Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

Epiphany 2: How Did You Come to Know Me?

January 10, 2012


How Did You Come to Know Me? © Jan L. Richardson

Readings for Epiphany 2: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1.43-51

“Go, lie down,” Eli tells the young Samuel; “and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

“For it was you who formed my inward parts,” prays the psalmist; “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…and that you are not on your own?” Paul writes to the Corinthians.

“How did you come to know me?” Nathanael asks of Jesus.

With each passage, the lectionary this week presents us with a God who calls to us, seeks us out, draws close to us, inhabits us. Again and again the word know appears, its repetition pressing upon us how serious God is about wanting to know us, and us to know God.

This God who calls to us, who fashions us within the womb, who inhabits our own bodies, who recognizes us in the midst of our daily lives: for those of us who need some breathing room in our lives, this God can fairly overwhelm. Do we want to be this sought, this known from the inside out?

Yet the God we see in these passages is not an intruder invading our lives by stealth or by force. Nor—though too many have absorbed such an image—is God’s persistent presence with us a form of surveillance designed to keep track of everything we do wrong. Somehow, this God who pervades all of creation, down to our very cells, manages to offer a spacious hospitality that calls to us but does not confine us; that continually invites but will not force us; that simply asks us to see and hear and know the One who is ever in our midst and in our own selves.

This week, this day, how are you listening? Where are you looking? What holy space are you making for God in yourself? How are you opening yourself to the God who wants to know and be known by you?

Blessing for Knowing

To receive this blessing,
it may feel like
you are peeling back
every layer of flesh,
exposing every nerve,
baring each bone
that has kept you upright.

It may seem
every word is written
on the back of
something that your life
depends upon,
that to read this blessing
would mean tearing away
what has helped you
remain intact.

Be at peace.
It will not be
as painful as that,
though I cannot say
it will be easy
to accept this blessing,
written as it is
upon your true frame,
inscribed on the skin
you were born
to live in.

The habits that keep you
from yourself,
the misconceptions
others have of you,
the unquestioned limits
you have allowed,
the smallness you have
squeezed into:

these are not
who you are.

This blessing simply wants
all this to fall away.

This blessing—
and it is stubborn on this point,
I assure you—
desires you to know yourself
as it knows you,
to let go of every layer
that is not you,
to release each thing
that you hide behind,
to open your eyes
to see what it sees:

how this blessing
has blazed in you
since before you were born;
how it has sustained you
when you could not see it;
how it haunts you,
prickling beneath your skin
to let it shine forth
in full and unstinting
measure;
how it begins
and ends
with your true name.

P.S. For a previous reflection on John 1.43-51, click the image or title below:

Of Fig Trees and Angels

[To use the "How Did You Come to Know Me?" image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

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Epiphany: Blessing for Those Who Have Far to Travel

December 31, 2011


Epiphany © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany, Years ABC: Matthew 2.1-12

Merry Christmas to you, still! Because Advent is always such a wonderfully intense time for me, with offering The Advent Door and being engaged in other holiday happenings, I usually arrive at Christmas Day quite spent and ready for a long winter’s nap. I am grateful that instead of being over on December 25, when I’m finally able to take a breath, Christmas is a season—a short one, to be sure, with only twelve days, but a season nonetheless, with its own rhythm and invitations.

This year, the days of Christmas have been for me a time of resting, connecting with family and friends, long walks in the beautiful Florida sunshine, and doing some dreaming about the year ahead. Though the coming months are sure to be marked by surprises, I want to enter the year with some sense of what I’d like for the path to look like, and where I’m feeling drawn to go.

The Christmas season ends with Epiphany, a feast day in which the early church celebrated Jesus’ brilliant manifestation (epiphaneia in Greek, also translated as “appearing”) not only to the Magi but also to the world through his birth, baptism, and first recorded miracle at the wedding at Cana. Eastern Christianity maintains this multifaceted celebration of Epiphany, while we in the West focus primarily on remembering and celebrating the arrival of the Magi, those mysterious and devoted Wise Men who traveled far to welcome the Christ and offer their gifts.

As we travel toward Epiphany and savor the final days of Christmas, this is a good time to ponder where we are in our journey. As we cross into the coming year, where do you find yourself on the path? Have you been traveling more by intention or by reacting to what’s come your way? What direction do you feel drawn to go in during the coming weeks and months? Is there anything you need to let go of—or to find—in order to take the next step? In the coming months, what gift do you most need to offer, that only you can give?

Blessings and traveling mercies to you as we approach Epiphany and the year to come. I look forward to walking with you.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

P.S. For another reflection on Epiphany (which includes a bonus gift of a downloadable mini-retreat), visit this new reflection at my Sanctuary of Women blog:

Celebrating Women’s Christmas

For previous reflections on Epiphany here at The Painted Prayerbook, click the images or titles below. Also, the special holiday discount on annual subscriptions to Jan Richardson Images (the website that makes my work available for use in worship and education) will be available through Epiphany Day (January 6). For info, visit Jan Richardson Images.

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

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

You Who Bless

November 15, 2011


Christ Among the Scraps © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday, Year A: Matthew 25.31-46

“Come, you who are blessed,” Jesus says; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

You Who Bless

You
who are
yourselves
a blessing

who know
that to feed
the hungering
is to bless

and to give drink
to those who thirst
is to bless

who know
the blessing
in welcoming
the stranger

and giving clothes
to those
who have none

who know
to care
for the sick
is blessing

and blessing
to visit
the prisoner:

may the blessing
you have offered
now turn itself
toward you

to welcome
and to embrace you
at the feast
of the blessed.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, visit Christ Among the Scraps. And Advent is just around the corner! I’m looking forward to spending the coming season at my blog The Advent Door and would love to have your company there.

