As rumors of microchips and aliens and kidnapped sex workers abound.
I hear you whispering that you are the God of the Conspiracy theorists too.
You hear their cries for a world that makes sense, you feel their arms when they reach out for someone/anyone to go along with what they are proclaiming, you take their anger when the world does not go the way it should.
You hold their hands, even when they think guns are the answer.
You continue to tell them the truth, even if their hearts are hardened with entrenched racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and other forms of bigotry.
Only you know, God, what conspiracies abounded when Jesus rode the small colt, you are the one who knows what the palms and cloaks symbolized for those who threw them.
You alone understand what poisonous lies, or world bending truths were whispered in Judas’s ear, to sell you out.
And still, the Truth is God’s, I can’t believe in any conspiracy but your love.
We humans are too clumsy, too small minded, too telltale to conspire.
I believe there are gross inequities, there are systems that run and thrive on corruption, I believe that there is, indeed, real evil manifest in the world.
But though I believe that power seeks out and protects power, and that small lies can lead to big lies, that there is no grand scheme.
Because evil is niggling and sneaky.
It hurts in micro-agressions and permission-giving for bad behavior, and in letting those who are in power believe their own lies. It’s not systemized, but all too often, it’s allowed to become prevalent.
So that bad decision stacks upon bad decision leading to the mistreatment of immigrants, the white supremacy becoming cultural, to faith being inseparable from the very flag that corrupts it and weighs it down.
And that’s why, I believe you conspire and inspire for good–all the time and every time.
This is why you said “Tell Herod that fox that I’m going to keep healing and preaching til I breathe my last.” This is why on your last day on earth, you had a ginormous good meal with your closest peeps, and then spent time loving on them and washing their feet.
You will never stop. Jesus. Jesus who meets us by the well, in a tree, and even upon a cross as we lay dying. Even then, you conspire for good.
And if I blink, I can see the co-inspiring works of the Holy Spirit.
If I blink: I can see how you make it so that babies remain impossibly cute and a couple of droplets of baptismal water are enough to start the flood of your never-ending grace
If I blink, I can see how the stars still sing out Abrahamic promises and rainbows still speak of a weaponless future of love,
If I blink I can feel your presence “your church” in all of the communities and all of the neighborhoods in the world, and its then I can taste how bread and the cup are enough to tie us to every one of your beloved: those who have come before, and those who have yet to be.
Holy Spirit, help me to conspire with you, and only you.
Stand with me as I work to find the threads of truth and love and hope.
Imbue in me, imbue in us, a faith that we humans can be beloved into a better being, and help me to talk and walk in ways that blot out the evils of the world. I pray in your most Holy Name, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
God, what was it like to take the Holy Pause of Saturday? Did you practice Sabbath while Jesus, your only son, had died?
Did you sit in a comfortable corner and let yourself cry?
Did you practice breathing, slowly, in and out, trying to find ways to regulate once again?
Did you embrace despondency?
Did it feel like the world had stopped? Did you feel slammed by the bad news–even though you knew it was coming? Did you have to sit for a minute to take in the fullness of its meaning?
Did you simply, actually, pause the world for a few so you could keep your rainbow promises?
Did you feel frustrated that after all you had done, and tried, that Jesus died anyway?
Did you take comfort in sitting with the disciples and Mary, and Mary and Martha as they moaned?
Did you make yourself useful, keeping busy helping all the humans who were in pain, so you could better process your own?
Did you just sleep all day, and try to forget the world existed?
Lord God, I have a sneaking suspicion that Saturday is Holy because it legitimizes our pain, our loss, our anger at injustices, our impatience with the waiting for peace, our heartbrokenness with the state of the world, our feeling of helplessness to be of help to anyone or anything.
And yet, You give us permission to take the time to sit with the pain. You give us the space we need to do absolutely nothing (at first) in response to the evil in the world. You do not barge in with good news or toxic positivity. You let resurrection sneak into our hearts, little by little.
