Easter, Luke

Later in the day

We’ve had a very low-key Easter Monday at my house, with our 12-year-old, Mr. Dimples, in the middle of what is a terribly-scheduled Spring Break for a clergy family. The weather was beautiful, full-gloried springtime. We’ve been out with the dog numerous times, admiring the crabapple trees and the tulips in the neighborhood, and I sat on a bench for a while at the park, watching kathrynzj pitch to Mr. D.

Now it’s evening, and the baseball noise floating from my living room emanates from the PlayStation 4, which is startlingly realistic. The crack of the bat sounds almost exactly right. When it comes around every year, in a real game, it’s as much a sign of new life as the daffodils.

On Easter Sunday, later in the day, we watched our favorite team, the Nationals, play the Phillies. When our hero, Bryce Harper (I mean, we named our cat after him), came up in the bottom of the 9th, the Nats trailed 4-3, with two men on base and 2 outs.

He worked the pitcher to a 3-2 count. This is basically the point of baseball, to make you swing so hard between despair and hope that you declare you will give it up forever…

Then, “kkraakk!” sang his bat! (Click here if that’s your thing.)

He stood and admired the ball as it sailed away. It’s bad form, but who could blame him?

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:28-31, CEB)

It may seem sacreligious to compare Cleopas and his companion, let’s say Mrs. Cleopas, to baseball fans, but we are so far from their moment that it’s hard to capture their emotions in a palpable way. We read up on how far it really was to Emmaus, and ponder whether it’s a metaphorical destination. Buechner has described it (paraphrasing here) as a place representing our lowest moments, but even that feels detached to me. How can we get out of our heads and feel that swing between hope and despair?

Jesus worked Mr. and Mrs. C like an excellent batter works a pitcher, stretching it as far as he possibly could.

Then, “kkraakk!” sang his bat!

And in the fleeting moment before he disappeared, I feel sure he admired his handiwork.

Dear Jesus, dear Jesus, I love the way you work. Keep working on me. Amen.


I read and blogged about Luke as my Lenten discipline in 2017, and this is the last post in the series. The full list of posts can be found here.

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Easter, Luke, Prayers for Pastors

Fierce and Fabulous for Jesus (an Easter prayer for pastors)

When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. (Luke 24:9, CEB)

Fragrant were the spices they carried
to the tomb that morning,
pungent and piercing,
like the words of women today
who call on us to speak the truth
not just with our speech
but with our actions.

Fabulous were the angels they saw,
two men in dazzling array,
good news bringers
like the powerful sisters
who remind us the gospel
is not white sugar-coated
but for everyone.

Fierce were the women themselves
in their trip to the garden,
and in their encounter with the men,
like clergywomen of our time
who call lairos on patriarchy:
the powers cannot keep him on the cross;
Christ is free in the world.

Fierce must we be, my sisters,
for we serve that risen Lord
This is my prayer for you:
Be fierce and fabulous for Jesus!
Go out and preach Christ resurrected!
Alleluia! Amen.


I offer this prayer with gratitude for Wil, Traci, Naomi, Kentina, Leila, Denise, Jan, Anne, Laura, Katie, Angie, Marci, Amy, Carol, Hannah, Kwame, Ruth, Julia, Joanna, Sally-Lodge, Mary, and Karyn, and so many others in the RevGals community who speak the truth fearlessly like the women on that first morning. May the world have ears to hear.

Easter, Prayers for Pastors

Vigil (a Holy Saturday prayer for pastors)

It’s quiet at the manse.
The flower ladies have come
and gone across the street,
and the banners went up
after evening worship,
a hint of what will come
tomorrow.

Meanwhile,
we sit vigil,
books piled beside
laptops, ideas outlined
in old orders of service,
jelly bean bag nearly
empty.

JonquilsIn the garden,
jonquils half-shadowed
wait expectantly,
trusting the sun
to come again,
to rise in the East
and circle the house.

We wait, too,
half-shadowed,
wanting to do our best
for you on this most
important, most
precious
day-to-come.

Help us to trust,
like the flowers,
that you will rise,
that we will see you again,
that no tomb will
hold your body
for long.

Easter, Prayers for Pastors

Early, Later, Finally (an Easter prayer for pastors)

And Very EarlyAfter the Sabbath,
and very early
on the first day of the week,
they came to the tomb
and saw that the stone
had been removed.

Very early,
while it is still dark,
we will rise, too,
arrange our papers,
kiss our dear ones,
and head for the park,
the river or the hilltop,
to sing
in the cool of morning
and welcome the Son.

Early,
after the dawn has broken,
we will unlock the doors,
breathe in the lilies
or avoid them if we must,
welcome the brass players,
and wonder if the words
we prepared will work
to proclaim the mystery
we cannot fully explain.

