When we offer our fear and amazement to God, God offers us the courage to give birth to something new in our lives.

Scripture Theme: Mark 16: 1-8

In Mark’s story of the resurrection, the three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) run off from the tomb, full of terror and amazement. The Greek word for terror is tremos, from which we get the English word ‘tremble.’ It describes a kind of knee-knocking fear. The Greek word for amazement is ekstasis, from which the English word ‘ecstasy’ derives. It means ‘a displacement of the mind,’ or in common parlance, to be ‘out of your mind.’

These women have knee-knocking, out-of-their-mind fear and amazement as they flee from the tomb. They had come to anoint a body for burial and found an empty tomb. So they run into a future they can’t see and new life they don’t understand.

After the trembling subsided, and the astonishment stopped tying up their tongues, they spoke with conviction and faith. Mary Magadelene and Mary the mother of James and Salome did preach to Jesus’ disciples the good news–or we wouldn’t have the gospel of Mark. The sixteenth century reformer Martin Luther writes on these Marys that “these women show us a beautiful example of a spiritual heart that undertakes an impossible task, without which the whole world would despair.  Yet a heart like this stands firm and accomplishes it, not thinking the task impossible.”[1]

These Marys and Salome beckon to us. “God is trying to work something new in your life,” they say. “This new thing makes your knees knock and stirs your mind. You are scared and amazed just thinking about it. This is what it is like when resurrection happens—we are terrified and amazed at the same time.”

Take hold of their encouragement. What is God calling to your spiritual heart to do?  What impossible task are you to undertake without which the world would despair?  Stand firm in your heart. This task is not impossible. Practice resurrection.

Yoga:

Our strength to do something new starts in our core. When we generate movement in the core, it activates our creative potential. This energy out of our abdomen is not based in fear, but offers serenity, quiet, and calm to do generative work.

Yoga pose: Uttanasana- Inhale, lifting the head, exhale to breathe deeply into belly. Do this rhythm several times, with the breath and folding in giving the belly a massage. After several breaths, place the hands to the front of shins, inhale, exhale (3x), again giving a belly massage with breath.

Parsvottanasana – With the right foot forward and left foot back, fold forward from the hips.  Fingertips come on either side of the shin. Stretch your heart forward on the inhale, exhale, fold.  Inhale/exhale (5 x), massaging the belly with the breath on the exhale.  Switch feet.

Baddha konasana- With the soles of the feet touching, holding onto the ankles, rise tall through the crown of the head, exhale and fold forward.  From the hips send energy out to knees. Inhale, lifting the head, exhale, connect to your core. Send energy from the core, the hips out through the knees and into the world. Then rest into the serenity of the pose, letting go of fear, and opening up to the new.

[1] Martin Luther, “A Sermon on Christ’s Resurrection”  Church Postil  www.lectionarycentral.com/easter/LutherGospel.html   accessed on April 2, 2012

When I offer myself to others, I receive Christ

Scripture: Mark 14: 3-9

Giving can be selfish in a way.  When we give to “someone less fortunate” the gifting makes us feel better about our own lives.  We can go forth, feeling better, but not really sacrificing much.  We keep our houses, cars, stuff, and still feel magnanimous. The other person, the receiver of our gift, might feel a lessening of dignity for taking our scraps of generosity.

The woman with the alabaster jar, however, reveals a different model than toxic charity.  She lavishes upon Jesus’ feet a year’s worth of wages in oil.  Her life will be financially difficult because of this offering.  How will she feed her kids, pay rent, buy necessities?  She may lose her home, her stuff, her way of life.

Yet, she decides that anointing Jesus’ feet is worth it. Jesus thinks so, too.  He calls what she did a “beautiful act” and tells her that her offering will always be remembered as part of the gospel.  She gave in a way that honored another, that offered good news.

I wonder what it looks like for us to give in a way that honors other human beings, that offers to them good news. How might we pour out our lives, as did the woman with the alabaster jar, in a way that asks something of us, and that transforms our lives? In return, we receive back in full measure the gospel.

Yoga:

Postures in which we are both “pouring ourselves out” and in turn, receiving back peace and calm, best exemplify this text.  Restorative poses are perfect to live into the story of the woman with the alabaster jar for this reason.

Standing at the Wall pose—Buttocks go against wall.  Place your feet a few inches out from wall, a little wider than hip distance apart.  Inhale and stretch your arms up, exhale and fold, hold opposite elbows.  As you pour forth your body, receive in grace and peace.

Viparita Karani (Legs at the wall pose)—Sit down next to a wall, with hips as close to the wall as you get them.  Slowly swing your legs up to the wall. Hug ankles together and flex feet back.  If it is more comfortable, you can place a folded blanket under your hips to give you some lift, and/or under your hand.  As you are offering your legs up, receive in grace and peace. Then, go out and pour out your life.

