Archive for the ‘Gospel of Matthew’ Category

Epiphany Day: Where the Map Begins

January 3, 2017

Image: An Ancient Light © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany Day: Matthew 2.1-12

“We observed his star at its rising,
and have come to pay him homage.”
—Matthew 2.2

Friends, Happy New Year! I am grateful to be opening a new chapter of The Painted Prayerbook with you as this year begins.

With Epiphany approaching on January 6, I want to share a blessing with you that I first offered here in 2010 (in this post, which includes a reflection on the story of the journey of the Magi). Like so many blessings that I wrote before Gary died, this one rings differently for me now. As I work to make a new path so altered from the one Gary and I had dreamed together, it comes as a grace to remember the story of the wise ones who set out with only a star to guide them.

If you are feeling mapless, if you are needing light for an uncertain path, this is for you.

Where the Map Begins
A Blessing for Epiphany

This is not
any map you know.
Forget longitude.
Forget latitude.
Do not think
of distances
or of plotting
the most direct route.
Astrolabe, sextant, compass:
these will not help you here.

This is the map
that begins with a star.
This is the chart
that starts with fire,
with blazing,
with an ancient light
that has outlasted
generations, empires,
cultures, wars.

Look starward once,
then look away.
Close your eyes
and see how the map
begins to blossom
behind your lids,
how it constellates,
its lines stretching out
from where you stand.

You cannot see it all,
cannot divine the way
it will turn and spiral,
cannot perceive how
the road you walk
will lead you finally inside,
through the labyrinth
of your own heart
and belly
and lungs.

But step out
and you will know
what the wise who traveled
this path before you
knew:
the treasure in this map
is buried
not at journey’s end
but at its beginning.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “An Ancient Light,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Advent special! During this season, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up. (Extended through Epiphany!)

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Easter Sunday: A Blessing for the Rising

March 26, 2016

RisenImage: Risen © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Easter Sunday:
John 20.1-18 or Luke 24.1-12

Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here, but has risen.

—Luke 24.5

Risen
For Easter Day

If you are looking
for a blessing,
do not linger
here.

Here
is only
emptiness,
a hollow,
a husk
where a blessing
used to be.

This blessing
was not content
in its confinement.

It could not abide
its isolation,
the unrelenting silence,
the pressing stench
of death.

So if it is
a blessing
you seek,
open your own
mouth.

Fill your lungs
with the air
this new
morning brings

and then
release it
with a cry.

Hear how the blessing
breaks forth
in your own voice,

how your own lips
form every word
you never dreamed
to say.

See how the blessing
circles back again,
wanting you to
repeat it,
but louder,

how it draws you,
pulls you,
sends you
to proclaim
its only word:

Risen.
Risen.
Risen.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Risen,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Holy Saturday: In the Breath, Another Breathing

March 25, 2016

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

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

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

Holy Saturday.

This day between the dying and the rising.

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

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

Still.

In the Breath, Another Breathing
For Holy Saturday

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

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

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

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

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Breath Will Come to the Desolate Bones,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Ash Wednesday: A Blessing in the Ashes

February 8, 2016

Ash Wedesday CrossImage: Ash Wednesday Cross © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Let me hear joy and gladness.
—Psalm 51.8

We buried my husband’s ashes last April, two weeks after Easter. Gary’s ashes rest now in a stand of palmetto trees on the farm that’s been in my family for generations; the farm where, just a few short years earlier, Gary and I were married on a gorgeous spring day. As our beautiful family gathered by the palmettos last April, in sight of the barn where we had been married so recently, I was astonished by the brevity of the span between those two days.

On that day last April, I told our family about how, as Gary and I had planned our wedding, we knew we wanted it to be a day of blessing. So blessings wove throughout that day of celebration, offered by family and friends during the ceremony and reception. I also told our family that as the day of burying Gary’s ashes drew near, I had longed for it to be a day of blessing as well. And so, in the midst of our sorrow and grief, we offered blessings in celebration of the astonishing life that had come among us, and that lingers with us still.

In that spirit, as this Ash Wednesday approaches, I want to share a blessing with you. It’s one that I’ve shared here before. I am sharing it again because this blessing—which I wrote before Gary’s death—is one that I need to claim for myself, now more than ever. I need to claim the blessing that lives among the ashes. I want to be marked by that blessing, and by the Holy One who knows what to do with dust.

