A Miracle of Community – Pentecost Sermon



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Here is the Pentecost sermon based on Acts 2:1-21 that I  preached on June 9, 2019.  I am so thankful for the collaboration and support of the community from the liturgical dancing and dove waving, music, choral reading, life-sharing, and celebration of different languages.  We concluded the service with members leading the benediction in languages they know including Spanish, French, Korean, Japanese,  and German.  

Peace and blessings to you, Alice 



A little lending library just opened in the entryway of my daughter’s preschool. I love it. On days when we don’t have to get home right away, we stop and she pulls book after book for me to read. We read the first few pages and then she gets me another, and another and another.

Like a lot of the books we have back in the children’s area here in the sanctuary,
Through the humor of the familiar of mealtimes and bedtimes, and sometimes through the invitation to the serious, these books communicate that all are welcome,
that the differences in our skin color and background are what bring beauty to this world, and that we must train ourselves to be attuned to one another.

This idea that beauty comes in diversity is center to the lived mission of the school. When my older son attended there, he learned to count to ten in Spanish and in Arabic before he could do so in English. Before he could be influenced by the awful stereotypes of this world, he understood the hijab to be a practice of faith to be admired and even inspirational. At 5 pm, coming in from traffic and facing the pressures of the dinner-prep witching hour, I’m so thankful that the school has created this little space for intentionality. It is a miracle of community that they have carved into our day.

On this day of Pentecost, we too in the church celebrate this miracle of community flung open by the power of the Holy Spirit. As we heard in the choral reading,
the Holy Spirit comes in waves first seen then heard. The fiery tongues are turned into the gift of other tongues, and as Biblical Scholar William Willimon reflects,
the first gift of the Spirit is the gift of different languages creating an opportunity for proclamation.

It is in this moment that the gathered community is invited to take a risk — to venture from where they were hiding inside in that upper room to outside where the Gospel message is already drawing a crowd. Bystanders look on, and because there are no reasonable expectations for this sudden power of the spirit, they come with their own explanation: “They have drunk too much wine.” It is a moment of holy spirit humor pointing us towards times when we come up with non-sensical explanations for things that we don’t understand. But as we well know this kind of fearful attitude towards things we don’t understand also has the potential to turn fatally dangerous.

As we in this country and those in the Europe celebrated the anniversary of D Day,
we were reminded how fear turned to fascism — and then to nazism leading our world to seeing some of the worst evils ever perpetrated.

For the millions of Jewish people and many others who were killed, we did not act soon enough. It is a sin that we as a world will forever have to atone for. But when we finally did come together I am reminded too of the bravery of so many from all religions and all backgrounds facing down that evil.

As a nation, we are the most divided we have been in my lifetime and perhaps yours as well. The left demonizes the right and the right the left. When we so desperately need the work of immigrants in this country, we hear the horrifying messages calling immigrants all sorts of horrible names, hear of children in detention facilities that have been compared to a prison, kindergartners having to defend themselves without a lawyer, and funding that provide for English lessons have been cut.

The immigrants I know are the ones who take the jobs in the chicken factories in Kentucky because no one else wants those jobs, the people who work 15 hour days in the California and Texas sun picking our crops, the mothers who carry a young child strapped to their back while dropping another off at school, my children’s’ pediatrician, the owner of my favorite coffee shop, and one of my favorite college professors.

Our soundbite world has trained us into giving way to stereotypes. It is deepest calling of the church to stand firm against the way we are becoming every so further divided, for it is this division that is tearing not only our country but our very souls apart. We can’t give way to the divisions, white vs. black; immigrant vs. citizen, rural vs. urban.

My assumption about rural communities were deeply challenged this past February as I drove from here to rural Indiana for my dear friend Amy’s memorial service. On the drive, I took the opportunity to grieve the death of my friend and to take in a part of the country that only living on either coast, I have never seen before. I got off the highway and drove through towns where houses seemed to have given way to disrepair, a clear result of so few businesses left. The opioid epidemic in rural America came clearly into view.

