Archive for March, 2023

On this fifth Sunday of Lent, we are entering what is called Passiontide, or the final two weeks of Lent … the final two weeks of Jesus’ human life. Today begins our focus on the passion of Christ, his suffering.

And so we read the story of the death of Lazarus

Lazarus, was the brother of Mary and Martha. He had died and was already “in the grave” for four days (John 1-45).

When Jesus went there, both the sisters said to him, “if only you had been here …” In their (very human) response to him, we see our own. We long for, wish, that Jesus would come and prevent the tragedies of life and living. Yet, his message is that they (we) need to believe.

I believe that Jesus was frustrated in this situation (v. 38 speaks of him being angry) for two reasons. The first is that he was realizing that these people, even these two woman who he loved and who loved him, so easily forgot the value of their belief. The second is that in what he was about to do (raise Lazarus from his deadly grave) was a foreboding to the events coming in the days to follow. For he knew that he too would die and be left in a grave.

When he was taken to the tomb where Lazarus was buried,

he wept.

Never before (or since) have two words so drawn humanity to the person of Jesus.

In this short statement we who wear flesh on our bones, we whose hearts beat for life that has ended before us … we can relate to Jesus. He relates to us. For, in his weeping at the news of the death of his friend, we feel we can be certain that he mourns with us … for he has known mourning.

To know that we are not alone in our mourning is to be known.

I spent an evening with a longtime friend last week. We had not spent time together since last fall and we had so much to catch up on. After the initial embrace, words of it being “so long, too long”, we sat and she said, what a time you have been through with the death of your brother … how ARE you?

And it all came out.

For the better part of two hours I spoke of all the things that had transpired in the last weeks of my brother’s life. The hard things, the beautiful things, the things that spoke of God’s grace, the things I had no answers concerning. And for those two hours, she nodded, asked pertinent questions, shared laughter, shared tears with me.

As we parted I apologized to taking over our time together and she said something welcoming, kind, generous.

I felt like I had been blessed with such a sweet gift, empathy.

Empathy isn’t
“I know how you feel”
because the details of our grief is different.
It is, instead,
“I know hurt too
and I want to sit in sadness with you for a bit.”

In these two words of Jesus, we know Emmanuel truly is God WITH us.

Gracious Father,
you gave up your Son
out of love for the world:
lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion,
that we may know eternal peace
through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood,
Jesus Christ our Lord.


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It is the familiar, the simple that I and those of us grieving, miss the most.

A moment when we wanted to send a text. A memory that only they would share. A feeling in our soul that they are in the room …

sigh … the shared intimacy of knowing and being known goes with our loved ones.

She came to the well, at noon.

That seems an odd time of day to fetch water from the well … the hottest time of day.

Maybe she was too busy earlier in the day. Maybe she used up the water she had gathered earlier. Or maybe … maybe she was trying to avoid the eyes and whispers of the busybodies in the town.

So, he (Jesus) asks her to draw water for him,
but he is really trying to draw her to him.

He tells her what she already knows … about her life.

Those busybodies that she may have wanted to avoid, would also have known her story, her sins. But, there is a difference in how Jesus dealt with this knowledge of her, he knew of her sins, but he didn’t shun her because of them.

Instead, he pursued her, engaged with her, offering to her living water, offering life to her through his love.

The woman left the well, left her water jug … because her greatest thirst was met in knowing she was fully known and loved by Jesus.

She took his knowledge of her as she went into town, telling whoever would listen, that “He told me everything I ever did.” And many Samaritans believed in Him too.

don’t we all want to be known and loved
in spite of it all?

What the woman attained that day at the well was the intimacy of love.

Not the sexual intimacy between lovers, which can be present in the absence of love.

This intimacy of love is only found in being known, being seen, not for outward appearance, or for what we have accomplished (or failed at accomplishing).

