling up to blossom and bear fruit. God does not coerce, control or punish, or “judge” from some high throne. God lives in you and gives life, like the power that lives in the grass and trees that are turning green.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) made up a word for it: viriditas, or “greening power.” It is God’s life-giving, creating energy, evident in all creation. She says, “The Word is all verdant greening, all creativity.” We are “showered with greening refreshment, the vitality to bear fruit.” When we are “shriveled and wilted” Christ brings “lush greenness” to us. “Greening love hastens to the aid of all. With the passion of heavenly yearning, people who breathe of this dew produce rich fruit.”

Let God give you life: rising, strengthening, increasing in grace and beauty. Be still, and sense this Spring rising in you, this power of divine grace transforming all things, this almighty, eternal, indomitable life swelling, promising, blossoming, bearing fruit within you. Let God green in you.

Deep Blessings,

Pastor Steve

_______________________________

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

Breathe in me

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you… As the Father 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. 19, 21-22

Breathe in me, risen Christ.
Revive me.
I inhale your presence.
Your light fill me,
your compassion warm me.
Your Spirit be my life.
My flesh absorb you,
dense with the weight
of your resurrection.
My body resonate with your energy,
my eyes radiate your love.
May I receive your grace,
breathe deeply of your life,
rest in your presence.

And then when it is time,
breathing in through me,
breathing out through me,
send me on your breath
into this wounded world,
this beautiful world,
present in your presence,
breathing in your grace,
and breathing out.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

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

Unless I see

Thomas said to them, “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

The drug dealer’s secret shame,
the car bomb widow, how she looks down streets,
the man with hollow eyes in the lock up unit,
everybody thinks it’s babbling, his praying,
the battered children and their fragile hands,
the illegal who cleans chickens and feeds her baby,
the father gradually forgiving himself
for failing his children,
and his children—
Thomas, you have only to reach out
and feel with your hand
the wounds of Christ
to behold your risen Lord

 

Risen today

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Christ is risen.
Right now.
Resurrection is about today,
not the day of your funeral.
Live today as if you know that
even if you die God will grant greater life,
that even if you give away all of yourself
God will create you anew,
that if you surrender yourself to a greater love
that will be miracle enough.
Live this day believing
that even in defeat and loss and failure
God creates unprecedented victory.
Live today knowing that when all seems hopeless
God transforms things.

Listen: When you sow seeds
God does not give them back,
but breaks them apart, pulls their insides out,
and turns them into beautiful plants.
(Taken… blessed… broken… given…)

Live today ready to be sown.
Live as if Christ is risen
in you.
Let your life—each moment of letting go,
each act of love, each breath—
be resurrection.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Christ is risen

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

Christ is risen.
Don’t debate it, or try to prove it or understand it.
That’s like trying to prove that the moon is lovely.
Just let it be true.
Give up, and let it be.
Don’t try to guess (which is all we could do)
what kind of body, what sort of process.
Just let the sun rise.
Let God have the way of love and life.
Let goodness overpower evil,
love drive out fear, life defeat death.
Christ is risen.
Don’t try to make it into a theory;
let it be a mystery.
Let it haunt you, let it startle you,
let it push you out of bed in the morning,
let it draw you into love.
Christ is risen.
Let Christ rise in you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

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

Father, forgive

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.


“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

— Luke 23.34

God receives our fear and violence and betrayal and all that is in us that works against life; God receives it and does not return it. No one pays for this sin, no one atones. There is no exchange. God suffers, and is not avenged or compensated. God simply, willingly, completely forgives us. This is the grace that sustains our lives.

God inhabits our pain. The Eternal One endures our suffering. The Creator knows our fear and isolation. The Holy One lives inside our sin. God experiences our cruelty and inhumanity, our injustice and oppression. God embraces our sorrow, and is laid in our tomb. The cross is not the working out of some complex plan, nor is it a unique occasion. It simply God’s presence with us and for us, loving, blessing, forgiving. It is God’s way. This is the grace that sustains our lives.

Let this day be one of awe and reverence, humility and gratitude.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

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

Jesus, remember me

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

The criminal crucified with him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
—Luke 23.42-43

Jesus, this is all I need to hear:
at the center of my ruined world,
whispered in the ashen wreckage,
this gentle promise, that I,
condemned and guilty,
afraid and mangled, belong.
Not a mere pronouncement,
not an achievable goal,
but an already gift,
a claiming, a receiving.
Into your mystery
that defeats pain and shame
you take me.
In my brokenness
you bless me.
In the certainty of my despair
you break me.
To your kingdom
you give me.
When everything had seemed meaningless—
O!—my failures mean nothing to you.
Here in my abandonment
you are present,
here in my hell is Paradise,
here in the heart of my oblivion
I am saved.

O Re-Creator, somehow in your bloodied hands
my life is a fine thing,
and its wings shine calmly.

I am honored to be a citizen
of your kingdom of gentleness.
May this ever be my prayer:
Jesus, remember me
when you come into your kingdom.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

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

Watch Jesus

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and peace to you.


One of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

— Luke 22.50-51

The church has theologized the heck out of the story of Jesus’ passion. When the doctrinal bricklayers get hold of it, it becomes little more than a monument, an audiovisual aid for a theological statement. But listen. It’s a story.

If you want you can read it as a story about the working out of God’s “plan.” But violence and injustice are not a part of God’s plan. Face it: that’s more like our plan. This is a story about our cruelty; about oppression and injustice, and the evil of military, political, economic and even religious coercion; about how individual evil lodges in social structures. It’s a story about death squads and hate speech, about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, about Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr.; about inciting angry mobs (yes, even these); about the demonic nature of capital punishment.

It’s story about fear. Everybody is scheming, or dealing in lies and threats and death, or fluttering into a panic with swords and defensive strategies, or posturing with false courage, or else in deep denial, arguing over who’s the greatest.

But mostly this is a story about a person. Throughout the story, watch Jesus. Keep your eyes on him. In every scene, at every turn, every opportunity, what is he doing? He’s just loving people. He gathers to eat with his beloved, and he gives himself to them. He washes their feet and prays with them. When Peter brazenly promises to stand by him, Jesus knows better, but he gently draws Peter back in, and gives him a way to go on, even before he fails. When they arrest him and violence breaks out, he stops it, and heals the very one who has come to arrest him. Even as he is crucified he provides for the care of his family and his community; he extends his love to the criminals executed with him, and blesses the people who kill him. It’s all about his undying love.

We’re easily distracted by the swords and tunics, the blood and violence. But watch Jesus. Watch his love at work, reaching out to the lost and shattered, reaching out even to you. In the end, despite all the tragedy, what this is, is a love story. And it’s about you.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

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

Your will be done

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”
— Luke 22.42

God, you know better than I the troubles I hope to avoid.
I want to pray for safety, for comfort and security.
I want to pray for things to go my way,
for my life to be easy and pleasant.
But your Spirit in me will not pray for that.
Your delight for me is not in my circumstances, but in my soul.
Your will is neither that I suffer nor escape suffering, but that I love.

Your presence in me draws me toward you, into your blessing,
into your bottomless love and forgiveness.
In your compassion I am not afraid to go with you
into the dark places, the hurting places.
In your healing I do not resist entering the wounds of the world.
In your presence I need no other security.
I don’t ask to be delivered from suffering,
but to be delivered into your hands.
I don’t ask for things to go my way.
I ask that I may go your way.
I pray that your will be done, not to me, but by me.
I pray that I may trust you deeply,
and receive your blessings freely,
and that in that grace I may be loving,

now and always.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

_______________________________

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