Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

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.

Easter Sunday: While It Was Still Dark

April 15, 2017

Image: While It Was Still Dark © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter Sunday:
John 20.1-18 or Luke 24.1-12

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb.

—John 20:1

While it was still dark.

While it was still night.

While she could not see.

While she thought death held sway.

While she grieved.

While she wept.

While it was still dark, resurrection began.

Seen
For Easter Day

You had not imagined
that something so empty
could fill you
to overflowing,

and now you carry
the knowledge
like an awful treasure
or like a child
that curls itself
within your heart:

how the emptiness
will bear forth
a new world
you cannot fathom
but on whose edge
you stand.

So why do you linger?
You have seen,
and so you are
already blessed.
You have been seen,
and so you are
the blessing.

There is no other word
you need.
There is simply
to go
and tell.
There is simply
to begin.

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

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


Easter Sunday: A Blessing for the Rising

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “While It Was Still Dark,” 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 Sunday: A Blessing for the Rising

March 26, 2016

RisenImage: Risen © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter Sunday:
John 20.1-18 or Luke 24.1-12

Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here, but has risen.

—Luke 24.5

Risen
For Easter Day

If you are looking
for a blessing,
do not linger
here.

Here
is only
emptiness,
a hollow,
a husk
where a blessing
used to be.

This blessing
was not content
in its confinement.

It could not abide
its isolation,
the unrelenting silence,
the pressing stench
of death.

So if it is
a blessing
you seek,
open your own
mouth.

Fill your lungs
with the air
this new
morning brings

and then
release it
with a cry.

Hear how the blessing
breaks forth
in your own voice,

how your own lips
form every word
you never dreamed
to say.

See how the blessing
circles back again,
wanting you to
repeat it,
but louder,

how it draws you,
pulls you,
sends you
to proclaim
its only word:

Risen.
Risen.
Risen.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

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

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.

Beloved: An Online Retreat for Lent 2015

January 23, 2015

Beloved Lenten Retreat
I am still savoring the amazing experience of traveling with everyone who participated in the Illuminated online retreat during Advent. Inspired by that journey, I am back in the studio, preparing an all-new retreat for Lent. I would love for you to join us! Here’s a glimpse of what this online retreat holds in store:
 


BELOVED
An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
February 18 – April 6
New for 2015!

This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your schedule! It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into the mysteries and gifts of this season. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat offers a space of elegant simplicity as you journey through Lent.

You can join in this all-new retreat from anywhere you are; you do not have to show up at a particular place or time. You’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish, in the way that fits you best. If you’re hungry for a simple way to move deeply into this season, this retreat is for you.

Individual, group, and congregational rates are available. You can also give the retreat as a gift! For retreat details, FAQs, and registration, visit Online Lenten Retreat.


 
The season of Lent invites us to know, most of all, how completely God loves us, and to let go of everything that would keep us from receiving and responding to that love. This invitation is at the heart of the Beloved Lenten Retreat. If that sounds good to you, please join us!

Blessings to you as Lent draws near.

Ash Wednesday: The Hands that Hold the Ashes

February 27, 2014


Image: Blessing the Dust © 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

(For the Ash Wednesday 2015 post, click Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust.)

My husband’s ashes are in the keeping of my brother. Scott is holding onto them until the day I can bear to gather them up and release them. On that day, we will bury Gary’s ashes on the farm that has been in the Richardson family for more than a century; the farm where, on a bright spring day so recently, Gary and I were married.

You can imagine that Ash Wednesday will feel different for me this year and always. The sheer fact of Gary’s ashes poses questions that stagger me and make me ache: questions that I am working my way through ever so slowly, questions for which I do not anticipate ever having answers.

In the midst of my struggle and sorrow, what I keep seeing are the hands that hold the ashes—my brother’s hands, and the hands of those who, in gatherings around the world next Wednesday, will trace the sign of the cross on each brow: sign of repentance and release, sign of stubborn hope. If I never make sense of the ashes and their awful and aching mystery, I can hold on, at least, to the hands that bear them, and that bear me up in these days.

How about you?

Blessings, blessings to you as Lent draws near.

Will You Meet Us
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

Will you meet us
in the ashes
will you meet us
in the ache
and show your face
within our sorrow
and offer us
your word of grace:

That you are life
within the dying
that you abide
within the dust
that you are what
survives the burning
that you arise
to make us new.

