Money, money, money, money; money! At some point it becomes blood. You don’t get to decide when and where. That’s a weight borne by those who pay for the cemetery plots, caskets, and embalming. If you decide to attend a visitation, don’t you dare attempt to excuse yourself with either a disclaimer or the cliches of infotainment. All you get to do is listen and feel; hear the wailing laments, and sense the rage, anguish, and grief. Let death’s pallor wash over you. Take it all in and then take it home and sit with it. When it has run its course through your innards, then you’ll be allowed to speak, to act, to enact. For God’s sake, find the chutzpah to act! © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Words, words, more words; and for what? Bodies, bodies, more bodies; and for what? Bow to the 2nd, blame it on mental illness, and brace yourself for the next one. What will you say to the grieving; parents, friends, relatives, siblings? Keep your thoughts and prayers to yourself. Come back when you’re ready to DO something; not something symbolic, something substantive. Until then, stay home, stay off the air, just stay. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Or is it forever? Since creation’s dawning, dirt — humus — has absorbed whatever liquid gravity pulls toward earth’s core. Grief trickling from all eyes; brow-sweat of every effort; life-source of each animal; all soaked into the soil as thirsty sponge drawing all toward the center. Gethsemane could be no exception. Anxiety of relational rending; exertion of mortal desire; arterial drip of ethereal hope; all lay the groundwork for betrayal, struggle, and surrender. Then there followed three days of hell. They stare at the ground, waiting for creation to happen all over again; all senses and emotions begging for dirt to be shaped and breathed into once more; afraid that it won’t, yet scared to death that it will; and the trinity of human desire saturates the ground over and over and over again: tears, sweat, and blood. Luke 22:44 In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
The adventuresome among us would like to take a zip line from the Triumphal Entry, or maybe even from all the way back at the mount of Transfiguration, to the empty tomb. The more acrophobic among us would prefer an enclosed cable car for the quick and easy journey. But there is no such shortcut. Lent is a journey we make, year after year, not because it’s fun or enjoyable, or even because we want to, but because we understand that it’s the only way; the only way to find ourselves on the far side of crucifixion, in the garden, staring at the rolled-away stone and the empty tomb, incredulous as much because of Jesus’ resurrection as because we’ve been forgiven and freed. Lent is the place where we go to die, because we feel, deep in our innards, that dying is the only path to being raised to new life. Lent is the place and the time when we prepare ourselves to admit that we are not only among the Unholy Week palm-wavers shouting, “Ho-she-annah! Save us NOW!” but also among the angry crowd shouting, “Crucify him!” Lent is the journey. Holy Week is upon us. Now is the time. Let us dare to claim its courage. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
I grew up mostly with a staunchly convinced intellectual faith until the day an inability to wrap my brain around the death of my mother cracked my hard head into fragments. My heart caught all the pieces, as they tumbled down, and tenderly held them until they could be reassembled. Now, I spend my days sharing stories of crumbled dreams that have been resurrected into pictures of hope; images we never could have fathomed with our solidified minds and plans alone. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
There is no cable-car to whisk us from the boothless peak of Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and the three disciples to a Cadbury confectioned empty tomb; no Platform 9 ¾ into which we can plunge headlong and suddenly find ourselves transported to peaceful bliss. There is only Lenten exodus; forty days, that might as well be 40 years, through which we slog, breathless and arrhythmic, trembling yet driven by a force planted at birth. Let our hope for Easter’s arrival be more than a vacuous promise from they-sayers, or a mainline injection from anesthetizers, or a little more icing on the cake from already-made-its, or a fairy-tale rescue from pie-in-the-skyers. Let us dare to descend from the mountain with the transfigured and enfleshed one into the valleys of the shadow of hell in real people’s lives — including our own — and risk whoever we think we are and even who we really are for the sake of other human beings. Let us do it, not because they look like us, think like us, vote like us, speak like us, live like us, or pray like us. Let us do it because we’re all created in the image of God; because risking ourselves for one another is what we’re here for; because we feel, in the deeps of our soul, the kin-dom Jesus lived and to which he gave birth. Let us do it because we know we must find ways to keep ourselves in this, together, or we will find ourselves out if it, apart. The only path that leads to resurrection takes us through the purple haze of pain, leads us in the dance of suffering, nails us to the tree of unliving. The empty tomb cannot be reached unless we dare to bare ourselves to rigor mortis’ relentless march, before the rising sun of grace’s throne. Let us dare to descend into the entombing pits of the grief, pain, and suffering by which we are surrounded, hoping against hope that unconditional love can and will easter us all. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
