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There Is No ‘Only’ In Mustard Seeds

“He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

We are all mustard seeds.

A mustard seed in the womb.

And then a mustard seed in this world.

One small piece of God’s dream for love and peace on Earth.

A punctuation mark in the great unending novel of humanity and its journey through darkness into light. 

But, we are not just mustard seeds. This isn’t a case of having to settle for only being a mustard seed. 

There is nothing “only” or “just” about being a mustard seed and a mark of punctuation.

Because punctuation makes all the difference. 

And so can we.

Which is what Jesus wants us to understand.

What could be smaller than a period, comma or semicolon?

But, what has more potential?

A period, and something ends.

A comma, and something continues.

A semicolon, and two things are joined together.

We are all sown into this world as completely helpless babies. Totally vulnerable mustard seeds. Not even aware of our own two hands and unable to hold up our head. 

But, oh, how that changes. How that mustard seed grows through the years until we truly do have the power to make things end or continue, and the ability to join things together.

For better or for worse.

How fortunate—given our ability to build up with love or break down with hate—that each of us human mustard seeds has the ultimate mustard seed inside us:

Our soul.

And, man, how that mustard seed can grow.

Our souls can become gigantic Redwood Trees of compassion and towering Sequoias of peace and reconciliation.

And when that happens we are able to provide “shade” for so much more than nesting birds.

Human beings can find shelter in our acts of determined kindness toward one another. Especially when we put our mustard seeds together.

When two or more of us gather together to address the world’s great need for love, that is how we become an entire forest of “shade” for those abandoned in the tree-less wilderness of indifference.

Wonderfully, however long we live we never grow up and out of our “mustard seed-ness.” 

When we keep our hearts tuned to the Holy Spirit, we can remain mustard seeds until the day we die, able to put our comma, our period or our semicolon in just the right place to completely change the story.

Because the mustard seed inside us is the kingdom of God.



“He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’”

—The Gospel of Mark

By Ken Woodley

We are all mustard seeds.
A mustard seed in the womb.
And then a mustard seed in this world.
One small piece of God’s dream for love and peace on Earth.
A punctuation mark in the great unending novel of humanity and its journey through darkness into light.
But, we are not just mustard seeds. This isn’t a case of having to settle for only being a mustard seed.
There is nothing “only” or “just” about being a mustard seed and a mark of punctuation.
Because punctuation makes all the difference.
And so can we.
Which is what Jesus wants us to understand.
What could be smaller than a period, comma or semicolon?
But, what has more potential?
A period, and something ends.
A comma, and something continues.
A semicolon, and two things are joined together.
We are all sown into this world as completely helpless babies. Totally vulnerable mustard seeds. Not even aware of our own two hands and unable to hold up our head.
But, oh, how that changes. How that mustard seed grows through the years until we truly do have the power to make things end or continue, and the ability to join things together.
For better or for worse.
How fortunate—given our ability to build up with love or break down with hate—that each of us human mustard seeds has the ultimate mustard seed inside us:
Our soul.
And, man, how that mustard seed can grow.
Our souls can become gigantic Redwood Trees of compassion and towering Sequoias of peace and reconciliation.
And when that happens we are able to provide “shade” for so much more than nesting birds.
Human beings can find shelter in our acts of determined kindness toward one another. Especially when we put our mustard seeds together.
When two or more of us gather together to address the world’s great need for love, that is how we become an entire forest of “shade” for those abandoned in the tree-less wilderness of indifference.
Wonderfully, however long we live we never grow up and out of our “mustard seed-ness.”
When we keep our hearts tuned to the Holy Spirit, we can remain mustard seeds until the day we die, able to put our comma, our period or our semicolon in just the right place to completely change the story.
Because the mustard seed inside us is the kingdom of God.









Even If We Stop, God Keeps Marching

By Ken Woodley

Imagine being one of the apostles near the Mount of Olivet during the scene described in verses six through 14 in the first chapter of the Book of Acts. There we are, with the risen Jesus, who is giving us our marching orders: to be his witnesses, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to the ends of the earth.

