Archive for the ‘Gospel of John’ Category

Easter 2: Living into the Resurrection

April 13, 2012

Into the Wound © Jan L. Richardson

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

Happy Easter! I am grateful for the wisdom of the liturgical calendar that tells us that, like Christmas, Easter is not just a day but a season. It comes as both a comfort and a challenge to know that living into the resurrection is an ongoing journey.

Things have been quiet here at The Painted Prayerbook this week, with taking a deep breath after posting daily throughout the season of Lent and also spending time in preparation for upcoming events, including a retreat I’m leading next week for the women bishops of the United Methodist Church. With this, and needing to spend time in my studio to see what images are waiting to show up after the wave of paintings for Lent, it may be a little while before we get back into the blogging groove here. But know that new work is on its way. In the meantime, I’ll post links to previous reflections I’ve offered on the lectionary readings that we’re traveling with in this Easter season.

Since this week’s gospel lection from John 20 recurs each year, I have several reflections on this passage and would be delighted for you to stop by:

Easter 2: Into the Wound

Easter 2: The Secret Room

Easter 2: The Illuminated Wound

Blessings to you in these Easter days!

[To use the “Into the Wound” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]


Easter Sunday: Seen

April 6, 2012

I Do Not Know Where They Have Laid Him © Jan L. Richardson

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
—John 20.11-13

From a lectionary reading for Easter Sunday: John 20.1-18

Reflection for Easter Sunday, April 8

I never fail to be dazzled by this moment when Jesus calls out the name of the woman whom he finds weeping by his tomb. Mary. At the sound of her name, the Magdalene finally sees and knows who has found her there. It is a stunning moment of recognition.

Yet as I spiral back around this passage this week, what draws my attention is not only the way that Mary Magdalene sees Christ when he calls her name. What tugs at me this time is how, in that moment of hearing her name, Mary Magdalene must see herself.

With an inflection that only Christ could have given to it, his speaking of her name conveys everything: all their history, all that passed between them in their friendship, all that he knows of this woman whom he healed and who, along with other women, traveled with him and sustained him from her own resources. He knows her. He sees her. And now he asks her to see herself as he does.


In that moment, and in the call and commissioning that will soon come, the risen Christ gives Mary Magdalene to herself. Not, of course, as if he owns or controls her but because, as ever, he knows her and wants to free her from what would hinder her from the life that God desires for her. Long ago, Jesus had released the Magdalene from the septet of demons that haunted her (“A demon for every day of the week,” writes Kathleen Norris; “how practical; how womanly.”) Now he releases her again, this time from clinging to him, from becoming entangled with him. Where holding onto him might seem holy, Christ sees—and enables Mary Magdalene to see—that her path and her life lie elsewhere. Beyond this moment, beyond this garden, beyond what she has known. In going, Mary affirms that she has seen what she needed to see: not just Christ in the glory of his resurrection, but also herself, graced with the glory that he sees in her.

In the centuries to come, Mary Magdalene will become layered over with other visions that people have of her: other titles, other depictions, other names. Sinner, prostitute, penitent, bride: the stories and legends of who the Magdalene was and what she became will both fascinate us and frustrate our ability to know her. But on this day, the Magdalene we meet in the garden is simply one who has learned to see, and who goes forth to proclaim what she has seen.

This day, what will we allow ourselves to see: of Christ, of ourselves? How would it be to know ourselves as he does, to see ourselves as he sees us, to know that the risen Christ speaks our name, too, and releases us to tell what we have seen? What will you proclaim as you leave the empty tomb this day?

A Blessing for Easter Sunday

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 roots itself
beneath your heart:

how the emptiness
will bear forth
a new world
that 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.

P.S. For previous reflections for Easter Sunday, click these images or titles:

Easter Sunday: Risen
(includes “Easter Blessing”)

Easter Sunday: Out of the Garden

Last year, Gary and I created a video that weaves images from my “Hours of Mary Magdalene” series with his gorgeous song “Mary Magdalena,” which tells of Christ and Mary Magdalene’s encounter on the morning of the resurrection. Click below to see the video.

