Ascension, Year A

Musical Reflection
Open Mind by Wilco

Untitled (Cravings White) 1988, reconstructed 2011 by Lee Bul born 1964


God unheld
by word or wall;
power of love
beyond all rulers of war:
lift us from dullness
and cynical contempt;
make us ready for your Spirit
of transforming fire
and turn our hearts
to the mending of the world;
through Jesus Christ, the name above all names.
First Reading

Mama’s Promise
by Marilyn Nelson

I have no answer to the blank inequity
of a four-year-old dying of cancer.
I saw her on t.v. and wept
with my mouth full of meatloaf.

I constantly flash on disasters now;
red lights shout WarningDanger.
everywhere I look.
I buckle him in, but what if a car
with a grille like a sharkbite
roared up out of the road?
I feed him square meals
but what if the fist of his heart
should simply fall open?
I carried him safely
as long as I could,
but now he’s a runaway
on the dangerous highway.
I’ve started to pray.

But the dangerous highway
curves through blue evenings
when I hold his yielding hand
and snip his miniscule nails
with my vicious-looking scissors.
I carry him around

like an egg in a spoon,
and I remember a porcelain fawn,
a best friend’s trust,
my broken faith in myself.
It’s not my grace that keeps me erect
as the sidewalk clatters downhill
under my rollerskate wheels.

Sometimes I lie awake
troubled by this thought:
It’s not so simple to give a child birth;
you also have to give it death,
the jealous fairy’s christening gift.

I’ve always pictured my own death
as a closed door,
a black room,
a breathless leap from the mountain top
with time to throw out my arms, lift my head,
and see, in the instant my heart stops,
a whole galaxy of blue.
I imagined I’d forget,
in the cessation of feeling,
while the guilt of my lifetime floated away
like a nylon nightgown,
and that I’d fall into clean, fresh forgiveness.

Ah, but the death I’ve given away
is more mine than the one I’ve kept:
from my hand the poisoned apple,
from my bow the mistletoe dart.

Then I think of Mama,
her bountiful breasts.
When I was a child, I really swear,
Mama’s kisses could heal.
I remember her promise,
and whisper it over my sweet son’s sleep:

    When you float to the bottom, child,
    like a mote down a sunbeam,
    you’ll see me from a trillion miles away:
    my eyes looking up to you,
    my arms outstretched for you like night.

Second Reading
Someone once said we were put on this earth to witness and testify

by Quan Barry

Nowhere    in   the     Halakha’s     five   thousand   years   of   rules
does   it     specifically    state    Thou     shall     not     [                      ]
but     sometimes    tradition    carries    more     weight    than    law

and   so   for    much   of   the    past    year   we    have   not    talked
about     what    will    happen    on     Thursday,    how   the    cervix
will     start     its     slow    yawn,     the     pelvic      floor     straining

as         the           head        crowns,      the      fontanelles     allowing
the       bony        panes       of       the      skull     to      pass    through
until,     over    the   next    24   months,    the   five   cranial   plates

gradually      ossify,     the      head      forming    its     own    helmet
as     structures     harden    over   the    soft    meats   of  the  brain,
nor     do   we    talk   about    the   colostrum  sunny  as egg   yolks

now   collecting  in   your   breasts,   the    thing’s   first   nutrients
already    ready    and    waiting,    the     event    just    days   away
and   still  we  do  not  talk  about it, the mass growing inside you

tucked    up    safe     in   the     leeward   side    under    the   heart
because   sometimes   our   god   is   a  jealous god,   the evil   eye
lidless    and    all-seeing.  Instead  we  will wait  until  it is  done,

until  the  creature  has been  cleaned and wrapped in soft cloth,
the    bloody     cord   that    binds    you    severed.    And   maybe
you       will      name      it      Dolores,      which       means     grief,

or perhaps you will call it Mara, the Hebrew name for bitterness
because       this      is      how     we      protect     what     we    love,
by   hiding   what  it   truly  means  to   us,  the little  bag  of  gold

we    keep   buried   in  the  yard,   the  thing  we will do anything
to      keep      safe,      even    going     so      far    as    to     pretend
it    doesn’t    exist,   that   there’s   nothing  massing in  the  dark

despite  the steady  light  emanating  from  your  face, a radiance
so bright sometimes I can’t look at you, the joy so  overpowering
you     want    to     shout   it     from   the    highest    mountaintop

straight into God’s ear.

Gospel Reading
Luke 24:44-53

Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Look, I’m sending to you what Abba God promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”

He led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted his hands and blessed them. As he blessed them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. They worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem overwhelmed with joy. And they were continuously in the temple praising God.

Musical Reflection
Witness by Zola Jesus



Now I Lay Prayer
by unknown, adapted

Dear God,
Tonight when we lay down to sleep,
we pray the Lord our souls to keep.
May angels watch us through the night,
and keep us in their blessed sight.
When in the morning light we wake,
show us the path of love to take.

The Lord’s Prayer

God in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right; Do what’s best —
As above, so below.
Keep us alive.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.


Musical Reflection
When Joy Kills Sorrow by Béla Fleck

The Stranger’s Blessing

The Sacred Three be blessing us,
our tables and their stores.
The Sacred Three be blessing
all our loved ones evermore.

May the blessing of God – the Author, the Messenger, and the Word,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.



Artwork by Lee Bul

Invocation from Prayers for an Inclusive Church by Steven Shakespeare

Musical Reflection Open Mind by Wilco

Poem Mama’s Promise by Marilyn Nelson

Poem Someone once said we were put on this earth to witness and testify by Quan Barry

Musical Reflection Witness by Zola Jesus

Prayer by Unknown

Lord’s Prayer from the Message

Musical Reflection When Joy Kills Sorrow by Béla Fleck

Blessing from Celtic Daily Prayer

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