Author Archives: Laurie Brock

Rejoice Now!

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels,
and let your trumpets shout Salvation
for the victory of our mighty King.
Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth,
bright with a glorious splendor,
for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.
Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church,
and let your holy courts, in radiant light,
resound with the praises of your people.

Those words begin the song of Christ’s victory, the Exsultet, announcing the movement from death to resurrection.

I chanted it as a deacon. I remember my intense practice with my voice teacher Miss Dottie. I made notes on the score. I rehearsed. I wanted to sing it as perfectly as I could. After all, it’s a huge moment in the liturgy for a deacon.

It wasn’t perfect. I missed a few notes. I was so focused on each note I didn’t give as much focus to the whole message of the ancient hymn.

I’ve continued to chant it through the years. I don’t serve a congregation with a vocational deacon, so I chant the Exsultet at almost every Easter Vigil. My notes written 15 years ago still adorn the pages I use.

I still miss a few notes, now more so due to the task of chanting the entirety of Holy Week. The words and notes combine for me now in a way they didn’t 15 years ago. Certain phrases catch me, so I pause just a bit when I chant the words, for to redeem a slave, he gave a son. My heart begins to waken to the joy of Easter when we hear on this night, God restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn.

I sing it with a confidence now. My voice has matured, yes. But I’ve also chanted the words over and over. They are no longer new. The notes aren’t unexpected. They wed themselves to my bones and heart. They root deeply within my soul. I can chant some parts from memory. This experience, chanting from memory, from repetition, and from my soul make the song come alive for me (and, I hope, for the congregation who is hearing).

Easter gives us an opportunity to practice the song Jesus gives us…again. We know the words. We’ve heard the parables and the teachings through the years. And yet, hearing them, reflecting on them, singing them again gives us a chance to become more familiar with our song of discipleship.

This year, 50 Days of Fabulous will offer reflections on one of the great teachings of Jesus, his Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke. Each week, one of our writers will offer daily reflections on a section of the sermon. We’ll journey for 50 days through the blessed and the woes. We’ll explore deeply the teachings of Jesus in this well-known but perhaps not as well-understood passage. We hope you will join us, asking your questions, adding your insights.

We hope you will join us as we celebrate 50 Days of Fabulous as we sing with our selves and souls, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”

Let Evening Come…

Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Sarah had been working, doing, being busy. Calling friends, checking on her brother. Talking to the doctor. Checking on her brother. Cleaning the house that was already spotless. Checking on her brother.

He was dying. Dying after a very long illness. And here she was, back in the family home, filled with more memories than space, and filling her hours and minutes with the things we all fill our hours and minutes with to avoid facing that which we know is coming, but realizing what we know is actually so unknown we will do almost anything to avoid it.

She sat at the family table, long, scratched, worn in places from years of elbows and forks and conversations and meals. The phone rang, and her friend Jane asked on the other end, “How are you doing?”

Sarah answered the way many of us answer when we don’t want to say the truth. And her friend replied, in deep love, “Let evening come.”

Matthew, Peter, James, John…have been working, doing, being busy. They have been teaching, preaching, healing, questioning, following for months and years. They gathered with Jesus of Nazareth on this night that would be different from all other nights.

The remnants of the meal rested on the table before them all, the disciples. Maybe 12, maybe 20, maybe more. Women and men. Some children. Most faces were familiar, but a few new ones, perhaps friends of friends. Jesus never turned away someone who wanted to join in.

They gathered to listen – again – to Jesus. The post-meal hey, are you going to eat that last bit of cheese; did you see the crowd a few days ago and hear them cheering; this Jesus movement is really going somewhere conversation pass over each other. Judas and Peter share an inside joke, and Judas notices the light is beginning to fade.

Let evening come.

We gather. We have been working, doing, being busy. Life is busy. We have things to do, people to see, life to live. But on this night, we sit down at the dinner party with inside jokes and laughter and hellos to hear our friend, our Lord and Savior, fill this space with something profound, something that shifts us from our narrative. And while we know what is coming, what will happen after the moment and the meal. Maybe this time, we wonder, it won’t be so hard, so raw, so hurtful. Maybe this time ‘My God My God why have you forsaken me’ won’t be spoken from him. Maybe this time…

And yet, let evening come.

