Thoughts about staying, waiting, ascending and heaven: themes from Luke 24 and Acts 1

May your heart be an altar, from which the bright flame of unending thanksgiving ascends to heaven. — Mary Euphrasia Pelletier

Jesus raised our eyes above and beyond the narrow limits of our … lives, showed us other horizons, gives us a world beyond our ourselves. — Joan Chittister

Blue Horses (excerpt) — Mary Oliver
This is what I have.
The dull hangover of waiting,
the blush of my heart on the damp grass,
the flower-faced moon.
A gull broods on the shore
where a moment ago there were two.
Softly my right hand fondles my left hand
as though it were you.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that’s waiting for us. — Joseph Campbell


I’ll be honest, Jesus, Ascension Day brings up some abandonment issues for me. I know you promised we wouldn’t be alone, that you would send a Helper and Advocate, full of power and truth and ready to guide, but let’s face it: the fire of the Spirit is the wild kind. One moment I sense that it’s blazing like the burning bush, the next it’s like it’s out with a poof. I still haven’t figured it out. I still haven’t been able to pin it down. — Rachel Held Evans

THE SWAN — Mary Oliver
Across the wide waters
   something comes
      floating–a slim
         and delicate

ship, filled
   with white flowers–
      and it moves
         on its miraculous muscles

as though time didn’t exist
   as though bringing such gifts
      to the dry shore
         was a happiness

almost beyond bearing.
   And now it turns its dark eyes,
      it rearranges
         the clouds of its wings,

it trails
   an elaborate webbed foot,
      the color of charcoal.
         Soon it will be here.

Oh, what shall I do
   when that poppy-colored beak
      rests in my hand?
         Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:

I miss my husband’s company–
   he is so often
      in paradise.
         Of course! the path to heaven

doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
   It’s in the imagination
      with which you perceive
         this world,

and the gestures
   with which you honor it.
      Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those white wings
         touch the shore?

SONGS about ascension:

SONGS about heaven:

STAY Jan Richardson
A Blessing for Ascension Day

I know how your mind rushes ahead
trying to fathom what could follow this.
What will you do, where will you go, how will you live?

You will want to outrun the grief.
You will want to keep turning toward the horizon,
watching for what was lost to come back,
to return to you and never leave again.

For now hear me when I say
all you need to do is to still yourself
is to turn toward one another is to stay.

Wait and see what comes
to fill the gaping hole in your chest.
Wait with your hands open to receive what could never come
except to what is empty and hollow.

You cannot know it now, cannot even imagine
what lies ahead, but I tell you the day is coming
when breath will fill your lungs
as it never has before and with your own ears
you will hear words coming to you new and startling.
You will dream dreams and you will see the world ablaze with blessing.

Wait for it. Still yourself. Stay.

POEM— Rumi

Sweetly parading you go my soul of soul, go not without me;
life of your friends, enter not the garden without me.
Sky, revolve not without me; moon, shine not without me;
earth travel not without me, and time, go not without me.
With you this world is joyous, and with you that world is joyous;
in this world dwell not without me, and to that world depart not without me.
Vision, know not without me, and tongue, recite not without
me; glance behold not without me, and soul, go not without me.
The night through the moon’s light sees its face white; I am
light, you are my moon, go not to heaven without me.
The thorn is secure from the fire in the shelter of the roses
face: you are the rose, I your thorn; go not into the rose garden without me.
I run in the curve of your mallet when your eye is with me;
even so gaze upon me, drive not without me, go not without me.
When, joy, you are companion of the king, drink not without
me; when, watchman, you go to the kings roof, go not without me.
Alas for him who goes on this road without your sign; since
you, O signless one, are my sign, go not without me.
Alas for him who goes on the road without my knowledge;
you are the knowledge of the road for me; O road-knower, go not without me.
Others call you love, I call you the king of love; O you who are
higher than the imagination of this and that, go not without me.

THE GIFT —Mary Oliver

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.

