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How Long Does That Take?

 Rebecca Weatherford nudged me in this direction yesterday, for which I’m grateful—-

Some of the best songs are the simplest.

(I know, I know — that’s not an all-inclusive statement; I can name several examples of profoundly complex music and lyrics, same as you…but that’s not where I’m going with this today. Come along for the ride.)

Sometimes phenomenally complicated situations and ideas are best expressed without embellishment.

In those instances the art, the skill, and the gift all lie in the trimming away of the non-essential.

Sometimes the time and effort involved in the process of first producing, and then paring down, are enormous.

But sometimes the actual expression itself arrives in a burst, and all that’s necessary is minimal editing, if any.

There’s a great scene in Ed Harris’ film portrayal of Jackson Pollock in which the not-yet-famous artist sits. And sits. He’s been invited to produce artwork on a wall of a family’s home, but he’s clearly not. At least not yet.

He sits.

And then in a sudden flurry, he leaps up and brilliance flows from him onto that home’s wall.

Something like that is behind the song I quoted here yesterday. It was written by George Matheson just before his sister’s wedding. He himself had previously been engaged, but the wedding was cancelled when his fiancé announced she didn’t want to be married to a man who’d suddenly and irreparably gone blind.

His sister’s wedding ripped open that wound in his heart, and yesterday’s song came out. If you don’t remember it, hit a key or two and go back and read it: Tracing the Rainbow Through the Rain is in my blog of yesterday.

Of that song, Matheson wrote —

“I am quite sure that the whole work

was completed in five minutes, and equally sure

that it never received at my hands

any retouching or correction.

I have no natural gift of rhythm.

All the other verses I have ever written

are manufactured articles;

this came like a dayspring from on high.”

— So how long did it take him to write it? Five minutes? Or the several years of experience that laid the foundation for the completed work?

And what’s going on in your heart, your life, and/or your mind today that is potting soil for a blossom not yet seen?

If our Bibles are correct in saying that God is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8), and I believe that to be true, then what is God up to in our situations right now?

Join me in considering these things today.

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Tracing the Rainbow Through the Rain

The choir at Union United Methodist Church in Belleville, IL recently sang an arrangement of  this song, and it still seems a good reminder for this Easter Season —

O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thine ocean depths its flow
My richer, fuller be

O light that followest all my way
I yield my flickering torch to thee
My heart restores its borrowed ray
That in thy sunshines glow its day
May brighter, fairer be

O joy you seek me through the pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
Then morn shall tearless be

In the Middle: maybe not for United Methodists only

With gratitude to the person who sent this to me and wants to remain anonymous, the following so good I’m just getting out of the way —

Ours is one of the few large congregations in America that still puts its denominational label on the front door. In many congregations today denominational affiliation, if indeed there is any, is hidden and undercover.

Connectionalism has its cost. We contribute over $800,000 a year in apportionments to this denomination. They come from the gifts in the offering plates. With regard to misperceptions, just this week people have told me they thought Methodists were such rigid traditionalists that they were out of touch. Then twenty-four hours later someone said to me, “You Methodists are such liberals; you just believe almost anything.” I am surprised at some of the conclusions people make about us.

Connectionalism has its benefits. When I was pastor of a Methodist church in the heart of Louisville, a large independent church that had fled to the suburbs would meet with us trying to find ways to make a connection where we already were. We don’t have to make connections anywhere in this country; we are already connected. Whether we are talking about Katrina, Rita or any other place of concern, we are already there. That is one of the strengths of our connectionalism.

In an age of extremes, United Methodists are uniquely equipped to stand in the middle, inviting whosoever will to our tables of Holy Communion, acknowledging the grace of God to be active in all waters of baptism, urging all to join their hearts and minds with us in prayer. If your heart is with my heart, let’s join hands. It’s a message that needs to be heard today.

When people are shouting at one another and screaming from the edges, somebody needs to stand in the middle and invite people to the table.

– Whaddya say?

 

We Are the Easter People

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair,” Pope Francis said, and then continued, “We are the Easter people.”

By the grace of God, you and I really are; but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten that more than once.

Okay, way more than once.

Maybe you have, too.

“We are the Easter people.”

Today of all days in worship, we’re singing and celebrating the Resurrection.

“We are the Easter people.”

May our worship and our lives demonstrate that reality.

After all, “We are the Easter people.”

Amen?

 

BONUS BLOG: Grief, Dread, and Love

Kenneth Carder. The man is a treasure, a colleague, a mentor, and a phenomenon with his wife in her memory care facility. Today he wrote this, and I’m again grateful for his carte blanche to share this with you here —

I sit in the silence beside Linda’s bed as dawn’s first light emerges; living between memories of what has been and uncertainty of what will be.

Grief for what is no more; dread for what will be.

It’s the lived experience of Holy Saturday!

Love keeps vigil between grief and hope!

— Have I mentioned that he’s also a retired United Methodist Bishop?

Holy Saturday: a reminder and a prayer.

I believe…in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who…was crucified, dead, and buried.

From The Apostles’ Creed

 

From our sisters and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church —

God, Creator of heaven and earth:

Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son

was laid in the tomb on this holy Sabbath,

so we may await with him

the coming of the third day,

and rise with him to newness of life;

who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

BONUS BLOG: She Has Told Us What to Do

Hannah Adair Bonner is a colleague doing amazing ministry in Tucson with one of our college campus ministries called a Wesley Foundation. We’ve been online friends for quite some time, and we finally met face-to-face at General Conference 2019. It’s with her expressed gracious permission that I share with you her experience of last evening. Be blessed —

The students of Frontera Wesley hosted a modern version of the footwashing that Jesus offered to his disciples on the first Maundy Thursday.

Ester helped us explain to the women at The Inn that in honor of that moment during the Last Supper, when Jesus knelt to wash his disciples feet, we had prepared a foot spa for their weary feet. Their eyes lit up with recognition at the word spa, and they eagerly gathered to head to the location we had prepared.

One student prepared the Epsom salts to sooth and heal, while others heated water, prepared towels, and washed grapes. The one assigned to DJ pulled up relaxing music, as we explained, “música para relajarse.”

As the women settled into comfortable chairs, some holding babies or nursing, the students entered carrying pots of warm water to pour over their feet.

At first there was quiet, but gradually, as we left them to soak and relax, the women chatted and laughed like any group of old friends on a girls’ trip. They took grapes from the bowl that a student handed around, and broke off pieces of our remaining communion bread, commenting on its sweetness.

As they each gradually finished, they each indicated they were ready to return to the Inn. We removed their water, and I knelt to wrap a towel around their feet. We massaged lotion into their feet, and I told them it was clear they had walked many miles. “Sí,” they nodded with a thousand stories behind their eyes. Then they would stand up, and another woman would appear to take their place.

Now that they had grown comfortable and relaxed, I felt hands upon my head as I knelt before them to anoint their feet with coconut oil. They stroked my hair, in curiosity and endearing familiarity, and I told them it was the same hair as on two of my sisters’ heads, “Yessica y Susanna.” I thought of Mary Magdalene, drying Jesus feet with her hair, and I received the hands upon my head as a blessing.

As each one left, they hugged me, some holding on for a long time before finally releasing. How very simple it was for us to create a space of honoring and pampering, for those who had journeyed so far, but what a difference it made to them.

We never would have thought to do it, however, if Jesus had not told us to do so. He understood, because he walked the desert too. He fled for his life too. He faced death, danger and oppression too. God told us what to do, because she has walked in the sandals of these women too. We cannot understand, we cannot empathize, but she can; and she told us what to do.

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” — Mark 13:12-17

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