Archive for the ‘Gospel of John’ Category

Lent 4: Mysteries of the Mud

March 25, 2017

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
breath.

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.

Lent 3: We Will Find Wellsprings

March 18, 2017

Image: We Will Find Wellsprings for Our Deepest Thirst
© Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Lent 3, Year A: John 4.5-42

A Samaritan woman came to draw water.
—John 4.7

Wholly seen. Wholly known. A woman sets out on a daily task, carrying her water jar with her. She returns from her task transformed, proclaiming what she has seen and heard, her water jar left behind.

It is no mistake that this encounter happens at a well, and one established by no less a figure than Jacob, who knew what it meant to meet God by the waters and become forever altered. On the day that Jesus encounters this woman of Samaria, the well echoes with all the waters that have flowed through the story of God: the waters through which God has created, gathered, graced, comforted, delivered, and renewed the people of God.

As the woman talks with Jesus, the well echoes, too, with her own story, both spoken and unspoken. The tale of her entire life resonates in the space between her and Jesus, and in the knowing that passes both ways.

In this Lenten season, where do you need to go to be seen like this, to be heard in this way, to be known as this woman was known? What part of your story do you most need to give into the hands of someone who will receive it with gentleness, who will invite you to see it in its wholeness, who will help you listen for the wellspring that its hollows contain?

Blessing of the Well

If you stand
at the edge
of this blessing
and call down
into it,
you will hear
your words
return to you.

If you lean in
and listen close,
you will hear
this blessing
give the story
of your life
back to you.

Quiet your voice.
Quiet your judgment.
Quiet the way
you always tell
your story
to yourself.

Quiet all these
and you will hear
the whole of it
and the hollows of it:
the spaces
in the telling,
the gaps
where you hesitate
to go.

Sit at the rim
of this blessing.
Press your ear
to its lip,
its sides,
its curves
that were carved out
long ago
by those whose thirst
drove them deep,
those who dug
into the layers
with only their hands
and hope.

Rest yourself
beside this blessing
and you will
begin to hear
the sound of water
entering the gaps.

Still yourself
and you will feel it
rising up within you,
filling every emptiness,
springing forth
anew.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “We Will Find Wellsprings for Our Deepest Thirst,” 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.

Holy Saturday: In the Breath, Another Breathing

March 25, 2016

Breath Will Come to the Desolate BonesImage: Breath Will Come to the Desolate Bones © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Holy Saturday:
Matthew 27.57-66 or John 19.38-42

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there,
sitting opposite the tomb.
—Matthew 27.61

Holy Saturday.

This day between the dying and the rising.

This day that calls us to hold our anguish and our hope in the same hand.

This day that invites us to marvel that when our heart has been shattered, it somehow manages to keep beating. That we somehow manage to keep breathing.

Still.

In the Breath, Another Breathing
For Holy Saturday

Let it be
that on this day
we will expect
no more of ourselves
than to keep
breathing
with the bewildered
cadence
of lungs that will not
give up the ghost.

Let it be
we will expect
little but
the beating of
our heart,
stubborn in
its repeating rhythm
that will not
cease to sound.

Let it be
we will
still ourselves
enough to hear
what may yet
come to echo:
as if in the breath,
another breathing;
as if in the heartbeat,
another heart.

Let it be
we will not
try to fathom
what comes
to meet us
in the stillness
but simply open
to the approach
of a mystery
we hardly dared
to dream.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Breath Will Come to the Desolate Bones,” 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.

Good Friday: A Blessing for What Abides

March 24, 2016

Good Friday IIImage: Good Friday II © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Good Friday: John 18.1-19.42

There they crucified him.
—John 18.18

What Abides
For Good Friday

You will know
this blessing
by how it
does not stay still,
by the way it
refuses to rest
in one place.

You will recognize it
by how it takes
first one form,
then another:

now running down
the face of the mother
who watches the breaking
of the child
she had borne,

now in the stance
of the woman
who followed him here
and will not leave him
bereft.

Now it twists in anguish
on the mouth of the friend
whom he loved;

now it bares itself
in the wound,
the cry,
the finishing and
final breath.

This blessing
is not in any one
of these alone.

It is what
binds them
together.

