We dress my daughter in amarillo, not butter
or sunlight or mirasol, maybe an Easter yellow,
maybe a Dia de los muertos yellow, a baby chick
yellow, it doesn’t matter. She flickers around the house all bare-foot. She takes you by the hand and makes you play La Suavecita on repeat, her hair in brown bouncy pig-tails. All day. She watches your mouth, the way you say tambores, the way you say cumbia. She won’t stop smiling.
When she laughs I hear my mother. I am
back in her house, all bare-foot, dancing
to the same song.
My mother dresses in a teal bata, not Miami
or peacock or Tiffany Blue, maybe an Easter teal, maybe a Dia de los muertos teal, a robin egg teal, it doesn’t matter. She flitters
around the house. She takes me by the hand and teaches me how to spring my arms, how to move my hips, how to follow the beat already in my legs. She tells me,
ay mijo, one day, las muchachas
will want to spend the night with you
on the dance floor. Find those feather feet.
Carry a smile and laugh, mijo laugh.
I ask to play the song again and run
to rewind the cassette tape. All day.
My mother is all baila, baila,
all brown curls of bobbing hair
abriendo sus brazos the moment
I learn how to spin her in
our shot-gun house. She won’t stop smiling.
My mother loves the color yellow.
There is a sing, a flow around inside.
My daughter ooooos the color teal.
When they lay eyes on each other, they watch
each others’ mouths, see just who smiles first.
I’m just here, waiting to see who wants to dance
--si no la invito, me invita ella.
Lupe Mendez is the author of Why I Am Like Tequila (Willow Books, 2019), which won the 2019 John A. Robertson Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. An educator, curriculum writer and literary arts curator, he lives in Houston, Texas.
“I wrote this poem Mid-August of 2020, at first in celebration of both my mother’s 86th birthday on August 7th and in celebration of generational love. I wanted to write a poem of joy and rhythm, something with some base in it. I wanted to write about bright notions, on what is passed down between the generations and in my house, it has always been el gusto y la musica. This poem takes on new meaning now—about ten days after writing this, my mother caught COVID-19 and passed away by October 1st, which is why the poem is still in present tense. My daughter lives to dance and laugh and through her, so does my mother.”
Last week, Palm Sunday, we spoke of the people who lined the streets to celebrate Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem. But that celebration was short lived. Sometime after he shared a Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus’ enemies had him arrested. They hustled him through an unjust trial and convicted him of blasphemy - a crime punishable by death.
But because they were devout, law-abiding men, his enemies had to connive and convinced the Roman government do their dirty work. Before Pilate, Jesus was beaten and mocked, yet didn’t flinch before the emperor’s sword. Instead, he stood there silently as if to say, “What are you gonna do, kill me?” It was like Jesus knew God’s love and faithfulness was bigger than death. Still, Pilate gave him an insurrectionist’s cross. And well, you know the rest of the story.
Then, on the day Jerusalem observed the Sabbath, God got busy. And here’s what happens next. Read: Mark 16:1-8
he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.
Now Mark is considered to be the first of the four gospels. His is a quick and to the point account of Jesus’ ministry. Throughout the ages, people have found all sorts of creative ways to make Mark’s Easter story come to life. Around 400 A.D. John Chrysostom, the archbishop of Constantinople, preached one such sermon. It was so good the Church argued it should be preached every year.
Given the divisive state of American Christianity these days, today seems like the perfect time to bring back this famous Easter message written by one of the early church fathers. Even though it’s over 1,800 years old, his words are still relevant and speak to every heart. He begins by asking:
What an amazing gift John Chrysostom gave to the world. A simple invitation to everyone to come and feast on the glory of God! When we first gathered as a church, our invitation was simple. Come and see.
Come and see the church from a new perspective.
Come and see yourself through the eyes of God’s love for you.
Jesus often described God’s love as a banquet, a feast like no other. A feast that Jesus has invite you to attend. The table has been set. There is a seat waiting for you.