I turned on talk radio and the broadcaster was spouting the same message we hear from some on cable media — in order to protect yourself, stick with your tribe; don’t let foreigners in.

When I arrived in their small town, I girded myself for the feeling of tribalism and xenophobia spouted out on cable radio. But that wasn’t the case at all. The downtown was bustling on that Thursday evening with food trucks camped out for those who came for Trivia night. The whole community was out.

As I looked deeper, on the hotel, on the coffee shop, on the court building, and on neighboring churches were signs celebrating Amy’s memory. The whole town was showing up in support.

Still hesitant, I looked around and noticed that most of the population was white, so I thought maybe this is how they show up for those who look like the majority — for those in the tribe.

The next day, my stereotypes continued to be challenged. First off, I didn’t expect many of Amy’s out of town friends to be be people of color. And then at the reception, I didn’t expect to see a friendly intermingling prompted by the people of the church and community who created intentional spaces for introduction and inclusion.

I dug in later with Amy’s husband, who is the Pastor of the Presbyterian church in town and a local civic leader. He said he well knows the stereotypes, and believes that it is the calling of the church to defy those things. The children’s section in his church is full of the same kinds of books we have here and at my children’s preschool. He preaches on and prays over privilege and racism. The church works to support local businesses so that the downtown may thrive.

The devastating thing is indeed the opioids epidemic, especially among older youth and young adults. It was the work of my friend as the local judge, and the work of the local faith community working together to provide for teen outreach, support, and ultimately hope. They want to create a community where every voice is heard and where those in pain will realize that they are not alone. Here is the hope of Gospel.

The Pentecost story is often contrasted with the ancient Babel story that Sam read.
As Biblical scholar Ted Heibert offers, God’s problem with the Tower of Babel was not about human pride but rather about cultural homogeneity. In the Babel story, the threat to humanity comes when the people want to live in one place and be a uniform culture. God, intervenes against this false sense of human intent and scatters the people throughout the world creating multiple languages and perspectives. Diversity is God’s intention for this world.

We are intentionally trying to embody this kind of diversity here at NYAPC. You’ll notice in your bulletins there is an insert to the new Vision and Mission that the Vision Strategy group has been working on for over a year now. At the heart of the vision is the hope of inclusion that comes from a deep embrace of diversity. Our hope is not just about general message of welcome. Our hope is that inclusion takes root in the specificity of human relationships: That those with power of the microphone and status will take time for deep relational listening; That those who come from other parts of the world will speak and the rest of us will listen so that can blow change amongst us; That we will listen to the leadership of our children and youth that from caring for the diversity of creation to embracing the diversity of humanity we might work toward kingdom of God made manifest in this world.

We are indeed in a very scary time in our country and in our world. I deeply believe the Holy Spirit is moving in and through us at NYAPC preparing us to be repairers of the breach.

Think our location just a few blocks form the seat of power, the thousands of people literally from all backgrounds who either pass by our front door or come inside each day.

Think of the groups who already feel comfortable in our building from the Poor People’s Campaign, to the McClendon Scholar in Residence programs talked where Senator Coons talked and both progressives and conservatives responded, to different groups advocating for those who live without homes feel.

You come from different places city and rural, from DC and not, those born here and those who bring another culture.  You come from diverse perspectives.  You are willing to have our minds changed about how given the right push — perhaps a personal story, you are willing to turn away from stereotypes.

Then think of this building, particularly Peter Marshall Hall, proudly reflecting the work of Community Club and the McClendon Mental Health Program on its walls.  Consider how we could be the perfect space for continuing to host intentional conversations with those who in the eyes of the world are so different,
yet in the heart of God are loved just the same.