It is what dwells
in the space
between them,
though it be torn
and gaping.

It is what abides
in the tear
the rending makes.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Also for Good Friday . . .

Several years ago, Gary and I created a video that intertwines my Seven Last Words art series with Gary’s exquisite song “This Crown of Thorns.” I would love to share it with you. [For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the video below, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook site, where you can view it in this post.]


Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Good Friday II,” 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.

Holy Thursday: Blessing You Cannot Turn Back

March 23, 2016

Holy Thursday IIImage: Holy Thursday II © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Holy/Maundy Thursday: John 13.1-17, 31b-35

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.
—John 13.5

Blessing You Cannot Turn Back
For Holy Thursday

As if you could
stop this blessing
from washing
over you.

As if you could
turn it back,
could return it
from your body
to the bowl,
from the bowl
to the pitcher,
from the pitcher
to the hand
that set this blessing
on its way.

As if you could
change the course
by which this blessing
flows.

As if you could
control how it
pours over you—
unbidden,
unsought,
unasked,

yet startling
in the way
it matches the need
you did not know
you had.

As if you could
become undrenched.

As if you could
resist gathering it up
in your two hands
and letting your body
follow the arc
this blessing makes.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Holy Thursday II,” 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.

Epiphany 2: Blessing the Water, the Wine

January 13, 2013


Image: Water into Wine © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 2, Year C: John 2.1-11

Blessing the Water, the Wine

You thought
you had learned
to live with the empty,
the hollow.

You could place your ear
against the rim
of the vessel
of your life
and hear its ringing echo
with equanimity,
not expecting
any more
not even bothered
(almost)
to be a bystander
at the feast—
if not delighting
in the celebration
at least not
despairing in it.

When the water
rushed into the emptiness
you were surprised
that you were surprised,
that you could even feel
the sudden wellspring
when you thought
all had been poured out.

And then suddenly
the sweetness
that stuns you
that tells you
this was not all,
this was not the end

that this blessing
was saving the best
for last.

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


Epiphany 2: Marriage and Miracles

See also my “Wedding at Cana” image, which first appeared in the Christian Century magazine:

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

 

Gathering the Fragments

July 22, 2012

Gathering the Fragments © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +9, Year B (July 29): John 6.1-21

He told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over,
so that nothing may be lost.”
―John 6.12

It is part of the miracle: how Jesus, with such intention, cares for the fragments following the feast. He sees the abundance that persists, the feast that remains within the fragments. We might think the marvel of the story is that there is enough for everyone. And yet for Jesus, enough does not seem to be enough. There is more: a meal that depends on paying attention to what has been left behind, on turning toward what has been tossed aside.

Call it the persistence of wonder, or the stubbornness of the miraculous: how Christ casts his circle around the fragments, will not loose his hold on what is broken and in pieces. How he gathers them up: a sign of the wholeness he can see; a foretaste of the banquet to come.

Blessing the Fragments

Cup your hands together,
and you will see the shape
this blessing wants to take.
Basket, bowl, vessel:
it cannot help but
hold itself open
to welcome
what comes.

This blessing
knows the secret
of the fragments
that find their way
into its keeping,
the wholeness
that may hide
in what has been
left behind,
the persistence of plenty
where there seemed
only lack.

Look into the hollows
of your hands
and ask
what wants to be
gathered there,
what abundance waits
among the scraps
that come to you,
what feast
will offer itself
from the fragments
that remain.

For a previous reflection on Matthew’s version of this story, click the image or title below.

A Gracious Plenty

And also see this related reflection, which includes “Blessing of Enough.”

[To use the image “Gathering the Fragments,” 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!

Easter 5: I Am the Vine

May 2, 2012

I Am the Vine © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 5: John 15.1-8

This week I’ve designed some multimedia yumminess for you as you reflect on the evocative passage from John that serves as our gospel lection for Sunday. Along with this fresh-from-the-studio painting, I’m delighted to offer the song “Remain In Me” from my singer/songwriter husband, Garrison Doles. It’s from his CD House of Prayer. Just click the audio player below to enjoy.

In these Easter days, may you know yourself intertwined with the true vine who is our sustenance. Blessings.

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