Easter Sunday: It Starts In The Dark

candle-in-the-darkness
I didn’t feel like hearing anything this weekend.

Especially my own voice. It wasn’t for lack of trying…to do the podcast. I’ve written down some thoughts that I’ll likely vocalize after Easter but I spiraled down into a bit of darkness these last fast days and decided to stay there. Sometimes thin places do that to me, and Holy Week this year was especially one.

But, Barbara Brown Taylor affirmed me. “If it happened in a cave, it happened in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. Sitting deep in the heart of Organ Cave, I let this sink in: new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” (From Learning to Walk in the Darkness)

The birds chasing each other around our yard amidst crocuses and tulips feel like a bit of an affront to me this Easter. A little too pretty and too happy, and too awake. Perhaps I’m not ready to move on from the darkness quite yet. Tweet: Tulips feel like an affront to me this Easter. Perhaps I'm not ready to move on from the darkness. http://ctt.ec/t3vRr+ @miheekimkort And being in the darkness doesn’t necessarily mean I’m asleep, in some ways, it means dealing with being too awake.

I read Micah’s words this morning as the soft hues of pink and orange hit the window next to the couch. I’m chugging coffee trying to shake the sleep out of my eyes. Death out of my head. And somehow these words ring truer for me this morning. This is resurrection.

Silence, and tears crowding tired eyes. Confusion hanging heavy on grief-soaked hearts. Disillusionment colliding with hope. And a long, long walk home.

This is Easter for me.

“We had hoped…”

These sad words catch in my throat and hang with a heaviness of their own. Tears spill as I admit the crushing disappointment that weighs on my shoulders.

We had hoped. That this would be the beginning of something beautiful. That our enslaved hearts would find freedom. That we would be redeemed.

But Jesus has disappeared, and I’m left clutching impossible rumors.

And so this season of Lent, and even this Holy Week I’m clutching all these words, these feelings, these lessons: “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” (BBT)

This is Easter for me today. Once again, not triumphalism or victory but the reminder that we still need that mandate as Sara Miles preached this Good Friday:

…If we are to remember his death and enter his life, we must take up in a new way the familiar human cross of being a son, a mother, a friend. We must turn to and claim each other––neighbors, strangers, enemies–– and refuse to be separated. Alex Nieto’s mother is my mother, and Darren Wilson is my son. Because nobody is outside this family, for whom Jesus was willing to be betrayed into the hands of sinners, and suffer death upon the cross.

He has given us to one another. Let us love one another as he has loved us.

This is the empty tomb. In the face of all the horrific injustices and inequities, and the seemingly constant stream of devastation of humanity, not only in far away places, but right here in our own backyards, it’s that even though the curtain is torn in two and the Holiest of Holies is now for all we’re not done. I need only to invoke the names of Leelah Alcorn. Jessie Hernandez. Renisha McBride. Purvi Patel. Like those women at the tomb these women’s lives and especially their deaths and imprisonments and unlawful convictions proclaim we are not finished. The story is not finished and our work isn’t complete. And I cling to that…barely though…by my fingernails holding on for dear life.

He died and rose again so that we might live, mobilize, question, wrestle, advocate (thank you J. Herbert Nelson), and love in the same way. Tweet: He died and rose again so we might live, wrestle, advocate (thank you @JHerbertNelson), and love. http://ctt.ec/he1a_+ @miheekimkort

May it be so.

Palm Sunday: Awakenings and Hosannas

Palm Sunday: Awakenings and Hosannas

palm_leaves_wallpapersuggest_com-1280x1024

Listening to the Pray-As-You-Go podcast this Palm Sunday morning in the midst of demands for strawberries and Cheerios, Wild Kratts, and fights over the trains, I picked up the words of St. Ignatius on consolation and desolation.

“I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul, by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and as a consequence, can love no creature on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of them all.  It is likewise consolation when one sheds tears that move to the love of God, whether it be sorrow for sins, or because of the sufferings of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is immediately directed to the praise and service of God.  Finally, I call consolation every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one’s soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord. I call desolation what is entirely the opposite of (consolation), as darkness of soul, torment of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.”

