Christmastide Blessings

Christmastide Blessings
Annual Incarnation of the Story of the Birth of Jesus

Continuing the work of Jesus, simply, peacefully, JOYFULLY, together.

We worship at 9:30 am on Sunday.
Sunday School begins at 11 am.
Potluck is the first Sunday of the month.

17975 Centreville-Constantine Road, Constantine, MI 49042

florence.brethren.mennonite@gmail.com

Sunday, March 27, 2011

LENT TWO: "Hard of Hearing to Hearing Heart"


This dialogue between Nicodemus and his wife, Naomi, is based on John 3:1-17. This conversation that takes place after Nicodemus goes to see Jesus at night is written by Nina Lanctot.

SCENE: Two rocking chairs, a small table, a lamp lit.

NAOMI is waiting, doing hand work. NICODEMUS comes in slowly and slowly sits in his chair as NAOMI says her opening words.

NAOMI is hard of hearing and tends to speak in a loud voice. She is anxious to hear about what happened in the meeting between Nicodemus and Jesus, and she is also worried. It was a risk for Nicodemus to go to Jesus.

NICODEMUS comes home with his head spinning from his conversation. He is still trying to work out what he heard as Naomi asks her own questions.

NAOMI:
Nicodemus, Nicodemus. Finally, you’re home! I’ve waited up for you for hours. I kept the lamp lit. I had no idea you would be out this late – talking to -- that Jesus fellow.

I HOPE you found him alone! Or did you have to wait for all the riff raff to leave? Why, I heard from Martha that he eats and drinks long into the night. So many unclean in his company…

NICODEMUS:
Now settle yourself, Naomi. And let me get settled.

(lower voice) Remember, “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

NAOMI:
What? I can’t hear you…

NICODEMUS:
(loudly) Settle yourself! (a bit softer) Please, dear…. Give me a moment.

(louder) AND DON’T PASS ON MARTHA’S GOSSIP!

NOAMI ROCKS A BIT HURT AND MORE ANXIOUS.

Pause

NICODEMUS:
It was the strangest conversation.

NAOMI:
What, dear?

NICODEMUS:
(Remembers to raise his voice and look at his wife)
It was the strangest conversation. Not what I expected at all. I’m not sure I can really remember, even, how we got going on birth.

NAOMI:
Mirth? He was telling jokes?

NICODEMUS:
No, dear – BIRTH. Remember, like when our son and daughter were BORN.

NAOMI:
Well, why on earth would a single, wandering teacher talk about birth? He doesn’t know a thing about it…

NICODEMUS:
Listen closely, dear…You have to bear with me. I am still trying to put the pieces together, and…LISTEN!

(PAUSE)

Did you hear that?

NAOMI:
What?

NICODEMUS:
The wind! It started up just now, over the roof.

NAOMI:
(laughing) Why you old coot! You know I haven’t been able to hear the wind for years. Are you mocking me!?

NICODEMUS:
No, no, dear. Of course not.

(pause)

Jesus was the gentlest of men, and it was when the wind blew that I think I started to catch on to what he was saying!

(even louder)

So let’s just sit here a spell and let me listen to the wind.

NAOMI shakes her head and goes back to her hand work.

NICODEMUS rocks and ponders.

NICODEMUS:
(softly) I think I get it.

NAOMI:
What?

NICODEMUS:
(louder) I think I get it, Naomi. Listen, and see if you hear what I hear.

I think Jesus could sense as soon as I greeted him how nervous I was. He knew he had insulted many of our friends, shaming Simon for not properly greeting him and washing his feet and all of that.

NAOMI:
Why, Martha told me about that visit with that horrible woman crying all over his feet….

NICODEMUS:
Naomi! (with a look)

NAOMI RETURNS TO HER HAND WORK

NICODEMUS:
You know sometimes when the children were small and begging for a treat without ceasing – how we would just say out of the blue: “Look at that big old horse over there, eating all the dates of your favorite tree!” And the begging for snacks would vanish as they went chasing for the horse…

NAOMI:
Why, yesssssssssss….

….And this would have to do with Jesus, how…???

NICODEMUS:
Well I felt just like a child. (laughing at himself)

I greeted him as a teacher, expecting to talk about the law,

(clears throat…hmmm…hmmm…)

"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher
who has come from God;
for no one can do these signs that you do
apart from the presence of God."

And you know what he asks me? If I would like to be born again!

NAOMI:
What? Doesn’t he know that men just don’t talk of these things! It’s untouchable. Well, it’s almost like gossip!