Like Peter, James, John, Sarah, and all of us when we stand at the edge of what is and where we are and peer into that which is hazy and unknown, we want to stop it all, stay where we are, refuse to go forward, refuse to move.

Jesus, however, being Jesus, does move. He moves from the table. He rises and kneels, washes our feet, a symbol of that love. No one is beneath you, no act of love is menial, he shows us. Do the work that needs to be done. Love those who need to be loved, including yourself. Be willing to seek love out of comfortable spaces and place. Be willing to move beyond. Be willing to trust. Peter makes a fuss. He always does. Judas looks uncomfortable. But then, so do all of us. Slaves touch dirty feet. Not Jesus. Not us.

He moves to take the bread and the wine and shares with us. Nourish yourselves on love, and feed others with the same love. Maybe, even, he sees us looking at the ones around the table we don’t like. That Judas has always been a bit…you know, we say to ourselves, moving away from love.

Jesus gives the wine to Judas, then offers the cup to us. “Drink,” his says, “In love.”

The laugher has died down a bit. Peter is going on and on…again…about how much he loves Jesus. Judas is checking his phone, like he has somewhere to be. Sarah is looking in on her brother again. Did you know he was dying? someone whispers. We are wondering if we sent that email or returned that phone call or finished whatever remains unfinished in our days and lives.

“What did Jesus mean ‘he is only with us a little longer’? Is he going somewhere? Maybe back to Bethlehem?” Thomas asks.

We shrug our shoulders. We all have our thoughts. The temple priests have been agitated lately, not so friendly to Jesus. No one likes to be called a hypocrite – especially when it’s the truth. We’ve heard talk that the Roman authorities don’t care for Jesus, either. Who would have thought that preaching love would make so many people angry.

James and John said they heard talk about an insurrection, and that the church leaders wanted Jesus silenced. Dead, even. After all, John said, all this welcome of the outcast gave people ideas, ideas they have worth and dignity, that their lives matter. Matthew and Philip nod. We nod. If only he were just a bit…nicer, not so…but our comment is interrupted as Sarah returns.

She sits down at the table again.

The disciples sat down at the table again.

We sat down at the table again.

“Is it really that bad? Could he really be killed?” someone asks. No one speaks, and the silence says what we all know is true.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. He’s too young, too vibrant, too much life ahead of him. What if we don’t remember everything he’s told us. That whole bit about the bread and wine…what are we supposed to remember again?

“Love, he said something about love,” someone remarks.

“Love,” we repeat.

“Love isn’t supposed to feel this scary, is it?” Mary asks.

Jesus gets up and walks to the door. He opens it and walks outside. Evening is coming. We all see it. We all feel it.

Mary follows to the door. She pauses and reaches to touch his shoulder, maybe to hold him back, maybe to give him the faith to move forward.

Let evening come.

“What now?’ Matthew asks, to no one and to everyone.

Jesus looks to us, the shadows of the evening falling around him. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love.”

“Love,” he repeats once more.

Then he turns and walks out the door.

We follow, fearful, loving, lost, faithful in bits, and confused in parts. Our feet washed, our souls filled. We move into the unknown. We follow into what will come next.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us   
comfortless, so let evening come.

Keep Living…

In season 3 of Call the Midwife, the beloved of one of the main characters dies in a tragic accident. This storyline is paired with a woman, a survivor of the Jewish ghettos in World War II, who has not left her home for 12 years, but finally steps outside her home into the Poplar neighborhood.

They meet on the street at the end of the episode, and Jenny, who suffering the fresh wound of grief, dissolves into sobs. The older woman tells her, “You will feel better than this.”

Jenny shakes her head, responding from the valley of the shadow of death, feeling so certain light and life have fled from her life. The woman speaks, “You just keep living, until you are alive again.”

If we open ourselves, Holy Week touches the deep laments and griefs of our lives. We come face to face with our own acts of betrayal, our own resistance to servanthood and our own rejection of love. We may remember in our souls the pain we’ve felt from loss and disappointment. We stumble upon the places in ourselves that don’t feel alive and maybe haven’t for years.

