A Child Laughs — Prayers of Hope and Justice

A Child Laughs — Prayers of Justice and Hope (edited by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi) Pilgrim Press, May 1, 2017

A child’s laugh should be the butterfly wing, the ripple-maker, for all the world. There are many children crying — we hear them echoing from news media. It is time to pray the change of the world in children’s laughter.
MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED themes and issues crucial to hope and justice were crowd-sourced to create this collaborative anthology of fifty-two reflections from seventy-seven writers in eleven different countries. These writers offer background, prayers, liturgy, and questions for action and reflection, and now invite readers— both individual and small groups—to join the community.

It is with great joy that Maria and I present this new volume — filled with the amazing work of so many writers. I will be sharing one or two pieces each week to showcase some of the themes and prayers. These two are the final two prayers in the book — “the last will be first.”

Súplicas e Intercessões, Luiz Carlos Ramos, translation Paulo Gustavo França

Deus Vivo e Eterno,
Lembramo-nos, nesta hora, de toda a família humana,
especialmente aquelas famílias que têm fome de comida e sede de justiça,
daquelas que perderam suas casas e sua dignidade.
[Silêncio]
Lembramo-nos dos que choram sobre seus mortos
e temem por suas vidas.
[Silêncio]
Lembramo-nos da tua Igreja,
estabelecida neste e em outros lugares,
para acender e disseminar a luz da tua graça e da tua verdade.
[Silêncio]
Lembramo-nos daqueles e daquelas que estão doentes, que estão sofrendo,
que têm decisões difíceis a tomar,
especialmente aqueles e aquelas que nos pediram para que intercedêssemos em seu favor.
Por isso, nesta hora, confiados em tua infinita misericórdia,
apresentamos-te os nomes desses nossos irmãos e irmãs:
[Nomes…]
Em silêncio, Senhor, apresentamos diante de ti, ainda,
aqueles nomes que não podemos mencionar em voz alta…
[Silêncio]
Por fim, depositamos em tuas mãos, Deus Vivo e Eterno,
nossas tarefas inconclusas, nossos problemas insolúveis,
nossas esperanças não cumpridas, nossas preocupações, angústias e frustrações,
sabendo que somente aquilo que tu abençoas é que haverá de prosperar.
[Silêncio]
Esta é a oração que fazemos
em nome de Jesus Cristo, Senhor e Salvador nosso.
Amém.

Supplications and Intercessions
Living and Eternal God,
We remember, at this hour, the whole human family,
especially those families that are hungry for food and thirsty for justice,
those that have lost their homes and dignity.
[Silence]
We remember those who weep over their dead,
and who are fearful for their lives.
[Silence]
We remember your Church,
established here and in other places,
to light up and make known the light of your grace and truth.
[Silence]
We remember those who are sick, who are suffering,
[and] have difficult decisions to make,
especially the ones who have asked us to lift them up in prayer.
And so, at this hour, leaning on your infinite mercy,
we bring before you the names of our brothers and sisters:
[Names…]
In silence, God, we also place before you,
Those names we cannot say aloud…
[Silence]
And then, we put in your hands, Living and Eternal God,
our unfinished tasks, our unsolvable problems,
our hopes not attained, our worries, anxieties and frustrations,
confident that only that which you bless will prosper.
[Silence]
This is the prayer we make
in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Amen.

Luiz Carlos Ramos is a Methodist pastor in Brazil, and also teaches liturgy and homiletics.

Not In My Image, Laura Martin

I did not make hands in my image
for them to pull triggers
and carry out instant death sentences
against my beloveds.

I did not make humankind in my image
for them to yell “Crucify, crucify,”
to construct higher walls to
keep each other out.

I did not make children in my image
for them to learn to distract themselves
from their hungers
for food and for belonging.

I did not make You in my image
to believe you are created from anything
but agape love and the wisdom and strength
to bring my image back again.

Laura Martin is an authorized minister in the United Church of Christ. She worked in homeless services for 13 years, and met many women, men, and children who had experienced insecurity, abuse, war, and lack of sanctuary. She’s been deeply impacted by their testimonies in words and in their lives.