When I throw off what hinders me, I can be more fully who I am

Scripture: Mark 10: 46-52—The Story of Blind Bartimaeus

 I’m not the best at making drastic, dramatic changes in life, just because I hear Jesus calling me to something.  First of all, it’s hard to know that the nudge I feel toward something might actually be Jesus.  Secondly, change is hard.  Maintaining life as I’ve known it remains much more comfortable than upending the routine.  The routine may have problems, but at least I know it.

Bartimaeus, blind beggar though he is, commands my respect. He makes a huge change in his life. The crowd says, “Jesus is calling you.  Take heart, get up.”  Admittedly, he had it easier in hearing Jesus’ call to him than I do.  He got to actually hear and see Jesus.

Even so, Bartimaeus makes a change—which is more than I might have done in the same situation. He takes heart, he stands up, and grasps his cloak—the most important thing he owns. He would have used the folded cloak in his lap, with a bowl-shaped indentation to catch tossed coins as he begged.  The cloak defined his space on the path apart from all the other beggars. By day the cloak protected him from the scorching desert son, by night it became his shelter and his home.

Bartimaeus can’t move to Jesus, encumbered under folds of fabric. To throw off his cloak he will have to cast aside any coins he has received.  To throw off his cloak he will have to cast aside his economic security blanket.  To throw off his cloak he will have to cast aside his only home. To throw off his cloak he will have to cast aside life as he has known it—and though a routine with problems, it is still familiar.

Coins clatter to the ground. Bartimaeus casts off his security blanket, and comes to Jesus.  By throwing off what hindered him, namely the only life he could remember, Bartimaeus opens up to a healing life.

Jesus comes in front of each of us every day, and stops to call us to new life.  Jesus extends in this very moment grace, grace under whatever cloak you may be covered, under whatever is keeping you from the fullness of life in Christ.

Yet to come you have to throw off your cloak.  You can’t leap toward Jesus when you are still encumbered within the folds of the life you know. To throw off your cloak, you may have to cast aside that one thing that is keeping you from really, truly following Jesus. What is it?  Throw it off. Open to a new and healing life.

Yoga:

Standing with feet hip distance apart, place your hands at heart center in prayer position.  Take heart. Inhale, lifting the arms up to the sky, breathing in courage.  Exhale, releasing the arms down, with hands coming back into prayer.  As you exhale, imagine throwing off whatever is cloaking you.  Repeat the flow of your arms and breath several times.

Peak pose: Trikonasana- In triangle, or trikonasana, place your free hand over your heart.  As you inhale, extend the hand to the sky, as though you are casting off a cloak. Exhale, bringing the hand back to heart center. Repeat this action for 3-5 breaths.  Cast off what cloaks you. Take heart. Jesus is calling you.

In times of fear, we connect to Christ as our strength

Scripture Theme: Mark 13: 1-8, 24-27

Going backwards scares me. When I can tell that a yoga teacher is leading us into a class of backbends, my stomach tightens and I think, ‘oh, no!  Can I politely step out like I’m going to the bathroom and then just leave?’ Yet, I’ve made all kinds of arrangements to be in that class, too much to undo because of my own fear.  So I sigh. I acknowledge my own nervousness. Facing fear isn’t fun.  Backbends make me do that.

Mark 13 is all about things that scare us.  The future, namely.  The future in this scripture is full of famine, war, deprivation.  Scary.  The sun gets dark in this text, and there is no moonlight.  Who isn’t afraid of the dark, especially a future that is dark?

So we do backbends. We go into the dark, the unknown, the uncharted territory that we cannot see. It requires great courage, and really good alignment so the spine stays healthy.  The amazing thing that happens when you do backbends is this. . . when you are done, it feels awesome. The movement of the spine moves the synovial fluid, and with it, old stuff gets moved out, and joy can move in.  Even though I get totally scared about a backbend class, I love love the way I feel when it is over.  Something about going into the unseen and coming out again, something about trusting that I’m held even when I think I might just collapse, something about the spine bending and coming back again, just makes for joy.

God knows this.  Even though Mark 13 shows the darkness of a future that we cannot see, it ends with Christ coming in glory and gathering angels.  It’s like the angels are gathering the corners of the sky, which probably requires a backbend, and bringing the whole of creation under Christ.  Christ brings the light into the darkness.  There is no future in which Christ’s light does not shine.  In this we can trust, even when it seems the very sun is dark, even when we feel like we are going backward rather than forward.  Even when are totally scared, doing backbends into the dark, we can trust that on us, Christ will shine.  Shine on. Shine on.

Yoga: 

Backbends can be really robust and vigorous, like full wheel, or urdhva dhanurasana. They can also be more subtle, like a gentle backbend while standing in tadasana. I’ll offer a pose in between super vigorous and gentle—Salabhasana .  Lie on your belly, arms extended along your sides, palms down, forehead on the mat.  Invite a rich inhale, lift the head, shoulderblades on the back, press into the palms. Two –three breaths here, then exhale to release. Shine on.