It doesn’t matter who you are or when you arrive, Jesus said you are welcome to this feast. Whether or not you believe a little, or a lot, or not at all it does not negate what God has done for you through Christ Jesus. Whether you are a sinner or a saint, God destroyed death, so that you might live and enjoy this everlasting feast.
Think about that for a moment. God destroyed death, so that you might live. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you, or how it tries to define you. It doesn’t matter how you see yourself! This is a day that the Lord has made. No longer will darkness overpower you. Jesus Christ is giving you the radiant light of Easter.
In this light, Jesus sees you as you really are – a beloved child of God. He is calling us all to the feast.
Today, as we gather to celebrate God know that God is here to celebrate you. Whether you see yourself as worthy or not, the table is set, the food is already cooked. There is enough for everyone to get more than their fair share. The celebration is on. The only one stopping you from attending … is you.
Every Easter for as long as I can remember, we have hosted a big Easter brunch. Kathleen would make all kinds of great dishes. And our friends and family bring their best. Mouth-watering aromas mingled with the electrifying joy in the house.
Around our table one would find ham, quiches, soups, charcuterie boards with different meats, bread and cheeses. Not to mention salads and vegetables prepared a dozen different ways.
We’d load our plates. Then go back for seconds and thirds. The champagne was as plentiful as the laughter. We’d relax on the back porch, holding our stuffed bellies and watching the kids hunt for the remaining easter eggs. And then, desert would come. Cakes, pies, fruit, ice cream and chocolates and of course Easter candy.
It’s a marvelous feast to say the least. A little reminder of the sweetness of heaven here on earth. Because of the pandemic, this didn’t happen last year. This year won’t be any different.
Many of us are still unable to be with our friends and family. Yet we all still have a reason to rejoice. The tomb is empty. Death no longer holds us captive or cripples us with fear.
Christ is Alive. And he’s calling us to the party. A never-ending feast of unlimited and boundless compassion. A banquet where we all delight in forgiveness and have our fill of mercy. It is here, with Christ, that God pours into the cups of our heart grace upon grace until it spills over and splashes on the tables and floors.
Best of all...No one is turned away. Because no one is beyond the boundaries of God’s eternal love.
Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten this. Somewhere along the way, we tried to capture God in a box. But as the Easter tomb has shown us, God cannot be contained.
What God did then through Christ, God did once and for all. Through him we are free; given a new life. Today the Incarnate Christ is calling us to embrace this new life and the fullness of God’s faithfulness that broke through death on that first Easter morning.
From his empty tomb, the words of God still reverberate, “You are my beloved children. And my love is everlasting.” And so I invite you once again to come and see that God’s love is stronger than death. And anything that belongs to God will never go to waste.
Jesus calls out to you and me. Come and see. His is an invitation to receive God’s love that empowers you to take the Way that Jesus has taken before you: a way that gives you true joy and peace and enables you to make the love of God visible in this world.
Come and see what the Lord has made for you, out of great love for you. The table is set. The feast has begun. So come. The only one stopping you is you.
if you say you follow Jesus you must ask yourself how far are you willing to go?
The end of Mark’s story seems to suggests that Jesus went to Jerusalem alone. While there was a parade of people following him, they only did for so far. They stopped at the city gates. Jesus goes by himself to the temple, not to occupy it, or to cleanse it, but just to look at it, to observe it. And then alone he leaves the temple and Jerusalem to retire with the Twelve who seem to be in Bethany.
How did Jesus end up alone? Where did all those people go who came out to cheer him on? One minute they’re waving leafy branches shouting Hosanna, then the next minute they’re gone.
And what about the Twelve? They left their families and businesses behind to follow Jesus. For the last couple of years, they’ve been by his side; clinging to every word and witnessing every miracle. Now, as Jesus’ days are coming to an end, they are missing in action. Or course they weren’t the only ones who followed Jesus. The sick and the demon possessed looked for him in order to be healed.
And then there’s the Pharisees and Sadducees. They followed Jesus hoping to entrap him. He was becoming a bit of a thorn in their side – questioning their motives and understanding of God’s will. They followed him to get ammunition to bring him down. And eventually they will succeed.