If being with the resurrected Jesus isn’t mind-blowing enough, we then watch as he is lifted up and taken out of our sight in a cloud. As we’re gazing up toward heaven, two men in white robes suddenly appear at our side and ask why we’re looking up into the sky. Jesus, they tell us, has been taken away  from us into heaven but will come back in the same way.

What a conversation we would have had during the day-long walk back to Jerusalem after this experience. Dumbfounded silence would have been interspersed with gushing voices falling over each other recounting what had just happened.

But, what had just happened?

In all likelihood, I suppose, the two men were angels. They match the description of the two who appeared to Mary Magdalene when she went to Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning.

The one thing I know better than anything else … the one thing I know best of all—is that there is a ton of stuff that I don’t know. This passage from the Book of Acts is among the many things I cannot explain.

And that makes me very happy.

You and I—all of us—need far more than what the human mind could possibly conceive. The transformation of humanity into a world of love and compassion requires far more than anything I could dissect and explain. Knowing that God is in the process of lifting us all toward one another—if we allow it to happen by not misusing our free will—is incredibly reassuring.

We can feel ripples of God’s movement, like a breeze against our skin or a river’s current and the pulling of a tide along the shore as we wade out together. But I cannot take the wind in my hands and hold it tightly, even for a second. Rivers and tides flow right through my fingers. I cannot begin to grasp the awesome fullness of what is happening and how it is happening. 

There are clues all around but I won’t pretend to solve the mystery before your very eyes.

God is on the case and I thank God for that.

All I know is what I have faith in: there is an awesome transformation underway and taking shape. It is, indeed, happening. The love and grace of God will eventually prevail in the world because it will some day prevail in our hearts. Prevailing in the human heart, one human being at a time, is how that love and grace shine like beams of light into the dark corners of the world.

The alternative, so often clearly illustrated, is darkness spreading one human heart at a time.

So, here we are. Gathered with Peter and John. Gathered with James and Andrew, with Phillip and Thomas. Here we are, gathered with the mother and brothers of Jesus.

Gathered with each other.

Something wondrous has happened on our journey to Jerusalem—and is unstoppably underway—that we cannot fully explain.

Or stop.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank God, indeed, that we cannot make it stop.

By Ken Woodley

Imagine being one of the apostles near the Mount of Olivet during the scene described in verses six through 14 in the first chapter of the Book of Acts. There we are, with the risen Jesus, who is giving us our marching orders: to be his witnesses, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to the ends of the earth.
If being with the resurrected Jesus isn’t mind-blowing enough, we then watch as he is lifted up and taken out of our sight in a cloud. As we’re gazing up toward heaven, two men in white robes suddenly appear at our side and ask why we’re looking up into the sky. Jesus, they tell us, has been taken away from us into heaven but will come back in the same way.
What a conversation we would have had during the day-long walk back to Jerusalem after this experience. Dumbfounded silence would have been interspersed with gushing voices falling over each other recounting what had just happened.
But, what had just happened?
In all likelihood, I suppose, the two men were angels. They match the description of the two who appeared to Mary Magdalene when she went to Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning.
The one thing I know better than anything else … the one thing I know best of all—is that there is a ton of stuff that I don’t know. This passage from the Book of Acts is among the many things I cannot explain.
And that makes me very happy.
You and I—all of us—need far more than what the human mind could possibly conceive. The transformation of humanity into a world of love and compassion requires far more than anything I could dissect and explain. Knowing that God is in the process of lifting us all toward one another—if we allow it to happen by not misusing our free will—is incredibly reassuring.
We can feel ripples of God’s movement, like a breeze against our skin or a river’s current and the pulling of a tide along the shore as we wade out together. But I cannot take the wind in my hands and hold it tightly, even for a second. Rivers and tides flow right through my fingers. I cannot begin to grasp the awesome fullness of what is happening and how it is happening.
There are clues all around but I won’t pretend to solve the mystery before your very eyes.
God is on the case and I thank God for that.
All I know is what I have faith in: there is an awesome transformation underway and taking shape. It is, indeed, happening. The love and grace of God will eventually prevail in the world because it will some day prevail in our hearts. Prevailing in the human heart, one human being at a time, is how that love and grace shine like beams of light into the dark corners of the world.
The alternative, so often clearly illustrated, is darkness spreading one human heart at a time.
So, here we are. Gathered with Peter and John. Gathered with James and Andrew, with Phillip and Thomas. Here we are, gathered with the mother and brothers of Jesus.
Gathered with each other.
Something wondrous has happened on our journey to Jerusalem—and is unstoppably underway—that we cannot fully explain.
Or stop.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank God, indeed, that we cannot make it stop.




