The Things We Carry

A couple of weeks ago, I got a frightened phone call from my sister.

She was walking home from worship service at her church, during which someone had fallen ill and collapsed. She had watched, with growing concern, as several people had tried to revive this woman, and then – failing to do so – called in the paramedics.

The pastors had interrupted the service to move everyone to another room in the building, where they concluded the now-solemn gathering with a song and prayer. People sang quietly, tears streaming down their faces, and then left in silence, all wondering – did we just watch someone die?

My sister called me, shaken up and asking the same. She said it made her realize all of the trauma we’re still carrying around from the last two years of COVID, of watching people die all around us and being helpless to save them. That we haven’t resolved that, haven’t necessarily processed it, and still have to deal with its repercussions and consequences.

It’s good to get back to something like normal, to gather again, to hug, to share meals and laughter and celebrate the big and little things.

But I’ve also noticed that sometimes this urge to “get back” doesn’t leave space for the reality that we are different people now. We have been through something terrible, and we can’t just flick a switch and turn it all off.

At the very least, we realize how precious and wonderful it is to celebrate birthdays and weddings and graduations and even to gather for funerals in physical space together.

But perhaps more honestly, we are profoundly exhausted, and grieved, and we have lost some things we may never get back.

That woman from church, I am happy to say, is just fine. But that night at church reminded my sister and I of something important: of what we are still carrying.

And so, as we get back in some ways, to some things – here is what I hope we remember: that we are different people now. But that doesn’t have to be all bad. We can be more grateful, more deeply rooted in the blessing of what is right in front of us. We can be kinder to ourselves and to others, recognizing that we all carry untold burdens. We can be more open to the grace and mercy of every day. We can be more curious about what God is doing, even when things seem bleak.

I hope we will.

-Pastor Jen

Love’s Price

Grief is the price we pay for love.”

That’s what Queen Elizabeth said the day after 9/11, quoting the British Psychiatrist Colin Murray Parkes. These words come back to me today as I greet the news of the death of my mentor, colleague, foe (at times) and almost life-long friend and fellow pilgrim Rev. Richard Lucco.

I first met him at the free-throw line at after-school basketball at North Park Covenant Church when he was a seminary student and I was seven years of age. As I tried to launch the ball with might I didn’t have in my little body, he pushed me aside and said, “watch and learn!” with his characteristic whole body laugh. That day began my relationship with my first coach. In many ways, my journey followed his. Later he was my camp counselor, and a fellow covenant pastor who was present at my ordination interview in 1995. After the interview, while I was nervously waiting out in the lobby as the board deliberated, Dick emerged from the room to call me back in with a somber face, and said, “We’ve denied you because you’re a cubs fan!” And the whole body laugh came again, he a Cardinals die-hard.

He went on to be a conference superintendent and then ECC Vice President, and here for a season our collegial relationship was strained by the hard discernments of our pastoral journeys. Never, though, was there a question about our friendship filled with deep respect and love. In the midst of it all he came and found me one day and said, “I love you very much.” Just at the right moment, a kind of hollow, grieving moment (I’ll spare you the details), he came and loved me. There’s that connection again.

Today it’s holy grief that shows up and knocks at the door. After five years of a mighty struggle with an aggressive and unrelenting cancer, Dick Lucco has died. Our chances at life together, at least according to our mortal frames, are gone. Our continued work at healing is over.

Losing those you love really does lead us into grief. I’m learning as I grow older how true that is.

Yes, yes, our faith gives us hope. We greet the glad news that death has been swallowed up by life. We ask the defiant questions of the early church: “Where, O Death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” But we shake our fist at death as at least for now, it gets the best of us. I don’t know about you, but I’m longing for the promises of God to come into clear view when these dreaded sufferings and sorrows are no more. On that day we will be able to say together, to sing together, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

For now, these things still sting.

Love (and grief) from here,

Peter Hawkinson

“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Richard Lucco. Acknowledge we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive Richard into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

All Together, Now

As I’m writing this morning, I am sitting on my screened-in porch at my condo, staring at several dozen plant pots.