I also want to let you know that my book Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas is back in print! Click the cover below to find out more.

[To use the "Christ Among the Scraps" image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Blessing the Talents

November 7, 2011


Buried © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 28/Ordinary 33/Pentecost +22: Matthew 25.14-30

Again and again throughout the gospels we see it in Jesus: a persistent bent toward revelation, a hankering to bring into the open what we might be content to leave hidden. Seeing our brokenness and our sins, Jesus challenges us to offer these to the light of God, that they might not fester in the dark and twist toward evil. Seeing our giftedness and the graces that God plants in each of us, Jesus impels us to uncover these, that the power of God may show forth in the world.

“You are the light of the world,” he tells his hearers in Matthew. “A city on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way,” he urges them, “let your light shine before others” (Matt. 5.14-16). Later he tells them, “Have no fear of them [those who will persecute his followers]; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops” (Matt. 10.26-27).

A lost coin, a lost sheep, a lost son; a bleeding woman seeking a surreptitious healing whom Jesus cannot allow to remain hidden; children whom the disciples seek to dismiss; gifts once enclosed in the earth that Jesus lifts up to point toward the kingdom of God: with constant persistence, Jesus—this incarnate God who took such visible and vulnerable flesh so that we might clearly see the love that God has for us—tugs at what has been hidden or missing or buried in order to show us how the presence of God shines through it.

And so we see this quality again in the gospel reading for this Sunday, in this parable told by the One who will not be content to let us hide what God has given to us, who urges us to uncover the treasure that God has placed within us, who calls us to show forth the presence of God in the way that only we can.

How do you do this in your own life? Is there anything you allow to hinder the gift of God in you? Is there some gift that you have been willing to let lie dormant because others do not value it, or it seems prideful to you to pursue it, or because you don’t know how to use it, or for lack of time or some other reason? How might you allow God to break through these obstacles for you, so that others can see the presence of God in you in the way that only you can reveal it?

Blessing the Talents

There are blessings
meant for you
to hold onto

clutched
like a lifeline

carried
like a candle
for a dark way

tucked into a pocket
like a smooth stone
reminding you
that you do not
go alone.

This blessing
is not those.

This blessing
will find its form
only as you
give it away

only as you
release it
into the keeping
of another

only as you
let it
leave you

bearing the shape
the imprint
the grace
it will take

only for having
passed through
your two
particular
hands.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this text, in which I confess my fondness for the shovel-wielding servant, visit Parabolic Curves.

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

Blessing in the Shape of a Cross

August 23, 2011


Blessing Cross © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 17/Ordinary 22/Pentecost +11: Matthew 16.21-28

Following so close on the heels of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, who would not release Jesus until he healed her daughter, this week’s gospel reading confronts Peter—and us—with the demand to let go: not of Jesus, but of any impulse we have (and, oh, my goodness, I have them) to lock him into our own plans. Pondering this passage as the story of the Canaanite woman lingers with me, I find myself wondering: How do we discern what we should be fierce about? How do we choose what we will hold on to, and what we need to release?

“If any want to become my followers,” Jesus says in this passage, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Some crosses are made of what we take on; some crosses are made of what we let go. Always, the cross that Christ invites us to is the place where our desires and Christ’s desires find their place of meeting, and all that distracts us from Christ falls away.

Where is this place in your own life? How do you discern what you will hold on to, what you will claim and fight for, and what you will release? How does this choosing, this discerning, draw you closer to Christ and to what God might imagine for your life?

Blessing in the Shape of a Cross

Press this blessing
into your palms—
right, left—
and you will see
how it leaves its mark,

how it imprints itself
into your skin,
how the lines of it
meet
and cross

as if signaling you
to the treasure
that has been in
your grasp
all along.

Except that these riches
you will count
not by what you hold
but by what you release,
by what you lose,
by what falls from
your open hands.

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

To Have without Holding

Related posts:

Lent 2: In Which We Set Our Mind Somewhere

The Shape He Makes

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

The Best Supper

October 3, 2008


The Best Supper © Jan L. Richardson

This Sunday is World Communion Sunday. Established by the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1936 and originally called World Wide Communion Sunday, this day beckons us to be mindful that when we gather at the table, we celebrate not only with those present but also with sisters and brothers around the world.

The artwork above is a piece called The Best Supper. Inspired by the image of Wisdom’s Feast in Proverbs 9, this piece evokes the myriad meals that have fed me in body and soul. As I created this image, I was visited by memories of so many of the tables where I have found hospitality. Those memories are embedded among the pieces of this collage. Circling the table once again, I capture glimpses of those with whom I shared those sacred meals. I remember how we savored every scrap, how we lingered long after the last bite was consumed.

Table Blessing

To your table
you bid us come.
You have set the places,
you have poured the wine,
and there is always room,
you say,
for one more.

And so we come.
From the streets
and from the alleys
we come.

From the deserts
and from the hills
we come.

From the ravages of poverty
and from the palaces of privilege
we come.

Running,
limping,
carried,
we come.

We are bloodied with our wars,
we are wearied with our wounds,
we carry our dead within us,
and we reckon with their ghosts.

We hold the seeds of healing,
we dream of a new creation,
we know the things
that make for peace,
and we struggle to give them wings.

And yet, to your table
we come.
Hungering for your bread,
we come;
thirsting for your wine,
we come;
singing your song
in every language,
speaking your name
in every tongue,
in conflict and in communion,
in discord and in desire,
we come,
O God of Wisdom,
we come

Prayer © Jan L. Richardson from In Wisdom’s Path: Discovering the Sacred in Every Season.

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

Prints of The Best Supper and other images are available by visiting the Art Prints page at janrichardson.com. We have greeting cards, too!