Letting Go

Psalm 131

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things 
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    my soul is like the weaned child that is with me. 

O Israel, hope in the LORD
    from this time on and forevermore. 

The psalms are a rich trove of thoughts and feelings, words which we cling to on our journey through life with the Living God. This little ditty shouts that less is indeed more. I first encountered it during a painful season of my life when I was grieving the loss of love and my grandmother’s death. I read it so much that I memorized it, because somehow it brought me to a deep calm and rest even though life’s questions remained. One day it came alive in a new way when I was at Loree’s, the coffee shop on Foster avenue where Starbucks is nowadays. Over coffee and my toasted pecan roll in some kind of anxious time I saw a family enter, the father cradling a a toddler who was fast asleep, with arms stretched out in the air. Not a worry or care about falling or being dropped. Just fast asleep and at peace in his dad’s embrace: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is within me.”

This psalm, it seems, is made for a moment like we are having together, this kind of “once in a lifetime” time. There’s so many questions we ask bu can’t answer, and so much  about what’s going on that we can’t begin to understand. A pandemic. How easy it is to “occupy myself with things that are to great and too marvelous for me.” The invitation I can’t refuse is to let go, to let go for just a while, and rest, be at peace, trust in the One who holds me. The invitation is to “hope in the LORD from this time on and forevermore.”

That’s the elixir! To trust in, to hope in the God of all life, and that God understands what I cannot, and is at work in the world in ways I can’t fully see or understand. And ultimately, to offer life’s enduring questions and concerns to this faithful, loving God, to entrust the mysteries of life to God, and let go, and find rest in God’s promise to hold onto me.

Questions remain. Problems, pains, and sorrows persist. Those haunting “why” questions linger. If we can give them to God for a bit, and rest, they’ll still be there when our slumber is over.

So try it with me. Let’s work on it together. Work on letting go. Stop occupying your mind and heart weigh you down with the things you can’t understand or explain. Trust them to God’s keeping for awhile. Take a walk in the sunshine (it’s coming in the next couple of days!) Watch everything coming to life around you in God’s creation. pen a poem, or bake some of your favorite cookies. Find sabbath rest. Trust in the LORD who has a firm hold on you, now and forevermore.

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.



Captain’s Log

Day 1

Does nail polish count as an essential item?

I know, in my heart, that the point of a stay-at-home order is not to induce panic purchasing, not to encourage that last trip to Target where you can wander freely through the aisles buying board games and cotton balls, but that’s the urgency I feel today.

Get it done before you can’t, anymore.

Go out and get the nail polish, and the good hummus and pita, and the hand lotion, before you can’t.

I am not, incidentally, very hopeful about how we are going to handle this time.

Day 4

Here’s the thing about working from home; one of many that I am discovering: it only works well for a few hours.

For as long as the coffee is hot and the morning light is strong, but when that all starts to go…Zoe laying next to me on the couch, snoring away, starts to make focus all but impossible.

This is the point at which I’d take her for a walk, make some lunch, and head to the office.

But not now.

Now, I take Zoe for a walk, make some lunch, and head right back to the couch.

Or the bed.

I know I won’t do good work there.

But just maybe…

Day 5

That did not end well.

Although it depends how you measure “ending well.” I did have a glorious nap.

Ah well…no more “working” on my bed.

Day 12

Sister is here now, relocated from DC to ride this storm out with me. I love it, really I do, but suddenly we are cooking every five minutes. And running the dishwasher every other day. Zoe, however, is on cloud nine. Two people to play with? And snuggle with? And beg treats from? Bliss.

Day 14

We caved and finally ordered deep dish. Thank goodness.

Day 16

The pizza is gone. What do we eat now?


For the first few weeks of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, I kept a diary like this. A captain’s log, my sister jokingly called it, full of little observations and images of a life turned upside-down by coronavirus.

It helped me laugh, and make light of some things. It gave me a way to track the time. To look back on where I’d been, and compare it to where I was in the present moment.

But at some point, I stopped. It got lost, one more thing in the endless span of days that all felt a little bit the same. It’s Friday, you say? But it doesn’t feel any different from Tuesday. How do you still make the weekend feel like a weekend? How do you celebrate a Sabbath when you can’t be with your community?

