Archive for the ‘Gospel of Mark’ Category

And the Table Will Be Wide

September 30, 2012

The Best Supper
The Best Supper
© Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels for World Communion Sunday
& Proper 22/Ordinary 27/Pentecost +19, Year B (Oct. 7): Mark 10.2-16

“Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
―Mark 10.15-16

And the Table Will Be Wide
A Blessing for World Communion Sunday

And the table
will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
to receive.

And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
with bread.
And our sorrow
will be met
with wine.

And we will open our hands
to the feast
without shame.
And we will turn
toward each other
without fear.
And we will give up
our appetite
for despair.
And we will taste
and know
of delight.

And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
And everywhere
will be the feast.

– Jan Richardson

For a previous reflection on World Communion Sunday, visit The Best Supper, which includes “Table Blessing.” And Happy Feast of St. Francis this week! For a reflection on this beloved saint, whose day is October 4, visit Feast of St. Francis.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Best Supper,” please visit this page at (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 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.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

I also want to invite you to visit the Calendar page on my main website, where you’ll find a listing of events that Gary and I will be involved with during the coming months and beyond. We’re excited about connecting with folks at gatherings that will take us across the country and back again, and we’re especially looking forward to collaborating in cyberspace to offer you an online retreat for Advent and Christmas. Wherever you are, we would love to share some sacred space with you!

Salted with Fire

September 25, 2012

Salted with Fire © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Proper 21/Ordinary 26/Pentecost +18, Year B (September 30): Mark 9.38-50

“For everyone will be salted with fire.”
—Mark 9.49

I’m back home after a season of away-ness, having given much of the summer to events that took Gary and me across the country and back again. From Washington State, where we had another great experience with the Liturgical Arts Week at the Grünewald Guild, to right down the road in Kissimmee, where I was the preacher for the opening worship service of the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women, it has been a wondrous season of pouring out as well as being renewed by the rich connections found along the way.

Along with the resting and catching up that are crucial after the past season, I’m returning to the studio and am relieved to be settling back in at my drafting table. I don’t have many words yet; like me, they’re doing some resting, too, and shoring up their energies for the outpouring that the autumn and Advent will bring. But I wanted to share this image that came as I reflected on this Sunday’s gospel lection from Mark.

As I created the “Salted with Fire” piece, I thought of how potters know what happens when salt is added to the fire. Thrown into the kiln, this elemental essence alters the surface of the pot in a fashion that cannot be entirely predicted or controlled. The potter has to trust that when the salt is given to the fire, it will do its work; that, blessed by the intention and focus the potter brings, the salt will make a way for the wild beauty that will come.

Blessing of Salt and Fire

And so, in this season,
may we give ourselves
to the fire
that shows us
what is elemental
and sacramental,
that reveals what remains
after all that does not have
substance or savor
falls away.

May we turn
our eyes
our ears
our hands
to the beauty
for which we were formed
and bear with grace
the patterns
that blossom upon us
who live salted
and singed.

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

Come Away and Rest

July 15, 2012

Come Away and Rest © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +8, Year B (July 22): Mark 6.30-34, 53-56

Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer
for five short minutes.

Etty Hillesum

He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves
and rest a while.”

―Mark 6.31

Before I wrote this blessing I took a nap. Spent time with a novel. Lay on the couch and looked out on the sunlit street. Made a cup of tea. Breathed.

I do not know what restores you, where you take your rest, how you find the sustenance that enables you to meet those who wait for you with their insistent hungers. But whatever it is, whatever soothes you and brings you solace, may you find it in the rhythm of this day, as close as the beating of your heart, as quiet as the space between the beats.

Blessing of Rest

Curl this blessing
beneath your head
for a pillow.
Wrap it about yourself
for a blanket.
Lay it across your eyes
and for this moment
cease thinking about
what comes next,
what you will do
when you rise.

Let this blessing
gather itself to you
like the stillness
that descends
between your heartbeats,
the silence that comes
so briefly
but with a constancy
on which
your life depends.

Settle yourself
into the quiet
this blessing brings,
the hand it lays
upon your brow,
the whispered word
it breathes into
your ear
telling you
all shall be well
all shall be well
and you can rest

P.S. Sunday, July 22, is also the Feast of Mary Magdalene! Last year, Gary and I collaborated on a video slide show in celebration of the Magdalene. Click the thumbnail below to see The Hours of Mary Magdalene on Vimeo, and may you have a splendid feast day.