ABOUT STAYING

If you have to convince someone to stay with you then they have already left. ― Shannon L. Alder

To want to run away is an essence of being human, it transforms any staying through the transfigurations of choice. To think about fleeing from circumstances, from a marriage, a relationship or from a work is part of the conversation itself and helps us understand the true distilled nature of our own reluctance. Strangely, we are perhaps most fully incarnated as humans, when part of us does not want to be here, or doesn’t know how to be here. Presence is only fully understood and realized through fully understanding our reluctance to show up. To understand the part of us that wants nothing to do with the full necessities of work, of relationship, of loss, of doing what is necessary, is to learn humility, to cultivate self-compassion and to sharpen that sense of humor essential to a merciful perspective of both a self and another. ― David Whyte

You forgot that sometimes, fair value comes from change, and death, and sacrifice. You can’t have everything and give fair value. You can’t stop your clock and expect to stay a part of the world. ― Seanan McGuire

It turns out that you don’t end up with the people you love; by definition, you end up with the ones who stay. ― Andrew Sean Greer

She rose slowly. She didn’t want to go. She also rather resented staying. ― D.H. Lawrence

Our faith is often embodied in the relationships and neighborhoods where we live. In our world of globalization, technology, and mobility, we’ve misplaced the sacredness of place. The act of staying and living in our place has an impact on us practically, of course, but also on us theologically. It’s not always sexy to stay put, is it? In most of my church tradition, no one ever mentioned the holy work of staying. ― Sarah Bessey

CHRISTIAN COMMENTARY on ASCENSION

At His Ascension our Lord entered Heaven, and He keeps the door open for humanity to enter. — Oswald Chambers

The story of Jesus living, dying, and rising from death gets a lot of well-deserved attention, but we sometimes overlook another crucial, mysterious scene in the narrative. As the book of Acts begins, we’re told that after resurrection, Jesus is “taken up” or “lifted up” (Greek, epērthē) into the sky, where he disappears behind the clouds …
Commonly called the ascension, the belief that Jesus “ascended” into Heaven, has been essential to followers of Jesus for almost 2,000 years (e.g. The Nicene Creed, 325 C.E.).
     But what does it mean that Jesus “ascended into Heaven”? Did Jesus take off into outer space? Is the point of the ascension that Jesus floated away into the clouds, or is it something else? More importantly, why does any of this matter? To answer these questions, and to better understand Jesus’ powerful ascension, we need to step back and start with the big biblical concepts of Heaven and Earth—God’s space and human’s space. — BibleProject, full article: https://bibleproject.com/articles/the-ascension-of-jesus/

The present account of Jesus’ ascension (Lk. 24:50-51) is not of a different event from the ascension recorded in Acts 1:2, 4-11. It is simply a shorter version of it. Luke makes the departure of Jesus both the climax of the Gospel and the commencement of the Acts of the Apostles. The stress is on Jesus’ priestly action in blessing the disciples and on their praise to God in the temple. (Marshall, 907)
      [The author of the Gospel of] Luke intends for us to see in this departure parallels to the great prophets Moses and Elijah whom Jesus both follows and surpasses. (See Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, especially 9:31.) Jesus completes the “departure” or “exodus” of his suffering, death and resurrection by being carried up into heaven (2 Kgs. 2:1-18). Like Elijah he blessed those who stay behind and arranges for them to receive a measure of his Spirit (2 Kgs. 2:9). (Byrne, 192-3) — Alyce McKenzie, Patheos: full article: https://www.patheos.com/resources/additional-resources/2011/05/we-will-never-be-without-him-alyce-mckenzie-05-30-2011?p=2

This is the grace of Ascension Day: to be taken up into the heaven of our own souls, the point of immediate contact with God.  To rest on this quiet peak, in the darkness that surrounds God.  To live there through all trials and all business with the “tranquil God who makes all things tranquil.” — Thomas Merton

The departing Jesus does not make his way to some distant star. He enters into communion of power and life with the living God, into God’s dominion over space. Hence he has not “gone away”, but now and forever by God’s power he is present with us and for us. In the farewell discourses of Saint John’s Gospel, this is exactly what Jesus says to his disciples: “I go away, and I will come to you” (14:28). These words sum up beautifully what is so special about Jesus’ “going away”, which is also his “coming”, and at the same time explain the mystery of the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension. — Pope Benedict XVI

Most of Christianity has been doing just that, straining to find the historical Jesus “up there.” Where did he go? We’ve been obsessed with the question because we think the universe is divided into separate levels—heaven and earth. But it is one universe and all within it is transmuted and transformed by the glory of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is that the Christ is here—and always was! But now we have a story that allows us to imagine it just might be true. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He became the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1), not an escape from earth. We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What you choose now is exactly what you choose to be forever. God will not disappoint you. — Richard Rohr