The Hours of Mary Magdalene

[To use the image “I Do Not Know Where They Have Laid Him,” please visit this page at To use the “Hours of Mary Magdalene” video, please visit this page. Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Day 39/Good Friday: They Took the Body of Jesus

April 5, 2012

According to the Burial Custom © Jan L. Richardson (click to enlarge)

They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.
—John 19.40

From a lectionary reading for Good Friday: John 18.1-19.42

Reflection for Friday, April 6 (Good Friday/Day 39 of Lent)

Years earlier, when an angel had appeared in a sheep pasture proclaiming good news of great joy, the angel had told the shepherds of a Savior, a Messiah, a Lord whom they would find as a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. Now, on this day, the Savior is wrapped in a spiced shroud of linen cloths, a scented winding sheet to hold him as he lies in the tomb. It’s tempting to draw a stark contrast between the emotions of those who held Christ at his birth and those who held him at his death; though joy must have prevailed at the beginning of his life and fear and grief at the end, surely, among those who saw and knew him best, celebration and sorrow were mixed on each occasion. Yet as at the beginning, so at the end: those who love Christ enfold him, tend him, bless him.

Song of the Winding Sheet
A Blessing for Good Friday

We never
would have wished it
to come to this
yet we call
these moments holy
as we hold you

Holy the tending
holy the winding
holy the leaving
as in the living

Holy the silence
holy the stillness
holy the turning
and returning to earth.

Blessed is the one
who came
in the name

blessed is the one
who laid
himself down

blessed is the one
emptied for us

blessed is the one
wearing the shroud.

Holy the waiting
holy the grieving
holy the shadows
and gathering night

Holy the darkness
holy the hours
holy the hope
turning toward light.

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

Good Friday: What Abides

Good Friday: In Which We Get Nailed

For a video slideshow that intertwines my series of images on the Seven Last Words of Christ with Gary’s exquisite song “This Crown of Thorns”:

Listening at the Cross

[To use the image “According to the Burial Custom,” please visit this page at To use the “Listening at the Cross” video, please visit this page. Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

5th Sunday in Lent: Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls

March 24, 2012

Into the Earth © Jan L. Richardson

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
—John 12.24

From a lectionary reading for Lent 5: John 12.20-33

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (March 25)

The lectionary texts this week have set me to thinking about how God works in hidden spaces: in the inner being, in the secret heart, in the earth. There is work that God needs to do in us in secret; out of sight, away from the glare of day, removed from public view. Yet God has a penchant for revelation, for bringing into the open what is within us. God’s inward work is for the purpose of opening us outward. God draws us deep inside, then draws us back into the world to bear the fruit that comes when our inner lives are congruent with our outer ones.

Blessing the Seed

I should tell you
at the outset
this blessing will require you
to do some work.

First you must simply
let this blessing fall
from your hand,
as if it were a small thing
you could easily let slip
through your fingers,
as if it were not
most precious to you,
as if your life did not
depend on it.

Next you must trust
that this blessing knows
where it is going,
that it understands
the ways of the dark,
that it is wise
to seasons
and to times.

and I know this blessing
has already asked much
of you—
it is to be hoped that
you will rest
and learn
that something is at work
when all seems still,
seems dormant,
seems dead.

I promise you
this blessing has not
abandoned you.
I promise you
this blessing
is on its way back
to you.
I promise you—
when you are least
expecting it,
when you have given up
your last hope—
this blessing will rise
and whole
and new.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage—which features my inner Barbie, the observation that “Lent is not for sissies,” and encouragement to cheer you on at this point in the Lenten path—click the image or title below:

Lent 5: Into the Seed

This reflection is part of the daily series “Teach Me Your Paths: A Pilgrimage into Lent.” If you’re new to the series, you can visit the first post, Teach Me Your Paths: Entering Lent, to pick it up from the beginning.

[To use the image “Into the Earth,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Fourth Sunday in Lent: Clearly Seen

March 18, 2012

Clearly Seen © Jan L. Richardson

Those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
—John 3.21

From a lectionary reading for Lent 4: John 3.14-21

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 18)

A brief and belated post here at the end of Lent 4. Gary and I have spent most of this week in Colorado, where we’ve just wrapped up a series of events with the marvelous folks here. We are feeling deeply grateful and thoroughly spent. So for tonight, just an image to wrap up this week’s reflections, along with a simple blessing:

That we will lean into
the light of Christ.

That what we do,
we will do in God.

That we will be
clearly seen.

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

The Serpent in the Text

This reflection is part of the series “Teach Me Your Paths: A Pilgrimage into Lent.” If you’re new to the series, welcome! You can visit the first post, Teach Me Your Paths: Entering Lent, to pick it up from the beginning. If you would like to receive these blog posts via email, simply enter your address in the subscription signup box near the top of the sidebar.

[To use the image “Rather Than Light,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Day 22: Rather than Light

March 16, 2012

Rather Than Light © Jan L. Richardson

The light has come into the world,
and people loved darkness rather than light.