And now, here I am, on day 38. Getting tired and irritable (which I’m sure also makes me irritating to live and work with). Losing motivation to do the things I love to do. Struggling to hold on to hope.

Wise friends and colleagues, not to mention experts I’ve never met, have all counseled the same thing: journal about this time. Make a list of the stuff you miss, or the things you’ve learned about yourself. What you’ve enjoyed a break from, and what you can’t wait to get back to. The silliest thing you’ve made for dinner, from pantry ingredients and long-forgotten bags in the back of the freezer. The number of days you wore those sweatpants before finally retiring them to the laundry bin.

There is some good science behind why we should do this: to make meaning out of something that feels a little meaningless. To give ourselves time and space to process.

But here’s another reason, particular to people of faith and therefore to us: because remembering and telling our stories is what we do. It’s why we read the Bible over and over and then over again, why we tell our kids the same tales about Noah and Joseph and Moses. Because our stories don’t just tell about our lives, but about the way that God is active in them.

Because when I tell about Good Friday, and how sad and forlorn I felt, not being in church, not remembering Jesus’ death together, I want to also remember how my friend showed up on my doorstep with her daughters, and brought me homemade jam and a drawing for my fridge.

Because when I remember being alone and afraid, those first couple of weeks before my sister came to stay, I want to also remember the pastor friend who called me from the city, and told me she’d drive up and deliver groceries if I should ever contract the virus.

Because when I remember the vivid and terrifying dreams I had almost every night, I want to also remember how I woke up to find my dog pressed against my side, her rhythmic breathing lulling me back to sleep.

These are little things, all of them, but they reassure me that I am not alone in this, and that God is not just with me but caring deeply for me and loving me right through these difficult days.

Friends, this world feels a little out-of-control right now, perhaps more than ever, and we cannot fix that. But what we can do is tell our stories, and look for where God shows up in them. And even if we can’t tell stories about right now, we can look back across our lives and look at stories from way back when, using the benefit of hindsight to see how God cared for us even on our darkest days.

That is our promise, after all: that God is always with us, and God is still at work. And when we tell our stories, we give ourselves and others an opportunity to see that promise at work. To feel the truth of it, deep in our bones. To live in the power of it, for one more day at a time.

Darkness and Light

” What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

These days find us digging into boxes in the basement. You too? Treasures are yielded as we reconnect with ancestors who left behind poetic treasures and reflections. They lived through times like these. They help us.

Here’s a story from my grandfather Eric and a poem from his wife Lydia, both written 95 years ago in 1925 when living in Chicago. Who knows, but maybe they were connected as they celebrated light in the darkness. From Eric:

I walked in the twilight on north Bernard Street in Chicago. I was going to North Park. Halfway to Foster Avenue I saw a little boy acting strangely. With his arms lifted, and his hands continually pushing away from him, he ran around in a circle. I had never seen such a game before, so I moved toward him and asked him what he was doing. “I’m pushing a away the darkness!” he said. Dear little philosopher, I had never before heard human activity put so simply. I asked the boy if he thought he would succeed. “Shucks no, I’ll have to go in and turn on the light.” So it is. Only physical light can conquer darkness and only God can conquer the deeper darkness that encompasses humankind.

Then this poem from Lydia:

Dawn lights the sky with splendor of light
Chasing out swiftly all things of the night
Wakened from slumbers dreams sweetly enjoyed
Life would be empty, dreamless and void
Dreamless and void without Thee.      

Push away the darkness, one moment, one day at a time. Light a candle, get up for sunrise, and contemplate God’s goodness in sending Jesus to us, who is the Light of the world, and who overcomes the darkness!

” What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:4-5

Peter Hawkinson

The Harvest is Plentiful

Matthew 9:37-28, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Almost a month ago, I wrote a blog post here called. “You are what you eat.”

I posed a question there- are we consuming fears, anxiety and negativity? Is that why we are becoming afraid, anxious and downtrodden?

I have gotten into the emotionally-taxing habit of watching videos on Youtube or Facebook that consist mainly of one group of people being angry at something else.

