Darkness and Light

I watched as the sun was swallowed by the moon. I donned my groovy glasses and stood with neighbors in the cul-de-sac, staring at the sun as it was eclipsed by the darkness of the moon. The wonder and awe of it was overwhelming.

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Photo by Eric Johnson (Isle of Palms, South Carolina)

Understanding the science of it only magnifies the wonder. You see, the moon is much smaller than the sun. But with the right circumstances it can block out the light entirely.  Amazing!  In that zone, the day becomes like night. The crickets sing and the activity of the earth stills while cloaked in shadows. But only for a small sliver of a path across the earth. For those outside the path, the sun is only partially obscured by the moon. Leaving various degrees of the ball of light peeking out. Only subtle shadowing and stillness happen. It takes a more observant eye to perceive.

Science is very cool. Nature has so much to teach us.

Our family did not travel to the path of totality. I wasn’t expecting to be as wonder-struck. I also wasn’t anticipating getting see any bit of the corona – that light that peeks out around the rim of the moon. So, I was thrilled when I could see a hazy glow, a softening of the sky around the partial eclipse. If I let my eyes relax in a gaze at the center of the moon, I could see the glimmering veil of light around the sun. The moon was doing her best to blot out the light but it simply could not be done. Even in totality, the rim of light remains.

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Photo by Eric Johnson (Isle of Palms, South Carolina)

Earlier in the day, I gathered with others at Richmond’s newest monument, of Maggie Lena Walker. As I looked up at her, I wondered if she ever would have imagined beholding such a sight. People of every color, gender, age, and faith linking hands and bridging the divides. The crowd was full of distinctive difference.

There were many faces I recognized and many more I did not. Of the Baptists in the crowd, there were many who I have never once stood in unity with since I came back to this city four years ago. When I have stood witness to inclusive love and welcome, they have shut their doors and scoffed from the sidelines. I have longed for us to be able to stand together, affirming that every human being is the created image of God. On this day, I have to admit the actualization of that longing felt a bit awkward, even if right.

We were there with a common purpose, to stand as an alternative narrative to the story of hate, racism, and violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville. A darkness that seemed to swallow the light.

In response to the torches, the terror, and the murder, a group of Richmond ministers put together powerful words articulating “with a unified voice” both sorrow over those events in Charlottesville and speaking of the relevance of the gospel’s clear and relevant voice in this moment. This Statement of Unity affirms “every human being is created in the image of God”; rejects “the ideology of white supremacy as a denunciation of the gospel, and a heresy which wars against God’s design for human culture and creation”; repents of the church’s complicity and of our own racism, fear, and hatred. It concludes with our resolution “to preach, teach, and advocate against the sins of racism…to lead in the way of love.”

And so we stood, in the steamy heat of an August day in the city of Richmond, gathered around the statue, hand in hand with friends, foes, and strangers to say with a unified and clear voice that we believe our city can be a beacon of hope and reconciliation. It was a beautiful corona of light.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  – The Gospel of John 1:5

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Tense Shoulders and Boulders

Day 2 at Ring Lake Ranch:

I woke up early, looked at the clock, and decided I had time for a second sleep.

A couple hours later the ringing of the triangle signaling fifteen minutes until breakfast woke me. I woke with a nauseating headache. Thank God, I had a massage planned for later in the day. The knots in my shoulders were wreaking havoc.

I washed my face, took a ton of Excedrin, and made my way down to eat. I had a bit of dread rising over the prospect of making small talk around the table. But, it was actually lovely. The conversation actually helped ease my headache and lifted my spirits for the day.

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I was going back and forth about what to do this morning. On one hand, climbing back into bed sounded lovely. On the other hand both the hike and the ride sounded good. I decided on the hike.

Yesterday, Leah had talked about the hike’s she had in mind for the week. Today was the hike to the Boulder Pile. She described it as “easy” and “mellow paced.” That was appealing. But what really caught my attention was how she talked about looking forward to that trail each year as she noticed the newly fallen trees. She would take note of them and pay homage to a life’s end. And she would likewise revel in the joy of spotting the newest trees sprouting up out of the earth.  Something about that tugged at my soul.