Of course, the Roman’s were always close by, guarding their empire. It was rumored that Jesus was a revolutionary leader, the one sent by God to overthrow Caesar and restore Israel back to its former glory. Though he had no armed militia, he was still seen as a threat to their way of life.
As Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time, all eyes were on him. People stopped whatever it was they were doing to follow him. And to cheer him on. They shouted “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”
But for no reason given, they were gone as quickly as they showed up. And I can’t help but wonder why.
watch the message here
Is it because the stakes are higher now? Jesus is no longer in the villages and open country of his home province. This is the capital and the seat of religious and civil authority, where chief priests and elders have real power.
Maybe the people are afraid of what might happen to them if they are seen with him. To what extent the crowds supported his ideals is not fully clear. But they did...up to a point.
This makes me wonder why you’re following Jesus and how far are you willing to go to do so?
Do you follow to have your sins forgiven? If so, you might remember from last week God made a covenant that said, “I will be your God and you will be my people. I will remember you sins no more.”
Maybe you follow Jesus so you can get into heaven when you die? But Jesus made it abundantly clear that the Kingdom of Heaven has already come to us. This is why he said, “Repent.” Let go of your old ways. Be present and participate in the kingdom now. We do that by following the way of God like Jesus did.
When I asked Kathleen this question, she said, “I follow Jesus because he’s the source of the things that I believe are true and good in the world. Sources I can draw from to be who God has made me to be.”
Jesus is not just inviting us to participate in God’s kingdom, but to grow and thrive in it as well. Jesus is our savior in that saves us from ourselves. His is a new way that will require losing your life in order to save it.
To be a follower of Jesus means you choose to be his student; applying his teachings to your life. It means imitating his way of love and self-giving for the sake of the other.
And this can be dangerous. People love to take advantage of our goodness. But that’s on them. We have our call. As Jesus put it, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
It will only be a matter of days that the 12 will understand the full extent of what this means.
They’ve spent much time with Jesus listening and observing. But it was always on the other side of the cross. Only after the resurrection will they fully understand what it means to follow Jesus. And follow they did – faithfully continuing his work of spreading the good news of God’s redemptive love and grace everywhere they went.
Imagine what that entails, especially today. There will be rejection and humiliation. The emotional toll of tireless giving over to the needs of others without a guarantee of receiving anything back. This was never supposed to be easy. Saints like Mother Teressa struggled to live up to the call. I barely touch the surface...but I try.
The Romans were right. The way of Jesus is revolutionary. It’s a threat to a way of life that builds empires on the backs of the weak and poor. It’s an assault on the systems that takes whatever it wants, often by force. It confronts those who twist the laws and bends the truth in their favor so they can keep their power.
To follow Jesus means the will of God will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. It means allegiance to God supersedes one’s allegiance to Caesar or country. It means standing up to injustice, opposing violence, and practicing equality. This is tough to do now, just as it was back then. Fred Craddock reminds us that "The disciples faced opposition as strong as any Jesus himself had to endure." Still, they risked it all to follow him. But will we?
Eventually the people singing their sweet hosanna’s would slowly retreat; returning to their daily lives. One by one, they will drop away. Who could blame them?
When Jesus rode through their neighborhoods without an army behind him, they gave up hope. They feared they didn’t have what it takes to stand up to a powerful empire. Like seeds planted on rocky or shallow soil, their faith never really took root.
By midweek, the numbers of followers will dwindle back down to 12. Then to 11.
By the time the cock crowed three times the next morning, only Peter will be left – watching from afar as Jesus’ fate is sealed.
By sunset of that day, Jesus will be alone, once again, only this time on a slab in a tomb.
We are blessed to know what comes next in the story. This tomb is only temporary. It’s nothing more than a gateway to show the world what God can do, and what God is willing to do, to be in relationship with us. We are blessed that God loves us so much that God is willing to take on death and defeat it for us.
But this blessing is also a burden. A burden of knowing what following Jesus entails. Just as he gave instructions to his disciples to continue this mission of love and redemption so too are we called to walk as he walked and to talk as he talked.
It means to show patience when people annoy us, to be kind when they reject us.
