The Body & Blood of Christ: How does one describe the intimacy of no words?

The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan, corresponding this year to April 4 through April 11, 2015.

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ 7 JUN 15

The Feast of Corpus Christi

How does one describe the intimacy of no words?

How do we describe the bond of holding hands, or a simple kiss?

How do we describe the nearly indescribable?

Last week, sitting in my office at Prison busy with preparations for upcoming Ramadan, an email pops on my screen.  It is an email from a particular Offender’s Case Manager, notifying me that a particular Offender had just learned of the death of his Grandmother.

Such and occurrence is not unusual for my day or days in prison.  With 1100 guys the angel of death often visits respective family members on a rather regular basis.

But this one has a bit of twist….

  • I have come to know this Offender quite well. He began serving his multiple life sentence at the age of 17, and is now recently 22.
  • I have met and embraced his Grandmother, several times over the course of the past 5 years as she has waited to visit her Grandson.
  • I too have come to know his mother and his father and his sister as well.

This was not going to be an easy conversation.

I called for him and as he entered my office, what I encountered was a young man who was torn, wounded beyond words, broken, bleeding and filled with pain, regret, and self hate.

One nearly inviolable rule in Prison life…..Staff…..no Staff….ever embrace an Offender…

But here in front of me stood one of the most broken of God’s children that I have ever encountered,  I opened my arms in a gesture of embrace and his tears started running like the Nile River and he wrapped his arms around me and said….Chappie…I finally get it!

I finally get it!

Here I was, in the embrace of a young man who had murdered both of the parents of his then best friend.

But in that moment, in that embrace, I believe Eucharist happened!

You see my friends; I believe our words fall short of the mystery they are so desperately trying to grasp.

But how do we explain the unexplainable?  I wonder if maybe we should rename this Sunday…the Feast of God’s Embrace…

Teagan was lying on our living room floor just the other day, and Megan was changing her.  She was less than happy with life, and even with a full tummy, and fresh clean diaper, it made no difference.  She was not happy and she was making sure that the world and anyone in ear shot knew it.

Arms outstretched….legs kicking….little hands clenched so tightly they could have made diamonds out of coal chunks;

Teagan was utilizing every tiny millimeter of her little vocal cords to let the world know she was not happy.

Megan, bent down, picked her up, laid her gently on her shoulder, gave her a kiss on her tear streaked face, she whispered…I love you Teagan…and patted her back and held her close….

And the tears stopped flowing, the screams of anguish subsided quickly and with a few simple breaths, the love of mother and child, gave way to calm, peace, trust, love and Eucharist happened!!

How do we explain the unexplainable?  Again, I wonder if maybe we should rename this Sunday…the Feast of God’s Embrace…

You see I believe that we gather as a community each and every week, not to listen to magic stories, and not to pray some magic words, or do some magic actions,

We gather, as a community to express and explain the unexplainable…to celebrate the Feast of God’s embrace…

We open our arms and God opens God’s arms, and we embrace, in bread and wine, and God whispers in our ear…..I love you…. and we whisper in God’s ear…I finally get it!

I hope it’s a great hug!

And I hope we share a lot of them with the world!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What are we to do with this one who is performing all  these miracles?  If we let him go on like this, everybody will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.  John 11:47-48

Uh oh.  What do we do? This guy is performing miracles all over the place.  We can’t let him do that – it might upset the status quo.  The Romans aren’t going to like it and they may destroy us.  We can’t let these miracles continue!!!

Seriously, does this sound ridiculous to anyone?  We have to stop miracles from happening because those in power don’t like it? God’s work cannot be done because many may believe that Love is more powerful than government leaders?  People should continue to suffer and not find hope and healing for the comfort of another? Really?

And yet, the practice continues today.  How many people are oppressed because the color of their skin, or who they’ve fallen in love with makes someone uncomfortable?  How many wars are being fought right now for control of power? How many children die unnecessarily because they don’t have enough food or medical access?  What do we do?

We live like Jesus, and continue to challenge the status quo.  We live into the truth that every person is a child of Love and should be treated with justice and respect.  We dare to speak our truth – that God’s love is universal, that grace is free to all, and that no one is excluded from the table of life.  We become the voice for the voiceless, the healers of hurts, and the disciples of Love.  We love God and neighbor with unbrided joy.  Should we anger someone, and we will, we support one another, pray for one another and we respond simply in love – deep, imperfect, honest love.  If we fail, we try again.

My friends, God is already using us to challenge the status quo.  A woman priest is writing this blog.  We celebrate a Eucharist where all are welcome to receive.  We live in a time in history where church communities are shrinking, yet ours is growing exponentially. So, what should we do?  I say let’s keep going until everyone believes in the miracles of God.

Rev. Joan

Friday, March 27, 2015

Your words, O God, are Spirit and life. Jn 6:63

The words that seem too strike me over and over as those that give me hope and life have been given by God, I believe, through Reinhold Neibuhr in this familiar prayer: The Serenity Prayer.  I share it this day in its full form and pray that we may all spend this last Friday in Lent resting in it’s promise and hope.  Let’s live this today and see if our lives aren’t more peaceful, hopeful, and loving.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time.  Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.  Taking as God did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.  Trusting that God will make all things right if I surrender to God’s will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with God in the next. Amen.”