Thank you God for this time and space.
Thank you for being a God who fully experiences the range of emotions and reactions we have.
Thank you for being our God and sitting with us.
Let us sit together a little longer………………………………
Feel free to use/adapt with Credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
God, I’m raging today against good Friday. Its bad Friday, it’s mistaken Friday, its very, very human Friday.
We humans should never equate abuse and violence with good. Because too often we malign those who are different than us for “good.” Too often we consider police violence “for the greater good.” Too often we glorify those who have weapons as “good guys” and end up glorifying them for Good.
Did you have to die on the Cross God? Probably, because we humans could only see the “good” of violence. Only humans would think Emmet Till dying was worthwhile because it helped to spur the civil rights movement. *
Only humans consider martyrdom something to strive for (how did we even get there, ew!).
We are not a death cult, God, we do not want to make the long count to forty lashes, and we Christians should be the first in line to be against the death penalty, realizing that it is inhumane for us to kill one another.
We should be creating community and stopping abuse at all levels. And I must confess, sometimes we are too scared, or too nice to name and cast out evil.
God, I don’t think Friday will be Good for me, anymore.
Not after a pandemic where so many have died for the “good” of the economy.
Not after a summer where death after death of Black People resulted in a lot of noise, and little change.
Not in a culture where the first thing we experience after reopening is racist attacks and has shootings of AAPI siblings and mass shootings ing general.
Lord, no, Friday isn’t good.
But I’m glad you transformed it. I’m glad you could withstand it. I’m glad your beyond it.
And I hope that someday, violence will no longer be allowed or celebrated, or deemed as necessary for the good.
I hope the sun goes down on this Good Friday, God I hope it ends soon.
And I pray that we let the resurrection sneak up on us, that we can still hear its whispers and that we can, even in the midst of Friday, follow where it leads.
Lord hear my prayer, as I stand, living in the midst of a this terrible, horrible, no good very bad Friday time.
*With Credit and Thanks for Rev. Lenny Duncan who challenged if Jesus or black bodies should have to die for us humans to “get it” or be “woke” or to spur us into action.
Feel free to use and adapt with writing credit to Pastor Katy Stenta and theology credit to Rev. Lenny Duncan.
Jesus, how beautiful is it that you chose to spend some remaining moments reminding the disciples that they can help each other wash off the dust.
Lord you know, sometimes I’ve tried to shake the dust off my feet, but it is stuck tight. It stains my sole. It stains my soul.
And I know how to wash my own feet. But sometimes i don’t have the energy, to get the water, to bend over, to do the self care.
Sometimes I don’t have the energy to wash.
And there you are–towel in hand, gently taking my feet and dipping them in the water.
You wash away the ashes. You remind me that when I’m having trouble, I can ask for help.
You remind us that we are not alone.
That we should love one another, care for one another, help one another.
So while the ashes of two more mass shootings, racist attacks, abusive trans legislation, and continue news of those who don’t yet have access to vaccines, and over 500,000 siblings who needlessly died.
You lather the soap, and pour the water, and prepare a fresh towel. Even while we are on the dusty road to Jerusalem, which ends in the cross, you make provision for us.
You teach us how to comfort one another on the journey.
And For that I give you Thanks and Praise.
Please fee free to use/adapt with Credit to Pastor Kay Stenta
God, I’ve been living with ashes in my mouth for over a year now.
And though they are bitter and continue to color every single aspect of my day,
I find that I cannot spit them out. For you have put them there, Lord
Living with death is hard–it’s why family parlors became living rooms
It’s why death was exported from homes and churches to funeral homes
Because it’s tough to see just how fragile humanity is.
Is this like white fragility and male fragility? This mortality thing? Do we ignore it because we, mistakenly, think it makes us stronger?
And then in comes the Christ: an openly weeping male, here comes Christ who sits with the sick and the weak and the disabled and the young and the dying.
Here comes Christ, with dust in his hair and dust on his feet, and ashes in his mouth. Tasting his death for all three years of his ministry.