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Celebration of Welcome … Open and Affirming Words

It was a joy and honor to help shape two worship services for the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration this coming weekend of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Plymouth, New Hampshire becoming the first Open and Affirming congregation in the New Hampshire Conference of the United Church of Christ. There are two services Friday evening and Saturday morning. If you are in the vicinity, you want to be there!

The only possible excuse for my not being present is the one that I have – my daughter having a baby across the country and her toddler needing grandma’s care when they go to the hospital. The truth is — as much as I honor Plymouth’s incredible witness twenty-five years ago, I also wrote my words as a prayer for the world we give these two boys who will be twenty-five and twenty-seven when Plymouth has doubled its history of welcome, advocacy and grace. And I believe that they will and that they will discover in every one of those coming years new ways of breaking down barriers and affirming God’s love. We do not live in an easy time.

I am sharing here this morning a little from each of these services to celebrate them and in hopes that they might be helpful to someone else. Wherever your worshiping community is, please add a prayer of thanks for the witness of the Plymouth people of faith and your own commitment to share their work of love.

St. Francis Prayer for the Plymouth UCC 25th Anniversary

God, make us instruments of your Church.
Where there is fear — let us give singing;
where there is loneliness — real peace-passing;
where there is injustice – courage to take a stand;
where there is division — Communion
deeper than a Sunday ceremony;
where there is despair, hurt, confusion
because of experiences in faith communities
of the past —
silent prayer and listening.
And wherever and whenever
your children have found barriers —
let us continue to be an open door.

O Holy God, grant that we may not so much seek
congratulations for twenty-five years,
as new advocacy for your children today;
our theology understood
as understanding pain caused by “Christians;”
rainbows displayed, as open hearts;
focus on our church,
as willingness to be a beacon
to other churches on the journey.

For it is in trying to be church that we find one;
it is facing our failures
that we learn forgiveness.
It is in doing the simple holy things
every year – Advent to Pentecost
and walking the path of disciples
that we discover your love already surrounds us. Amen.

A Call to Worship

One: Knock, Knock.
Many: Who’s there?
One: God loves.
Many: God loves … who?
One: God loves whoever is standing outside.
Many: God loves the lost, the lonely and the locked out.
God loves gay and lesbian, transgender and bisexual,
gender non-conforming and gender queer.
One: Is this a joke?
Many: There is hope, joy and, yes, there is laughter, too,
in the welcoming presence of God’s love
and the open doors of God’s people.

Opening Prayer (unison)

Gracious God, oil the hinges of our hearts’ doors that they may swing gently and easily to welcome your coming. Amen (Prayer from New Guinea)

Song “Woke Up this Morning”

I woke up this morning with my mind — stayed on Jesus
I woke up this morning with my mind — stayed on Jesus
I woke up this morning with my mind — stayed on Jesus
Hallelu, hallelu, Hallelujah.

I’m singing a rainbow with my mind — stayed on Jesus
I’m singing a rainbow with my mind — stayed on Jesus
I’m singing a rainbow with my mind — stayed on Jesus
Hallelu, hallelu, Hallelujah.

We open the doors up in our church — stayed on Jesus
We open the doors up in our church — stayed on Jesus
We open the doors up in our church — stayed on Jesus
Hallelu, hallelu, Hallelujah.

Scripture: Psalm 84

Response: We are called to be door keepers, not just door openers, in the house of God, so that all may find a home, a nest, a place of springs for those who carry on, for those who travel the darkness. We are called to be doorkeepers, threshold levelers, hinge oilers, latch lighteners.

Scripture Litany

Psalm 24: 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! so God’s glory may come in.

Let us be the openers of doors.

Revelation 3:8 I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Let us keep our doors open!

2 Chronicles 29:3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he (Hezekiah) opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them.

Let us keep our doors repaired.

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I (Paul) came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord.

Let us affirm that God is the one who will push the heaviest doors wide.

Revelation 3:20 Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

God is also the stranger on the other side of the door. Let us prepare a table for God and all of God’s people.

Acts 5: 19-20 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.”

Let us remember that some people we will meet have lived in churches that were prisons, and that all people need to hear the whole message of welcome, of hope, of pride, of new life.

Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Today at our gathering, let us ask, search and knock, for in this community of faith, this Body of Christ we will receive, find, and be welcome.

Song Somebody’s Knocking at your Door

Somebody’s knocking at your door;
somebody’s knocking at your door;
O Christian, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door.