It means to help those who reach out to you, without judgment or shame.
It means to demand justice when the law is being twisted and abused.
It means to welcome people who are not of your tribe, or political party or religious affiliation to celebrate the fullness and diversity of life with them.
It means to love like it’s the only thing that makes your heart beat and come alive. So why would you risk your life to follow Jesus? I can’t really give you an answer, only my opinion based on what I’ve learned by struggling over the years.
In this final pilgrimage, Jesus began his walk to the cross. In doing so, Jesus will face for me our greatest fear – death. Through Jesus, God has freed me from death so that I can live – truly live - without fear.
To live without fear is to live with God’s shalom – God’s perfect peace. Possessing this peace, I can proclaim the good news by simply living into it for others to see.
I haven’t perfect this yet. But instead of getting down and giving up, I simply show up every morning and try. With God’s peace on my heart, I have hope. I have a purpose. I have a reason to get up in the morning do what Jesus did everyday. Because day after day Jesus continues to live through me.
To follow Jesus is no small choice. But one we are called to make. It’s hard because you’re not just choosing him, you are also choosing to stake your life on living in imitation of him.
To follow Jesus is to choose the steadfast, unyielding, courageous commitment to living eternal Will of God — no matter the cost. That means, to make God’s love the center and the standard of everything you do.
This is dangerous. This is revolutionary. This is life giving.
But this is the way of God, who through Jesus Christ calls out to you, “Come, follow me.”
The choice is up to you. To follow or to walk away.
If you say you follow Jesus, then you must ask yourself how far am I willing to go?
*Inspired by Fred Craddock's observation to Mark 11.
Every day as a wide field, every page. Naomi Shihab Nye
God give us a new heart - one that is tagged with a tattoo gun filled with grace.
Today’s words are from the prophet Jeremiah, who has spent most of his life warning God’s people that their idolatrous ways would only lead to judgment being heaped upon them. And when it came, it came with a vengeance.
The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and dragged their king and religious leaders off in chains. Everything they believed was important now laid in waste and God’s people are faced with a serious crisis. Not only had the lost their power and prestige, but they felt as if they had also lost their God. Or at least the assurance of God's faithfulness and security.
Instead of shaking his head and saying, “I told you so,” Jeremiah offers up to his community these beautiful words of hope. Words for us all as we face the difficult challenges today.
Read Jeremiah 31:31-34
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah...I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people...from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Despite the infidelity and idolatry, despite the corrupt kings and priest who twisted God’s laws to exploit and promote their own agenda, despite all the ways that people have broken faith with God, God does not break faith with them.
This is the reoccurring theme we’ve been looking at throughout Lent. God remains faithful even when we aren’t. God is always there, even in our deepest despair, creating life out of death.
Although we are getting closer to our Easter celebration the good news seems still so far away. Thus, Jeremiah’s words offer us a sense of comfort and encouragement. He reminds us that God does not give up on us.
Whether we are worthy or not, God takes the initiative to pour out unmerited favor upon us. Because of God’s covenants of grace there is always hope when we have faith.
But even though we have the assurance of God’s grace, there is also the reality of what happens when we don’t live into what God is calling us to do. For example, when we choose to live in love we are more likely to receive love back. But the same is true when we choose to withhold justice or be inhospitable.
It’s safe to say the people of Judah faced the consequences of their actions. Now their hearts and faith are shattered like their beloved Temple.
Again, Jeremiah could have stuck his nose in the air and said, “It sucks to be you.” Instead, he encourages God’s people by telling them hope is on the way. A new covenant is coming. One that is not engraved in stone for all can see but none to follow.
God is changing the game – engraving God’s law inside them. From the least to the greatest, everyone gets a new heart. And to celebrate this divine promise, God does the unthinkable. God wipes the slate clean and forgets their sins forever.
watch the message here
In his bookTattoo’s on the Heart, Greg Boyle shares stories about the many lives that have been transformed by God through his organization Homeboy Industries, which he created to give criminals and gang members a second chance at life.
One such story is about a homeboy struggling to quit his life of violence. Boyle tells the young man that in trying to leave his gang, he was acting with far more courage than he’d ever shown shooting at enemies in his hood.
