Archive for the ‘Ordinary Time’ Category

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 Solace of Other Tables

September 29, 2014

The Welcome TableImage: The Welcome Table © Jan Richardson

Just a few days ago, I set out on a road trip that will carry me across many miles over the coming weeks. I have found that traveling seems to be some of the medicine my grieving soul most needs at this point, so I have packed up my laptop and art supplies and am giving myself to the road. Although I know some of the geographic locations I am bound for, I know the highway will hold a few mysteries. This is part of its appeal.

One of the most compelling things about taking to the road is that it will bring me to the tables of friends and family. Mealtimes are among the times I miss Gary most. Even as I am grateful for memories of countless meals we shared in the communion of our daily life, his empty space at the table is too stark and raw just now. So when I receive invitations to be with friends and family—like the one from my sister, who has said, on more than one occasion, Come to Toronto, we’ll feed you—I am drawn to go.

In this long and sorrowing season, I am thankful for the solace of other tables, for those spaces of welcome where there is always room for me. With World Communion Sunday coming up this week, I have those inviting tables especially on my mind and wanted to share with you this image I created some years ago. It’s called The Welcome Table and was commissioned by Saint Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, Florida, where I once served as a pastor. Over the course of two years, this large piece of art (about 4 x 6 feet) took shape on the small dining table in the cozy studio apartment where I lived before Gary and I were married. As I created this image over those years, I thought of so many tables I have savored. Those memories are embedded in this image of Christ sharing the table with his friends: a table where, as you can see, there is always a space to welcome one more.

World Communion Sunday reminds us that Christ calls us to a table where the welcome is wide. He offers us a space with bread and wine in abundance to give solace to our sorrow and to stir our joy. Even as Christ invites us to this table, he does not mean for us to linger here forever. He gives us sustenance in order to send us forth, carrying a space of welcome within us, called to offer it to those we meet: one more, and one more, and one more…

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blessing for World Communion Sunday. I called it “And the Table Will Be Wide,” and I posted it with another table image that I titled The Best Supper. I would love to share this blessing and artwork with you; you can find them by clicking the image or title below. As we draw near to World Communion Sunday, may you find welcome and solace at the table, and may you receive the sustenance and joy of the Christ who sends us into a hungering world.

The Best Supper
And the Table Will Be Wide


For a reflection on the Gospel reading for this Sunday, click the image or title below.

Violence in the Vineyard
Violence in the Vineyard


For a blessing for the Feast of Saint Francis (coming up on October 4), click the image or title below.

Even the Sparrow
Blessing the Animals

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 “The Welcome Table,” 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.

Blessing That Becomes Empty

September 22, 2014

In the EmptyingImage: In the Emptying © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Epistles, Year A, Proper 21/Ordinary 26/Pentecost +16: Philippians 2.1-13

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though
he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited, but emptied himself.

– Philippians 2.5-7a

The hollowing began the moment Gary died. In the weeks that followed, it came as a physical sensation: in the center of my chest, an emptying nearly tangible, a hollowing out of the heart and of the life I had known.

Last week I visited with a friend of mine whose husband died a year and a half before Gary. We spoke of the hollowing. We talked about how there is nothing that will ever fix the emptiness. And we spoke, too, of how the emptiness can become a space that, in one of the mysteries of grief, leaves us more and more open to the receiving of joy.

The hollowing happens. Life will empty us out, whether we will it or not. Yet Paul reminds us this week that we belong to the Christ who freely chose to empty himself: who gave himself completely in a way that, paradoxically, did not diminish him but helped to reveal the fullness of who he was, and is. Encompassed by the Christ who enfolds our emptiness in his own, we become free to choose how we will respond to the emptying. In the emptying that naturally happens in life, as well as in the emptying Christ asks us to seek out and embrace, how will we allow the hollowing to open our hearts to the world we are called to serve in joy and in love?

This is a blessing I wrote during a Lenten season in which part of this passage from Philippians was among the lectionary readings. As you attend to the empty spaces—in your life and in the world—may those spaces open wide to the joy that comes.

