Blessing the Animals

September 23, 2013


Image: Even the Sparrow (detail) © Jan L. Richardson

With the Feast of Saint Francis coming up on October 4, many churches are planning a Blessing of the Animals service in proximity to the day. In honor of the occasion, and in gratitude for the animals who have graced my life, here’s a new blessing for you.

Blessing the Animals

You who created them
and called them good:
bless again these creatures
who come to us
as a blessing
fashioned of fur
or feather
or fin,
formed of flesh
that breathes with
your own breath,
that you have made
from sheer delight,
that you have given
in dazzling variety.

Bless them
who curl themselves
around our hearts
who twine themselves
through our days
who companion us
in our labor
who call us
to come and play.

Bless them
who will never be
entirely tamed
and so remind us
that you love
what is wild,
that you rejoice
in what lives close
to the earth,
that your heart beats
in the heart of these creatures
you have entrusted
to our care.

In memory of Zeke, who always won our battles over who had ownership of my drafting table.

blog-Zeke


P.S.
For a previous reflection on the Feast of Saint Francis, click the image or title below.

Saint Francis
Feast of St. Francis

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Even the Sparrow (detail)” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

A Blessing in the Dust

June 30, 2013


Image: A Blessing in the Dust © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +7, Year C: Luke 10.1-11, 16-20

But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you,
go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town
that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.
Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 
– Luke 10.10-11

Knowing when to stay, knowing when to leave: this is one of the most challenging invitations for discernment that we will ever encounter.

There are times, after all, for leaning into the resistance that meets us; times when God calls us to engage the difficulty and struggle that will shape and form us in a way that ease and comfort never can. There are muscles—in our body, in our soul—that can be developed only by pressing through the resistance; not with pride, not with the utter conviction that we are in the right, but with the humility that enables us to summon our intention and will and open ourselves to the grace that carries us through situations that we cannot navigate on our own. There is ground that becomes holy only when we remain long enough to see the blessing that can emerge from struggle, that shimmers through only after the dust the struggle kicks up finally begins to settle.

And then there are times for leaving; times when—as Jesus counsels his disciples—the holy thing to do is to shake the dust from our feet and leave behind a place that is not meant for us.

This blessing is for those times.

A Blessing in the Dust

You thought the blessing
would come
in the staying.
In casting your lot
with this place,
these people.
In learning the art
of remaining,
of abiding.

And now you stand
on the threshold
again.
The home you had
hoped for,
had ached for,
is behind you—
not yours, after all.

The clarity comes
as small comfort,
perhaps,
but it comes:
illumination enough
for the next step.

As you go,
may you feel
the full weight
of your gifts
gathered up
in your two hands,
the complete measure
of their grace
in your heart that knows
there is a place
for them,
for the treasure
that you bear.

I promise you
there is a blessing
in the leaving,
in the dust shed
from your shoes
as you walk toward home—
not the one you left
but the one that waits ahead,
the one that already
reaches out for you
in welcome, in gladness
for the gifts
that none but you
could bring.

For previous reflections on this story, click the images or titles below:


Mapping the Mysteries



Are You Coming or Going?


P.S.
 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook! Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot! For a glimpse of the Guild, visit this post: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “A Blessing in the Dust,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

Blessing of Elijah

June 25, 2013

If You See Me As I Am Being Taken
Image: If You See Me As I Am Being Taken © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Pentecost +6, Year C: 2 Kings 2.1-2, 6-14

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him,
and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
– 2 Kings 2.13

This month marks twenty years that I have been in ministry. In June of 1993, after finishing seminary, I moved back to Florida and became the associate pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando. Twenty years and a couple of appointments later, I marvel and celebrate that I have managed to stay this long in Orlando, and that, even as I have remained, my ministry has taken me far down wondrous paths that I could hardly have imagined at the outset.

Gary and I are recently back from Annual Conference, where a number of our friends and colleagues were licensed, commissioned, or ordained for ministry. As I watched the ordinations—hands laid upon heads, stoles laid upon shoulders—I remembered my own ordination, and those who stood with me: my sponsors Bill Barnes and Bishop Charlene Kammerer, along with a circle of others (including many from the communion of saints) who mentored and mantled me for ministry.

