From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: “Buddhists seek enlightenment, and Christians long for union with God. These supply us with images of a contemplative path that has discernable stages and ends up someplace, a journey that concludes when we find ourselves snug in a castle, the strains of the journey safely behind us. But Buddhists and Christians also describe stages within the enlightened or united condition, and they tend to postpone the perfect realization of these states to another life or another mode of existence in “heaven.” The idea of an ending or conclusion provides us with a more definite shape for our desire and criteria for our “advancement,” such as it is, along the path. The fruits of contemplation are said to include equanimity, deep peace, joy, undisturbed compassion, and love. In the confusions of life and the disorientation of contemplation, these markers can be helpful. If we find ourselves hating ourselves or others more than ever, this is a signal that perfect possession of enlightenment continues to elude us. But even if there is a consummation of the contemplative path, it is the path itself that we walk, step by step. As we walk we should not expect that the dawning of contemplative desire transforms us into peaceful, loving, joyous, calm people. In fact, the opposite experience is more likely to arise at various moments (or years or decades) of the path. It is crucial to remember that contemplation is a path because this allows us to attend to the place we are right now…Contemplation stills thoughts and emotions so that we can become more conscious of dimensions of mind beneath the grunge and distraction of everyday day life. Even sitting still for thirty seconds and focusing awareness on our breath can clear out an excess of anxiety, restoring a level of calm and confidence that seems disproportionate to the simplicity of what we have done. Various contemplative practices assist us in deepening this calm.”
From Wendy Farley’s The Wounding and Healing of Desire: “Through this dialogue of mutual desire, over time interior awareness of the faith we acquired but did not believe even as children is carried more deeply into us: the gracious adoration of Holy Mystery for us requires nothing at all of us. In whatever tiny measure we awaken to desire for the Beloved, we become aware that the infinite depths of the Beloved’s desire for us preceded us: the eternity of divine love for us walks before us, follows after us, protects us from above, nourishes us from below, and burns within us. It can no more abandon us that it can abandon its own nature. The sublime indifference of our Beloved to our imperfections can be almost intolerable. We crave this Love yet find it unbearable. Desire teaches us to detach from our certainties and our need to be perfect, releasing more and more fully into the flow of desire between Holy Eros and ourselves. In this way, the painfulness of desire, the anguish of uncertainty, and the inevitability of errors that harm ourselves and others become as nothing compared to the urgency of desire as it carries us to our Beloved. It is this loving and being loved that purifies us, removes the “rust” from our souls, and makes us ‘as white as the cotton grass of the moor.’”
From my Theology from the Trenches: “The ‘revealing’ power of the cross is critically important, for if the cross exposes sin, it also discloses the God who is always and already bringing life out of the death-tending ways of our world. Or as Nadia Bolz-Weber has put it, ‘God keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.’ The profound affirmation of cruciform faith is that God refuses to give up on God’s creation and is at every moment bringing life or resurrection out of the crucified places of our world.”
From my Cross Examen: Theologian Kristine Culp tells an arresting story of meeting a gang member from Los Angeles who had unusual marks upon him: the word “Florence” was tattooed on his forehead, over his skull, and around his neck. The tattoo defined him as belonging to a particular neighborhood—one ruled by his gang. The tattoo carried the threat of violence against anyone who would disrespect his hood. Culp met the man at an agency that aids people trying to escape L.A.’s violent gang culture. Through the ministry of this agency, the man found an alternative culture of love and forgiveness that helped him reconstruct his life. As a result, this former gang member was literally changing the marks upon him; he was in the midst of the painful process of tattoo removal, which required “months of treatment and entailed what are essentially second-degree burns.” This story is an apt metaphor for our human condition, for we also bear the marks of violence upon us, perhaps not physically, but spiritually, for the same violence that crucified Jesus crucifies us. But God in Christ is always at work, bringing life out of death, healing our wounds, resurrecting us from the death-tending ways of the world, and inviting our participation in the divine cosmic restoration project.
From Douglas John Hall’s Cross in our Context: “Christianity make the astonishing claim that God, who is preeminent in the only unqualified sense of that word, for the sake of creature’s shalom suffered – suffers – the loss precisely of that preeminence. In the words of Reinhold Niebuhr, ‘The crux of the cross is the revelation of the fact that the final power of God over humans is derived from the self-imposed power of God’s love.’ Not incidentally, Niebuhr’s qualifying adjective is tremendously important here: ‘self-imposed weakness.’ Against Nietzche, the pastor’s son who complained so bitterly about the ‘feminine’ weakness of the Christian God and his Christ, Niebuhr recognizes here that God’s apparent weakness is the sign and consequence of a strength that is greater than mere brawn: it is the strength that is demanded of those who voluntarily forfeit their strength in order to be strong for the other.”
As we journey toward Holy Week and look toward Easter, you might be thinking about how you might honor this most important week of the Christian liturgical year with children. Scroll below and you will find information about Easter too.
Holy Week ideas:
- During the week, go through your Holy Week Box that the children made last week in gathering time. If you’d like one, I have extras. You could also make your own.
- Read the Bible with your children. Start at Matthew 26, Mark 13 or Luke 22 and read through the end. We will be reading the John text in church on Sunday.
- This resource from the First Presbyterian Church of New York is good for more ideas and reflection.
- The United Methodist Church also explains it well here.
- You could also recreate your own worm composting bin. Here is my most recent post on it.
- Come to the sanctuary anytime when we are open (Wednesday, Thursday 8 am until 9 pm, Friday 8 am – 5 pm and Saturday 8 am – 1 pm) and take a self-guided reflective tour of the sanctuary windows going from Creation to Revelation. (better for older children.)
- Come to the Maundy Thursday soup supper at 6 pm and the service at 7 pm. We will be having the service in a circle this year in the Radcliffe Room. Instead of foot washing, we do hand washing. We will also serve communion. It is interactive. Childcare is available from 6 pm – 8:30 pm.
- Come to Good Friday service at 12 noon in the sanctuary. We will read and meditate on the last 7 words of Christ. Or, honor the day at home and talk about God knows our sadness and our pain.
Easter Sunday Announcements:
- All children are invited to SING at the 8:45 am service. Please arrive by 8:00 am to practice.
- There is a special Easter breakfast at 7:45 and 9:45 am in Peter Marshall Hall.
- All children are invited to an Easter Egg hunt in Peter Marshall Hall at 10:15 am.
- There is no Sunday School on Easter. We WILL have Worship Play at both services and will do a special Easter planting project to conclude our worm-bin composting experience for the season.
From Ted Jennings’ Transforming Atonement: “What seems to make the cross so important for the Gospels (as well as for Paul) is that it demonstrates the fundamental conflict between a mission directed toward life and the actually existing arrangements of the world, both political and religious. What is at stake is no mere amelioration of existing arrangements, but a fundamental opposition between these arrangements and the will and purpose of God…What God wills is the transformation of the world, announced as the coming of the divine reign of justice and generosity and joy…The cross is then a rather clear-eyed view of what follows not of necessity but predictably, from a call for radical transformation. The avoidance of the cross, therefore, leads us to underestimate the deep violence of the world in which we live, or may lead us unwittingly to collaborate in that violence by calling for a less radical transformation. Thus, the message concerning the cross of the Messiah seems to be essential to any theology that seeks to be clear about…the mission and ministry of transformation, a mission that seeks to genuinely enact the justice and mercy of the God who comes.”