We are at once the ones who yell, “Crucify him” and the ones who ask why God has forsaken us. That is the mystery of Holy Week.

Each day’s readings and prayers ease us more and more into the places our selves and souls would rather not go. On Palm Sunday, we pray we will walk in the way of Christ’s suffering. Holy Tuesday’s prayers invoke the declaration we will “gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.” On Holy Saturday, our prayers ask for strength to wait.

These are not prayers that easily touch our wounds then immediately dance into joy. They are prayers that confront us on the street, jostle us out of our tentative okay-ness, and may leave us in sobs. They are prayers that move our souls through the motions of living – of all that is living, including loss, betrayal, hate, and grief. They are prayers that confront us with new life, which we may or may not truly be willing to welcome.

Holy Week is a journey with Christ, one we walk in all the awe and mystery that is Jesus’ final days, until we are alive again at Easter.

And that new life, that aliveness, brings greater growth.

May we all walk humbly with Jesus this week, until we are alive again.

 

50 Days!

We’re here – on the other side of 50 days of fabulous. We’ve celebrated the Resurrection, been asked questions, been offered insight and story from amazing writers, and we have been changed by our encounter with the Risen Christ.

Thank you for journeying with us, for reading the words and adding your own.

Thank you, especially, to the amazing writers (in no order other than they way I wrote them in my notebook): Megan Castellan, Maria Noletti Ross, Anna Fitch Courie, Adam Thomas, David Creech, David Sibley, Tim Schenck, Mary Wright Baylor, Maria Kane – and – the contributors from Forward Movement, Rachel Jones, Miriam McKenney, Jason Merritt, and Hugo Olaiz.

Thank you to many who have shared emails, comments, and in-person meetings about how much you appreciate Fifty Days of Fabulous and the ministry of Forward Movement.

Now we go forth, to love and serve the Lord.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

Tangled in the Light of Stars

Read

Horses by Jim Harrison

In truth I am puzzled most in life
by nine horses.

I’ve been watching them for eleven weeks
in a pasture near Melrose.

Two are on one side of the fence and seven
on the other side.

They stare at one another from the same places
hours and hours each day.

This is another unanswerable question
to haunt us with the ordinary.

They have to be talking to one another
in a language without a voice.

Maybe they are speaking the wordless talk of lovers,
sullen, melancholy, jubilant.

Linguists say that language comes after music
and we sang nonsense syllables

before we invented a rational speech
to order our days.

We live far out in the country where I hear
creature voices night and day.

Like us they are talking about their lives
on this brief visit to earth.

In truth each day is a universe in which
we are tangled in the light of stars.

Stop a moment. Think about these horses
in their sweet-smelling silence.

from Songs of Unreason. © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. 

Reflect

We are tangled in the light of stars.

The followers of Christ were all together in one place, probably still reeling from the events of the last few days and weeks, when suddenly all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Their voices, their stories, their accounts of love and life changed by their relationship with Christ – all this came forth from them by the power of the Spirit, and in this moment, they were tangled in the light of stars.

Pentecost is often framed as only a miracle of language – women and men were able to speak other languages that, we hear, they did not formerly speak. Our minds usually default to a room filled with people speaking any number of languages of the day all at one time.

God, however, is never only one thing. The light-flame of Pentecost that lights upon us all as followers of Christ tangles us in that moment with the light of God, the very moment of creation when God’s very words and voice gave order to the universe and called life into being, a life filled with variety and diversity.

We become tangled with telling the story of God’s love because we are tangled in God’s love. Our voices, our actions, our very beings are empowered by the Sprit to be witnesses of God’s love in the world.

We are witnesses to this love by sharing our stories and using our voice. But do we give equal weight to how we share this love by the language of our presence, by the language of silence, and by the language of being with another fully?

Do we talk about our lives as Christians on our brief visit on earth using the many languages we’ve been given by the Spirit?