DSC_0029This morning I received a message from back home that Fran was transitioning into hospice care today and that they didn’t think she’d live long. I adore Fran. She radiates gratitude, lightbeams of sunshine that can’t help but warm your day. Every time I visit her I feel blessed by her positivity. She shares about her own life and days with a gentleness and thankfulness. She asks about your life, remembering the details and delighting in your life’s joy.

Not too long ago she had a fall. Her brain has been quietly bleeding since then. It has been slowly robbing us of her. She began to fade in and out of this world and the next. Time looping in and around itself. When I would visit she might be clear as a bell and up to date on all the latest happenings. Or, she might talk as if she was a younger version of herself. Perhaps my age, talking about the nice visit she just had with a fellow church members who waltzed into her room. That lovely visitor she had, well, she hasn’t been out of her bed or wheelchair in many years.

The worst though are the times when her head hangs low and she is too weary and tired to wake. I visit with her, read scripture, and pray no matter which world she is occupying that given day. Sometimes, she shifts between them within the span of a short visit.

I came back from youth camp early this year after getting a call from her daughter. Her daughters were heartbroken at the realization that their mother was entering the last days of her life. The days have stretched out into weeks. I think this is Fran being gracious and giving her daughters time they need to let go. That’s something she would totally do. Bless her beautiful heart.

I asked her if she was scared. She said, “No, I am not scared. I have had a good life, full of blessings. But sometimes I hear them talking in the hallway. I don’t like that. Tell me how your children are?”

I told her I would be keeping her in my prayers, praying for peace and for comfort. When I asked her what her prayers for herself were, or if there was anything I could add to my prayers for her, she said, “I pray I will accept every moment from here out, with grace.”

I cried and told her I was overwhelmed by the stunning beauty of her soul. I told her she had made quite an imprint on my own, that I was thankful for the gift of her, and that I loved her. She cried a tear too and echoed my words.

I could feel my heart expanding out of my body.

I have memorialized so many remarkable women in my time with this church. It hardly seems fair. We must have a double portion of fierce women.

And so, to the Boulder Pile I went.

DSC_0006There were three other hikers besides Leah. I hung in the back and was largely in my own head. Just being quiet, breathing, sighing, and moving along. Yes, a lot of sighing. With sighs too deep for words.

The walk to the pile was indeed easy and mellow.

I did take note that while the order of our line of hikers frequently changed, I stayed in the back. Not my usual place in the order of things. Typically out front is where you will find me. Taking charge. Leading the way. Blazing a path.

Not today. And it felt as comfortable as if it were normal.

Climbing the boulders was fun. Spotted some scat. Took photos to share with the boys. Because what young boy doesn’t love pictures of poop? Felt like a kid balancing from boulder to boulder.

DSC_0012We continued up towards the ridge on our loop back. On that loop we spied several freshly fallen trees. I stopped at the first one and said a prayer as the rest of the group chattered away a little ahead of me. “Wrap Fran in your Love, God. Carry her peacefully home to you.”

A little while further we passed another. A beautifully thick trunk, jaggedly snapped at about the height of a person. The rest of the tree lying there. Slowly it will become part of the earth. For now, you can still smell the life of the tree. It is lingering in the air. The inner wood is still bright.

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The group was stopped, sharing sweets from Leah’s stash. I felt a magnetic pull to the tree. I carefully made my way up the loose earth incline to her, placed my hands on her bark, and breathed deeply. “Thank you, God, for the astounding beauty of her.”

Picked an atomic fireball out of Leah’s pack and laughed at the absurdly bad jokes Bonnie was telling. “You know there was tennis in the Bible? Cause it said Moses served in Pharoah’s court.”

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On the walk back the air became eerily still. And then the rain started to gently fall. And it felt like the grief I was carrying was washed away.