When I moved in here, almost a year ago, I had a vision: that I could make this little space up on my third-floor deck into something lush and green. I would hang planters from the ceiling, and mount boxes on the railing, and fill them with flowers and herbs and maybe even try for something ambitious like some tomatoes and spinach.

And it’s finally coming together.

I about wept when I hung up the first planter, and started to see the thing I had dreamed up come true; to see it become reality.

But it wasn’t without its hardships.

There was a long and difficult house hunt, trying to find what I wanted where I wanted it, learning what to compromise on and what to insist on, figuring out what I could afford. There were hard conversations with loved ones, who had their own vision of where I might live. And worries about being too far from church, or too far from friends, in too quiet of a neighborhood for a single woman, or too loud of a street for someone who doesn’t love city living.

I questioned myself a lot, and I cried more than I would care to admit. And maybe that’s what makes this moment, when I feel so clear in my choice and so grateful for my space, extra precious.

But while I am at this lovely moment of clarity and assurance in one small part of my life, admittedly I am still experiencing doubt and turmoil in other areas.

I imagine the same might be said for you.

I hope that in some parts of your life, you are enjoying great peace and contentment. But I am sure there are areas where you are not. Maybe it’s a relationship that you struggle with, including a relationship with yourself (don’t all of us have some thoughts about our bodies, here on the cusp of “swimsuit season”?); maybe it’s a professional concern, or a financial one. Maybe you are in a new and unexpected chapter of transition, or in the midst of a long grieving.

I know this is true for our church. I know that at the same time when we are getting back in person, eating meals together, celebrating confirmation, cheering on graduates, having Easter pancakes again, and cleaning out long-neglected closets, that we are also saying some goodbyes. We have lots of exciting momentum and some grief and loss, as we mark the transitions of Dimitri, Jason and Josh from our staff.

We have new seasons of possibility coming up, as we hope to welcome a new youth pastor later this year, and we will be blessed with the music ministry of Mary Gingrich as our new choir director. But we might also yearn for the “before COVID” times, when we didn’t have to hold all our plans loosely, and church life continued to go on much as it always had.

All of these feelings are hard to hold together – but we must try.

Try, to create space for the joy and the sorrow. The hope and the disappointment. The energy and the fatigue.

Try, to give ourselves and each other more grace, more patience, more tenderness and love.

Try, not to deny the complexity of this time, but to live honestly into it.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for mourning and a time for dancing, a time for weeping and a time for laughing. Sometimes those times come all jumbled up together.

There is no secret, no quick fix or easy button for living well when they all do; when grieving and celebrating aren’t linear but tangled up as one.

But I do think part of the answer is to lean in, towards each other. To divide our sorrows by carrying them with friends, and to multiply our joys in the same way. Galatians 6 reminds us to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. But the Bible also talks repeatedly about celebrating, with big tables and generous invitations to join in – to share our joys as well as our sorrows.

So I am making this my goal, in this beautiful, difficult, complicated season. And I hope you will too.

Yours,

Pastor Jen

Tend the Softness

“Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

My father Jim has been gone now for eleven years! So hard to imagine, so full of life he always was. Just last week our daughter Sarah forwarded email conversations she had with “Opa” in 2009, when she was a confirmation student and was grappling for the first time with big questions.

Sarah writes: “I was just recently reading Exodus, and I came across a phrase that was being used continuously, and it kind of confused me. When Moses keeps asking Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, the Bible keeps saying The LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart.’ Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart?”

“Boy” he responds, “You are really perceptive….I think one could say that it was Pharaoh’s pride in his own wisdom and power that hardened his heart, not only once but many times…The contests we all face in life are always between God and our own pride. We think we know better. So in that sense one could say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because Pharaoh did not recognize God as God.”

“Think of it this way. When you harden your heart, say, against your sisters over something or other, that is your pride at work. You want your way, so you harden your heart against them. But then you get a conscience over it and your heart is softened. That is God opening you up again, softening your heart.”