As Ash Wednesday and Lent draw near once again, what blessing do you need to claim from the ashes?

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace

BelovedWith Gary’s wondrous son on the day we buried Gary’s ashes.


Previous posts:
I have a number of reflections and blessings for Ash Wednesday; to visit these, begin with this post at Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust.

For a broken heart: If Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift in every season. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible.

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Epiphany: For Those Who Have Far to Travel

January 2, 2016

TheWiseOnesImage: The Wise Ones © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels for Epiphany: Matthew 2.1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born
in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East
came to Jerusalem.

—Matthew 2.1

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
A Blessing for Epiphany

If you could see
the journey whole,
you might never
undertake it,
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping,
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go,
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions,
beyond fatigue,
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know:
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again;
each promise becomes
part of the path,
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace


EPIPHANY UPDATE:
I have a gift for you! My new retreat for Women’s Christmas (which some folks in Ireland and beyond celebrate on Epiphany/January 6) is hot off the press. It’s a retreat that you can download at no cost and use anytime you wish throughout the year. For a link to the retreat and more about Women’s Christmas, click the Wise Women image or the title below:

Wise Women Also Came
Women’s Christmas 2016: Home By Another Way

I would love for you to pass along the gift by sharing the link with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, or any other way you’re connected.

New from Jan Richardson
CIRCLE OF GRACE: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Circle of GraceWithin the struggle, joy, pain, and delight that attend our life, there is an invisible circle of grace that enfolds and encompasses us in every moment. Blessings help us to perceive this circle of grace, to find our place of belonging within it, and to receive the strength the circle holds for us. from the Introduction

Beginning in Advent and moving through the sacred seasons of the Christian year, Circle of Grace offers Jan’s distinctive and poetic blessings that illuminate the treasures each season offers to us. A beautiful gift for the new year. Available in print and ebook.

Order the book

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Wise Ones,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Advent special! During this season, subscribe to Jan Richardson Images and receive unlimited digital downloads for only $125 per year (regularly $165). Click Subscribe to sign up. (Extended through Epiphany!)

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust

February 13, 2015

Ash Wedesday CrossImage: Ash Wednesday Cross © Jan Richardson

Readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10
; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Let me hear joy and gladness.
–Psalm 51.8

It is a strange anointing, this cross that comes to mark us as Lent begins. Ashes, dust, dirt: the stuff we walk upon, that we sweep away, that we work to get rid of, now comes to remind us who we are, where we are from, where we are bound.

How terrible. And how marvelous, that God should feel so tender toward the dust as to create us from it, and return us to it, breathing through us all the while. Even after releasing us from the blessed dust at the last, God continues to breathe us toward whatever it is we are becoming.

Ash Wednesday hits close to home once again. My husband’s ashes remain in the keeping of my brother, waiting in a beautiful wooden box that Scott has built for them. This spring we will bury the ashes on the family farm where Gary and I were married not so long ago. And we will breathe, and we will bless the earth from which we have come, and we will give thanks for the astonishing gift that passed too briefly among us but whose love, tenacious as ever, goes with us still.

This is a blessing I wrote for Ash Wednesday a couple of years ago and want to share with you as the day approaches again. I would also love to share the coming season with you on the new online retreat I’m offering for Lent. If you haven’t already signed up for the Beloved Lenten Retreat, you’ll find info about it below.

Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

–Jan Richardson

Previous posts: I have a number of reflections and blessings for Ash Wednesday; to visit these, begin with last year’s post at Ash Wednesday: The Hands that Hold the Ashes.

For a broken heart: If Valentine’s Day is a difficult day for you or someone you know, I invite you to visit A Blessing for the Brokenhearted.

An invitation into Lent…

During Lent, my creative energies will be going toward a new online retreat that I’ll be offering for the season. I would love to share this journey with you! Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, the retreat is designed as a space of elegant simplicity that you can enter from wherever you are, in the way that works best for you. You don’t need to show up at a particular place or time in order to join in the retreat.

I sometimes hear from folks who say, “I’d love to do this, but I don’t have time for a retreat!” I completely get that! So I have especially designed this retreat so that you can engage as much or as little as you wish. Rather than being one more thing to add to your Lenten schedule, this retreat weaves easily and simply through your days.

