Reflections on Holy Friday: last seven words

1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Triumph and 7. Reunion.

  1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
  2. Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
  3. John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.
  4. Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
  5. John 19:28: I thirst.
  6. John 19:30: It is finished.
  7. Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

MUSIC BASED on CHRIST’S LAST SEVEN WORDS:

PRAYERS and COMMENTARY BASED on LAST SEVEN WORDS

PRAYER about FORGIVENESS

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

FORGIVE

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

SALVATION

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). [1] 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.

RELATIONSHIP

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

ABANDONMENT

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.

— Rumi

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

DISTRESS

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 Belief by 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

TRIUMPH

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

REUNION

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

HOLY WEEK with JCC: April 8-12 (Easter)

Do you need support of any kind? We have volunteers ready to assist with errands, access to emergency supplies, and Rev Gail is available for emotional and spiritual companionship. Email the church:  jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org.

Wed, April 8

Thurs, April 9

  • MAUNDY THURSDAY GATHERING (via ZOOM)
    7pm • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/467763000 (password required).
    Plan to celebrate an after-dinner ritual of washing hands (symbolic of foot-washing), stripping altar, and putting out candles as darkness falls and we enter the Triduum: three holy days of Easter weekend. Option: call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 467763000 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)).

Fri, April 10

  • BREAKFAST with REV GAIL (via ZOOM)
    8am •  ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/170985789 (password required)
    Social gathering. Option: Call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 170985789 (password required – contact jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • WAY of the CROSS
    Live-streaming via  Facebook.com/JacksonCommunityChurchJCC website
    Virtual contemplative journey through stations of the cross. Share where you would direct your prayers for each station of the cross, Rev Gail will post reflections at different Jackson and Bartlett locations to symbolize each station of the cross. This will take place throughout the week, but we especially welcome your comments during the hours of Christ’s crucifixion and death. We will use Marcia McFee / Design Worship Studio materials to focus. 
  • LAST SEVEN WORDS Holy Friday Event (via ZOOM)
    5pm • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/531729008) (password required)
    Reflect on the events of Holy Friday through the last seven words of Christ. Option: Call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 531729008 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)

EASTER SUNDAY, April 12

  • CHOIR PRACTICE (via ZOOM)
    9:15am • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/142985761 (password required)
    Choir practice with choir director Billy Carleton and music director Alan Labrie. Option: Call on touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID# 142985761 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • VIRTUAL EASTER SERVICE (via ZOOM)
    10:30am • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/142985761 (password required)
    Join us for worship, special music including flute duet by Lauren Weeder & Jeanette Heidmann, choral performance by JCC’s choir & harp with Dominique Dodge, plus prayer, reflection and interactive transformation of the cross with butterflies on this special Easter Sunday! Service will also be live-streamed to website and Facebook, and afterward, recordings of service will be posted to FB, youtube, vimeo. Option: Call on touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID# 142985761. (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • BUTTERFLY the CROSS
    All Day • Jackson Community Church (outside)
    All day on Easter Sunday, you may add a butterfly to the cross, which will stand outside the church (weather permitting), or take one home, if you need an Easter symbol. If you can’t be here, send us your prayers and we’ll add your butterfly for you.

Holy (Good) Friday

Fri, April 19 @ 6:30pm

Madison Church, Madison, NH

Please join us for a valley-wide worship service in observance of Holy (Good) Friday, led by Clergy of the Eastern Slope. This worship service is free and open to the public; everyone is welcome. Watch Facebook for updates.

This Week: MON, Feb 25 – SUN, Mar 3

At Jackson Community Church and Around Town

At JCC: Mon – Scout Dinner, Tue – Clergy Lunch, NH Conference Planning Mtg, Wed – Fitness & Womens Group Thurs – Yoga & Drum Lessons & AA, Fri – Pastors Hours & Youth Group Overnight, Sat – Way Station Community Service Work Day (Nativity Lutheran) & Youth Group Overnight, Sun – XC Blessing & Worship. Around Town: Tue – Affordable Housing Panel, Thurs – Coalition on Homelessness & Grammar School Ski-a-Thon, Sat – Guided Snow Shoe Tour. Save These Dates: Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Celebration & Ash Wednesday Observances plus  Classes in Advanced Facilitator Training on Active Listening & Impact of Homelessness on Children & Harvard EdX course on Religion, Conflict and Peace

MON, Feb 25

  • PACK 321 SCOUT BLUE and GOLD DINNER
    5:30pm • Parish House
    Scout dinner for pack sponsored by Jackson Community Church! The pack will be providing community service with the church in March.

TUE, Feb 26

  • CLERGY of the EASTERN SLOPE
    12:30pm • Lunch for local clergy from Mt Washington Valley faith communities. Rev Gail attends.
  • United Church of Christ / NH Conference Event: ANNUAL MEETING PLANNING COMMITTEE
    2-4pm • Conference Call
    Rev Gail participates in planning NH Conference annual meeting scheduled for autumn 2019.
  • AFFORDABLE HOUSING DISCUSSION
    6-7pm – social • 7pm – panel discussion.
    Eastern Slope Inn, No Conway, NH.
    Sponsored by our local Home Builders Association.

