Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

Lent 2: Secret Medicine

February 19, 2018

Image: Finding the Focus © Jan Richardson

Readings for Lent 2, Year B:
Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22.23-31; Romans 4.13-25; Mark 8.31-38 or Mark 9.2-9

Christ calls each of us to a path that enables us to find and
follow the presence of the holy in the midst of being human,
not in spite of being human.

—from Lent 2: In Which We Set Our Minds Somewhere
The Painted Prayerbook, March 2009

Spiraling once again around the lectionary readings for the next Sunday in Lent, I’ve been drawn by the thread of hope that weaves through them. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations, God says of Sarai in Genesis 17. The poor shall eat and be satisfied, the psalmist sings in Psalm 22. Hoping against hope, he believed, Paul writes of Abraham in Romans 4.

In Sunday’s gospel reading from Mark, the message of hope is couched in grim words. Then [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, Mark writes. But he closes the sentence with these words: and after three days rise again. Peter, it seems, is understandably overwhelmed by the first part of Jesus’ teaching here and fails to grasp the import of this last part. Suffering, rejection, death, he hears. And though, with the benefit of our hindsight, his response to Jesus may seem selfish and misplaced, Peter is bold to take Jesus aside, seeking to persuade him toward what he believes will be a life-giving path.

We know how Jesus responds to Peter; we hear the harshness of his rebuke and the difficulty of the message he goes on to proclaim to the disciples and the surrounding crowd. We see that the hope Jesus brings to us will ask something of us. It will cost.

Throughout his life and teachings, Jesus makes clear that the hope he embodies, the hope he holds out to us, is not passive. Hope is not an idle wish for things to get better. Instead, hope calls us to action. It asks us to align and ally ourselves with the God who is the source of hope, and who calls us to participate with God in working for the wholeness that God desires for us and for the world.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the forces that live in fierce opposition to this wholeness. I have been contemplating these texts in a week that has held horrifying violence here in Florida, yet another occurrence in the seemingly unending cycles of violence spiraling through our world. In the midst of this, I have found myself thinking of a poem by Rumi, where he says,

There is a secret medicine
given only to those who hurt so hard
they can’t hope.

The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.

At the heart of Jesus’ rebuke to Peter and the hard, hard lesson that follows, there is a message about what it means to hope—to hope against hope, as Paul writes of Abraham; to hope when there seems no cause for hope, to hope in the face of forces that work against hope. We belong to a God who tells us, as Jesus tells his hearers, that what is torn down will be raised up, and what is destroyed will live again. Because we belong to this God, hope lives even when we feel we have lost it, and cannot summon it up in ourselves. Christ knows about the secret medicine that kicks in when hope is at an end. It is part of what he has come to give us.

Hope does not depend on us, but it cannot do without us. By which I mean, hope does not originate with us—it has its beginning in God, who goes on providing it for us with an extravagant stubbornness. It comes as a gift and grace that we cannot manufacture. But hope does need us for its ongoing survival. It asks us to give it legs in this world, to bear it into places of hopelessness, to enter into the rhythms of dying and rising that come as we follow Christ and work with him for the healing of the world.

In these Lenten days, what gives you cause for hope? Where do you place your attention, your mind, your focus, in ways that deepen your capacity to hope and to live out this hope in the world?

As we celebrate ten years at The Painted Prayerbook, I’ve gathered together a collection of reflections I’ve written across the past decade for this week’s lectionary readings. I offer them with hope and with many blessings.

Mark 8.31-38

2nd Sunday in Lent: For the Sake of the Gospel
Lent 2: In Which We Set Our Minds Somewhere
Day 10: Divine Things and Human Things

Reflections Related to Mark 8.31-38:

Blessing in the Shape of a Cross
To Have without Holding

Mark 9.2-9

For reflections on this passage, visit Transfiguration Sunday: In the Turning.

Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16

Day 5: I Will Establish My Covenant
Day 6: I Will Bless Her

Psalm 22.23-31

Day 7: The Ends of the Earth Shall Remember

Romans 4.13-25

Day 8: Who Gives Life to the Dead
Day 9: Hoping Against Hope

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Finding the Focus,” 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.

