Eastertide II

Practicing Resurrection B

Tulip Poplar ~2013

Last week I sent off final proofs on some devotions for Upper Room’s Disciplines 2015. My chosen theme for the week following Easter next year is practicing resurrection. I won’t be sharing what I wrote for Upper Room here at my blog. (You’ll have to order a copy when it is ready.)

What I do want to share here in the coming weeks of Eastertide (50 days between Easter and Pentecost) is why I think churches and people wrestling with faith need new understandings about resurrection. Believing it literally is incompatible with our scientific view of the world. Spiritualizing it leaves the idea hollow and useless. Yet we are surrounded by things dying and dead, desperate for new life and renewed spirit. The big idea is that practicing resurrection is the most compelling way to move inside this central concept of Christian theology and faith. I’ve got some things to learn, and I’m going at the theme in lots of ways: music, stories, photos, poetry, reviews, and of course the challenge of six-word stories.

Your thoughts and questions, ideas and struggles are welcome as we explore together!

Eastertide I

Practicing Resurrection A

Eastertide is the season of the church year that we observe from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday. In the coming 50 days, I’ll be unfolding a new series called “Practicing Resurrection.” I wrote about Wendell Berry’s injunction to “practice resurrection” last summer. As a central feature of theology and faith, the concept of resurrection in our time remains troubled and in need of new life and holy imagination. Scholars and churches alike are engaged in such re-imagination. We will wrestle with it and look for the practice at work in the world. And when possible, I’ll post a pic that captures the spiritual practice of resurrection.

Practice Resurrection AToday’s photo comes from a stop along the Natchez Trace in the Silence of Saturday, Holy Week. The evening light was perfect, and I got this one in one shot. Felt like a luck, or grace, or serendipity. This little beauty is stretching up her arms in glory and new life.


Easter ~ Holy Week Remembered

Easter Mystery

Blessed Easter to you.

This gallery of Lenten Lights is a remembrance of Holy Week. When accounting theologically for the mystery of Easter, neither the agony nor the pain of Holy Week entirely departs, yet we practice the resurrection of letting it go.



Lenten Lights MM ~ Silent Saturday

Vigil Candles

Early this morning in my car headlines on the radio jumped out to me for the long and deep silences in each stories. . . prolonged waiting for grieved families, the crushing depths of the ocean, the ignorance of damage to the earth. As this day and the long night ahead advances, I’m lighting a candle and praying the headlines. The scriptures are silent on this day, but pain, grief and harm go on blithely. As people of faith we can pray, hope and work for change. Yet this one night we courageously face the universality of human suffering in the echoes of silence.

HeadlineCaptain, 2 Crew Members Arrested In S. Korea Ferry Sinking

Quote: “Divers finally managed to get into the passenger decks of the ship. And they saw through a window three bodies, but they were unable to actually get in and recover those bodies.” 

Headline: Flight MH370: robots search sea bed for signs of Malaysia Airlines plane

Quote: “Angus Houston, the search co-ordinator, issued a statement saying there had been no major breakthrough. . . .  The joint agency co-ordination centre said a 46,713 square kilometre area of the Indian Ocean was still being searched for the plane, which went missing with 239 people aboard on 8 March.”

HeadlineTelltale Rainbow Sheens Show Thousands Of Spills Across The Gulf

Quote: “Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.”


Lenten Lights LL ~ Good Friday 

The morning started with a chase after neighborhood crosses. Here’s some of what I found. The morning was grey and clouds hung on the verge of tears.

Good Friday Crosses ~ Calvary UMC Good Friday Crosses ~ Christ the KingGood Friday Crosses ~ Holy Trinity Presbyterian
















This evening we gathered in my congregation to sing “Holden Evening Prayer” composed by Marty Haugen. We have been singing portions throughout Lent. Tonight we sang it fully.


Let my prayer rise up like incense before you,
the lifting up of my hands as an offering to you.



Lenten Lights KK ~ Maundy Thursday

Maundy Wednesday 2012

My congregation actually has a “Maundy Wednesday” service – for each of the last ten years. Maybe more. We gather for our usual midweek meal, which is not all that usual, since we take turns cooking and feeding one another: no caterers and only an occasional pizza, BBQ, or Thai food night. On the Wednesday of Holy Week we put away our dishes after the meal, and we gather in the sanctuary for another meal of bread and juice. And we sing, and hear the story of Maundy Thursday from John’s gospel, and then we wash one another’s feet. Although I’ve been practicing that ritual for a long time, I never get over the feelings of vulnerability in it. This year my seven-year-old washed my feet. She was awkward and funny about the whole thing, and it was incredibly sweet.

