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Sabbath II, 1988— Wendell Berry It is the destruction of the world in our own lives that drives us half insane, and more than half. To destroy that which we were given in trust: how will we bear it? It is our own bodies that we give to be broken, our bodies existing before and after us in clod and cloud, worm and tree, that we, driving or driven, despise in our greed to live, our haste to die. To have lost, wantonly, the ancient forests, the vast grasslands in our madness, the presence in our very bodies of our grief.
The adjective so often coupled with mercy is the word tender, but God’s mercy is not tender; this mercy is a blunt instrument. Mercy doesn’t wrap a warm, limp blanket around offenders. God’s mercy is the kind that kills the thing that wronged it and resurrects something new in its place.— Nadia Bolz-Weber
To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
COMMENTARY on the GRIEF, the CROSS and HOLY FRIDAY
so it came time and no day like that is ever good in the coming
― Deborah Landau
To each one of us Christ is saying: If you want your life and mission to be fruitful, like mine, do as I do. Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried. Let yourself be killed. Do not be afraid. Those who shun suffering will remain alone. No one is more alone than the selfish. But if you give your life out of love for others, as I give mine for all, you will reap a great harvest. — Oscar Romero
It was where, of course, the ultimate cry of human longing ran headlong into the silence of God, and was left, the cry was left out there like a huge, red hook trying to reach up into the heavens, but nothing received it. It’s a day of being touched by the void; it’s the day of the abyss. — John O’Donohue about Holy Friday
Good Friday is not about us trying to “get right with God.” It is about us entering the difference between God and humanity and just touching it for a moment. Touching the shimmering sadness of humanity’s insistence that we can be our own gods, that we can be pure and all-powerful. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber
And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving, until I didn’t have to anymore. ― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions:
What happens at the cross is a “blessed exchange.” God gathers up all our sin, all our broken-ass junk, into God’s own self and transforms all that death into life. Jesus takes our crap and exchanges it for his blessedness. — Nadia Bolz-Weber
[Jesus dying on the cross] brings us face to face with the finality of defeat. Sometimes things don’t have a happy ending in life. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we’re beaten. Sometimes we’re lost. Sometimes we’re humiliated. Sometimes we’re misunderstood. Sometimes we are abandoned by the very people we love most in life and whom we thought also loved us. At that point, without doubt, something in us dies. There’s not going back to things as they were before. Then doors close in our hearts and the old breath goes out of us and all we can do is to surrender to the dark. It is not a pretty moment. It can take all the energy we have. Am I able to accept the daily deaths of life, both the great ones and the small, knowing that death is not the end of life, only its passing over to something new in me? Hopefully, I learn from the Jesus who gave up himself, his mission, his life in ways that all seemed totally wrong, that the deaths I die may bring new life to the world around me as well.— Sr Joan Chittister
On the Day I Die — Rumi
On the day I die, when I’m being carried toward the grave, don’t weep. Don’t say,
He’s gone! He’s gone. Death has nothing to do with going away. The sun sets
and the moon sets, but they’re not gone. Death is a coming together. The tomb
looks like a prison, but it’s really release into union. The human seed goes
down in the ground like a bucket into the well where Joseph is. It grows and
comes up full of some unimagined beauty. Your mouth closes here, and immediately
opens with a shout of joy there.
It Can’t Be Carried Alone”— Fr Richard Rohr (response to the collective suffering of the people of Ukraine).
How can we not feel shock or rage at what is happening to the people of Ukraine— As we watch their suffering unfold in real time from an unfair distance? Who of us does not feel inept or powerless before such manifest evil? In this, at least, we are united. Our partisan divisions now appear small and trivial.
Remember what we teach: both evil and goodness are, first of all, social phenomena. The Body of Christ is crucified and resurrected at the same time. May we stand faithfully Inside both these mysteries (contemplation).