The afternoon was all about rest. I had the most amazing massage. Every knot un-knotted. My whole body sighing with blessed release. The chapel was like a little warm slice of heaven I this chilly valley. Just before the massage there was an intense storm, lightening and hail. Hail!

After the massage I took a long nap. Excellent, deep sleep. When I woke, I heard something like thunder but not thunder. I sat up and went to the window. Three horses galloped by my window. I stepped onto the porch in time to see the rest of the herd of horses run by. Down the hill, toward the stables, then up towards fossil ridge. It was a frenzy. I have never seen anything like it in all my life.

I think it is what wild abandon looks like.

 

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My teacher, Moe (a tank of a horse)

IMG_8102I woke five minutes before breakfast and scurried to get down in time. There were warm hellos from staff I knew from when we were here before. And within me, there was the typical rise of social anxiety taking in the sight of a bunch of new faces. Friendliness before coffee is asking a lot of me after the journey of the day before. The only thing that kept me from skipping it was hunger. I was starving. I missed a meal yesterday and was surviving only on greasy airport onion rings and a bag of airline snack mix.

After breakfast, I went with the morning group of horseback riders. The first day they always do two rides to orient people to the horses and the routine of the place. Mo runs the stable with the help of a crew of wranglers – a few young women and one older man named DeWitt.

I hadn’t ridden in the two years since being here last and was a bit anxious. Although, there was no doubt that I would ride and ride as often as I can while here. There were things I needed to learn that only the horses could teach me.

IMG_8103So, first thing, you need to find a helmet that fits and find a pair of boots. My hiking boots didn’t pass inspection. They are great for gripping the earth but gripping the stirrup is not so good. So, cowboy boots were there to use. One walks differently depending on the boots on one’s feet.

They start the orientation ride with some instruction on how to sit and how to steer. Ideally, you ground yourself in the saddle by distributing your weight evenly within the triangle of three points – your “sitting bones” and your pelvic bone. And, you balance your weight on the horse between your feet in the stirrups, your thighs on the sides of the horse, and your booty.

At one point on the ride, our leader DeWitt stopped and encouraged us to take a minute to be mindful of how we were sitting and to find our balance. He had us take our feet out of the stirrups and roll our ankles and extend our knees. He had us take the reigns in one hand and twist around to use our free hand to give our horse a booty scratch. Then, the other side too. DeWitt said very simply, “Do what you need, whenever you need, to stay centered and to find balance.” Damn. That’ll preach.

IMG_8104I was paired with Moe as my horse today. Moe is a tank of a horse. He’s beautiful, a rich dark black, and incredibly strong. I was second in the line of horses behind DeWitt. At one point early on, Moe stumbled a bit. A minute or two later DeWitt calmly asked if Moe had stumbled and then offered some advice, “If he stumbles it usually means he is being lazy and just shuffling his feet along.” He told me if he stumbles to fight my natural instinct to ease off and instead to lean into it, to urge him on, to match his energy, his high intensity, his power. In other words, my super mellow, tired, low-energy self was contributing to his stumble. My leadership of the horse mattered for the horse’s own surety of step.

I picked up my energy level. I worked a bit harder. And it made a difference that I could feel not just for me, but for him.

I started writing a reflection in my mind while the ride was still going. I was getting a little ahead of myself. I do that. I was rushing to reflection instead of staying present. I took a deep breath and stopped that.

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I did let my mind wonder about what the three points of grounding have been for me over these last years. I would call on grounding point, spiritual connection. That runs the spectrum from the Story that keeps revealing deep truths, to breathing and being mindful of the presence of the Holy, to prayer and practices of discovering God in creation. I think another would be relationships. That runs the spectrum from the joy of my family of five to the comforting goodness of my tribe of friends. I think another is rest. That runs the spectrum from sleep, to resting my mind while swimming, to playful respite from the demands of this work.

Those might be the life equivalent of my feet, thighs, and booty. Working together to help balance the weight of this work.

And the triangle of grounding me into my saddle? What might those be? I am curious about what those points might be. I think there is something to be explored there and some wisdom to discover about the things that help keep me centered in the saddle and those that pull me away from center.