—John 3.19

From a lectionary reading for Lent 4: John 3.14-21

Reflection for Saturday, March 17 (Day 22 of Lent)

Not that the dark is evil in itself. But that we sometimes use it as a place where we think we can hide, where we can cloak what we do not want seen or known in the daylight.

And this is one of the keenest challenges and invitations in seeking the way of Christ: to allow him to draw us into a place where we can be seen. Where we can be known. Where we can unhide ourselves.

There are many things we may find more attractive than this. Easier, sometimes, to hide than to take the responsibility of showing ourselves and receiving the grace that comes where we might have feared judgment; grace that comes through from the hand of One who well knew the risk of revelation and did so with stunning abandon. And so this Christ comes to ask us: What do we love more? Where will we allow this love to take us?

P.S. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! For a reflection for this feast day (which includes Gary’s amazing song in celebration of Saint Patrick), click the image or title below.

Feast of Saint Patrick

[To use the image “Rather Than Light,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

3rd Sunday in Lent: Speaking of the Body

March 5, 2012

The Temple of His Body © Jan L. Richardson

They said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of
the temple of his body.

—John 2.20-21

From a lectionary reading for Lent 3: John 2.13-22

Reflection for the Third Sunday in Lent (March 11)

Years later, Jesus’ words will echo in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. “Do you not know,” the apostle will ask them—and us—”that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3.16). We are the body of Christ, both broken and beautiful; in us God’s Spirit makes its home.

How is it with your temple this day?

Blessing the Body

This blessing takes
one look at you
and all it can say is

Holy hands.
Holy face.
Holy feet.
Holy everything
in between.

Holy even in pain.
Holy even when weary.
In brokenness, holy.
In shame, holy still.

Holy in delight.
Holy in distress.
Holy when being born.
Holy when we lay it down
at the hour of our death.

So, friend,
open your eyes
(holy eyes).
For one moment
see what this blessing sees,
this blessing that knows
how you have been formed
and knit together
in wonder and
in love.

Welcome this blessing
that folds its hands
in prayer
when it meets you;
receive this blessing
that wants to kneel
in reverence
before you:
you who are
home for God
in this world.

This reflection is part of the series “Teach Me Your Paths: A Pilgrimage into Lent.” If you’re new to the series, welcome! You can visit the first post, Teach Me Your Paths: Entering Lent, to pick it up from the beginning.

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

Lent 3: The Temple in His Bones

[To use the image “The Temple of His Body,” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

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
how it begins
and ends
with your true name.

– Jan Richardson

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 Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

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Ascension/Easter 7: Blessing in the Leaving

May 29, 2011

Ascension II © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Ascension Day (June 2): Luke 24.44-53
Reading from the Gospels, Easter 7, Year A (June 5): John 17.1-11

Throughout this Easter season we have seen how the gospel lections have emphasized the theme of knowing: knowing the risen Christ, knowing what he has done for us and to us, knowing what he desires of us and calls us to do, knowing what he is preparing for us—and preparing us for. The fact that most of the gospel readings for the Easter season take place at a table underscores the intimacy that comes in knowing—in knowing Christ, in knowing God, in knowing one another.

This theme of knowing reaches its stunning apex in the gospel texts for this week. The reading from John’s Gospel draws us once again to the table where Jesus has lingered with his friends on the night before his death. He finishes their final feast by praying for his disciples. In his prayer, Jesus is knowing all over the place: “And this is eternal life,” he says, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent….I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world….Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you.” Then Jesus, who knows these friends so well, releases them into the world and into the care and protection of God, who has known them from the beginning.

In the reading from Luke for Ascension Day, we see the risen Christ appearing one last time to his disciples. He opens their minds, as Luke tells us, “to understand the scriptures,” and he impresses upon them that what was written about him, they have seen with their own eyes. Jesus then takes them to Bethany: this place so familiar and dear to Jesus, the place where Mary and Martha and Lazarus lived—his close friends who knew and were known by Jesus. And from this place Jesus leaves, blessing his beloved companions as he ascends.

As we spiral back around these stories this year, what still takes hold of me is this: how Jesus prays for and blesses his friends as he leaves them. How the leaving is part of the blessing. As if the blessing can happen no other way than by his departure, by his letting go of the ones whom he has loved—these ones whom he will never cease to love but must release into their own lives, so that they may enter into the blessing and enact it on this earth.

This week provides a good occasion to remember that the English word bless comes from the Old English word blod—blood, referring to the use of blood in ritual acts of consecration. The blessing that Jesus gives as he goes is one that will infuse the community with his love, his grace, his lifeblood. He gives a blessing that will run in the veins of those he has called to be his body; a blessing that will beat in the hearts of those whom he is sending into the world.

