Saturday, April 23, 2011

Jesus' Way of Trust 6: Laugh with God

Jesus is gone. His absence leaves a gaping hole in the world. This is a day of quiet, a day of deep sorrow. And yet, underneath the silence, God is busy planning a celebration for us, with the whispered excitement of the host of a surprise party. The air is electric with God’s anticipation of the great moment. Any minute now the door to the tomb will roll away and new life will burst out to surprise and delight us. God wants us to see and believe. I think God also wants us to laugh.

Alongside the wonder and grandeur of Jesus’ resurrection, there are some terrific comic moments. Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for the gardener and starts berating him, demanding that he tell her what is really going on. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus disguises himself as a fellow traveler and cons his disciples like some Scripture-study version of a pool shark. He first pretends total ignorance, then turns around and thoroughly trounces them with his knowledge of the prophets. When Jesus appears to the Twelve, he stands and lets them poke him all over, and even eats a broiled fish to prove to them he is not a ghost.

Learning to trust God can be very serious work. But laughter is also at the heart of any loving relationship. Who do we trust more than the ones who know how make us laugh?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jesus' Way of Trust 5: Remember That You are Human

Twice in the first week of April, I touched my finger to a vial of blessed oil and then gently made a sign of the cross on someone’s forehead. One belonged to Maddie, who was born prematurely last fall. She has a number of health problems, and her family requested a private baptism so she could be blessed before she went in for surgery to repair a diaphragmatic hernia. She is a tiny but very alert person, who looked right into my eyes as I touched her with water and oil.

The other forehead belonged to Eleanor, who by coincidence also had a diaphragmatic hernia. A few days before she died, I gave thanks for her ninety years of faithful life and blessed her on her way to God.

In most of life, we notice first how people are different – how they look, how they act, what they are able to do. As babies, we have not acquired all those traits yet, and as we lay dying they all fall away again. What shines through is our simple, vulnerable humanity. Seen just as a human being, a person is so beautiful that it feels impossible not to respond with blessings and with love. These are the moments when I find it easiest to believe that we are made in the image of God.

In his final hours, Jesus is stripped of his status, his friends, his freedom, his clothing, and his control over his body. He responds in very human ways. He shows his weakness: he falls, he thirsts, he cries out in grief and pain. He also shows his heart of love, offering forgiveness to the crowd, comfort to his mother and his disciple, and hope to the criminal beside him. In both his vulnerability and his compassion, he shines with the beauty of his humanity. Even before he is raised to new life, he reveals the glorious image of God.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jesus' Way of Trust 4: Pray with your Whole Heart

Deep in his heart, Jesus has felt the days and now the hours counting down. What will he do with these last precious moments before his arrest? After he finishes his final supper, he leaves his work behind. He has taught what he could teach, healed what he could heal. He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to find a moment of quiet to be with God.

As the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus feels God’s will within him pulling him towards this final showdown with the powers of hatred and death. And yet he is a human being, as fragile and fearful as any other. There, in the garden, he shares his whole self with God. He is not afraid to ask that he be released from the burden of his mission. Let this cup pass from me, he pleads. Do not ask me to drink this bitterness. Jesus does not receive what he asks for. But, in this moment of honest communion with God, he does find peace. Something shifts inside him, and he finds that he is able to face the challenges before him. With utter acceptance, he tells God, “Let your will be done.” Prayer works, though rarely in the way we wish it would. Prayer does not shield us from heartache or make all our troubles go away. But it works. It brings us closer to God, and it helps us to trust that God will give us the strength we need to face whatever may come.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jesus' Way of Trust 3: Share the Dream

Tomorrow night, we will gather to remember Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. Knowing that soon he will have to leave them, he gives them a final commandment: “Love each other as I have loved you.” To show them what this love looks like, he wraps himself in a towel and stoops down like a servant to wash their feet.

Jesus has a dream of how his followers will treat each other. He knows it will be hard for us to learn to love and serve each other. Even as he tries to tell his disciples what to do, Peter argues with him, insisting that Jesus must act like a master, not a servant.