I didn’t want to say the words this year. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” kept asking to be transposed with something more honest, like, “You were in high school this morning, future slowly unfolding; but now your blood is pooled on the ground, your organs motionless, your body lifeless, your family screaming a caustic cocktail of rage and grief, cameras intruding like uninhibited perverts.” How dare we regurgitate a vacuous litany propped up on flimsy thoughts and prayers! If we can’t be honest, and say we’re not willing to change anything to slow the parade of body bags, then we need to just keep our damn mouths shut, hunkered down behind the walls of our callous indifference. Who will compose a liturgy of lament? Who will sit in this bend of hell’s river, sieve net in hand, scooping the shrapnel-torn fragments of hope as they drift toward the abyss? Answer me! © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Those who’ve loved and left by way of death’s door are not really lost. I call to them, call on them, recall them in so many ways. The names of love are like decorations for the tree; ones I’ve had for years; ones whose stories have made me who I am. If I leave them in the attic or the basement, their memories will not stay in the box. They drift in and out of moments and conversations, deep and rich as ever; never nameless, no matter what, even when I struggle to not say them. I remember your name, and in its speaking, who I’ve been shapes both who I am and who I will become. I remember your name, and as it’s vocalized, life is breathed once more, in me, through me, beyond me. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
When I see them appear in the corner of an eye, it makes me wonder what year they’re from; what story is long buried beneath the surface, in the attic or the basement or the back of a huge wardrobe, where someone thought they’d never be found; but something happens; a series of seemingly unrelated events: a song sung in just the way you remembered; or the wafting essence of bread being baked or the scent a favorite cuisine you haven’t had in years; or the way the light comes through the trees; or some other dormant trigger. There we find ourselves, tears flowing like an artesian well, conjuring up emotional baggage from eons ago, begging us to uncork vintage love, pain, and grief, and sip our way through a story of healing, if not resurrection. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We pray, O God, for all those who enter the holiday season with a sense of overwhelming sadness: those whose sadness is brought on by heightened grief of the loss of a loved one; those who are sad because the holidays bring acute awareness of family or relational dysfunction or discord; those whose sadness comes from an inability to create the Norman Rockwell life that marketers and advertisers use to create a restless desire to purchase; those whose emotions are overcome by the incongruence of life in the first eleven months of the year, or the painful difference between the “haves” and the “have nots”; and those whose sadness comes from any other reason. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to be keenly aware and ready to open our ears and our hearts to those who are anything but happy for the holidays, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with the overwhelming task of rebuilding their homes and their lives: those whose neighborhoods have been ravaged by hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or other disaster; those whose neighborhoods and lives have been turned to rubble by monster machinery of war. Help us, as your children, to have the grace to offer who we are and what we have been given to alleviate their suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with worries about health and wellness, for themselves or someone near and dear: those whose holiday appetites will be diminished by chemotherapy; those whose holiday schedules will be filled with radiation, physical therapy, or booked for surgery; those whose glasses will be raised, not to toast, but to chase down handfulls of pills which they hope will extend the quality and/or quantity of their days. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to support, by your grace, all efforts at health and healing, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those who are leaders, in our congregation, our community, our state, our nation, and in the world: those who make decisions about the direction of our congregation’s ministry and mission; those who direct funding, support, programs and protection for this city, this county, this state, this nation, and for all nations. Give us the courage to demand and support leaders who are willing to risk and sacrifice as much for peace and justice as we ask our military to risk and sacrifice in support of war; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
In the midst of this Advent season, O Lord, give us unfailing hope through your unimaginable promise; give us unquenchable joy through your gift of deliverance; through Jesus Christ our Lord….
Now hear us, O God, as we join our hearts and voices together to pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, as we pray together….. Our father……
© 2017 Todd Jenkins