Reflection

come, let us adore him

Sacred: The Heart of Jesus, 2011
Charcoal on Paper, Stephen B. Whatley

Imagine you are the woman who anointed Jesus. You break open your jar of costly aromatic oil and tenderly pour it over his head. His head. You weep as you behold him. My Lord and my God! You fall on your knees. You cannot stop kissing his feet.

(Oh, to be in her place, to repeatedly kiss his feet! to come scandalously close to God!)

Hers was true worship, not some abstract awe at the theological idea of the Christ. This was worship from the depths of her person to the depths of his person. She knew him, Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee, and she worshiped him. All her excess of love— the potent aroma, her tears, her touch, and her uncovered hair—so exposed to the whole place, and yet, so tenderly accepted by Jesus, called beautiful. This is what Holy Week is like.

During Holy Week, more than ever, we enter into the Gospel story and cling as close as we can to Jesus. It takes both boldness and childlike humility, like that dear woman had, to enter into this story and really live it, to wave our palm branches and weep at the cross. If we have the courage, we can become the woman who anointed Jesus and who could not stop kissing his feet.

During Holy Week, we celebrate the Last Supper with Jesus, and we allow him to wash our feet. We watch and pray with him in the garden. We weep with the women who weep at the cross. We prepare his dead body with extravagant amounts of myrrh and aloe and tears and wrap it in fine linen, and lay it to rest in the tomb. We wait. We rise early, breathless, running, and meet the Gardener at the empty tomb, falling to our knees in joy and adoration. Will we be able to stop kissing his feet? Oh Jesus, how we adore you!

Holy Week is all about the adoration of Jesus, and all about coming as scandalously close to him as we can, until we can just taste resurrection, his body mingled with ours, his blood filling our veins. Come this Holy Week, and let us adore him. Let us be united with him in death, that we may be united with him in resurrection.

Standard
Poem

His holy body wholly mixed
     with these our bodies, and His pure
               blood poured generously out
to fill our veins, His voice
     now pulses in our ears,
               and look! His lighted vision
pools within our eyes.  All of Him
     is mixed with all of us—
               compassionate communion. And as
He loves His church His body
     utterly, so He gives
               it more than bread, more
even than bread from heaven
      but His own, His
               living bread for her to eat.
Wheat, the olive, and the grape—
     these three—serve Your mystic union
               in threefold manner.
Your bread became our strength,
     Your wine our consolation.
               Our faces were renewed,
illumined by the grace and
     blessing of Your holy oil. For all
               of this and more, Your body—
saved by Your abasement—
     now unites in true thanksgiving.
               And Death—the insatiable lion
who consumed us all—by You alone
     its appetite was sated—by You alone
               its hold has burst, and we
rise strengthened, comforted, luminous.

“The Living Bread” from Scott Cairns’
Endless Life: Poems of the Mystics

the living bread

Quote
Video

I just finished watching this short film and wanted to share it. It portrays the journey of a little girl through foster care, from her perspective. I cried, and cried, and cried. This film is a beautiful example of how we can learn though story. Be sure to watch it full screen.

ReMoved from HESCHLE on Vimeo.

“We made ReMoved with the desire that it would be used to serve in bringing awareness, encourage, and be useful in foster parent training, and raising up foster parents. Originally created for the 168 Film Festival, ReMoved follows the emotional story through the eyes of a young girl taken from her home and placed into foster care.”

“It would be impossible to fully understand the life and emotions of a child going through the foster care system, but this short narrative film portrays that saga in a poetic light, with brushes of fear, anger, sadness, and a tiny bit of hope.” -Santa Barbara Independent

ReMoved

Aside
Hymn

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, 1740

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Quote
Reflection

welcome home

The Return of the Prodigal Son
Pompeo Batoni, oil on canvas, 1773
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

A reflection on the beginning of Lent

For months and months, I’ve been reflecting on glory— the glory of God—and that mysterious promise that we humans will one day attain it. All have fallen short of the glory of God, Paul says, implying that we humans were intended to participate in God’s glory. We can (and must) still hope for it, for Christ in us is the hope of glory. I’ve been dreaming of that glory, of my union with Christ, his love for the world flowing through me without ceasing. I’ve dreamed of the day when I’ve grown to my full height; all my gifts and talents mature and excellent, useful for love.