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

The River of John

July 8, 2012

The River of John © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +7, Year B (July 15): Mark 6.14-29

Here at the ending of John the Baptist’s life, I find myself thinking back to its beginning. How the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah to tell him of the longed-for son who will bring joy and gladness. How the joyful John leaps in his mother’s womb when the pregnant Mary comes to visit. How the neighbors rejoice at his birth. How, on the day of her son’s circumcision, Elizabeth declares, “He is to be called John,” to the befuddlement of those who assumed he would be named after his father. How Zechariah, struck mute months earlier when he had expressed his incredulity at Gabriel’s news, reaches for a writing tablet and insists,

His name is John.

It is the name that had accompanied the angel’s stunning news, the name that Gabriel had told Zechariah and Elizabeth to give to their son, the name destined for him. I imagine Zechariah writing it for his neighbors in large letters, scored heavy with emphasis. His wife was not mistaken in the name she gave.

His name is John.

John absorbs the insistent clarity that his parents display in their naming of him. Their strength of purpose passes into him, is borne in his blood, infuses everything that will follow. As he enters the scene as an adult, we see that the one who has been sent to prepare the way, the one who will be known as the Baptist, has himself become like a river whose course is directed not merely by its banks but by an underlying sureness of purpose. John the Waymaker does not waver from the course that is his call.

His name is John.

John had met Jesus when they were in the waters of the womb, had met him again at the waters of the Jordan, had been borne along by the sureness of his call and by the living water he found in his cousin the Christ. At the last, when we meet him in today’s gospel reading, what flows in John’s life is not water but blood, a horrendous libation spilled out at Herod’s feast. I imagine that John goes to his death with the same clarity and steadfastness that marked his birth and his life. That perhaps he heard again the voices of the parents who named him. That before the felling stroke there came an echo of the song that his father, no longer mute, had lifted on the day of John’s naming:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1.76-80)

Death does not have the last word in John’s story; blood is not the final legacy of the Baptizer. John had succeeded in making a way for the dawn that his father sang about at his birth. The one who “came as a witness to testify to the light” (John 1.7) had completed his purpose and his call, giving himself with complete abandon. “He himself was not the light,” the Gospel of John points out, yet the Baptist shimmered with steadfast purpose and with the joy that had marked his life from the moment he met Jesus.

His name is John.

The life of John the Baptist was utterly intertwined with the life of Jesus. And yet something about his love of Christ and his singleness of purpose enabled him to remain so much himself. In the fierce and focused rhythm and flow of his living and his dying, the Baptizer beckons us to reckon with what it means to divest ourselves in the service of Christ without becoming diminished, without giving up the self that God created.

His name is John.

And what name is ours? What distinguishes and directs the flow and focus of our lives? What is the purpose we are known for—or that we struggle toward and long for? How do we abandon ourselves to this purpose and to the One who calls us to it, and move ever more deeply into the self that God created us to be?


May your life be a river.
May you flow with the purpose
of the One who created
and called you,
who directs your course
and turns you ever
toward home.

May your way shimmer
with the light of Christ
who goes with you
who bears you up
who calls you by name.

May you move
with the grace of the Spirit
who brooded over
the face of the waters
at the beginning
and who will gather you in
at the end.

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

Are You Coming or Going?

July 1, 2012

Are You Coming or Going? © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +6, Year B: Mark 6.1-13

Are you arriving or leaving? I found myself asking this figure-on-the-threshold when it began to take shape in the studio. How do we answer this question in our own lives? Choosing where we will go, and when, is among the most powerful human freedoms. Yet in ministry—and in life—figuring out whether God is calling us to remain in a place or to leave it can be one of the sharpest edges of discernment.

In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus affirms this freedom—this power to stay or to leave—as he sends the disciples out into the world. “Wherever you enter a house,” he tells them, “stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” Aware of the challenges of the road—including the decisions it requires—Jesus sends the disciples out by twos, a reminder that we are not meant to discern our path alone. Jesus knows that such discernment can be complicated; it calls us, after all, to perform such feats as sorting through our attachments, asking what we really want our life to be like, and dealing with those occasions when the decision about staying or going is not ours alone. In his wisdom, Jesus gives us one another as we search for those places where we can offer our gifts.

