Startled by Peace


Daily readings:
Psalms 93; 150, Exodus 12:1-14, John 1:1-8, Isaiah 51:9-11, Luke 24:13-35, John 20:19-23

Easter readings:
Acts 10:34-43 Jeremiah 31:1-6, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Colossians 3:1-4, Acts 10:34-43, John 20:1-18, Gospel Matthew 28:1-10

Hallelujah! Christ is risen!

The tomb is empty, the cross undone. Where will we find him?

Mary Magdalene found Jesus just outside the tomb, though she mistook him for the gardener until he called her by name and she looked at his face. Cleopas and his companion found Jesus on the road to Emmaus, though for hours they thought he was a stranger. They recognized him once “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” After he vanished, they went to tell the disciples all they had experienced. When Jesus just as quickly appeared to the Eleven and announced, “Peace be with you!” the disciples, believing they were seeing a ghost, were “startled and terrified” until he reassured them of his presence by showing them his hands and feet bearing the wounds of crucifixion.

It seems we find Christ when we look in the face of one we take for granted.

It seems we find Christ when we welcome and break bread with the stranger.

It seems we find Christ when we accept that the wounds he bore for us – even when we could not bear to stand by him – are not a cause for shame and fear, but a source of peace.

Is it Christ who startles us, or do we surprise ourselves when we discover he’s not trapped in the Bible, the church, or the places we look for him … but on the road and at the table beside us?  Like Mary, Cleopas, and the disciples, we won’t see him if we don’t expect him. Fortunately he calls to us, too.

When we hear our name called unexpectedly, conflicting reactions may arise. We can have glad anticipation that someone we want to see has found us, and we can simultaneously be anxious about why we have been singled out. When Christ calls to us from an unexpected place, he calls us to participate more fully in the body of the resurrection. That new life will look different from our old, maybe different enough to startle us, but it promises to be one of peace.

Comfort: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

Challenge: Look for Jesus not just where you remember he was, but where he is and will be.

Prayer: Holy and Living God, I praise your name. Hallelujah!

Discussion: What startles you?

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Idol Tales


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16, 1 Corinthians 15:51-58, Luke 24:1-12

In Luke’s telling of the story of the first Easter morning, several women who followed Jesus from Galilee – not just the two Marys – visit his tomb to finish preparing his body for burial with spices and perfume. Instead of Christ’s body they find two men dressed in dazzling clothes (presumably angels) who tell them Christ has risen. The women return to the remaining eleven disciples to deliver this astonishing news, “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”


Several recent studies have shown the male brain processes male and female voices differently – essentially tuning out the latter. Unfortunately, the preponderance of responses to this study are about how women can help men listen better by altering their voices. Few if any responses (full disclosure: didn’t find one) teach men how to listen better to women; on the contrary, it almost becomes an excuse. How often do we dismiss the firsthand experience of others because they don’t communicate in our preferred manner? In the case of the women disciples, their firsthand experience was dismissed until it was verified by a man (Peter). People with disabilities, transgender people, ethnic minorities, and many other groups outside the “norm” know what it’s like to have their stories ignored or declared lies until someone from the “right” social group corroborates them.

It’s easy to dismiss someone’s story if – like the eleven – your frame of reference is a bunch of people sharing your worldview and hiding away from facts which contradict their assumptions. If we treat someone who begs us to listen as weak or a victim, we may be denying a prophet. When someone has actually been in the trenches perfuming a corpse, deciding which restroom won’t get them beaten up, or navigating a wheelchair through city streets with no cut-ins … we need to listen to the truths they tell, not sweep them aside until we can find a reason to personally relate.

The faces of the poor and oppressed may change over time, but Christ calls to us through them in the same voice across the ages.

Comfort: Listening to people who have different experiences than yours helps you to better understand the diversity of God’s creation.

Challenge: Learn about the struggles of people who suffer from hidden disabilities.

Prayer: Grant me, O Lord, ears to hear and eyes to see the stories of your children who struggle unnoticed. Let me never ignore the voice of Christ calling for justice. Amen.

Discussion: Whom are you prone to ignore or dismiss because of their social group?

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Rolling Away the Stones


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window): 
Psalms 97; 145, Exodus 12:14-27, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Mark 16:1-8

When Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James visited the tomb of Jesus, they found the stone rolled aside and the tomb empty, nothing but a shroud left behind. A young man in a white robe told them Jesus had already gone ahead to Galilee.

If we open ourselves to God’s love and forgiveness, resurrection is a process as native as breathing. We can see it at work in addictions recovery, mended relationships, and lives rebuilt after disaster or tragedy. The difference between surviving and thriving is our daily willingness to embrace the possibility of resurrection – of an entirely new life in God’s love.

The stones that entomb us – grudges, disappointments, anger, bitterness, hate – can seem difficult or impossible to roll away. What if they only seem heavy because we refuse to let go of them? A light stone, if held long enough, becomes a tiresome burden. The most difficult roadblock to resurrection can be our unwillingness to simply let go of burdens we have clung to because their weight anchors us to a familiar place. Change – even good change – is something we tend to resist. Resurrection is a hand open to possibility, and you can’t open your hand while holding on to something else.