But what catches this young man off guard isn’t his courageousness but God’s willingness to wipe his slate clean and remake his heart. When Boyle told him that God loved him no matter what this homie blurts out, “Damn, G…I’m gonna tattoo that on my heart.”
Why does God do such crazy things like forgiving the unforgivable? Or loving the unlovable?
Perhaps God knows that the only way we can truly live into God’s will is to have our hearts free of the anger, guilt and shame that traps us in the cycles of sin. The best way God can do this is by giving us a new heart one that is tagged with a tattoo gun filled with grace.
This is why I love these words from Jeremiah because I love the idea of a God tattooed heart. It’s like God wants to be a part of my life forever. And takes the initiative to make sure that our relationship happens. God has set up shop in everyone’s heart…no matter who you are or what you’ve done.
Why does this important for us? Because no longer are we defined by what society deems worthy, or by a particular religious affiliation or a set of rituals we practice. We are defined solely on the merits how we let God’s law of love shine from our hearts.
This is exactly what Jesus did. He made love his priority - touching the untouchables, eating with sinners, and raising the dead. When questioned about purity laws, Jesus’ response was, “It’s not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles them but what comes out.”
You see our words, our actions, our faith, all come from the same place – from a God-etched-tattooed heart. Not only is this the place where God’s grace flows into us. It’s also the place where it flows out.
Now, it shouldn’t surprise us that God comes to be with us in the center of life. What is surprising is God is willing to risk it all hoping our actions will reflect the best of what God requires of us – to act justly and kindly, promote love and peace, and to walk in sync for the building up of God’s kingdom.
As much as we say we love God, we still struggle with the notion of doing the will of God. Don’t let that get you down. The world has never made this easy. Just ask Jesus.
As the world threw the worst at him, his heart remained true to the law of love placed in him. Jesus kept his heart free of revenge, hatred or anger despite having good reason to feel that way.
But I imagine if we made the effort to live out God’s love in the world like Jesus did, then maybe it might get easier. Maybe we wouldn’t need to steal, cheat, or lie. Or make our opinions more important than someone else’s needs. Maybe we’d take better care of creation and the health and wellbeing of all the people in our communities.
Imagine the impact on the world, or this pandemic, if we lived like Jesus did. There would be no reason to withhold resources out of fear of not having enough.
For the love that God has etched in Jesus is etched in you, and everyone else. In harming or denying someone else’s heart, you are also harming and denying God.
Pascal reminded us that, “God wants to motivate the will more than the mind.” That motivation is initiated by God’s grace given to us through Christ Jesus. In him, we are drawn into this new covenant that was signed with his blood.
But Jesus does more than save us. He shows us how to do the same for one another. He gives us real world examples on how to live – fully and faithfully – so our heart beats in perfect sync with God’s.
While our world is more concerned with outward appearances, Jesus directs our attention inward – to seek and find the divine heartbeat in every person you meet. Jesus said the way to do this is to love them as if you are loving him.
Whenever you feed the hungry, welcome a stranger, care for the sick and the poor, or help someone trapped in whatever prison they are in Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it also to me” (Matthew 25:40).
God doesn’t care what you look like or how you are put together any more than God is concerned about what you’ve done in your past. You may not like the way your nose bends, the curls in your hair, or the way you have treated people in your life. But God loves you, nonetheless. You are perfect with your imperfections as my wife likes to say.
It doesn’t matter how much money you make, or how popular or famous you are. God is only interested in your heart. For its in our actions that people will come to know God and believe.
We know that God knows our heart because God is tattooed in it. God has done this so you and I can share God’s grace and love with a world that hungers and thirsts for it.
This can be a scary endeavor for some of you to do. But remember that Jesus not only revealed his divine heart to us, but in doing so was able to reconcile us back to God.
He is our common example, the model from which we learn to live truly and rightly.
Following in his footsteps, we can endure, we can triumph, and we can change the world.
Reshaping and remaking it in God’s image. Instead of our own.
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Year B Vol 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"...how he went about doing good..."