1) Knocks like a stranger.
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
Stranger and lonely.
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
O Christian, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door.

2) Just wants to worship.
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
Just needs some praying.
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
O Christian, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door.

3) Just wants a love blessed.
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
Needs to hear — “God loves you.”
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
O Christian, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door.

4) See — it is Jesus,
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
who looks like a stranger.
Somebody’s knocking at your door.
O Christian, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door.

 

Notes; The opening prayer is  from Gifts of Many Cultures, ed. Tirabassi and Eddy, Pilgrim Press, 1995. Hymns are in public domain with new stanzas by Maren Tirabassi. “Woke up this morning” (African-American spiritual; African-American traditional), “Somebody’s Knocking”( African-American spiritual)

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Signs

Photo Larry Brickner-Wood

I’m at the climate march,
in a League of Conservation Voters T-shirt,
holding a sign
someone needed to disperse,
in multiple copies
(there’s always a stack).

Mine says — “Rise, Build, Resist and Vote.”
I agree, but I look around
for something clever to stand beside.

Words matter, but I was traveling,
awake for twenty-four hours,
and I can’t be brief
without a good night’s sleep.
Long-winded poetry is the fruit of insomnia
(probably a pomegranate).

I like “There is no Planet B,” also
“Wade in the water, children,
Trump’s going to trouble the water
… and God is not pleased.”

There is “Mni Wiconi — water is life”
next to “We can’t drink oil”
and “Climate change is a hoax is a hoax,”
and several rude but true things
about the president’s veracity and IQ,

but I settle in next to a young woman
with a cardboard placard that says,
“Things are so bad –
even the introverts are here.”

We are here – singing old songs,
in our wheelchairs, strollers, sneakers,
one pair of Jimmy Choos (really) —
all of us, connected,
afraid and full of courage,

with our popcorn phrases
and pomegranatic poems broken open,
seedy with wet red hopes.

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For Earth Day a Responsive Invocation and a Confession

Invocation Psalm 8 (responsive)

O God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Your glory — light-years old in galaxies,
is also the waking cry of infants,
the “twinkle, twinkle” song of toddlers.

You are near as Kevlar against enemies,
you silence those who seek revenge.

When I turn to Hubble and Urthcast,
to live-stream the nebulae of your fingers;
what are human beings that you are mindful of us,
your earth-castaways that you notice us?

Yet you make us little lower than God,
graced with glory, lit with imagination.

You give us responsibility for the well-being
of precious palm-fuls of your creation;
you put our feet on the path of care
for domestic and wild animals,
birds of the air, fish of the sea,
and all sea creatures – shark and dolphin,
seal and eel, whale and oyster.

O God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Confession for our trampling

Call to Confession
We stopped natural fires
for a hundred years in Muir Woods,
until we came to understand –
fire makes rich the forest floor,
cleans out duff, pretty trillium,
horsehair fern and sorrel.
It hollows the rotted core of trees
around a healthy blackened scar.

Fire and fog make redwoods thrive
along the northern California coast.
So now we set new fires,
but make the paths more narrow
and raise them up
for we discovered human footsteps
treading down the shallow roots,
are the greatest danger.

Confession
God, we confess we damage the earth
by our very passing,
and we damage the earth
by failing to understand
what preserves it across the years.

Forgive our hard feet that trample
the very roots of life
and our thinking we have the right to go
anywhere, anytime we want.

Forgive us when we insist
on our solutions for your creation,
for we pray in the name
of the One who was mistaken
at the very moment of resurrection
for a Gardener. amen.

Assurance of Grace (Isaiah 52:7)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
God forgives the past and gives us such feet – swift, light, willing to share God’s love for mountain and valley.

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Eastertide in the Autumn — guest post from Aotearoa / New Zealand

I continue to follow the ongoing call of Eastertide by sharing this poem from Berverley Osborne of Stewart island.

EASTER PRAYER

It has been a grey weekend –
rain and fog, low temperatures,
nil-visibility and cancelled flights,
dank and dripping foliage on the trees.

And then, on Easter Sunday,
as I looked at yet more grey skies,
the cloud began to thin
and there was the blue!
The Autumn brown of wet beech leaves
flamed gold before my eyes.