Luke begins his second volume of his two-volume “history” of the origins and spread of early Christianity with a salutation to an apparent benefactor, Theophilus by name, “God lover” in Greek. He reminds this unknown man that his “first book was about everything Jesus began to do and teach up to the day he was lifted up” (Acts 1:1-2a). For Luke this “lifting up” is the hinge that holds his two books together. At Luke 9:51, following the event of Transfiguration, Luke warns that “the days drew near for him to be taken up” (analempsis in Greek). This “taking up” is in fact Jesus’ “exodus,” the object of the discussion that Moses and Elijah were having on the mountain at Luke 9:31. In short, Jesus’ ascension, accomplished in Acts 1, is nothing less than his exodus from the earth, mirroring Elijah’s own mysterious ascension in a fiery chariot in 2 Kings 2:9-11. Luke thus connects the events of Jesus’ ascent to God with a similar experience in the Hebrew Bible and joins Jesus with the quintessential prophet of justice, Elijah. By so doing, Luke in his unique literary way uses the ascension motif as a way of preaching to us a sermon about the true identity of Jesus Messiah, recalling his many roots in the sacred past of Israel’s story. — John Holbert, Patheos, full article: https://www.patheos.com/progressive-christian/speculators-or-witnesses-john-holbert-05-14-2012

On Ascension Day, we are called to “go up”—to find higher ground—not to escape Earth’s crises, but to gain a vision and mission that is larger than ourselves or our communities. We don’t need to look to the heavens to find inspiration. The ever-present God is right here, giving us all the guidance and inspiration we need, if we but look beyond ourselves. Our mission is here—to heal, to embrace, to welcome, and to love. We don’t need to wait for a far off day of perfection and rapture. If God is always with us, then right here and now can be the day of transformation and fulfillment.  — Bruce Epperly

This makes us an odd people, you know. I mean Christians, people who believe in God the Father, Christ the son and the Holy Spirit – we are a people for whom the story isn’t ever finished. A people for whom there is always more. Within our suffering, there is always more, when we think our lives are hopeless there is always more, when the plot points of our lives don’t end up the way we planned, there is always more, when we feel powerless there is always more Why? Because after the humiliation and suffering of the cross – there was more – after he was laid in a tomb there was more – and after there was Pentecost flames on people’s heads and speaking in other languages there was more. We as Christians base our hope not on our own power, not on the Dow Jones, not on how awesome our lives look, not on our own righteousness, but on the God of an empty tomb. That story of birth and death and resurrection and ascension and the spirit is still being told. — Nadia Bolx-Weber

Christ, while in heaven, is also with us; and we, while on earth, are also with him.  He is with us in his godhead and his power and his love; and we, though we cannot be with him in godhead as he is with us, can be with him in our love, our love for him.
       He did not leave heaven when he came down to us from heaven; and he did not leave us when he ascended to heaven again.  His own words show that he was in heaven while he was here: ‘No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.’ 
        He said this because of the unity between us and himself, for he is our head and we are his body.  The words ‘no one but he’ are true, since we are Christ, in the sense that he is the Son of man because of us, and we are the children of God because of him. 
        For this reason Saint Paul says: ‘Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is also with Christ. — St Augustine

The way to heaven is ascending; we must be content to travel uphill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh … Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. … Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected. … The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted. — Jonathan Edwards

