Author Archives: Laurie Brock

Beautiful Wounds

-by Laurie Brock

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Christ’s wounded hand, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France by John Kroll – Creative Commons

Christ’s wounded hand, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France by John Kroll – Creative Commons

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but…had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. (John 20:19-20, The Message)

 

 

 

 

 

REFLECT

Somewhere in the land of myths and legends I’ve heard about our faith is one regarding this same event mentioned in John, but the Christ who appeared wasn’t really the Christ. Instead, the Tempter appeared to the followers of Christ, greeting them, embracing them, until one unnamed disciple noticed this Christ didn’t have the wounds and realized this wasn’t Christ, but the Tempter.

We have that temptation as people of faith, to live into Resurrection without acknowledging the scars of pain and death that led us to this place. Temptation entices us to glamorize our pain and wounds, to ignore them all together, or to use them to justify our behavior, among other things. Temptation invites us to hold up our souls for all to see and act as if there are no wounds.

“See, look! Nothing!” we exclaim, usually ignoring our souls seeping all over the place through the wounds we are ignoring.

Life, the reckless, beautiful thing it is, leaves us wounded. The hands of others we’ve held in love have been pierced with betrayal. We’ve been punched in the gut and left breathless and wounded by institutional abuse. Our feet have been nailed to the damaging patterns of our families and our life choices that want us desperately to stay stuck. The list is long of the ways life and the people we encounter in this life leave their wounds.

The Resurrected Christ has his wounds. We have not one but two accounts in John where Jesus holds out his hands and says, “Look, touch.” And when those invited touch his wounds, their touch does not seem to hurt.

He is an embodiment of the true path of resurrection and transformation. Wounds do not, in a life of faithful healing, go away, as if they were never there. They are present, part of us. And initially, yes, they are filled with pain. But after we’ve laid in the tomb, after God has healed our wounds in God’s own time and way, we might be surprised to see they are still there.

Yes, yes they are. But notice something, God asks us. Notice they aren’t as painful. Notice they are part of you, part of your beauty.

Our wounds are transformed by God as part of new life. They become part of the newness we are in Christ. We experience, in the Resurrected Christ, our wounds transformed into part of us – a part of us that can be touched without sending us into screams of pain, a part of us that can be shown to others not in a way that glamorizes our wounds or uses them as an excuse for wounding others. They become a part of us that becomes our witness of Resurrection.

I wish I could lay out a plan of how, exactly, healing of our deep wounds happens or even a timeline. I can’t, but I know this healing happens. I know Easter always follows Good Friday and Holy Saturday (and in that order – no skips). And Easter allows Christ to touch our wounds, to transform them into parts of our selves and souls that can heal ourselves and offer the witness of healing to others.

Elisabeth Kugler-Ross writes of these wounds transformed but still present:

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

No, beautiful people do not just happen. They acknowledge their wounds; they offer them to Christ for transformation and for healing which is hard, unsettling work in many ways; and they allow Christ to touch them.

Beautiful people remind us all that our wounds are not sources of shame, but sources of hope.

RESPOND

Where are the wounds in your life Christ has touched? Reflect on the circumstances, people, and events of those wounds and how you experienced Easter healing of them? How have you been transformed because of this holy healing – what appreciation, sensitivity, and understanding have you gained? How have you or might you use this knowledge and insight to help others?

Whomsoever Dwells

-by Rachel Jones
Read

Sinead O’Connor: Whomsoever Dwells

Reflect
If you watched the video link in the Read/Watch section, you’ve just heard one of my favorite settings for Psalm 91. Even though this Psalm is one of our oldest hymns, coming from the Old Testament, it strikes me as a pretty great Easter song. Saint Augustine reminds us that we are Easter people, and we remind each other of that often. I think Psalm 91 is all about living into Easter even as we are struggling for purchase in the middle of Good Friday–crawling up into the safe hiding place of God’s goodness, nestling into right relationship, hugging tight the understanding that we are made whole and called to be holy in that place of transfiguration under God’s wings. Jesus pulls Psalm 91 around him tightly when he is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. God’s goodness is proven over and over again by the grace we are given to walk through the fire, to be protected from threats we’d rather not imagine, and even in our most extreme moments of doubt and torment, even death, God’s mercy makes a way to comfort and keep us.
We don’t need to go far from our front doors to be confronted with a world full of Good Friday hurt and anguish. Good Friday sits at our tables, sleeps in our beds, lurks in our in-boxes. It is no small wonder that we have to get together so often to remind ourselves that Good Friday is never a stand-alone event, whether it comes as a blown dead line, a blown relationship, a ripping of some veil we just weren’t quite ready to rend. We will need a safe place to hole up and nurse the hurt of those losses, those deaths. This particular song is one of those safe places for me. It’s been a balm to my heart on many hard days. If you’re having a hard day, maybe it can give you a little lift, too. We need to remind ourselves, and to be reminded by our people, that while our present ache may feel crushing, it will not be this way forever. Good Friday is not allowed to last forever. Not for Jesus, not for you. Easter is coming, always. Easter is here. Thanks be to God.
Respond
How does music play a part in the way you understand Easter? Does music play a part in your personal life of faith, apart from church singing? Tweet us your thoughts or share your favorite Easter or “Easter” songs at  #50daysEaster or #singsomeeaster

