Noticing the Sacred In Each Other

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” –Luke 1: 40-45, NRSV

I love the image at the heart of this Advent text. Mary and Elizabeth, both unexpected carriers of this new life gift, greet in joy as they recognize the divine life within each other. Elizabeth proclaims that the child in her womb moves, leaps, in recognition of the child in Mary’s. The sacred life forming within us pulls us toward awareness of the sacred life forming in others.

This text describes our hope for relationship– that we might find ourselves expectant of the divine life present in every person we encounter. My own ministry has been shaped by Margaret Guenther’s simple wisdom, “when in doubt, I always assume that God is at work.” What if I adopted that attitude toward every person I greet? How might my relationships, expectations, and behaviors change if I assumed God’s presence and activity in everyone?

In my culture, we find ourselves in a tense time of suspicion, division, and increasing fear. As I ponder the meaning of Advent into these realities, the story of Mary and Elizabeth offers hope for what can be. Two women offer a sacred yes, bear an impossible promise, and delight in the presence of the sacred in each other.

May it be also with us. May we have the courage to see the sacred coming to life in each one, even in unexpected people and places. May we nurture that life as together we bring to birth a world of justice and love.

Come to the Table: Maundy Thursday

by Ron Harmon

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 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.”

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Mark 14:22-25, 32-38 New Revised Standard Version

Jesus took basic elements of life and infused them with prophetic meaning and purpose. A simple invitation became a pathway of hope and healing to those excluded and forgotten. A worn wooden table became a new sanctuary of acceptance and abundance for all. Bread became a symbol of remembrance and future possibility where the hungry will be fed. A simple cup conveyed a love poured generously for the sake of a world waiting to be reborn.

I come to this Passover meal never fully prepared. My journey is incomplete. I am still wandering in the wilderness, seeking greater clarity, thirsting for life giving water, and yet still unsure of my heart’s deepest desire. I remember the sacred journey while a holy unsettledness deepens my awareness of a difficult but necessary path ahead.

Is this cup too much to bear? Fountain of generous love that calls me into remembrance, disruption, suffering, and resurrection – hear my faint prayer for liberation. Break through my tired patterns of living that lull me to sleep at your time of greatest need. I desire your company and also want to flee.

Help me be fully awake and ready to respond. Grant me courage to come to the table again – to remember and to risk something new – to receive the bread and cup, embody transforming love, and share the invitation to loving community.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How do the basic elements of the table, bread, and cup evoke sacred memory and invite you into God’s unfolding future?
  • What is your heart’s deepest desire?
  • How is the Spirit inviting you to become fully awake?
  • Who do you need to invite the table?

 

 

 

 

Daily Lenten Reflection

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. –Luke 9:22-24, NRSV

Who would willingly come to this threshold? With all society’s promises of happiness and fulfillment beckoning at every bend, who would choose to enter this week of suffering? Who would sit at the table of bread being broken, feeling the horrible tension of a body almost broken too? Who would be a witness at the cross of injustice, suffering, and grief? Who would go to the tomb to revisit the despair and dread, to face what can happen even to you who dare to challenge the systems of power? –Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Holy Week: To Enter the Suffering 

 

Reflect: 

  • How do you come to the threshold of Holy Week?
  • Consider the Lenten journey that has led you here. What has been preparing you for this Holy Week time of faith?
  • Prayerfully dwell with Luke 9:22-24. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?