By the end of the ride I felt fully here at the ranch. Like my body, spirit, and mind had all caught up to geography. It is going to be a beautiful week.

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(This reflection was written my first day of a week’s stay at Ring Lake Ranch in the Wind River Valley of Wyoming in August of 2017.)

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Stones that Sing

I hiked a little ways this morning before hunkering down on a big rock by the lake. I walked a piece of the same trail that I had walked the first day. When I walked it then, I got nervously “bear aware” and started whistling “Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead.” Again, what place deep in my psyche did that come from?

Today, there was a family of four just ahead of me on the trail. Their youngest son, Ben, was a little unhappy. Hopelessly misunderstood and ignored. He knew the right path to take, you see. And his family just wouldn’t listen to him.

Injustice!

He was wrong. But, he wouldn’t go silently unto that night.

DSC_0205I gave them some distance and got hopelessly absorbed into some enchanting Old Man’s
Beard. The smell of the forest pines was divine. No manufactured scent compares.

The family moved on out of earshot. Then a man walking a bicycle came by and asked me what if I saw anything good. He was amused at my fascination with the moss. He asked if I was hiking alone and about whether I had bear spray. He is a boat captain here. He knows things. He said there are resident black bears in this area. He’s watched them swim across the lake this season. One had a cub this spring.

Ummm. Maybe not purchasing bear spray was a mistake.

Thankfully, we were close to a little strip of land running between two lakes. From where I sit upon this rock, I would see a bear coming from a long way away. Eventually, I’ll ask some nice travelers if I can walk with them. For now, I will soak in some introverted solitude.

IMG_8213As I have been sitting here, I have been amazed at the human instinct to toss stones into the water. No matter the age. Some quietly toss their rock into the lake. Some boisterously toss one after another. What are they hoping for? To skip a stone? To leave their mark? To disrupt the calm with a more comfortable disruption? To hear the delightful plop as it sinks down?

Not everyone tosses a rock. Some people don’t even pause on their hikes to really notice the 360 degree beauty of this particular spot. There eyes stayed on something ahead. Like a horse with blinders. Were there even rocks? This is simply a throughway to wherever it is they are headed.

I confess, I did toss one. Just into the water beyond where it creates a coast. My reason was scientific. The stones on the shore all look dull shades of pinks and gray. But, in the water the rocks are rich deep rusts, plums, greens, and warm yellows. A few soft grays and pinks are mixed in, but, on a whole they are much more compelling than the dry stones on the land. So I pondered a dull gray stone, rolling it over in my hand, and then tossed it into the water. Sure enough, it looked more brilliant when bathed in the water.

Do these landlocked stones want to be tossed into the water?

Do they dream of being immersed so their beauty can shine more brilliantly?

When it rains do they sing for joy?

Are they quietly calling to us to help them make the watery journey?

Is that why so many toss them into the water?

Are they driven to answer a call for help that they don’t even perceive?

Yes. I think yes. The stones are calling out. Some of us naturally hear and respond without even thinking. Others of us have to pay more attention. These stones thirsty to return to the water, to sail through the air, and delightfully plunge into brilliance. The sound they make as they sink into the ground is their sigh of satisfaction. A gulp of goodness.

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*This reflection was written on the last day of three days spent in Grand Teton National Park in August of 2017.  That lovely spot was on the Lake Trail at Coulter Bay.  

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To My Sons on Inauguration Day

To my beautiful sons,

Today, Donald Trump took the Oath of Office and became the President of the United States of America.  He is now our President.  These past few months my heart has been heavy with things I want to say to you, but, the words just wouldn’t come.  The weight of the election has been like a muzzle on my soul.  But there are things I want you to hear from me and I want you to know.