Something to Talk About

-by David Creech

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As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

-Matthew 4:18-25

Reflect

The disciple’s response to Jesus’ call has always kind of puzzled me. To this point there is no indication as to why they would respond so quickly and so completely to Jesus’ invitation. Sure, you and I as readers know that Jesus is special but how do these brothers know? Moreover, how is it that they found the call to “fish for people” more compelling than the economic security that fishing for… um… fish would bring? For James and John, not only do they abandon their economic security, they also leaver their father. How are we to understand this odd encounter?

For one, the announcement that the brothers with “fish for people” is a pretty clear echo of Jeremiah 16:16 that speaks to a time when God will restore Israel. These men are not being recruited to snare men and women but to announce the coming of God’s Kingdom. And in the verses that follow the call we get a glimpse of that kingdom.

What is commonly forgotten about the term “good news” is that it was originally a political term. The good news would be about the emperor and his successes. In the context of Matthew, the good news speaks to Jesus’ announcement of God’s reign. And what does this look like? Those who are oppressed, marginalized, infirmed, and otherwise disenfranchised are healed and empowered. The politics of Jesus are about resurrection life here and now.

Back quickly to the first followers of Jesus—they left everything to participate in this inauguration of God’s Kingdom. The hope and promise of the good news about the restoration of the people of God was indeed something to talk about. How might the good news be proclaimed by us today?

Respond

Where do you see God’s kingdom? Take a picture of it and share using the hashtag #SomethingToTalkAbout

 

 

Neither Death nor Life

by Adam Thomas

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For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Reflect

If I had to pick a pair of verses from the Bible that tell the entire epic story of God’s presence in and love for creation, the two above are it. The essence of most sermons I preach boil down to the content of these two verses. They were written on my old guitar case. I used the citation for a combination lock once. And now, whenever I say healing prayers, I always end with this verse. They are words of hope and conviction, as well as ringing with the crystal clarity of truth.

They also happen to be one of the selections suggested for funeral services. These are Paul’s soaring words about the love of God that show the infinite and eternal lengths to which God goes to remain in relationship with us. Nothing – not even death – can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Think about that statement for just a minute. We might survive because we metabolize nutrients and breath air and replenish our water supplies. But we live because of the love of God. The love of God is the foundation of existence; it is the thing from which we cannot and will not be separated. Not even dying will separate us from that love because life happens with so much grander scope than death could ever hope for.

This is the truth that we discover in Christ’s resurrection. This is the truth that lives in our guts and ripples along with tremors of grief when a loved one dies. This is the truth that is the salt in our tears. This is the truth that mingles with our sadness and leavens it with a hidden hope that God’s love will enfold the grieving as that love has already enfolded the deceased. That’s why we read these verses at funerals. They remind us that funerals are Easter celebrations. They speak of true reality. And they speak good news.

Respond

Each of us has a locus of fear within ourselves that whispers incessantly that something can and does in fact separate us from God’s love. These somethings are different for each person, but they all share one thing in common. Each is a lie. Pray about what that something is for you, and then remember Paul’s words of truth. Make them your own, as you are and always will be God’s own.

 

 


 

Lest We Forget

-by Rachel Jones

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Exodus 19:7-11. Then the LORD said to Moses, ” I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.” When Moses has told the words of the people to the LORD, the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.”

Reflect

God knows we are forgetful people. One of the things I love most about the project Fifty Days of Fabulous is the express intent to remind us all of the joy of Easter, the whole season long, even after the Cadbury Eggs have disappeared from the Walgreens check out stand.

Forgetfulness has been a problem for us since the day we walked out of Eden. As soon as we were able, we began writing down our story, telling each other over and over about all we had seen, what we had learned, how we talk to and listen to God…or not.

We get together as often as we can to tell the story of God to each other, to tell the story of the Word made flesh in Jesus. And still, we forget about how Jesus talks and acts–sometimes we don’t even make it out of the church parking lot or the food bank or the meeting room or the bed before we forget. And so, we come to understand that we are obligated to remind each other of this gift of Jesus–of this beautiful story of God. Because when we forget about that story, about how God always shows up, right in our faces, because God knows we are forgetful…and stubborn…and willful…when we forget that story, we do terrible things to each other.

