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Camino du Jour

It is the first Saturday of Easter, and I am approaching….

The problem is, I’m not sure what I’m approaching nor what I am leaving. Unlike walking the Camino de Santiago, even with its different paths, unless you get completely lost, you still know what you are approaching, what you are leaving behind, and what the final goal is. The same applies even to walking a labyrinth. Yet often, in the journeys of our lives, we don’t know that. We wander, perhaps coming back to a place we’ve been to in the past and approaching it newly.

For the past few years, I’ve been interested in the idea of the rhizome from Deleuze and Guattari; the idea that learning and understanding is not a simple straight path with single entry point and a single exit point that can all be fit nicely into clear hierarchy.

Where does our journey to God lead, if the pot cannot understand the mind of the potter? Are we journeying with the mystics to some sort of unitive experience with the divine? Is that experience kataphatic? Apophatic? Affective? Speculative? Are we journeying to some sort of active response to God, doing all things for the love of God? Out of fear of God’s wrath? In some sort of effort to obtain salvation through works? Through fear and trembling?

Who are the pilgrims that walk alongside us during parts of our journey? What role does the established institutional church play? The structures and hierarchies of the church?

I’ve been watching various videos of people on the Camino de Santiago. For each peregrine, even though there is a common path and destination, the journeys are very different. Perhaps someday I will walk the Camino. Until then, I am trying to make the steps of my daily life steps of a pilgrim.

How do we make each step part of our journey to God? How aware are we of where we are going and what is around us? Yesterday, I walked down to the river near where I work at lunch time. There was a light rain. Our journeys, in our daily life and on the Camino aren’t always nice sunny days. Along the way I notice the periwinkle in bloom, the shell of a robin’s egg, an old Christmas tree, brown but still fragrant, and the comb of an old hornets’ nest brought down by winter storms.

Thursday, I went to noonday prayer at a local church. We talked about the reading for Wednesday, which was the story about meeting the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus. We are used to going straight from the grief of Good Friday to the joy of resurrection on Sunday. Yet for the disciples, that isn’t the way it was. The disciples walking to Emmaus were still in their grief, compounded by confusion after they had heard stories about the resurrection. When they met Jesus on the road, they did not recognize him. Does that sound odd to you? You’ve spent three years following this person who you think might be the Messiah, but then when you see him, you don’t recognize him. I wonder how often we don’t recognize Christ around us. For those of us that love the Eucharist, the idea of Christ being known to us in the breaking of the bread strongly resonates. Yet tomorrow, we think about doubting Thomas. Christ was made known to Thomas by his wounds. Christ showed his vulnerability. How willing are we to show our vulnerability?

I also wonder if some of what was going on with Thomas was a feeling of being left out. How would you feel or react if you close friends were all talking about something amazing they saw that you didn’t see? Would you say that you don’t really believe it was all that amazing, only to change your tune when that amazing experience came to you?

Tomorrow, I expect to go to church as a pilgrim. I’m not sure which church or denomination it will be. Will I go to the church I’ve been going to for the past several years, or is it time to move on? Will I go to the denomination I’ve been going to for the past forty years, or is it time to move on? Should I go to a church named after Thomas on the day we read his story? Should I go to a church named after Joseph of Arimathea as I look back at the empty tomb? Perhaps I should go to Congregational church, reconnecting to my childhood, to a Russian Orthodox church, connecting to my wife’s ancestry, to a Coptic Orthodox church in solidarity with Egyptian martyrs.

It is the first Saturday of Easter, and I am approaching….

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The Airport

For ages,
I have been a luggage handler
at the airport of
the emotionally damaged.

I have seen all kinds of baggage;
big and bulky,
sturdy suffering that lasts forever,
and the carefully crafted carry-on,
made to look intentional, beautiful,
though perhaps not as functional.

These days,
the carry-on baggage
is carefully scanned
to make sure
the lotions we bear
to mask the scent
of human suffering
won’t be used

I, too, wander these corridors
looking for companions,
fellow travelers,
who can share the burdens
or at least help me
pass the time.

Listless travelers peruse
the latest self-help titles,
titillating romances,
or perhaps even
some recent nonfiction,
although current fake news
makes it harder to differentiate.

stop at gift shops
seeking a trinket
for the loved ones
who miss us
the stuffed armadillo
will make the absence
a little more forgivable.

It is busier than normal
in a lonely tea shop
on a Silent Saturday morn
as the passengers,
delayed by Good Friday’s storms,
seek new ways
of getting home.

The wake will await their arrival;
the joys of reunion,
even though we wish it were in happier times

We check our tickets,
the departure board,
and seek our boarding gate.
Then we hasten our gait
to hurry and wait
in yet another line.

Soon, we will be home
and then travel again
in the never ending journey.

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Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling when… your coworker comes to talk about a project that she is working with on and you can see that she is struggling with something much greater and you ask her what is going on and she talks about an eighteen month old cousin that unexpectedly stopped breathing. That feeling when… you get a message from your coworker the moment you sit down to your computer asking if she can come over to talk about the project and you know it isn’t about the project, but the cousin has died.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling when… you read the stories in social media about the old Asian doctor, trying to get home and the airline, trying to get seats for its employees, calls in the police to remove the man who does not want to give up his seat. You see his bloodied face on video after video. You read the statement from the CEO about the customer being re-accommodated. It is Holy Week, and you think of the re-accommodation of Christ.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling when… you hear of another shooting in another school, when you hear of a history of domestic violence and weapons violations, and you hear that the eight year old child who got caught in the gun fire, died.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

That feeling during Passover when… the White House Press Secretary, trying to defend the missile attacks against Syria, compares the leader of Syria to Hitler saying that even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons against his own people, and when asked to clarify the remarks talks about “holocaust centers”.

I hold all these things in my heart as I walk to the community room in the health center. In a few minutes, I will be the Easter Bunny for many kids coming to our spring celebration. I look at the traffic outside and am told that someone jumped off the Arrigoni Bridge.

I need to bring a little Easter joy to the children of the community, but I still feel mired in the anticipatory grief of Holy Week.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

There are many reactions that small children have on seeing the Easter bunny. I hold out my arms, and some rush to me. Other’s hide behind their parents. Here is a symbol of joy, of happiness, of something too good to be true, and we are distrustful. We know that something that seems too good to be true probably isn’t really good or true. We hold back. I wonder how much we do that in our personal lives, our emotional lives, our spiritual lives, perhaps even as we approach the Eucharist.

What is it that we are really looking for? To be loved. To be told, it’s okay. It will be okay. To be allowed to be scared, hurt, frightened, or sad, and yet still loved. We long to have our creation in the image of God acknowledged, and not become just another number, another consumer, another entity from which others try to extract wealth. We long to hear truth, but that is not the way of the world.

Instead, we are objects, to be re-accommodated for other’s profits. Even if we offer to serve, our institutions seek to turn our offer into a transaction. So after all the bad news. After holding this while sharing joy with little children, I head off to church, sit quietly, and pray.

Stay here, remain here with me, watch and pray.

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