In loving solidarity, we each bear what is ours to carry, the unjust weight of crucifixion, in expectant hope for God’s transformation. May we be led to do what we can on any level (action) to create resurrection
When Death Comes — Mary Oliver
When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes like the measle-pox
when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Your Excellency […]
Tonight, with the world in doubt, with this Commonwealth drawing into its lungs with every breath the difficult air of doubt, with the eyes of Europe turned westward upon Massachusetts and upon the whole United States in distress and harrowing doubt — are you still so sure? Does no faintest shadow of question gnaw at your mind? For, indeed, your spirit, however strong, is but the frail spirit of a man. Have you no need, in this hour, of a spirit greater than your own?
Think back. Think back a long time. Which way would He have turned, this Jesus of your faith? — Oh, not the way in which your feet are set!
You promise me, and I believe you truly, that you would think of what I said. I exact of you this promise now. Be for a moment alone with yourself. Look inward upon yourself. Let fall from your harassed mind all, all save this: which way would He have turned, this Jesus of your faith?
I cry to you with a million voices: answer our doubt. Exert the clemency which your high office affords.
There is need in Massachusetts of a great man tonight. It is not yet too late for you to be that man.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay, letter to governor of Massachusetts
… And you are right; it is well to forget that men die. So far we have devised no way to defeat death, or to outwit him, or to buy him over. At any moment the cloud may split above us and the golden spear of death leap at the heart; at any moment the earth crack and the hand of death reach up from the abyss to grasp our ankles; at any moment the wind rise and sweep the roofs from our houses, making one dust of our ceilings and ourselves. And if not, we shall die soon, anyhow. It is well to forget that this is so.
But that man before his time, wantonly and without sorrow, is thrust from the light of the sun into the darkness of the grave by his brother’s blindness or fear it is well to remember, at least until it has been shown to the satisfaction of all that this too is beyond our power to change…
These men were castaways upon our shore, and we, an ignorant and savage tribe, have put them to death because their speech and their manners were different from our own, and because to the untutored mind that which is strange is in its infancy ludicrous, but in its prime evil, dangerous, and to be done away with.
These men were put to death because they made you nervous; and your children know it. The minds of your children are like clear pools, reflecting faithfully whatever passes on the bank; whereas in the pool of your own mind, whenever an alien image bends above, a fish of terror leaps to meet it, shattering its reflection.
— Edna St Vincent Millay, November 9, 1927, The Outlook: “Fear”
Photograph from September 11th —Wislawa Szymborska, translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczk
They jumped from the burning floors— one, two, a few more, higher, lower.
The photograph halted them in life, and now keeps them above the earth toward the earth.
Each is still complete, with a particular face and blood well hidden.
There’s enough time for hair to come loose, for keys and coins to fall from pockets.
They’re still within the air’s reach, within the compass of places that have just now opened. I can do only two things for them— describe this flight and not add a last line.
Forgive me that I have not loved enough. Forgive me so that I can love you and others, no matter what their sins may be. Forgive me that I have not fully believed in the possibility and power of forgiveness. Forgive me so that I can forgive— others and myself. Amen. —Maren Tirabassi and Joan Jordan Grant
If I develop bad feelings toward those who make me suffer, this will only destroy my own peace of mind. But if I forgive, my mind becomes calm. — Dalai Lama
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. — Rev Dr Martin Luther King
What I refuse to forgive continues to harm me. It consumes my heart, poisons my mind, drains my energies and cements my soul. — Sr. Joan Chiitster
Well, probably the most radical part … is that it begins with kindness to yourself in the same measure with which you would be very, very kind to others. Sort of automatically — especially women — [we] are outgoingly warm and friendly to other people because we were raised to believe that this was where our value lay. And yet with ourselves, men and women both, we tend to be harsh. And we tend to be easily exasperated with ourselves. So, the radical part of kindness is about stroking your own shoulder and stopping the bad self-talk. And that’s where my belief in healing — both ourselves and our families and the world — begins, is that we put our own oxygen masks on first. I mean, the hardest work we do is forgiveness. But for me, it’s easier to forgive someone I just abhor, than it is to forgive myself some of the time. I am so exasperated, and kind of stunned by how disappointingly I behave. Eventually, I forgive everyone, because there’s that old saying that “not forgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the rat to die.” And we’re the one who suffers from holding onto resentments and staying clenched up, and bitter. — Anne Lamott… I read this, which is at the very heart of [Viktor] Frankl’s teaching: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful or oppressive our experience, we can always choose how we respond. And I finally begin to understand that I, too, have a