Archive for the ‘Communion’ Category

I wrote three paragraphs. Finally. Three!

In Abraham, Allison, Bathsheba, Breath, Christianity, Communion, Connected, David, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Jesus, Job, John, Joseph, Making a Mistake, Mary, Moses, Mud, Myth, Passover, Prayer, Prostrate, Spirit, Stations of the Cross, Stillness, Story, The Way, Uncategorized on 24 March 2013 at 8:57 PM

At my church for the past few weeks, we’ve been observing Lent and meditating on the (new) Stations of the Cross. I’ve helped organize and facilitate some of that. Below are the meditations I wrote for this week, the final week of Lent—

 

Twelfth Station: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and Disciple (John 19:25-27)

Abel, dead and cold in a field, had been Adam & Eve’s innocent son. And Abraham bound Isaac to the altar. And Jacob for years lost Joseph to the wilderness. And ten thousand mothers of ten thousand murdered boys cried out to God in Egypt. And Bathsheba’s baby died very soon. And David wept for Absalom. And Job and his wife, what but the whirlwind was left for them after the quake? — And you, Mary. You lose your child, too. You kept him safe from Herod once but now you watch his body suffer, bleed out, die. What hopeful secrets does He keep from you, Mary, and what horror does He allow you to abide in? You belong to the Story; your sacrifice is your people’s Story—and now you bear its weight. The Kingdom comes but you don’t know it yet. So let yourself be held. Move into the arms of this beloved disciple. It is no consolation, I know, but the LORD gives you this body to writhe against, to weep into, to suffer alongside you. Love upholds you still. So can it be, Mary? Blessed be the Name, even now? Will you say it with me, Mary?—will you bless His Name with me, even so?

 

Thirteenth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross (Luke 23:44-46)

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus said. What can I commend to God? Not even my time on Facebook. Not my morning coffee. Not my impatience. Not my wife’s emotions, nor my own. Not my anxiety. Not my desire to control. I cannot commend into His hands my desire to be best, to be noticed, to be liked, to impress. But these are what He requires in the Kingdom. I’m to be a vessel of His Kingdom, not of my small loud will. So I close my eyes. And I practice. Father, into your hands I commend this breath. And this one. And this one again. I breathe You in, my Father, and I breathe me out. I take your Spirit within me like these filled-up lungs, like this blood that stirs throughout my body. I breathe in your Likeness, your Spirit. I join my breath to yours. One breath at a time. Into your hands, my Father, my Creator, I commend this breath. And this one. And this one again.

 

Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb (Matthew 27: 57-60)

As you lie prostrate on the cold hard ground your body feels the earth against itself, this God-made earth, so big, so full of love and death, now against your chest, now beneath your belly, now pressed even to your cheeks. This is not an insight; it is a practice. Your body, your only true possession, rests upon the earth. You can smell its wildness. You can hear its generations of passing life, this great muted groan singing to you as through layers of mud. When you are dead you are like the mud. You are a once-a-song returned to the mud. You are a once-a-song that became silenced by the mud. It is the Way of the world. Even God becomes like the mud. He joins you—for you. His body becomes like the layers of mud and contains for a moment all these muted songs. Alive, He was so beautiful a vessel; dead, He becomes like the mud. Listen. Stay here on the ground until creation sings to you through the mud. Stay quiet. The world is singing. Press your ear to the earth. Listen to the silent groaning music. Join your God in the mud. Join your voice to His beautiful—to His terrible song.

 

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Chase us. Bug us. Haunt us. Woo us. —A communion prayer (4).

In Christianity, Communion, Connected, Jesus, Making a Mistake, Moses, Myth, Passover, Prayer, Uncategorized on 8 October 2012 at 6:21 PM

Our Father,

We are tired. And we hurt. And we twist inwardly. In the evening, before bed; while we sleep and dream or stay awake alone; while we wake in the morning, eat, shower, arrive; and even now as we gather in your Name: there is this Something and this Something Else. And if I pay attention I can feel them moving. I worry and I fear and I plot and I fight and I grow bored and I complain and I doubt and I gossip and I eat too much and I desire and I grow proud and I hide and I agree with my disappointments and I hope and I trust: apart from the Name. I understand that I want you and I do not know how to want you. I fear you and I go on being afraid. I return to you and I continue in my exile. I am foolish. I am your beloved.

So I am tired—but I wear myself out; and I am hurt—but I am hurtful; and I twist inwardly—but it’s my own shame I’m trying to escape.

And I find, after years and years—I regret myself.

Still, you have come—you, voice of creation; you, Passover lamb; you, Bread in the desert; you, Messiah. You wash my feet. You break yourself open. You pour yourself out.

Because of you—even while we do not know ourselves, even while we do not know what we are doing, even while we fumble around like badly told jokes—even so, we gather in your Name. You say, This is my body. You say, This is my blood. You say, Remember me. So we try. We do what we can. —But give us your Spirit; help us do what we cannot do. Chase us. Bug us. Haunt us. Woo us. Help us love, and trust, and pray—according to the Name.

More tragic or more beautiful. —A communion prayer (3).

In Communion, Prayer on 28 April 2012 at 10:27 AM

We surround your table: we perverts, we thieves, we prostitutes, we cheaters, we racists, we who are lazy, we who use food to console ourselves, we who drink too much, who manipulate, who lie, who control, who rage, who hate, who refuse others forgiveness, we full of self-pity, we who give up hope, we prideful, we selfish, we lonely, we broken, we afraid, we hurt, we your church, we your bride, we your greatest love—we surround your table; because you invite us to eat with you, of you; because you invite us to remember your life, death, resurrection whenever we gather; because nothing more tragic or more beautiful has ever happened: this momentary grief, this hope for all time. We broken, we hurt, we hurtful, we grateful—we thank you: your body broken for us, your blood shed on our behalf: by your death we have life of the ages. Amen.