We would start with the things we have in common, our love of our kids, our love of our work, maybe in a shared passion for baseball – always beginning from the fundamental place that God creates us good. We could take a cue from Krista Tippet’s On Being podcast and then dig deeper the question “what is the spiritual background of your childhood?” It is a question meant to get us thinking to who we are, who the other person is, and whose we are together. We would begin the conversations with the premise that each person is good and beloved child of God. And then and only when those abiding relationships are established would be dig directly into the places of conflict that tear us apart. Given the right atmosphere, ground rules of openness, honestly and hospitality, these kind of civil conversations would go a long ways towards the healing of our country and the healing of our very souls.

Following after our deep conviction that it is our calling to follow God into places of brokenness and joy, to express God’s love, to engage in God’s justice, it is our calling to be that miracle of community for the world.

Do you feel the power of the Spirit blowing through this place?

I do.





Head of Staff and Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Roger J. Gench Retires after 17 years of Ministry at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church

Pastor Gench’s final sermon “Charged” at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, June 2, 2019


After 17 years of serving as the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, on Sunday June 2, 2019, Pastor Roger retired from his called ministry at NYAPC.

The day began with worship at 10 am including the Sacrament of Communion and the opportunity for anyone in the congregation to come forward to re-affirm their baptism with Pastor Roger.   Kathryn Sparks offered a beautiful dance interpretation to Psalm 90.  Roger preached on Romans 12:1-13 reflecting on how as the church we are charged to be “in the world, with the world, through the world, against and for the world.”

The Rev. Lyman Smith from the National Capital Presbytery (Committee on Ministry) shared with the congregation of the Covenant of Closure explaining to the congregation and Pastor Roger that while friendships will surely remain between Pastor Roger and the congregation, the pastoral relationship is now dissolved.  The congregation should wish Roger well into retirement and not come to him for pastoral care or other needs.

The Adult chancel choir commissioned two special pieces for Pastor Gench.  The first piece, “Benediction Response,” composed by Luke Ratcliffe, was shared in worship based on Roger’s famous benediction “Lift up the Brokenhearted, Stand with the Oppressed,  and Let all of it be in Love, Alleluia Amen.”  The second piece, “Hello, People” (to the tune of Hello Dolly) was part of the reception, a more humorous piece featuring some of our favorite “Roger-isms” including “Cruciformity” and “Palpable.”

The reception was wonderfully planned by the Diaconal Ministers and the Nurture Committee, led by Karen Dunlap.  The program for the reception was planned by Miriam Dewhurst, Paul Dornan, Stan Engebretson, Paul Gebhard, Rev. Tara Spuhler McCabe, Meg Neill, Mike Smith, James Spearman, and Rev. Alice Rose Tewell.  Rev. Spuhler McCabe provided the “MC” for the program.

Speakers including representatives from BUILD and Brown Memorial in Baltimore as well as members and staff from NYAPC including Mike Smith, Sarah McGinnis, Helen Anthony, and Raymond Newman (in addition to those not named above) gave thanks for the ministry of both Roger and Frances Gench at NYAPC.

Those who were baptized by Roger (including many children and a few adults) were invited up front to help Roger reaffirm his baptism.  The History Committee, represented by Len Shabman, presented Roger with his portrait to be hung amongst the pastors pictures in the JQA room in the church.  Kathryn Sparks, our Director of Liturgical Dance and Minister of Music at Wesley Seminary, concluded the program with a community-engaged dance into the world.

Roger, we give you thanks, for your ministry at NYAPC.  We pray at in the years ahead, you will have the space to reflect deeply, act boldly, and pray fully, doing it all in love.  Thank you!

with blessings, Alice Tewell

*Photos by photographer Stephen Reasonover



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Celebrating Dr. Rev. Roger J. Gench!

Celebrating 17 Years with Dr. Rev. Roger J. Gench!

Rev. Gench will be retiring from 17 years as serving as the Head of Staff and Senior Pastor at The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington DC.

We invite you to Rev. Gench’s last service leading worship with us this upcoming Sunday June 2, 2019 at 10 am.  Worship will include Communion.

Following worship, all are invited to a celebratory reception in Peter Marshall Hall.