As God’s royal priests, Adam and Eve were, metaphorically, going up or ascending this cosmic mountain temple in order to be in God’s presence. They were not floating up into the sky or necessarily even mountain climbing, but this is how the author literarily emphasized God’s transcendence.
       At the top of the mountain, united fully with God and integrated with his will, Adam and Eve receive God’s creative word and his good life. And as God’s representatives, they were tasked to go down from Eden and extend God’s word and life to the whole creation.
       Notice that their ascension does not remove them from physical creation, nor does their “going down” to the rest of the world remove them from God’s divine realm. ….
       In the Exodus narrative, we see God commanding Moses and his fellow leaders to “come up” to a mountain, have a meal in God’s presence, and receive the instructions God has for the Israelites … Moses ascends with the elders of Israel into the cloud of divine glory to meet with God. In this place⏤where the author describes God as sitting on a shimmering, “blue as the sky,” clear, stone floor⏤we see human and divine in a mysterious togetherness with God’s space and humanity’s space integrated as one. Remember: these human beings entered God’s space without transporting out of the physical world, which most basically describes the priestly role. The priest becomes present with God in order to guide others in the same direction, up to God…. Moses’ priestly ascension is a recreation of the Eden ideal: humanity resting within God’s presence on a cosmic mountain temple.
       And also like Moses, the high priest exclusively ascends into the presence of God so that he might talk and pray to God on behalf of the people. The high priest symbolically ascends into the cosmos by going past the veil in the tabernacle that divides human’s space from God’s space—up into the transcendent presence of God.
      Not long after becoming king David. goes up into the high hills at the center of Israel’s tribes and establishes a capital city, Jerusalem, otherwise known as Zion or the City of David … So the temple is a symbolic model, pointing to the new Heaven and Earth, a place permeated with God’s presence where humanity would once again live in communion with his way of life and his will for all creation…. Regardless of whether or not the people were actually climbing in elevation or heading north, the biblical authors use the geographic description of going up.
As the people go up toward Jerusalem, they sing the psalms of ascent…
      Having ascended up as he did, and as we will, Jesus now exists permanently in both God’s space and humanity’s space at once. Adam and Eve experienced this kind of overlapping togetherness with God only in part. But Jesus experiences it fully because he chose to follow God’s will from beginning to end.
      But as we have seen, this almost certainly does not mean floating off into space one day when we die. Instead it means joining our human lives into God’s divine work of spreading his word and life here on Earth. It is about declaring that “your will, not my will” be done on Earth (humanity’s space) as it is in Heaven (God’s space) — BibleProject, full article: https://bibleproject.com/articles/the-ascension-of-jesus/


FILMS SHOWING ASCENSION:

ABOUT WAITING

God isn’t waiting for you to become thinner or heterosexual or married or celibate or more ladylike or less crazy or more spiritual or less of an alcoholic in order to love you. Also, I would argue that since your ideal self doesn’t actually exist, it would follow that the “you” everyone in your life loves is your actual self, too. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone. — Karen Salmansohn

If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine. — Morris West

Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart. — Sarah Ban Breathnach

Hope is not a matter of waiting for things outside of us to get better. It is about getting better inside about what is going on outside. — Joan Chittister

When you’re getting ready to launch into space, you’re sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen.— Sally Ride

When you’ve seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there. — George Harrison

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. — Rainer Maria Rilke

You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes. — A. A. Milne

Those who stand at the threshold of life always waiting for the right time to change are like the man who stands at the bank of a river waiting for the water to pass so he can cross on dry land. — Joseph B. Wirthlin

Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. — Joyce Meyer

Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.— Bradley Whitford

WHAT WE NEED IS HERE
— Wendell Berry
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

WHAT IS THERE BEYOND KNOWING? Mary Oliver

What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me? I can’t

turn in any direction
but it’s there. I don’t mean

the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off

fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning

theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;

or time that’s always rushing forward,
or standing still

in the same — what shall I say —
moment.

What I know
I could put into a pack

as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,

important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained

and unexplainable. How wonderful it is
to follow a thought quietly

to its logical end.
I have done this a few times.

But mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass
and the weeds.

ON HEAVEN

Heaven is not an eternally dull existence but rather the completion of a journey toward a promised encounter with the Lord. — Pope Francis

Basically heaven and earth in biblical cosmology are not two different locations within the same continuum of space or matter.  They are two different dimensions of God’s good creation.  And the point about heaven is twofold.   First, heaven relates to earth tangentially so that the one who is in heaven can be present simultaneously anywhere and everywhere on earth:  the ascension therefore means that Jesus is available, accessible, without people having to travel to a particular spot on earth to find him.  Second, heaven is, as it were, the control room for earth; it is the CEO’s office, the place from which instructions are given.  “All authority is given to me,” said Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel, “in heaven and on earth. — NT Wright

