Blessing for the Well

Blessing for the Well © Gail Doktor 2018

This blessing remembers stories
Of a woman who waited
To offer drinks of water from the well
To passersby in exchange
For something else:
Kinship, connection, survival, recognition, coin
Or maybe just a smile
And a spoken word
Of hope and thanks

It recalls tales of a man
Who dug his roots beneath the desert
Near the bedrock of an oasis
Far down until water filled its darkness
And brought back generations
From wandering
Returning always to that
Node of life and time

It recounts myths about prophets
Shouting and praying
Walking and talking
To themselves or someone hidden from the others
Striking the earth
With the heavy heel of a worn staff
That brings up gushing springs
Enough to satisfy doubting, thirsty souls

It remembers a holy one
Who sipped from the tainted cup
Offered by the stranger
Called accursed,
Foreigner, other,
Sighed and gave back a blessing:
Promise of more and better
Yet to come

This blessing knows the well
From which you drink
May remember those stories
And call them its matriarchs and patriarchs
Yet it comes from this place
Draws its depths out of local geography
Dropping through layers and foundations
To tap the waiting pool
Sweet or pungent
Potable or poison
Clear or contaminated
Safe or sick-making

This blessing digs down with you
And knows that whatever you find
Below ground
Is what you may call yours
And helps you discover a way
To filter and cleanse it
Pump and pipe it
Draw it up and out
Spilling into the bright light of day
To flow out into the need
That hasn’t yet been met

Lent Day 39: PASSOVER

In anticipation of the coming Passion Week, which is the holiest week of Christianity between Palm Sunday and Easter, we are reminded that Jesus celebrated PASSOVER with his friends. It was a Jewish ritual.

This seder meal is an act of remembrance of the Jews suffering in Egypt, and God’s act of liberation: freeing the Jewish slaves in the time of Exodus. The great Hebrew narrative goes on to tell of Moses’ leadership through his people’s times of trial and being lost in the wilderness, and acknowledges their wandering and forgetting the covenant with God, and celebrates receiving the ten commandments, and coming to their promised land.

This seder meal continues to be celebrated by Jews each year. Over time and layered by Christian tradition, we now symbolically honor a form of the seder meal as communion: our Last Supper. And during Passion Week, our Maundy Thursday supper is often a seder meal, similar to what we understand was shared by Jesus and his followers.

Below is a diagram of the seder plate in traditional Jewish customs today:

Seder meal

The meal that we celebrate at communion holds echoes that reach back through millennia, into deep memory. Yet it also has meaning now.

People continue to suffer. To seek liberation. To desire their promised land, their home, their place and way of belonging. To need redemption.

I would argue that we share spiritual ancestors and relations. And these meal hold as much meaning now, as they did thousands of years ago. Our faith  ties us to our spiritual cousins: Jews and Muslims. We are all connected by our faithfulness to One God.

This PASSOVER meal, now transformed Maundy Thursday’s meal and communion, reminds us that inside Holy Week, Passion Week, which starts and ends  triumphantly, also contains the trial and execution of our Messiah. It holds its own time of suffering and loss, and three days of absence and separation. Like those who sat down to the seder meal, remembering their past, when we partake of communion, we also remember oppression and liberation. I don’t claim that it’s the same, but that we are bound together by this shared narrative.

Like the seder meal, the Christian communion also ends in hope. Yes, we look backward, rooting ourselves in time and place and history. And yet, we also look forward with hope, believing in the transforming grace and love of God to heal and restore all of us, and ultimately, this whole world. We hope in God’s capacity to bring all of us to a common table in a mutual home … someday.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Leviticus 23:4-6 — These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall celebrate at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, there shall be a passover offering to the Lord, and on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of unleavened bread to the Lord.
  • 22 Luke 22:1 — Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near.
  • 22 Luke 22:7-8 — Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus[b] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.”
  • 22 Luke 22:13 — So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Lent Day 14: WILDERNESS

Wilderness … this is the ultimate location for a Lenten journey, even if it’s metaphorical. The wilderness is the  mythological place where civilization ends. It’s where you go when the garden is closed to you, when towns and cities aren’t safe, or the busy hubs of humanity are too noisy and busy to allow you to find your own spiritual center.

crossing_mountainsWilderness is the place where roads stop, maps cannot offer a definitive blueprint for the paths in and out, and the GPS shows a blank screen. The place in scripture where trials occur and miracles show up, for the people of Israel,  prophets like Moses and John, and even for Jesus.

Wilderness is the place where people are lost and tested and confused and stuck and changed. Where people stay for 40 years or 40 days … If people return from the wildlands, they’re often different.

Several faith communities are using the book Lessons from the Wild Wood as a Lenten guide this year… as in invitation to get lost. To make mistakes. To fail. To learn from our own vulnerabilities and flaws, and grow as spiritual beings by taking risks.

wilderness_mtWho are we when we come back from the wilderness? If you make it back, perhaps you went through a time when you felt abandoned and alone. Yet if you come back, and you reflect on that time, perhaps you recognize the ways that God was present even in those remote spiritual or physical sites. Often people who return from the wilderness are more actively spiritual in their beliefs and practices, and they can point to specific examples of how God showed up for them.

Not everyone makes it back. The wilderness can cost your life. The journey can take its toll. Whether we’re talking about spiritual or bodily journeys … the risk can be real, in either example, when you step into the wilderness. And the resulting transformations from such a time apart in the wildlands can be just as real.

Lectionary scripture excerpts below:

  • Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked; nevertheless—as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord— none of the people who have seen my glory and the signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tested me these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their ancestors.
  • Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
  • When they were few in number,of little account, and strangers in it, wandering from nation to nation,from one kingdom to another people,  he allowed no one to oppress them.

 

 

 

Day 2 of Lent: LOOK

feb11_lentc_look2These texts gaze backward into the past. They take up the act of remembering, which is at the heart of many of our sacraments. To know ourselves, it helps to look at those places and people from which we are descended, and to acknowledge those privileges and problems we inherit. Looking backward, knowing and reconciling ourselves to the generations that preceded us and set the foundations upon which we stand and grow, allows us to live in the current time and reach for the future.

And then these texts notice and name the un-seeable and un-mentionable. These readings ask us to look again. To bear witness. To look more closely when we’d rather look away. To live as ethical beings, by seeing what is in front of us, or noticing what might otherwise be hidden or rendered invisible. To pay attention.

These texts also challenge us to pause and drink in the sheer glory of God’s creation. Maybe it’s the way the light breaks through the branches, or how the ocean rolls onto the shore. Or some other moment that brings God’s handiwork into focus.

So perhaps when we look, we perceive the face of God. Maybe we see God in a stunning landscape or beautiful view that rivets the gaze, due to its magnificence. Or maybe we see God in the horrific details of ugly, raw, complicated sights we’d rather forget, but from which we shouldn’t turn away.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Exodus 5:13 — “Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.”
  • Exodus 5:21a — “The Lord look upon you and judge!”
  • Acts 7:30-34 — When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord:  ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.