A series of biblical readings and prayers from David L. Miller, senior pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL. David is the former editor of The Lutheran magazine and Director of Spiritual Formation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
I am not
alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that you may
have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage, I have
conquered the world. Love’s
Wherever I go, whatever
distance is traveled in miles or years there you are, always.
Your victory is that of uncontainable
love that time cannot weary and distance cannot dim. You are ever there, ever
loving and ever seeking my heart that I may know and become the Love that I
know in you.
To know is eternal life,
a blessed taste, now, of all that is to be, the joy you intend.
This is a knowing that
transcends all study and every book. It comes amid the need of the heart for a
To enter the peace of knowing, our hearts must
risk despair and dare to trust that there is a Love beyond expectation,
a Love that wants and treasures the beloved,
a Love that takes down our walls, stone by stone,
a Love that enters the lonely enclave where we
hide our pain,
a Love that endures, patiently convincing our doubting
souls that it is true,
a Love that conquers our hearts … until we know what Love knows.
You are that Love. You
have conquered the world and its hold on my heart that I may enter the peace of
knowing, You, wherever I go and whatever distance is traveled.
to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me.
way is the path of passion, the passion of the Holy Love for us … and in us.
loves his own and loves them to the end, all the way to the ugliness of the executioner’s
cross. In him, we see the Great Love we cannot see; we see and know this Love
is for us. Always.
we see, the Great Love awakens in us, stirring the fire of passion that moved
Jesus to love his own to the very end.
are born for this … to know this Love, for us and in us, filling and spilling,
moving laughter and tears, awakening the holy desire to be given away in love
and for love, following the way of Jesus.
morning we awaken in hope that somewhere, somehow, through something or
someone, the fullness of Love will warm us within, lifting us above the mundane
that we may know the truth God is and feel the divine life in us.
the Love Who Is, our hearts fill and pour out their fullness in generosity and
blessing that we might shine with the beauty of Jesus.
way of Jesus is the way of joy, the joy of knowing and becoming the Love who is
ever beyond us yet near as the warmth of hearts who know, who truly know.
to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me.
way is something we believe in and a path we walk. Walking is the essential part.
Without the walking it is not a way, merely an idea we don’t quite trust.
is the way, a way many affirm but few actually walk even though it brings the
most exquisite blessing our hearts can ever know.
the way of Jesus is the path of seeking and knowing the Great Love of the
Father, the Source, the Eternal Mystery from which we come and to which we go.
way is seeing in Jesus the Love who holds us and everything that is, a Love who
longs to live fully in us for this Love is our truest nature.
our hearts truly know, we become as he is, becoming, too, who we are, each a
unique expression of the great and holy Love who fills Jesus the Christ.
way is one of knowing and allowing the Great Love to lead us wherever and to
whomever it chooses. Just so, the way is one of knowing but also of not and
never knowing exactly where and to whom the Great Love will lead.
always knowing it is Love who bears us on and carries us into the great unknown
the future always is.
holds us, lives in us and breathes through us, bringing joy and tears and exquisite
blessing, even when it leads to the cross of suffering for Love’s sake, as with
then, Love unites us in the heart of the One who is Love. And it is for this
that we are born.
As they came near the village to which they were going,
he walked ahead as if he were going on.But
they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening
and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.When he was at the table with them, he took bread,
blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.Then
their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their
is the human dimension that tugs at my heart. The ache of longing. The hands
two travelers on the Emmaus road know what they need. They need Jesus to stay
with them. They don’t know why. They don’t even know that it is him. But they
know that whoever this stranger is they need to be near him for reasons they
cannot … and may not ever … understand.
with us. Don’t go. We need you.
heart has reasons the mind knows not of. I forget who said it, but it is true.
Their hearts recognize the presence of the Love Christ is well before their
eyes and minds catch on.
feel something … someone … breathing life back into their hearts as they walked
Jesus is dead, or so they think. And here he is … with them … raising them from
the dead, and they don’t even know it is happening.
until they see him take bread, bless and break it, and give it to them. His hands,
extended to bless and feed more than their bodies
they know. They see the Love God is. They see the Love who had walked with them
on the road, the Love broken like bread and given to aching hearts, the Love who
walks with us every step of life’s journey, even when we haven’t the eyes to
when eyes do see, even when we least expect, Love comes alongside to breathe
life into us. Even today. And every time, we smile and breathe the joy of Love’s
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.