And in our aching
you are breathing
and in our weeping
you are here
within the hands
that bear your blessing
enfolding us
within your love.

–Jan Richardson


An invitation into Lent…

During Lent, most of my creative energies will be going toward the new online retreat that I’ll be offering for the season. I would love to have your company on this journey and to stay connected with you as Lent unfolds. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, the retreat is designed as a space of elegant simplicity that you can enter from wherever you are, at any time that works for you.

I sometimes hear from folks who say, “I’d love to do this but I don’t have time for a retreat!” I completely get that, and so I have especially designed this retreat so that you can engage as much or as little as you wish, in the way that fits best for you. Rather than being one more thing to add to your Lenten schedule, this retreat weaves easily and simply through your days.

For more info and registration, please visit our overview page at Online Lenten Retreat. And please share this link with your friends! (In addition to the individual rate, we have group rates available for folks who want to share the retreat together near or far.) You can even give the Lenten retreat as a gift! If you have questions about the retreat, or concerns about things that you think might hinder you from sharing in the journey, be sure to check out our FAQ page (you’ll find a link on the overview page).


For previous reflections, blessings, and art for Ash Wednesday, please see these posts:

Ash Wednesday: Blessing the Dust
Ash Wednesday: Rend Your Heart
The Memory of Ashes
Upon the Ashes (which features the indomitable Sojourner Truth)
The Artful Ashes
Ash Wednesday, Almost

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

Beloved: An Online Retreat for Lent

February 20, 2014

Lent is drawing close, already! It was such a remarkable gift to travel through Advent with so many of you on the Illuminated retreat. As we look to this new season, I would love for you to join us for the all-new online retreat that I’ll be offering during Lent. Here’s a glimpse of what’s ahead:

BELOVED: An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
March 4 – April 21
New for 2014!

This online retreat is not about adding one more thing to your schedule! It is about helping you find spaces for reflection that draw you deep into the mysteries and gifts of this season. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat offers a space of elegant simplicity as you journey through Lent.

You can join in the retreat from anywhere you are; you do not have to show up at a particular place or time. You’re welcome to engage the retreat as much or as little as you wish, in the way that works best for you. If you’re hungry for a simple way to move deeply into this season, this retreat is for you.

Group and congregational rates are available. You can also give the retreat as a gift! For retreat details, FAQs, and registration, visit Online Lenten Retreat.

The season of Lent invites us to know, most of all, how utterly and thoroughly God loves us, and to let go of everything that would keep us from receiving and responding to that love. This invitation is at the heart of the Beloved Lenten Retreat. If that sounds good to you—if you’d like to lean into the love that enfolds and encompasses you—I would love to travel with you.

Blessings to you as Lent approaches.

Ascension/Easter 7: Stay

May 5, 2013


Image: Blessing Them, He Withdrew © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Ascension Day/Ascension of the Lord, Years ABC: Luke 24.44-53
Reading from the Gospels, Easter 7, Year C: John 17.20-26

So stay here in the city
until you have been clothed with power
from on high.

—Luke 24.49b

So that the love with which you have loved me
may be in them, and I in them.

—John 17.26b

Stay
A Blessing for Ascension Day

I know how your mind
rushes ahead
trying to fathom
what could follow this.
What will you do,
where will you go,
how will you live?

You will want
to outrun the grief.
You will want
to keep turning toward
the horizon,
watching for what was lost
to come back,
to return to you
and never leave again.

For now
hear me when I say
all you need to do
is to still yourself
is to turn toward one another
is to stay.

Wait
and see what comes
to fill
the gaping hole
in your chest.
Wait with your hands open
to receive what could never come
except to what is empty
and hollow.

You cannot know it now,
cannot even imagine
what lies ahead,
but I tell you
the day is coming
when breath will
fill your lungs
as it never has before
and with your own ears
you will hear words
coming to you new
and startling.
You will dream dreams
and you will see the world
ablaze with blessing.

Wait for it.
Still yourself.
Stay.


P.S.
For a Mother’s Day blessing, see Mother’s Day: Blessing the Mothers at my Sanctuary of Women blog. And for previous reflections on the Ascension, click the images or titles below.