(glares at Nicodemus)

NICODEMUS:
Exactly! He threw me way off. Threw in a wild horse, so to speak. I forgot all about the questions I had been preparing. This is what he said:

"Very truly, I tell you,
no one can see the kingdom of God
without being born from above."


Born? From above? I could have left then, but I knew of his reputation, I wondered if there was more to the comment. Like a wisdom puzzle.

NAOMI:
YOU didn‘t talk to him about birth, did you!

NICODEMUS:
Well, I just tried to follow his lesson, like a student, and I asked the obvious:

"How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?"


NAOMI:
(shocked) You said that!

NICODEMUS:
(stopping rocking and holding his hands up, speaking softly, like an AHA!)

That’s when the wind started to blow.

NAOMI:
What?

NICODEMUS:
(louder)
That’s the part I was trying to remember. That’s when the wind started to blow. While I was thinking, I looked up into the trees. At that very moment the wind rushed and russled through the leaves. And he said:

“Do not be astonished that I said to you,
'You must be born from above.'
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."


NAOMI:
Born of the WHAT?

NICODEMUS:
Spirit…breath…ruah…pneuma…

(musing, softer)

“And God breathed into Adam the breath of life…
and he became a living being.”

NAOMI:
…giving green beans?

NICODEMUS:
(laughs tenderly, and looks into his wife’s eyes)

“Became a living being!”

This is the best way I can tell you what the Teacher said – and more – how the lesson feels:

You remember, Naomi, when our son was born? Remember how hard you worked, the tears you cried, how you called out, and how all that pain slipped away when we looked, together into his eyes?

NAOMI:
(slowly) Yeeessss…

NICODEMUS:
I have never had anyone look into MY eyes that way until today, Naomi. Like I was brand new, perfect, fresh from God.

(pause)

And remember how even the first whimper of our son was like music to our ears.

(even humorously louder)

Back then when you could hear!

NAOMI – (smiling, nodding)

NICODEMUS:
That was what I HEARD in this Jesus, in his voice. It was like new music.

Even while he was giving me puzzles, he was letting me start all over again, newborn, without my head full of laws and prayers and debates and the right things to do and say, and, well, all that it means to be right with God and the world.

It was like he was saying, “Come out, Nicodemus! You can be born and bare naked with God, all over again. Your life can be light with joy again. And then you will HEAR the good news for which your heart longs.”

NAOMI:
But, I don’t understand…

NICODEMUS:
Well…to tell you the truth….neither do I, but….I want to keep listening.

NAOMI:
But Nicodemus, isn’t it dangerous? What if he leads us astray? And what the others will say?

NICODEMUS:
Naomi! No gossip reaches the heart of God. So that is where my heart and my hearing will rest. In the heart of God. For now….

AND… (inspired – takes her ears in his hands, gently)

Whenever I hear the wind blow, I am going to listen.

NAOMI:
What?

NICODEMUS:
Listen to my heart, and to this Jesus.
And to this old-new body!

(louder – to Naomi – who pulls his hands away)

It’s been a long night. Let’s get some sleep.

BLOWS OUT THE LAMP.
THEY WALK AWAY, HOLDING HANDS.

LENT 2011: BECOMING FULLY HUMAN: WOVEN TOGETHER IN JESUS



BECOMING FULLY HUMAN: CALLED AND RE-WOVEN BY JESUS is the theme for Lent. We will recall being created in the image of God. We are

“intricately woven together in the depths of the earth
-- in the depths of God's being.”
(Psalm 139: 15)


The stresses and strains of sin – forgetting who we are and whose we are – can numb us to life and love. So during Lent, we will listen to monologues of the people who came to Jesus to find life, abundant life!

Even as we and Jesus walk toward death, knowing our mortality, we long all the more to live each day well and faithfully.

The stories from the gospel of John will be presented in monologue and dialogue form, letting us into the stories with fresh eyes and ears and hearts.

Planners for this series are Sara Braun, Judy Broadworth, Kathy Fenton-Miller, Donald Lanctot and Suzanne Lind.

Banner art is by Judy Broadworth

LENT ONE: 180 Gallons of Wine: A Mother's Temptations



A monologue written by Nina Lanctot from the point of view of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is a reflection on the story of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness found in Matthew 4:1-11.

A forty day fast! I still can’t believe it. That son of mine has always had a voracious appetite, from his first cry in the cold stable.