May I remember that the blue
is ALWAYS there behind the grey.
The great Spirit of life-giving love
is ALWAYS there,
even when the heavy misery clouds
of war and terror, greed and abuse,
poverty, homelessness and hunger
try to conceal that awareness from our consciousness.

Remind me that your love is my life-spirit too.
May I clear away the irritations, the pre-occupations,
the resentments and pettinesses that cloud your light in me,
so that it is ONLY love that shines out
to awaken the sparkle of hopefulness,
the shine of happiness
and the glow of courage in those around me.
Amen.

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Service of Lighten-ing for Eastertide a Reverse Tenebrae

On Maundy Thursday evening each year many churches have a service of Tenebrae –

Many thanks to John Stuart for this freely shared image

which is the Latin word for “shadows.” There is a series of six to eight readings and, after each one, a candle is extinguished, leaving us more in the dark as we remember Jesus arrest, trial and crucifixion. For a worship service sometime after Easter (or after Pentecost) this service of lighten-ing or “reverse tenebrae” lifts up the theme of testimony / witnessing to faith. It is the length of a sermon but also includes seated musical verses — the worship leader will want to choose these. I actually begin my script with my words of introduction to the eight laypeople who volunteer to express these parts. It is reader’s theatre and does not need memorization.

Thanks so much for being a part of our reverse tenebrae. You’ll want to read all the parts and then practice your own a couple times. The tone of the piece is intended to be wryly humorous, as the characters recognize things about themselves. (The first character, Cleopas, remarks – “miserable Romans – wouldn’t know a holy man if they tripped over him” but he walked all the way to Emmaus oblivious to Jesus’ identity.)

Each person stands, reads and then lights a candle. The reading works from the outside to the inside. After every pair of readers there is a hymn sung from the bulletin. You do not need to have a hymnal. We will have a rehearsal …

AS SEATED FACING THE CONGREGATION:
Cleopas, Ananias, Philip, Eunice Rufus, Paul, Lydia, Tabitha

Cleopas speaks …

Before Pentecost? I go further back that that. I heard Jesus preach in the Emmaus area – I even went over to Bethany. In fact, I was there when … well, you know, when Lazarus … wasn’t dead anymore. It was incredible, though I think Jesus did it because he was just as afraid as everyone else of Martha. I wouldn’t come late for her invitation!

I wasn’t important in the ministry – one of the Seventy, sure, and did a little teaching of the simpler concepts. Still Samuel and I went to see his close friends in Jerusalem to tell them how sorry we were.

We were coming back from the condolence visit and scratching our heads a little at the wild story Mary told about Jesus’ tomb being empty, when we met this traveler who started walking with us. He was clueless about what had happened over Passover and we told him about Jesus – how amazing he was and what a tragedy that his ministry was cut short. Miserable Romans – wouldn’t know a holy man if they tripped over him!

This traveler started with the old prophets and Moses and explained how the Messiah had to suffer before there could be any glory. And while he was talking, I felt this strange glowing in my heart.

Well, we got to Emmaus town-limits at nightfall and the traveler looked like he was going further, so we convinced him to stay for dinner. Now, this is the really remarkable part of my testimony … when we asked him to say the blessing and break the bread, we suddenly knew the man Samuel and I met on the road … was Jesus himself.

Pamphylian? People are always asking. No, not a word now — just that one time.

A candle is lit.

Tabitha speaks …

No, can’t say I ever encountered the wandering rabbi from Nazareth. To be honest, if he had come to Joppa, I probably would have been too busy to notice. I’m Tabitha. The Greeks call me Dorcas – but the fact is that everyone is always calling me. And calling me. And calling me!

I was the kind of person who needed to say, “yes,” to everyone. I made clothes. I served meals. I took care of children. I went to sick beds. I stayed up and talked with women who had lost their husbands, and women who wished their husbands would get lost. I was wearing myself out helping people.

I was always tired, you know. But I was particularly tired for several days. Kind of nauseous. Pain right under my chin. But, of course, I kept right on going! They said it was my heart that gave out.

I know you are curious about the next part, but I’m not really allowed to describe anything. You can listen to my testimony, but you have to take that journey alone. Still I can say that I won’t be sorry when the time comes for me again.