The Rumi quotation comes from the poem “My Worst Habit” in The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.

Lent 1: The Wild Language of Lent

February 13, 2018

Into EarthImage: Into Earth © Jan Richardson

Readings for Lent 1, Year B:
Genesis 9.8-17; Psalm 25.1-10; 1 Peter 3.18-22; Mark 1.9-15

As Jesus knew, going into the barren and uncomfortable places
isn’t about proving how holy we are, or how tough, or how brave.
It’s about letting God draw us into the place where we don’t
know everything, don’t have to know everything, indeed may be
emptied of nearly everything we think we know.

—from Lent 1: Discernment and Dessert in the Desert
The Painted Prayerbook, February 2008

Into the desert, again. Into the wilderness that waits for us, still. Ten years we have traveled through Lent here at The Painted Prayerbook. It is never quite the same path from year to year, never precisely the landscape we explored the last time around. This, of course, is part of the point of Lent: it disrupts what is comfortable, familiar, and known, that we may be startled out of our customary ways of seeing.

As I gathered up the reflections I’ve written for the first Sunday of Lent across the past decade, my eye was drawn to the vocabulary that has emerged as we’ve explored this season—the Lenten lexicon that has taken shape as we’ve journeyed through these weeks again and again.

I began to write down the words that drew my eye as I revisited these reflections. There was wilderness, of course, and desert. There was memory and story and earth.

Pilgrimage, I wrote; sustenance, breath.
Hunger, thirst, graces.

Emptying, angels, sweetness, strength.
Passage, preparing, solitude, beasts.
Comfort, wild, wrestling, solace.
Recognition, wing, clearing, liminal.

There were questions and chaos in the Lenten lexicon,
clarity
and knowing,
discernment, treasure, initiation,
essential, sojourn, practice.

There was enough.

And there was this word, shimmering in the midst of them all; the most fundamental word we need to know in this or any season:

Beloved, beloved, beloved.

As I look back over the list, I wonder how this vocabulary, this Lenten lexicon, will arrange itself this time around. How will these words constellate in this season, what path will they create, what map will they make? When I look back on this landscape from the other side of Easter, what story might these words be able to tell me? What new words might arrive to help fill in the gaps, the hollows, the holes?

What are some of the words that inhabit your own Lenten vocabulary, that have emerged in your own journey through this season, year by year? If you make a list, what do you notice? What story—or litany, or poem, or map, or—might these words begin to make?

From across the past decade, I’ve gathered together these reflections for you—a little Lenten library, offered with gratitude and blessing. Deep peace to you as Lent begins.

Mark 1.9-15 (includes reflections on related Gospel readings)

Lent 1: Where the Breath Begins
Lent 1: Beloved Is Where We Begin
First Sunday of Lent: And the Angels Waited
Day 2: Up from the Water
Day 3: Into the Wilderness
Day 4: With the Wild Beasts
Lent 1: A Blessing for the Wilderness
Lent 1: Into the Wilderness
Lent 1: A River Runs through Him
Lent 1: Discernment and Dessert in the Desert

Genesis 9.8-17

I Will Remember

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Into Earth,” 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.

Ash Wednesday: What God Can Do with Dust

February 11, 2018

Image: Ash Wednesday Cross © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

—from The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
The Painted Prayerbook, February 2015

Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust? When I wrote these words as part of an Ash Wednesday blessing a few years ago, I could not have imagined how much I would need those words for myself, and how soon. Gary died later that year, just as the season of Advent was beginning. In the devastation, the question I had posed in that Ash Wednesday blessing would return to me, coming both to challenge and console. Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?

We are entering the season that begins with a smudge. That smudge is a testimony to what survives. It is a witness to what abides when everything seems lost. It is a sign that what we know and love may, for a time, be reduced to dust, but it does not disappear. We belong to the God who well knows what to do with dust, who sees the dust as a place to dream anew, who creates from it again and again.

Life will continually lay us bare, sometimes with astonishing severity. In the midst of this, the season of Lent invites us to see what is most elemental in us, what endures: the love that creates and animates, the love that cannot be destroyed, the love that is most basic to who we are. This season inspires us to ask where this love will lead us, what it will create in and through us, what God will do with it in both our brokenness and our joy.