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57th Annual Community Club Award Ceremony and Graduation Pictures

Amy Gillespie receives a special award from Community Club.
Titi wins the tutor of the year award.  Titi and her student, did the presentation.
Kasey Kelly receives a “Thank you” from Tom Karr and Shamika Bradey
Molly Smith presents and explains the Dornan Scholarships.


Paul Dornan and Molly Smith smile for a pic!


Susie Campbell and Susan Baumbach


Tutor pairs
Tutor pairs
Tutor pairs
Tutor pairs

Do Not Be Afraid: Running with Easter, Reflections on Biblical Storytelling for Eastertide


If you have been to NYAPC since Lent, you may have noticed that I have become fascinated with the practice of Biblical storytelling or learning the Bible by heart.  (The youth learned the whole book of Jonah on Youth Sunday, which totally blew me away.)

I was introduced to this spiritual practice mid-Lent by Rev. Casey Fitzgerald, Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alexandria and professional Biblical storyteller.  Her project was to gather five women across National Capital Presbytery to tell the story of the Women at the Well (John 4:1-42) at the NEXT Church National Conference in Kansas.

It was something I said YES to because frankly I respected the women that were asked and wanted the opportunity to get to know them better.   What I didn’t realize was how that Biblical story would become so engrained me me.  The part that I learned “Look around.  The harvest is ripe for reaping!” became implanted so deeply that I began to see the words everywhere inviting me to look around and see God’s beautiful creation and God’s harvest ALIVE and active in this world.  


Inspired by this opportunity to learn the Biblical story by heart, during the later half of Lent when the readings from the Gospel of John became rather long — we experimented with this practice in church, not requiring our liturgists and pastors to memorize the text but rather to read it so that the words become second nature so that the the words of the Biblical story become like telling a close friend the best story in the world. That is what the Gospel message is, right?  The best story in the world. 

For Easter I took the challenge to memorize the Easter story from Matthew 28:1-10.  For two weeks, I  ran outside with the story.  I uploaded it onto my phone, and as I chugged along a few miles each day, I repeated phrase in my head, gradually adding phrase on top of phrase. 

It was a deeply spiritual practice to experience and notice the presence of God as the trees and birds were changing over from winter to spring.   Seeing the unfolding of spring all around me all while repeating the Easter story in my head, I began to experience the story of the women of the tomb.  These are the women who who rose early to check on Jesus’ body expecting a crucified man to still be there. 

Central to the story, I kept hearing the words from the angel and then Jesus saying



These are words that we need to hear today as Christians — as people of the post resurrection era, as Eastertide people.   These are words that meet us in our creatureliness — our fears of not fitting in, of not doing well enough, of completely messing everything up,  of never being recognized or never getting the opportunity to be seen.  

These are words too that meet us in our fears that are more global — fears of that are based in a very real and scary reality of the often violent world that we live in.  These are fears that we felt this week as we experienced the real and horrific violence against mostly women and children in Manchester.  These are the very real fears  from the family of Lilana Mendez, a mom of children ages 4 and 10 years old from Falls Church, VA who was detained at her at her regularly scheduled Immigrations and Customs Enforcement checkin.  It feels as though the world is too scary — that there is too much horror and injustice and not enough real peace.  It feels easy to simply feel afraid and do nothing.  Fear can be immobilizing.  

As I was driving home yesterday, I saw a young African American man pulled over for what I assumed to be a traffic violation on 15th street in front of the White House.  I wondered what level of fear he felt or how he has been taught by his mother to act so calmly so as to avoid any kind of violence.   I took note how my son’s first driving lesson won’t likely be how to interact with the police.  I wondered what my role is as a Christian  is in in offering protection for this young man.  

As I ran and meditated on the words “Do not be afraid,” I heard the realness and the concrete particularity of our fears, and I heard that it is in those places of deepest trauma that God meets each and every one of us.

I heard that the Gospel calls out for us is to take the risk of the relationship, to take the risk of being hurt, to take the risk of being changed, and enter with hands held in compassion into the each other’s space.  The Gospel calls each of us to take on risk and burden of another — and through this deep binding to become closer to who we are and whose we are called to be.