In my own ministry, which is a decidedly off-the-beaten-path sort that invites continual discernment about where and how I will go, I treasure those places that have offered a space of welcome. Later this summer, Gary and I will be traveling to one of those places, and we would love to offer the hospitality of that place to you. In the Cascade Mountains of Washington State there is a wondrous retreat center called the Grünewald Guild. Devoted to exploring and celebrating the connections between art and faith, the Guild is a place where Gary and I “find our tribe,” as one of my friends puts it.

Each summer, the Guild offers week-long classes in a delicious variety of media, from pottery to printmaking. What’s most compelling about the Guild, though, is that the classes take place in a rhythm of community life, with shared meals, morning and evening prayer, community gatherings, and lots of conversations in the in-between places. As someone whose vocation often involves explaining what I do, and how it is (in fact!) a ministry, the Guild offers a community where I don’t have to do much explaining. In the company of my tribe, I can savor the connections with others who know what it means, in their own lives, to live in the intersections of creativity and faith. What I find at the Guild helps sustain me the rest of the year, as I continue to discern where the Spirit is leading.

I’ve taught at the Guild for many years and am excited to be returning once again for the Guild’s third annual Liturgical Arts Week. I’ll serve as the keynote speaker, and Gary and I will teach a class that I’m especially excited about. Titled “Advent Portfolio: To Illuminate the Season,” the class will offer a creative space to dive into the lectionary texts for Advent and Christmas and to find new treasures in the story of the Incarnation.

Gary and I will join a fantastic team of Guild faculty that will include an amazing trio of our friends: Kristen Gilje, Gilly Sakakini, and Laurie Clark. All of us would love to welcome you to the Guild! There’s more information about the week here: Liturgical Arts Week: A Spiral-Shaped God. Please know that you do not have to think of yourself as an artist to come to the Guild! The Guild draws a wide variety of folks, including many who don’t think of themselves as artists but who are hungry for a more creative way of being in the world—and in the church. Among the folks who find their way to the Guild are an increasing number of clergy who come as part of a renewal leave or sabbatical.

If you visit the Guild’s page about the Liturgical Arts Week, you’ll see that housing on campus is tight that week. We do have some spaces in the classes, so don’t let the housing crunch deter you. There are still several options for housing, including camping out by the river (which is a popular choice) or staying off-site but nearby, and some on-site housing may yet be available.

I’ve put together a slide show to give you a glimpse of the Guild. Many of these images are from last year’s Liturgical Arts Week. [For blog subscribers receiving this reflection by email; if the slide show isn’t visible, just click The Painted Prayerbook to go directly to the blog post, where you can view the slide show.]

And while I have Washington on my mind, I want also to let you know that Gary is putting the finishing touches on his Pacific Northwest Song Chapel tour. During our time on that side of the country, he’ll be traveling around Washington as well as Oregon for concerts. He has just a few open dates still available; if you’re in that area and would like to schedule a concert, or know of churches he might connect with, I’d love to put you in touch. You can contact Gary through his Song Chapel website, where you can also learn more about his ministry and hear some of his amazing songs.

Wherever this day finds you—staying, leaving, or discerning between the two—may the peace of God be with you, and may you find—and create—a place that welcomes who you are.

For a previous reflection on this story, click the image or title below.

Mapping the Mysteries

[To use the image “Are You Coming or Going?” please visit this page at Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

I Will Be Made Well

June 24, 2012

I Will Be Made Well © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +5, Year B (July 1): Mark 5.21-43

There are experiences that seem to come as interruptions, stories that shoulder their way into the story we think we are living. Intent upon my individual tale, face turned toward the destination I am bent upon, I can resent the intrusions, the ways that other stories sometimes press upon, break through, waylay my own.

A woman is bleeding. Exhausted. Spent. For years her life has been draining from her. Twelve years, if we’ll be precise: the exact span of time that the child—the girl, the daughter of Jairus—has been alive. The daughter who now hovers near death, her father pleading with Jesus to come and make her well.

Jesus goes to the girl, and is halted midway by the woman. With one gesture, one desperate reaching out of her hand toward the hem of Jesus’ robe, the bleeding woman breaks into the narrative. She interrupts the tale of healing that the gospel is seeking to tell. With her aching gesture, the woman compels us to see that our stories do not come to us unbroken and discrete, spinning out in tidy and autonomous arcs. The story of the healing of the woman becomes bound with the story of the healing of the girl, their individual stories becoming one story. An interruption becomes an intertwining: a story made more whole by the joining of its parts. A story that is still being pieced together in the living of our own tales, and in the telling of them.