Throughout the Bible, the biblical authors use “the skies” or “the heavens” to refer to the place where God lives—God’s space. And they use “land” or “the earth” to refer to the place where people live—humanity’s space. The key here is that both spaces were included in the natural, created world. So why do we say that God is “up there” when he is also right here?
      When ancient Hebrew writers talk about geographic locations and spatial relationships in the physical world, they often use these physical descriptions to represent a higher, transcendent reality. For example, death and emptiness are down or under in Sheol. And because God is transcendent, or above all, his space is described metaphorically as being above, or up, or in the heavens.
        The most important thing to see here is that God is not ultimately creating a supernatural place where he lives separated from humans. God’s vision for Heaven and Earth—God’s space and humanity’s space—is that both would be fully integrated as one. God’s space and our space are to overlap, “on Earth as it is in Heaven” — BibleProject

….the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1), not an escape from earth. We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. — Richard Rohr

OTHER THOUGHTS on ASCENSION

Ascensions into heaven are like falling leaves … sad and happy all at the same time … Going away isn’t really sad … especially when your going enables a new kind of presence to be born. — Ernest Hemingway

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. — Henry David Thoreau

Earth’s crammed with heaven… But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is. — Fred Rogers

There’s always another level up. There’s always another ascension. More grace, more light, more generosity, more compassion, more to shed, more to grow. — Elizabeth GilbertAh, paths of the soul, mysterious ways of the heart! One must walk their full lengths before facing the supreme equation of Eternal Life. It is essential for you to live all their conflicts and to know them fully in the long process of spiritual ascension. — Andre Luiz Moreira

To write the true natural history of the world, we should need to be able to follow it from within. It would thus appear no longer as an interlocking succession of structural types replacing one another, but as an ascension of inner sap spreading out in a forest of consolidated instincts. Right at its base, the living world is constituted by conscious clothes in flesh and bone. — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The Ascension is actually the birth of the Inner You expressed as the spiritual individualism of the inner particle state. — Stuart Wilde

Aging is a staircase – the upward ascension of the human spirit, bringing us into wisdom, wholeness and authenticity. As you may know, the entire world operates on a universal law: entropy, the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy means that everything in the world, everything, is in a state of decline and decay, the arch. There’s only one exception to this universal law, and that is the human spirit, which can continue to evolve upwards. — Jane Fonda

Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all “fulness of blessing,” both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment. — Saint Basil

LEAVINGS  – VI
— Wendell Berry

O saints, if I am even eligible for this prayer,
though less than worthy of this dear desire,
and if your prayers have influence in Heaven,
let my place there be lower than your own.
I know how you longed, here where you lived
as exiles, for the presence of the essential
Being and Maker and Knower of all things.
But because of my unruliness, or some erring
virtue in me never rightly schooled,
some error clear and dear, my life
has not taught me your desire for flight:
dismattered, pure, and free. I long
instead for the Heaven of creatures, of seasons,
of day and night. Heaven enough for me
would be this world as I know it, but redeemed
of our abuse of it and one another. It would be
the Heaven of knowing again. There is no marrying
in Heaven, and I submit; even so, I would like
to know my wife again, both of us young again,
and I remembering always how I loved her
when she was old. I would like to know
my children again, all my family, all my dear ones,
to see, to hear, to hold, more carefully
than before, to study them lingeringly as one
studies old verses, committing them to heart
forever. I would like again to know my friends,
my old companions, men and women, horses
and dogs, in all the ages of our lives, here
in this place that I have watched over all my life
in all its moods and seasons, never enough.
I will be leaving how many beauties overlooked?
A painful Heaven this would be, for I would know
by it how far I have fallen short. I have not
paid enough attention, I have not been grateful
enough. And yet this pain would be the measure
of my love. In eternity’s once and now, pain would
place me surely in the Heaven of my earthly love.

Between miracles of feeding 5,000 people and walking on water: spiritual self-care and care for others, responding to need, addressing fear, refusing to be someone you’re not ..

You have been walking the water’s edge, holding up your robes to keep them dry. You must dive naked under, deeper, under a thousand times deeper. Love flows down. — Rumi

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. — Thich Nhat Hanh

See if you recognize yourself in this story: Because maybe some of us are like the ones in the boat who are afraid. Maybe you are so caught up in the fear of making the wrong decision that you can’t make any decision at all. Or maybe you are like the one experiencing the thrill of stepping into the unknown … and maybe the first few steps are ok but then it gets scary. Or maybe you or the person next to you is the one who is sinking … or maybe you feel like you’re sinking because what you could handle last month you just can’t handle now. Or maybe you’re the one who knows you’re doomed, knows that all your own efforts have failed and you are crying out to God to save you and you’re the ones who Jesus has reached down to catch and you’re clinging on to the sweet hand of Jesus with all you’ve got. or maybe you’re the one in the boat looking in wonder all you’ve just seen… you’re the one who bears witness to the miracle and danger of it all and how the hand of God reaches down and pulls us up and you see it and can’t help but say “truly this is God.” At some point or other I know I have been all of the above. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. — Bruce Lee