Malachai. Beethoven. Sigur Rós. —A communion prayer (2).

In Beethoven, Communion, Curse, Elijah, John the Baptist, Malachai, Sigur Rós, Uncategorized on 27 April 2012 at 8:54 AM

 

At first I cannot decide whether to read your oracle to Malachi in silence, or while listening to music.

I choose music.

Then I cannot decide whether Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or the Parantheses album by Sigur Rós will be more appropriate—whether the promise of joy, or of curse.

I choose Sigur Rós; I choose curse.

You see me. You hear me. I read aloud. I pace.

What are these sounds of curse, this music that teaches me the weight of curse: that darkness, that apartness, that despair, these slow sad movements, these notes so far apart from each other. Yes, you love your people. But when they—when we—do not abide in the Way, when we leave, rob, keep for ourselves what belongs to you: we become a curse.

So I read aloud. And the music is here. And the curse is all around me, is in my ears, is filling me up: voices singing longing, voices singing destruction. You show me the way of my darkness. You surround me with curse. Its weight is unbearable. It enters my body and it moves throughout my body. I am filled with it. I am crushed by the curse. I am under the curse.

So I join your people. I am with them, thousands of years ago. I am among them. And we are selfish. And we have robbed you. And we are afraid. And we are desperate. And we are apart from you.

And what then.

“Behold,” you say, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome DAY OF THE LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.”

Even while we rob you and turn away from you, even now while we are a curse: still we are your children. Still you promise Elijah, the gift of John the Baptist. Still you promise the DAY OF THE LORD, the gift of your Son. Still you promise reconciliation, the gift of your heart turned towards me, of my heart turned towards you.

In remembrance of the curse, in remembrance of your Son, in the hope that you and I will turn towards one another: we break bread and we drink of the cup. We join the story: it comes—the DAY OF THE LORD comes.

Because of you, we remember together that in your Son, in this broken body, in this spilled blood, the promise of joy now contains and overcomes the promise of curse.

Father, forgive us our sins, we beg. Turn your heart to your children, we pray.

Chew slowly. Taste but do not savor. —A communion prayer (1).

In Acts of the Apostles, Communion, Homer, John the Baptist, Passover, Peter, Shel Silverstein, Story, Three Little Pigs on 26 April 2012 at 3:46 PM

In storytelling, if you want to make a thing matter to your audience, you have to repeat the same events over and over again. This is why in Homer’s Iliad, at the beginning and at the end, fathers beg for mercy and pity, for their children to be released to them: Have pity, they say. Please, I beg you for pity. And when in the beginning there is no pity, Apollo rages. In the end, though, when Achilles weeps with Priam and hands Hector over, Apollo is pleased. Pity, forgiveness—these are important to the gods, we learn.

And there are three houses and three pigs in the story of the “Three Little Pigs,” so that you really get the point about the two naughty, lazy little pigs, and how different they are from the responsible, good little pig.

And in that children’s book The Giving Tree, the Boy repeatedly comes back to the tree, to ask for more, for more, for more—and each time it breaks your heart more, and more, and more.

And in the gospels of the New Testament, the disciples make mistakes—so foolishly, so cowardly, again, again, again—because next comes the Acts of the Apostles. And remember: they receive the Holy Spirit—and they stop all that foolishness. What a great way to emphasize the life of the Spirit. Thank God, then, for Peter, for fools, for mistakes again and again—since his mistakes are my mistakes laid out before me, again, again, again.

In the same way, Yahweh builds repetition into the Way of the Hebrews. Every year for 1,500 years before Jesus was born, the people of Israel repeat Passover, this gift, this celebration, this movement, this story: they tell it again and again amongst themselves, reliving it, practicing it, giving thanks for it—becoming it every year, again, again, again.

Here are God’s people, in exile in Babylon, at Passover, practicing the hope of God’s faithfulness. Here again, in exile in Assyria, at Passover, they practice the hope of God’s faithfulness. And again, ruled by Persians, by Greeks, by Romans: each year they repeat the same hope—God is faithful, God is faithful—remembering the sacrifice of the lamb that spared them, so removing them from slavery to freedom. This is the horrifying, beautiful poem of their people.

Again and again—for 1,500 years—they tell the story. And then Jesus, the new Passover: Behold, John the Baptist declares, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

So Jesus reclines at the table, says for the first time in history—This is my bodyThis is my bloodThis do in remembrance. He is giving new, big, horrifying, lovely meaning to this repetition, to this very old story. He is saying again, saying brand new, God is faithful, yes. He is saying, I am the hope of God’s faithfulness. Here the body, here the blood. Here he changes how we repeat the story, how we repeat it forever. Take body, take blood: his. Our Lord dies vulnerably, as bread and wine are torn about in your mouth. Chew slowly. Taste but do not savor: this is body, this is blood, this is life within you: it is food and it is not food—it is graphic but not disgusting. Give thanks for this repetition, for this remembrance, for this horrifying, beautiful picture of love.

For many years before Jesus grew its meaning for us, Yahweh asked his people, Shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat, year after year, in remembrance of hope, faith, love. In the same way you, our Lord, are killed, broken open, your blood for all people, slaughtered as a lamb. So we, too, shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat: in hope, in faith, in love. But, even so, while we practice this story, while we repeat this broken body, this spilling blood, even so: we  hope most in what comes next: even in this horror as we repeat it—we abide, we endure, we give thanks, and we hope too in that Kingdom to come. Amen.