The Road To Emmaus

By Ken Woodley

The Road to Emmaus is all around us.

There is no set path. No particular interstate highway or country lane.

The Road to Emmaus just is—stretching out in every direction. 

North. South. East. And west.

We journey upon it each day, whether we realize it or not. Every paved mile that we drive is upon the Road to Emmaus. Each sidewalk step that we take is upon the Road to Emmaus. 

Left, right, left.

Through the woods.

Across a field.

Upstairs and down.

For our entire life.

Forward, or backward, day by day.

Curiously, however, we often fail to sense its presence. There are so many distractions along the way. One moment we are deep in contemplative prayer and the next minute we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of life’s often tumultuous cacophony of desperate voices and events. 

We become like the two disciples described in the Gospel of Luke, walking toward Emmaus and so busy talking about the crucifixion of Jesus and rumors of his resurrection that they fail to see that he is walking right  beside them.

The experience is not unlike walking out from a forest of wondrous peace into Times Square.

But even Times Square is part of the Road to Emmaus. 

The Road to Emmaus is everywhere—no exceptions.

And Jesus is there—no exceptions—for those who seek him.

Jesus is there, waiting for us to recognize him.

Waiting for us to recognize him in our hearts.

To recognize him in our souls.

To recognize him in each other when we walk his footsteps into the world.

Every day and every step we take hold such promise.

Every day and every step offer us the chance to make the dreams that Jesus has for us come true in this world that so desperately needs those dreams to come true.

But how?

Sometimes, we just need to pull over into a spiritual rest stop and let the tumultuous caterwauling of the world’s traffic of distractions wash over us and away.

Often, we most readily recognize the Road to Emmaus—and who journeys upon it by our side—only when we stop for a moment to look around and feel the scenery of our soul and the sunrise of our hearts burning within us.

That is when Jesus is able to “break bread” with us, even if there is not a crumb or a crust or a loaf in sight. 

Quite possibly, however, another person is by your side, walking the same steps on the Road to Emmaus. In close proximity physically, but also close in the spirit of friendship or love. So close that it is as if the two of you are one single loaf of bread. 

But it can also be a fleeting moment, paths crossing briefly in the middle of one single day.  Even a handful of minutes or seconds can  be enough, and whether you truly know each other or are strangers at a shared crossroad.

For a brief moment there is true communion.

Because the Road to Emmaus is entirely inside us.

Wrapped up in our soul.

We are the pavement and dusty windings.

We are the journey and the destination.

So, stop now and feel what might be all around you, waiting to be recognized for what it is.

And for who he is.

