Easter 4: Blessing of the Gate


Blessing of the Gate © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 4, Year A (May 15): John 10.1-10

Once again, for the fourth time in this Easter season, the lectionary turns toward the theme of knowing. Beginning with Easter Sunday, the gospel readings have beckoned us to pay attention to where we pay attention, to how we turn ourselves toward the Christ who comes to us. To the women at the empty tomb, to Thomas in the locked room, to the two at the Emmaus table, Jesus shows himself, inviting others to see and recognize him, even to place their hand within his very flesh so that they may know and trust who he is.

And here again this week the gospel lection impresses upon us how keen Jesus is for us to know him, to follow after the One who first knows us. Knows us by our own name, Jesus tells us in this Sunday’s text from John’s Gospel.

Jesus recognizes, of course, the import of knowing another’s name. Throughout the scriptures as well as in mythology and folklore, we see how knowing someone’s name often means having a kind of power; one’s name holds something of a key to one’s nature. Yet with Christ, this knowing is always steeped in grace, not control. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out,” Jesus says in this passage where he describes himself as the good shepherd. The gate of Christ swings toward freedom, not captivity. The shepherd does not assume a role of domination, of power-over that constrains and confines; he is one who pours his power out on our behalf, that we may enter into the places where we can flourish. “…that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus says.

As the Easter season continues to unfold, this theme of knowing will persist. As we travel through these days of resurrection, how will you open yourself to the Christ who desires to know you and to be known by you? How well do you want to be known? Are there any corners of your heart that you resist being known? Might those very spaces become a place of prayer, a doorway, a gate that opens into freedom?

Blessing of the Gate

Press your hand
to this blessing,
here along
the side
where you can feel
its seam.

Follow the seam
and you will find
the hinges
on which
this blessing turns.

Feel how
your fingers
catch on them—
top,
bottom,
the slightest pressure
sending the gate
gliding open
in a glad welcome.

Wait, did I say
press your hand
to this blessing?

What I meant was
press your hand
to your heart.

Rest it over that
place in your chest
that has grown
closed and tight,
where the rust,
with its talent
for making decay
look artful,
has bitten into
what you once
held dear.

Breathe deep.
Press on the knot
and feel how it
begins to give way,
turning upon
the hinge
of your heart.

Notice how it
opens wide
and wider still
as you exhale,

spilling you out
into a realm
where you never dreamed
to go
but cannot now imagine
living this life
without.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or title below:

Easter 4: In Which We Do Some Sheep Wrestling.

[To use the “Blessing of the Gate” image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

3 Responses to “Easter 4: Blessing of the Gate”

  1. phyllis Says:

    wow, Jan. I could FEEL this one! The reminder that the gate of Christ swings toward freedom, not captivity also gives liberty. Thank you, thank you, for always finding the words and images that speak loudly and tenderly to me. I love your addition of blessings and poetry this year. I’m still enjoying Sanctuary of Women and go back often to those blessings. Thanks for sharing your gift.

  2. Becky Valentine Says:

    Ditto what Phyllis said. Look forward to getting together with you sometime.
    Becky V.

  3. claire Says:

    Yes, Phyllis pretty much said it all. What an extraordinary blessing! I will close my day with it (my day is closing already).

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