On Psalm 106

On Psalm 106

 

We move in circles,

spiraling around your presence

and our absence,

spinning from faith, to doubt,

to apathy,

and swinging around

to faith again

only through

centrifugal grace.

Fill our empty centers

with stories of your fullness,

until we stop seeking for signs and wonders

and rest in the miracle of movement.

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Two Daughters

A couple weeks ago, I preached a sermon at Reba Place Church, my spiritual home in Evanston, about the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5.  In my seminary studies, I read about a connection between this story and another tory of an unnamed daughter of an Israelite leader, Jephthah, in Judges 11.  Jephthah’s daughter is sacrificed because of her father’s hasty and unfaithful vow, and her cut-short life is honored by Israelite women for centuries.  In the book of Judges, her sacrifice represents the fallenness of Israel and the death-dealing forces at work in the world. 

talithakum

Jairus’ daughter is saved because of her father’s faith, and her resurrection prefigures Jesus’ own resurrection.  Her healing serves as a sign of Jesus’ power for life over those death-dealing forces that surround us and speak so loudly.  For me, brining these stories together helps me notice God at work in the lives of young women across the globe and throughout history, girls who have been expendable in the hands of power and vulnerable to the violence of our societies.  I also began to look deeper into the ways God is present in my own struggle for life over the power of death.  The audio for the full sermon is here, but below is an excerpt imagining the two unnamed daughters as one young woman who Jesus calls to life.   

After clearing away the mourners, Jesus walked into the room, and he took the young girl’s cold hand in his. He said to her her, “Talitha cum!” Young woman, get up! Daughter, arise! Death is knocking hard at the walls of your heart, and death is breathing down the back of your neck, but you are not dead, only sleeping.

Daughter, arise! Do you feel the light sliding across your eyelids? Do you notice how now, again, your chest rises and falls with the wind on the breath of God? Do you sense your blood flowing again, not pooling, but racing through your limbs and circling strength back into your bones? There is a balm in Gilead, and the leaves are crushed for the healing of your being.

Daughter, arise!  Death presses in from all sides; it blinds, it maims, it tears you apart. But it will never. Have. The last. Word. Whether the overwhelming weight presses from outside or the insidious shadows grow taller inside you, I always have the last word. There are forces that want to claim you as their own, that silence the loud beating of your heart and crush the strong stance of your feet, but I will not let them destroy the purpose I have called you to. My voice calls louder still.

Daughter, arise! I call you up! I name you as alive! I pull you to myself, and you are not alone. When I pull you up, you will stand. On your own two feet. And you will walk. The light in your eyes and the breath in your lungs and the blood in your veins will all work for a common cause: to move you in the dance I have set for you. You are un-paralyzed. You are re-enfleshed. You are healed for a purpose.

Daughter, arise! I am sorry that your need was faster than my arrival. But everything wrong will be made right. Everything dead will live. I will wipe every tear from your eye, and there will be no more fear. I cast out your fear when I called you my own. Daughter, arise, he told her. And he took her hand.

And she stood up.

——-

image found here

Thursdays in the Lectionary – When They Were All Together in One Place

This week I’m at a the Forum for Theological Exploration‘s Christian Leadership Forum, and I’m part of the team preparing the Fourm’s times of worship.  Because Pentecost is this coming Sunday, our team decided to focus on the coming of the Holy Spirit and the sometimes difficult waiting we do in anticipation of that arrival.  We read this litany at our opening worship this morning, and it was my hope in writing it that it would prepare our hearts for the often surprising activity of the Spirit.      

When they were all together in one place, God of the unexpected, your people had no way of knowing what would happen next.

We have come together to be shaken out of our complacency.

When they were all together in one place, unimaginable God, you met your disciples there, right where they had gathered.

We have come together with empty hands and tired hearts, knowing that our desire to be present is enough.

When they were all together in one place, untamable God, you breathed into their beings a holy disorder, a sacred cacophony, a resurrected life that baffles, confuses, and invites us into new ways of knowing and being.

We have come together as people still learning how to let go of our plans and expectations to make way for your wild grace.

But God, we so often forget that the miracle of Pentecost came fifty days after the miracle of Easter. There were fifty days between an encounter with the empty tomb and the formation of a Spirit-filled community. We are impatient people, and we fill the quite spaces of our lives with attempts to capture you in words, in numbers, in progress reports and projected outcomes.

Give us humble spirits and fresh eyes to pay attention to your surprising acts of justice and mercy.

God, when we seek the presence of your Holy Spirit, you call us to gather together from our places of difference and listen—to you, to each other, to the longings you stir in us.

We have come together to wait.

Come Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Thursdays in the Lectionary – Stones

I do know it’s not Thursday … I’m a day late with this post because yesterday I was busy finishing up my FIRST YEAR OF SEMINARY!  It was a pretty grand day.  The world got so excited about it that it forgot what season it is and snowed today. 

Rachel Held Evans, a writer and thinker I have long admired, began a new series in which she will be dedicating her Thursday blog post to the coming Sunday’s lectionary texts.  She invited her readers and fellow-bloggers to join her in this task of delving into the Bible as a community – whether through a traditional sermon, a poem, a reflection, art – and I am taking up that invitation.

This week’s texts are: Acts 7:55-60, Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16, 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14

 

One Stone

I jumped on the shovel

shlmph

It sliced into the hard-packed earth

Roots and sticks and last year’s leaves turned over and under

klink

I shove aside the dirt and look down to the heart of the world.

Will I hurry away

and sell everything

for the the Stone I see there,

One large enough to host the the longing of universe

and build it into reality?

It was so terrifying,

they buried it in the loam of the garden,

hoping it might grow there into something more

manageable.

Two stones

They fit like they had always been together

one stone next to the other

breathing with one sturdy lung

binding the whole wall together

into a sanctuary of holy possibility.

Three stones 

When I ran into town

and told them all about the wall I had built,

with the Heart-stone pulsing powerfully at the center,

I asked them to come and see

and imagine with me

just what kind of

roads and bridges and homes

such a living wall could offer.

Lord, do not hold this against them:

three stones hurled in fear.

We will pick them up together

and add them to the wall.

The cornerstone is large enough

to hold every stone they throw.