I saw Donald Trump say to a crowd recently, “I will be your voice.”  He is not my voice.  He does not speak for me or represent me in any way.  You know enough not to be surprised by this, but still I want to be completely clear: President Trump does not speak for me.  While I respect the office of the presidency I hold no respect for the man who now holds it.  The vast majority of what he says stands in direct opposition to everything I believe.  Over the next years, as you continue to grow into fine young men, you will be witnesses to deplorable behavior from our President. I know this, because we have been witnessing his deplorable behavior for months now.  And, I am so very sorry for this.  I can only hope that growing up in these days might inspire you more greatly toward goodness.

I have watched you as you have watched him during the election and in these weeks leading up to his inauguration.  It has been especially difficult to see how it has impacted you, Ethan, for you are old enough to understand more fully.  You watched debates and convention coverage with dismay.  We had some difficult conversations about border rhetoric, the villainizing of Muslims, and disrespect toward women.  (I never imagined it would in the context of discussing our future President that I would explain sexual assault to you.)  My heart broke to see the look on your faces the morning after the election when you learned he had won.  Ethan, you looked at me with tears in your eyes, puzzled and said to me, “Are you joking, mom?  How can that be?  I just don’t understand.”  With each outrageous thing he said and with every hateful tantrum he publicly went on, I saw the confusion on your faces as you struggled to understand.  How could someone with such bad manners become the leader of our country?  After all, you guys would be grounded for months for speaking to people the way he does and about people the way he does.  How could he be rewarded with the highest office in our land for such bad behavior?

It especially broke my heart to watch you try to understand how people you love could be supporters of his.   Good people who have taught you how to be good humans voted for him and it confounded you.  It confounds me too, boys, and I don’t quite know how to make sense of it either.  I do know that our love for others should not be contingent on how they voted.  And I do know that now more than ever, we have to figure out how to talk to people who think differently from us in ways that are for the common good.  We have to think critically and be guided by kindness and compassion.  We have to speak up and speak out, but also speak with humility and with grace.  I am hoping we can help each other as we learn how to do this better.

As I’ve watched how Donald Trump has behaved and as I’ve listened to things he has said I am troubled.  I am troubled by his lack of character.  Most importantly, I am troubled because I don’t want you three to see his bad behavior as normal or acceptable.  It is not.  Never is it okay to mock people with disabilities.  Never is it okay to objectify people based on their appearance. Never is it okay to impose yourself sexually on another person without their consent.  Never is it okay to use your power to silence people who oppose you.  Never is it okay to villainize groups of people to advance your agenda.  Never is it okay to name-call or bully.  Never is it okay to fear someone because they are different than you.  Never is it okay to only think of yourself and your own gain.  Never is okay to treat your words as if they do not matter.  Never is it okay to act, or speak, or behave as you have seen Donald Trump act, speak, and behave.  It is not normal.  It is not presidential or patriotic.  It most definitely is not Christian.  It is not okay.

I am also troubled because I don’t recognize the America he talks about.  However, it resonates with a whole lot of people and that makes me curious about their pain, about what has brought them so low.  He talks about how bad things are and how he will lead a movement to “make America great again.”  It is the “again” part that I really get hung up on because I’m not sure what point in America’s history he’s trying to return to.  And no matter what point in our history it is, I am certain I don’t want to go backwards.  I don’t want to go back to when we bought and sold humans as slaves, to when we denied people of color basic human rights, to when women were denied the right to vote or the right to make decisions about our health, to when discrimination was legal, or to when the marriages of gay and lesbian couples were not legally recognized.  I believe our country has continually progressed toward truly being the land of the free – not freedom for some select group of citizens but freedom for each and for all of us.  And that makes us already pretty doggone great.  And yes, there is more work to do to continue to progress toward the ideals upon which this nation was founded.

You may grow up to hold very different political beliefs, and ideological beliefs, and theological beliefs from me.  I hope you will feel free to grow into your unique identity without worry of my approval and love.  I will love you regardless of whether you mirror my liberal, Jesus loving, social-justice advocating self or not.  My disapproval and disappointment with Donald Trump is about far more than politics.  It is about him as a person.  I hold no fear that you will become such an immoral person. And I hope that how you live your life will by your very nature stand in opposition to the darkness Donald Trump is emblematic of.