A taste, he too can’t spit out. A taste that when he tries to draw attention to it, or share it with his disciples, it is rejected.
How did it feel, Jesus, when Mary took a moment to sit with you in the dust, and to wash as much as it as she could off, and then to wipe it clean with her own hair? Mary–whose own brother had died–Mary was the one who was able to sit with you in the dust.
How did it taste, Lord? To drink the wine and eat the bread of resurrection, while the taste of ashes was probably at its’ strongest? Did Peter taste it? Or James or John? Did Matthew and Mark feel the grains upon their tongue? Was Luke aware of its dusty origin? Did Judas recognize the taste of death upon his tongue?
And that night in the garden, when the sand of sleep overpowered the disciples, did you feel the dust in the corner of your eyes? Did you wipe it away, or had you learned to live with it by then?
God, I’ve been living with ashes in my mouth all year, and we are going to enter the season of death, of ashes, of the dirty, dusty path to Jerusalem. And so I pray, that I learn to live and learn how to learn a little more from my own mortality.
I pray that some of the taste of ash is eased with the taste of the living waters of baptism and resurrection.
I’m tired of living with ashes on my tongue, God.
But here we are.
Help me to taste the truth and good news even among the ashes, I pray.
Feel free to use/adapt with Credit to Pastor Katy Stenta
Easter Egg (with a surprise charm/sticker inside: Butterfly, Flower, Seed)
1. Ash Wednesday February 17th
“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem”
Set your Face towards God: Take a moment to step outside and look in one direction and contemplate what God has in store for you for this journey.
We will enjoy a meal together at 6pm and do worship at 6:45pm Look for the Zoom invitation
Jar of Dust
Alone or during worship
Think about how knowing our mortality helps to define us as humans. Take the jar of dust (feel free to put a couple of drops of olive or vegetable oil into it), and draw a cross upon your hand or face.
Contemplate: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
2. Sunday February 21st
“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
Do a Check in with God. Check your heart, check your strength, check your mind, check your relationships. Take inventory and hand that information over to God in prayer. Write/Draw something about your reflection on the heart
3. Sunday February 28th
“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Tend a Garden: Give nourishment or space to someone in need or yourself. Pass on a treat or a kind note or give a moment of respite to someone who needs the spiritual nourishment.
4. Sunday March 7th
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Blanket or Warm Drink
God just wants to love us. Give yourself a moment to be the beloved child of God. Rest under the wings of Jesus. Snuggle up with a blanket, sweater or a warm Drink
5. Sunday March 14th
‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.
Think of someone who has recently experienced a loss or go through the obituaries today. Are there people who died who needs prayer; or who’s families need of love? Hold the cross and pray for them today. Hold someone up to God today, knowing that God loves them. If you choose you may bury the cross somewhere in a grass or a garden as a reminder of the resurrection.
6. Sunday March 21st
“Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
Light the Candle
Give yourself a moment to ponder the things you do not understand about God and the world.
7. Sunday March 28th
When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” just say this: “The Lord needs it.” ’ So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’ They said, ‘The Lord needs it.’ Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
What would you lay down in the road in front of Christ? What are your willing to offer and give?Write what you are thinking about in the leaves of the Palm, or color the Palm while you offer it up to God
8. April 1st Mandy Thursday
“Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus* to death, for they were afraid of the people.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus* sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it* until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.* But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
Love and Serve one another was the essence of the final sermon Jesus gave his disciples. Try to serve someone today. Try to love someone today. Practice the M&M Prayers
9. April 2nd Good Friday
“Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus* there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah* of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him,* ‘This is the King of the Jews.’”
What do you need to “nail to the cross” today to be forgiven. Remember God forgave criminals even on the cross. God meets us where we are and takes us where we need to go. Confess your full self to God: the good and the bad. Give yourself over to God, knowing you are still beloved and that is why Jesus came, to love us. Draw a Cross on a stick or a rock.