As she wept, she bent over to lookinto
the tomb;and she saw two angels
in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and
the other at the feet.They said
to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away
my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’When she had said this, she turned
round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you
weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said
to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him,
and I will take him away.’Jesus
said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew,‘Rabbouni!’ (which
I miss my name. Once, I longed for the day someone
would call me “Pastor.” I am still honored and blessed by that title, even
though the older I get the more I blush knowing I am unworthy of the office I
hold. There are so many others who are so much better, and I know my frailties
all too well.
But my longing simply to be named ‘David,’ as at my baptism, has nothing to
do with the struggle of living a life worthy of my calling.
The soul longs to hear a voice of love, a voice of intimate
acceptance calling you by name.
We ache for that voice whose warmth tells you that you
are truly known and cherished as the vulnerable human soul you are, a voice
that finds beauty in the very vulnerabilities we hide from the world.
The heart has ears to hear the voice of love, and in hearing
we know we are one, intimately bound to the love who calls our name. The result
is joy, always joy.
Something like this happens for Mary.
She weeps outside the tomb. Jesus calls her by name,
and she hears the Voice of Love intimately calling her to know that the dream
of Love’s triumph is not just a dream but true.
She knows … Love lives and calls us by name … that we, too, may know.
Early on the first day of the week, while it
was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been
removed from the tomb.So she ran and went
to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to
them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they
have laid him.’Then Peter and the
other disciple set out and went towards the tomb.The two were running together, but the other disciple outran
Peter and reached the tomb first.He bent down to
look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in.Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb.
He saw the linen wrappings lying there ….
Easter awakens the heart to what it most wants, not just life
eternal but eternal life now.
We ache for a life where our heart flies free, unbound by the
fears, wounds and struggles that keep us from being truly and wonderfully
alive. The soul longs to breathe in full and utter confidence, unconstricted, relishing
the joy of being alive.
Little wonder butterflies became symbols of Easter, new life wrapped
in a cocoon, breaking free to flight.
The resurrection story is not simply about Jesus raised from
death long ago. It is about us, what we long for, what we are intended for … and
what we can truly have and know, here and now.
The linens that wrapped Jesus lay there. His friends pick
them and know: He is no longer bound, no long wrapped in death. Twice the story
tells us about the wrappings, as if to make sure that we know that nothing can
contain the Life, the Love that is in him.
I long for that life that I know only in moments when I know
Love so greatly, so completely that my heart is weightless. I fly. I hope, I
know that Love embraces every earthly thing, fully holding and cherishing all
that is and struggling to bring all creation … and me … to life that is
It is this unconstricted Life of joy, love, freedom and holy
purpose that is what God intends for each of us.
So I come here to sit in this place, hands on these keys. For
it is here that the light of Easter morning warms the cocoon that binds me and
sets my heart free to breathe, to hope, to love and to become the joy and
beauty that lies within. For it is Christ who lies within, waiting for me to
sit in the warmth of his Infinite Love that he might break through the cocoon and live more fully in me, filling my heart with life that truly is Life.
Easter lies waiting within. All we need do is to sit in the
Love, the Life that shines from an empty tomb.
you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of
light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and
right and true.
Bright morning star
are the bright morning star that wakes me once more and wipes the sleep from my
wake my soul, and again I know the Light that shines every morning and through
the day, lighting even the darkness night with the light of Love you are,
always there, without fail, anew every morning.
And you say, ‘You are light, lit by the unfailing Love I am … alive in you.’
Lit from within, I see you in children’s smiles
and hear your crystal voice in song that fills my heart and lifts me into the
This is the knowing for which we each are born,
a knowing that comes only when you flood the heart with the light of the Love
Filled with Light and Love, we know ourselves as
for the first time, created vessels intended to be lit from within by the fire
only Love ignites. Created, we are, to live the Light that shines from our eyes
as we know … You.
the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my
followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.For those who want to save their life will
lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the
gospel,will save it. For what
will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
So much of our pain comes from trying to hold fast to the
joys and loves we have received. Long ago … and many times … I have thought and said that we should hold
everything we have and are in open palms, not grasping tightly in fear of
losing the goodness of what is.
Holding our lives and loves with open palms, we can
see and celebrate the beauty and joy of what we have received. We can give
thanks, always knowing the wonder of the gifts of love that fill our hearts.
When we grip too tightly we fan our fears of the future,
our anxiety about not being in control of what will be, our sorrow that we can
lose what most fills us.
With closed grip on what is, we cannot receive what will be—the
joy, the beauty, the love, the challenge, the life that is yet to come and which
we can never quite anticipate. For the Loving Mystery always has surprises we
can never anticipate.