Later,
we will pray in the hallway,
or holding hands with the choir,
give thanks for the crowds,
though it’s not about numbers,
take stock of our vestments,
make sure we have the props
to tell the story to the children,
check for the last page of the sermon.

(All of them, really.)

Finally,
we will stand before the people
and declare what we believe
even if we cannot understand
how it is possible:
the one who had died is alive,
the stone has been rolled away,
the tomb is empty
and the Lord
is on the move.

(Who can believe it? We try.)

Still,
in the world we see horror,
people cruel to one another,
and to themselves, treating
Your children like strangers,
like enemies, like nothing,
and we want to say to You,
we need You on the move
among us, because we cannot
seem to do this thing right.

We need your help.

Somehow,
in the shouted Alleluias,
in the echo of organs
and the blast of trumpets
and the beauty of story
and the love song of liturgy,
move us out of the tomb
of hate and fear.

Roll away the stone
of safe distance
and perceived difference
and cognitive dissonance.

Work through us
and work on us,
we pray,
on this Easter day
and every day.
Amen.

Easter, Prayers for Pastors

Into the same garden ~ an Easter prayer for pastors

Easter 2004 at Stevens Avenue Congregational Church UCC
Easter 2004 at Stevens Avenue Congregational Church UCC

How do we walk into the garden?

Some peer tremulously around the corner,
not sure what to expect.
Will the crowds come?
Has spring break taken all the children to grandma’s house?
Will the little church be full?

Some tread wearily,
weighed down by the right now grief
of death and illness in the faith community,
of bad news delivered in the liminal space
of a Holy Saturday.

Some go grudgingly,
wondering if all has been completed,
tired of administrivia
or complaints unwarranted
or wondering if maybe they are,
after all.

Some walk confidently,
trusting the musicians,
the elders and deacons,
the flower committee
and the a/v department,
and the security of many years in one place.

All wonder how to speak the Good News fresh,
to tell the story so familiar,
to find the twist in this word or that one,
to add the illustration that makes it clear
what all this means.

But here’s the wonder.
We don’t understand it. Not a single one of us.
No matter the size of our church,
or the age of the people in the pews,
or the geographic location,
or the social context,
or our years in ministry,
on Easter Sunday we all
walk into the same garden.

We find the stone rolled away,
and with awe we proclaim
what we want to believe
but can hardly imagine:

He is risen!
Alleluia! Amen.

Easter

While It Was Still Dark

While it was still dark, two women met at the coffee pot.

“I believe!” said one.

“Have you lost your mind, Honey? Go back to bed.”

But I hadn’t lost my mind. I was groping, like the women so long ago, to express my joy at the unexpected. I’ve lived on the intellectual end of the theological spectrum, that place where we don’t believe a lot of the things we were taught as children, where we don’t take things literally, where we wonder, as I did on my first Holy Saturday as a preacher, what we believe about the bodily resurrection.

The choices I made in my personal life only added to the confusion, the rationalizing, the justifications. I believed something, but I didn’t want to be pushed too hard on it. After all, did it really matter? This man who was God — well, at times, I may have hedged on that, too. This man, this Jesus, had such an impact on human history. Something magnificent happened. God loves us. Alleluia! Etc.

But I woke this morning, while it was still dark, and in the darkness I read the words of another UCC pastor, backing away from the tomb much as I tried to do, and not to do, in the past, speaking to the doubts people may rightly have, and as I read, I thought, “No. I believe it. I believe it.”

while it was still darkDeath had no victory.

The forces of darkness — whether human or supernatural — had no power to hold Him.

Instead of using his mighty powers to flee to the Third Heaven around 11:45 on Friday morning, he died. They buried him. And on Sunday morning the tomb was empty.

It may have sounded strange at the coffee maker, while it was still dark, somewhere between the first pot and the second. It certainly sounded strange on that long ago morning.

But I believe it. Christ is Risen!

Now the forces of darkness have no power to hold me. You either. I believe it. And I thank God for it.

Easter, Holy Week, Poetry

This Holy Week

I am not writing prayers
composing sermons
designing liturgies

At worship,
I worship

I am not forsaken

But I am perplexed
attentive
seeking

I Google recipes
arrange itineraries
make shopping lists

carrots
asparagus
honey-baked ham

I write the litany of the holiday meal

jelly beans
chocolate bunnies
marshmallow Peeps

not quite a sacrament
but we will take and eat

I am not writing prayers
save this one:

Let the dawn bring life
and light
please
-not just to me-

but I would take some clarity
gladly
gratefully

Great List-Making Mother

if You could spare it