Here at The Painted Prayerbook, we have traveled through Ash Wednesday and Lent ten times. As Lent approaches once again, I have gathered up an armful of reflections I’ve written here for Ash Wednesday over the past decade. I offer them in blessing and in hope, that in the season that lies ahead of us, we will allow God to create us anew.

Ash Wednesday: A Blessing in the Ashes
Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
Ash Wednesday: The Hands That Hold the Ashes
Day 1/Ash Wednesday: Rend Your Heart
The Memory of Ashes
Upon the Ashes
The Artful Ashes
Ash Wednesday, Almost


FOR A BROKEN HEART: If Valentine’s Day is difficult for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” 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.

Transfiguration Sunday: In the Turning

February 7, 2018

Image: Transfiguration © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday, Year B: Mark 9.2-9

The story of the Transfiguration is about opening our eyes
to glory, allowing that glory to alter us, and becoming willing
to walk where it leads us.

—from Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory
The Painted Prayerbook, February 2014

In our ten years here at The Painted Prayerbook, we have traveled through many Transfiguration Sundays! As we approach the day once again, I have gathered up for you a selection of the reflections that I’ve offered here for Transfiguration Sunday across the past decade.

Revisiting these reflections, I have been struck all over again by how this coming Sunday is a threshold day in the rhythm of the Christian year. The end of the Epiphany season is upon us, and Lent has almost-but-not-quite begun. As we stand at the edge of this turning of seasons, the strange and wondrous story of Jesus’ mountaintop journey seems almost to unfold outside of time, or at least to collapse the bounds of time as the trio of puzzled and dazzled disciples witness Jesus’ exchange with Moses and Elijah.

Yet this story draws the disciples—and us—deeply back into time. As they return down the mountain, they reenter the rhythm of time by which Jesus engages the world and the work he has come to do within it. In their reentering, revelation begins to settle in; Peter, James, and John can no longer see Jesus or the world as they had once done. What they witnessed on the mountaintop, they have not left behind. What they saw there now infuses what—and how—they see here, as they live on level ground.

And for us? On this threshold that draws us from one season into another, what will the story of the Transfiguration invite us to see? How will we allow that seeing to alter us, that we may enter the world again and again in the company of the Christ who travels with us in every moment?

Here are a handful of reflections for you, for this Transfiguration Sunday. I offer them with many blessings.

Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory
Transfiguration Sunday: Dazzling
Transfiguration: Back to the Drawing Board
Transfiguration Sunday: Show and (Don’t) Tell

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Transfiguration,” 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.

A Far Journey: Feast of the Epiphany, Baptism of Jesus, and a Decade at The Painted Prayerbook

January 5, 2018

Image: The Wise Ones © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany Day: Matthew 2.1-12

“We observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.”
—Matthew 2.2

As I write this, it is the night before Epiphany, one of my favorite days in the calendar. With releasing the Women’s Christmas Retreat this week, I didn’t get to write an Epiphany post earlier, but I don’t want the feast day to pass without some words of celebration.

And speaking of celebration, tomorrow marks ten years since The Painted Prayerbook began! My first post here was on Epiphany Day in 2008. I had just finished my first season at The Advent Door, and I was so engaged by that journey of creating reflections and artwork in connection with Advent and Christmas that I created The Painted Prayerbook as a way to keep doing this throughout the year.

We have traveled a long way from that Epiphany to this one, across a terrain that can hardly be measured in years. But tonight, on the eve of the day when (in Western Christianity) we remember those who journeyed far to welcome the Christ child, it feels timely to tell you that I am tremendously grateful for the ways you have shared this path with me. Thank you so much for your companionship.

In celebration of Epiphany Day as well as a decade here, I have gathered up a collection of posts from across the past ten years at The Painted Prayerbook. In the links below, you’ll find a constellation of my reflections, artwork, and blessings for Epiphany. You’ll also find links to my posts for the Baptism of Jesus, which this year falls right next to Epiphany.

As we travel into this new season and new year, may Christ our Light accompany you with many graces for your path. Blessings and peace to you!