Blessing That Becomes Empty
As It Goes

This blessing
keeps nothing
for itself.
You can find it
by following the path
of what it has let go,
of what it has learned
it can live without.

Say this blessing out loud
a few times
and you will hear
the hollow places
within it,
how it echoes
in a way
that gives your voice
back to you
as if you had never
heard it before.

Yet this blessing
would not be mistaken
for any other,
as if,
in its emptying,
it had lost
what makes it
most itself.

It simply desires
to have room enough
to welcome
what comes.

Today,
it’s you.

So come and sit
in this place
made holy
by its hollows.
You think you have
too much to do,
too little time,
too great a weight
of responsibility
that none but you
can carry.

I tell you,
lay it down.
Just for a moment,
if that’s what you
can manage at first.
Five minutes.
Lift up your voice—
in laughter,
in weeping,
it does not matter—
and let it ring against
these spacious walls.

Do this
until you can hear
the spaces within
your own breathing.
Do this
until you can feel
the hollow in your heart
where something
is letting go,
where something
is making way.


For a reflection on this week’s Gospel reading, click the image or link below.

Where God Grows
Where God Grows

Looking ahead…

If you’re planning for World Communion Sunday (October 5), I invite you to visit the post below, which includes my blessing in celebration of the day.

The Best Supper
And the Table Will Be Wide

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “In the Emptying,” 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

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Kinfolk,” 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.

Blessing at the Burning Bush

August 24, 2014

The Burning Bush
Image: The Burning Bush © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Year A, Proper 17/Ordinary 22/Pentecost +12: Exodus 3.1-15

God called to him out of the bush,
“Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”
– Exodus 3.4

I have recently returned home from Minnesota, where I was on retreat at Saint John’s Abbey with wondrous folks from my community of Saint Brigid of Kildare Monastery. At Compline (night prayer) on the opening night of our retreat, we heard these words from the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict:

What, dear brothers and sisters, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?

Delightful is probably not the first word that comes to Moses’ mind on the day that he hears God calling to him from a bush that blazes but is not consumed. Maybe terrifying, Moses thinks. Maybe overwhelming. Moses hides his face, but he does not leave. He does not turn away from the one who speaks to him and knows his name.

Nearly every story in the scriptures seems, in one way or another, to ask us: Will we open our eyes, our ears? What will we do with what we see, with what we hear? How will we bear the terrible delight of the blessing that blazes before us, that burns within us?

Blessing at the Burning Bush

You will have to decide
if you want this—
want the blessing
that comes to you
on an ordinary day
when you are minding
your own path,
bent on the task before you
that you have done
a hundred times,
a thousand.

You will have to choose
for yourself
whether you will attend
to the signs,
whether you will open your eyes
to the searing light, the heat,
whether you will open
your ears, your heart
to the voice
that knows your name,
that tells you this place
where you stand—
this ground so familiar
and therefore unregarded—
is, in fact,
holy.

You will have to discern
whether you have
defenses enough
to rebuff the call,
excuses sufficient
to withstand the pull
of what blazes before you;
whether you will
hide your face,
will turn away
back toward—
what, exactly?

No path from here
could ever be
ordinary again,
could ever become
unstrange to you
whose seeing
has been scorched
beyond all salving.

You will know your path
not by how it shines
before you
but by how it burns
within you,
leaving you whole
as you go from here
blazing with
your inarticulate,
your inescapable
yes.


For reflections on the Gospel reading, click the image or title below.

Blessing Cross
Blessing in the Shape of a Cross

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “The Burning Bush,” 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.

Fierce Blessing

August 18, 2014

StreamsOfMercy
Image: Streams of Mercy © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Year A, Proper 16/Ordinary 21/Pentecost +11: Exodus 1.8-2.10

The story of the Exodus begins in the hearts of the women. The midwives Shiphrah and Puah, the mother of Moses, his sister, the daughter of Pharaoh: without them, no Moses, no Exodus, no freedom.

There is a beautiful resonance between the story of these women and the story of the Canaanite mother whose lively exchange with Jesus we saw last week. Each in her own way is bent on tracing the circle wider. They give themselves, often at great risk, to save the life of another. Clever, creative, and fiercely devoted to those in their care, each woman displays a sacred stubbornness that will forever alter the story of the people of God.