For more info and to register, please visit our overview page at Online Lenten Retreat. In addition to the individual rate, we have group rates available for those who want to share the retreat together near or far. You can even give the Lenten retreat as a gift! If you have questions about the retreat, or concerns about things that you think might hinder you from sharing in the journey, be sure to check out our FAQ page (you’ll find a link on the overview page). The Beloved Retreat is new for 2015.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Ash Wednesday Cross,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Love Is the Most Ancient Law

October 23, 2014

Love Is the Most Ancient LawImage: Love Is the Most Ancient Law © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 25/Ordinary 30/Pentecost +20: Matthew 22.34-46

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
This is the greatest and first commandment.”
– Matthew 22.37-38

Love Is the Most Ancient Law
A Blessing

Open to it
and you will know
how love is
its own blessing
and most ancient
of laws.

Pursue it
entirely
with everything
in you—
your heart
(all)
your soul
(all)
your mind
(all).

Spend it
all—
this love
so generous
this love
that goes out
to each
it finds
this love
that gives itself
in lavish and
unimagined measure
everywhere and
to all—

yourself
not least.


For previous reflections on this gospel passage, visit Crossing the Country, Thinking of Love and Heart of the Matter.

Now open!

ILLUMINATED 2014 — Registration now open!
Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Advent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? I would love for you to join us for this all-new online retreat that easily fits into the rhythm of your days. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, ILLUMINATED 2014 will be a great way to journey toward Christmas from anywhere you are, in the way that fits you best. Begins November 30. For info and registration, visit ILLUMINATED 2014. Group & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Love Is the Most Ancient Law,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

About the Enfolding

October 8, 2014

Getting Garbed-detailImage: Getting Garbed (detail)  © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 23/Ordinary 28/Pentecost +18: Matthew 22.1-14

Table by table, I have made my way from Florida to Toronto. I am thankful beyond measure for the hospitality and solace I have received on this adventure. For those who don’t know, I am nearly two weeks into a big road trip; this is part of how I am listening my way into the life that’s unfolding in the wake of Gary’s dying.

This week’s gospel lection brings us to a curious parable that prompts questions about hospitality, heaven, and God’s own table. I have written previously about this passage and invite you to visit that post (the link is below). You can imagine that this reflection, written as Gary and I were looking toward our wedding, is bittersweet to me now. Yet the experience of our wedding celebration and our life together shapes how I look at this week’s passage about the wedding banquet—a passage that stirs questions about how I am seeking the enfolding of God on my path, even as I wrestle with what faith looks like in the midst of stunning grief.

By way of a blessing, I want to offer you a prayer that I wrote for my book Night Visions. This day and every day, may you know yourself enfolded by the love of the God who calls us to the feast.

Blessing

In your mercy
clothe me

in your protection
cloak me

in your care
enfold me

in your grace
array me.

With your justice
dress me

for your labor
garb me

by your love
envelop me

and fit me
for your work.

The blessing is from Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas.


For a previous reflection on the gospel reading, click the image or title below.

Getting Garbed
Getting Garbed

(And for a follow-up in which I reveal that my wedding anxiety dreams did not, in fact, prove prophetic, see the post Fitted for the Wedding Feast.)

Looking ahead…

Illuminated Retreat

ILLUMINATED 2014 coming soon! I am looking forward to offering an all-new online retreat for Advent. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, ILLUMINATED 2014 will be a great way to journey through Advent from anywhere you are, in the way that fits you best. The retreat will begin on November 30, and I would love for you to join us. Registration and more info coming soon. Group & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Getting Garbed,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

The Hardest Blessing

September 9, 2014

ForgivingImage: Forgiving © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 19/Ordinary 24/Pentecost +14: Matthew 18.21-35

Jesus said to him, “Not seven times,
but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
– Matthew 18.22

As I’ve been pondering this parable of Jesus—one of his most challenging, which is really saying something—I have found myself wondering how many of us have absorbed any of these beliefs about forgiveness:

Forgiveness means excusing or overlooking the harm that has been done to us and saying that everything is okay.

Forgiveness means allowing those who have hurt us to persist in their behavior.