And I’ve been living lately, too. I’ve chased after my own comfort and independence instead of my union with Christ. I’ve watched as the energy inside of me to love has withered up, dry and fragile. Things that once gave me joy have been made a trudging through resistant soil. The skills and talents I’ve been given, buried under dust. I’ve been fading, scrambling to redefine myself, and then wearing thin all over again. I have utterly exhausted myself, but I have not yet rested, nor climbed into the lap of Christ.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

On Ash Wednesday, it was made clear to me that I cannot have life without utter dependence on the presence of God. My sin in this regard is humiliating, but it is also what the ashes smeared cross-shaped on our foreheads represent. We are all made of dust, we all fall short of the glory of God, and we are all utterly dependent on the mercy of God. In my cries for mercy, I felt the welcoming arms of the Father. And this, my friends, is what Lent is about. Lent is a welcome home to all prodigals. Lent is our repentant journey home to the Father before we celebrate the great feast of resurrection.

This Lenten season, I want to take a journey into greater dependence on God. I want to give up my desperate scraping for independence and my habit of distracting myself from my own feeble condition. I want to pursue rest. I want to learn to lay down my weary head on the breast of Jesus Christ my Lord. Journey home with me, this Lenten season. Walk with me, with a contrite heart, into the healing presence of God.

Standard
Prayer

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany from the Book of Common Prayer

Quote
Quote

Central to Paul’s understanding of the cross is the belief that it is the free gift of God to a wicked and corrupt world. This point was and is offensive to those who want to make their own unaided way through life, or who suppose that nothing much is wrong with the world or the human race, or indeed themselves. Free grace is obviously correlated with a radical view of human wickedness and the threat posed by death. For those who want to remain independent, being ruled by grace appears almost as much of a threat as being ruled by sin and death. But this is, of course, absurd. Grace is undeserved love in powerful action; and love seeks the well-being, the flourishing, of the beloved, not their extinction or diminution. To look love in the face and see only a threat is the self-imposed nemesis of the hermeneutic of suspicion.

N.T. Wright on Romans 5 in the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary

Quote
Reflection

seeing jesus

From the the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

From the the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

It’s been months since Holy Week, and the weeks of ordinary time drag on, very ordinarily, very humanly, with their rhythms of work and food and sleep. The in-breaking kingdom of God feels more like a dream I had, that’s faded, and only sometimes returns to mind. I see ordinary things all around me, like a mossy green 70s recliner, and theology books, and a worn out refrigerator, and ordinary people, like the college students and immigrants with whom I share the sidewalk. And I think, Where is God in all this? Where is Jesus?

Jesus. Several nights in the past few weeks, I’ve lain awake, remembering the glimpse of Jesus I had on Good Friday, and weeping for his return. I knew this day would come, and so I had wept then too. Jesus was then (oh, where have the words fled?) full of sublime compassion, on his knees, beckoning to me. His beauty was wild, wild like the allure of a forest that can be explored without end. His beauty was also love, love like water quenches a fiery thirst, pure water after a long, hot hike, cooling your throat, running down your chin, splashing your clothes, and then like jumping in an icy, frothy creek for the pure joy of cool relief. C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory says, “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” Yes, to be united with it, with Jesus (Oh, Jesus), is why I wept and I weep. And I knew this day would come, when Holy Week was over and I had lost sight of him again. Now it seems like I’m left with the mossy green 70s recliner and trying to make sense of how it and the refrigerator relate to Jesus.