What stories will we allow to break through, to interrupt, to intertwine with our own? What stories are bound with ours, their fragments joining to create a tale more complete than the one we could tell alone? What story do you need to receive or to tell in order to become more whole: to be made well?

The Healing That Comes
A Blessing

I know how long
you have been waiting
for your story to take
a different turn,
how far
you have gone in search
of what will mend you
and make you whole.

I bear no remedy,
no cure,
no miracle
for the easing
of your pain.

But I know
the medicine
that lives in a story
that has been
broken open.
I know
the healing that comes
in ceasing
to hide ourselves away
with fingers clutched
around the fragments
we think are
ours alone.

See how they fit together,
these shards
we have been carrying:
how piece to piece
they make a way
we could not
find alone.

For a previous reflection on this story, click the image or title below:

Stories and Circles

And for a related blessing for healing, see:

Epiphany 6: What the Light Shines Through

[To use the image “I Will Be Made Well,” please visit this page at, where you can also order an art print of this image. Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

Still in the Storm

June 17, 2012

Still in the Storm © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +4 (June 24), Year B: Mark 4.35-41

Yesterday I performed a wedding in the sweet chapel where Gary and I lead our Wellspring service. The bride and groom, who live out of state, had quickly arranged to have their wedding here in Florida when it became apparent that the bride’s father, who had become quite ill, would not be able to travel for the wedding. Though everyone had hoped he would be walking his daughter down the aisle, he died earlier this week. Two days before the wedding, the family held his funeral.

Peace a friend said to me as I prepared for the bittersweet wedding ceremony.

Peace I said to the beautiful bride as she prepared to walk down the aisle without her father.

Peace said the community that gathered around the couple, acknowledging the loss, celebrating the love that had drawn us there.

Peace we said, unable to stop the storm but choosing to stand within it, to still ourselves, to turn our faces toward the One who speaks peace, who breathes peace, who is peace.

Blessing in the Storm

I cannot claim
to still the storm
that has seized you,
cannot calm
the waves that wash
through your soul,
that break against
your fierce and
aching heart.

But I will wade
into these waters,
will stand with you
in this storm,
will say peace to you
in the waves,
peace to you
in the winds,
peace to you
in every moment
that finds you still
within the storm.

For a previous reflection on this passage, visit Stirring the Sleeping Savior. I also have a new post at Devotion Café.

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

Secret of the Seed

June 12, 2012

Secret of the Seed © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +3 (June 17), Year B: Mark 4.26-34

What showed up in the studio this week was not the seed but the space that waits for the seed, that holds itself in a shimmering emptiness, already loving what it cannot see but aches to enfold. How the green of growing already reaches toward the seed, the gold of harvest even now anticipates the way it will paint itself across the fruit that will be months in coming. How they love this mystery, this space where the seed will grow in secret while the rest of us sleep and rise night and day, our lives encompassing what we cannot see but lean toward in love.

Blessing that Holds
a Nest in Its Branches

The emptiness
that you have been holding
for such a long season now

that ache in your chest
that goes with you
night and day
in your sleeping,
your rising:

think of this
not as a mere hollow,
the void left from
the life that has leached out
of you.

Think of it like this:
as the space being prepared
for the seed.
Think of it
as your earth that dreams
of the branches
the seed contains,
and of the nest
the branches will hold.

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

Passion/Palm Sunday: A Place Called Gethsemane

March 31, 2012

Gethsemane © Jan L. Richardson

They went to a place called Gethsemane;
and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”

—Mark 14.32

From a lectionary reading for Palm/Passion Sunday: Mark 14.1-15.47

Reflection for Passion Sunday (April 1)

[For this week’s reflection for the Liturgy of the Palms, see Day 30: Blessed Is the One.]

In story and in myth, gardens often present themselves as idyllic. Yet as the scriptures lead us through the gardens of Eden, the Song of Songs, Gethsemane, and beyond, we find they are complicated places. Against the backdrop of the cycles of growth, decay, and rebirth, a garden eventually exposes everything: the difficult dance of union and separation, our sharpest desires, our capacity for betrayal, and the possibility of new life.

The garden as a place of life and death becomes especially evident on this night that Jesus and his disciples make their final visit. Jesus exhorts them to stay with him as he prays. Soon he finds them asleep. Repeatedly. In Matthew and Mark, he wakes them three times. Luke’s Gospel, in a gracious move that mentions their slumber only once, states that the disciples sleep “because of grief.”