Forgiving requires forgetting what has happened.

Forgiveness is something we can do at will, and always all at once.

If we have absorbed any of these distorted beliefs about forgiveness, it can come as both a shock and a relief to learn that such ideas would be foreign to Jesus. Clearly he expects us—requires us—to forgive. Yet in his teaching about forgiveness, nowhere does Jesus lay upon us the kinds of burdens we have often placed upon ourselves—burdens that can make one of the most difficult spiritual practices nearly impossible.

The heart of forgiveness is not to be found in excusing harm or allowing it to go unchecked. It is to be found, rather, in choosing to say that although our wounds will change us, we will not allow them to forever define us. Forgiveness does not ask us to forget the wrong done to us but instead to resist the ways it seeks to get its poisonous hooks in us. Forgiveness asks us to acknowledge and reckon with the damage so that we will not live forever in its grip.

Sometimes we are given the grace to forgive quickly. Sometimes the grace to forgive takes a long, long time to receive. And so forgiveness often requires practice. It takes choosing to work at it. We might have to chip away at it again and again and again. Seventy-seven times, at least, as Jesus says in this passage.

Forgiveness might well be the hardest blessing we will ever offer—or receive. As with any difficult practice, it’s important to ask not only for the strength we will need for it, but also the grace: the grace that will, as we practice again and again, begin to shimmer through our wounds, drawing us toward the healing and freedom we could hardly have imagined at the outset.

Is there some forgiveness you are being asked to practice? Are there any ideas about forgiveness that you might need to release—or take on—in order to enter this practice? How might it be to ask not only for the strength but also for the grace you need to forgive another—or yourself?

The Hardest Blessing

If we cannot
lay aside the wound
then let us say
it will not always
bind us.

Let us say
the damage
will not eternally
determine our path.

Let us say
the line of our life
will not forever follow
the tearing, the rending
we have borne.

Let us say
that forgiveness
can take some practice,
can take some patience,
can take a long
and struggling time.

Let us say
that to offer
the hardest blessing
we will need
the deepest grace,
that to forgive
the sharpest pain
we will need
the fiercest love,
that to release
the ancient ache
we will need
new strength
for every day.

Let us say
the wound
will not be
our final home;
that through it
runs a road,
a way we would not
have chosen
but on which
we will finally see
forgiveness,
so long practiced,
coming toward us
shining with the joy
so well deserved.


For a previous reflection on this passage, click the image or link below.

Seventy Times Seven
Seventy Times Seven and Nine-Eleven

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Forgiving,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

Where Two, Where Three

September 1, 2014

Kinfolk
Image: Kinfolk © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 18/Ordinary 23/Pentecost +13: Matthew 18.15-20

Five years ago, on Labor Day weekend, the love of my life asked me to marry him. I was on Tybee Island, Georgia, with a group of my girlfriends from seminary who get together every year at this time. Gary had booked a concert in nearby Savannah that same weekend, and my friends and I drove over to see him. The concert hall was already packed when we arrived, but we managed to find a few seats near the back. Halfway through the concert, in front of a few hundred people and these dear friends, Gary jumped off the stage, ran the length of the hall to where we were sitting, and asked me to spend my life with him.

I was with these friends again this Labor Day weekend. In the midst of my sorrow, it was sweet beyond measure to be with this circle of women who hold this memory for me. I was thrilled to learn that one of my friends still had photos on her camera from the morning after the proposal, when they invited Gary over to the Tybee house for a celebratory brunch. (You can see one of those treasured photos below.)

In the wake of Gary’s dying, I cannot say I have become any more clear about what Jesus means when he says, in this week’s gospel reading, “If two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” But I can tell you that when Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” I see this circle of friends who have enfolded me in times of deepest joy and keenest sorrow, bearing the presence of Christ in their midst.

Where Two, Where Three
A Blessing

Take my hand
and you will see
how this blessing
finds its way
to us
not as if
we each held
a piece of
its puzzle

but as if
it cannot resist
this space that opens
between us,
this place that is made
where we two meet,
where we three touch,
where we gather

with our eyes
open
with our hearts
open
with our hands
open
one to another

and on our lips
the name of Love,
all the blessing
we need ever
know.


EngagedEngaged


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

For What Binds Us
For What Binds Us

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