Coats, Towels, and Linen

They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted.

Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome.
~Matthew 21:7-8

Ordinary Folks in Jesus’ time did not have a closet full of clothes.

Cloth was precious.

You either made it yourself  or you purchased it by barter or coin. Often clothing was passed down from generation to generation. Mended when torn. Worn parts were cut out.  Good pieces were re-purposed and reused.
Memories and stories embed themselves into cloth.
It is said that Jesus’ tunic was woven by his mother…a master weaver.
The Psalmist declares (Psalm 139) that God “hems me in” and “knits me together in my mother’s womb”.
We are precious.
We are also fragile.
Without a coat, or cloak, or shirt you are vulnerable to the cold, the rain, the wind, and the sun.
Our second creation story speaks of God clothing us as we left the garden. (Genesis 3:21)
As we ventured out into the world, eyes wide open knowing good and evil, God clothed us to protect us from the pain and suffering that we would encounter in our lives. 
This gift of clothing reveals God’s compassionate and steadfast love.
We are knit together, hemmed in, and protected by Love!
And Love is about to show us what love looks like.
Jesus has arrived at the Mount of Olives and clothing and palm leaves are being strewn on the ground.

This act of removing their garments and throwing them on the ground is a symbolic act of trust that the one who they have given their clothes to will take care of them.

Trust that Jesus will save them.
Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!”
“Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”
~Matthew 21:9
But as the week progresses this trust begins to break down. Is He the One, is this the Way that He will save us?
Where are the angel armies? Where are the war horses? What is He doing turning things upside down?
One by one we begin to turn away. We pick up our garments and put them back in our closets.
This Way is too hard. Opening our hearts is too painful. Forgiving others is too costly.
Remember John the Baptists answer to the Crowds when asked how “How do we bear fruit worthy of repentance?” John replied “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.” (Luke 3:10-11)

What does it look like to give your coat to another?

This act of sacrifice and act of trust gets lost in our worldview of the abundance of things….how many coats are in your closet?

On Maundy Thursday Jesus will take a towel and a basin of water and show us what love does. He will wash and dry our feet. “Love”, he declares,  “Love God and love each other. This is the Way.”
On Good Friday after Jesus breathes his last breath, He will be lovingly wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb.


As Jesus approaches Jerusalem ordinary fabric becomes precious and symbolic.

As we move toward the cross this Holy week cloth, coats, towels, and white linen wrappings take on new meaning.

What happens to the garments that Jesus sat on and covered the ground that He passed over?
What about that towel?
And that linen cloth?

What happens to our trust in God’s saving grace as the week moves along?

Crying Out

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

~ John 11:21,32


Lord, if you had been there….

These are words that I have uttered many times….. almost always in times of distress and grief and when I feel that God is silent and uncaring….

Other words that I have spoken are – Where are you God? Why God? Lord, have mercy….Christ have mercy…..

Grief is raw in this scripture from the Gospel of John chapter 11.

The Disciples, Martha, Mary, Jesus and their friends and family are mourning the loss of their brother and friend Lazarus.

This is a beautiful story rich in imagery and deep in meaning. It touches upon the universal truth in all of creation. One of the disciples, Thomas,  reveals this truth when he says, “Let us  also go, that we may die with him”

Thomas is clear – we are all in death right now. We are always in the process of dying. We are always changing – letting go of old ways

This is the call of Lent – to remember that from dust we come and to dust we go. As we walk toward the cross we are to die to our old selves and rise up a new creation.

But this facing our own fragility, our own mortality is hard work. Most often we would rather deny it, ignore it, save that reality for another time. It is easier to metaphorically – abstractly die. Far easier to talk about it – to understand it in our minds than to live through it.

Now that the collective and global threat of suffering and death are thrust into our reality this journey with Jesus through the wilderness takes on a completely different tenor and meaning.

And this is where I find Martha and Mary’s response authentic and true.

They lament.

And this lament leads to healing and wholeness.

Martha and Mary both cry out – Lord, if you had been there!

Certainly this reveals  prior thoughts – Lord – where are you? Why do you tarry?

The sister’s utter the same words but the ways they call out are refreshingly different.

There is no right way to cry out to God.

Martha is so certain – so steadfast in her belief and confession – Jesus you are the Messiah – the son of God – the one coming into the world

Mary’s grief is embodied – she falls to the ground Lord, if you had been there…. her tears express everything.

I love how Jesus interacts with Martha and Mary as they express their feelings to Him. ’His calm non judging presence, his assurance, and his empathy.

Jesus weeps!

Jesus responds in the way that each can hear him and in a way that begins the process of healing and wholeness.

Crying out – speaking the truth of how we feel, we acknowledge the way that suffering and death make us feel.

We must lament or rejoice in the reality that we see.

God can hear us – God can feel it – God can take it– and God will cry with us!

