Archive for the ‘Gospel of John’ Category

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 Your use of 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?


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 Your use of 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.


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

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

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!]