In Seven Words (Good Friday)

What evil has been done? came the question, but they were too enraged. His innocence was not worth more than their satisfaction, their safety, their righteousness. He must be guilty, because they must be good. Arrest him, they shouted. Let him be a lesson, they said, so others see that their respectability must overcome our insecurity if they are to be spared. And because their fear was so important, he was sacrificed. No number of shots was too great, though he pleaded:

Hands up, don’t shoot.

As he was dying, they stood around and mocked him: you don’t scare us anymore. To one another they said: He had a gun, did you see it too? Be sure to report that he lunged at us first. Some who were nearby asked him, Why didn’t you run? Others rallied and said, He will save us; he will be the lesson so no one else dies this way. But he said only,


They would not allow family members and friends to keep him company as he died, or to say their goodbyes and reassure him of their love. From a distance they could only weep. He looked at them, at the women who had borne him through blood and water and oil, who had fed him and taught him and held him when it seemed that his hope and strength would fail. Their grief would be a shawl that wrapped around them for the rest of their lives; they would carry his name long after the world forget theirs. Loving them, he said,

Say her name.

Time stood still as he died. There was nothing to do but watch, and weep, and wait, and rage as he struggled. Those who were satisfied by his subjugation had long since left the scene. Only the authorities remained to keep order and commend each other’s valor. Seeing them in their satisfaction, in their certainty, in their relief, he gathered his waning strength and cried,

No justice! No peace!

And then with what was left, he whispered,

I can’t breathe.

The sun faded. Evil and sorrow and fury grew like a storm cloud as far as the eye could see, so it seemed for a time that love and life would always pale in comparison to violence and death. Those who watched him wondered if joy would dawn again and if justice would sing again. Knowing their hearts, he said,

Stay woke.

And as if there was nothing left but prayer, he sighed as he died,





To die for life
— what a laugh!
To accept the kiss of betrayal
— such foolishness!
To save by suffering
— only delusion!

I cannot stand such shame
— there is no glory in this,
No glory in human death
— since Cain, you have known this
Yet we die in every generation
— why would you do the same?
The world needs no more suffering
— ask the turtles, the trees, and all elders.

Of what gain is this loss
— of what use is blood to the ground?
We desperately drink the soaked soil
— yes there, at the foot of the cross,
But if blood could save us, consider:
— how greatly redeemed we would be
By the drenched earth of humanity’s birthplaces
— the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile all know it.
The conquerors would be the most redeemed
— not the most damned, as surely they are.

But notice how hard we try
— still to save ourselves with violence.
If the blood of One would suffice
— it would be finished
Yet we are unsatisfied
— so, God, let us assess:
Any gain from death is unjust.
— Is this how you would be?
Any vulnerability from pain is human.
— Do you stoop so low?
Any anguish from betrayal is naught but heartbreak.
— What kind of holiness is this?

Bury, O God, such foolish heroism.
— Save us not by death.
Condemn the suffering we inflict,
— the sin we violently heap on one another.
Rescue the captive, the refugee, the oppressed.
— Let theirs be the fullness of life.
Take down from the cross the innocent.
— Let blood no more water the earth.
Free the lamb from senseless slaughter.
— Can life no more require this?

Good Friday (Lent 39)

“Do you know what I have done to you?”
You have retold my story,
loving it like it was your own,
changing it by your holy imagination.

“Do you know what you have done to me?”
We have co-opted your story,
loving it like we were its heroes,
twisting it to our own conclusions.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”
You have stood my feet on solid ground,
kept them company in my long wanderings,
guided them when my next steps were unclear.

“Do you know what you have done to me?”
We have stood without shame on your blood,
raised your name like we are its sole heirs,
presumed you bless our every endeavor.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”

“Do you know what you have done to me?”

Help us, O Christ.
You have done everything.
We have done too much…and not enough.

on John 13:12 & Luke 23:34

Lent 39 (Good Friday)

You are
true to your word
even to the point of death.
Who really does that

You are
the First and Last
Word, the holy action
and now: the brutal

You are
the Word that heals
a salve from the tongue
a welcome whisper
in my ear

You are
the expression
of God’s word spoken
across chaos at

You are
an implanted word
a seed sown in secret hope
growing through turmoil
waiting to bloom

Monday Muse: Thirty Pieces of Silver

Barely into the season of Epiphany, it’s a little difficult to believe that Lent is just around the corner — but just around the corner it is, which puts Lenten preparations squarely on the “to do” list for many ministers these days.