But I don’t think anyone called him a glutton and a drunkard until he made the 180 gallons of superior wine for that wedding party in Cana. Of course he blamed it on me, said I forced his hand, said I went behind his back and set him up, telling the servants he was going to DO SOMETHING! Showing him off. (Is that SO bad to do!) Getting him going. (Well, how many years can you listen to a son’s dreaming?) I think it was then, after the wedding wine, that I knew for certain he had left home -- for good.

My son. We used to call him “mouth.” From the first time he latched on it was like he couldn’t take in enough. When I nursed him by breasts went out to here. Oh, I forgot I was in a mixed audience. Women, you know what I mean. It is one thing to have your child “attached to you” but another to have him suck the life out of you! And with the traveling we did when he was small, I don’t know how he ever got enough.

Oh, but that same “Mouth,” when he learned to smile, could stop a stranger at ten paces with his charm. His whole face would light up. Folks would look shocked, stop in their tracks, and then beam right back. And I would laugh until I cried.

And then, earlier than most, thank God, he learned to talk. When words were coming out of his mouth, then the milk was not going in. Then he was no longer glued to me but stuck on the whole world! Like he was ingesting it, every waking moment. Naming everything for the first time.

How can I describe him? From the beginning it was like he imbibed the world -- his eyes, his ears, his hands, his every appetite, all extensions of a deep hunger for life! He couldn’t get enough and wondered, intensely, at the smallest things.

“Ma, Ma, an ant! Look, the ant is carrying a crumb on his back, all by himself! He looks like he needs help…Oh, Ma, he is not moving any more. Did I help him too hard?”

And then he would cry as though he had lost his best friend. And I would find myself crying, too.

So why would I worry about a child like this?...

It has to do with dreams. And, maybe, being “too awake,” if there is such a thing. There are the human dreams of life, and the there are the TOO AWAKE DREAMS, it seems…

For as long as I can remember, I have been knitting this wedding shawl for him. Waiting for him to make his own home, his own joy, his own mark on the world. Waiting for him to grow up.

But that, at least so far, has NOT been his dream. No, with his heart, mind, soul and strength sucking in the world, he has not had the life I thought, I hoped, I was led to believe, would be his – and mine. His dreams went wild.

This hunger, you see, I could never satisfy. No one could.

What was a mother to do? As soon as he could speak, I told him the good words of God, as we are commanded:

Hear, O Israel:
The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.


But he would not be satisfied even with the word of God. Even as a small child he would sneak away from his chores in the shop, and go to the Rabonni, teacher, whenever he could. And at age five, age five, mind you, he comes home and says,

“Ma, you did not teach me the command of God. Rabonni says it is this:

Hear, O Israel:
The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.

You shall love the LORD your God
with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your might.
Keep these words that I am commanding you today
in your heart.
Recite them to your children
and talk about them when you are at home
and when you are away,
when you lie down
and when you rise.
Bind them as a sign on your hand,
fix them as an emblem on your forehead,
and write them on the doorposts of your house
and on your gates.


“And, Ma,” he says,

...take care that you do not forget the LORD,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.

The LORD your God you shall fear;
him you shall serve…
When he was twelve, he really ran off. It was his first real pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover with the family, sharing the bread and the cup with us all like a little man. And it became clear that the rabbi of Nazareth was not enough for his voracious growing mind. I mean, is it normal? How many budding little men run away – to the Temple -- to talk to religious scholars! Why, that was the last place we looked, his father and I! “Don’t you know, I must be about my Father’s business,” he said to us.

That is what we thought we had been teaching him all along. His father’s business! The business of good and fair and hard work, serving the LORD.

After that, given his love of words and prayers and the God of all things great and small, we encouraged him -- to study more with the rabbi at home, to think of himself as a teacher.

But the older he got, the crosser he became with all things religious. We could not answer his questions, nor could the rabbi.

“If God loves all, then why do we hate the tax collectors and the women at the corner with the dark veils? Why do we not speak to them or eat with them? Why am I not allowed to play with their children? Why does God make their children suffer? What have they done wrong?”

He became sullen about that time of coming of age. And his hunger seemed to turn inward.

And he insisted we call him by his right name, Yeshua (God saves) – no more “Mouth” for this young man, become silent one.

In those days when he would run away for longer and longer times. A few nights on the mountain. A week by the sea of Galilee. His own father, until his dying day, could not count on him any more in the shop. And when it became his own shop, oh, he was a dutiful son, he went through the motions, but he was wasting away.

He would forget to eat. He would not give Sara’s daughter a second look when she brought him date and nut sweets. He seemed to have no interest in women. He ignored his brothers. And on the Sabbath, he sat in the back of the synagogue, rocking himself, with his eyes on the earth at his feet.