The disciples’ slumber suggests they weren’t fully aware of what was going on in the garden—or that they couldn’t face it. It strikes close to home, this desire to insulate ourselves from what we do not want to face.

Some years ago, as I struggled through a period of fatigue, I spoke about it with my spiritual director over the course of several months. When she asked me what it felt like, I described a layer of gauze, thin, but always present between me and the world. One day she asked me what I thought my tiredness was trying to tell me. I didn’t know, but I took the question with me, and not long after, while going about my normal routine one morning, the answer surfaced. I immediately felt a shift in my energy. The fatigue didn’t vanish entirely in that moment—a mild dose of thyroid medication, exercise, focused work on the issue that had sapped my energy, and the healing passage of time would get me farther down that road—but my waking had begun. The gauze had fallen away, and with that gesture came an intimation of resurrection.

I remembered this recently when I saw a new painting by my friend Chuck Hoffman. On the canvas, Christ wakes up with gauzy burial cloths wrapped loosely around his head and arms. He screams with the shock of coming to life.

It’s no wonder the disciples sleep. It is hard work sometimes to remain present with Christ, to stay awake to him, to God’s longing for us, to the demands of resurrection. Something in us knows that to stay awake will mean traveling through the terrain of grief as well as joy. The possibility of transformed lives asks something of us. It propels us into a landscape beyond what is familiar and challenges us to allow Christ into the hollows of the grave-spaces within us, the places that are dead or dying. There is grief in this, sometimes, and the desire to go numb may be strong. But even in our weariness, in our numbness, in our most resistant and dead places, there is something that remains wakeful, open, alert. The bride in the Song of Songs tells it this way: “I slept, but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking’” (5.2a).

Blessing for Staying Awake

Even in slumber
even in dreaming
even in sorrow
even in pain

awake, awake,
awake my soul
to the one who keeps vigil
at all times with you.

This reflection is adapted from Garden of Hollows: Entering the Mysteries of Lent & Easter © Jan L. Richardson.

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

Day 30: Blessed Is the One

March 26, 2012

Palm Sunday II © Jan L. Richardson (click image to enlarge)

Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”
—Mark 11.8-9

From a lectionary reading for Palm Sunday: Mark 11.1-11

Reflection for Tuesday, March 27 (Day 30 of Lent)

Lately I have found myself thinking about procession and pilgrimage: how we move with mindfulness across a landscape that transforms us along the way; what propels us to set off down paths made sacred by those who have traveled before us; which roads draw us closer to God, and which ones draw us farther away from being aware of God’s presence.

There are times for venturing down a holy path that has physical substance, giving ourselves to traveling a real road that will alter us in ways we cannot predict. And then there are times for committing ourselves to a way that will not take us far in terms of physical distance but will draw us down interior pathways we have not explored before. The desert mothers and fathers of the early church well knew this latter journey. They often counseled staying put, wanting to make sure that physical travel wasn’t being treated as a substitute for interior work rather than an aid to it. Reflecting on this in her book The Forgotten Desert Mothers, Laura Swan writes, “The desert journey is one inch long and many miles deep.”

The road that Jesus traveled to Jerusalem in order to make his entrance that we celebrate on Palm Sunday was not terribly long in terms of physical distance. Yet it was miles deep, marked by years of preparation and prayer, discernment and courage as Jesus traveled farther into the fullness of who he was meant to become.

And what road do we travel to meet the Christ who comes toward us on that ancient way of procession and pilgrimage? What journey do we need to take, by inches and miles, in order to welcome him?

“My life’s work,” my Franciscan friend Father Carl once said, “is to go on a pilgrimage to who I am.” This week and beyond, may we make that pilgrimage.

Blessing for Palm Sunday

Blessed is the one
who comes to us
by the way of love
poured out with abandon.

Blessed is the one
who walks toward us
by the way of grace
that holds us fast.

Blessed is the one
who calls us to follow
in the way of blessing,
in the path of joy.

P.S. For previous reflections for Palm Sunday, please click the images or titles below.

Palm Sunday: The Way It Makes
(includes “Blessing of Palms”)

Palm Sunday: The Temple by Night
(for Mark 11.1-11)

Palm Sunday: Where the Way Leads

This reflection is part of the daily 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 learn more about the series and see where we’ve traveled this season. If you would like to receive these reflections via email, simply enter your address in the subscription signup box near the top of the sidebar.

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