Don’t you realize that the sea is the home of water? All water is off on a journey unless it’s in the sea, and it’s homesick, and bound to make its way home someday. — Zora Neale Hurston

Songs about ‘Walking on Water’:

Contemplative Water Audio Tracks:

Songs about ‘Needing You’:


Maybe Mary Oliver

Sweet Jesus, talking
his melancholy madness,
   stood up in the boat
      and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry.
So everybody was saved
   that night.
      But you know how it is

when something
different crosses
   the threshold—the uncles
      mutter together,

the women walk away,
the young brother begins
   to sharpen his knife.
      Nobody knows what the soul is.

It comes and goes
like the wind over the water—
   sometimes, for days,
      you don’t think of it.

Maybe, after the sermon,
after the multitude was fed,
   one or two of them felt
      the soul slip forth

like a tremor of pure sunlight
before exhaustion,
   that wants to swallow everything,
      gripped their bones and left them

miserable and sleepy,
as they are now, forgetting
   how the wind tore at the sails
      before he rose and talked to it—

tender and luminous and demanding
as he always was—
     a thousand times more frightening
         than the killer storm.


The spirit is so near
that you can’t see it!
But reach for it…
don’t be a jar, full of water,
whose rim is always dry.
Don’t be the rider who gallops all night
and never sees the horse
that is beneath him.
— Rumi


Walking Water — Wyatt Townley

Inside us the ocean
sways like a cradle
in which we rock     rock  

and are drawn like the tide
to the moon twice a day
we carry our water and it carries us

we are a good pail with legs
foot by foot on the turning
mountain of the world

water walking on the prairie
walking water on the road
up the stairs through a door

where the view rushes out of us
through the window to the woods
rushing water in the desert

rushing water in this chair
and that one you’re in
water walking

and what is solid is not at all
what we thought     the rock
worn away by the rocking


Resources to understand the setting of the Gospel of John:

WATER MEDITATIONS

…water is one of those symbols that shows up over and over again in the Bible. Richard Rohr says it’s a bookmark: that whenever you see the word “water”, you know that it signals an invitation from God, a sign of an opening into a spiritual experience. Baptism, the Israelites crossing through the Red Sea into freedom. — Kathleen McShane (full article)

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute of eternity.
We are pain and what cures pain both.
We are the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
— Rumi

To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. — Alan Watts  

The water is your friend. You don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move. — Aleksandr Popov

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

WALKING on WATER REFLECTIONS

We didn’t build our bridges simply to avoid walking on water. Nothing so obvious. A bridge is a meeting place. A neutral place. A casual place. Enemies will choose to meet on a bridge and end their quarrel in that void… For lovers, a bridge is a possibility, a metaphor of their chances. And for the traffic in whispered goods, where else but a bridge in the night? — Jeanette Winterson

To walk on water, we need reliable guides. — Robert Vande Kappelle

In God’s eyes, walking on water is no more miraculous than the ability of hemoglobin to bond with oxygen inside a red blood corpuscle. — Deepak Chopra

You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help? — Mark Twain

Walking on water wasn’t built in a day. — Jack Kerouac

For as the heavens reach beyond earth and time, we swim in mercy as in an endless sea. — Psalms

Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend. — Albert Camus

There’s high, and there’s high, and to get really high–I mean so high that you can walk on the water, that high–that’s where I’m goin’. — George Harrison

A Word from Jesus calms the sea,
The stormy wind controls;
And gives repose and liberty
To tempest-tossed souls.

To Peter on the waves he came,
And gave him instant peace;
Thus he to me revealed his name,
And bid my sorrows cease. Then filled with wonder, joy and love,
Peter’s request was mine;
Lord, call me down, I long to prove
That I am wholly thine.

Unmoved at all I have to meet
On life’s tempestuous sea;
Hard, shall be easy; bitter, sweet,
So I may follow thee. He heard and smiled, and bid me try,
I eagerly obeyed;
But when from him I turned my eye,
How was my soul dismayed!