By Ken Woodley

The Road to Emmaus is all around us.
There is no set path. No particular interstate highway or country lane.
The Road to Emmaus just is—stretching out in every direction.
North. South. East. And west.
We journey upon it each day, whether we realize it or not. Every paved mile that we drive is upon the Road to Emmaus. Each sidewalk step that we take is upon the Road to Emmaus.
Left, right, left.
Through the woods.
Across a field.
Upstairs and down.
For our entire life.
Forward, or backward, day by day.
Curiously, however, we often fail to sense its presence. There are so many distractions along the way. One moment we are deep in contemplative prayer and the next minute we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of life’s often tumultuous cacophony of desperate voices and events.
We become like the two disciples described in the Gospel of Luke, walking toward Emmaus and so busy talking about the crucifixion of Jesus and rumors of his resurrection that they fail to see that he is walking right beside them.
The experience is not unlike walking out from a forest of wondrous peace into Times Square.
But even Times Square is part of the Road to Emmaus.
The Road to Emmaus is everywhere—no exceptions.
And Jesus is there—no exceptions—for those who seek him.
Jesus is there, waiting for us to recognize him.
Waiting for us to recognize him in our hearts.
To recognize him in our souls.
To recognize him in each other when we walk his footsteps into the world.
Every day and every step we take hold such promise.
Every day and every step offer us the chance to make the dreams that Jesus has for us come true in this world that so desperately needs those dreams to come true.
But how?
Sometimes, we just need to pull over into a spiritual rest stop and let the tumultuous caterwauling of the world’s traffic of distractions wash over us and away.
Often, we most readily recognize the Road to Emmaus—and who journeys upon it by our side—only when we stop for a moment to look around and feel the scenery of our soul and the sunrise of our hearts burning within us.
That is when Jesus is able to “break bread” with us, even if there is not a crumb or a crust or a loaf in sight.
Quite possibly, however, another person is by your side, walking the same steps on the Road to Emmaus. In close proximity physically, but also close in the spirit of friendship or love. So close that it is as if the two of you are one single loaf of bread.
But it can also be a fleeting moment, paths crossing briefly in the middle of one single day. Even a handful of minutes or seconds can be enough, and whether you truly know each other or are strangers at a shared crossroad.
For a brief moment there is true communion.
Because the Road to Emmaus is entirely inside us.
Wrapped up in our soul.
We are the pavement and dusty windings.
We are the journey and the destination.
So, stop now and feel what might be all around you, waiting to be recognized for what it is.
And for who he is.









Not Fearing Our Wounds

“Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.’”

—The Gospel of John

By Ken Woodley

Jesus wasn’t afraid of his wounds.

They plainly showed. 

He did not try to hide them.

He points them out to his disbelieving disciples as proof that he has risen from the dead and that he is no ghost. 

The disciples evidently believed that they were being haunted rather than visited by their risen Savior. That is why Jesus invites them to touch him, to touch his wounds, so that their haunted fears may vanish.

No, Jesus was not afraid of his wounds. 

And he invited others to touch them.

By touching his wounds, Jesus knew, his disciples would be healed of the raw anxiety that was so destructive to the life Jesus hoped they would live after his crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus offers us a great lesson.

Like Jesus, we should not be afraid of our wounds, either.

A wound is more than a cut, bruise or scratch, and all of us are wounded in some way. Nobody goes through life wound-free. 

Some are wounded more deeply than others but there are no trivial wounds. Wounds are terribly real. For that reason it can be easy to be afraid of them, perhaps even ashamed. We want to hide them from others. Hide them from ourselves. Pretend they don’t exist.

But running from our wounds is not the path toward healing.

Instead, trying to escape leads to us feeling hunted and haunted by our wounds, just as the disciples were hunted and haunted by the wounding loss of Jesus in their lives when he was crucified. That escapist mentality makes the wound worse, not better.

No, we don’t have to parade our wounds around or make a big song and dance about them. There is no “Wound Olympics.” It’s not a competition. 

But we do need to acknowledge them, believe that we can live with them and, crucially, be open to the way God can bring healing through the loving touch of others in our lives. 

Because, so often, that is the way God reaches out to us. The way the risen Christ is able to anoint our heads with oil and restore our soul: 

By bringing someone into our life who is not afraid of our wounds and who seeks, through loving compassion, to bring us healing.

But, the healing of wounds is a double-edge plowshare. Sometimes the effect of our own wounding empowers us to be effective healers of others. Sometimes the shape of our lives fits perfectly into the wound of someone else.

Therefore, just as we must not be afraid of our own wounds, we also must not fear the wounds of others. We must not be afraid to touch their wounds with God’s loving purpose that can, if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, have our fingerprints all over that touch of divine grace.

