Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

April 29, 2012 - Fourth Sunday of Easter 

"Holy Conversations"

This week we begin a 4-week sermon series about "Holy Conversations". Holy conversations are those opportunities we have for telling our stories, sharing our faith journeys, swapping "God talk". 

Our scripture reading for the day will be Acts 3:1-11 (click here to read the passage). In this story, Peter and John are passing through the gate of the temple when a beggar asks them for alms. Peter responds by saying, "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you."  What Peter gives the beggar is Jesus, and it changes the man's life forever.

Do we recognize opportunities to say to others, "What I have I give to you"?  What would we say if we did recognize those opportunities?  Do people really want to hear about it?  And what exactly is it that we have  found in Jesus that we could share with others?  Join us as we begin to explore those questions and think about what having "holy conversations" might be like.

See you on Sunday!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

April 22, 2012 - Third Sunday of Easter 

"Seeing with Heart"

This Sunday Pleasant Street United Methodist Church's Reconciling Ministries group will be leading worship, with Sharon Saunders preaching.  The reading for the day will be the story of the travelers' encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24: 13-35 (you can read the scripture lesson here).  

The two travelers did not immediately recognize the stranger as Jesus because they were only thinking with their head and looking with their eyes instead of also seeing with their heart. But in the sharing of hospitality and the breaking of bread together, they experienced the risen Christ.

What difference might it make for the life of our congregation if we could remember to open our eyes and our hearts to see Jesus walking along with us? Who are the "strangers" we let pass by rather than extend a gracious invitation to join us around the table?

See you on Sunday!

Devotion for April 19

The Lap of God
by Martha Popson 

She was shelling peas,
apron-covered knees
spread wide to catch
each pea/each pod

I, shaky, needy
wandered near

Her ancient swollen hands
pushed back the hair
that hid my face

She set down the pan and,
patting her knee,

oh, child
come on up here
and let me have a look at you.

Her voice was safe and so was I
sitting in the lap of God.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Devotion for April 18

If You Knew
by Ellen Bass

What if you knew you'd be the last to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example, at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs, you might take care to touch that palm
or press your fingertips into the crease of a life line.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase too slowly through the
airport, when the car in front of me doesn't signal, when the clerk at
the pharmacy won't say thank you, I don't remember they're going to die.

A friend told me she'd been with her aunt. They'd just had lunch and
the waiter, a young gay man with plum black eyes joked as he served
the coffee, kissed her aunt's powdered cheek when they left. Then
they walked half a block and her aunt dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon's spume have to come? How wide does
the crack in heaven have to split? What would people look like if we
could see them as they are, soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Devotion for April 17

A Twelfth Century Prayer
by Guigo the Carthusian (d. 1188)

Lord, how much juice you can squeeze from a single grape.
How much water you can draw from a single well.
How great a fire you can kindle from a tiny spark.
How great a tree you can grow from a tiny seed.
My soul is so dry that by itself it cannot pray;
Yet you can squeeze from it the juice of a thousand prayers.
My soul is so parched that by itself it cannot love;
Yet you can draw from it boundless love for you and for my neighbor.
My soul is so cold that by itself it has no joy;
Yet you can light the fire of heavenly joy within me.
My soul is so feeble that by itself it has no faith;
Yet by your power my faith grows to a great height.
Thank you for prayer, for love, for joy, for faith;
Let me always be prayerful, loving, joyful, faithful.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Devotion for April 16

My Confession: I Deny the Resurrection
by Peter Rollins

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Devotion for April 15

At the Window 
by Mark Nepo

I was at the window
when a fly near the latch
was on its back spinning—
legs furious, going nowhere.

I thought to swat it
but something in its struggle
was too much my own.

It kept spinning and began to tire.
Without moving closer, I exhaled
steadily, my breath a sudden wind
and the fly found its legs,
rubbed its face
and flew away.

I continued to stare at the latch
hoping that someday, the breath
of something incomprehensible
would right me and
enable me to fly.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Devotion for April 14

Unless I See the Marks
by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”  (John 20.25)

Oh, Thomas was no doubter.
The least naive, he trusted in the dark
the promise of our rising,
the open door of death.
He was the one, when Jesus stood
to go to Lazarus’ tomb in Bethany,
where enemies awaited him
with threats of death, who said,
“Then let us go and die with him.”

Oh, more, not less than all the rest,
Thomas believed in love, and how it bled.
He sought not proof of Jesus’ life,
but marks of what he suffered and forgave,
the scars of Thomas’ own betrayal,
to know that he had risen
not from bed, but from the depths
of hell, where Thomas needed him
to have gone, and been, and left transformed.

He didn’t ask to see his smiling face,
has famous, radiant eyes;
he didn’t hope to see him break the bread
the way he always did.
No, he asked to see his wounds,
the marks of love, the wounds of one
who weeps with those who weep,
who has walked with us through the valley
of the shadow of death.