Whether or not we are ordained, we are part of a lineage. We are here because someone—most likely many someones—told us a story that compelled us and called us to follow in the way of Christ. I offer gratitude for those who told the story to me, who lived the story for me, and who continue to provide strength and sustenance and guidance for my path. I offer prayers for those exploring a call to ministry and those newly entering ministry. For all of us, whatever shape our ministry takes, I offer this blessing in hopes that we will take up the mantle again and again, claiming it anew and walking with wisdom and hope, telling the story as we go.

Blessing of Elijah

Make no mistake.
This blessing that comes
like hands laid
upon your head,
a mantle draped
across your shoulders:
you do not bear it
alone.

Think of it
as lineage,
as litany:
an ancient legacy
entwining you among the strands
that weave through
generations and centuries,
that spiral with
the enduring and
determined grace
of the story that has
seized you,
and the One
who has claimed
and called you.

Take heart
that this blessing
comes to you
singed and
scorched,
signed by the blazing
of wonders
you can barely imagine
and by trials
that have already tested you,
or you would not
have found your way
this far.

Lay it down,
and it will be a path for you
across terrain
you never imagined
daring to cross.

Take it up,
and know the presence
of those who have passed this
on to you:
who encompass you
who enfold you
who go with you
and release you
into the keeping
of the road
that is your own
and the One
who has called
your name.


P.S.
 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook! Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot! For a glimpse of the Guild, visit this post: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “If You See Me As I Am Being Taken,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

Delivered

June 16, 2013


Image: Delivered © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +5, Year C: Luke 8.26-39

Those who had seen it told them
how the one who had been possessed by demons
had been healed.
– Luke 8.38

He must have found it suffocating at the least: to live with such an interior crowd, to never be able to turn off the constant clamor and press, the fracturing and fragmentation that left him unmoored and unhinged. He took to the graveyard, making his home among the tombs in a living death. And then one day Jesus came, and asked, What is your name?

Delivered
A Blessing

From the hundred wants
that tug at us.
From the thousand voices
that hound us.
From every fear
that haunts us.
From each confusion
that inhabits us.

From what comes
to divide, to destroy.
From what disturbs
and does not let us rest.

Deliver us, o God,
and draw us into
your relentless
peace.



Liturgical Arts Week at the Grünewald Guild

P.S. Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook, where we’re currently featuring the remarkable artwork of our friends who teach with us in the Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild. Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot! For a glimpse of the Guild, visit this post: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Delivered,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

A Needful Extravagance

June 9, 2013


Image: Extravagance © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +4, Year C: Luke 7.36-8.3

Therefore, I tell you,
her sins, which were many,
have been forgiven;
hence she has shown great love.

– Luke 7.47a

Once again we see Jesus’ persistent refusal to distance himself from us. From the hungry, from the sick, from those who have lost their way, from the outcast, from those burdened by the labels and names and roles laid upon them: Jesus refuses to turn away. And not only does he resist turning away; he welcomes those who risk making their way to him. He recognizes and elevates those who push beyond the barriers and boundaries and rebuffs: the woman, so long bleeding, who reaches out for the hem of his robe; the children who gather around him; the women who, in every gospel, come to anoint and bless him, who see him as no one else does.

In this passage from Luke, in this woman’s lavish gesture, we see how love pours itself out: not in self-abnegation, but in an offering that springs from the depths of who we are. Love makes its way past the labels, breaks through the burdens of prejudice and stereotype and bias. This woman who has been set free by Jesus, and who now comes to anoint him: she knows this. She knows how love looses us, how it bridges the distance between us, how it calls us to recognize and respond to the holy in our midst. With such clarity and grace, she illuminates who Jesus is. With his response, Jesus illuminates who we are: not defined by the sins of the past but by the love and grace of the present.

Blessing for the Anointing

Some with ointment.
Some with tears.
Me, today,
with words
gathered and treasured
carried and poured out
for you
wherever you are.

May you welcome this
as what it is:
a needful extravagance
an offering both lavish
and crucial
that has let go
of everything
to lay itself at your feet
and tell you

I see you
I bless you

And you,
where can you go
that you do not need
this anointing,
this blessing that drenches
the one who gives,
the one who receives?


P.S.
 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook, where we’re currently featuring the amazing work of our friends who teach with us in the Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild. Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot!

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Extravagance,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

Rise

June 2, 2013


Image: Rise © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +3, Year C: Luke 7.11-17

And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!”
– Luke 7.14b

Blessing for the Raising of the Dead

This blessing
does not claim
to raise the dead.

It is not so audacious
as that.