Releasing our grip on what we fear losing, holding what
is with open hands and hearts, our anxiety subsides. We can live with thanks
and gratitude, ready to receive whatever comes next, knowing that it comes
from a Heart whose love staggers us and always will.
We need not cling to what is, for whatever comes,
comes from the Love who fills us and always will.
the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my
followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.For those who want to save their life will lose
it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and
forfeit their life?
Love is life
is from the Great Love that we come and to the Great Love we go. In between
these great unknowns, on the journey through our days, life that is truly is
life, comes only as we know the Great Love, through whatever way this Holy One
manages to find and fill our hearts.
speak of looking for God. I suppose there is truth in this. But experience
shows that if we know the Great Love
at all, it is this Loving Mystery who finds us, not the other way around.
is how the great ones of the faith have described it through the centuries.
once you are found, you know this Love goes on and on. You know you have been caught
up in a stream which precedes your existence and will remain long after.
taste that which the Scripture calls eternity, eternal life, moments in which
you know this Love is … and that knowing and being and sharing this Love is all
that really matters.
else is, well, just everything else.
the Love who is … is life, and when you are given the gift of knowing and
tasting … even in moments that come and too quickly go … you know the Love who
seeks us all, every day. You know it is worth everything you've got ... and more.
heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,so
that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on
the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the
unrighteous.For if you love
those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do
the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you
doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?Be perfect, therefore, as your
heavenly Father is perfect.
is a Love which drives us beyond ourselves and what is expected to give more
than we think we can …or should, more than any think reasonable.
Love has a name, the name of the Crucified One, who is the face of The Loving
Mystery no time has ever understood.
can understand Love that does not quail in the face of brutal suffering, a Love
that never ceases to offer its enemies what they most need? And who needs this
Love more than those who resist and reject its embrace?
Christian faith does not call for reasonable action and attitudes. It always calls
us to More, to know and be the More, to live the More that Christ is … and is
we should love our friends, our families and those who treat us well—this is
hearts do not recoil from this. This is only just. But Christ calls us beyond what
is just and right, beyond normal, beyond what every right-thinking person knows
are called by an unreasonable Love to live this Love—this ExtraordinaryLove—not in
heroic moments but as our normal posture and orientation toward all we
failures to love are our friend as we journey into the Love Christ is. They daily
remind us that our egos must die to our insistence that life must always make sense,
that people must be fair. We must surrender the rage that boils at criticism and
disrespect, however unfair they may be.
is all beyond us, of course. No one can do it. Maybe the martyrs or those of remarkable
spirit and piety. Unless: Unless we know this Extraordinary Love and live in
its embrace every moment of our breathing.
then … in knowing … are we free from ego’s insistent demands. And Christ breathes
the air of his Extraordinary Love through our lives. Even there.
heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for
those who persecute you,so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he
makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous
and on the unrighteous.For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,
what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is
world is not fair nor is God. The sun warms the just and unjust alike. God
makes no distinction.
and those of faith are not spared disease or misfortune because they believe in
Christ. God makes no such promise. They are as likely to have bad things happen
to them as the rankest atheist.
This undermines the faith of too many who wonder
why bad things happen to good people. They have misunderstood the nature of the
Loving Mystery God is.
God is love. Love is not something God does, but
who God is. It is God’s nature to love, to give the goodness of life and grace
to all and everything, to everyone and in every moment.
God is a fountain of outpouring love, embracing
the shoulders of everyone with the warmth of the sun and giving life-giving rain
to the fields of those who acknowledge divine presence and those who think God
If I understand anything of God, joy accompanies
this outpouring. God delights to give the goodness of life and love. God eagerly
gives. God may be compared to a person of joyful heart who meets each day with
a smile, with open hand ready to share every blessing he or she has.
We know God in such moments of open-hearted
giving. We enter the stream of mercy and joy that flows constantly from the
divine heart. God is better understood as a verb than a noun, for God is movement,
a stream of unending love constantly flowing through time and space.
Jesus’ command to love is not a command at all,
but an invitation to enter the surrender your heart to this flow that seeks you
anew every morning. Let yourself go. Let the warmth of this Love wash over you,
melt your sadness and dissolve your resentments.