Ascension/Easter 7: While He Was Blessing Them

 


Ascension/Easter 7: Blessing in the Leaving

(includes “Ascension Blessing”)

 


Ascension/Easter 7: A Blessing at Bethany

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

Ascension/Easter 7: While He Was Blessing Them

May 16, 2012

 While He Was Blessing Them © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Ascension Day/Ascension of the Lord (May 17; often celebrated the Sunday after): Luke 24.44-53
Reading from the Gospels, Easter 7 (May 20): John 17.6-19

It is a season of leave-takings. In the United Methodist Church, this is the time of year when colleagues who will be moving to new pastoral appointments this summer are announcing the news. Several friends have died in recent weeks (including dear Joe, whom I wrote about in this post a few months ago) as have several family members of friends. Graduation ceremonies are taking place (Brenda Lewis, my longtime friend and seminary roommate, reminded me this week that it’s been twenty years since our own graduation from Candler School of Theology), boxes are being packed, and familiar landscapes are receding into the distance.

In the rhythm of the liturgical year, this too is a season of leave-taking. For some time now we’ve been watching Jesus prepare his friends for his coming absence. As Jesus practices the art of departure, he invites us to think about what it means to say good-bye with intention, with mindfulness, with love. This week, the exquisite care that Jesus brings to his leaving reaches its apex in the passages for Ascension Day and Easter 7.

As always, I am struck by how, in Luke’s account of the Ascension, Jesus chooses to leave from Bethany. It is a beloved place of memory for Jesus: here he found hospitality in the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; here he raised Lazarus from the dead; here he received the gift of a woman’s anointing shortly before his death. Bethany has been a place of blessing for Jesus. And so, from this place of blessing, Jesus leaves, offering a blessing as he goes. While he was blessing them, Luke tells us, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven (24.51).

As we see also in this week’s passage from John, the blessing is part of the leaving. And, somehow, the leaving is part of the blessing. His departure—and the way he enters into it—is part of Jesus’ final gift to his friends. In much the same way that Jesus tells Mary Magdalene on Easter morning not to hold onto him, Jesus at the table and in his Ascension urges his disciples—his friends—to grow up. He invites them to enter into a new relationship with him that will no longer depend on his physical presence but will rely instead on trusting in his love and growing into the people and the community that Christ has called them to become. It is time for them to become his body, to continue his transforming work in the world that he has physically left but has not abandoned.

Joyful, sorrowful, bittersweet; planned or unexpected; welcomed or resisted or grieved: no matter how a leave-taking happens, it always brings an invitation, and it makes a space for the Spirit to come. As you navigate the leave-takings in your own life, how do you keep your eyes open for the invitations they hold? What blessings do they offer, and what blessings do they invite?

Blessing

In the leaving
in the letting go
let there be this
to hold onto
at the last:

the enduring of love
the persisting of hope
the remembering of joy

the offering of gratitude
the receiving of grace
the blessing of peace.

P.S. For previous reflections on the Ascension, click the images or titles below.

Ascension/Easter 7: Blessing in the Leaving
(includes “Ascension Blessing”)

Ascension/Easter 7: A Blessing at Bethany

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

Easter 6: Abide In My Love

May 7, 2012

Abide In My Love © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 6 (May 13): John 15.9-17

After his resurrection, he will prove more elusive—telling Mary Magdalene not to hold onto him, disappearing from the table at Emmaus—but on this night, gathered at the table with his companions, he is fully present to those whose lives have become so intertwined with his. Though Jesus tells the disciples that he has made everything known to them, he sees what lies ahead more clearly than they can. And so he lingers at the table, telling them all that he wants them to understand, preparing them as best he can for the time when he will no longer be physically present to them.

Even as he works with such intention and care to make the disciples ready for his absence, Jesus impresses upon them that he is not letting them go, that his physical departure will not bring an end to his relationship with them, his loving of them. Abide in my love, he urges them, echoing and expounding on the imagery of the vine that he has offered in the preceding verses. He twines his words around them, calling them to stay with him, to remain, to persist in their sacred entanglement that will bear fruit for a hungering world.

In a world where leavings and endings often carry a sense of abandonment, Jesus somehow manages to make an art of departure. He does not turn his face from the pain involved, yet he draws the eyes and ears of his companions to the power and beauty and grace of the connections they have forged: connections that, though changing, will endure.

I have called you friends, he says to them. And says to us: offering himself, seeking us, lingering with us still.

Blessing

Even in the leaving
o abide with us
turn your face
toward us
and remain with us,
stay with us
still.

P.S. For a Mother’s Day reflection and blessing, visit Mother’s Day: Blessing the Mothers at my Sanctuary of Women blog.

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