And I can tell you what happened back in Joppa. All those folks I was always helping suddenly had a chance to help me. In a strange way maybe that’s the best thing I ever did for them. They washed me so tenderly, cleaned up my room, laid me in my bed, and they went and dragged old Peter himself out of Simon the Tanner’s house and showed him all the clothes I had made, and told him all about me. They asked him, like they expected him to do it – to bring me back to life.

Eye witness testimony to Jesus? What do you mean by that exactly?

A candle is lit.
A song is sung.

Ananias speaks …

When God gives you a vision with Jesus in it – well, of course it is comforting, supportive, beautiful, inspiring – Right?

Wrong!

Here’s my testimony, well, my story, anyway. I get nervous about anything that sounds legalese. In Damascus, where I live, we heard about the Jerusalem persecution, headed up by this vindictive Pharisee Saul of Tarsus who volunteered to hold the coats of people who stoned Stephen to death. Now a sweeter deacon than Stephen you couldn’t find – I understand he even forgave his killer — but talk about tactless and risky behavior. I could give him lessons in how to be somewhere else when trouble begins. It’s a highly prized talent in this Rome-ridden world.

Paul wasn’t a Roman – he was a monster – he went looking for opportunities to kill Christians – Jews like himself. We heard that he was coming here, authorized to drag us out of our synagogues and bring us to Jerusalem for what could only loosely be called “questioning.” But there was some kind of accident on the road to Damascus. When Saul got here, he went into seclusion on Straight Street and the gossip was he couldn’t see.

That’s when I had my vision. Did Jesus say, “I have rescued you,” or “keep the faith?” Wrong again. No, Jesus told me – “Ananias – to go to Straight Street and lay your healing hands (oh, did I tell you that’s my gift?) on Saul’s eyes.”

I objected right away. It’s been a while since Pentecost and we’ve been using the Holy Spirit as a search engine for quite a while. Jesus is out of touch — maybe he didn’t know what Saul was like, but he said. “Go. He is an instrument to bring my name before Gentiles, kings and the people of Israel and he will suffer in my name.”

OK So I went. But I made it quick. In the door, hand on his face, and “Brother Saul … (that stuck in my throat!) …the Lord Jesus who appeared to you has sent me so you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit!”

Out of there! Reports that my wife makes the sturdiest baskets in all of Damascus are greatly exaggerated.

A candle is lit.

Lydia speaks …

I have a big house and a lucrative business—monopoly, in fact. I’m from Thyatira – the only place you can get truly purple dye for fabric. I have a Philippian clientele of Roman military wives, Greek scholars and wealthy local citizens who want to impress someone. Just a little purple changes the way people look at you.

I’m Greek, but I was learning about the God of Israel. We had a group of women – Greek and Jewish both – who met by the river to pray every Sabbath day. Somehow, when we were praying, all the distinctions seemed to drop away.

One Sabbath Paul and Silas came and told stories about Jesus of Nazareth. Talk about not a top-drawer Savior! But it was enough for me – I met Jesus in the words of a couple guys who hadn’t even known him themselves. It’s a come-down – second-hand of second-hand.

It had to be Jesus opened my heart – otherwise can you imagine me hearing that lilies of the field fashion statement and getting baptized?

My house? Oh, that was nothing. I opened it up to be the church in Philippi. You want to know how I felt about Paul and Silas being arrested? Hey, my house is the church even when it gets dangerous. That’s my testimony! Folks are welcome right out of jail!

Paul? He was beyond makeover. But Silas now! I whipped him up a cloak – color somewhere between plum and eggplant … gorgeous!

A candle is lit.
A song is sung.

Philip speaks

People are different. Their testimonies are different. The way you light a candle in the heart is different for everyone. That’s what I got out of Pentecost. It wasn’t like I “learned” Libyan – I “learned” flexible.

In Samaria people believed me when I preached a sermon followed by a miracle to underline my point. Of course, that technique got me in trouble when Simon the local magician believed the miracles so much he offered a good price for extra hocus pocus.

On the Gaza Road I met a eunuch – the Treasurer of the Queen of the Ethiopians. Now he was half-way to Jesus by himself, reading the really old, yes, testimony, of the prophet Isaiah. I sprinted alongside the chariot, jumped up and explained that Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah. Then we stopped the chariot and we both got into a river and I baptized him then and there.