Jesus knew that and felt that very real fear as he faced the cross on his journey to Jerusalem and then during that week of trial and execution.  So when Jesus says “DO NOT BE AFRAID”, he is saying that he knows this feeling.  He is saying to us — I know how it feels to want to immobilized.  I know the feeling of wanting to pull the blankets over your head.  I know the feeling of feeling so tired.

But in the words of DO NOT BE AFRAID, what I gained from reading the Easter story over and over, running with it, with each pound of the foot on the pavement, hearing the words of Jesus saying DO NOT BE AFRAID and DO NOT LET YOUR FEAR PARALYZE YOU.  Don’t give up.  Don’t throw in the towel. 

Don’t give up because you don’t face all of these fears alone. 

You might be like the women at the tomb the first day who came so early because they knew no where else to go.  Even if the it was just the body of Jesus, they wanted to be with him.  When when Jesus appeared in the flesh — “they immediately came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.”   

We might be like the disciples who hid in the upper room for days in fear of the religious authorities.  We might be like Thomas who needed to experience the wounds of Christ for himself, who needed to see how God had so concretely took on the all of the pain and suffering of this world upon God-self.

We might be like the one witnessing the story from afar knowing the pain and suffering of those earliest followers and knowing the pain and suffering of God’s people today.  We might feel the urge to get up outside of ourselves and try on what it feels like to follow that call and “Do not be afraid.”

Whoever we are in the story — in reading and repeating the learning the story by heart, the story is for all of us — that God is alive and active, that God is with us in the deepest traumas, and that God says that as the body of faith, we are to be present for one another. 

Over the next months, I encourage you to take out a Biblical story — perhaps your favorite one and read it over and over.  Read it in little chunks savoring on each word and phrase, noticing the shift and tone of the voices, noticing how the story tells in parts and as whole.  I hope you will learn a Biblical story by heart.  And if you choose a lectionary passage (or ask Roger or I for one), we would love for you to share your Biblical reading in worship. 



Here is my plug for an intergenerational class I will be teaching on Biblical Storytelling in July.

Sundays, July 23 and July 30 :   Learning to Tell the Bible by Heart:  Anyone can tell a story!  Join us for an interactive workshop on how to tell parts of the Biblical Story by heart.  This workshop can be geared to anyone Grade K and up.  If you are planning to bring your very young child, please let Associate  Alice Tewell (alice.tewell@nyapc.org) know so she can prepare accordingly.  This workshop will also be useful for anyone serving as a Scripture reader.

Good Friday – Mary “Here I Am” – How does the church respond?

John 19:25b-27, Third Reading in the 7 Last Words of Christ

from Rev. Alice Rose Tewell from Good Friday service April 14, 2017, noon. 

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother,  and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,  and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother,  “Woman, here is your son.”  Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. 

 “Woman, here is your son”  “Here is your mother”

These are the words that have burrowed deep within my soul, starting their journey when I first became a mother about 3 and half years ago.  After reading this passage many times, I’m still confused. How can Jesus address his mother as “woman?” It feels so harsh. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is saying this, yes, but also these words come from Mary’s beloved Son, the one whom she swaddled so carefully and played with in the manger.

The one when the angel of the Lord said, Greetings, favored one!  Do not be afraid! .. She is the one who first responded “Here I am!” and sang from her soul to the Lord.  She sings in joy at the beginning of Jesus’ life – a joy mixed with fear and joy overpowered with hope and possibility.

But now on this Friday on the foot of the cross the pangs of the soul are different, a beating so heavy; I wonder how she keeps her body standing up right? Does she feel as though she is going to collapse herself in a heap — like bones — held up only by the power of the Spirit? How does she stand at the foot of the cross looking on at her Jesus, her son?


Her relationship with Jesus has always been different — we remember him at the age of 12 staying in the temple longer than he should — saying tersely to his mother — “Why didn’t you think to look for me at my Father’s house?” Or at Jesus’ first miracle the wedding at Cana and another terse response: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”

There relationship was different, loving but not sentimental. It is a relationship of mom and son but also of the Son of Man and a woman of great faith — a story of God and God’s most faithful one saying “Here I am.”