I know that you are a little scared about what Donald Trump will do as President.  I want to tell you that everything will be okay.  But honestly, I have no idea what will come to happen under his presidency.  He will have a lot of power.  My only hope for him is that he will show better judgment of how to yield such power than he has yet shown us.  I can tell you that I am not afraid.  My peace and my hope are not dependent upon the actions of our Presidents.  While he has great power, he does not have power over my soul.  My peace and my hope come from God alone.  And everything I know about God, everything I know about what it means to follow Jesus, tells me that I am to stand up for the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the stranger.  The very people our President speaks such fear, hatred, and disrespect of.  The foundation of my understanding of who God is, is love.  So, I will continue to love in the biggest, and bravest, and boldest ways I know.  And I hope you will see that, and will find that love worthy of mirroring in your own lives.

I can’t wait to see you help change the world for the better.  You have so many advantages in life.  I hope you never take them for granted but rather use them for the common good; that you never suffer from an poverty of spirit that shows itself as greed or fear; and, that you use all of your heart, soul, mind and strength to serve the God we know as Love.  For there will come a time when you are the ones whom children will be watching.  Don’t, not even for a second, be fooled by the power of President Trump into being like him.  Be you. Be the lovely and loving Ethan, Turner, and Carter that I know could teach Donald Trump a thing or two about being a good human.

 

Love,

Mom

 

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Reflection on Building Tours

Awhile back we had a guest musician who came to our church building for the first time to rehearse.  When we talked over the phone, arranging a time for him to rehearse, I gave careful instructions of how to locate the church office door.  On the arranged day and time, he promptly showed up at the office door where I met and greeted him.  We continued talking as I walked with him from the office to the sanctuary.  He got settled in at the organ as I asked if there was anything else he needed before I left him to rehearse and went back to my office.  With a wide-eyed and panicked look he said, “Rehearsing will be fine.  Getting out here is what I am worried about!”

It is no surprise to us that our church building can be quite intimidating, especially to first time visitors of our space.  After all, there is a lot of space.  It is a large building and the maze-like quality of the layout can be disorienting.  So, when we got to the point of “going live” with the listing of our church buildings and property, I wasn’t surprised at all that the realtors needed a little help and time to learn layout before they could guide a showing of the property without a shepherd.  It took about a half-a-dozen times of me walking through with the realtors, and interested purchasers, before the realtors could guide the tour without me.

One of our church leaders spoke apologetically to me about how the showings of the church were taking up my time – time I could be tending to the many other demands and tasks of the pastorate.  While it did undoubtedly take time and require some added accommodation and flexibility in my work, there was an unexpected gift in the process.  I got a peek into what God is up to in the lives of other area churches.  In talking with the various church leaders about their congregations and what was leading them to consider a change in location, I was given a valuable reminder of the vast and various ways God is working not just in the world but in our city.  There are young churches, churches with long histories, and every age in between.  There are small churches, churches overflowing with people, and every size congregation in between.  There are traditional churches, and cutting-edge churches, and everything in between.  There is so much diversity in the ways the churches, the collection of people that we call the body of Christ, look and move and serve our city.

But for all that diversity, there was a common thread.  As they talked about their church, every single group spoke about their sense of God working in their community in new and mysterious ways.  They spoke about how they know that God is doing something new with them and is preparing them for change.  Each of them spoke, in their own way, about how they are exploring opportunities and waiting to see where God leads them.

Hearing their stories was a powerful reminder of how God is at work in so many different ways in the lives of so many different churches.  God is at work in their beginnings, in their endings, and in their transitions.  God is at work in small churches, churches overflowing with people, and every size congregation in between.  God is at work in traditional churches, and cutting-edge churches, and everything in between.  God isn’t confined to one kind of church.  God isn’t present at only one time in the life of a church.  And, God definitely is not confined to one place a church gathers.  God is on the move in each of our churches and is inspiring a whole bunch of us to be on the move too.