Everything from protests in Minnesota to remove the “Shelter in Place” order to healthcare workers responding to not being able to get to work because of traffic jams that these protests have caused.

I never intentionally sit-down and plan on watch videos like this- I kind of stumble into them.  Then, the spiraling occurs.  The next suggested video comes on & brings about the same level of fear, anxiety & negativity.

I feel paralyzed because I become aware that “the Harvest is plentiful.”  There is so much work to be done.  Lives need to be saved, economies need to be strengthened, relationships need to be reconciled.

Also, while I am sheltered in place, it can feel even more like “the workers are few” because of the limited in-person interactions I have had in the following month.  When these two realities combine, I don’t know what to do.

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

I turn to this verse for encouragement on how to handle this situation because Christ doesn’t end his sentence there. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

God, that is my prayer today. I know this is your will today & therefore I seek to align my prayer, my life with you.

So today I’m putting on my work boots to play my role in working to your Kingdom purposes.  I know that my own human agency is not enough.  I pray that you send out more workers to join me.  I pray together we would be unified in this time to bring your peace and your strength to our world today. Amen.

~Pastor Joel

Easter In Us

“The early disciples had little ritual but a mighty realization. They went out not remembering Christ, but experiencing him. He was not a mere fair and beautiful story to remember with gratitude — he was a living, redemptive, actual presence then and there. They went out with the joyous and grateful cry, “Christ Lives in me!” The Jesus of history had become the Christ of experience.” (E. Stanley Jones)

Easter has come. Has it gone from us? We have a few weeks left with the gospels to hear those post-resurrection stories of disciples locked up in fear until they fish again, of friends on the Emmaus road home wishing it had all turned out differently, their hearts burning with grief. All of them are encountered by the risen Christ, who lingered for forty days before his ascension, when he said to them, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”….and then this: “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28). Then he left them. Some kind of parting words!

But those disciples, feeble and frail and filled with fear as they were prone to be, they went out into the world and witnessed to what had happened. They loved courageously, so much so that they suffered for their faith. They preached and touched and served all over the world. In all of this, they took their risen Lord at His word, that he would indeed always be with them. And so the Church was born. The gospels end, and the Acts of the disciples begin. The story goes on!

Sometime between midnight and the morning of December 4, 1875, the German steamship “Deutschland” ran aground on a shoal 25 miles off the English coast. The steamship immediately began taking on water and gale force winds Brough the sea wall over the sides of the ship. Tragically, 78 lives were lost, among them five Franciscan nuns who had been forced out of Germany. In the way of the tragedy that filled the English news, the poet and priest wrote the poem “The Wreck of the Deutschland”. Towards the end of the poem there is this line: “let Him (Christ) easter in us”.

Here’s an invitation. Beginning next Wednesday evening, April 22, at 7 p.m. we will begin a bible study, reading the book of acts together using ZOOM to help us create community, in hopes that we might wonder together how we can be the church and witness to Christ’s death and resurrection in our time. Watch for more details to come.

Here’s another invitation. Contemplate what it might look like for Christ to “Easter” in you, and all that it means to trust that Jesus is with you always. I’m really missing once each easter when we sing this:

“He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, he lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.” (Hymnal 253)

There is nothing, not even a pandemic and all its patterns, that can mute the presence of the Living Christ. Easter is NEVER over! Thanks be to God!




Something Extra at Easter

Friends, please enjoy this reflection written by our friend and member of the WCC congregation, Mary Rhodes. 

“Although you have not seen him, you love him.” 1 Peter 1:8

My Easter? I celebrated with my family at home, keeping a six-foot distance with my son and his fiancé under quarantine.

For the past two years, my husband and I have been planning a trip to Hawaii with both kids to celebrate spring break. Then life changed. Both kids fled New York in March to escape the pandemic. Right now they’re sheltering with us, probably thru April and May. Their 17-day quarantine ends this week.

It’s grim, scary and unsettling. But it’s also one of the most blessed moments in our lives. I’d trade a week of Hawaiian beaches and luaus for this time of togetherness. It’s real. It’s unvarnished. And we are our true, stripped-down selves. Yes, I’m running out of ideas for making dinner with yet another carton of eggs—but my husband and I pinch ourselves that we got so lucky to have this random and unexpected gift of time together as a family.