May serenity, courage, and wisdom fill our hearts and minds.

Rev. Joan

Thursday, March 26,2015

Look to God and God’s strength;  seek to serve God constantly.  Psalm 105:4

Wouldnt it be aaweesome if there were a God app?  A button we could touch on our phone that would bring up the face of God and  answer all our questions , help us make decisions, show us what the next right step is?  We wouldn’t have to think twice about what to do, we’d have it readily available on our phone.  Though, if the celltower  went down, it would be chaos.

Life isn’t simple.  There  is no button to push, no central database to give us the answers.  Life is a journey, filled with joy, grace, suffering, fear, love, disappointsment, miracles…and the list goes on.  The beautiy of life comes in the vast spectrum of experiences it offeers.  Like a tapestry, each stitch adds color and design to the broader picture.  Each experience we have adds to the full picutre of our lives.  Sometimes the experience is a joy-filled one, but often times our experience can be painful.  It is a gift of the spiritual life to realize that each experience is important to the whole.

Developing  an intimate relationship with God is the app we need.  Spending time in prayer, in meditation, in discernment, in dreaming opens up a line of communication directly into our hearts and minds.  Seeking God’s will instead of our own will lead us to making  the next right choice taking the next right step.  It’s not easy  for us humans  to do this, and sometimess we will fail at the task – often in great big  ways with big consequences.  That’s OK.  We will find that God’s abundant grace will be waiting for us, will surround us, and will help us get back on track.

Maybe for today we can look to God in prayerr and see the face of God in one another.  Let’s find God’s strength and hold on to it tightly  so we are not derailed as we hit the bumps of life.  Today, let’s seek to serve God and God’s people so the love of God may be manifested in our world.

Rev Joan

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.  Hebrews 10:7

God’s will.  Wish I knew what it was.  I pray for it every morning, everytime I feel lost, everytime I think I should do something different.  It’s not always easy for  me to define or find.  So I rely on Thomas Merton to explain it for today.  

He prays: My God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not know the road ahead of me. I cannot be certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I’m following your will doesn’t mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe the desire to please you actually does please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will  lead me to the right road though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore I will trust you always though I may be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never   leave me to face my perils alone.

Peace my friends.

Rev. Joan

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will  realize that I AM.   John 8:28

Poor Jesus.  Can you imagine what it would be like to know that the follks you were speaking to were so dense that it would take you death for them to realize who you are?  He must have been so frustrated.  Here he has been speaking in the temple, having dinner with people, speaking on the hillsides, baptizing, working miracles, and people still weren’t getting it.  Not only were they not getting it, they were arguing about it.  Wow, some people.

Can you imagine what it’s like for him now?  Not only do we have the stories of thte miracles, and his words written down for us, we know of his death and we know of his resurrection.  Yet, do we realize who he is and the impact that truth has on us?  Do we know who Jesus is?  It must be even more frustrating!

Human naturue is such that we can often be dense.  We can often be so reliant on logic, proof, our own ways of thinking that we miss the bigger picture.  We miss the fact that God goes beyond our logic, goes beyond our ability to prove, and goes beyond what our minds can think that God is, was, and will be.  

God came to this earth, through Jesus, so that we may see beyond our own limitations.  We weren’t getting it any other way.  Jesus provided humanity with a tangible God; a God that spoke our language, felt our feelings, lived as we live.  Jesus also promised to remain present with us throught the Holy Spirit so that generations will know the truth of God.  Do we realize this truth?  Do we realize the I AM?

Rev. Joan

Monday, March 23, 2015

Therefore, God will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child; and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!”  Isaiah 8:10

Is it Christmas?  Didn’t we hear this a couple of months ago?  Is there so little in Scripture that we need to repeat so soon?  What is this passage doing in the middle of lent?  No, it isn’t Christmas. Yes, we did hear this a couple of months ago.  No, there is quite a lot in Scripture.  Friends, this passage is in the middle of lent because we need to hear it again, and again, and again.

God is with us.  Jesus was born a human, lived as a human, died as a human.  This is the Good News.  We have a God that is with us and knows exactly what it feels like to be us.  We have a God that has experienced confusion, joy, fear, excitement, sadness, passion, love and betrayal.  We have a God that  loves us so intensely and thoroughly that as a human he was willing to die for that truth.  We have a God with such power that death is not the final answer.  No, through the resurrection of Jesus, we are promised eternal life in the presence of God.

But God was not only with us in the past with Jesus, or in the future when we’ve pssed into eternal life, but God is with us here and now through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit that lies within each and everone of us is Emmanuel – God with us.  She connects us with our creator because she is one with God.  We are not alone, my friends, God is with us each and every day, each and every moment – always available, always eager to guide, always there to uphold.  We are loved, cherished, and desired by a present God.  Can we ever hear this truth enough?

Rev. Joan