On a mission trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana we were helping repair the damage done by Hurricane Rita. Miz Stanley’s home was scheduled for light repairs, but once there we learned the trauma of the storm and the death of her husband had driven the elderly owner to develop a hoarding compulsion. The hoarding and accompanying health hazards had estranged her from her children and grandchildren. One woman in our group had experience helping people transition from independent to assisted living, and knew how to coach someone to let go of possessions. Talk about resurrection! Over the course of a week we cleared out an entire floor of her house, and Miz Stanley continued to progress long after we left. Her relationship with her family was renewed, all because she literally let go of the old. The same possibility exists for all of us.

Comfort: The possibility of resurrection is always within arm’s length.

Challenge: When you pray this week, pray with your arms outstretched.

Prayer: Merciful and loving God, I am open to all the possibilities you offer!

Discussion: What stones do you refuse to let roll away from you?

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Risen and Recognized


Easter readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Acts 10:34-43, Luke 24:1-12

Today’s daily readings:
Psalms 93; 150, Exodus 12:1-14, John 1:1-18, Luke 24:13-35

Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!

Where will we encounter him? Cleopas and another disciple (possibly his wife, who was present at the crucifixion) were on the road to Emmaus when they met him. Surprised that he didn’t seem to know about recent events in Jerusalem, they spoke of the crucifixion and the empty tomb. Though he interpreted for them the meaning of everything that had happened, they still did not know who he was. When he sat down to eat with them and blessed bread and broke it, “their eyes were opened” and they knew the risen Christ. “He had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Like the disciples who met him on the road, or the boat full of disciples who later saw him on the shore but didn’t recognize him, our vision of Christ can be limited by our expectations.

When we limit Christ to what we already know of him, we are not following the living Christ, but worshiping a lifeless photograph. Christ didn’t rise so we could wrap ourselves in a shroud-like faith that preserves but does not reveal.

To find the living Christ we often have to take time away from the safe and familiar worship at the foot of the cross – because he is no longer there!

The risen Christ may seem like a stranger, but we will recognize him by his love. When he breaks bread with our enemies. When he stands on a cold street corner protesting injustice. When he holds the hand of a lonely friend with a terminal diagnosis. When he digs a well on a desert reservation so people don’t have to drive two hours for water every day. When he welcomes refugees fleeing violence into his home for weeks at a time. Christ does all these things when we, as his only body here on earth, do these things. It is then when others who do not know him may see his nature revealed in us. It is then we can declare our redeemer lives.

Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!

Comfort: Our savior lives, and he lives in us!

Challenge: Today of all days, greet everyone with love.

Prayer: Dear LORD I give thanks for the Risen Christ! May I live ever more deeply into the love you have shown us through his sacrifice and resurrection. Your grace and mercy are endless. May my praise be endless as well. Amen.

Discussion: Despite being a resurrection people, we often entomb our faith by confining it to church. How can you let yours free in the world?


Where is bread and wine?


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab / window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Lamentations 2:10-18, 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32, Mark 14:12-25

Maundy Thursday is the day Christians traditionally observe The Last Supper, when we received the gift of communion from Christ. No matter our particular practices and beliefs around communion, all Christians can recognize it unites us across time and place. The significance of celebrating a salvation accomplished through a broken body and shed blood has been contemplated for lifetimes, yet its power and mystery are undiminished.

The book of Lamentations speaks of infants crying “Where is bread and wine?”as they faint weakly on their mothers’ bosom. These elements have been staples throughout recorded history. Their presence represents abundance, and their absence despair. The author, who was referring to physical bread and wine,  probably could not have imagined a crucified messiah. Yet in Christ’s sacrifice abundance and despair are united in a way that assures us the divine is present in all things, even the worst life has to offer. Even sitting at a meal with a friend you know will betray you to excruciating death.

Some days we can’t see the bread and wine.

Where are they when disease robs us of our comfort and dignity?
Where are they when senseless accidents rob us of our loved ones?
Where are they when the world burns at the hands of madmen?
Where are they when children are abused, abandoned, and sold into slavery?
Where are they when depression shrouds our souls in darkness?

They are at the communion table. The Lord’s Supper is powerful because it gives us a taste of bread and wine when we can’t find them on our own. It acknowledges that – right now – life is hard and tragic and seemingly senseless … but because that bread is Christ’s broken body, and that cup is filled with Christ’s shed blood, it reminds us God is present among us – and revealed – in life’s tragedy. Our pain is as real to God as it is to us.

We have been wandering the wilderness for so long we can’t see our way out. For now the bread may taste like ash and the wine like tears, but Lent always surrenders to Easter.

Comfort: God is present with you right now.

Challenge: Today, allow yourself to grieve.

Prayer: God, my creator, make known to me your presence. Amen.

Discussion: What does communion mean to you?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!