Oh, Thomas, I’m with you:
I would not follow the safe and happy one,
the well-dressed Christ from a catalogue;
I will follow only the wounded one,
the one with most to forgive
and least reason to expect his hope.
I will follow the loving one with steady eyes,
who knows how much his love will cost.
I will follow the gentle man
with holes in his hands.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Devotion for the Friday after Easter

Easter Prayer
by Steve Garnaas-Holmes

Loving One,
you are present,
unbound by anything.

Dawning One,
you are in this moment,
not entombed in the past.

Forgiving One,
you are in the freedom of my soul,
not the stones of my surroundings,
not the grave of my deeds.

You whose glory it is to set us free,
deliver me
into the present moment.

You who give life
where there is none,
I live not by surviving
but by being raised
each moment,

with each breath
to have died,
with each breath
to be risen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Devotion for the Thursday after Easter

We Are Baffled
by Walter Brueggemann

Christ is Risen
He is risen indeed!
We are baffled by the very Easter claim we voice.
Your new life fits none of our categories.
We wonder and stew and argue,
and add clarifying adjectives like “spiritual” and “physical.”
But we remain baffled, seeking clarity and explanation,
we who are prosperous, and full and safe and tenured.
We are baffled and want explanations.

But there are those not baffled, but stunned by the news,
stunned while at minimum wage jobs;
stunned while the body wastes in cancer;
stunned while the fabric of life rots away in fatigue and despair;
stunned while unprosperous and unfull
and unsafe and untenured…
Waiting only for you in your Easter outfit,
waiting for you to say, “Fear not, it is I.”
Deliver us from our bafflement and our many explanations.
Push us over into stunned need and show yourself to us lively.
Easter us in honesty;
Easter us in fear;
Easter us in joy,
and let us be Eastered.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

April 15, 2012 - First Sunday after Easter 

"Thomas the Avatar"

This Sunday we'll take a look at the familiar story of Thomas' post-resurrection encounter with Jesus (you can read the scripture lesson here).  

In the virtual world of online gaming, people are able to enter an alternate reality as a fictional character called an "avatar".  These imaginary identities allow players to have encounters that they don’t have in the real world.  Author Susan Brown suggests that in Sunday's gospel story we're given the opportunity to participate in a reality not our own through an avatar – "Doubting" Thomas.  Long criticized for his disbelief, Thomas instead becomes the alternate identity for each of us who've never had the chance to meet the flesh and blood Jesus - an avatar for every person who has ever wrestled with questions about the resurrection.  What do you suppose you learn through Thomas the Avatar?

See you Sunday.

Devotion for the Wednesday after Easter

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready-made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head. 
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you 
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something 
that won't compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor. 
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. 
Say that your main crop is the forest 
that you did not plant, 
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. 
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees 
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear 
close, and hear the faint chattering 
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful 
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child? 
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields. 
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn't go.

Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction. 
Practice resurrection.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Devotion for the Tuesday after Easter

Easter Morning 
by Ann Weems

The stirring wildness of God 
   calls brittle bones to leaping 
and stone hearts to soaring.  
Old women dance among the stars.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Devotion for the Monday after Easter

An Easter Thought from Clarence Jordan:

The proof that God raised Jesus from the dead is not the empty tomb,
but the full hearts of his
transformed disciples.
The crowning evidence that he lives is not a vacant grave,
but a spirit-filled fellowship.
Not a rolled-away stone,
but a carried-away church.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Devotion for Easter Sunday

Christ as a Gardener
by Andrew Hudgins  

The boxwoods planted in the park spell LIVE.
I never noticed it until they died.
Before, the entwined green had smudged the word
unreadable. And when they take their own advice
again – come spring, come Easter – no one will know
a word is buried in the leaves. I love the way
that Mary thought her resurrected Lord
a gardener. It wasn’t just the broad-brimmed hat
and muddy robe that fooled her: he was that changed.
He looks across the unturned field, the riot
Of unscythed grass, the smattering of wildflowers.
Before he can stop himself, he’s on his knees.
He roots up stubborn weeds, pinches the suckers,
deciding order here – what lives, what dies,
and how. But it goes deeper even than that.
His hands burn and his bare feet smolder. He longs
To lie down inside the long, dew-moist furrows
and press his pierced side and his broken forehead
into the dirt. But he’s already done it –
passed through one death and out the other side.
He laughs. He kicks his bright spade in the earth
and turns it over. Spring flashes by, then harvest.
Beneath his feet, seeds dance into the air.
They rise, and he, not noticing, ascends
on midair steppingstones of dandelion,
of milkweed, thistle, cattail, and goldenrod.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Devotion for Holy Saturday

The Lathe
By Chris King

You lay so still that night,
on your nuptial slab, noble as granite,
Though not a thing inert –
Could any tomb contain your passion?
Rather, an unmoving lover,
A blade crosswise a spinning lathe,
While the world’s crooked timber,
Contracting round Jerusalem,
Yielded, that Sabbath,
To the execution of your design,
(Your mother gazing on,
Only she knowing the extent of it)
And turned as the sun sank past the west,
Swung on through the starless pit,
Until, come dawn, a goose-down light
Fell soft upon the new creation,
A freshly dew-scattered Eden
Where your bride pines for your kiss.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Looking Toward Sunday

April 8, 2012 - Easter Sunday

"Seismic Shift"

This Sunday we'll take a look at the Easter story as told in the Gospel of Matthew (you can read it here).  