Then I vanished! That’s me – Philip – here and gone – word and water – good news testimony for anybody, everybody … anytime! Get out from under those bushel baskets!

A candle is lit.

Paul speaks …

You’ve got my letters. I can’t add much here. Yes, Philip, it is different for every church, every person … and it doesn’t matter who plants, who waters, because (as I have said so eloquently elsewhere) it’s God who gives the growth.

Funny thing. I missed the big stuff – the Galilean ministry, the cross and the empty tomb, Pentecost. Jesus met me last (well, later than most) on the Damascus Road. It was clear and bright and it stopped me cold.

But it isn’t like that for everyone. I remember Athens. On the Areopagus I had to argue with Stoics and Epicureans. Though I had used my personal story many times, the testimony they needed was different – a logical explanation, a metaphor for their context. I looked around and saw a statue “to the unknown God.” I used it to try to explain.

Everyone’s aching for God … even the really … cerebral folks … well, like me. Everyone’s aching for God. Everyone.

Sometimes I just try to lean into a better way – no preaching, miracles, tongues, collections … or even letters – I help someone meet the unknown God through … love.

A candle is lit.
A song is sung.

Eunice speaks …

My mother was the first person in the family to meet Jesus – I don’t mean she literally met him before the resurrection, or after the resurrection, or even was there at Pentecost. What I mean is … meeting her everyone gets the idea that Jesus is really alive. She believes it and so do you. She’s a little old Greek lady named Lois and she convinces everyone, even me – her daughter.

And I passed the tradition to my son Timothy – a good tradition, a tradition for Jews and
Gentiles which is how he must live, a reasonable tradition that offers respect to women, that knits together rich and poor, that speaks through simple things – parables — that everyone can understand, regardless of their education. It is a sound religion in an era of shifting values.

But Timothy lit on fire with it! His faith became his everything and he turned, in addition to us, to another parent, Paul of Tarsus, for guidance. Timothy left the safety of home to travel for Jesus. His testimony was his own.

Can a mother learn from her child? Adults learn from kids? listen to them? Can the first be last, the mustardseed grow great? My answer is absolutely … “yes.”

A candle is lit.

Rufus speaks …

Libyan? That is my language. My Dad’s name is Simon and we come from Cyrene. He exports silphium for medicine and comes to Jerusalem to trade but also for Passover. There is a Cyrenian synagogue in Jerusalem. It was the year my father let my brother Alexander and me come with him. There were thousands of festival-goers in the city. My father was a little uncomfortable with the crowd and wanted to get us to the other side of the road, to the inn where we were staying but we were blocked by one of those horrible Roman processions with criminals on their way to the place of the Skull to die. The soldiers parade them down the main street as a good example to citizens not to get into trouble. I can hear my Dad now, “Don’t get involved.”

Alex and my eyes were eyes big as flat cakes — seriously, a Jerusalem weekend and an execution. Our parents in a normal situation would have made sure we were just as far away from as possible.

There were three men in the death march and the one in the middle was obviously faint. He fell down from the weight of the cross piece. For a couple minutes he lay there in the dirt with the huge wooden beam on top of him. Then the soldiers pulled the cross off and jerked my Dad out of the crowd. He had each one of us by the hands. We had to let go, but a nice lady put her arms around our shoulders. We thought she was dressed very fancy for the daytime and had all this makeup that was running down her face.

I’m involved in the church now, the one in Africa. I often tell this story it is my favorite testimony … how my Dad carried the cross … all the way to Calvary.

A candle is lit.

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The way of the cross leads home — guest post from Ken Sehested

I can never too often encourage folks to connect with Ken Sehested’s http://www.prayerandpolitiks.org site, where justice oriented worship resources and reflections are posted every week of the year. You would also love his books In the Land of the Living and In the Land of the Willing. Earth Day resources can be found here. This is his simple Easter benediction, reminding us all to hold Easter close — not one day but all the year long.

May Easter’s affection
spawn many children
who know
despite the trouble
the toil
the rubble strewn soil
the way of the cross leads home.

Ken Sehested
Easter 2016

Photo: baptism at Marion Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison for men, Chaplain Nancy Hastings Sehested

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