Just be and know this Love. Allow the Loving
Mystery to awaken the joyful desire to smile on every face you see and bless
every moment with your presence. This, of course, is not your presence at all, but
the Presence of a Love beyond every imagination.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has
lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for
anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.“You are the light of the world. A city built on a
hill cannot be hid.No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket,
but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before
others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in
be what we are
20 years I was privileged to write for and edit a magazine that covered the
church and its work around the world. My proudest and most fulfilling memories
of those days involved reporting from places of acute human struggle and
I told stories
of people our readers had no other way of knowing or caring about. And how they
cared! Their generosity moved me again and again. I say with no sense of pride
that there are people who lived, who received food and shelter from war, terror
and starvation, because my colleagues and I told their stories and captured their
struggles in photos that shook people from apathy into action.
The faces I
met in those days have been appearing more often in my mind’s eye, as I fear
our nation … and our churches … could become much less empathetic, generous and
I see them:
refugee mothers nursing children on cold mountainsides in Macedonia, war-orphaned
children in make-shift orphanages in Africa, parents bearing everything they
can carry on their backs fleeing those bent on killing and maiming them in the
name of some deplorable political, racial or religious ideology.
And I see shallow
graves where people hastily buried their beloved along the road … then hurried
on to avoid the same fate.
The faces speak
to me as did the photos I once took for magazine pages.
hear Jesus words: Be what you are. Be the soul I have made you to be. You are
salt and light, so shine and season this world with the light of the love I
have lit within you.
time when it is easy to let anxiety or anger rule our hearts, we can turn from the
world, immersing ourselves in private concerns and personal comforts. Or we can
be who we are. Salt and light.
Walter Brueggemann has often prodded the church to an alternative way marked by
practices such as hospitality to those unlike us, generosity to those in need
and forgiveness to break cycles of resentment and vengeance. Our world, our
nation and our communities have seldom needed them more.
is always ours. Today, the faces of the suffering, the hungry and the refugee …
like Jesus … are calling us to be ourselves … and to know the joy of Christ’s
love pouring through us.
And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from
heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.I
myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to
me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes
with the Holy Spirit.”And I
myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’
joy of oneness
The experience of the Holy Spirit is that of oneness
with God. There is an internal sense of unity with the great and overpowering
Love God is, evaporating sadness and flooding the soul with peace and joy that
may even be accompanied by laughter.
John refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away
the sin of the world. John says Jesus baptizes us, immerses us, with the Holy
We are given the same Spirit that fills Jesus, and
when we experience the Spirit we are graced to know the unity with the Loving Mystery
in which he constantly lived.
Our experience of this exquisite blessing is not
constant. It may last moments, minutes, hours or even days for some on rare
In these moments, we truly know Christ and are
empowered to love as he loved, feeling the freedom of being completely one with
the Love God is. We need nothing, for in this Love we have all we need, all we
have ever wanted.
Sin, guilt, shame, fear are gone, replaced by joy. The
Spirit, the Love God is, floods our spirit.
Although we are distinct, there is no
distance between God and out soul. In this awareness, guilt or shame over our wrongs
and failures, small or great, disappear.
They are gone, and we are free to live, knowing the
truth of the Love who is.
Moments of intense oneness fade amid the necessary routines
of living. When they fade or distress comes remember the experience of the
Spirit. It tells you who God is, who you who truly are and the joy God intends.
So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and
the child lying in the manger.When they saw
this, they made known what had been told them about this child;and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds
told them.But Mary treasured all these words and
pondered them in her heart.The shepherds
returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it
had been told them.
It sounds simple. They hear, they see, they ponder and
The result of their hearing and seeing is joy. So each
day, I ... we … should seek to hear and see the Love God is being flesh,
incarnate and touchable in our lives and world.
This is the way of joy, the way of knowing, pondering,
too, what we hear and see, and sharing it with hearts who can receive it that
our joy might be complete. Sharing multiplies our joy.
Separation and isolation are enemies of the joy we
would have as God wills it for us. So, too, is a steady diet of the critical
commentary, negativity and violence that streams through much of our media.
Turn away from the culture of complaint and the need
to criticize or blame others. They carry burdens, too, and are likely doing the
best they can.
Slow down. Be. You cannot do everything you think you
should, so do what is best and deepest in your heart. This is the gift you are
given to share. How ever small it seems, it is more important than you know.
Take time to see and celebrate beauty, to share it and
give thanks for the small graces of the day and the moments that speak of the
Love who always is.
Listen for the goodness in the words of others. Don't take yourself so seriously, and laugh as much as possible, especially at yourself.
Remember the goodness you have known,
the kindness you have received and the love which has touched and filled your
heart. And say ‘thank you’ a lot.
It is all a gift of the Love who is and plays and
becomes incarnate in every act of goodness, every beauty and the curve of every
genuine, loving smile.