The only way we will walk by the fruit without taking a bite is if we remember to tell each other not to eat of it. The only way we will stop killing our brothers is to remember to tell each other that the very ground cries out with the blood of the innocent. When the rains come, we can be assured that the rainbow will come because we tell each other the story of God’s kept promise. God spoke to the children of Israel and established a consecrated community and every last person in the crowd told their children that story, and their children repeated it into the ears of their own beloved small ones.

And the story grew, and in the fullness of time, Jesus came to stand among us, to proclaim that death is dead, hell is vanquished, and all things are being made new, and we believe that story is worth telling, worth talking about, worth risking our lives and reputations as reasonable people over.  It’s the greatest story we will ever know, the most wonderful story we will ever share. Thanks be to God for remembering us, for hearing our cries, for understanding and compensating for our forgetfulness…and for calling us to remember our best story.

Respond

When’s the last time you forgot something important? How did you forgive yourself? How did you make things right? Tweet us your thoughts at #50daysEaster, or #rememberingEaster

I am not the shepherd; I am a sheep

-Anna Fitch Courie

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The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts;
so I am helped, and my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
O save your people, and bless your heritage;
be their shepherd, and carry them forever.

Psalm 28:7-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Reflect

When I am not a pen-wielding defender of the written word, slaying thoughts and feelings through creative use of the English language, I am a wife and mother.

The first sounds so sexy.  The second…well…many days, sexy does not even cross my mind.  Like many moms or mother figures, I juggle a job, household stuff, parenting, being a spouse, volunteering in the community, and trying to be an engaged member of the church.  It is often exhausting, and it is easy for anyone juggling many roles to feel not very good at a whole lot of things. I think I told my husband once that my brain felt as if I had about ten browsers open at one time and the mouse was hopping back and forth from each one.

At heart, I am a “do-er.”  I excel, thrive, and like to solve problems.  I am a Martha. When Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha in the gospels, Martha was busy preparing the meal and taking care of business.  Martha did not take time to stop and listen to God being in her living room.  Like Martha, I am often so busy I fail to see Jesus in my own home.

Being busy can make me feel large and in charge and somewhat successful at many thankless tasks. That is, until there comes problems I cannot fix, or tasks I cannot get done.  My son recently had a problem I could not fix.  I had to explain to my son that mommy was not frustrated with him and his problem; it was that mommy was frustrated she could not fix it.  Mommy likes to fix things.  Mommy is a solution-oriented gal. Mommy likes to be a duster-wielding, duct tape, solver-of-problems.

The problem is that we get stuck in these mind sets that we can fix everything.  These mindsets cause us to think that we are the strength of our families, that we are the refuge and shield.  Much like Martha, we get so busy with the fixing, the task action orientation of our lives, that we forget that our focus should be on God.  When we get stuck in the mindset of a fixer, it is really hard to remember that we are called to trust in God.  Through trust, joy and peace will follow.

The entire Easter story is about this trust in God.  Really: we have to trust in God.  We have to trust in God that the brutal, degrading, depressing crucifixion of Jesus is enough to make the world right.  The death and resurrection of Christ is enough to fix everything: the world, the sins, the terror, the anxiety, the ills, the anger, the degradation…everything.  It includes the big and the small.  It includes all that I cannot fix as a wife and mother.  We have to trust that God is stronger than duct tape.

The 40 days of Lent come easy to me because it is easy for me to look at my Lenten fast as a task list.  I do like to set goals for myself to accomplish as a Christian during Lent.  I do not know that will ever change, because I like the sense of accomplishment that Lent provides.  I feel more in touch with myself as a Christian in the desert fasting doing something, than I do at Golgotha doing nothing.  Easter comes much more difficult to me.  When Easter arrives, it is time to be more like Mary.  Being a Martha is great until you come a period of time that does not need fixing.  Easter requires no action on my part, nothing needs fixing.  God has taken care of everything.  It is a pure, no-strings-attached gift with no broken parts.  When I get a hold of my inner Martha and focus on being Mary for a while, I am greatly comforted and at peace when I have to do nothing.  All my worries leave when I trust solely in God.  God has taken care of everything during Easter.  God provides our shield, our comfort, our strength and our redemption.  I need not do anything.  I can simply be in God’s refuge.

I am not a shepherd.  I am the sheep.   I am not the giver.  I am the recipient.  I am not the fixer.  I am the fixed.

Reflect

-Are you a Mary or a Martha?

-How has God fixed things for you?

-Where do you need to let go of those things you cannot fix?