And us? What, and whom, will we choose to be fierce in protecting? How will we give ourselves to help make possible the life and the freedom of another?

Fierce Blessing

Believe me when I say
there is nothing
this blessing would not do
to protect you
to save you
to encompass you.

This blessing
would stand between you
and every danger,
every evil,
every harm
and hurt.

This blessing
would dare
to wade with you
into the waters that come
bearing life.

It would make
a way for you
through the waters that come
threatening death.

I cannot explain
how fierce
this blessing feels
about you
but I can tell you
it has more than pledged
itself to you;
it would lay down
its life for you
and not once
look back in regret
nor go in sorrow
for what it has chosen
to give.

And you—
so deeply blessed,
so utterly encompassed—
what will you save
in turn?

Not because
it is owed
but because
you cannot imagine
failing to pass along
this grace
that casts its circle
so wide,
this love
that flows
so deep
through this perilous
and precious life.


For a reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel reading, click the image or title below.

A Thin Place
The Thin Man

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Streams of Mercy,” 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.

Stubborn Blessing

August 11, 2014

MercyImage: Mercy © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 15/Ordinary 20/Pentecost +10: Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28

A Canaanite woman from that region
came out and started shouting,

“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David;
my daughter is tormented by a demon.”
– Matthew 15:22

Clearly Jesus didn’t realize who he was messing with that day. Or did he? Perhaps Jesus knew precisely what he was doing and chose to use this encounter as a teaching moment for his hearers. Or perhaps he was simply in a stubborn mood and found himself facing someone who could match him easily, stubborn for stubborn. Either way, the story shows us that when it comes to saving what needs saving, being merely nice and pliant won’t win the day, or the life. Sometimes we need to dig in our heels and do some hollering.

Stubborn Blessing

Don’t tell me no.
I have seen you
feed the thousands,
seen miracles spill
from your hands
like water, like wine,
seen you with circles
and circles of crowds
pressed around you
and not one soul
turned away.

Don’t start with me.

I am saying
you can close the door
but I will keep knocking.
You can go silent
but I will keep shouting.
You can tighten the circle
but I will trace a bigger one
around you,
around the life of my child
who will tell you
no one surpasses a mother
for stubbornness.

I am saying
I know what you
can do with crumbs
and I am claiming mine,
every morsel and scrap
you have up your sleeve.
Unclench your hand,
your heart.
Let the scraps fall
like manna,
like mercy
for the life
of my child,
the life of
the world.

Don’t you tell me no.


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

The Feast Beneath
The Feast Beneath

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Mercy,” 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.

Walk Across That Water

August 5, 2014

Image: Walk Across That Water © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Year A, Proper 14/Ordinary 19/Pentecost +9: Matthew 14.22-33

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.
– Matthew 14.31

Eight months have passed since Gary’s death: a moment, an aching eternity. I can tell you that I know what it means to be borne up when the waters overwhelm. I know the grace of hands that reach out to carry and console and give courage. I am learning—again, anew—what faith is, how this word that we sometimes toss around so casually holds depths within depths that will draw us beyond nearly everything we once believed.

This is some of what I know right now about faith:

That faith is not something I can summon by a sheer act of will.

That it lives and breathes in the community that encompasses us.

That I cannot force faith but can ask for it, can pray that it will make its way to me and bear me up over the next wave, and the next.

That it comes.

That I can lean into it.

That it will propel me not only toward the Christ who calls me, but also back toward the boat that holds my life, incomprehensible in both its pain and its grace.

What are you knowing about faith right now? Where is it bearing you?

Blessing that Bears the Wind, the Wave

That we will risk
the drenching
by which we
are drawn
toward the voice
that calls us,
the love
that catches us,
the faith
that carries us
beyond the wind,
the wave.

Blessing of Song: At the time of his death, Gary had nearly finished recording a wondrous new Song Chapel CD. One song, titled “Let Me Out of This Boat,” was inspired by this passage. I would love to share the song with you; you can listen to it by clicking the arrow on the audio player below. [For my email subscribers: if you don’t see the audio player, click here to go to The Painted Prayerbook site, where you can view the player in this post.]