Feast of the Epiphany

Epiphany: For Those Who Have Far to Travel
Epiphany: This Brightness That You Bear
Epiphany: Blessing of the Magi
Epiphany: Where the Map Begins
Feast of the Epiphany: Blessing the House
Feast of the Epiphany: A Calendar of Kings
The Feast of the Epiphany: Magi and Mystery

Baptism of Jesus

This year’s gospel reading for Epiphany 1/Baptism of Jesus is Mark 1.4-11. The list below includes reflections on the related readings from Matthew and Luke.

Baptism of Jesus: Beginning with Beloved
Baptism of Jesus: Washed
Baptism of Jesus: Following the Flow
Epiphany 1: Baptized and Beloved
Epiphany 1: Take Me to the River
Epiphany 1: Ceremony (with a Side of Cake)

A bonus Epiphany blessing: Among the remarkable collection of songs that Gary wrote for Christmas is a particular favorite called “Why Are We Following This Star?” It was one of the last songs he wrote (it’s on his CD Songmaker’s Christmas), and it beautifully evokes the mystery and wonder at the heart of the story we celebrate on Epiphany. To listen, click the play button in the audio player below. (For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the player below, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook, where you can view it in this post.)
 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Wise Ones,” 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.

Opening The Advent Door

November 28, 2017

Image: Crossing the Threshold  © Jan Richardson

I can testify that the message of Advent still holds:
with hope, with grace, with love, God takes flesh
and meets us when we have become most hopeless,
most broken, most lost.

—from Advent 1: A Decade at The Advent Door

Friends, it’s time to open The Advent Door again! It’s been ten years since I began my blog for Advent and Christmas. I have loved entering deeply into the season with words and images and finding the treasures that wait for us in these days, even—and sometimes especially—when the days are something other than merry and bright. This year, I’ll be gathering up some of those treasures from across the past decade and sharing them as we travel toward Christmas. I would love for you to join me there!

If you’re not already a subscriber to The Advent Door, you can sign up to receive the posts in your email inbox during Advent and Christmas. Once you’re at The Advent Door site, simply enter your address in the “Subscribe by Email” box near the top of the right sidebar, and click the “Subscribe” button below your email address.

As we prepare to cross the threshold into Advent, I send you much gratitude and many blessings. I look forward to meeting you back here at The Painted Prayerbook in the new year!

The Wrestling Is Where the Blessing Begins

August 2, 2017

Image: The Wrestling Is Where the Blessing Begins
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Year A, Proper 13/Ordinary 18/Pentecost +9: Genesis 32.22-31

Jacob was left alone;
and a man wrestled with him
until daybreak.

—Genesis 32.24

Jacob is no stranger to encountering God in a dark, betwixt place. It has been just four chapters and a lifetime since that night when, fleeing for his life, he was visited by an angel-drenched dream that assured him of God’s presence on his path. Now, in this latest nighttime meeting, Jacob learns that sometimes when the angel meets us in the wilderness, it makes us work for a blessing. This seems to be one of the ways the angels choose to minister to us, knowing there are times when a good struggle comes as one of those strange comforts of the wilderness. Sometimes we need not to rest but to wrestle, to be stretched to our limits, to reach deep into the reserves we did not know we had.

We are not certain, of course, just who it is that goes toe-to-toe with Jacob in the night as he is on his way, with trepidation, to seek Esau years and lifetimes after fleeing in fear. The text is fuzzy—likely with intention—on whether the visitor who approaches Jacob in the dark is a man or God. The visual tradition settled somewhere in between, frequently depicting Jacob wrestling an angel.

Working on this painting as I thought about this passage, I began to find my imagination drawn not to the figures locked in their fierce struggle; what drew me instead was the ground. I imagined the tracks and traces left by their feet, the imprint of their bodies on the earth, the map made by their wrestling. I imagined those lines beginning to form the blessing that Jacob receives, twining into the letters of the new name he will bear with him, limping, when morning comes.

On your path, where have you encountered a struggle that brought not only a wound but also a blessing? When has an experience of wrestling with God helped you know who you are, and which way to go? If you were to write a blessing whose lines have their roots in a time of struggle, what would that blessing be?

Jacob’s Blessing

If this blessing were easy,
anyone could claim it.
As it is,
I am here to tell you
that it will take some work.

