Archive | April 2014

Easter: An Unfinished Story


A Requiem for Noemi

It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to read at breakfast on Easter morning, but there it was on the front page of the New York Times–the story of 12 year old Noemi, a slight Ecuadorian child who had committed suicide earlier this year in Mexico.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! The cries would soon ring through our church.

I read through the fragments of her life, her solemn eyes pulling me deeper and deeper into her story. Weary eyes, doubtless from endless days huddled in a dusty pick-up truck bound for Freedom Land and reunion with her parents. Her parents, the story explained, had left Ecuador for a better life in the Bronx, NY, when she was about three years old. Since then Noemi had continued to live in Ecuador with her grandparents. She had not wanted to leave Ecuador. It was all she knew, and poor as they were, her grandparents had nurtured her lovingly. But when her parents called to proudly tell her they had arranged for her to join them in America, she packed up her suitcase and soon found herself in the back of that gritty pick-up truck, bumping over roads that stretched endlessly to a future frighteningly unknown, with questions, fears, and doubts as her closest companions.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

After about a month of the dust and heat of country after country, the truck was stopped in Mexico, the driver arrested, Noemi sent to a shelter for children, a place called the House of Hope.  It seems, however, that there was no hope for Noemi. Her heart was sealed in a dark tomb of fear, despair, and loneliness, and the stone that covered the entrance was simply far too heavy for her to move.  So one day she walked her lonely 12-year old self into an empty House of Hope bathroom and quietly hung herself from a shower curtain rod.

He is risen. He is risen indeed!

I share Noemi’s story, not in any way to dampen our Easter joy. Easter is indeed God’s good news! Let the Hosannas ring! Let the Alleluias resound! I share Noemi’s story simply to remind myself and all of us that there are still more stones in the world that need to be rolled away. To remind us that Easter is an unfinished story.

Man of the Night


Burial of Jesus—Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea

(from the Church of St. Michael,Vienna, Austria)

The myrrh and aloes heavy, but we

manage, Joseph and I—not easy trying to

dispose this body under murkiness of night;

but then, I’m quite familiar with the dark,

more so than with the day; more at home with life’s

hard questions than with easy answers wrapped in

fringed and flowing robes of certainties, tapped out in

clear-cut formulas recited by us Pharisees. I do

admit, I have enjoyed the nods and bows, the special

seats in synagogues reserved for our flamboyant

piety; but shadows have haunted each dutiful

step, and hunger has gnawed at my core; the only

truth I’ve known for sure is that there

surely must be more.


Winding sheet now neatly wrapped around this

forlorn soul, our spices sprinkled freely all

around his nakedness, our sighs the only

dirge for him, echoed by some woman

tears from just outside our cave. We nod in

hushed farewell, to each other, to the corpse, to

all we’d hoped for from this man; we walk into the

mist; lone lily blooms along the path, the only

star in all the blackness of this night.


A night so like that other night when I had

slipped into his room to pick his brain, find some

answers for my restlessness; the night I left with

questions more than had been tucked into my robe when I

arrived; born from above? what was this

strangeness? what this Spirit wind that blew so

unpredictably? what this lifting up? and what this

love of God for all the unclean masses of the world?


Since then, I’ve watched and wondered, wished and hoped,

awash in all my doubts. Then, earlier today that cross, that

lifting up, that soldier cry “This man the Son of God!”

I kneel in heavy fog; wind whispers soft across my

brow; words tumble through the air;

“Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.”


Scripture references: John 3:1-21, John 19:38-42

Lenten Prayer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Passion flower from San Juan Capistrano Mission, California)

Recently I came across this Levertov poem.  Seems a fitting prayer for these Lenten days.

The Avowal

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
free fall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.