What wonderful, caring, and wise words! But what’s best comes next:

Tend the softness, the love God has planted in you. Honor God in that way, and know that even when you don’t, God will find a way to soften you up again.”

Tend the softness. Tend the softness. what a wonderful and rich phrase, like a breath prayer really. It would be easy to add another verse to the hymn, “Lord, I want to tend the softness in my heart, in my heart…” Not tend to softness, but THE softness, a particular softness of the heart that is a love “that God has planted in you.”

It is this love, this softness of heart that is as much part and parcel of an easter christian, of one who has been raised to new life with Jesus.

Dad asks Sarah a concluding question: “Does this help?” and it’s a holy wonder that it’s as though even on this faraway day he’s asking me, asking me to consider the gift of a love, of a soft heart that God is planting in me to combat my own pride.

This next Monday will be the first chance I have to tend to spring planting. As I unpack the crunchy pallets and stir up the dirt and put the annuals in their pots and planters, I will be praying, over and over and over again, “O God, help me tend the softness.” I’ll keep on with it as I water the roots. And as I watch those impatiens and geraniums fill up their pots a month from now, I’ll recover again an eager longing for the God of all love to plant that very love in my beating heart.

I want to grow in this way.

Peter Hawkinson

Holding Each Other Close

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now…It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart…” (Philippians 1)

Recently while visiting with an aging mentor and saint I was reminded of life’s most important spiritual work. This friend is and will be immobilized for some time. Asking her a bidding question about the frustration she might be feeling, she replied “Yes” and then “But….” and continued on for some time about the “But”. At the heart of it was her realization of what she called “my most important spiritual work” that she was doing from her bed. “I have time and space to join my heart to the joy and struggle of others” is what she said. She can’t get up. Her eyes make reading tough. Lots of time on her side.

She might have written a little devotion that I have earmarked for decades, from a little book that’s wearing out and packs a punchThe Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections by William Martin. Though intended for pastors, it hits the nail on the head for all of us christians. Thought 43 of his goes this way:

How would you pastor if you could not speak? How would you love others if you were immobilized in bed? If you can answer these questions, you know the truth of your calling. If you can do these things, you will overcome all obstacles.

Since my visit, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I might do that work more in the midst of a busy and noisy life filled with movement and racing the clock. It’s the age old juxtaposition of doing-vs-being. Often it seems that my most important work of tending to spirit things — God’s Spirit, my own, and those who I love — falls to the bottom of my over-extended life’s priorities. Unless I am bedridden, I must be intentional about stopping, and being still, and letting my life go SO THAT I can become aware of the anxieties and burdens you are bearing, SO THAT I can hold you in my heart and prayers.

Paul says it so beautifully all ver his letters to the early church, called to be a community of care.I love his image of “carrying others in his heart”, and of “Bearing each others burdens”. Who wouldn’t run toward a community like that?

But for most of us, running through life, it’s a challenge. So join me in making time and space to care for each other in our prayers, in our hearts, and in the practical acts of caring that surely will follow.

On my way out the door, my friend asked for a list of church members and friends in large print font, which she now has. Who knows, but maybe as you read this she is holding you in her heart on this very day.

God bless us, one and all!

Peter Hawkinson

Focus Factor

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.(Matthew 6:33)

“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

I have been ruminating for some time about the colliding kingdoms we are living in as Christian pilgrims. If you have lived through this last decade you likely have been too. Last night we had a great discussion in Wednesday Night book group about faith and politics, about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this world. We shared the common sense that the church in America has lost its focus on the kingdom of God and rooted its faith in the hopes and realities of politics and government. The lingering question was “How did we get here?”

Leaving with that question rolling around my head, my phone beeped and someone had responded with another question on Facebook about an article I posted and found helpful in the ongoing debate about prayer and the first amendment in Washington state, and the Supreme Court. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-04-27/bremerton-football-prayer-supreme-court-john-kennedy-roger-williams-1st-amendment?fbclid=IwAR0dKmDYJQF-9abG3HhY0qID8BeM6sIt0NuT9f6xX3_1HgFkvrKNhn_fAUM . The question was, “why do you feel the need to continually post and repost divisive political arguments?”