Some years ago from Stanley Hauwewas book on the 7 last words of Christ, I read the work of  Catholic Bishop and counter-cultural advocate Raniero Cantalamessa, author of Mary, Mary: Mirror of the Church.  Cantalemessaa, with strong roots in the Mary tradition, makes a fascinating observation that in Christian theology Jesus is associated with the new Adam, the new Moses, and the new David, yet Jesus is never associated with Abraham. Why is this case, he asks? 

It is because Mary is our new Abraham. 

Abraham is one who followed God’s call when all earthly standards told him to walk the other way.  As we recall during the lighting of candles on Christmas Eve,  even when both he and his wife Sarah were too old to conceive, God said that they would have descendants that number the stars.  Then once they finally did bear their child Isaac, the child in whom all of their hopes and dreams are cast, we recall that deeply disturbing story when Abraham did not resist God’s command to take Isaac up that treacherous mountain to sacrifice his only son. God comes to both Isaac and Abraham’s rescue providing a ram in Isaac’s place.

But the case of Mary and Jesus their story is different.  Like Abraham, Mary said “Here I Am,” to bear God incarnate, God who lived among us, God who lived both as divine and human suffering for and alongside us.  But Mary’s “Here I Am,” could not save her son.  And I think she knew that.

Here these words excerpted from Mary’s Magnificat months before she is to give birth:  My soul magnifies the Lord… Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed…He has shown strength with his arm; He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted by the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

She, the mother, the woman, the one who perhaps knew Jesus best knew from her faith from her knowledge of God that this One — and this YES, Here I AM would be different.

But standing there on the foot of the cross,  how could she have imagined that this is how she would see her son for the final time?  She bore the pain of seeing her Son on that cross.  She stood there as the soldiers divided his clothes.  She stood there in danger to her own life; she couldn’t have known the outcome of being associated as the  mother of Jesus.   She stood there in her own grief, in her own agony in own anger perhaps and entered into the cross’ dark shadow. But even from the cross — this place of brutality and torture we hear the hope and love that comes from the reconciliation of Jesus.

Woman, here is your son.” 

Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” 

These are the words of connection. These are the words of community. These are the words of a new covenant for all of creation.  

These are the words of covenant where family is no longer based on lineage on who your birth parents and blood family are. These are the words that begin the church.

From Mary, to the most beloved disciple, a new community, a new family, a new set of possibilities are shaped and put into practice.

This is where the church is the community  transcends all boundaries, extending across generations, and across cultural norms of who should accept whom and who a person should accept into her own home.

This is the church where the disciple takes the risk on behalf of the one most in need, the most vulnerable —and in this case — the mother of Jesus, the mother of this one considered notorious by the authorities, who may have very well been marked as a threat too.  This is the church where the disciple takes her into the safety  and sanctuary of his own home.  This is the church where the one who is the most vulnerable is the one of the greatest faith the one who already said “Here I am.”prompting the whole community to say  “Here I am too.”

Here I am taking your pain as my pain.

your earth is my earth

your profiling is my profiling

your detention centers are my detention centers

your deportation is my deportation

imgres-5your attack is my attack

your barrel bombs are my bombs

your victims are my victims

your dangerous boat ride is my boat ride

your razor wire fence is my razor wire fence

your famine is my famine

your desperation is my desperation

your death is my death

your life is my life

your faith is my faith

your faith is what prompts me to say yes in the midst of all fear.

Yes, I believe.   And I believe in a new way of being a person, a community, and God’s church.  “Here is Your Son.” “Here is Your Mother.” “Here I am.”  

