Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Telling the Story

 
 
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, "You must say, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. Matthew 28:1-16
 
Telling the Story
 
None will believe our  tales
we are women, old and widowed
prostituted and without means
our story sounds like fiction.
 
The strong arrogant soldiers
passed out in fear and terror
we faced head on the truth
that love had set him free.
 
They will make up stories
and take bribes and cover themselves
with heroic tales blaming
scorned women bent with age.
 
We will carry the burden
the fire we will kindle
we will fan the flames
love beat death forever.
 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Disbelief


Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
 After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.  Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’ Mark 16:9-18

Mary's Journal

It is hard to tell such an unbelievable story. It's true, I touched my son with my own hands and held him again but the disciples don't want to believe us. They are so afraid. The authorities have sought them out to question them about his missing body. The disciples believe that the government will take them all away and kill them. They are in hiding for fear of their lives and have hidden us away also.

We women can't control our excitement and want to tell everyone, but we have been cautioned not to do so. We keep to ourselves as much as possible, but the folks in the market notice things are different. They expect women in mourning and we don't look like that. Fortunately, the local people here are all outcasts themselves and don't trust the authorities. We don't worry that they will turn us in.

My prayer today is that the despair and disbelief will turn into joy. May the light of new life somehow seep into the broken hearts and hurting souls of our loved ones and friends. May Christ reveal himself to those who desperately need to know that God's love has conquered death and that our joy will return again.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Empty Tomb

 
 
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, "Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you." So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8
 
 
The Empty Tomb
 
I have gone back over it and over it
rolling the pictures in my mind
shaking every time I think that we
found an empty tomb.
 
We felt an earthquake and the guards fled
leaving us to face this terror alone
we held each other close as we looked
inside the empty tomb.
 
The angel greeted us sweet and mild
we could not help but scream
sisters and mothers together in shock
at the sight on an empty tomb.
 
Hot tears, delight and fear took us
we have been able to speak or sing
unable to contain the joy we know
finding the empty tomb.
 
The world around us buzzes
a plot, a scheme imagined
we witnessed God's miraculous love
we found an empty tomb.
 
How do we live these days beyond?
how will we tell our story now?
We are they who ventured out early
and found an empty tomb.
 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A New Day Dawns

 


After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, `He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." Matthew 28:1-10



A New Day Dawns - Mary's Journal 

It is still hard for me to believe. I have no idea how to wrap my mind around what happened today! We women have been huddled together for the past days, waiting until the Sabbath was over and we could go out and anoint my son's body. We had gathered the herbs and oils we needed yesterday after sundown, and sat in the kitchen talking. None of us has any desire to relive the horror of the crucifixion, and I was reluctant to see his bloodied and battered body once again. But it had to be done.

We got out to the tombs early - before sunup - hoping to go quietly and unseen. The men had given us money to pay for the guards to move the stone, and we were praying there would be no trouble. I could not bear to get close to the tomb until it was all arranged, so Mary Magdalene went first and found the guards sleeping. Right before she woke them, a huge noise like an earthquake happened, and she noticed that the stone rolled away. She started screaming and we all ran to her. The guards came to see what the commotion was all about. When he saw the stone rolled away,they also screamed in horror for they were stationed there to prevent robbers and crazy people stealing Jesus' body.

 Mary crept near the tomb and was greeted by an angel. We all drew close and witnessed this. The guards shook in their boots like little boys and finally ran away. The angel told us that my son had risen, that he was alive! I feel to my knees in shock. The others helped me up and led me in. The angel showed us the burial linens, still soaked in blood. His blood. We were instructed to go on to Galilee and that he would meet us. I could hardly catch my breath for the joy and fear all rolled into one. The other women were in shock also, as none of them had witnessed angels visiting. That was the one thing that was not so surprising to me. Once the angel left us we took off as fast as our feet would carry us.

As we got to the edge of the garden we all stopped suddenly. There he was! My son, my beautiful boy! Restored to life, beaming like a young child. We all embraced him, crying, laughing and praying. He touched my face and lifted me up. The love in his eyes told me everything. It was finished. All that we had suffered, the displacement, the shame and abuse, the violence and horror. Love took it all away, for this is what God had wanted all along. For love to be victorious. For love to set us all free. Fear and death were defeated and love won out over all.

We are waiting for the disciples to return. They may not believe us but we will make them go with us to Galilee. I am a mess of emotions - so much joy after so much grief. I can barely talk or eat. I find myself giggling and then crying like a little girl. This life and these bodies of ours are so magnificent and so fragile. And yet God had promised there is more to life, and there is always more love.

This is my simple prayer on this splendid day - that God will help me to be fearless for here on out. I have lived through such loss and sorrow. And yet God has shown me there is more - more life and more love. May my heart be ever focused on more life, more love.




The Collect
O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mary's Lament


Lord, God of my salvation,
   when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
   incline your ear to my cry.


For my soul is full of troubles,
   and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
   I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
   like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
   for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
   in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
   and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
        
You have caused my companions to shun me;
   you have made me a thing of horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
   my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call on you, O Lord;
   I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
   Do the shades rise up to praise you?
         
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
   or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
   or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?