choice. This realization will change my life… The choice to accept myself as I am: human, imperfect. And the choice to be responsible for my own happiness. To forgive my flaws and reclaim my innocence. To stop asking why I deserved to survive. To function as well as I can, to commit myself to serve others, to do everything in my power to honor my parents, to see to it that they did not die in vain. To do my best, in my limited capacity, so future generations don’t experience what I did. To be useful, to be used up, to survive and to thrive so I can use every moment to make the world a better place. And to finally, finally stop running from the past. To do everything possible to redeem it, and then let it go. I can make the choice that all of us can make. I can’t ever change the past. But there is a life I can save: It is mine. The one I am living right now, this precious moment… And to the vast campus of death that consumed my parents and so very many others, to the … horror that still had something sacred to teach me about how to live—that I was victimized but I’m not a victim, that I was hurt but not broken, that the soul never dies, that meaning and purpose can come from deep in the heart of what hurts us the most—I utter my final words. Goodbye, I say. And, Thank you. Thank you for life, and for the ability to finally accept the life that is. — Dr Edith Eger (Holocaust survivor)
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger. However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. — Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him. — CS Lewis
To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. — CS Lewis
… Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Jesus always seems to be pairing God’s forgiveness of us with our forgiveness of others. But why? Why is he always pairing them together? I kind of always thought that it was a way of guilting us into forgiving others … Our human culture would say that evil is fought through justice and might. The way we combat evil is by making sure that people get what they have coming to them. An eye for an eye. You attack me and I’ll attack you. Fair is fair. … Because it would seem that when we are sinned against, when someone else harms us, that we are in some way linked to that sin, connected to that mistreatment like a chain through which we absorb it. And we know that our anger, fear, or resentment doesn’t free us at all…it keeps us chained. And evil persists. Sin abounds. Brokenness prevails… But Richard Rohr reminds us that we can tell a lot by what a person does with their suffering: do they transmit it or do they transform it? So while it’s true that God may not prevent evil, and we may never fully understand why… God does have a way of combating evil. It’s not punishment and it’s not retaliation, fear, or anger. It’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is God’s way of combating evil. Of course this offends our impulse for justice or retaliation. But that’s the God revealed in Jesus. Like it or not, this is what we see at the cross. At Calvary, God allows our human system of scape-goating, fear, and retaliation to play its natural course, which ends as it always does: in the suffering of God. And then in turn, God shows us God’s system by not even lifting a finger to condemn those who put him on the cross, but instead proclaims, of all things, forgiveness… But the problem with this is: doesn’t forgiving a sin against us, or an evil done to many, come perilously close to saying that what they did was okay? Isn’t forgiving over and over just the thing that keeps battered women battered? … I thought that maybe forgiveness is actually the opposite of saying that what someone has done is okay…it’s saying it’s so not okay that I am not going to absorb it any more. I simply won’t be tied to it. … That’s why we need to forgive. Because we can’t be bound to that kind of evil. Lest it find the evil in our own hearts and make its home there.—Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber
PRAYER about SALVATION
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. — Thomas Merton
I used to think that being saved from my sins meant being saved from hell. Salvation was something that kicked in after death, like a gift that had “Do not open until eternity” on the tag…It was something that happened once but applied for all eternity—once saved, always saved. … Jesus came to offer more than just salvation from hell. I realized this when I encountered Jesus the radical rabbi and reexamined my life in light of his teachings. When I imagined what it would be like to give generously without wondering what is in it for me, to give up my grudges and learn to diffuse hatred with love, to stop judging other people once and for all, to care for the poor and seek out the downtrodden, to finally believe that stuff can’t make me happy, to give up my urge to gossip and manipulate, to worry less about what other people think, to refuse to retaliate no matter the cost, to be capable of forgiving to the point of death, to live as Jesus lived and love as Jesus loved, one word came to my mind: liberation. Following Jesus would mean liberation from my bitterness, my worry, my self-righteousness, my prejudice, my selfishness, my materialism, and my misplaced loyalties. Following Jesus would mean salvation from my sin. What I’m trying to say is that while I still believe Jesus died to save us from our sins, I’m beginning to think that Jesus also lived to save us from our sins. the apostle Paul put it more eloquently in his letter to the church in Rome when he said, ‘For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to hi m through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10). If it’s starting to sound like I believe in works-based salvation , it’s because I do. While I don’t for a second think that we can earn God’s grace by checking off a to-do list, I do believe that there is liberation in obedience. When we live like Jesus, when we take his teachings seriously and apply them to life, we don’t have to wait until we die to experience freedom from sin. We experience it every day as each step of faith and every good work loosens the chains of sin around our feet. It’s hard, and it’s something that I fail at most of the time, but it’s something I’ve experienced in little fits and starts along the way, enough to know that it’s worth it. Jesus promised that his yoke will be light, because he carries most of the load. — Rachel Held Evans