But be sure
it can come
and find you
if you think yourself
beyond all hope,
beyond all remedy;
if you have
laid your bones down
in your exhaustion
and grief,
willing yourself numb.

This blessing
knows its way
through death,
knows the paths
that weave
through decay
and dust.

And while this blessing
does not have the power
to raise you,
it knows how
to reach you.

It will come to you,
sit down
beside you,
look you
in the eye
and ask
if you want
to live.

It has no illusions.
This blessing knows
it is an awful grace
to be returned
to this world.

Just ask Lazarus,
or the Shunammite’s son.
Go to Nain
and ask the widow’s boy
whether he had
to think twice
about leaving the quiet,
the stillness;
whether he hesitated
just for a moment
before abandoning the place
where nothing could harm
or disturb.

Ask the risen
if it gave them pause
to choose this life—
not as one thrust into it
like a babe,
unknowing, unasking,
but this time
with intent,
with desire.

Ask them how it feels
to claim this living,
this waking;
to welcome the breath
in your lungs,
the blood
in your veins;
to gladly consent
to hold in your chest
the beating heart
of this broken
and dazzling world.


P.S.
If you haven’t already visited our Art + Faith page on Facebook, please do! Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out our upcoming Liturgical Arts Weeks at the wondrous Grünewald Guild.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Rise,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

Where Heaven and Earth Meet, Corrected Link!

May 30, 2013

A special message just for my email subscribers. In the post that just went out, titled “Where Heaven and Earth Meet,” something went awry with the link to the slideshow. Please click here to go directly to the post and view the slideshow online. If you still have trouble once you’re on the site, simply click the header. Thank you!

 

Where Heaven and Earth Meet

May 30, 2013

Scenes from the Grünewald Guild


Treat the arts as a window dressing for the truth rather than a window into reality.

Embrace bad art.

Demand artists to give answers in their work, not raise questions.

Never pay artists for their work.

These are a few of the guidelines that Philip G. Ryken offers in a great article published online this week, one that I wish every person connected with a church would read. In “How to Discourage Artists in the Church,” Ryken, a pastor and the president of Wheaton College, writes about making the “sad discovery” that so many folks—artists as well as non-artists—have long known: “The arts are not always affirmed in the life of the local church.” Ryken goes on to write, “We need a general rediscovery of the arts in the context of the church. This is badly needed because the arts are the leading edge of culture.”

Ryken’s words drew me back to the time when, after serving for some years as a pastor in a congregation, I was appointed to a ministry as the artist in residence at San Pedro Center, a retreat and conference center owned by the Catholic Diocese of Orlando. For several years after moving there, I often crossed paths with friends and colleagues who would ask, “So, Jan, are you still on that sabbatical?” Knowing that I was doing something connected with the arts, they figured I was taking a break from ministry—doing something that was more vacation than vocation.

Although folks have finally stopped asking the sabbatical question, I still regularly encounter the kinds of assumptions and attitudes that gave rise to the question, and that Ryken identifies so well in his article. I understand where those kinds of assumptions come from, given how the church in recent centuries has so often treated the arts as frivolous, as a luxury, as tangential to who we are as the body of Christ—something that we might engage in or support if we have time enough, talent enough, or budget enough after everything else—the “real” work of ministry—has been taken care of.

I could insert a rant here, but I’m much more interested in creatively engaging those assumptions and attitudes as a starting place for conversation, and in celebrating the signs of hope that are emerging all over the place in communities that intuitively understand—or, stirring even more hope in me, have grown to understand—the sacramental, prophetic, incarnational, redemptive, leading-edge-of-culture power that the arts have.

One place that gives me hope is the Grünewald Guild, a remarkable retreat center and community devoted to exploring and celebrating the intersections of art and faith. Nestled in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, the Guild offers classes, workshops, retreats, concerts, and other gatherings that draw people from around the U.S. and the world beyond. While some who come to the Guild are professional artists, most are simply hungry to be in a place, and a community, that recognizes that creativity and faith are not strangers—in fact, need not be treated as two separate things.

Gary and I have been involved with the Guild for many years, flying across the entire country each summer to be with the community that gathers there. The Guild is a place where we find our tribe. And I wonder if it’s the kind of place maybe you’re hungry for, too, or know someone who is: a pastor, a church member, a friend, someone in your family. Someone who has been longing for this kind of community and didn’t imagine it existed anywhere.