I’ve often wished that I had lived in the first century, in Palestine, that I was Mary or Martha, or even the woman with the hemorrhage (no, that’s a lie), so that I could at least breathe his air or brush past his clothes.  If only I could spend a day getting covered in his dust. If only I saw his face, I’d finally know him. But would I?

What if Jesus was, after all, human, like the kid next door whom you never thought was anything special? What if you looked into his eyes, and saw love, yes, but human love? What if you looked into his eyes, and couldn’t see God? Maybe this is why thousands of Jews ate his divinely multiplied lunch, and then, just went home. Maybe this is why not even the disciples seemed to know who their Rabbi was. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, Peter finally gets it, finally declares, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus says, “Happy, blessed, are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father in the heavens.” Peter’s eyes, it seems, his flesh and blood and brain, weren’t enough to reveal Jesus to him. To see Jesus as he is? That kind of revelation only comes as a gift from the Father.

Whether we are first century Jews brushing past Jesus on a crowded street, or twenty-first century Americans studying him in theology books, to see Jesus, really see him, requires the eyes of faith all the same. Ordinary time, human time, with its ordinary, human things, and ordinary human people, can be for us the sacrament of the kingdom of God, of the presence of God, just as the presence of God came in what we saw to be an ordinary human in first century Palestine. We must pray for an apocalyptic opening of our eyes, for faith, that good gift of revelation from the Father. Jesus says to his disciples, “Ask, and it will be given to you… because if you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Let us pray, “Let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” and also for the eyes to see it.

Standard
Reflection

unintentional ascetic

The Ice Cream Girl, August 11, 1913. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Ice Cream Girl, August 11, 1913. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Or, how food allergies are training me in righteousness.

Several years ago, when I first discovered that milk products were off limits, I couldn’t be around anyone who was enjoying them. I threw a temper tantrum in a grocery store when Eddy wanted to buy a block of cheese for a snack. I’m so skinny, no one would guess, but I’m a glutton, and food, whatever kind of food I’m craving, is my right.

And after milk went coconut, shrimp, lobster, black tea, alcohol, caffeine, and, the killer, wheat. Pretty much all my favorite foods require one of those ingredients. But, lots of people deal with food allergies, intolerances, and special diets. I’m not special, I know, and I’m not complaining, anymore.

This has been a good gift, and, not just for the obvious reason, that I can no longer consume an entire package of Oreos in one night. This has been a good gift for my inner person. I’ve never fasted before– I think I’m too physically unstable– but, in a way, I’ve been fasting all this time. I’m just beginning to see God’s good work in it.

In the United States, food is everywhere and readily accessible and cheap. In suburban Wheaton, I can take a five minute drive to Jewel-Osco, or to McDonalds, and spend two bucks on a bag of chips, or a double cheeseburger. There is very little I can’t afford, at least, besides those beautiful 6oz tubs of  imported water buffalo mozzarella. Food is so easy, and in this kind of world, I got tricked into believing I was entitled to it. And, then, one day, I lost access to all of it. I walked into a McDonalds, and the only thing on the entire menu I could eat was a 20 calorie side salad.

I was in denial for the first couple of years. I tried a weird diet to heal my guts and I bought digestive enzymes to denature the allergens before they reached my intestines. I thought I was entitled to eat the foods I wanted. I prayed for healing, and really thought, if I prayed hard enough and ate healthy enough, one day I’d wake up and be able to eat ice cream again. Not so. One day this past year, I woke up, and realized that God was trying to heal me of my gluttony and self-entitlement instead.

In small steps, I am becoming more and more detached from food. I don’t put my hope in being free from dietary restrictions anymore. I don’t believe that ice cream is a norm. I can celebrate pizza with friends and not take a bite of one. And although food is still one of my favorite pleasures, food is also, more than ever, a gift. Sure, it hurts a little when everyone else is enjoying a homemade pecan sticky bun, warm and fragrant, just out of the oven, and I’m staring at my empty plate. But I can now say that pecan sticky buns weren’t made for me, and I was made for another world.

Could food allergies, too, be pure joy?

Standard