The storm increased on every side,
I felt my spirit shrink;
And soon, with Peter, loud I cried,
Lord, save me, or I sink.

Kindly he caught me by the hand,
And said, Why dost thou fear?
Since thou art come at my command,
And I am always near.

Upon my promise rest thy hope,
And keep my love in view;
I stand engaged to hold thee up,
And guide thee safely through.

— John Newton

COMMENTARY on WALKING on WATER (referring to multiple Gospel versions of this story)

It’s been said that if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. Sometimes getting out of the boat looks like showing up for another recovery meeting. Sometimes it looks like filling out hospital paperwork for an elderly neighbor. Sometimes it looks like making a casserole for the family down with the flu or offering free babysitting for the friend with a job interview. Sometimes it looks like jumping when it matters. What does “getting out of the boat” look like for you? What does it mean to “jump when it matters”? — Rachel Held-Evans

But all these characters in the walking on water story – the cautious ones in the boat, the brave one who walked for a time on water, the same one who is afraid and sinks and calls for help, and the ones who saw it all and confessed that Jesus is the son of God they are all actually equal in their relationship to
God because…all of these and you have one thing in common: they are those whom Jesus draws near saying “it is I, do not be afraid”. … But what happens on either side of his short little water walk? … In the storm Jesus is walking toward the boat … Jesus is reaching … he comes so much toward them all that finally he just gets in the damn boat. That’s about as with them as he can be. … the whole story is about how much Jesus walks toward them, reaches toward them, and then even gets in the boat with them. — Nadia Bolz-Weber (full sermon)

God is always calling on us to do the impossible. It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too. … Sometimes I will sit on a sun-warmed rock to dry, and think of Peter walking across the water to meet Jesus. As long as he didn’t remember that we human beings have forgotten how to walk on water, he was able to do it. — Madeline L’Engle

This is not what I bargained for, not the way I pictured it all in my head as I prepared to step out of the boat … The waves no longer seem inviting — they are a bit scary and unwelcoming. The boat seems much warmer, stable, secure, and yes — safe. Faith in me reminds me that it’s all an illusion — all the trappings and walls and safeguards we wrap around ourselves are really just as flimsy as a wooden boat on a stormy sea and that walking on water with Jesus is — in a reality that I can’t fully see yet — actually safer… Now is not the time for me to make the pro/con list — in fact, that list may never work for a life of faith. Now is the time for me to keep my eyes on Jesus and refuse to look down. My feet are wet and cold and I keep glancing back to a boat I can no longer return to but I don’t know what lies ahead… When we obey in faith, there is often an in-between space called liminal space. This is the space after we take our big step of faith out of the boat and come ahead with Jesus and before He shows us what’s next. It’s the time between what was and the next chapter of our journey. It’s a transition phase where we no longer fit where we were but don’t yet fit where we’re going. It can feel barren or we can choose to harness that time. It’s a waiting room, a threshold as we embark on something new... This liminal space feels like I’m trying to walk on water in the middle of the night. It’s dark. There are no road signs or directions — only the faint persistent memory of how certain I was when I stepped out. I am aware that God is near but the wobbliness of the water beneath my feet feels so foreign that I wonder how this can be a safe place in God’s will.— Mary Gallagher (full article)

It is true that Jesus was already walking on water when Peter got out of the boat. But I am not that impressed by Jesus walking on water.  I mean, he was God, after all. Of course, he could walk on water. But for Peter, it is different. He was a human being, like me. And I identify with Peter. He made a lot of mistakes. He sometimes misunderstood Jesus’ teachings. He argued with the other disciples about which one was the greatest. He wanted to build housing for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on the sacred ground of the Mount of Transfiguration, completely misunderstanding the message that Moses and Elijah had brought. He tried to talk Jesus out of sacrificing his life and balked at Jesus’ offer to wash his feet. He fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus as about to be crucified and, when Jesus was arrested, Peter denied him three times. And when Jesus ordered him to walk on water, he did it trustingly for a while, then he became fearful and went under. Jesus had to “save” him. Yet Peter was the first disciple to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and the first to realize that the man walking on water through the storm that day was Jesus. He was the only disciple to get out of the boat and he did walk on water, even if he eventually succumbed to his doubts and started to sink. As a disciple, Peter followed Jesus wholeheartedly and was dismayed by the dumb things he sometimes did. I believe it was both because of his mistakes and his faithfulness that Jesus designated him as the Rock on which he would build his church… I love the story of Peter walking on water because it is about taking spiritual risks and about faith and hope and trust. I feel as if I have spent a lot of my life walking on water, spiritually, psychologically, and materially. Sometimes I have felt as if I was sinking, too.
     I also love the story because it so dramatically captures the concept of liminal space. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word for “threshold” and liminal space refers to an in-between or transitional condition in which one is “neither here nor there,” or, sometimes, both here and there. Peter has left the boat but has not arrived anywhere yet. He is in transition. He is in a liminal space. — Jacqueline Wallen (full article)