What caught my ear in the story last night was the opening: “Before the Festival of Passover, Jesus knew that his time had come to leave this world and go to God. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully” (John 13:1 CEB). There rests my prayer for this day, this week, this season: to love and be loved fully. 


Lenten Lights JJ ~ Holding out Hope

Spring - Japanese Red Maple

Just a few weeks ago, on the third day of Lent (March 7) I wrote about standing in “hope and expectation that new leaves will appear soon” on this very tree. Now in Holy Week my hope and expectation have been fulfilled. It is a run-of-the-mill, every-year miracle. Recently I heard something about miracles as changes in perception. Miracles can also come in the form of changes in the weather, or changes in the season, or changes in the material world.

As we approach the hardest days of Lent, these Holy Week days when death and betrayal are immanent, I hold on to the words from Hebrews: “do not grow weary or lose heart.” Hold out hope and expectation. Miracles are underway.



Lenten Lights II ~ “Pray to the One I Love”

I don’t mean to over simplify this Holy Week. In fact the emotional and spiritual logic of it is irreducible. It’s a story strange and unique unto itself. But when I boil down the Jesus story of that final week, I see a story about love. Because even stories about righteousness, or truth or salvation, are nothing without love. In the beginning was the word and the word became flesh and lived with us in love. And the incarnation of Jesus was neither a beginning nor an ending, but a way through to living participation in the very life of God. Most simply it seems to me Jesus died at the end of holy week because of profound and generous love. There are political explanations and theological ones, yet the most compelling story – this holy Monday – is how the story of love played itself out and Jesus laid down his life for his friends in love.


This music video “From This Valley” is sung by the Civil Wars. Joy Williams and John Paul White began working together and recorded their music in the neighborhood. I like their edginess. Their brokenness. The soul wrenching honesty of their lyrics. Their heartbreaking sound (like around the 2:20 – 2:40 mark in this video). The song seemed just perfect for this week. . . its longing and its hope . . . orphans . . . outcasts . . . desert and river . . . mountains and passion. In our very particular experiences we are connected to all the stories of hope and love, disappointment and betrayal, grief and celebration at the loose ends of our lives. So . . . pray, pray, pray, dear ones. Pray to the one you love.



Lenten Lights HH ~ Labyrinth 

Holy Week Labyrinth

Tonight I feel the blessings of a community that sets up a Holy Week labyrinth, and says, come and walk. The candles were lit. My daughter first tagged along at my heals then pushed past me, then went at her own pace. I wrote these meditations when I was expecting her. Now here she is, growing faster than I can keep track. Time and community and the mercy of God circle in to the center of my life and back out. I walk. And in each step I both detach from and connect to all that is, to the power and empowerment of love and life.

This week we walk the path of Jesus that leads through great love,
.          surprising betrayal,
.                     healing and teaching,
.                                meals and miracles,
.                                          life and death.
.                                                     God’s mercy in every step.


Lenten Lights GG ~ Remembrance

Searching my cache of photos for palms and Palm Sunday, I came across this picture of the Holocaust Memorial of Miami, taken while on Spring Break trip last year.

Holocaust Memorial - MiamiThere are indeed palms, but they pale in the shadow of this memorial, a hand reaching up in profound struggle, “conveying the unimaginable and remembering the unthinkable.” Sculptor, Kenneth Treister says, “The immensity of this tragedy is infinite. To express it artistically, impossible … but I had to try.”

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Christians will begin the remembrance of the final week of Jesus’ life and ministry, a triumphal entry to Jerusalem, core teachings of the faith, followed by his arrest, trial and crucifixion. At the heart of Christian faith is a profound wound. It must be remembered. And the remembering is complicated by the seemingly impossible and conflicting need not to valorize or glorify the suffering, pain and death, neither to forget the painful presence of violence in the story. If we find an easy answer or pathway through this tension, it is probably not much of an answer.

Monday evening begins Passover or Pesach. Jews will begin the remembrance of the Exodus out of Egypt, the key teachings of their faith, and many other times of profound suffering over the course of history for the children of Israel, including the Holocaust during the second World War. At the heart of Jewish faith are wounds so numerous and profound, as to be “infinite” as Treister says. There is no glory in this suffering, yet remembrance is absolutely key, so much that when Jews in America respond to questions about which central aspects of the Jewish experience shape their political activities, remembering the Holocaust tops their list.

If you can do nothing else with Holy Week or with Passover, then at very minimum, I urge you to remember, and ponder with some seriousness, the wounds at the heart of Christianity and Judaism. How religious traditions and people cope with violence – their own and that of others – remains one of the greatest challenges of our time. We ignore this challenge to our own peril. The vision of Christian hope and of Jewish tikkun olam (healing the world) are based not in casual or grandiose optimism. Rather sacred hope and healing are grounded in the most profound vulnerabilities of life and death.