WED, Feb 27

  • TUNE UP FITNESS with Laurie McAleer 
    9:30am • Parish House.Fitness class. Free; open to public. These classes will continue through the end of February, then the instructor will re-evaluate whether she can continue into March. Classes remain weather dependent; if schools are delayed or closed, the class will be cancelled.
  • WOMEN’S GROUP
    10:30-Noon • Parish House
    Social gathering of friends and members of the church.
  • THREE MINUTE FICTION SLAM
    6pm • White Birch Books, No Conway
    Sponsored by Jackson Women’s Writing Group as part of the statewide NH Writers’ Project.
    * Open to the public. Anyone 17 years old or older may compete. Writers take turns presenting original flash fiction pieces of no more than three minutes in length when read aloud.
    * Email Anne to register.
    * Questions?  Call Anne at 603-236-6724 or White Birch Books at 603-356-3200
    The judges keep a private score for each piece. At the end of the night, the contestant with the highest score wins. Regional winners are invited to participate in the Three Minute Fiction Slam state finals run by the NH Writers’ Project. Among other prizes, the winner of the finals gets free entrance to The 603 Conference (the region’s largest literary conference) on April 27, 2019. There they will read the winning work before an audience of publishers, editors, agents, and fellow writers. 

THURS, Feb 28

  • Community Event: MEETING of MWV CARE & SERVICE PROVIDERS (public, nonprofit, private) re HOMELESSNESS & HOUSING INSECURE ISSUES
    9-11am • SAU#9 Professional Development Building
    Rev Gail attends.
  • FLOW & ALIGN YOGA with Anjali Rose
    9am • First Floor, Parish House / Jackson Community Church. Beginning stretch, flow and align yoga; safe for new practitioners. Weather dependent; if schools are delayed or closed, the class will be cancelled.
  • Community Event: GRAMMAR SCHOOL SKI-A-THON
    12:30-4:30pm • Jackson XC Center Fields
    This annual fundraiser by the PTO  provides funds to support the enrichment programming for the school! The PTO splits the profits with a charity selected by the Student Council, which selected “Molly’s Place” at the Children’s Hospital in Dartmouth as the recipient of their proceeds. Molly’s Place is a center at the hospital where children can play, relax or unwind while they or a sibling are being treated.
  • Private Event: DRUM LESSONS with Brian Craig
    4:30-7:30pm • Parish House
  • AA
    6:30pm • Second Floor, Church.

FRI, Mar 1

  • PASTOR’s DROP-IN HOURS
    7-9am • J-Town Deli
    Come for caffeine, conversation. Or make a separate date to meet with Rev Gail by calling her cell (978) 273.0308 or email.
  • PASTOR’s OFFICE HOURS
    9:30-11:30am • Church. Drop by or make an appointment to meet with Rev Gail by texting or calling her cell (978) 273.0308 or by email.
  • Community Event: GUIDED SNOW SHOE TOURS
    10am & 1pm • Start from Jackson XC Ski Touring Center
    $15 includes ticket and tour; rental equipment available. Tours are approx. 90 minutes. More info.
  • YOUTH GROUP OVERNIGHT
    9pm, Fri – Noon, Sun • Parish House.
    Youth Group from First Church in Ipswich, UCC will be hosted at our church on Friday and Saturday. They will participate in community service and recreation at local ski areas (XC and downhill) and also join us for worship on Sunday morning. Local middle and high school youth are welcome to join them for community service, recreation and dinner on Saturday.

SAT, Mar 2

  • WAY STATION WORK DAY
    9am – 4pm • Nativity Lutheran Church
    Come help paint and prep more rooms at Nativity Lutheran Church to welcome guests of the Way Station, a day resource center to provide essential services to the valley’s homeless and housing insecure population, including showers, laundry, internet access, post office box, lockers and more. Wear old clothing. Supplies and paint will be provided!
  • YOUTH GROUP OVERNIGHT
    9pm, Fri – Noon, Sun • Parish House.
    Youth Group from First Church in Ipswich, UCC will be hosted at our church on Friday and Saturday. They will participate in community service and recreation at local ski areas (XC and downhill) and also join us for worship on Sunday morning. Local middle and high school youth are welcome to join them for community service, recreation and dinner on Saturday.
  • Community Event: GUIDED SNOW SHOE TOURS
    10am & 1pm • Start from Jackson XC Ski Touring Center. $15 includes ticket and tour; rental equipment available. Tours are approx. 90 minutes. More info.

