Lent 4: Mysteries of the Mud

Image: Mysteries of the Mud
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 4, Year A: John 9.1-41

“He put mud on my eyes.
Then I washed, and now I see.”
—John 9.15

He could simply have touched him. Or spoken a single word. Instead, when Jesus encounters a man who has been blind since birth, he spits on the ground, turns the dirt to mud, and spreads the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus tells him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.

The man goes. Washes. And sees.

Appearing midway in our Lenten journey, this story reminds us that this season is a time for getting close to the things of the earth. Ash, wilderness, waters of birth, wellspring, mud: the images that have accompanied us these past few weeks impress upon us what an elemental fellow Jesus is. Throughout his ministry we see him touching the world around him, turning to the things of earth to help us see the things of heaven.

This week’s gospel reading underscores it for us: Jesus is no sterile savior. He is not interested in remaining tidy and removed. With a beautiful and earthy economy of gestures, Jesus reveals himself as one who is willing to fully inhabit the messiness of our world and of our lives. He is ready to enter into the muck with us. He engages the muck as a place where holiness happens: where sludge becomes sacramental, and through grimy eyes we begin to behold the face of Love, beholding us right back.

How might the mucky places, the thick places, the earthy places become the very places that Christ uses to help you see more clearly? Are there places or practices that contain something of Siloam for you—spaces where you can wash away what would hinder you from seeing, and allow your vision to become clear? How might you take yourself to your Siloam in this season, this day, this moment?

Blessing of Mud

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the dirt.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the earth
beneath our feet.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the dust,

like the dust
that God scooped up
at the beginning
and formed
with God’s
two hands
and breathed into
with God’s own

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the spit.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the mud.

Lest we think
the blessing
is not
in the mire,
the grime,
the muck.

Lest we think
God cannot reach
deep into the things
of earth,
cannot bring forth
the blessing
that shimmers
within the sludge,
cannot anoint us
with a tender
and grimy grace.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Mysteries of the Mud,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “©Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

7 Responses to “Lent 4: Mysteries of the Mud”

  1. Ann McGovern Says:

    The mucky places, the places where my thickness gets in the way of seeing, feeling, recognizing God. Wow, Jan, another beauty! Your words and your image are exquisite! Just curious, how long does it take you to complete an image? The depth present in each is what amazes me each time I see one. Again, I’d love to have you come to Mercy Center some day to exhibit and present. I’m beginning to look at gallery inquiries for 2018-2019.

  2. Katie White Says:

    Get down and get dirty! Amen!

  3. Anne Kern Says:

    Lest the blessing: I carrying these words, into this week. My youngest daughter has been dx with a tumour on her pituitary gland. My Lenten feels hijacked by worry and fear. We meet with the neurosurgeon tomorrow, and these words : lest we think the blessing is not in … even this part of the journey, gave me a space for hope, and the courage to tell my fair weather friends, Worry and Fear… to be quiet, as I have been unable to hear the voice of my heavenly parent. Love will hold us…even here, even now,

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Anne, you and your daughter have been much on my heart and in my prayers. I am so sorry she is having to deal with such a scary diagnosis, and that your Lent has been hijacked by worry and fear—what a vivid description. This is a hard place to look for a blessing. So I pray the blessings will find you and your daughter, in great abundance, and that your path will be attended by many, many graces.

      Thanks so much for your words. Know I am praying for you both. I am grateful for you!

  4. MarLo Says:

    I’ve often said that I feel closest to Jesus when working in my garden. My gardens are like my church. I still go to the building on occasion for a soul massage , especially in the bleakness of winter, but Jesus is everywhere and I love being close to Him at all times, in all places. Blessings aboud! This was a wonderful reminder. Thank you.

  5. PhiLiP SchMidT Says:

    Dear Jan:

    Greetings from the Great White North of Canada!

    As I mused over your post and poem, I found myself returning again and again to your painting.
    There is so much there!
    Shades of gold, amber, chestnut brown and gray…..
    Beguiling textures within the streaks and swirls…..
    Loveliness in the ‘mud.’

    Oh, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary!
    Oh, that the Master might rekindle our God-given sense of wonder that has been so severely blunted in this media-drenched age!

    But that would entail jumping off our treadmills of persuasion, of our own free will, wouldn’t it?

    PhiL {‘•_•’}

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