Reflections on rainbows and promises; holy love that keeps its covenant no matter what

Themes from Genesis, and the rainbow as sign of the promise between God & Noah’s family (humankind): a covenant that suggests complexity and diversity within its symbol. A holy love that recognizes the unique potential within you. Where do you live in the complexity of God’s fierce and stubborn love, that refuses to give up on you, that returns despite broken relationships, and offers new chances over and over again? When have you turned away from connection with sacred love and justice; when have you claimed that renewed chance?

The Rainbow David Baker
… The mind is faithful in its memory—connecting signs,
it makes a memory to connect to what it needs.
… I keep this story close whenever I grieve
or fear, growing cold.
A father and his child wait through a storm.
Great rain with Thunder. Fear has
drenched the child. … The child cries,
I’m scared, to which the father
whispers, holding on, Don’t worry,
little one. I’ll stay with you until
it’s over. … Rainbow in the evening.
And as he spoke of understanding, I looked up and saw the rainbow leap with flames of many colors over me. — Black Elk

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. — Dolly Parton

And I asked my mother about it; I said, ‘Is there something wrong?’ She said, ‘God… God makes people. You understand that, don’t you?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ She said, ‘Who makes a rainbow?” I said, ‘God.’ She said, ‘I never presumed to tell anyone who could make a rainbow what color to make children.’ — Richard Dawson

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray. ­ — Lord Byron

The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think. — Maya Angelou

Sunset is still my favorite color, and rainbow is second. — Mattie Stepanek

When you look at the world, the world isn’t just one palette. It’s a beautiful rainbow, and why not have someone to represent that rainbow? —  Joan Smalls

South Africa is labouring to find its revolutionary path; the colours of the Rainbow Nation have difficulty blending together; the wealthy elites (white, black or Indian) profit from de facto segregation. — Tariq Ramadan

We have a memory cut in pieces. And I write trying to recover our real memory, the memory of humankind, what I call the human rainbow … — Eduardo Galeano

The Lord survives the rainbow of His will. — Robert Lowell

Rainbow Connection
Songwriter: Paul WilliamsWhy are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide
So we’ve been told
And some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Some day we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me
Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it’s done so far
What’s so amazing
That keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me
All of us under its spell, we know that it’s probably magic
Have you been half asleep?
And have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound
That called the young sailors?
The voice might be one in the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

“When I was 15, I sat in despair one day in a creaky old bus that was winding its way through central Mexico (that’s another story), trying to decide if I truly believed in God. Not necessarily God with a big white beard looking down from a Biblical heaven, but some kind of sacred spirit above, beneath, and within all things. I’d always had a deep, instinctive faith (even as a small child) in a sacred dimension to life, a Mystery I didn’t need to fully define in order to know it, feel it, experience it. But recent grueling events had shaken my faith and closed that connection.

Now, I realize that sitting and railing at God is practically a cliche of teenage angst; that doesn’t make the experience any less urgent at age 15, and I was in a dark place. “Okay,” I said, throwing the gauntlet down to whatever out there might be listening, “if there is something more than this, then prove it. Just prove it. Or I quit.” The bus turned a corner on the narrow, dusty road, and a gasp went up from the people around me. Above us, a rainbow arched through a bright blue, cloudless, rainless desert sky.

Rainbows have been special to me ever since. I know the scientific explanation, of course, water and air and angles of sunlight and all that. But to me, they are always a message. They say: “The universe is a Mystery and you’re part of it.” A nd sometimes that’s all I need to hear; that’s all the answer I need, no matter what the prayer.” ― Terri Windling

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