The Resurrection represented a kind of cosmic shift in the order of things - dramatized in Matthew's gospel by the "great earthquake" that opened the tomb.  On that Resurrection morning the balance of power shifted from what appeared to have supremacy (hatred, cruelty, death) to what was thought to be powerless (love, compassion, and life).  In the words of commentator Tom Long, the Resurrection was “a shattering earthquake that rippled a seismic shock through history and signaled that the fault lines of human history had shifted dramatically toward grace and hope.”

Join us on Sunday as we celebrate the aftershock!

Devotion for Good Friday

Good Friday
by Christina Rossetti (1862)

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
  That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
  To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
 And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
  Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
  Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
  Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
  Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
  A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
  I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
  But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
  Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
  And smite a rock.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Devotion for Maundy Thursday

Tonight is a Night of Darkness
by Theresa Coleman

Tonight is a night of darkness.
We gather it together like gauze and wrap our souls in it.
Tonight is a night of final things.
We gather together in the darkness and hold hands for one last meal.
Tonight is a night of water.
We gather together to cleanse and prepare.
Tonight is a night of tears
We gather together and pray that the tears can wash away the betrayal yet
Tonight is a night of betrayal.
We gather together to support one another, but one of us will destroy.

The cup comes to me at the table – the cup of the last meal
I will drink of it deeply and
Remember all the good times; the teachings, the laughter, the love.
The cup comes to me at the table – the cup of new beginnings
I will drink of it deeply and
Hope that the new covenant will not hurt too much as it is carved on my heart
The cup comes to me in the garden – the cup of my Father’s will
I will drink of it deeply after
I ask that it pass from me.
The cup comes to me as He is on the cross – the cup of bitterness
I will drink of it deeply even
If it comes in a form that is alien to me.
The cup comes to me tonight and I will drink
I will drink deeply and enter into
At-one-ment with Him.

This is the dark night of the cup.
Dark is the wine, dark are the shadows, dark is my soul.
Together we enter into this night, we will leave separately in silence.
Can I be at one with Him? Will I stand watch with Him tonight?
Or will I too sleep at the gate?
Will I embrace and kiss only to betray?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Devotion for Wednesday of Holy Week

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis
by Denise Levertov

Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
A soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
In a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
That He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
drifted for mortal moments.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Devotion for Tuesday of Holy Week

In Memory Of Her
by Susan Windley-Daoust

But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.”  (Mark 14:6)

“Leave her alone.”
And for the rest of my life, they do.
They are not supposed to look at me, but
Sidelong glances and traitorous sounds tell them
I am crying,
And words I want to say are choked, stillborn.
I can’t tell them how I knew
unless you, too, see it was obvious
that he was not meant to stay with us forever.
He seemed to know it that day,
the way he ate so slowly, deliberately,
staring at people, boring into their eyes,
the occasional pause, blink,
seeing something we could, or would, not.
He was with us and not,
and I knew: it was time.
So I rushed to get the jar of spikenard,
my dowry,
and stepped over reclining men,
to his mat.
With a pleading glance, I knelt down,
Cracked the seal,
And poured out a portion, then the whole, of my hope
on his head, and then his feet.
Kneeling at those calloused feet, I wept
with the knowledge of what this means:
I have given my future
To this man, who will die.
As that perfume filled the room,
He smiled, lifting my chin, and addressed me:
“…you will not always have me.
She has done what she could.
She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.
Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world,
what she has done will be told....”

So I was left alone by men.
No one understood, then;
truth, I barely understood myself.
But in that gift, my center shifted
And I knew - despite his coming death - that I was meant to be alone, for him, somehow.

The day after the catastrophe,
I looked at the broken jar
I remembered the fragrance
And I hoped.

Devotion for Monday of Holy Week

The Way of the Cross
by John Harvey

as we start once again
to follow you
on the way of the cross,
we are apprehensive.
For we are not sure
of ourselves.
On our journey
we have often been afraid,
often sought the safe options,
often fudged the sharp solution.
On our journey
we have often tried to hide
our real selves
from others,
from ourselves
and from you.
We, who dare to say
we are following you,
know how faltering are our footsteps,
how delicate our discipleships,
how feeble our faith.
Yet still you call us
by name
and invite us into your company
and onto your road.
So give us the courage
and the commitment we need:
help us to look out for one another on the road;
show us how we may share the duty
and the joy
of discipleship,
knowing that, in the end,
it is you who have blazed the trail,
you who accompany us all the way,
you who will meet us on the road,
and say our name. Amen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Devotion for Palm Sunday

The Donkey
by GK Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked,
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry,
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient, crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hours and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.