sermons, songs, etceteras
This meditation was first preached on March 23, 2022 at Oak Grove Lutheran Church in Richfield, MN during our weekly mid-week Lent services. The livestreamed recording of the song and meditation may be viewed here.
Song lyrics to "Lay Down My Head" are below the meditation.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil, and my cup overflows.
I come to you tonight, a bundle of nerves and anxiety. My thoughts are heavy, and dense, as I ponder what it is to be honored, to feast on goodness, in the presence of enemies.
I’m thinking a lot about the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the US Supreme Court. I’m thinking about the number of senators, all of them white, most of them men, who have both directly and indirectly, overtly and implicitly challenged her credentials and fitness despite having confirmed her to federal courts three times already, and despite that both her experience and expertise far exceed that of the last three justices they confirmed. I am thinking about the traps that have been laid for her, the many attempts over these three days, to bait her to react in such a way that they might categorize and dismiss her as an “angry Black woman.” I am thinking of the stark differences between how she has been treated and spoken to, compared to her immediate predecessor, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. I am lingering on what so many of my Black teachers and friends, and some of my favorite Black authors, have long been saying: that Black people in the USA must work twice as hard, for twice as long, and be thrice as perfect and unimpeachable as their white peers in order to be taken half as seriously. My thoughts are with her, in the presence of her enemies.
This meditation was originally given on Wednesday, March 9th, at Oak Grove Lutheran Church in Richfield, MN for the second week of Lent. The video of the midweek service may be viewed here.
MEDITATION TEXT // Psalm 23:2-3
God, my Shepherd, leads me to rest in green pastures,
and along quiet waters. She restores my soul.
She guides me along righteous paths for Her Name's sake.
A few years ago, a friend invited me to a yoga and singing retreat in Chacala Mexico. She is an Obstetrician, and after hearing my traumatic birth story, which resulted in an emergency hysterectomy, the loss of the future I’d dreamed for myself, and a broken relationship with my very own body, she decided I needed -- or rather, that I deserved -- the restoration of a place like Mar de Jade. And so she paid my way to join her and about 15 other women at a retreat center on the Pacific that caters not to tourists, but rather cares for those who seeking healing. That week I was taught how to find and use my full voice, from grounded mama to tender listener; I was shown the way simple movements can open my body to healing I didn’t know I needed. And I feasted on meals full of fruits and vegetables grown by people who love and are in communion with the land, which were turned into nourishment by a kitchen staff whose aim was not merely to stuff us but to heal us with food.
On my second or third day, our yoga instructor taught me some breathing exercises that remind the body to release tension, anger, fear, and grief, and invited me to listen to my body and try to reconnect with it. She understood that my hysterectomy had cut me off from my life-giving self; that I felt like a living death. And to heal, I would need to open up and meet myself with love and tenderness in those empty spaces that mourn. Not much later, my singing teacher invited me to play. “Music?” I asked? I thought maybe she wanted me to play one of my songs for the group. But she said, “No. I want you to run….frolic on the beach…play in the water like a little kid. Connect with 5 year old Amy. Jump, spin, get in that water and see how it cradles you and tosses you and tackles you and holds you. Play!”
I felt like an absolute fool of course, even contemplating the invitation -- I am after all, a grown woman; I am very serious; my work is very important! My grief is heavy and I do not have time or energy or space for silliness! But I did it. And by the fourth day, I spent an entire afternoon running up and down the beach doing cartwheels until I got dizzy and fell over, and I did not care who saw me. I was a little girl, playing.
My fourth day was the day I got down to business.