So it was not a total shock when he took off to the Jordan to find his cousin, John. News of John’s wild sermons seem to perk “Mouth,” I mean Yeshua, up. So I did not discourage him. But I did fear.

I remembered too much of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s zeal at that one’s birth. They thought their John was destined to be a prophet, and we shared dreams together of the new Israel in those days. But now John had gone wild, left home, and lived to rail at the river against the highest leadership of temple and palace and the lowliest soldier and tax collectors. I feared that Yeshua would join him in this dangerous demonstration against the powers.

One week, two….three…it seemed an eternity, as nearly two moons he was gone.

And then he appears. I didn’t know whether to kiss him or shove him when he stood in the doorway of this little home once more, thin, but loud again, asking to stay. Well, I thought, at thirty, and in this last disappearance, he must have surely found his way or maybe even a woman. But, no. He gave no indication of either. He just wanted to be here, for now. So, with the other children long gone, I was duty bound to welcome “Mouth” back home.

His appetite had returned, that is sure. But his words, not so much. At least not to my questions. He said something about finding his father…that Father he had been searching for all along. This was my opening…

How? Where? Where were you? Who did you see? How is John? What did you do all this while? What are you going to do next?

And then he would turn and look at me with his deep, hungry eyes that would set me to silence. His face was not closed. Or angry.
It was like he had all the words and none would come out. Like he had something to say that words would not contain. He just looked, and looked away.

Over the weeks, this is all I could get out of him:

Baptized.
Beloved.
In the desert.
Fasting.
Forty days.

“FORTY DAYS! WITH THOSE WILD BEASTS!”
I interrupted…

Mother!

And then I would have to wait several more days in silence before I could ask again.

“It was a test,” he said.

DID YOU PASS?

Mother!

And finally he said it:

“I have to go. About my Father’s business.
Something, I am trying to find the words to say it – THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN – is bursting alive right here, Mother! It’s always been here. Do I have to SAY it? Can’t you SEE it? It is burning me up. It is calling me out. It is what I have to do.”

He took a stone and put it down in front of me. “If I don’t have the words, these stones will cry out!”


“And I will never come home again.”

He walked out the door.
This final blow up came after his first and only and last teaching in the Nazareth synagogue, at the right hand of our old rabbi. Why did he have to put the whole crazy dream out there at once? Why did he have to swallow God’s word, whole, and then broadcast it like seed, flying every direction!

THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOR – and setting the prisoners’ free, opening the sight of the blind, giving good news to the poor, living the Jubilee and justice NOW, in Galilee, and under Rome!

He was right. That was the last straw. His mouth would never be tolerated around here again. The mouth of “Joseph’s son” could not break open a people set and settled, at home in this little rural town. I could see it, and fear it. I would never feed him again.

It was a few moons after that, in Cana, that we met at the wedding. I am such a fool. My son, Yeshua, is given a mouth for justice, and I, pestering him for appearances sake, ask for wine! 180 gallons! Water into wine. And THAT is what everyone wanted to ask me about there after. How could I give words to the Kingdom of Heaven that I had not heard yet, from Yeshua, my own wild prophet son?

When he left me, for a change it was I who was empty. Hungry. Ravenous. Restless. And nothing would satisfy.

I fell silent and remembered those years when he skulked about. Those years he fell asleep to life. And forget how to eat. Those years before the test in the desert and pn the lesson about living on God’s bread and God’s kingdom and God’s power, alone.

I am in Nazareth. Alone. There is the well, the work of the loom and yet the wedding shawl in my hands. And I wait for his word.

LORD GOD, King of the Universe, Maker and Giver of Life –
you who created the starry planets,
you who ride on the wings of the morning,
have mercy on me, a mother.

You have given me the gift of life,
and from the womb you fed me on my mother’s breast.

And you have given me the gift of life.
From this very womb I birthed my babies,
my first and the others,
and fed them from my breast.

Now my breasts are empty,
and my heart lies still, waiting. Silent.

I have no more words to worry for my son.
I have no more words to wonder at his “Mouth.”
I only have a deep, deep hunger for life, Your life, O God.
And for my Yeshua.

Yet I pray for a wedding, O LORD,
Your wedding of heaven and earth.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,
To help us live as we are taught:


Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God,
the LORD alone.
You shall love the LORD your God
with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your might.


I am keeping these words that You are commanding today.
I am pondering them in my heart.

Awaken my heart to Love, O God!
Awaken my heart to Life!
Feed my soul on yourself alone. AMEN