And, sometimes, when we reach out with that divine healing grace toward others, we find God reaching out to us through them. Our reach meets theirs and in that moment God’s love for us is made most profoundly manifest.

That is a truth worth embracing with all of our might.

“Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see.’”

—The Gospel of John

By Ken Woodley

Jesus wasn’t afraid of his wounds.
They plainly showed.
He did not try to hide them.
He points them out to his disbelieving disciples as proof that he has risen from the dead and that he is no ghost.
The disciples evidently believed that they were being haunted rather than visited by their risen Savior. That is why Jesus invites them to touch him, to touch his wounds, so that their haunted fears may vanish.
No, Jesus was not afraid of his wounds.
And he invited others to touch them.
By touching his wounds, Jesus knew, his disciples would be healed of the raw anxiety that was so destructive to the life Jesus hoped they would live after his crucifixion and resurrection.
Jesus offers us a great lesson.
Like Jesus, we should not be afraid of our wounds, either.
A wound is more than a cut, bruise or scratch, and all of us are wounded in some way. Nobody goes through life wound-free.
Some are wounded more deeply than others but there are no trivial wounds. Wounds are terribly real. For that reason it can be easy to be afraid of them, perhaps even ashamed. We want to hide them from others. Hide them from ourselves. Pretend they don’t exist.
But running from our wounds is not the path toward healing.
Instead, trying to escape leads to us feeling hunted and haunted by our wounds, just as the disciples were hunted and haunted by the wounding loss of Jesus in their lives when he was crucified. That escapist mentality makes the wound worse, not better.
No, we don’t have to parade our wounds around or make a big song and dance about them. There is no “Wound Olympics.” It’s not a competition.
But we do need to acknowledge them, believe that we can live with them and, crucially, be open to the way God can bring healing through the loving touch of others in our lives.
Because, so often, that is the way God reaches out to us. The way the risen Christ is able to anoint our heads with oil and restore our soul:
By bringing someone into our life who is not afraid of our wounds and who seeks, through loving compassion, to bring us healing.
But, the healing of wounds is a double-edge plowshare. Sometimes the effect of our own wounding empowers us to be effective healers of others. Sometimes the shape of our lives fits perfectly into the wound of someone else.
Therefore, just as we must not be afraid of our own wounds, we also must not fear the wounds of others. We must not be afraid to touch their wounds with God’s loving purpose that can, if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, have our fingerprints all over that touch of divine grace.
And, sometimes, when we reach out with that divine healing grace toward others, we find God reaching out to us through them. Our reach meets theirs and in that moment God’s love for us is made most profoundly manifest.
That is a truth worth embracing with all of our might.












The Dawn Of Rapture

By Ken Woodley

He is risen.

Jesus, the great gardener of souls—capable of transforming the most wintered of life’s landscapes into spring—has bloomed and blossomed out of the grave. No wonder Mary Magdalene mistook him for the gardener when she went to his tomb in the pre-dawn darkness.

Just as nature pulls spring out of winter’s hat, like a magician—so an Easter bunny is an apt symbol, after all—Jesus turned death inside out and upside down. 

And now he stands there, outside our own tomb, reaching out to place flowers on whatever cross life has nailed us to, to turn the nails into petals.

Few people live an entire life without enduring some sense of crucifixion, however momentary it may be. 

No, there are no literal nails, no actual hammers. Roman soldiers have not made a crown of thorns for our head. 

But it is not blasphemy to have a glimpse of understanding toward the horror that Jesus endured based on moments when life for us became really, really dark, very, very painful and extremely frightening. 

Jesus, the great gardener of our soul, is there now. Is here now on Easter Day. Sharing Easter Day with us. Offering a sense of resurrection right here and right now.

Jesus knows.

Jesus understands.

And that is why he stands there, outside our tomb. He has rolled the stone away. He is stepping inside. Reaching out his hand to us. 

Where we feel barren, he can sow any crop and the harvest day will come.

Where our limbs feel bare, he can bring leaves budding.

Birdsong in our silence.

Light washing our shadows away.