It connects to the reflections I spoke of on This Everyday Holy: I’m reading the Palm Sunday passage of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – found in Mark and Matthew. It’s the words the people were shouting: “Hosanna” and what they literally mean: We beseech you to deliver us. Simply: Save us.

John Helmiere, pastor of Valley and Mountain, a new worshipping United Methodist community in Seattle, came to speak to our Bloomington churches about the way they do church, and one of their rituals called Table Turning Monday as a way to embody Jesus’ turning those tables over in the temple. And then he reminded us that after this ruckus and vandalism, he made his “triumphant” entry into Jerusalem.

What the Bible doesn’t tell us is the parade that is happening at the main gate of Jerusalem, and that this march of protestors and demonstrators following Jesus came through the back gates. While Jesus is parading in on a donkey or in some translations both donkey and colt through one of the back gates, on the other side of the city Pilate is parading in on a war horse accompanied by a squadron or two of battle hardened Roman soldiers. One blogger writes that such a demonstration would have been especially pertinent at Passover since Passover was explicitly a celebration of the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. In a way, Jesus’ subversive donkey ride reminded all those waving Palm branches that Rome was the new Egypt, and the Emperor was the new Pharaoh.

Another theologian observes the significance in the Matthew passage where Jesus wants two animals, a donkey with her little colt beside her, and that Jesus rides “them” in the sense of having them both as part of his demonstration’s highly visible symbolism. In other words, Jesus does not ride a stallion or a mare, a mule or a male donkey, and not even a female donkey. He rides the most unmilitary mount imaginable: a female nursing donkey with her little colt trotting along beside her.

Writes David Wells, professor of theology: “Where is the horse, the steed that bears the triumphant general, the untamable champion loyal only to the skilled commander, so beloved of great leaders from Alexander to Napoleon? It’s not here. In its place is a young colt — hardly the symbol of leadership. Jesus seems to have no understanding of rank. After all the fuss about procuring, even sequesterng, the right animal, just the kind of action worthy of a king, he gets the wrong animal. He chooses an agricultural tool, not a weapon of war; a tractor, not a tank.”

It’s these bizarre – can I say, queer – images of peace of that compel me. Jesus a revolutionary and leading a demonstration in the back alleys of the city of Jerusalem. Jesus riding in on the backs of the most vulnerable – a female donkey nursing her young. Jesus responding to cries of help and deliverance. All my notions of accomplishment and exceptionalism, triumph and success, all of it goes by the wayside once more. Tweet: All my notions of exceptionalism, triumph and success, all of it goes by the wayside once more. @miheekimkort http://ctt.ec/wBK8N+

“Learning to walk in the dark is a spiritual skill some of us could use right now. If you are in the middle of your life, maybe some of your dreams of God have died hard under the weight of your experience. You have knocked on doors that have not opened. You have asked for bread and been given a stone. The job that once defined you has lost its meaning; the relationships that once sustained you have changed or come to their natural ends. It is time to reinvent everything from your work life to your love life to your life with God – only how are you supposed to do that exactly, and where will the wisdom come from? Not from a weekend workshop. It may be time for a walk in the dark. The night sky will heal me – not by reassuring me that I will be just fine, but by reminding me of my place in the universe.

Because…to be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)

If there’s anything that can reorient us this Lent it is the reminder of our humanity – the inevitability of light and darkness, and the reminder that we need someone to deliver us, to rescue us, to save us.  Tweet: If anything can reorient us this Lent it is the reminder of our humanity - we need to be saved @miheekimkort http://ctt.ec/a344Y+  Save us from the systems and principalities of the world. Save us from churches who have tunnel or myopic vision. Save us from our need for achievement and triumph. Save us from ourselves.

Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

#Lent: Be Near

#Lent: Be Near

Christ be near at either hand,
Christ behind, before me stand,
Christ with me where e’er I go,
Christ around, above, below.

II

“It’s too dark.”