Later that night, the ties of love between them will be stretched to the breaking point. Judas will betray Jesus to the authorities. Peter, terrified that he will be taken too, will deny that he ever knew Jesus. From that day on, Christians have failed in love countless times, turning on each other and using Jesus’ name against other people. Jesus shared his dream anyway. And the dream lives on. Jesus’ words have inspired extraordinary acts of love. Christians have given their riches to feed the poor, risked their lives to serve the sick, stood up to unjust laws, sheltered innocents from violence, and accepted outcasts as brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus teaches us to share our dreams, even when we doubt they will ever come true. One dream inspires another, spreading its seeds far and wide. Our hopes take root in unexpected places, sometimes places we will never see. Let us give our dreams to our Lord, and trust the God of all growing things to make them bloom.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jesus' Way of Trust 2: Accept Gifts of Love

In his last days, Jesus is invited to a dinner in Bethany. A woman breaks open a jar of expensive perfumed oil, wanting to honor Jesus with the best that she has. She takes the ointment and begins to anoint Jesus’ feet.

As the luxurious scent fills the house, the disciples all turn to see. They are working people from Galilee, unaccustomed to using fine perfumes or being anointed before dinner. They believe in Jesus’ radical rejection of wealth: To enter the kingdom of God, he said, you must sell all you have and give it to the poor. They are shocked that Jesus does not send the woman away to sell the jar and lets it be spread on his feet instead. But Jesus accepts the gift, just as it is given. He trusts that God is using this woman to give him exactly what he needs. Her loving gesture helps him to accept that soon he will die. Instead of fearing a lonely death, he imagines caring hands anointing his body for burial. How many times have we pushed away a gift or a compliment? “Oh, it was nothing,” we say, or “You shouldn’t have,” or “Thank you so much for the offer, but I’ll be fine.” What would happen if we joined Jesus and trusted that God sends gifts into our life for a reason? What if we let go of all our protests and just said a heartfelt “Thank you”?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jesus' Way of Trust 1: Tell the Truth

Jesus enters Jerusalem to adoring cries of “Hosanna!” It is almost Passover, and the holy city is full to bursting with pilgrims. The crowds are riveted by his words and the stories of his miracles. They run before him, laying down palm branches as if he were a king returning home from a great battle. With the people behind him, Jesus has the opportunity to do something big.

What does he do with this power? In all the gospels except John, he goes to the temple and accosts the moneychangers. He challenges the pilgrims, who use them to convert their foreign money into a proper temple offering. Here we do not see the gentle teacher who uses stories to lead people gradually towards a new way of looking at things. This is Jesus the prophet, declaring the truth with fierce words and actions. He cries out, “This is a house of prayer!” as he turns over tables and scatters coins.

Jesus knows his message will be unpopular. But he does not need the crowd to build him up, and he does not fear their disapproval. He is so firmly grounded in God that God’s truth is all that really matters to him. He trusts God to be beside him no matter what happens next.

May God open our eyes, even when what we see is a difficult truth. May God open our mouths, so we may speak the truth we know with the courage of Christ.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Trough in the Waves

From Rev. Thea:

Yesterday's post was the last of the Lenten reflections from the people of Calvary. I have been deeply touched by the ways you have bravely shared your faith and lovingly opened your hearts to each other’s stories.

For the daily reflections during Holy Week, I will offer you some of my thoughts on how Jesus showed trust during his journey to the cross and beyond to new life.

This poem has been on my fridge all through Lent. For me it captures the spirit of quiet, searching faith that I find in this season.

God bless you!


by Judy Brown

There is a trough in waves,

A low spot

Where horizon disappears

And only sky

And water

Are our company.

And there we lose our way


We rest, knowing the wave will bring us

To its crest again.

There we may drown

If we let fear

Hold us within its grip and shake us

Side to side,

And leave us flailing, torn, disoriented.

But if we rest there

In the trough,

Are silent,

Being with

The low part of the wave,


Our energy and

Noticing the shape of things,

The flow,

Then time alone

Will bring us to another


Where we can see

Horizon, see the land again,

Regain our sense

Of where

We are,

And where we need to swim.