God’s grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God’s grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word … it’s that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit. Grace isn’t about God creating humans and flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace – like saying, “Oh, it’s OK, I’ll be the good guy and forgive you.” It’s God saying, “I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new. —Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber
However we imagine the intent of the question, Jesus’ answer is disquieting. The way to salvation – and we should keep in mind that the word we translate as “saved” also means “to be made whole” and “to be healed” – is narrow, challenging, not a given. Beyond that, oddly, Jesus doesn’t say a lot. Strive to enter by the narrow way. That’s about it…. What, then, is the narrow way? I suppose that if, at this point… we still need to ask, we probably aren’t on it. Because from beginning to end Jesus is on the side of the down and out, the dispossessed, the poor, the sick, those in need… So does this mean that only the poor will experience salvation/healing/wholeness? Or only the poor and those who side with them? I also think it might be worthwhile hearing that, to Jesus, the narrow way – the way God invites us to walk given all the other options that are available to us – is to care for those around us, to be generous with what we have, to recognize that blessing is always given to be shared, and to look out especially for those in need. So perhaps the best way to address the question of salvation is to resist the urge to see it as a place or goal or prize but instead to reclaim the larger meaning of the word and hear it as both command and invitation to seize salvation, healing, and wholeness right now by joining ourselves to those around us and living into the kingdom and community of God that Jesus proclaims. Perhaps the best way to deal with the question of salvation, that is, is to stop worrying about it and instead simply live as those people who are already saved by the grace of God and therefore free to share all that we have and are with those around us. — Rev. David Lose
So we are called to love both Jesus and Christ. You can begin with either Jesus or Christ, but eventually it is easiest to love both. Too many Christians have started and stopped with Jesus, never knowing the universal Christ. Many non-Christians have started with loving the Christ by another name. I have met Hindus, Muslims, and Jews who live in this hidden mystery of oneness; and I have met many Roman Catholics and Protestants who are running away from the Christ Mystery, as either practical materialists or pious spiritualists. Tertullian (160–225), who is called “the father of Western theology,” rightly taught that “the flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Caro salutis est cardo).  The incarnation of flesh and Spirit is Christianity’s most important contribution to spirituality, and this is the meaning of “The Christ,” although you do not need to name it as such. Now “the world, life and death, the present and the future are all your servants, for you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:22-23). Full salvation is finally universal belonging and universal connecting. Our Christian word for that is “heaven.” This is why Jesus can say to a man dying in time, “This day you are with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Christ is now, here, everywhere, and always.— Richard Rohr
… Scripture is very clear about the place of work in human life. The Book of Genesis is explicit: we were put into the Garden “to till and to keep it.” We work to complete the work of God in the world. Work, then, may be the most sanctifying thing we do. The implications of a spirituality of work in a world such as ours are clear, it seems. Work is my gift to the world. It is my social fruitfulness. It ties me to my neighbor and binds me to the future. Work is the way I am saved from total self-centeredness. It gives me a reason to exist that is larger than myself. It makes me part of possibility. It gives me hope. Martin Luther wrote: “If I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today.” Work gives me a place in salvation. It helps redeem the world from sin. It enables creation to go on creating. It brings us all one step closer to what the reign of God is meant to be. … Finally, work is the way we really live in solidarity with the poor of the world. Work is our commitment not to live off others, not to sponge, not to shirk, not to cheat. Work is our sign that God goes on working in the world through us. It is the very stuff of divine ambition. And it will never be over. The philosopher wrote, “Do you want a test to know if your work in life is over? If you are still alive, it isn’t.” God needs us to complete God’s work. Now. — Sr. Joan Chittister
PRAYER for RELATIONSHIP
Please Call Me By My True Names— Thich Nhat Hanh
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow— even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.
