Archive for the ‘Gospel of Mark’ Category

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 janrichardsonimages.com, where you can also order an art print of this image. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com 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 janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com 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 janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com 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 janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com 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 janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

2nd Sunday in Lent: For the Sake of the Gospel

February 28, 2012

For the Sake of the Gospel © Jan L. Richardson

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
—Mark 8.35

From a lectionary reading for Lent 2: Mark 8.31-38

Reflection for the Second Sunday in Lent (March 4)

Blessing in the Round

This blessing
cannot help it;
it’s the way
it was designed.

Lay it down
and it rises again.

Release it
and it returns.

Give it away
and it makes a path
back to you.

There is no explaining
how it delights
in reappearing
when you have ceased
to hold it,
no hiding the sly smile
it wears
when it shows up
at your door,
no mistaking the wonder
when it circles back around
just at the moment
you thought you had
spent it completely,
had poured it out
with abandon
where you saw
the deepest thirst for it,
had put it entirely
in the hands
of those desperate
in their hunger.

But here it is,
the perfect circle of it
pressing into your hand
that curls around it
and then lets go,
receiving
and releasing
and receiving again
like the breath
that does not belong to us
but sets us in motion.

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 previous reflections on this story (including Matthew’s version), click the images or titles below:

Blessing in the Shape of a Cross

Lent 2: In Which We Set Our Mind Somewhere

To Have without Holding

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


Day 10: Divine Things and Human Things

February 27, 2012

Divine Things and Human Things (click image to enlarge)

For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.
—Mark 8.33b

From a lectionary reading for Lent 2: Mark 8.31-38

Reflection for Saturday, March 3 (Day 10 of Lent)

And how do we untangle the two? So immersed in a world created by God and infused with the divine, how do we distinguish what is of God from what is not?

In our pilgrimage through Lent, the path keeps inviting us to practice discernment, to enter into the sorting and sifting that lie at the heart of this word and this season. These Lenten days ask us to open our eyes and to see our landscape—the world around us, the world within us—with greater clarity. As I move through these days, I pray for vision that will help me perceive the edges of things and for courage to make wise choices among them; choices that draw me deeper into the divine, from which it is so easy to become distracted.

But I pray also for this: that I may recognize the presence of God that infuses what is human and earthly. That I may have eyes to perceive how the lines blur. That I may work for a day when it will be impossible to discern and distinguish between the human and the divine, a day when we will no longer be able to say, This is of God, and this is not.

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

First Sunday of Lent: And the Angels Waited

February 23, 2012

And the Angels Waited © Jan L. Richardson

And the angels waited on him.
—Mark 1.13c

From a lectionary reading for Lent 1: Mark 1.9-15

Reflection for the First Sunday in Lent (February 26)

How will we see the angels if we don’t go into the wilderness? How will we recognize the help that God sends if we don’t seek out the places beyond what is comfortable to us, if we don’t press into terrain that challenges our habitual perspective? How will we find the delights that God provides even—and especially—in the desert places?

Blessing that Meets You
in the Wilderness

After the
desert stillness.

After the
wrestling.

After the
hours
and days
and weeks
of emptying.

After the
hungering
and the
thirsting.

After the
opening
and seeing
and knowing.

Let this blessing be
the first sweetness
that touches
your lips

the bread
that falls into
your arms

the cup
that welcoming hands
press into
yours.

Let this blessing be
the road that
returns you.

Let it be
the strength to carry
the wilderness
home.

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

P.S. For reflections on this story from previous years, click the images or titles below:

Lent 1: A Blessing for the Wilderness
(Includes a blessing that you’re welcome to use in worship.)

Lent 1: Into the Wilderness

Lent 1: A River Runs through Him

Lent 1: Discernment and Dessert in the Desert
(Includes “Desert Prayer,” which you’re welcome to use in worship.)

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

 

Day 4: With the Wild Beasts

February 22, 2012

 With the Wild Beasts © Jan L. Richardson (click image to enlarge)

And he was with the wild beasts . . .
—Mark 1.13b

From a lectionary reading for Lent 1: Mark 1.9-15

Reflection for Saturday, February 25 (Day 4 of Lent)

I do not know why I should have it in my mind that these wild beasts come to comfort Jesus rather than eat him. But there it is. Perhaps it’s that word with. The wild beasts come not to stalk or attack or devour—as can happen in wild places, so let us not wax too romantic about the outdoors. They seem to come, rather, to be present to Jesus. To serve as companions. To be witnesses to his wrestling and provide solace in this space apart.

In this threshold place between what Jesus has known and the life that lies ahead of him, the creatures come as a reminder that God will not be domesticated, will not be tamed, is friendly with what lives by instinct and intuition. Within the God who fashioned and ordered the universe, something yet remains wild.

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

Day 3: Into the Wilderness

February 22, 2012

 Tempted © Jan L. Richardson (click image to enlarge)

He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan . . .
—Mark 1.13a

From a lectionary reading for Lent 1: Mark 1.9-15

Reflection for Friday, February 24 (Day 3 of Lent)

Still dripping with the waters of the Jordan, Jesus is poised on the brink of his public ministry. Yet instead of turning toward the people whom, in the days to come, he will heal and teach and challenge and love, he first turns his face toward the wilderness. Toward solitude. Toward a place where, shed of everything that is familiar to him, he will wrestle and reckon with who he is and what he has come to do.

Satan comes to that forty-day place. Mark’s version of the story omits the details of the temptations that Jesus’ visitor offers. We could turn to Matthew and Luke to remind us of the specific ways that Satan seeks to entice Jesus. In their Gospels we could see how Jesus, shimmering with the clarity the wilderness can provide, turns away from each temptation that Satan brings, the temptations he has designed to target what he thinks are Jesus’ soft spots. Or we could instead enter into the wilderness with Jesus, travel into that landscape to which Lent draws us, and let Mark’s omission of the details serve as an invitation to us.

In the wilderness of Lent, what temptations might a visitor offer to you? What enticements would come to you, tailoring themselves—as temptations always do—especially to fit you, molding themselves with precision to the places where you are most vulnerable? What comes to distract you from your path? How might you enter this wilderness season as a space to see more clearly: who you are, what you have come to do?

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