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage (which includes “Blessing on the Waves”), click the image or title below:

Night Passage
Blessing on the Waves

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Walk Across That Water,” 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.

Transfiguration Sunday: When Glory

February 23, 2014


Image: Transfiguration II © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Transfiguration Sunday, Year A (March 2): Matthew 17.1-9

And he was transfigured before them,
and his face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became dazzling white.
—Matthew 17.1-2

I am painting again. For the first time since Gary went into the hospital—more than three months ago now—I have picked up my brushes and palette knives and paints. It has been a huge threshold to cross; I had to pack up my art supplies and leave town in order to do it.

Gary has been such a part of my creative process that it’s hard to imagine how to create on my own again. Our studios were on opposite sides of the house, and we regularly traveled (or hollered) back and forth between them as we worked. My husband was a remarkable thinking partner, possessed of a keen ability to notice what was happening in a painting or a piece of writing and to help me find my way when I became stuck. He saw everything—every image, every word—before I released it into the world. He sometimes saw things even before I did, pointing toward possibilities that were stirring but I hadn’t yet perceived.

Whether on our individual projects or the ones we collaborated on, our process was deeply intertwined. Having experienced that for years, the prospect of beginning to paint again in my too-empty house felt daunting, so I spent the past week at my parents’ home, where I commandeered the kitchen table and set up a makeshift studio. I wept when I sat down before the blank surface. And then I picked up my paintbrush and began. I hardly knew how to begin, but I began.

The week has provided a powerful reminder of a curious tension that the creative process (and life) asks us to hold: to claim and live into a vision, while at the same time remaining open to the surprises that occur—those moments when, after weeks or months or sometimes years, our faithfulness in showing up and tending the vision suddenly draws us into a dramatic shift, a new way of seeing and working. Even as we lean in the direction of our vision, the process asks us to relax our hold on our fixed ideas and habitual patterns, so that we can recognize what waits to emerge.

I didn’t intentionally time my return to painting to occur in such close proximity to Transfiguration Sunday. Yet I have found myself noticing the resonance, and paying attention to what stirs for me in this story of the three who followed Jesus up the mountain and had to follow him back down again. Life has required me, in a painfully vivid fashion, to release what I have counted on most. As I navigate the new terrain of my life, I am continually faced with choices—in my painting, in my writing, in the agonizing sorting of Gary’s things, in every aspect of every unfolding day—about what to hold onto, and what to let go. In the midst of all this, our story this week asks me, In all the changing, what abides? In the leaving and letting go, what gift still goes with us? How will we allow ourselves to be transformed by the transfigured Christ who accompanies us in every place?

The story of the Transfiguration is not simply about learning to leave the mountaintop, or about releasing what we have grown attached to. It’s not just about resisting our desire to turn moments of transcendence into monuments. The story of the Transfiguration is about opening our eyes to glory, allowing that glory to alter us, and becoming willing to walk where it leads us. The story urges us to trust that what we have seen, what we have known, will go with us. It assures us that the gifts received on the mountaintop will continue to illuminate us not only on level ground but even when we walk in the valley of the shadow.

When Glory
A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday

That when glory comes
we will open our eyes
to see it.

That when glory shows up
we will let ourselves
be overcome
not by fear
but by the love
it bears.

That when glory shines
we will bring it
back with us
all the way
all the way
all the way down.


BELOVED: An Online Journey into Lent & Easter
Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Lent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? Join us for this online retreat that easily fits into the flow (or chaos!) of your days, inviting you into an elegantly simple space to reflect on your journey and find sustenance for your path. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat is a great way to journey toward Easter, from anywhere you are. Click Online Lenten Retreat or the image below for details and registration. Individual, group, and congregational rates are available!

For previous reflections for Transfiguration Sunday, click the images or titles below:


Transfiguration Sunday: Dazzling



Transfiguration: Back to the Drawing Board



Transfiguration Sunday: Show and (Don’t) Tell

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Transfiguration II,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print—just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section when you click the link to the image on the JRI site.) 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.