And that’s the thing about our world right now, and our journey as Christians. There are gifts, breakthroughs and lessons that are taking us by surprise amidst the chaos and fear. We struggle, but we also cling to our deepest belief that once we invite God into our lives, his love becomes active, present and at work every moment (Hebrews 4:12—For the love of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edge sword…) I don’t always see or feel it. But I know and believe it.

The truth is, these days of isolation are allowing me to see a lot of blessings I’m usually too busy or distracted to savor. Take friendships. They feel a lot more open and honest right now because a lot of the trivia of our lives—like where we’ve been, what we’ve done and who we’ve seen—are gone. We don’t go anywhere or see anyone, so our conversations flow from our real selves and how we’re coping. It’s a new intimacy and authenticity.

Then there’s worship. Pete gave his first Sunday Facebook sermon in late March, and it took my family until the following Tuesday to get ourselves settled, focused and linked in. But the experience of just sitting together on our couch and worshipping with an iPad took us by surprise. It felt like Pete was speaking directly to us. And the message–how God’s love for us equips us to go out and love our neighbors and our world—was so timely and powerful. We shared a moment of understanding and conviction as a family I want to feel every Sunday. Did the simplicity and quiet of home worship make it so meaningful? Do I get too distracted on Sundays? I want to take that feeling of connectedness and deep listening back to church with me when life feels normal again.

And life will, at some point, get back to normal. But I’ll have changed. We’ve been given this gift of time and silence. Let’s use it to listen to the spirit’s prompting. A lot of the distractions we used to focus on and obsess about aren’t going to matter anymore. God will guide us. He loves us. No matter how isolated we may feel, we aren’t helpless. God’s love is a gift we can receive, rally around, mobilize, and share—even under quarantine! We can find him in surprising new ways and make a difference, right now, in this Easter pandemic moment.

Light a Candle

Dear Friends,

It is holy Saturday. Today, we wonder what we mean when we say that Jesus, buried, “descended into hell.” We contemplate what reality would be if this indeed was the final picture, of God entombed, memorialized forever. That’s all.

But in fact, as John says it, “a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is a good day to light a candle and keep it lit, to proclaim the light, even on holy Saturday, as Jesus lies dead in his grave. Light a candle, and read these words from Paul a few times throughout the day:

Romans 8:18-39

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Surely Not I

Mark 14:12-25 (NRSV)

The Passover with the Disciples

12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” 13 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

17 When it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread[a] into the bowl[b] with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Surely not I.

In this passage, every disciple utters these words after Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”  It is so easy for us as modern-day disciples of Christ to have this same exact posture.  “Surely I will not betray you.”

Many families do not even consider naming their child Judas, because of the connection to the betrayal of Christ.  We want to distance ourselves as far as possible from this action.  However, we also know in our hearts that every single day we betray our Savior, in thought, word and deed.

The beautiful reality is that Jesus does not distance himself from His disciples- in Mark Chapter 14 or today in our world.  The next action by Jesus is one that connects Him deeply to us- the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

On this Maundy Thursday, we reflect and remember the actions & teachings of Jesus Christ.  The word “maundy” is derived from the Latin word, “commandment.”  It is referencing the commandment that Jesus gives us in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The way Jesus loves us is when we betray Him, He pours Himself out for us. Therefore, our commandment is to pour ourselves out, even to those who betray us.

Obviously, this is a high calling and one we will fall short of each and every day.  God’s grace and mercy meets us in this place and connects us and unifies us all as the now Body of Christ.

So today, receive God’s grace.  Receive God’s command.  Receive the Lord’s Supper that connects us to God’s grace and God’s command!

~Pastor Joel



Praying in the Garden

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”

Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.

When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”

Luke 22:39-46, NRSV

We joke in my family that my sister’s spiritual gift is sleeping. No matter what is going on, it seems, she can cope with it by sleeping: a big transition, a loss, a celebration – none of these would so wire her up or stress her out that she couldn’t lay down and rest, deeply.