Crying out opens us to new life.

And when we cry out to God in our pain and suffering we begin the work of healing and wholeness.

Let us wake up and cry out!

Lord, where are you? Lord, if you had been there?

Lord, Have mercy on us! Christ have mercy!

Friends – Nothing can separate us from the Love of God – not even death (Romans 8:38-39).

God is here; in our homes, in the hospital, on the street

Jesus is here; drying tears on hurt faces

The Spirit is here; setting free those who are held captive

Raising us up from death into life

For God’s love has won.[i]

Ann Weems, in her book “Psalms of Lament” offers this image of Jesus:

Jesus wept,

     and in his weeping,

     he joined himself forever

     to those who mourn.

He stands now throughout all time,

     this Jesus weeping,

     with his arms about the weeping ones:

“Blessed are those who mourn,

     for they shall be comforted.”

He stands with the mourners

     for his name is God-with-us.

Jesus wept.

“Blessed are those who weep, for they shall be comforted.” Someday. Someday God will wipe the tears from Rachel’s eyes.

In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life,

     there is a deafening alleluia

     rising from the souls

     of those who weep,

     and of those who weep with those who weep.

If you watch, you will see

     the hand of God

     putting the stars back in their skies

     one by one.[ii]


This week we are invited to practice Lament. Remember there is no “right way” to Lament.

Turn to God – Cry Out  – trust in God’s healing touch, comforting presence, and steadfast love.


Image: Anointed by Lauren Wright Pittman, 2018

[i] Inspired by last line of Andrew King’s poem Love That Has No Limits

[ii] Ann Weems, Psalms of Lament, (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), xxi – xxii.

Opening our Eyes


As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.

Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,

saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent).

Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask,

“Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some were saying, “It is he.”

Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.”

He kept saying, “I am the man.”


Wow! Did you pick up on that? A man who had never ever seen anything his whole life became sighted and no one, not one person celebrated. Instead, his neighbors argued about who he was, while the man kept telling them; “I am he”. Not only did some of the neighbors fail to recognize him but they failed to hear him as well.

This man, we are told, was a beggar.

Why is it so hard to see and to hear others?   

Is it because we do not want to see their suffering for fear that it might wound us? Is it because the plight of the person produces anxiety or anger in us? Is it because we are numb?

Richard Rohr reminds us that great suffering always leads to great love. And for God to touch us we have to see the suffering around us. We have to allow it to wound us and to inspire us to respond. “Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness. It takes two. There has to be a lover and a beloved. We must be stretched to an encounter with otherness, and only then do we know it is love.”[i]

In this time and place we are being called to open our eyes and see our interconnectedness, the beauty and the pain of this world.

Now is the time to open our eyes and recognize our neighbors.

Now is the time to listen to what others are saying

Now is the time to respond with compassion.

Let us stand in solidarity with each other, in celebration and in sorrow.

Through this encounter with the blind person Jesus invites us to deepen our love of God, ourselves, our neighbors, and even our enemies and participate in the healing of our world.

I invite you to widen your circle of compassion with a “Loving-Kindness Reflection”


Begin by finding a comfortable place to sit. If you are in a chair, place your feet firmly on the ground.

If you are on a cushion or on the ground make sure your shoulders are back and your back is straight.

Begin by consciously focusing on your breath.

Gently close your eyes.

Invite the Holy Spirit to be present.

Invite feelings of love, kindness, and peace towards yourself.

Think of a time that you felt completely accepted and loved.

As you breathe in and out focus on those feelings.

Say or think “May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”

Slowly, in time with your breath repeat these words 4-7 times or set a timer for 2 minutes.

Now think of a person that is close to you. As you exhale, imagine sending feelings of loving kindness to that person.

Say or think “May I learn to look at her/him/them  with the eyes of understanding and love.

Now think of a person who you are having a difficult time with. As you exhale, imagine sending feelings of loving kindness to them.

Say or think “May I learn to look at him/her/them with the eyes of understanding and love.”

End your practice by saying, “May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”

Other phrases that are helpful are:

May I/you be happy.

May I/you be safe and protected.

May I/you be healthy and strong.

May I/you be peaceful and free from suffering.


May God bless you and keep you!

Image: Homeless Jesus by Timothy P. Schmaltz

[i] Richard Rohr Meditation on Thursday March 19, 2020

Orienting Ourselves to the Wilderness

“Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!

He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

~ John 4:29


This exclamation comes from a “Samaritan Woman” who encountered Jesus at a well. She was shocked when he asked her for a drink of water. I can imagine her thinking “How rude! Doesn’t he know he should refrain from talking to me? What could he possibly want?” Her reply attempts to put him in his place but it does not work. Jesus is determined to speak with her. Thus begins her transformation. As their dialogue deepens so does her understanding of who she is. Jesus is direct yet gentle. He knows her inside and out. And her understanding of who Jesus is deepens as well. At first she calls him a Rabbi and then a prophet. As Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah the other disciples show up interrupting the narrative. The woman drops her water bottle and runs back to her city completely transformed.