What is so interesting is that I post articles like this because I’m thinking about the gospel, the kingdom of God, and the way of Jesus front and center, and how these holy things shape the way as Christians we think and act in the world. My sense is that for the questioner, this is a political article, argument, and issue first and foremost, front and center.

In my now close to thirty years of pastoral ministry, I have sensed a great increase in the Christian community of politics (the struggles for power and control in our society) as the forming center and starting place of faith conversations, rather than Jesus of the gospels and the kingdom of God. I Often have this experience where I’m hoping to have a theological or faith conversation with a fellow christian who can only hear and receive it as political.

My theory is that because of 24/7 news and its spin, its commentary, many of us in Christian community have made the kingdom of this world more central to our faith than the kingdom of God. Our minds are more focused on things below than things above. We come to theological and faith conversations from political positions rather than coming to political debates from minds focused and rooted in God’s kingdom come in Jesus. One of these directions is inherently focused on what’s best for me; the other is focused on what’s best and right for my neighbor. And the truth is, my human self always wants what’s best for me, while my “Raised with Christ” self seeks the good and right for others. It’s no wonder that the way of Jesus ones across as “politically divisive.” It’s true. The call of Jesus is non-partisan and divisive, because it calls us out of ourselves — our rights, our privileges, our power — to seek through service and self sacrifice the good of others, the love of neighbor. This, from John Pavlovitz:

“The problem with all this is Jesus himself. He apparently had very little interest in such geographically determined supremacy or birthright blessings, or in the accumulated power that has proven to be such a seductive selling point to so many of his followers. He talked of the last being first, of becoming servant of all, of laying down’s life for one’s friends. He affirmed the priceless values of denying oneself, of healing the hurting, of caring for the poor, of elevating the marginalized, of freeing the oppressed, of seeing the overlooked; of being peacemakers, foot washers, cheek turners, mercy givers. He wasn’t in the business of nation building but community making, not about consolidating wealth but spreading it around and making sure no one went without. He was always doing the social justice work of raising valleys and leveling mountaintops. Jesus’ life as witnessed in the Gospel stories was a beautifully subversive manifesto of smallness and kindness and goodness, continually reiterating the sacredness of sacrifice, the dignity of humility, the redemptive nature of forgiveness.” (If God is Love, p. 69.)

The Christian life is a call to displacement and downward mobility after all!

This underscores the importance of our gathering together for worship, study, prayer and service, so that the kingdom of God can get into us, and get a hold of us, as we seek first God’s righteousness. And it would behoove us to remember that we who have been raised with Christ to new life live and move and have our being now in a kingdom not belonging to this world.

Seek that Kingdom! First!Turn off the TV, and focus your energy and spirit on the kingdom of God.

Blessed to be a Blessing

“You are blessed to be a blessing.”

How many times have I heard that before?

So many, if I’m honest, that I can tune those words out. It seems like a way to explain to especially privileged people why we are so blessed, over and above others. And it often thus feels to me like a rationale for the inequities that persist in our world, whereas I would offer another explanation: human sin and brokenness.

But this week, at our Central Conference Annual Meeting, I heard those words again – as if for the first time.

During our Thursday evening worship service, Ramelia Williams, director of Ministry Initiatives in our denomination’s Love Mercy Do Justice office, preached on God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis. She focused on how Abraham was blessed to be a blessing.

This time, the words didn’t feel so hollow.

She told us how the very act of acknowledging yourself as blessed is to recognize the connection between you, the receiver and God, the giver. It is to see WHO before the WHAT of your blessing. And it is to know that God, who gives us gifts, gets a say in how we use them.

Then she posed several questions that have stayed with me:

What if we viewed our blessings as a blueprint for the work God has called us to?

What if we viewed our blessings as ways to connect us to each other?

What is the meaning of a blessing from God if I keep the fruit of it for myself?

As a person who was born into privilege and continues to live in that privilege, I have often grappled with the purpose of my privilege. I can see now that I conflated privilege (the result of an unequal and unjust society) with blessing (the act of God).