If you’re looking for small group resources for Lent, I encourage you to check out the free small group discussion guide that I’ve written for Writing to God; it’s available for download on the Paraclete Press website (below the image of the book cover). There’s also a helpful tip sheet available if you’re using my new book Sacred Pause with a small group, and I’m currently completing a Lenten Sunday School curriculum for Writing to God: Kids’ Edition.

If you’re eager for ideas and conversation to inspire your plans for a Lenten sermon series, join me on Thursday, February 5th at 1:00pm (Eastern) for a webinar on preaching in Lent, through the Center for Progressive Renewal. I’ll post the link for registration as soon as it’s available!

In the meantime, I’m perusing the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Lent in preparation for the above, and the story of the woman who anoints Jesus with perfumed oil (much to the chagrin of Judas) reminds me of a dramatic script that I wrote for a Lenten worship service last year. I share it here for your Lenten preparation, for your personal reflection, and/or for your worship use for Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.

Two Who Loved Jesus
John 12:1-8 with Matthew 26:14-16

Judas (disciple of Jesus): Jesus, I love you.

Mary (sister of Martha & Lazarus): Jesus, I love you.

I have watched you and followed you over these years.

I have watched you and followed you over these years.

I have called you Teacher. You have called me Friend.

I have called you Teacher. You have called me Friend.

You have revolutionized my worldview, exposed me to the subtle ways of death amidst life, called me to proclaim good news in unexpected ways.

You have revolutionized my worldview, exposed me to the ways of life amidst death, called me to welcome good news walking out from a tomb.

You taught me to name demons and diseases of the soul to heal the body.

You knew my name, recognized me, valued me even amidst a crowd of men.

You multiplied a meal for the thousands and conjured a calm out of a terrifying storm. What power!

You wept when I was in mourning. You unbound Lazarus from the grasp of death. What mercy!

But you eluded me when you spoke with the Samaritan woman and showed consideration to a soldier. You were soft, too easily distracted by people’s needs. Why didn’t you ride into Jerusalem on a stallion instead of a donkey?

You borrowed a donkey from my hometown to ride into Jerusalem. Whenever you visited us, you let me sit quietly at your feet. And then you soothed my soul as I anointed your body with perfume.

You called me into a ministry of finances, granted me authority to use the offerings of our wealthier patrons to clothe and feed the poor (with the occasional new robe as a perk for myself). We lived off the land and the generosity of others. We were building a movement of the least of these — the 99% against the system!

How could I offer you any less than 100%

We were going to be the ones in power someday!

I knew that you would not be with us one day.

But you betrayed me, and you betrayed our cause when you accepted the gift of perfume. I could do better — instead of three hundred denarii, I could earn thirty pieces of silver to start our revolution.

I could do no better than to bless you, with perfume and prayers pouring from my hands.

Suggested interlude: verses 1 & 2 of the hymn
“From the Crush of Wealth and Power”

Judas: Jesus, you are the Christ.

Mary: Jesus, you are the Christ.

The strong Messiah.

The beautiful Covenant.

The most expensive Treasure.

The most life-giving Supply.

But your life is only one life…

Your life is the only life…

…and there are many lives to be concerned about in this world, including mine.

…and all lives for all time will be blessed by you, including mine.

It’s time for you to take on the world.

It’s time for you to leave this world.

Turn the tables and claim your place as God’s Chosen Treasure.

Open your arms and claim your place as God’s Chosen Treasure.

But if you do not…

And as you do…

…may God use me instead…

…may God use me in this stead…

…to bring a new order into being…

…to anoint and bless the fullness of your being…

…at whatever cost. [Judas pours silver coins.]

…at whatever cost. [Mary pours oil.]

Suggested closure: verses 3 & 4 of
“From the Crush of Wealth and Power”