I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am also the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to my people dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.
Only holiness will call people to listen now. And the work of holiness is not about perfection or niceness; it is about belonging, that sense of being in the Presence and through the quality of that belonging, the mild magnetic of implicating others in the Presence. This is not about forging a relationship with a distant God but about the realization that we are already within God. ― John O’Donohue
It seems that this YHWH who is uncovering and showing Godself in the Bible desires not just images or ideas, but even persons with whom God can be in very concrete and intimate relationship. God is creating, quite literally, some friends for God! Jesus became the full representation of one who accepted and lived that friendship. In fact, he never seemed to doubt it. That must be at the core of our imitation of Jesus, and exactly how we become “partners in his triumph” — Fr. Richard Rohr
The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger. ― Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber
One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us. — Rachel Held Evans
Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other. — Dalai Lama
But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry. — Rachel Held Evans
PRAYER of ABANDONMENT
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. — Thomas Merton
Who hasn’t said, “Don’t you care?” Who hasn’t experienced death or isolation or chaos or anxiety or just simple raw human pain and not felt that God was by all appearances lazily sleeping through it? Surely if God cared about me, God would change my life circumstances to suit my preferences—or maybe God could have kept the tragic, painful thing from happening in the first place. When we are fearful or angry we feel as though God has abandoned us, or at least fallen asleep on a comfy cushion…. When storms arise and people die and we suffer and our friends abandon us, we assume God has fallen down on the job. Again. —Rev Nadia Bolz-WeberWe have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us. We have fulfilled the danger of this by making our personal pride and greed the standard of our behavior toward the world – to the incalculable disadvantage of the world and every living thing in it. And now, perhaps very close to too late, our great error has become clear. It is not only our own creativity – our own capacity for life – that is stifled by our arrogant assumption; the creation itself is stifled. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it. — Wendell Berry
The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. We will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart. This is when we need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening our controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12). …. In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.— Fr. Richard Rohr
When the people of God abandoned the covenant of love and fidelity, drawn as we are by the appeal of shallow, empty pleasures, God removed every possible obstruction to the covenant by being faithful for us, by becoming like us and subjecting Himself to the very worst within us, loving us all the way to the cross and all the way out of the grave. — Rachel Held Evans
I am on the Deathbed; Go, rest your head on a pillow, leave me alone; leave me ruined, exhausted from the journey of this night, writhing in a wave of passion till the dawn. Either stay and be forgiving, or, if you like, be cruel and leave. Flee from me, away from trouble; take the path of safety, far from this danger. We have crept into this corner of grief, turning the water wheel with a flow of tears. While a tyrant with a heart of flint slays, and no one says, “Prepare to pay the blood money.” Faith in the king comes easily in lovely times, but be faithful now and endure, pale lover. No cure exists for this pain but to die, So why should I say, “Cure this pain”? In a dream last night I saw an ancient one in the garden of love, beckoning with his hand, saying, “Come here.” On this path, Love is the emerald, the beautiful green that wards off dragons Enough, I am losing myself. If you are a man of learning, read something classic a history of the human struggle and don’t settle for mediocre verse.