There’s something to be said for using your privilege on behalf of the underprivileged – that’s work we need to keep doing, too.

But today, I’m thinking about my blessings. Things that are gifts from God. Like a loving family, and a wonderful church. Deep friendships. Meaningful work.

God gave me those things – and God gets a say in how I use them.

I invite you today to reflect on what you would list as your blessings, and how you might use them to bless others.

I will leave you with these thoughts, right from Ramelia:

You are privileged to free others from oppression

You are wounded to be a healer

You are employed to support your family and community

You are free to break the chains of others.

What might you add?

yours,

Pastor Jen

The Narrative of the Other

Luke 7:13
When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

The first half of this week I made my way to Lansing Michigan for my first clergy retreat with Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ) colleagues. Though it felt strange to be a complete stranger to everyone in the room, I was warmly welcomed and gained many new friends.

For 2 days we considered the power of stories, narratives. We told our own and listened to others, and considered with the help of a prodding presenter the unique opportunity and challenge of following Jesus into the seething pain of our world.

We were left to reflect on and consider that to walk with Jesus into the world means that we take the narrative of others as more primary than our own, especially the narrative of those who are suffering injustice. The basis for this is self-displacement of Jesus, who is constantly moved with compassion for those who are hurting and makes their pain his own. Ultimately, of course, he offers up his own suffering and death so that we might have new life. Talk about the narrative of the other!

The idea we were wrestling with is how we are called as followers of Christ to embrace by our own volition the forming narrative of those suffering around us. To say, for instance, to our African American sisters and brothers, “Your pain is now my pain”, and to then act in ways to seek justice and healing for the atrocities that black people have experienced in our own country’s history even to this present day. It is not simply to be concerned, or to care, but to listen to, learn about, and one actually come to accept the narrative of another as my own, and therefore, to work for justice and the healing of the human family. The hope is that in taking this step we can break the cycle of perpetuating injustice.

As we know, the word compassion means to “suffer with”. The first part of this involves acknowledging my own complicity, mostly in the privileges I have which have been gained through the suffering of others. the second part is identifying with, suffering with those whose narrative is one of experiencing all kinds of injustice. Here the words of Paul say it best:

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, and sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete….Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the very form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross.” (Phil 2)

Our lives have been redeemed by this action of Jesus, who embraced our human narrative in all its brokenness and pain. This now is our work as those walking out into the world with the mind of Christ.

God bless us one and all as we seek to follow Christ!

Peter Hawkinson

Christ, Our Passover

Today, on Maundy Thursday, we heed the haunting words of John the Baptizer, who saw Jesus and said, “See the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Today we remember that first passover night back in Egypt, when death did not have its way with God’s chosen people. Passover, if it is anything at all, is a life and death tale.

And it is in the feast of passover that Jesus washes the feet of the one who will betray him, and rips apart the bread while he says “this is my body that is for you”. “This cup is a new covenant in my blood” he tells them as he pours out and passes the wine. As we say so often at the communion table, “Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed for us.”

Here we come to the heart of the matter, to realities of life and death, his and ours. To the table tonight we can only come broken, sin-scarred, and repentant. We come to the table headed for death, hallowing this night on which Jesus was betrayed. Judas, yes, but all of them to be honest, and all of us.

Many recent communion liturgies have changed the word “betrayed” to “arrested”. The Lord Jesus, on the night he was arrested…. “Arrest” is administered by external authorities. “Betrayal” discloses a a breach among family and friends. Paul tells us that “Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread and broke it and gave it” to who? To the betrayers.

Christ’s greatest wound of all is administered by friends, not Roman executioners or religious opponents.

