Making sense of senseless: a raw prayer

One week in West Bank and East Jerusalem

by itself is senseless it’s not enough time to visit

not enough time to be not enough time to feel

and the day after returning

is not enough time to

make sense of the

senseless the

baby 8 months old who died in Bethlehem Governate of teargas

in its crib but the attackers are not responsible because the baby

was not the target and – what???- and I am listening

the woman who died of teargas at the checkpoint

erected right next to a hospital  – what the hell is that anyway? –

is that – hell -?

the man the revered doctor who died of teargas because his ambulance

was held up at a checkpoint for a half hour- seriously?

the young man who was on his way to work and had to walk past some soldiers

don’t go his friend said

it will be ok the man said I have to go to work

and ended up

– dead? what? –

he loved life wasn’t a fighter just wanted to go to work

the waiter who was his friend crazy with why why why why

and I am listening

the mother who says I don’t let my son go out the settlers shoot at him


and I am listening

and then a party in a city that has had sooooo many deaths

not to disrespect but to honor to celebrate the benevolent nonprofit

to celebrate its existence because existence is resistance

and because we have to celebrate because we want to live

lamentation and celebration merge in the solemn joy

of just doing our little bit to bring life

to those who dwell in the valley

of the shadow of death

a woman grieves her son in administrative detention

and does not eat and I am listening

a pastor puts the names of the dead in a jar and prays the names

and I am listening

and now I am here getting ready to

go to my everydaywork and wondering

how if in any way i can help

wondering how i as a witness can help


how the book of Joshua

jives with the injustice as seen

from the underside

– calling on the work of St. Bartholome de las Casas

on All Saints Sunday

for help and

– God! O gracious God,

Good Teacher,

I am listening

biding my time

Arnie and I have had a full day including meeting old and new friends and attending a soccer match.  First thing tomorrow we meet our taxi and go back to the airport. I have lots to share, but now is not the time.  We will sleep and fly. Biding my time until I can write more.  Tel Aviv, Toronto, Chicago.  Tumbleweed is on the mooooove once more.



Under construction

The Church of the Nativity is under construction.  I enter by the door of humility, bowing down, and then as I allow my eyes adjust to the light I find the huge ancient pillars protected by wood panels and the entire sanctuary filled with scaffolding.  Right in the front, in the Orthodox sanctuary section, I sit to pray, pulling in my feet to avoid being treaded on my unwary pilgrims who navigate through their camera lenses. There are few, because of the unrest, but there are enough who have come talking and flashing cameras that I need to be aware.

Nevertheless I pray, here and in the Catholic sanctuary next door, slightly quieter because the Franciscan insistence on silence is more respected there.  The sense of being under construction persists.  Are we looking at destruction here in this place or is it a necessary phase of construction?  The God of Jeremiah is like a potter.  When the wheel thrown pottery does not take the shape the potter wants,  the clay is tossed back into a heap, the failed pot is demolished, and the clay is reused later.

Clay feels no anguish.  That is not true here.   Is it the anguish of birthing or dying?  A combination of both, perhaps.

I pray for my people by name, those here and those at home, and those in my parish where I serve, in the holy place where the holy child who overturned despair and brought hope was born.


Pastor Chris

walkin’ in the city

walkin’ in al Quds and the rain falls down

on women in hijab and long dresses

men in suits and jeans rushing here and there

a bus a horn taxis roadblocks of concrete in the street

i got a little turned around

and had to backtrack

but found the bookshop with the help of an old hajji

whose English was like my Arabic

but who knew where Salahudin Street was

past St George’s cathedral –

St George who slays dragons in myths of times gone by –

past the soldiers who gesture with their rifles

for you to walk on the other side.

i slept last night with a yellow cat

a good bedfellow

who just wanted to snuggle behind my knees

in the home of my artist friend

who collects shards of shattered arabic pottery

and old tiles from demolished homes

seeking to redeem what has been broken

i slept oblivious to destruction-wreaking-rockets

and now sip luscious lemonade the green mint kind

as though nothing were amiss

as though I were not trying to make sense in my mind

the persistent pain of the city

its resiliency its energy its sorrow

the persistence of its hope

The rain has stopped for a while and from the street

when the shop door opens

there are sounds of delight –

laughter –

look, the sun.

i wish i could slay dragons

and make healing from odd bits of clay

but all i can do

is pet the cat, walk in this city

and pray.


Greetings from Cyprus, a beautiful island we did not expect to visit.  Yesterday as we approached Tel Aviv, there was a storm.  You know the  kind of storm with those crazy downdrafts that feel like an elevator in free-fall.  They call it “bumpy air” in the airline industry.  Passengers have different words for it.  Anyway, while in the midst of this bumpy air we experienced a flash and our lights flickered out for a moment and then came on, followed by thunder.  Since the air remained bumpy we diverted to Cyprus, and once there we sat for an hour or so on the tarmac until we were told that we had experienced a lightning strike and the plane was grounded until it could undergo a full inspection.  The inspection crew?  In Toronto.

Air Canada has been splendid, however.  They got us water, they got us sandwiches, and then they got us off the plane and onto coaches and deposited us at a beach resort for the night with two great free meals and a Mediterranean sunset.

All this inconvenienced Arnie who has missed a couple important meetings today.  I’m going with the flow.  After all, we were struck by lightning, and we ended up…… the beach?  I’ll take that instead of the alternative.

More later.  Blessings!


Dear James and John; a reflection on Mark 10:32-45

As they were going up to Jerusalem, Jesus began to tell them about how he would soon suffer and die, and after three days he would rise.