Learning the Maundy Thursday Story

imagesOn this day Christ the Lamb of God gave himself into the hands of those who would slay him. On this day Christ gathered with his disciples in the upper room. On this day Christ took a towel and washed the disciples’ feet, giving us an example that we should do to others as he has done to us.On this day Christ our Lord gave us this holy feast, that we  who eat this bread and drink this cup may here proclaim his holy sacrifice, and be partakers of his resurrection, and at the last day may reign with him in heaven.
 Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, to love one another as he loved them.  Write this commandment in our hearts; give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, who gave his life and died for us, yet is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.  – Unknown source

Learning About Biblical Storytelling

During Lent, thanks to Rev. Casey Fitzgerald (her blog is amazing), the NEXT Conference, and the opportunity to be Biblical Storytellers of the story of the Women at the Well,  I’ve gotten into the spiritual practice of Biblical Storytelling.    As I understand it, Biblical storytelling is usually telling the story by heart.  It is learning the story so well that it is 90-100% memorized, memorized so well that it is as if the storyteller is telling the words of the Bible to a good friend.  

I would like to get to the place of memorizing more scripture (perhaps even on a weekly basis), letting the words of the Bible, and particularly the stories of God’s people, sink deep into my heart changing some of my perceptions.  For example, in reading through the Gospel of John, Jesus feels like a radical risk-taker, not some pious semi-etherial Jesus that we sometimes may imagine.   In reading through the stories with Jesus at the center, he seems more like a bad-ass giving us/ me energy to be active in trying new things for the sake of the Gospel and to lean unto our identities as being justice-seeking risk-takers.

I, of course, haven’t had the time/ commitment/ energy/ drive to fully memorize each Lenten text, but in the spirit of Biblical Storytelling,  I have been meditating on the scripture text much more.  Rather than jumping right away to commentaries on what other people have written about the text, I’m pausing longer to read and re-read the text letting the words sink in, taking more time to feel the movement of the Spirit.

Throughout Lent, I have been breaking up the text into chunks as you can see from the first reading for Maundy Thursday below.  For this reading, I was really feeling the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter, so I used a bit of color-coding with Jesus in red (tradition) and Simon Peter in blue.  I am also particularly drawn to the purposeful action of Jesus getting up from the table and fully engaging in the foot washing,

so I pull it out a bit so that that portion stands out a bit more.

Perhaps as your Maundy Thursday practice, you too will read over these words letting the words flow over you at first and then fill you with a deepening notion of who Jesus is, and who Jesus calls us to be for the world.

A tip I learned is to read it over and over and over walking around, and then break it down into smaller chunks to learn.

Blessings on this Maundy Thursday.

Maundy Thursday Foot/ Hand Washing Reading

John 13:1-17, 31-35

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart imgres-1from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.

And during supper Jesus,  knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God,

got up from the table,imgres-2

took off his outer robe,

and tied a towel around himself.

Then he poured water into a basin

and began to wash the disciples’ feet

and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around                    him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,   ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’

Jesus answered, ‘  You do not know now what I am doing,  but later you will understand.’

Peter said to him, ‘  You will never wash my feet.’

Jesus answered,  ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’

Simon Peter said to him,  ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’

Jesus said to him,

‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet,

but is entirely clean.

And you are clean,

though not all of you.’

For he knew who was to betray him;  for this reason he said,  ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet,

had put on his robe,imgres-3

and had returned to the table,

he said to them,

Do you know what I have done to you?

You call me Teacher and Lord—

and you are right, for that is what I am.  

So if I, your Lord and Teacher,

have washed your feet,

you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

For I have set you an example,

that you also should do as I have done to you.

imgres-4Very truly, I tell you,

servants are not greater than their master,

nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.

If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

When he had gone out, Jesus said,

‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified,

and God has been glorified in him.

If God has been glorified in him,

God will also glorify him in himself

and will glorify him at once.

Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

You will look for me;

and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you,

“Where I am going, you cannot come.”

I give you a new commandment,   images-1

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 for one another.’

The darkness deepens, and the Lord grows troubled.
Can we keep watch? 
Can we be the friends at Jesus’ table who share this Holy bread and wine?
Can we be the companions who journey with Jesus to the end?