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Worship – First Sunday in Lent

**This first Sunday in Lent, Ginter Park Baptist Church has had to cancel activities.  This was to be the first Sunday of a series entitled, Walking into Darkness based on Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.  The following is an adaptation of the liturgy planned for the day.  May it help you to worship… Pealing the Hour(Enjoy this clip of the bells pealing at the Cathedral of Saint Paul as you settle your spirit into worship.) Prayer of Invocation – Holy God, on this morning when we feel the frustration of a week interrupted by weather, we seek a holy interruption in our life.  As we are unable to gather together as the body in worship, we feel the absence of community.  May that be a meaningful reminder of the significance the habit of worshiping together has for our faith.  As we come before you to worship, connect us though we be apart.  Grant us courage to welcome your presence.  Help us to encounter you in this season of “learning to walk in the dark” as we follow the footsteps of your son, Jesus the Christ who taught us to pray… Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever.  Amen.

Scripture Reading-   Matthew 8:11-12      

“I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 1while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Reading from Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor-      “Courage,” [James Bremner writes], “which is no more than the management of fear, must be practiced. For this, children need a widespread, easily obtained, cheap, renewable source of something scary but not actually dangerous.” Darkness, he says, fits that bill…How do we develop the courage to walk in the dark if we are never asked to practice?…The connection between light and safety may never be fully understood…since what light can really do and what we imagine it can do are not completely different things. If we believe a bright security light keeps us safer after dark, there is not a statistic in the world with power to persuade us otherwise. (Pages 37 and 71.)

Confessional Prayer-      O Lord for whom the night is as day, we confess our fear of the dark. From childhood anxieties of monsters under the bed, to fears of criminals hiding in darkened streets, we imagine the worst when we cannot see. We admit that our fears run wild in our minds when we feel vulnerable. Forgive us when we consciously make wasteful and hurtful decisions based on irrational fears. Grant us the courage to walk in the dark, to practice calming our fears and trusting your presence even there. Teach us to walk in faith – the conviction of things not seen – and not in fear. In the name of Jesus, who shines in the darkness and is not overcome, we pray. Amen.

Keeping Silence

Kyrie Eleison (Listen to this recording of Benedictine monks chanting the kyrie.)

Extinguishing First Candle (The first of the Tenebrae candles is extinguished.)

Assurance of Forgiveness – Psalm 139:1-2, 7-12, 23-24      O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.  Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.  If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fastIf I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.  Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Call:  Friends, believe the good news of God.

 Response:  In Jesus Christ, we are made whole.

  Anthem – Once Upon a Tree by Pepper Choplin

Once upon a tree, a good man died,

and though He did no crime, He was crucified.

If the story ended there, I would have no song to share,

But my heart will ever sing the story.

 

Once upon a tree, so the story goes,

and all its mystery surely no one knows.

Could the Father’s will be done through the suff’ring of His Son?

And there comes the answer, “Once upon a tree.”

 

For God so loved the world, He gave His priceless pearl.

What greater love could there be?

He died, He rose again, still the story doesn’t end,

for His spirit is living in me.

What tale of human love could there ever be told?

What song could compare with the one I hold?

Through ev’rything I am and through ev’rything I’ll be,

Let me sing my story: “Once upon a tree.”

 Offering (You may give an offering through the “Give Online” link on the Ginter Park website, if you would like.)

Offertory Prayer – Thank you, Generous God, for the many gifts you have given us.  Thank you for the opportunity to share in your work through generously giving of our resources.  Because you have blessed us, we have much to give.  May this offering express our gratitude, and, be used to share your love and goodness with the world.  For this is the work, your work, to which we dedicate all of who we are and what we have.  Amen.

Scripture Reading – Exodus 20:1-3, 18-21      Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me…When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Reflection(The reflection is a compilation of excerpts from Learning to Walk in the Dark helping to introduce our Lenten worship series.)

Benediction –     In the goodness of God, you were created by God in the image of God.  By the grace of God, you are being renewed and recreated this day, and, all of your days.  Go now with God’s blessing and peace.  The peace that passes all understanding.  Amen.

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