This intimacy, this expression of gentleness, grace and love is the model Jesus gives us. Yes, we need to see and acknowledge sin, but he loved this woman knowing her sin, he offered his love to her even before she ever ‘accepted’ what he offered. As a matter-of-fact, this account never once indicates that she repented of sins (though she did not deny that what Jesus told about her).

This woman received the gift of being known by Jesus and she shared it with others. This sharing or evangelizing of her intimate experience with Jesus came out of his intimate love for her … even in the midst of her messy life.

In Jesus we find that

we were loved
we are loved
we will be loved

I think this is where grief is the biggest struggle, for though we were loved by the one we grieve, there is no longer a present or future source of that lost love. It is the finality of death, the permanence of their absence that leaves us breathless.

For me, it is little things that I hold on to. Words in a farewell text, inscription on a gifted keychain, beauty in the sky, photos that all of a sudden have life because they were taken ‘live’ … these are the thinning threads of life that I (we) hold with iron fisted grip. These are the things that remind us of the intimacy and love we shared with our loved ones.

Lent is a season that leads us to death, but prepares us for life. Life that includes a deep intimacy with the one whose death was in our place. He knew what we needed most and he loved us to the cross.

Isn’t it odd
We can only see our outsides,
but nearly everything happens on the inside’
– Charlie Mackesy

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Spring is coming … I see it in the sky.

There is light in the sky earlier in the mornings, later in the afternoons. My hubby mentions how light it is getting each and every evening. For me, it is the light in the morning sky, light emerging through the darkness giving hope to the new day.

As this season of lent continues, people around the world are considering the transfiguration of Jesus. The event where the temporal (worldly) and the spiritual meet in the person of Jesus. It is often said of this event that here we see how Jesus is made the bridge between us and God.

In the short accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke) of this transfiguration are three very similar explanations of what occurred. Jesus took John, Peter and James up a mountain. he is transfigured and his clothing is beyond white, Moses and Elijah show up, a cloud descends and a voice (God) tells them to listen to what his Son says. That is quite a bit of theological information!

But, what grabs my attention,


is in Matthew 17:2:

There he was transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun…

Like the sun … like the sun rising earlier each day as winter moves to spring. We are not there yet … spring. We are not there yet … on the other side of grief. But, we walk through this barren, dirty, dark place with the promise of hope … hope that after this inky season the sun will shine again … and we will see it, we will feel it, we will know it.

The only way to get to that season of light, though, is to walk through the valley of darkness.

In the Gospel accounts of the transfiguration, Jesus is walking up that mountain with his friends, those who would be witnesses to what was to happen. As they descended the mountain he tells them not to tell anyone of what they saw until after his death (except in Luke, where there is mention that they did not tell of it until after). He knew that death and mourning had to precede the light.

The thing is, I think his transfiguration is also a holy moment between he and his Father. A confirmation that his own purpose, his own glory would be shown only by walking on the painful, dark road to death.

In this, I believe, we can be reminded that

“in grief,
the only way out of the pain
is through the pain.”

David Kessler

I spent much time looking at paintings of the greats of this transformation of Jesus … and none of them shone bright enough, not right enough. I whispered to the empty room, there must be some image that adequately communicates this pivotal event!

And immediately an image came to mind (below). Just days before returning to the west coast, I was heading to the hospital to spend the day with brother and my eye was drawn to the East, to the rising of the sun. Then I saw it … just a fragment of a rainbow reflecting off the luminous sun. It jarred me at first and I wondered if he had passed (for signs are sometimes … signs). I even showed him when I reached the hospital (and he said he would do his best to show me a rainbow after …).

As I looked at the image today, I saw the cross shape in the sun. Known as a sun pillar, this is formed when ice crystals are slowly falling through the air. The cross and the rainbow. One a symbol of pain and suffering and the other a symbol of hope.

But, you can’t get to the hope without going through the pain of death. Just as Jesus couldn’t bring the glory of salvation, without first going through the pain of death.

 Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
    but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.

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