“Come and See…”, she declares

“He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”, she inquires.
It is too good to be true – but the Truth is right there before her eyes.

Jesus revealed to this woman everything she had ever done and her eyes are open and she sees the I AM, the Messiah, the Living Water, the Word.

Her testimony brought a whole city to believe in Jesus enough to welcome him to stay with them for two days. And after two days the people of the city knew Jesus was the Savior of the world.

Jesus invites us to deepen our knowledge of ourselves and thus know who he truly is. It is not about believing what another says. It is about experiencing the Word of God in our lives

Knowing ourselves and deepening our relationship with Jesus takes time.

This week we invite you reflect on the events of the day through the prayer of examine.

The Examen helps us:

  • Acknowledge sad or painful feelings and hear how God is speaking to us through them.
  • Overcome a pessimistic outlook by encouraging us notice the good in each day.
  • Tell the truth about who we truly are and what we need, rather than who we think we should be.
  • Become aware of seemingly insignificant moments that ultimately can give direction for our lives.
  • To find God in all things and to work constantly to cooperate with God’s will.


The Prayer of Examen takes about fifteen minutes, and involves three parts. Find a place you can relax and be comfortable. You may want to light a candle to remind you of the presence of God with you.


  1. Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are most grateful.
    • If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
    • When were you most able to give and receive love today?
    • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so good.
    • Breathe in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.


  1. Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are least grateful.
    • When were you least able to give and receive love?
    • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult.
    • Relive the feelings without trying to change or fix it in any way.
    • Take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are.


  1. Give thanks for whatever you have experienced.



It is  helpful to record your thoughts in a journal. Rereading these notes will help you see God’s grace at work in your life even when things seemed impossible.
Artwork: Christ and the Samaritan by Julia Stankova, 2019

Uncharted Territory

Nicodemus and Jesus on the Rooftop by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1899

Welcome to the second week of Lent!

As we walk further into the wilderness we find ourselves in uncharted territory.


“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it,

but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.

So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

~ John 3:8


Jesus speaks these words to the highly trained religious scholar and leader, Nicodemus. Nicodemus has arrived at night genuinely curious about the signs that Jesus has done. Clearly, Jesus is a teacher who has come from God; after all he has just turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana (see John 2:1-11 and read my reflection on this feast here). But Nicodemus is entrenched in his beliefs and cannot see the new things that God is doing through Jesus.

Nicodemus knows but he cannot see. He is in uncharted territory. He must let go of all his certainties and trust in the presence of God that is sitting right in front of him.

All creation stories begin in darkness and chaos, as do all meaningful changes in life. The wind of change – of transformation – has begun to blow in Nicodemus’s life. It takes him time to open his heart and see where the mysterious winds of grace will take him. Nicodemus shows up two more times in Jesus’s life. He stands up for Jesus (see John 7:50-52) and then with Joseph of Arimathea he buries the body of Jesus after he is crucified (see John 19:38-42). For Nicodemus the whole story had to unfold and many things had to come to an end before he recognized the Spirit of Truth.

We are living in a time of immense change; political, economic, and ecological. The election cycle, the coronavirus, and our heating planet can overwhelm us and fill us with anxiety and fear. But Jesus invites us to trust the winds of change. Trust in the Spirit who creates all things new. Stick with the journey. Search your heart for the presence of God and the Christ who dwells within. (see John 14:15-17, Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 3:16, Galatians 2:20, and Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21)
This weeks practice of centering prayer helps us discover the One who abides with us as we journey into uncharted territory!

Centering Prayer

Centering prayer incorporates silence, solitude and stillness that enables us to identify with Christ.

Centering prayer deepens our relationship with the living Christ.


Phileena Heuertz of the Gravity Center describes the prayer as giving our full attention to God, creating a quiet space. Phileena invites us to “think of the soul as a garden, allowing the Master Gardner to nourish and nurture that garden and then, the activity or the fruit of the prayer is found in our active life.”

Phileena Heuertz offers these instructions:

  1. Sit in an upright, attentive posture in a way that allows for an erect spine and open heart. Place hands on your lap.


  1. Gently close your eyes and bring to mind your sacred word, image, or breath as your symbol to consent to the presence and action of God within you. Your sacred symbol is intended to be the same every time you pray. It helps to ground you in the present moment, allowing you to give your undivided loving, yielded attention to God. Choose a name for God or a characteristic for God like, Love, Peace, etc.


  1. Silently, with eyes closed, recall your sacred symbol to begin your prayer. As you notice your thoughts, gently return to your sacred word. Do this however many times you notice your thoughts.