This is the blessing
that visits you
in the struggling,
in the wrestling,
in the striving.

This is the blessing
that comes
after you have left
everything behind,
after you have stepped out,
after you have crossed
into that realm
beyond every landmark
you have known.

This is the blessing
that takes all night
to find.

It’s not that this blessing
is so difficult,
as if it were not filled
with grace
or with the love
that lives
in every line.

It’s simply that
it requires you
to want it,
to ask for it,
to place yourself
in its path.
It demands that you
stand to meet it
when it arrives,
that you stretch yourself
in ways you didn’t know
you could move,
that you agree
to not give up.

So when this blessing comes,
borne in the hands
of the difficult angel
who has chosen you,
do not let go.
Give yourself
into its grip.

It will wound you,
but I tell you
there will come a day
when what felt to you
like limping

was something more
like dancing
as you moved into
the cadence
of your new
and blessed name.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

A bonus blessing: Please click the audio player below to hear Gary’s wondrous song “I Will Not Let Go,” which was inspired by this story. (For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the player below, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook, where you can view it in this post.)

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Wrestling Is Where the Blessing Begins,” 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.

Welcoming Blessing

June 27, 2017

Image: The Best Supper © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 8/Ordinary 13/Pentecost +4: Matthew 10.40-42

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.”
—Matthew 10.40

In a beautiful town on the southwest coast of Ireland, there is a magical restaurant. My sister and I discovered it last summer. It is a wondrous combination of coziness, loveliness, deliciousness, and friendliness. I couldn’t help but fall in love.

After our sister time, I remained in Ireland for two more weeks to work on the blessings for The Cure for Sorrow. The restaurant became a regular spot for me. During that solitary time of working on these grief-borne blessings, it was an extraordinary gift to know I had a place I could go—a place where they called me by name, welcomed me to the table, talked with me, fed me in belly and soul.

I had left for Ireland feeling like a stranger in my own skin, so altered by the loss that was compelling me to make a new life. That new life is still in the making, but when I left Ireland, still enfolded in the welcome I found there, I felt less like a stranger to myself. When I returned to that coastal town this summer and walked into that restaurant once again, I heard a voice say, “Jan! You’re back!”

My experiences in Ireland gave me a new glimpse of the power of welcome, of what can happen when someone gathers us in and invites us to be at home when we are not at home, or have had to leave our home, or do not know where home is.

This blessing was inspired by that enchanted restaurant. May we know—and create—places of welcome that help us become something other than strangers to one another and to ourselves. May we learn how to make one another at home in this world.

Welcoming Blessing

When you are lost
in your own life.

When the landscape
you have known
falls away.

When your familiar path
becomes foreign
and you find yourself
a stranger
in the story you had held
most dear.

Then let yourself
be lost.
Let yourself leave
for a place
whose contours
you do not already know,
whose cadences
you have not learned
by heart.
Let yourself land
on a threshold
that mirrors the mystery
of your own
bewildered soul.

It will come
as a surprise,
what arrives
to welcome you
through the door,
making a place for you
at the table
and calling you
by your name.

Let what comes,
come.

Let the glass
be filled.
Let the light
be tended.
Let the hands
lay before you
what will meet you
in your hunger.

Let the laughter.
Let the sweetness
that enters
the sorrow.
Let the solace
that comes
as sustenance
and sudden, unbidden
grace.

For what comes,
offer gladness.
For what greets you
with kindly welcome,
offer thanks.
Offer blessing
for those
who gathered you in
and will not
be forgotten—

those who,
when you were
a stranger,
made a place for you
at the table
and called you
by your name.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

With gratitude to Neill, Grace, and everyone at No. 35 Kenmare.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Best Supper,” 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.

Easter 3: Blessing That Does Not End

April 27, 2017

Image: And Open Our Eyes to Behold Love’s Face
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 3: Luke 24.13-35

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
—Luke 24.31

Following so close on the heels of Easter Sunday, this week held what would have been my seventh wedding anniversary with Gary. As the anniversary approached (part of the ghost calendar that I recently wrote about on my author page on Facebook), I found myself thinking about the blessings that wove through our wedding day. There were blessings spoken during the ceremony, blessings offered at the reception, blessings embedded in the very fact of being enfolded by a lifetime’s worth of family and friends who had gathered to bless us as we began to make our married life together.