10. April 3rd Holy Saturday
“Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.”
Take a few minutes in silence. Prepare your heart for Jesus. Practice a Breath prayer. Breathe in the Holy Spirit and Breathe out your stress for 15 breaths.
April 4th Easter/Resurrection Sunday
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Easter somehow comes in spite of pain and mourning and death. What stone has been rolled away in your heart? How did God roll it away? How do you celebrate this freedom and release? Open the Easter Egg Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
“Don’t think of it as dust. Just think of it as the dirt and dust of far-off lands blowing over here and settling on “Pig-Pen!” It staggers the imagination! He may be carrying the soil that was trod upon by Solomon or Nebuchadnezzar or Genghis Khan!”
February 21st: Journeying Past Our Neighbors
Children Ideas: Make Cards (maybe belated valentines) for the kid’s actual neighbors, Prayer for the neighborhood: Look at local news articles and practice praying for local people in the stories, Ask children to share stories of Good Samaritans they have seen/knows, Talk about Mr. Rogers: Look for the helpers (gather helper news stories to share), Read Little Chicken making the bread.
February 28th Sustenance for the Journey
Children Ideas: Plant a Seed, talk about nourishment the seed needs, and talk about what we need spiritually to survive. Pack for a trip together (with pictures or a real suitcase or just talk through and make a list of what you need), Read The Carrot Seed or The Very Hungry Caterpillar
March 7th: The Possibility of Journeying Home
Children Ideas: Count 100 coins together and/or Hid a Coin and then find it. Play I Spy with My Little Eye: Talk about the importance of beings Seen. Read The Empty Chair, Read Where the Wild Things Are
March 14th Journeying with Ghosts
Children Ideas: Read a short version or act out a version of The Christmas Carol (3 ghosts + Ebenezer), Read But Not the Hippopotamus, Play Duck-Duck Goose/Talk about the importance of being included, Celebrate Communion Together: Talk about how the invisible church and we are celebrating with all of the saints that were and will be. Discuss Death/Funerals talk about why we mourn & celebrate both: Tell the Waterbugs & Dragonfly Story: https://www.archhospice.ca/dragonfly-story-
March 21st: Journeying to Redemption
Children Ideas: Talk about Erasure of Sins with a Chalkboard, Read The Runaway Bunny, Sing Zaccheus was a wee little man, Talk about hospitality brainstorm how to be hospitable, Act out the Zaccheus story
March 28th: Journeying to JerusalemChildren Ideas: Color Palms, have a Parade, Make Hosanna Posters: Ask Jesus to save us (brainstorm what we need saving from), Make a Palm cross, Tell the Warm Fuzzy Story (with props if you can find cotton balls and prickly plants): https://reenchantements.files.wordpress.com/2018/08/warm-fuzzy-tale.pdf talk about how the crowds could be for Jesus and then against him on Friday
Children Ideas: Celebrate Communion Together, Wash Each Other’s Feet, Read Bear Feels Sick or How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends, and Do Unto Otters
Children Ideas: Write sins out/Draw them and nail them to a cross, Read Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Talk about waiting, Read The Napping House, Waiting by Henke, Practice a breath prayer (breathing in and out slowly In: Jesus Christ out: loves me) for 12 breaths
Tell a short version of The Velveteen Rabbit, God Gave Us Easter, or a picture book of the Easter Story, Have an Alleluia Parade. Tell the Easter Joke: What did Jesus say when he came out of the Tomb? Ta-Da!!! Discuss why the joke is funny. Display a cross that had sins nailed into it empty of the nails: discuss,
Topical Prayer: God, we are all the characters int he story. The women who find the stone rolled away, and are terrified of the angel, the disciples who do not believe the resurrection to be true, Peter who runs to see it all only to be left with the wrappings from the tomb. As we experience this story, let us embrace the amazement and perplexity of the events. They are truly beyond human ken. Though that is uncomfortable, let us sit with the wonder that Easter is we pray. Amen.