POEM about DISTRESS
When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety. If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, without pain. From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and attracting me. There is a great secret in this for anyone who can grasp it. — Rumi
Weeping is a very life-giving thing. It wizens the soul of the individual and it sounds alarms in society. The Book of Ecclesiastes may be nowhere more correct than here. There is definitely a time for weeping. If we do not weep on the personal level, we shall never understand other human beings. — Sr. Joan Chittister
… Transformation occurs only when we remember, breath by breath, year after year, to move toward our emotional distress without condemning or justifying our experience. — Pema Chodron
The beauty and strangeness of the world may fill the eyes with its cordial refreshment. Equally it may offer the heart a dish of terror. On one side is radiance; on another is the abyss. — Mary Oliver
Everything in life teaches us something about what it is to be human until, if we are listening and learning all our lives, we ourselves become everything we can possibly be. We begin the search for fullness of life at a very early age. We choose heroes, icons of what we ourselves would like to become All the heroes of my early life were people of action. I valued explorers, presidents, civil rights activists, suffragettes, friends and family members who were brave enough, decisive enough, strong enough to make things happen. It was only as I got older and people I loved began to die that I discovered the lesson, the courage of calm… In each of those situations a kind of chaos infected the world. Yet, at the same time, each of them brought with it a new kind of insight. No doubt about it: the lesson I learned from death was the lesson of calm. After all, what use was flailing and raging when life went inevitably on? Or, as the case may be, would not go on at all. The problem, of course, lies in learning to determine when calm is courageous and when chaos is holy. When is acceptance holy and chaos madness; when is chaos holy and acceptance weakness? Maybe we never know. But that’s not important. What is important is to keep asking the question and to develop the ability to be both resolutely calm and courageously holy as the situation demands.— Sr. Joan Chittister
In Search of Belief
I believe that Jesus Christ, the unique son of God, is the face of God on earth in whom we see best the divine justice, divine mercy, and divine compassion to which we are all called.
Through Christ we become new people, called beyond the consequences of our brokenness and lifted to the fullness of life.
By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the woman Mary, pure in soul and single-hearted— a sign to the ages of the exalted place of womankind in the divine plan of human salvation.
He grew as we grow through all the stages of life. He lived as we live prey to the pressures of evil and intent on the good.
He broke no bonds with the world to which he was bound. He sinned not. He never strayed from the mind of God.
He showed us the Way, lived it for us, suffered from it, and died because of it so that we might live with new heart, new mind, and new strength despite all the death to which we are daily subjected.
—edited from “A Creed,”In Search of Beliefby Joan Chittister
PRAYER FOR WHAT WE COULD HAVE BEEN
O thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being. We humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbor as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive, we love our friends and hate our enemies, we go the first mile but dare not travel the second, we forgive but dare not to forget. And so as we look within ourselves we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives us the history of an eternal revolt against thee. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know thy will. Give us the courage to do thy will. Give us the devotion to love thy will. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray. Amen. — Rev Dr Martin Luther King
I’d like to quickly make a case that we have experienced way too much death and grief and loss to skip holy week. … because people were going from the triumphant “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday to the glorious “He is Risen” of Easter Sunday without ever going through the horrifying “Crucify him!” of Good Friday. — Rev Nadia Bolz-Weber
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ― Albert Camus
The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow. ― Thomas Paine
Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory. ― John Steinbeck
I believe the second coming of Christ is the triumph of love. We should always strive for the grand resurrection, but really it is given as a gift. — Fr Richard Rohr
The Christian is called, with the grace of God invoked in prayer, to a sometimes heroic commitment. In this he or she is sustained by the virtue of fortitude, whereby — as Gregory the Great teaches — one can actually “love the difficulties of this world for the sake of eternal rewards.” — Pope John Paul II
Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must, the bees in the garden rumbling a little, the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off. Quiet as a feather. I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.