But I, O Lord, cry out to you;
   in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Lord, why do you cast me off?
   Why do you hide your face from me?
Wretched and close to death from my youth up,
   I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.
Your wrath has swept over me;
   your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
   from all sides they close in on me.
You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;
   my companions are in darkness.  Psalm 88


Mary's Lament

Oh Lord, we cried all night
widows and women alone
the ancient songs from our youth
became the endless tears that flowed.

Can your love reach down into the grave?
Can you pull us up from this sorrow?
we and bent and torn apart for love
and we wait in hiding afraid.

Not one of us slept last night
the horror and violence of the day
welling up like angry waves on the ocean
we are drowning deep in sorrow.

There are no angels in this border town
no saviors in this slum of outcasts
there is only a mother who has lost her son
and old women grieving together.

This is no sabbath, this is no rest
but a prison of pain and trembling
we gather fragrant flowers and oils
waiting to anoint the dead.

If I could but take his place
if I could but reverse the evil done
I would bear this sorrow with joy
and shed no tears for his broken body.

I am a woman of deep sorrow
shallow breathing is my only food
Inside is the broken mother's  heart
shattering and unwilling to beat.





Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday


Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied, "I am he." Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, "I am he," they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, "Whom are you looking for?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go." This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, "I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me." Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?"
So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. The woman said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not." Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing around it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.
Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered, "I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said." When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, "You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not." One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate's headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, "What accusation do you bring against this man?" They answered, "If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you." Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law." The Jews replied, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death." (This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, "I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" They shouted in reply, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a bandit.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."
Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor."
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor." Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says,
"They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots."
And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. John 18:1-19:42

Mary's Diary Day 5

John has hidden me away with the other women. He is afraid for me and rightly so. After all that has happened in the past day, how can anyone feel safe. I thought I understood pain and loss. Never. Never have I experienced anything like this. My son, my sweet dear son sent from God, now taken from me. God made a promise to me -when I said yes to God. I carried him, gave him life and carried the shame and the abuse in our early days. And now he is gone, crucified like a criminal, this sweet child, this gentle gift. Where is God today? Where are the angels to hold me now? What am I to do now?

Maybe writing this down will help me make sense of it all. Last night things seemed peaceful after supper and then suddenly the garden exploded with soldiers. I ran to the garden only to see my son dragged away and the disciples scattering like scared children. I tried to follow but one of the guards knocked me to the ground. Mary Magdalene picked me up and walked me back to my room. She stayed with me and my sister until the early morning, when we decided it might be safe to go out. We could nor find any of the disciples. As we got to the square there was my son, bloodied and beaten with that scoundrel Pilate. The crowd was screaming, "crucify him! " What decent leader asked the crowd about a decision such as this? It was horrible. I was screaming but no one could hear me. Then they led him away.

I could not watch as they pounded the nails in his hands and his feet. I stood away off,  but could hear him in his pain. My sister, Mary and some of the other women held me. I sobbed and sobbed. When he was raised in the air, groaning, I wanted to die. I tried to run and comfort him, but they held me back. Those dying minutes seemed like days. The disciples huddled around us women, praying and crying with us.Oh, his sweet face, matted with blood, lined with such agony and shame. I want to believe God is in this! When they finally took him down, releasing him from the cross, I got to hold him, cradle him in my arms. Oh Lord, that face sweet in death, body torn by the anger and hate of this world. What am I to do now?

I have been sitting here in this hiding place with the other women. Not much to say, really. Tears flow, over and over, as our minds see again the gruesome images of our beloved dying. My son! How could it end like this!

My prayer this night, as I get ready for sleep that I know will not come, is that God will make something good out of this horror. Jesus was born to redeem Israel. Lord God, show me how that is to happen now. Help me remember all you goodness and kindness. Help me to trust in you, despite this pain so deep I no longer want to live. Please dear God, give me a reason to live again.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday


On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus's disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there." So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me." They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, "Surely, not I?" He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born."
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Mark 14:12-25 

Day Four In Jerusalem - Mary's Journey

They found where we had set the Passover meal up, finally.  The kind man who let us use his guest room and kitchen was fond on my son. We worked like crazy all day and the disciples helped greatly running errand after errand for me in the city. Without their help, nothing would have been ready on time. The women disciples were amazing, rising before dawn and cleaning, preparing and cooking like they would for their own families. Even their children and husbands came and helped out.

 I am sitting in a quiet kitchen now, as everyone has gone out to the garden, to sit in the cool of the late evening. Jesus did remarkable things tonight.First, he washed all of the dsiciples' feet with such love and care that no one could not help but tear up a little. Then he took the hidden bread and blessed it, sharing  the wine and bread with all of us. He called us all together and told us this would we the last time we would eat together, or drink the wine together. Those words hit me like a wound in my heart. I know we are here in Jerusalem, this most holiest of cities, but I had to go down to the kitchen and cry a while. I get so frightened for him. I know that God is using him. I know that he was born for great glory and challenge, but it is so hard to sit by and watch. I am overwhelmed by exhaustion and anxiety. 

Dear God, this mother is more anxious than I have been in a long time. My child's words filled me with joy and fear. My love grows deeper day by day and yet I cannot help but be afraid. The city that surrounds me in full of threats and accusations. Please, dear God give me peace here in Jerusalem, just as you gave me as we walked that long road to Bethlehem all those years ago. Amen