End of Story?

John 20:19-31 – 2nd Sunday of Easter – for April 12, 2015

“After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them…” (John 20:26)

The Doubt of St. Thomas by He Qi ©2001

The Doubt of St. Thomas by He Qi ©2001

Why can’t I ignore the disciple Thomas?

Each year, when reading the scripture for Lent, and then plunging into the intense, familiar verses about Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, I rarely think about Thomas. Indeed, with a few exceptions—Peter’s bumbling betrayals, Judas’ fatal scheming—I’m hugely focused on Jesus.

Of course I am!

The scope of Jesus’ ministry expanded when he arrived in Jerusalem for his final visit. His disciples drank too much at “the last supper” and spent part of the night asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, physically in a stupor when Jesus prayed and collectively helpless at his arrest. Then, and elsewhere, his devoted followers barely mattered. Soon enough, they’d literally vanish, cowards or clever or both. But what matters in all the Gospel accounts, with the cross looming and Jesus’ crowd-pleasing teaching and healing a distant memory, are the manipulations of the entrenched religious authorities and the raw power of the Roman empire.

Who will prevail? Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Easter, Lectionary - Year B

The Morning of Many Baptists

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.114

peaceThe hospice chaplain explained that one of his new patients, “Has a Baptist background, but he doesn’t go to church.”

Later, about another patient who’d recently entered hospice care, the same chaplain said, “She was a Baptist, but hasn’t been to church since she was a knee-high to a grasshopper.” He paused. “Her words, not mine.” The chaplain chuckled.

And then, still later, about another of his assigned patients: “He was raised Baptist, but hasn’t been involved anywhere after his children grew up and moved away.”

On that particular morning, at our team meeting, it seemed all of that particular chaplain’s new patients were raised in, had been affiliated with, or once deeply involved in some church in one of the many Baptist denominations. Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Hospice

The Wind Blows Where It Wishes*

John 18:1 – 19:42 (especially 19:38-42) – Good Friday – for Friday, April 3, 2015

“There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified…” (John 19:41)

Good-Friday_2014-4The stone was set.

The garden—a laughable description for the neglected swath of hard dirt and thick weeds—was now oppressed with shadows. But at least, even before in the fading sunlight, Golgotha and its bloodied hillside couldn’t be seen from where Jesus lay in a tomb. That now empty place, where a few hours before Roman soldiers had threatened the crowds with more death if they didn’t keep their distance from the crosses, where women had wailed until their hoarse throats sounded like wounded animals, where children played tag, where the clot of temple priests silently encouraged each demeaning step of the crucifixion, was over a rise and seemed like it had happened a thousand years ago to someone else.

But it happened. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Lectionary - Year B

Can I Give You A Hug?

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.113

On most days, her GPS will lie to her about directions at least once before she returns to the hospice office . . .

On most days, her GPS will lie to her about directions at least once before she returns to the hospice office . . .

I listen to her describe the drive into the foothills. The roads twist like curlicue ribbons on a Christmas gift. The addresses are inconsistent, with some numbers faded into invisibility on mailboxes and others haphazardly scrawled on the sides of fences. Every patient’s house can seem like a missing puzzle piece in the isolated foothills east of Fresno. On most days, her GPS will lie to her about directions at least once before she returns to the hospice office. She rarely has a chance for that lunch break she’s required to take. At one front door of a patient, who lives in mobile home with more rust than paint, she is welcomed like the Queen of Sheba. At the next stop, a 10,000-square-foot cabin on steroids built by wealthy retirees, she’s treated like a despised servant. Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Hospice

In the Grip of Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11Palm Sunday – for March 29, 2015

“Many people spread out their clothes on the road while others spread branches cut from the fields.” (Mark 11:8)

With a closed palm, we warn with our fist . . .

With a closed palm, we warn with our fist . . .

Today I read Mark through John’s eyes.

Only the Gospel of John mentioned palm trees.

Mark and Matthew were branches, with no palms allowed.

And Luke? Well, Luke didn’t know, didn’t care, or got the memo late about the greenery. There were no palms in the third gospel, just cloaks scattered on the ground when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

Palms, like other elements in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, were symbolic. For example, the bread and wine shared during the “last supper” were common parts of a meal that became essential symbolic elements. Don’t forget the iconic gold, frankincense, and myrrh in Matthew’s version of Jesus’ beginnings. After Bethlehem’s gifts, there was the high-in-the-sky symbol of a dove descending. And if your literal-leaning faith prefers to interpret the gold at Jesus’ birth in the clutches of a flesh-and-blood magi or a visible and heaven-sent bird at baptism soaring in the clouds above the Jordan River, at the least we can agree those—and other Gospel events—have become symbolic.

Palm trees too. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Lectionary - Year B, Lent