06 April 2014

mor gözler

“You, whom I saw when I opened my eyes,
The one whom I loved at first sight.”

“When marrying, one should ask oneself this question:  Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this woman into your old age?  Everything else in marriage is transitory, but the most time during the association belongs to conversation.”

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.” 

Happy birthday…

(The lower image is a drawing done by Grace Sheldon.)

02 April 2014

the three days

For Mary Magdalene, it ends with tears, disbelief, and then, a conviction that has earned her the title, “apostle to the apostles.”  What ends for her?  It is what for centuries has been called the triduum—Latin for “three days.”  It is the three days from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday.

John 20 records how she goes to the tomb, and instead of finding the body of Jesus, she is greeted by two angels.  And when she does see Jesus—alive!—she mistakes him for the gardener.  After Mary realizes the incredible, outrageous, and wonderful truth, the other disciples (the men) refuse to believe her.

What’s been going on for those three days?  Why are they the three days like none other?

What is going on with the disciples?  Surely they have feelings of grief, anguish, and fear.  Perhaps there are voices of self-recrimination welling up within them.  “What were we thinking?  How could we have believed him?”

Those three days are an interim time like none other.  There were so many things they talked about.  There were so many dreams.  There was so much that they felt like they could accomplish.  Still, didn’t he make that strange comment that they would do even “greater works”? (John 14:12).

This is a model for interim time for all places and all seasons.  It is a time for the birthing of dreams and visions.  It is a time for seeing a new thing, for singing a new song.  Still, not everything gets done.  Not everything that we feel is important gets accomplished.  We might try some things, and then realize that they really aren’t what we need.  (At least, not now.)

And there’s always the astonishing discovery of what we were sure was dead coming back to life!

Your partner on this Easter journey (the Easter season begins this year on the 20th of this month)… 

(The upper image is from www.overheardinthesacristy.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/mary-magdalene.jpg, and the lower one is from hergracedevata.blogspot.com/2011/03/mary-magdalene-high-priestess-of.html.)

13 March 2014

denying the best within us

One of the readings in Lent this year comes from John 18.  It deals with the arrest of Jesus and Peter’s denials.  This is a reading in the Narrative Lectionary, as opposed to the more familiar Revised Common Lectionary.

Earlier, in chapter 13, one might say that Peter bites off more than he can chew.  While at the table for the Last Supper, Peter says to Jesus, “I will lay down my life for you” (v. 37).  Jesus responds by predicting that Peter will deny even knowing him three times before sunrise, that is, before the rooster crows.  Sadly, that is exactly what happens. 

In one of history’s ironic twists, Peter does lay down his life for Jesus.  Tradition holds that the Romans crucify Peter, but they do grant him his last request.  He is put to death on an upside-down cross, because he feels unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord.

Still, what does it mean to deny being a disciple of Christ?  Does it mean giving in to the voices of fear and selfishness and apathy?  Does it mean betraying the one who loves us most—or those who love us most?  Does it mean settling for karma when grace is so abundantly present?

Fortunately for Peter, and for us, restoration is always offered.  In chapter 21, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him.  This heart-wrenching exercise concludes with Jesus saying, “Follow me.” 

When we deny the best within ourselves, Jesus still says, “Follow me.”

(The image comes from rosanacasco.com/color/color_in_motion/peter_s_denial.jpeg.html)

10 March 2014


During Lent, I am reading John Moses’ The Desert: An Anthology for Lent.  There are a few quotations for each day in the Lenten season.  Today’s quotes are listed as “The Solitude of the Soul.”  One comes from Theophan the Recluse.  He was a Russian Orthodox bishop of Tambov in the 19th century.  (Tambov is in central European Russia.)

Theophan is quoted as saying, “do not forget that you can be alone amid the noise of the world; and equally you can be surrounded by the hubbub of the world [while] withdrawn in your cell.”  I imagine a fellow whose nickname was “the Recluse” knew a little bit about solitude!

Lent is the perfect time to discover, and rediscover, the challenge and joy of solitude.  As our friend Theophan says, solitude and isolation are not the same thing.  It’s a distinction that I too often fail to appreciate.  That’s something for me to use as a guidepost during this year’s Lenten journey. 

(The image is from dragoroth-stock.deviantart.com/art/winter-solitude-190973624)

28 February 2014

remember that you are dust

In the movie Gladiator (2000), starring Russell Crowe (as the general who became a slave who became a gladiator who defied an emperor), there are many great scenes, but there’s one in particular worthy of note.  This is just before Russell Crowe, as Maximus, is about to fight in the arena.  He is disgusted by the senseless brutality of the games.  The late Oliver Reed, as Proximo, who manages a contingent of gladiators (the one including Maximus), is speaking to him about the Emperor Commodus.

He says of Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix), “He knows too well how to manipulate the mob.”  Maximus angrily responds, pointing toward the arena, “Marcus Aurelius had a dream that was Rome, Proximo.  This is not it.  This is not it!”  Unfazed, Proximo shouts at Maximus as he storms away, “Marcus Aurelius is dead, Maximus.  We mortals are but shadows and dust. Shadows and dust, Maximus!”

In the liturgy for Ash Wednesday, which falls on the 5th of March this year, there are the powerful words which accompany the imposition of ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  In the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, this is the prayer that precedes the imposition:

“Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth.  May these ashes be for us a sign of our mortality and penitence, and a reminder that only by your gracious gift are we given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

Proximo and Ash Wednesday, in describing humans as “dust,” seem to be saying the same thing.  And at one level, both of them are.  All of us will “shuffle off this mortal coil.”  Still, with Proximo, there is a sense of resignation, a sense of hopelessness.  Ash Wednesday agrees that yes, we are dust, but that is a statement filled with hope.  That is so, because “only by [God’s] gracious gift” is this dust “given everlasting life.”

Still, even setting this wondrous reality aside for a moment, what’s wrong with being dust?  Remember where we came from.  We’re reminded of our origin, as beings of this planet, in the heart of a sun.  Astronomy tells us that everything, everywhere, was created inside a star.  We are creatures of star dust.

In a few days, as we embark on our Lenten journey, remember that we are star dust that has become aware of itself.  We are star dust that is loved by its Creator.

Remember that you are dust! 

(The image is of Pillar and Jets HH 901/902 from heritage.stsci.edu/2010/13/big.html)