I used to be jealous of this – because I was almost always the opposite. I couldn’t fall asleep, for excitement; or I couldn’t stay asleep, for stress. In the most challenging, stimulating times of my life, sleep was something I couldn’t count on. It was fleeting at best and elusive at worst.

Until, that is, this pandemic started. Ever since, I have been exhausted. Every day, I need a nap – somewhere between 45 minutes and 2 hours – just to function from morning until evening. And, reading this passage, I have an idea why that is.

When Jesus got up from prayer, the writer of Luke tells us, he found the disciples sleeping “because of grief.”

It was all too much for them. They couldn’t understand, or process, or handle, Jesus’ repeated predictions of his betrayal and death; the strange words he said to them about bodies and blood over dinner in the Upper Room – and so when he took them to the garden in the middle of the night, they fell asleep. I get that, now. I get what it means to be so overwhelmed that your body and soul just need to rest.

But there is another part to this story: isolation. I’m sure Jesus already felt quite alone, adrift, set apart, because he was the only one who fully understood what was coming next, and it was his life that would be taken as a sacrifice. But then his closest friends, overwhelmed by grief, fell asleep, and he must have felt utterly, truly alone.

So alone that some ancient manuscripts added those two sentences about an angel coming to help him, and his sweat becoming like drops of blood on the ground. (Not all the manuscripts contain these verses, which means they were likely added to or subtracted from some texts.) Jesus was so alone, and the picture so bleak, that the story demanded some relief; even if it was an angel; even if not everyone agreed that it really happened.

I’ll bet that you, reading this, are feeling one of these two things acutely right now: grief, or isolation. Maybe both.

That it might all feel like more than you can bear.

This story doesn’t fix any of that, but it can reassure us: Jesus gets it.

He has been there, in the garden. He has wondered if even God cared enough to take away some of the suffering. He has felt terribly alone, and burdened, and grieved. He has prayed for it all to go away.

As we journey through Holy Week, the darkness gets deeper before the light comes. It feels all too real right now, as we know that the pandemic will likely get worse before it gets better.

But let this be a consolation to you: that no matter where you are, no matter what you are feeling, Jesus gets it.

He has been there; has felt those deep and complicated emotions.

He has carried their burden on his own.

And because he has, you don’t have to.

Because he has, you do not go it alone, but with a Savior who knows what you suffer. Who grieves with you, who prays with you, and who walks with you every step of the way.

Thanks be to God.

-Pastor Jen


Matthew 26:1-13 

When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’

Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, ‘Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

It’s the Tuesday after his triumphal entry, and Jesus is lurking in Bethany, on the outskirts of town, at the home of Simon the Leper, when bracketed by brutality comes a beautiful story.

The chief priests and elders are pushing Caiaphas to lower the boom, and be done with Jesus. Judas has one foot out the door to get things rolling, when an unnamed woman suddenly appears and breaks open her alabaster jar – a year’s wage gone, just like that, hence the disciples’ angry, head shaking question, “Why the waste?”. A question any one fighting the world’s battles would ask. But Christ Jesus silently approves.

Use your senses. Look at her pouring it out onto his head, in a quick moment, as if she’s lost control. Smell the pungent fragrance. Listen to her mumbling word of some ancient psalm as she rubs the oil into his hair. Hear also and more clearly the disgust of his friends. Sit in that space for a while with your senses. Finally Jesus says something. What does his voice sound like when he says, “She blesses me, she makes me ready to be buried.” What do you see in his eyes when he looks up, dripping wet, and asks, “Why are you troubling this woman?” What lingers in your heart when he promises with his “Amen, amen” (truly I tell you) “what she has done will be remembered and told forever.”

The scandal is the gift, revealing that nothing else matters to her than blessing Jesus, lavishing him with what she has to give. It’s beautiful how she pours out herself with the Nard. Wonder with me what she knows about him that the others miss?  What is it? Who knows, maybe she was an angel sent from heaven?

But alas, the moment will not linger, it’s gone quickly, as Judas slams the door in disgust on the way out. It is this beauty that sets things in motion, once and for all. It’s Tuesday of holy week. Sit in the quiet and contemplate the beauty and shame of it all.

Peter Hawkinson