For a while I stopped fighting that battle with the twins – how much light to keep on in their room. After saying “good night” I walked quickly out and at the last minute switch off the lights. I wanted it to be pitch black so they wouldn’t be able to see everything in their room begging to be scattered and dumped out onto the floor. Clothes. Legos. Books. Stuffed animals. Curtains. But they would thrash and flail, crying their protests, and that felt threatening to me. What if they fell off the bed? Or crashed into a wall? So we kept blue night lights on or sometimes we would dim the overhead light to the lowest setting. Christmas lights during the winter. The projection of animals onto the ceiling spinning like a carousel.

I remember being afraid, too. As a child I had deep, heavy dreams that held me down in sleep, and I would squirm and kick trying to climb out of the darkness. Dreams terribly vivid, blurring with reality, and an undeniable presence there, too. I finally awoke on my back and looked down at my blankets – all undisturbed with no sign of the struggle. My eyes stayed open for a while out of fear of sliding back down into that hole. Until I was too old I would climb in bed with my parents and squeeze in between them comforted by the sound of their breathing on my neck. My father’s snoring would surely keep that awful and strange darkness at bay.

II

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars….” As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him… – Genesis 15

The night sky will heal me – not by reassuring me that I will be just fine, but by reminding me of my place in the universe. Darkness is necessary to our health. Without enough of it, we make ourselves sick with light. – Barbara Brown Taylor

II

Even as I’m learning to embrace that darkness I see the necessity to teach the children to live in it, too. We have too many lights, too much brilliance, an overabundance of shiny, bright distractions to keep us from facing those deeper realities. How can they know the odd and wonderful feeling of nearness experienced in our darkest hours? The stars in the night sky may seem distant but I can hardly remember a time I felt God’s closeness more than looking up at shooting stars across the Milky Way in a Colorado wilderness. Something about darkness and stars, and feeling profoundly that need for God’s nearness makes me feel more human and alive.

Christ be in my head and mind,
Christ within my soul enshrined,
Christ control my wayward heart;
Christ abide and ne’er depart.

Christ the King and Lord of all,
Find me ready at his call;
Christ receive my service whole,
Hand and body, heart and soul.

#Lent: Cover Me

#Lent: Cover Me

Daniel 9

…We are covered with shame.

Baths for them every night seem a little ambitious, and maybe even obsessive and extraneous. But, they’re covered in all manner of dirt and grime – remnants of markers, glue, sand, glitter, peanut butter and jelly, paint.

Anything that will leave a mark.

I turn on the water, and the tub fills slowly. The boys come tumbling in with shouts, stripping clumsily with demands for trains and plastic animals. They cannonball in and yelp onto the tips of their toes. It’s too hot. The girl is reluctant. I coax her in with promises of gummy bears.

It is anything but relaxing in there. All three of them are too big and space is at a premium. They fight for the position next to the faucet, but howl at the audacity of water being poured over their heads. There is always one toy that ignites a world war. Soon they’re dumping water over each other and laughing at the small waterfalls down each other’s noses.

As they slide out onto the floor like so many seals on a dock each one rolls into a ball wailing, “Mommy, towel, towel, towel. Cover me.” When the air hits their skin, they always seem surprised by the cold. I wrap them up and snuggle each one before they break away. They run down the hall leaving little wet footprints and abandon the towels on the floor.

My hands and feet are wet, too. I wipe them dry on my clothes. The smell of their bath wash is in my nostrils.

Those of us who wish to draw near to God should not be surprised when our vision goes cloudy for this is a sure sign that we are approaching the opaque splendor of God. – Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

#Lent: With A Puff

#Lent: With A Puff

Ecclesiastes 12

Remember your Creator…

I’m trying to wrap my mind around creation.
I look at my babies for insight
not babies anymore
making worlds with their words
their words
with a logos-like ferocity and will
saying for Thomas the Train “puff puff puff”
and my mind turns to temporality and fragility
water sliding off my skin as I do dishes
looking out the window at the droplets of sun on this winter’s day
but no snow covers the ground
the dirt and dust are ever present with us to remind me
we will someday disappear with a puff,
and I remember my createdness, my creatureliness, my creator.