SUN, Mar 3

  • YOUTH GROUP OVERNIGHT
    9pm, Fri – Noon, Sun • Parish House.
    Youth Group from First Church in Ipswich, UCC will be hosted at our church on Friday and Saturday. They will participate in community service and recreation at local ski areas (XC and downhill) and also join us for worship on Sunday morning. Local middle and high school youth are welcome to join them for community service, recreation and dinner on Saturday.
  • INTERFAITH GATHERING @ OLD LIBRARY
    8am • Old Library. Hot beverages available. Come for poetry, literature, conversation and prayer.
  • BLESSING of BODIES, BOOTS & BINDINGS
    9:15am • Jackson XC Ski Touring Foundation
    Rev Gail offers blessings to staff, volunteers and skiers.
  • WORSHIP 
    10:30am •  Jackson Community Church.
    * Story: Rev Gail
    * Accompanist: Alan Labrie
    * Guests: First Church of Ipswich, MA Youth Group/UCC

This Week: Mar 19-Mar 25

MON, MAR 19
  • DEACONS
    4pm • Pastor’s Office, Second Floor of JCC
  • REIKI WORKSHOP (private class)
    6pm • Classroom/Betty Whitney Library, Second Floor of JCC
  • JACKSON WRITING GROUP (closed meeting)
    6pm • Parish Hall
TUE, MAR 20
  • JACKSON LIBRARY BOOK GROUP
    4:30pm • Jackson Public Library
    Discussing Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal
WED, MAR 21
  • PASTOR’s DROP-IN 
    7-9am • JTown Deli.
    Come for caffeine, cuisine, and conversation.
  • TUNE UP (Fitness) with LAURIE McALEER 
    10-11am • Parish Hall, Jackson Community Church
    Join members of the women’s group and fitness trainer Laurie McAleer for a gentle, introductory fitness class for beginners. Wear comfortably clothing, sensible shoes, and bring a bottle of water. Men and women both welcome to come try this class. Laurie will lead a fitness class that can be customized to each person’s abilities, and help improve overall wellbeing, as well as focusing on body areas that may need additional support and care.
  • COUNCIL
    7pm • Betty Whitney Library, Second Floor of JCC
THURS, MAR 22
  • INTRODUCTORY YOGA with Anjali Rose
    9am • Parish Hall, Jackson Community Church
    Men and women invited to join instructor Anjali Rose for a gentle, introductory yoga class. Wear stretchy fitness clothing, bring a matt and a cushion/blanket if you have them. $10/class for 6 weeks; payable at beginning of session.  Scholarships available. This session runs through April 19.
  • YOGA & MEDITATION with Charlotte Doucette
    3:30pm • Parish Hall. $10/pp fee. (Scholarships available)
  • SOUP & SKI with FAMILY & FRIENDS
    5pm • Parish Hall of Jackson Community Church
    Gather with members and friends of a few of the valley’s faith communities for soup supper. Menu this week: Italian ‘Senate bean’ soup, salad, bread.
    5:30/6pm •  Meet at church for evening XC ski or snow shoe. Optimal starting point to be determined. Donations will be collected for Jackson Ski Touring Foundation. Bring your own head lamps, ski equipment, layers, and be prepared for outdoor conditions. Ski at your own risk. Bring friends! Open to everyone. All ages welcome. Note: We will continue this practice thru Mar 22, and will end the Lenten soup series with a Maundy Thursday meal on March 29. 
  • AA
    6-7pm • Church Library
FRI, MAR 23
  • Community Event:
    “404 NOT FOUND” Film Screening and SOUP SUPPER

    5-7pm • Gibson Senior Center, North Conway, NH
    Come for movie and a soup supper donated by several valley restaurants. This film screening held in collaboration with Clergy of the Eastern Slope and First Church of North Conway’s Missions Team. “404 Not Found” highlights the homeless youth in NH. Donations will be accepted.Check out the film trailer @  404notfoundfilm.com. Held in collaboration with Governor Sununu’s “Sleep Out”. Kick-starting awareness of and approaches to this valley issue, which will take a valley solution.
  • “Sleep Out” (Stay-Up-Late or Sleep Over at Church)
    8pm, Mar 23 – 9am, Mar 24 • Jackson Community Church
    Dependent on RSVP by youth (5th grade and older) and families. Youth & chaperones may stay late at church. Or spend the night. To be held in solidarity with Gov Sununu’s “Sleep Out” event to raise awareness about homelessness. We will stay up late at Jackson Community Church with games and worship, learn about homelessness in the valley, make civic engagement posters. If some people stay overnight, we will wake up to have breakfast together. RSVP required.

SAT, MAR 24

  • Community Event:
    MARCH
    in JACKSON
    10am • Covered Bridge to Grammar School
  • Community Event:
    TRIVIA GAME
    with Houlihans at
    2:45pm • Jackson Public Library
    Church team(s) to play in trivia contest. If interested, please contact Fred Tompkins to RSVP so we can plan how many participants will play and organize teams. Game starts at 3pm.
SUN, MAR 25: Palm Sunday
  • INTERFAITH GATHERING
    8am • Madeline’s Deli, Jackson, NH
    Reflection & prayer using literature, sacred texts, personal sharing.
  • ADULT CHOIR PRACTICE
    9am • Jackson Community Church
  • PALM PROCESSION
    9:45am • Jackson Community Church
  • WORSHIP: Palm Sunday
    10:30am • Jackson Community Church
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