What We Crave

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

(Reflections from Barberton Community of Christ’s 5th Wednesday Swiss Steak Community Dinner)

Last night I went to church and engaged the tasks of meal making and hospitality preparing with a group of disciples who welcomed me as family though some I had never met.

As we waited for the community to arrive, we traded stories while mashing potatoes and cutting pies.

I talked poetry and theology in the dinner line, watching neighbors take heaping helpings of a home cooked meal-

Green beans
Mashed potatoes
Swiss steak
Salad
Coleslaw (you will want to ask Kay for the recipe)

Pies and brownies around the corner

Bread and butter on the tables

We were sent home with a potato masher, 3 containers of leftovers, and half a strawberry rhubarb pie…

And embraces so tender and genuine that I left the building with a teary warmth I’ve yearned for, the kind of whole-hearted community nurturing my heart seeks.

I can see the comfort this type of gathering brings, why the poor and the elderly show up to be tended in body and spirit.

Something here is the church as it’s meant to be- a grace offering with no agenda, love unrestricted.

And still, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of grief for these trying-to-be-faithful people as they struggle against the same trends of decline that have been afflicting and reforming the church all over. 25 members strong on a Sunday morning, they wonder what God wants to make of them, wonder why more young families don’t want to come. On a critical day, I could offer a whole list of reasons.

But as I bask in the lingering glow of being truly loved by the body of Christ, however small, a different thought emerges…

Perhaps quieter than all the other voices aimed at “fixing” the church.

It says things like:
These are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased
and
The kingdom has come near
and even this:
The salvation of the world is in loving community such as this.

For a moment, I hold in my heart’s gaze all the world’s suffering, including those responsible for inflicting it, and I imagine all of us in the dinner line together…

Ruthellen’s tender embrace welcoming each one, assuring us,

“there is plenty, take what you need.”

We sit at the table and stories are shared and souls are mended and the whole earth begins to heal.

This is what love can do. This is the secret treasure we hold that the world craves. This is what I long for deep in my bones. This is the hunger that keeps drawing us together.

This is how the living Christ shows up and breathes upon us-
Peace.

HOLY IN-BETWEEN

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: “Entering the silence” is based on a practice of the Seneca (First People) Nation. The imagery is adapted from the words of Twylah Nitsch:

Close your eyes. Breathe out three times.
Listen and hear the Silence…Listen and see the Silence.
Listen and taste the Silence…Listen and smell the Silence.
Breathe out one time. Listen and embrace the Silence.
When you are finished, open your eyes.

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

This is the in-between time- when no promise of resurrection can ease the grief and fear rising as swells within the soul. This is the time for feeling, really feeling, the disbelief, the anguish, as you walk away from the tomb where all your hope has been laid. This is the time for keeping vigil, for waiting… for what?

This is the time between death and resurrection where some hallowed space in us is opening a way for something new that we cannot yet see or even imagine.

Joan Chittister suggests that this in-between time is exactly where we are called to be, and that it is also holy.

“The spirituality of religious life today is neither the spirituality of the cross nor the spirituality of the resurrection. The spirituality of our time is the spirituality of Holy Saturday: a spirituality of confusion and consternation, of ineffectiveness and powerlessness, of faith in darkness and the power of hope. It is a spirituality that carries on when carrying on seems most futile.” P.41, The Fire In These Ashes

These may be the moments when we experience most profoundly the counter-cultural nature of discipleship, the ineffective way of love that is transforming our lives with this perplexing downward motion. God-with-us crucified.

I cannot even begin to imagine the heart-wrenching agony of the disciples who had literally left everything to follow the One they just watched die a violent and infuriatingly unjust death. I don’t want to speculate on the details of the mystery that occurred between losing hope and finding it again- but it feels like this holy day has something to say to us now about the power of life in God’s spirit that continues even when we feel like everything is ending.

Sister Chittister challenges us to discover the full meaning of this time: “This isn’t a time for quitting simply because the past is past and the present is unclear. This is not a time for not beginning just because the journey is uncharted. In fact, what an older generation promised a lifetime ago may only now be beginning to come to pass, to make its demands, to reveal its meaning.” P.41, The Fire In These Ashes

What if what we try so hard to avoid and escape actually contains the future we have been longing for? What if in this ending is a new beginning already unfolding within us, around us? What if the point of the past was to prepare us for this time, not to cling to what was and make an idol of it? What if we are invited to be fully present in this in-between space so that our hearts will be ready to live with Christ the resurrection life?

On Holy Saturday, we are confronted with the depth of our commitment to Christ even when what feels good and familiar about the life of faith appears to be gone. “The question, of course, is for what did we hope when we committed ourselves to such a way as this? For certainty? For approval? For clarity? Surely the answer is far deeper than that.” Joan Chittister, P.178, The Fire In These Ashes

It is this deeper answer in each of us that sustains in the dark, uncertain moments of our faith. The Lenten wilderness has been preparing us for this day. We have been slowly releasing our attachments to success, security, and power for the downward love way to wind into our hearts resurrection potential.

This is the time between death and resurrection where some hallowed space in us is opening a way for something new that we cannot yet see or even imagine.

Keep vigil. Be expectant. Mourn if you must. Unlock these fear doors in the heart.

In the darkness of the tomb is mystery, a continuing.

This in-between space is also holy.

PETITION

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Before you begin your day of work or activity, silently offer this prayer (taken from Psalm 46:10), which is best said with a rhythmic chanting of the words and a pause for contemplation after each line. You may choose to end the day with this same prayer.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

Today’s post is written by David Brock, Community of Christ Presiding Evangelist.
What prayers do you utter in the holy week moments of your life?

Petition
By David Brock

Our most primal prayers are those of petition, God.
In moments of panic we blurt out our brief,
passionate pleas and toss out our bargaining chips:
Protect our perfect or imperfectly parented child.
Make up the difference in our hastily prepared sermon.
Cover us as we approach our next looming deadline.

With sighs too deep for words, we plead
for a cure at the bedside of a loved one.
In a groan from our deepest interior, we join
the psalmist in a longing for cleansed heart
and renewed spirit; the prophet’s heart of flesh
in exchange for one of stone.

Please stop this interminable internal ache.
Let us see but a shadow’s promise of light
in the world’s heart of darkness, We beseech
Thee, God of grace. We are ministers of vision
who cannot see far enough on our own;
people of capacity who cannot be or do
all that is needed without each other, or you.

Forgive us, we implore you.
Give us, and the world, your beauty
for our ashes, the oil of joy for tears;
a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.