On this anniversary, it came to me with particular clarity that a blessing does not end. This is part of the fundamental nature of a blessing: the energy and the grace of it cannot dissipate or disappear. The form of a blessing might change with changing circumstances, but it cannot be destroyed. The essence of a blessing endures. It lives in the community that mediated the blessing and continues to hold it in memory and celebration; it lives in the hope that persists; it lives most of all in the love that called forth the blessing in the first place—the love that is, as the Song of Songs tells us, as strong as death. (Stronger, I would say.)

When we experience horrendous, life-altering loss, it can seem that the blessing we had known has indeed disappeared. When a person who had embodied that blessing and borne that blessing in our lives is no longer physically present, it can become difficult to believe that the blessing is still present, is still active, is still in force. Part of the invitation of grief is to keep our eyes and our hearts open to how the blessing persists, how it still wants to be known in our lives, and how it wants to help us live still when our lives have fallen apart.

In this week’s gospel lection, we witness the enduring power of a blessing. Walking the road to Emmaus with the risen Christ, Cleopas and his companion feel the burning of the blessing in their hearts. Not until they sit down at the Emmaus table with Jesus, hear him speak words of blessing, and see him break the bread, does recognition begin to dawn.

Then their eyes were opened, Luke tells us. They recognize, they see, they know the truth of the One before them: that the Christ who came as Love made flesh, as blessing embodied, will continue to live in the love that is stronger than death.

Blessing That Does Not End

From the moment
it first laid eyes
on you,
this blessing loved you.

This blessing
knew you
from the start.

It cannot explain how.

It just knows
that the first time
it sat down beside you,
it entered into a conversation
that had already been going on
forever.

Believe this conversation
has not stopped.

Believe this love
still lives—
the love that crossed
an impossible distance
to reach you,
to find you,
to take your face
into its hands
and bless you.

Believe this
does not end—
that the gesture,
once enacted,
endures.

Believe this love
goes on—
that it still
takes your face
into its hands,
that it presses
its forehead to yours
as it speaks to you
in undying words,
that it has never ceased
to gather your heart
into its heart.

Believe this blessing
abides.
Believe it goes with you
always.
Believe it knows you
still.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

For a previous reflection on the Emmaus story, click the image or title below.


Easter 3: Known

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “And Open Our Eyes to Behold Love’s Face,” 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.

Easter 2: Blessing of Breathing

April 21, 2017

Image: That We May Breathe Together © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 2: John 20.19-31

He breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

—John 20:22

You can almost feel it resonating throughout Christendom: a deep, collective breath being taken. In the wake of the intensity of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter—intensity borne of the starkness of this stretch of the liturgical year as well as its immense, nearly overwhelming richness—we need a pause, a shared regathering of ourselves as we begin to absorb what it means that Christ is risen, that death has not had the final word.

Breath is precisely what Jesus comes to give his disciples, his friends who followed him to the end and hardly know what to do now, reeling as they are from all that has occurred and struggling to discern what happens next.

He breathed on them, John tells us in his gospel. More than any words could have done, this breath comes as gift, as grace: Christ’s own breath that bears to them the Spirit that will enable them to keep living, to keep breathing, to proclaim the astonishing news of the risen Christ, and to be his body in this world.

Here on this side of Easter Sunday, what deep breath do you need to take? How will you open yourself to the risen Christ who comes to breathe the Spirit into you?

Blessing of Breathing

That the first breath
will come without fear.

That the second breath
will come without pain.

The third breath:
that it will come without despair.

And the fourth,
without anxiety.

That the fifth breath
will come with no bitterness.

That the sixth breath
will come for joy.

Breath seven:
that it will come for love.

May the eighth breath
come for freedom.

And the ninth,
for delight.

When the tenth breath comes,
may it be for us
to breathe together,
and the next,
and the next,

until our breathing
is as one,
until our breathing
is no more.

—Jan Richardson
from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

For a previous reflection for Easter 2, click the image or title below.


Easter 2: Into the Wound

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “That We May Breathe Together,” 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.