And James and John came to Him and said, “Master, we want you to do for us whatever we want.”  And Jesus asked them what it was they wanted him to do for them.  “Grant,” they said, “that we may sit at your right hand and at your left, in your glory.”   And He said to them, “you do not know what you are asking for.”….. “for the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10: 32-45, summarized and paraphrased.)


Have you not been listening? Have you walked with the Master these three years and still not heard what Jesus and his lifework are all about?

You want to sit on the velvet cushions on the thrones to the right and left of Jesus when he becomes the great and acclaimed ruler of the world.

But you do not know what you are asking for.

Can you drink of the cup from which Jesus drinks? Can you really? Can you make yourself vulnerable to receive all the grief and anguish and pain of the whole world? Can you drink all the rage, all the murder, all the greed, all the hunger, all the confusion and sickness and war of this world with me? Can you drink of this bitter, overflowing cup? The cup the Master himself will pray might pass him by, in the garden of Gethsemane?

James…….John… …You say you can. But you do not know what you are asking for.

Are you really willing to be baptized with the baptism with which Jesus is baptized, to seek never your own comfort and wellbeing every moment and instead to give all that up for the sake of others, to abandon your personal likes and dislikes, to be public when you wish you could hide, to become a public laughingstock, to be the butt of jokes and have your name tossed around as a casual joke from century to century? To be scourged and spat upon? Are you really willing?

You say you will, in order to sit at the right hand and at the left hand of Jesus, in his glory. You’d do anything for that. But you do not know what you are asking for.

James……John……. You are looking at Jesus so eagerly, you say you would do anything to be with Him in my glory. But He cannot help you to get a posh position. You do not understand what Jesus’ glory is.

Your master is great. He is great indeed. He is greater than the high priest in the temple – he is the greatest of high priests, not of the order of Levi like the priests of the temple but of a much more ancient and mysterious order, like Melchizedek of old whom even Abraham paid tithes and honors to. For your master Jesus is greater even than Abraham. Your master is not like other high priests, who lately have been appointed by the emperor, to serve at his bidding. No, your master is the greatest of High Priests, called by God to stand between God and humanity to offer sacrifice for sin.

Your Master Jesus does indeed have glory. His glory is to become the heart of God’s mercy made visible to all people. His glory is to love you so much that He lives for your salvation, dies to show you God’s love, and rises to bring you into God’s kingdom.

You cannot know all this now, James and John, but you will know later..

You will know that His glory is to be bound, and led away outside the city walls. His glory is not a throne with seats of honor on his right hand and his left, as you suppose. His glory is to be nailed to a cross, to become a curse, and in that glory He will have at His right hand and His left those whom His Father has chosen, two thieves, two common criminals, two lawbreakers. Jesus is to be flanked right and left, not by his familiar friends, but instead by the unworthy and the dishonorable, For God honors the unworthy and dishonorable of the world, the least of us dear human beings, honors them by placing Jesus near them, alongside them to offer God’s pardon and mercy to them as well. Because they need Him.

James……..John……….You simply cannot know these things now. But you will understand them later. You will drink your share of this cup. You will experience the baptism Jesus will experience. In God’s time.

But just now, James and John, you will experience the anger of your friends, because the others are furious with you just now, James and John. They are mad because you dared to ask for what they secretly wanted also. They are mad because you sought a place above the rest, as though you were better than they are. They too might have asked for what you asked for, but they did not. Now they are angry at you because they are confused and can’t quite manage to be angry at themselves for wanting the same things you do. We’re all like you really, James and John. We are all competitive like you, jockeying for the best seats, for the recognition, because at our core we are all just a little uncertain whether God really does love us and we want to be reassured.

James and John, even though Jesus has told you that he is going to suffer, all of your friends imagine that being the greatest leads to power and prestige, lands and houses, with other, lesser people bowing to you and offering you sweet cakes and bribes if you will just put in a good word for them with your Master. But your Master is not like other rulers. He does not sit on a throne apart from His people. Instead, your Master is a servant who lives and dies in the midst of his people. He gives his life to offer them – and you- a different kind of wealth . Your master lives and dies and rises to bring you your true riches: righteousness and mercy, the forgiveness of sins, and the love of God. Your master will live and die and rise again, so that you may live knowing you are loved by God and you belong to God.

Jesus honors those who day by day do small things for others with great love. The one who cares for a sick relative or friend. The one who volunteers in his or her free time for the sake of others. These seem small, even insignificant in the world’s eyes but they are great in God’s eyes.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be great! Be great lovers of God! Be great lovers of humanity! Make your lives into signs of God’s love for the people of this world. If you want to be great, all of you, become great servants, like Jesus. Jesus is the great High Priest and His call is to mend humanity’s relationship with God. As for you, James and John, you and all the rest and all those who will come after you, you all together are a community of priests, called to be bringers of God’s compassion and peace wherever there is brokenness. You did not choose this. Jesus chose you and He sends to bring the compassion of God into your world.

People of God, we all are priests. We are signs of God’s love in the world. All of us are called, like Jesus, to be holy servants, full of prayer, seeking to bring God’s peace into the midst of strife, seeking to bring God’s love in the midst of hate, seeking to bring God’s hope where there is despair.

So go out with humility. Go out with obedience. Go out with compassion. Go out with zeal. Go out with prayer. Go out with all your heart, imperfect people who are lovers of Jesus.

For Jesus has redefined greatness. Only in serving as Jesus served is there greatness.   Amen.