Staring Through Good Friday

San Francisco de Asis Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico

It is enough to stare at this scandalous image for a while on this Good Friday and sit with what might get stirred up inside. Art shows us what we cannot see in words. Wordless silence transports the heart faster than a hundred paragraphs of sentences with nouns and verbs even amazing adjectives. We are visual learners—aren’t we? Perhaps that is why the crucifixion happened so we could really see with our hearts and somehow grasp the love of God after all.

We are too wordy perhaps these days when silence can tell us more.

Words fail to communicate what has happened…what did happen.

So we sit in silence and stare.

This is my Lenten Journey.

Stephen W. Smith
Potter’s Inn
www.pottersinn.com

The Jesus Vigil

We are approaching a horrible night. Everything turned south for Jesus on Maunday Thursday. His intent was to gather his closet companions to share a meal and to share time but in the end, everything changed. Jesus went from community to agony. It’s a journey not so unfamiliar to many of us when we seek out our friends to be our solace only to find ourselves in total isolation.

When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, it became a sort of vigil. A time of watchfulness. A time of waiting. A time of looking into his own heart deeply and to hear from God. This is what a vigil is. It’s a time of waiting.

When the mother waits all night with her sick child…
When a man waits to hear if he will get the job offer…
When parents wait for a teenager to come home and it’s after the curfew…
When you wait to hear the results of the medical tests which you fear will not be good…

I’ve been thinking about vigils since my pastor asked me to preach on this for our Maunday Thursday service tomorrow night. I”ll be leading our congregation at 1st Pres into a night of vigil…. a night of waiting… a time for desperate prayers.

I’ve been able to remember four different vigils that I have experienced: the death of my mother-in-law, the night I begged God for my fourth son’s life who was in the intensive care for 38 days and the doctors said, “Prepare for the worse.”; the night I stayed awake all night when our first-born son was in the Iraqi war and doing convoys; and a night a couple of weeks ago when we got an unexpected bill from our contractor on work he had done on our big, red barn and there was no money to pay for it.

You enter a vigil when you are over your head. The vigil reminds you that you have no control, no power, no might, no strength to change the outcome of what is looming in your mind and stirring up anxiety. Jesus entered his vigil and we must enter ours. The Jesus Vigil, however is the night we share the journey with Jesus and think through all that he was about to lose in order to gain what he could not grasp at that moment. Shortly, he would hang in suspension and that’s what you do in a vigil.

We hang in suspicion and wait. There in that wordless place we wait for the tenderness of God to give a peace that defies our understanding yet assuages every anxious feeling inside.

Jesus, we will wait with you.

By the way, join me at 1st Pres on Maunday Thursday at 7pm MT in person on on the internet at www.first-pres.org and you can view me speaking on The Jesus Vigil. I’d love your thoughts on any vigils you’ve witnessed that might help me with this message.

This is my Lenten Journey!

Stephen W. Smith
Potter’s Inn
www.pottersinn.com

Our Lenten Hope

This amazing painting by Caravaggio is compelling. In the painting, the artist invites us to join this amazing dinner party. It’s the scene after the first Easter and is titled, “The Supper at Emmaus.” It’s a favorite Bible story because Jesus reveals himself to his companions at the table. They did not recognize him on their long walk. They did not recognize him anywhere but at the table. There they recognize the nail pierced hands, the love of Jesus in their midst and their hope for many more Easter experiences. As Jesus broke the bread, their dullness of insight was also broken. Everything changed because of the table–and who was sitting around the table.

This Lenten Season, I’ve sat with this painting explored more in depth by Juliet Benner in her remarkable and inviting book that I’m using this Lent.

What must these followers of Jesus be thinking? Be feeling? Be experiencing at this moment of transformation when their eyes were opened? Imagine this as you study the painting. I so want to be there with them…with him.

I like it that Jesus’ hand is outstretched to me. It is as if I, too, belong there. I like it that there is room at the table for me. I like it that in that scene of intimacy, I too, would have my eyes widened and opened which I so need these days. I long to sit at a table like that. Don’t you?

As you find out in following Blog entries, this picture has so captivated me for some years now since it first came to may attention that it lays the foundation for our own ministry to begin having intimate gatherings, around the table, where we can too, experience the love of Jesus in our midst. It is what is missing in the fast pace, hurry sickened, fast food nation that we are living in. There seems to be no time for such intimate dinners. But why?

The table of Jesus is where he did most of his teaching; where many were found by the love of God and where men and women were ushered in the church of two or three that Jesus spoke about and wanted us to also experience.

This is the Jesus Meal.
This is where I belong.
This is where I am invited.
This is my only hope.

Caravaggio knew something that I’m wanting to know. Through the medium of his art, I can find my place at the table where I belong. Where you belong.

It is our Lenten Hope.

This is my Lenten Journey

Stephen W. Smith
www.pottersinn.com