Our Spirit-filled language invites us to share how our lives have been resurrected from moments we thought we would surely die under the weight of grief with a friend who is now lost in the midst of her own despair. And our Spirit-filled language speaks as powerfully through the moments we hand her a tissue, hold her hand, sit with her in silence, and leave a casserole in her refrigerator.

Our Spirit-filled language gives us words to sing of the love of God in music written through the ages. And our Spirit-filled language welcomes us as we stand at the fence for hours and listen to creation sing God’s praises through foals running with wild abandon across rolling hills as the sun sets on another day.

Our Spirit-filled language welcomes the newly-baptized with our word-filled prayers, and our Spirit-filled language anoints each of us with holy oil, reminding us in the drenching of water and oil and Spirit, we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

Our Spirit-filled language is vast, deep, and wide. Its communication encompasses words and stories, silence and sighs, dance and stillness.

The Spirit-filled language reminds us we are tangled in the light of stars.

We are tangled in the love of God.

Always.

Respond

What are the ways your communication is inspired by the Spirit, especially ways that don’t involve talking? How can you express the language of the Spirit without words?

The Underside of Our Life

by Maria Kane

Read

The Underside of Quilts
by Cecily Jones

Two ceilings roofed the front room of my grandmother’s house most of the year:
a pink calcimined one almost matching the roses in the wallpaper
and a ceiling under which I sat to watch creation.

Visitors exclaimed over my grandmother`s quilts
stretched between two wooden slats
which could be deftly hoisted to the calcimined ceiling
and then lowered for quilting time.

Visitors admired the Pinwheel
and the Double Wedding Ring
and the Log Cabin
and the Dresden Plate
pieced together winter nights
and now arranged in bright-blocked rows like a landscaped garden.

But the underside of quilts offered a magic roof
beneath which I waited for the tracery of squares and diamonds touching points in every other block.
Sometimes a border Grandmother stitched a patterned vine:
A tendril, then a leaf, a tendril, then a leaf.
And though the repetition of the leaves was constant,

I`d wait for one more tendril to link its slender stem to one more leaf in one more twisting vine
as two borders joined.

Sometimes, these years, I dream:
Let the stitchers piece a million quilts
for all the children of the earth,
who can watch the patterned magic from beneath a wooden frame.
Sweeps of simple muslin
would become golden canopies
where a child from any land could see
a galaxy of buttercups
or a cobblestone of sky,
where a filigree of stitches would create
small parades of lambs and lions,
dove-wing silhouettes,
and circles of never ending circles
with a pansy in each one.

A whole world could be created on the underside of quilts.

From Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, Vol. 29, no. 3 (pp. 10-11)

Reflect

The first time I read Cecily Jones’ poem a few years ago I alternated between awe and envy.  “I wish my grandmothers had made quilts…I wish I had stuck with sewing lessons as a kid…I wish I could finally afford a quilt so beautiful…I wish, I wish, I wish.”

When I read the poem again days later it finally sunk in that Jones’ reflection is not about sewing; it is about the stories and dreams of her life.  Even still, aren’t there times in our lives when it is easier to look to our right and marvel at the “good life” we imagine everyone but us is leading? Even in the face of someone else’s sorrow or suffering, we sometimes catch ourselves shamefully wondering why our faith does not hold up as strong as our neighbor’s faith when storms ravage our lives. It often leads us to think our past lacks significance; our present is missing something; our future is not as promising.

And God weeps.

God’s tears fall because we do not see what our Creator gazes upon each day. Regardless of how we sometimes feel, the patchwork pieces that make up our lives are just as beautiful as the next one. There are joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, and memories and dreams in all of our stories. We can get in the habit of looking only at the underside of our quilt and what we think are unfinished seams while gazing longingly at the seemingly connected pieces of our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. We forget that our undersides also create breathtaking images and figures. There are millions of quilting combinations and innumerable manifestations of God’s glory in each of us—all of us. It’s not a competition; it’s a community. We are created to dream, to imagine, to create, to behold, and to receive the precious goodness that is each of our lives—no matter whether we know how to thread a needle or not.

Respond

Write down at least 5 unique characteristics about yourself or experiences you have had. Let your memories and list become an offering of gratitude or hope to God.