You and I, we cannot come to this table tonight any other way but broken. This is a table of only for sinners, for betrayers, for penitents who know well more than anything else their trespasses. t’s no wonder, then, that historically this is the moment when those identified by the Church as “penitents”, who have been separated from the church and doing penance since Ash Wednesday, are reconciled to the community. On the night Jesus was betrayed, sinners are welcomed back. Here is the account of a medieval Roman rite:

“The penitents lay prostrate outside the doors of the church. they are barefoot and have unlighted candles in their hands. The bishop sends to the penitents an old deacon who holds a very large, lighted candle. At the door the deacon chants — “Lift your heads. Behold, your redemption is at hand!” and the deacons light the candles of the penitents. The deacon continues, and chants — “Stand now in the silence and listen to what is said.” The deacon turns around and faces the bishop, who is at the communion table and chants — “The acceptable time has come. Now is the forgiveness of sins granted and the welcoming of those reborn in grace. The waters wash. So do tears. Blessed are those who weep, for they will be consoled.”

The bishop then comes out from behind the altar and goes to the door and chants: “Come, come, come children and hear me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” The invitation is repeated twice more, and then the penitents stand. The bishop takes one of them by the hand, and all of them join hands as in a chain. The people, as one, chant: “there is joy among God’s angels when one sinner repents.”

Then the bishop leads them, hand in hand, into the middle of the church. Everyone present then kneels or lies prostrate on the floor as psalms are chanted. Finally the bishop sprinkles the penitents with water and restores them to their baptism, and then leads them to the altar for the holy meal, where the reconciled take off their penitential garments and put on clean clothing. The bishop then says, “Come to the feast prepared for you.” (A Lenten Sourcebook, Liturgy Training Publications).

Whenever we come to Holy Communion, and especially on the holy night before us, you and I are among those penitents. We have no merit on which to stand.And this makes so beautiful, so wonderfully beautiful the welcome of Jesus, who says, “For you, a new covenant in my blood.” Grace abounds for sinners. The penitent find mercy in the wide open arms of God. See Jesus there looking into the eyes of Judas to say, “Come to the feast prepared for you.” Watch Jesus wash Peter’s feet.

As we gather tonight — hope you can join us! — tonight, on the night Jesus was betrayed, he will take the passover wine and bread and give it to us, and tell us that he is God’s passover for us. Come in humility, remembering that Jesus offers his life for us not because we are worthy, or charming, or faithful, successful or strong, but because we are none of those, because each of us in our own ways has betrayed him. As the deacon says to you, “The body of Christ, the blood of Christ, FOR YOU” — remember again that it is not some idea or philosophy or wonderful teaching that we receive from Jesus, but his own suffering and death for us, to set us free from our own slavery to sin and death.

Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Peter Hawkinson

The Hour of Darkness

Well, friends; we have made it! For those of you who’ve been following along with our Lenten reading project, Backyard Pilgrim, we have finally reached the last week of the book. The week where we are no longer asking the questions “where is God?” or “where are you?” but hearing Jesus’ declaration: “Here I AM…for you.”

And today, his statement is: “For you, Here I AM…facing the darkness.”

Matt, the author, encourages us today to look at this passage from the end of Luke chapter 22, when Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!'”

Matt points out that Jesus, unlike us, does not seek to explain why there is evil. Instead, he acknowledges it, and then enters “into sin, suffering, and death to conquer them on our behalf.”

“Jesus puts the emphasis,” he writes, “not upon explaining evil, but defeating it.”

These words of Jesus also put to mind the words of Genesis 1, when “darkness covered the face of the deep.”

That darkness is back – perhaps it never really went away – but the Creator God who first spoke words of light over that primeval chaos is still here, still speaking, still creating. And still able to call forth light out of darkness and life even out of death.

This is something we will be called to remember again and again this week, as we journey deeper into the darkness with Christ. Not that we need the excuse of a Holy Week to do so; as I was reminded this morning, reading details of war atrocities perpetrated by Russian troops in Ukraine, there is no shortage of darkness in our world.

Like Christ, let us acknowledge it head on.

Let us not seek to explain it away or rationalize it, as is often our tendency.

But let us also remember that the darkness we see here has already, and ultimately, been defeated. So that as we work against it, we do so knowing that we will ultimately be victorious.

That God will once again speak over our darkness: “let there be light.”

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

-Pastor Jen