  1. When your prayer period is over, transition slowly from your prayer practice to your active life.

It is recommended to pray in this fashion for a minimum of 20 minutes, two times a day. Start slowly with initial prayer periods of 5 – 10 minutes, working up to the desired length of time.

Here is a helpful video from Phileena Heuertz

Welcoming the Wilderness

Temptation in the Wilderness by Briton Riviere, 1898


Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

~ Matthew 4:1


The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Why?

So that he could get to know himself, his true identity as the beloved Son of God; fully divine and fully human.

In the season of Lent we follow Jesus on his journey into the wilderness.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights and that at the end of that fast – he was famished. It was then, at his weakest point that he was tempted by the hinder, aka the devil.

His journey of self-knowledge prepared him to give himself unconditionally for others.

Jesus’ journey into the wilderness demonstrates the reality of how we wrestle with temptations in our lives. His journey also reveals that the wilderness is a place where we discover clarity, inner strength, and God’s steadfast love and saving grace.


We invite you to journey with Jesus into the wilderness through the practice of Contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer is being open and silent in God’s presence. It helps us “put on” the mind of Christ.

Prayer is an unceasing conversation with God. Through prayer we gain clarity, increase our compassion, and cultivate a deep trust in the One who makes all things new.


This week’s prayer practice is Welcoming Prayer.


This prayer welcomes each of our thoughts, emotions, and feelings, names them and then releases them to God. It is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. It is a “letting go” in the present moment, in the midst of the activity of ordinary life.
“To Welcome and let go is one of the most radically loving, faith-filled gestures we can make in each moment of each day. It is an open-hearted embrace of all that is – in ourselves and in the world.”
 ~ Mary Mrozowski


  1. Focus on the thoughts and emotions that are rising up within, acknowledging their presence and sinking into their feeling in your body.
  2. Welcome God to the head of the table, and then welcome each thought or emotion in turn.
  3. Let go in the presence of the Divine by closing with the prayer written by Father Thomas Keating, below, or by simply assuming a posture of surrender or breathing a deep breath of release.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything that comes to me today

because I know it’s for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,

situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,

approval and pleasure.

I let go of my desire for survival and security.

I let go of my desire to change any situation,

condition, person or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God and

God’s action within. Amen.
Blessings on your journey,
            Pastor Ninabeth

Pastor Ninabeth’s Musings

There was a wedding in Cana of Galilee

Image: Procession by John August Swanson, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Art in the Christian Tradition

and the mother of Jesus was there.

Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

The wine gave out halfway through the feast

and Jesus’ mother said to him, They have no wine.”

Jesus said, “But what concern is that to you and me?

My time has yet to come.”

But his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Standing nearby were six stone water jars,

each holding twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jugs with water.”

And they filled them up to the brim.

He said to them, “Now draw out and take it to the chief server.”

So they took it to the chief server

and when he tasted the water that had become wine

he called to the bridegroom and said,

“Everyone serves the good wine first and then the cheaper wine

when the guests have become drunk.

But you have kept the good wine to the last.”

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee.

And he revealed his glory and the disciples believed in him.

  ~Paraphrased from John 2 by J Philp Newell (Celtic Treasure: Daily Scripture and Prayer, William B Eerdmanns Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 2005), 181.
Have you ever given out halfway through? Out of energy. Out of patience. Out of confidence. Out of luck. Out of joy. Out of hope.
Have you ever felt not good enough? Not smart enough. Not good looking enough. Not thin or thick enough.
Have you ever felt empty? Lost. Numb. Alone. Stagnant. Stuck.
Are you thirsty?
Then you must be a guest at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.
It’s a feast. A gala. A rockin new years party. And for all of us introverts, there are side rooms where the music isn’t so loud and there is room to walk around and sit for a while, you can even take a nap!
And Jesus is doing what Jesus does best; serving up the Good Wine, the Abundant Life, grace upon grace.
He really is pretty indiscriminate about it. He knows everyone’s name. Boldly calls us each “Beloved!” No guest goes unattended. No sooner than you take a sip and boom – your glass is full again!
With Jesus by your side you can sing and you can dance, no one’s gloomy or complaining…. the lost are found, the empty are full, the down and out are lifted up, the despairing are given hope, and the thirsty … all are given the Good Wine.
This is Cana Grace!
And my friends, the invitation is open and all are welcome; this party never ends.
All you need to say is “YES!” and the door will be opened.
So come! Come and experience Cana grace – your cup will never be empty – your plate will always be full!
For Jesus is waiting for you to arrive.
Say “Yes!” and let your hearts be filled to the brim with love.
Jesus, with You by our side, we always have enough and we are always good enough. You have shown us how your grace can turn emptiness into fullness and the ordinary into the extraordinary. Today fill us full to the brim with gratitude and love, so that it overflows and touches others who are thirsty for the Good Wine. Amen.