And so I want to let you know that Gary and I will be leading the Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Guild this August, in the company of a wondrous faculty of exceptionally gifted artists. We would love for you to join us for a week (or two) of engaging, creating, exploring, imagining, and envisioning in a place where art and life and worship meet. Here’s a brief bit of info, with a link to more:

AT THE MEETING OF HEAVEN + EARTH 
Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild
August 5-11 and/or August 12-18 

Join us as we explore “thin places”—the spaces that open before us as we engage in worship, in our communities, and in the liturgy of our daily lives. Come for either week or stay for both! Visit Liturgical Arts Week.

Please come join us this summer, and share this invitation with others who might be looking for the community that is waiting for them there!


ART AND FAITH ON FACEBOOK

I also want to let you know that Gary and I have recently created a page on Facebook called Art + Faith. We’re excited about having this place in cyberspace for an unfolding, ongoing, meandering, creative conversation. Please “like” the page and join us! Even if you’re not on Facebook, you can still visit the page. Find us here: Art + Faith. And please share the link with your friends.

Blessings to you, and may you find the tribe that will welcome, encourage, and call forth the gifts that God has placed within you for the life of the world.

 

Only Speak the Word

May 28, 2013


Image: Only Speak the Word © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +2, Year C: Luke 7.1-10

“Only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.
–Luke 7.7

Only Speak the Word
A Blessing

You might not have guessed
how far this blessing
can travel.

But it is worth believing
that it is built
for crossing distances
for stretching itself
for making its way
without hesitation
to the place
where it is needed most.

Only believe—
or, failing this,
latch onto someone
who will believe
for you,
who will ask
on your behalf,
who will plead
for this blessing
to come.

Trust one who knows
with a certainty
fierce as fire
that this blessing
will find its way
to you,
that it will treat
miles and time
as nothing,
that it will push through
each boundary,
cross every border,
pass through
all obstacles
to reach you.

Trust that these words
know the path
into your anguish,
that in your ache
they will become balm
and in your pain
they will become soothing.
Trust that they will be for you
a sweet
and stunning
peace.


Using Jan’s artwork…

To use the image “Only Speak the Word,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. 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. If you’re using them in a worship bulletin, please include this info in a credit line:
© Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com.

To use Jan’s work in other settings (books and other publications, etc.), please visit Copyright Permissions.

Trinity Sunday: Poured Into Our Hearts

May 20, 2013


Image: Poured Into Our Hearts © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Epistles, Trinity Sunday, Year C: Romans 5.1-5

And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love
has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit
that has been given to us.
–Romans 5.5

“So what do you think about the Trinity?” I ask Gary as we drive to the airport, where he will board a plane bound for Virginia to spend the next few days doing concerts there. As we talk, I find myself thinking about how, in the main, I approach the Trinity not so much as something to be grasped intellectually but as something that wants experiencing, that manifests itself in the dynamism of the relationships that exist within it and flow out from it. I am intrigued by how the Trinity continually lives in the tension between concealing and revealing. Enfolding itself in mystery and eluding our attempts to define it, the Trinity also reaches out to make itself known to us, to engage us in the intertwining relationship that dwells at its heart.

I suspect that God takes delight in our desire to know, to understand, to articulate—to “eff the ineffable,” as my Franciscan friend Father Robert says. Yet the real gift of Trinity Sunday may lie in how it invites us to acknowledge the mystery in which the Trinity lives, and to open ourselves to the love that is the nature and essence of the Trinity—the love that imbues and defines every action and aspect of the Divine, which Paul evokes so beautifully in the Epistle reading for this day.

Even as we stretch our minds in our continual quest to know, to glimpse, to perceive, how will we also open our hearts to the love that is the Trinity’s ultimate gift to us?

Poured Into Our Hearts
A Blessing for Trinity Sunday

Like a cup
like a chalice
like a basin
like a bowl

when the Spirit comes
let it find our heart
like this

shaped like something
that knows how to receive
what is given

that knows how to hold
what comes to fill

that knows how to gather itself
around what arrives as
unbidden
unsought
unmeasured
love.


For previous reflections on Trinity Sunday, click the images or titles below.

blog-DrenchedInTheMystery
Trinity Sunday: Drenched in the Mystery

 


Trinity Sunday: A Spiral-Shaped God

 


Trinity Sunday: Blessing of the Ordinary

(includes “Blessing the Ordinary”)

 

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “Poured Into Our Hearts,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!