— Mary Oliver
More than anything else — more than our obedience, more than our hard work, more than keeping the law — more than anything God wants to be with us. God wants the family to be together, relationships restored and whole. — Rev Louise Westfall
The life of a good man who has died belongs to the people who cared about him, and ought to, and maybe itself is as much comfort as ought to be asked or offered. And surely the talk of reunion in Heaven is thin comfort to people who need each other here as much as we do. I ain’t saying I don’t believe there’s a Heaven. I surely do hope there is. That would pay off a lot of mortgages. But I do say it ain’t easy to believe. And even while I hope for it, I’ve got to admit I’d rather go to Port William. – Wendell Berry (fictional character’s voice)
The sun has come. The mist has gone. We see in the distance… our long way home. I was always yours to have. You were always mine. We have loved each other in and out of time. When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor I had always loved you more. You freed your braids… gave your hair to the breeze. It hummed like a hive of honey bees. I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there… Mmmm… God how I love your hair. You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance. Lost, injured, hurt by chance. I screamed to the heavens… loudly screamed… Trying to change our nightmares into dreams… The sun has come. The mist has gone. We see in the distance our long way home. I was always yours to have. You were always mine. We have loved each other in and out in and out, in and out of time. — attributed to Maya Angelou
With God, death is never the end of the story. — Rachel Held Evans
Do any of us really understand it? I think anyone who claims certainty on what happens after we die is to some degree pretending, because we can’t know, but we can have hope. We can hope in resurrection, we can hope in some form of reunion with those we love. We can hope that memories live on. — Jeff Chu
EASTER EGG-STUFFING 10:45am • JCC Council Room Deacons and volunteers meet after Laurie McAleer’s fitness class to stuff Easter eggs which will be hidden on our campus as part of the village-wide Easter egg hunt held by Chamber of Commerce on Easter Sunday. Thanks to Deacon Sandy Louis for connecting us to this event.
C3: COCKTAILS & CHRISTIAN CONVERSATIONS / HOLY WEEK STUDY SESSION 5pm • Zoom link required. Contact church: email@example.com Bring your adult beverage and your curiosity for a conversation about our sacred text
Thurs, Apr 14: MAUNDY THURSDAY
SOUP SUPPER & TABLE WORSHIP 6pm • JCC Parish House (in person & zoom)
OVERNIGHT VIGIL 8pm (Thurs) – Noon (Fri) – virtual / hold vigil in your own place or come to JCC and hold vigil
Virtual vigil: People email the church and sign up to meditate on words from scripture throughout the night.
Each household takes one hour.
Meditate on a whole Biblical passage, or read and choose one word or image on which to focus. Be active or contemplative. Walk, knit, play music, stay quiet, pray, cook, make something, stay home, go outside.
Vigil commences after the soup supper & worship and ends at noon on Friday, when the final three hours are observed in the sanctuary.
Fri, Apr 15 – HOLY FRIDAY
FINAL HOURS: Vigil Noon-3pm • JCC Sanctuary
Also live-streaming to website & Facebook
Scripture will be read at the top of each hour: Noon, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm .
People often traditionally experience the Via Crucis / Way of the Cross during this time.
ECUMENICAL HOLY FRIDAY TENEBRAE SERVICE 6pm • First Church of Christ, UCC in North Conway, NH All are welcome. Virtual live-streaming info will be provided once it has been shared by planning team. Planned and hosted by Clergy of the Eastern Slopes (of which Rev Gail is a member).
Sun, Apr 17 – EASTER SUNDAY
SUNRISE WORSHIP 5:45am • End of Presidential Drive off Tin Mine Rd, Jackson
In-person & live-streaming to Facebook / FB
Sunrise = 5:58am
Donuts & Coffee @ service provided by deacons
EASTER SUNDAY WORSHIP with Flowering of the Cross 10:30am • JCC (in-person & zoom)