As we prepare to leave the season of Easter and cross into Ordinary Time, what blessing do you need? What word or gesture of grace and love do you need to infuse you and sustain you to be a blessing in this world? Is there a blessing that might depend on your letting go, on releasing something—or seeking to be released from something—so that there will be a space for the blessing to enter?

Ascension Blessing

It is a mystery to me
how as the distance
between us grows,
the larger this blessing

As if the shape of it
depends on absence,
as if it finds its form
not by what
it can cling to
but by the space
that arcs
between us.

As this blessing
makes its way,
first it will cease
to measure itself
by time.

Then it will release
how attached it has become
to this place
where we have lived,
where we have learned
to know one another
in proximity and

Next this blessing
will abandon
the patterns
in which it moved,
the habits that helped it
recognize itself,
the familiar pathways
that it traced.

Finally this blessing
will touch its fingers
to your brow,
to your eyes,
to your mouth;
it will hold
your beloved face
in both its hands

and then
it will let you go,
it will loose you
into your life,
it will leave
each hindering thing
until all that breathes
between us
is blessing
and all that beats
between us
is grace.

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

Ascension/Easter 7: A Blessing at Bethany

[To use the “Ascension II” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Easter 6: Love and Revelation

May 22, 2011

Love and Revelation © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter 6, Year A (May 29): John 14.15-21

On a day more than six hundred years ago, in the English town of Norwich, a woman walked into a cell attached to the parish church. She intended to stay there for the rest of her life. The original name of the woman is unknown, and the cell where she would live as an anchoress—a woman devoted to a life of contemplation and solitude—no longer remains. It is likely that she took her name from the church in whose cell she lived: the Church of St. Julian.

Nearly everything we know about Julian of Norwich comes from a manuscript that she composed in her cell. In it she tells of how, at the age of thirty and a half, she became desperately ill. Just as she thought herself at the point of death, her pain suddenly departed. As Julian continued to pray, she was visited by a series of sixteen visions or revelations—what she called “showings”—in which she came to experience and know God’s love for her.

Julian recorded her visions in a short text, and then, after nearly two decades, she expanded on them in a longer text that incorporates the insights that she gained through years of reflecting on and praying with the visions. Together Julian’s texts became the book known as Showings, or Revelations of Divine Love.

In the final chapter of Showings, as Julian comes to the end of the remarkable work in which she has revealed to us a God whose endless mystery encompasses a deep desire to know and love us in all our human particularity, she writes,

And from the time that it was revealed, I desired to know in what was our Lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love. Why does he reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end.

From her anchorhold, with her stunning simplicity, Julian echoes and embodies what her beloved Jesus says to his friends in this week’s gospel passage. At the table where he gathers with his disciples on the night before his death, he persists in telling them what he wants them—needs them—to know about who he is, what he has done, what he will yet do, what he is calling them to do after he is physically gone. In this passage, Jesus becomes very clear about why he wants them to know these things, and what underlies and encompasses and is the reason for their knowing.

“They who have my commandments and keep them,” Jesus says, “are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

The knowledge that Jesus shares with his followers is not for the purpose of giving them worldly power. It is not designed to make them feel important, or to initiate them into secrets meant for a select few, or to make their lives easier. He does not intend for them to use the knowledge as a weapon to threaten or diminish others. What Jesus reveals to his friends—his friends at the table that night, his friend in the cell at the Church of St. Julian, his friends throughout the ages—he does for one reason:

For love.

Jesus speaks of love and revelation in the same breath. He wants his friends to understand that loving and knowing are of a piece, that loving draws us deeper into knowing and being known by the one whom we love. Here on the threshold of his death, Jesus cannot go until he assures them that he will not leave them bereft but will, in fact, continue to love and help them. He cannot leave until he tells them that by their loving, they will remain in relationship with him; through their shared love, he will yet reveal himself to them and be known by them.

What knowledge does your loving lead you to? As you stretch yourself into loving others, what becomes revealed to you—of them, of yourself, of God? How has love challenged or changed what you know? How are you opening yourself to its presence in your life?

Blessing that Knows Your Name

Chances are
there will come a day
when you will forget
every last word
of this blessing.

It does not matter.

Let this blessing
slip through
your fingers.
Let it roll from
the smooth plane
of your palm.
Let each line
and every syllable
fall away.
Let this blessing
to where all
blessings begin.

Let it leave you
until all that remains
is the place where
it pierced you—
whether like fire
or like breath
you could not say,
only that you heard
your name as it entered,
then heard its own
as it blew away.

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

Easter 6: Side Orders

[To use the “Love and Revelation” image, please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]