A sky so blue it sticks to our eyes even in the darkness, which suddenly doesn’t seem so dark anymore.

We all get wintered by life at one time or another. The seasons of life come and go, like tides, but Jesus will never fall away from our tree like dried leaves for which summer is barely a memory and spring is no more.

Love and grace are perpetual blossoms and blooms.

It is Easter Day, and we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

It is Easter Day, and Jesus celebrates the resurrection of us all into new life in the hereafter but also in the here and now.

Not THE resurrection for all eternity.

Not yet.

But a resurrection for today and tomorrow until eternity comes.

That is the prayer we hear Jesus whispering in our heart and in our soul.

The cure we most need may have to wait for heaven, but the healing we need is here now. Jesus is reaching out his hand to lead us away from our grave and walk with us away from our tomb so that we may experience the wonder of the flowers that suddenly surround us.

Jesus, the great gardener of our souls, offers to keep the weeds from consuming the petals he promises are inside us.

And he offers another promise, too.

Easter Day is not just this Sunday. Easter Day doesn’t die at sunset. Easter Day is not buried as the dark of night returns. Easter Day lives on and on and on because every day offers us resurrected moments in the garden with Jesus.

Just when it seems the winters of our life won’t ever let us go, there are sudden daffodils in us all.

Just where God put them.


By Ken Woodley

He is risen.
Jesus, the great gardener of souls—capable of transforming the most wintered of life’s landscapes into spring—has bloomed and blossomed out of the grave. No wonder Mary Magdalene mistook him for the gardener when she went to his tomb in the pre-dawn darkness.
Just as nature pulls spring out of winter’s hat, like a magician—so an Easter bunny is an apt symbol, after all—Jesus turned death inside out and upside down.
And now he stands there, outside our own tomb, reaching out to place flowers on whatever cross life has nailed us to, to turn the nails into petals.
Few people live an entire life without enduring some sense of crucifixion, however momentary it may be.
No, there are no literal nails, no actual hammers. Roman soldiers have not made a crown of thorns for our head.
But it is not blasphemy to have a glimpse of understanding toward the horror that Jesus endured based on moments when life for us became really, really dark, very, very painful and extremely frightening.
Jesus, the great gardener of our soul, is there now. Is here now on Easter Day. Sharing Easter Day with us. Offering a sense of resurrection right here and right now.
Jesus knows.
Jesus understands.
And that is why he stands there, outside our tomb. He has rolled the stone away. He is stepping inside. Reaching out his hand to us.
Where we feel barren, he can sow any crop and the harvest day will come.
Where our limbs feel bare, he can bring leaves budding.
Birdsong in our silence.
Light washing our shadows away.
A sky so blue it sticks to our eyes even in the darkness, which suddenly doesn’t seem so dark anymore.
We all get wintered by life at one time or another. The seasons of life come and go, like tides, but Jesus will never fall away from our tree like dried leaves for which summer is barely a memory and spring is no more.
Love and grace are perpetual blossoms and blooms.
It is Easter Day, and we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
It is Easter Day, and Jesus celebrates the resurrection of us all into new life in the hereafter but also in the here and now.
Not THE resurrection for all eternity.
Not yet.
But a resurrection for today and tomorrow until eternity comes.
That is the prayer we hear Jesus whispering in our heart and in our soul.
The cure we most need may have to wait for heaven, but the healing we need is here now. Jesus is reaching out his hand to lead us away from our grave and walk with us away from our tomb so that we may experience the wonder of the flowers that suddenly surround us.
Jesus, the great gardener of our souls, offers to keep the weeds from consuming the petals he promises are inside us.
And he offers another promise, too.
Easter Day is not just this Sunday. Easter Day doesn’t die at sunset. Easter Day is not buried as the dark of night returns. Easter Day lives on and on and on because every day offers us resurrected moments in the garden with Jesus.
Just when it seems the winters of our life won’t ever let us go, there are sudden daffodils in us all.
Just where God put them.





















Good Friday’s Hunt For Light And Love

By Ken Woodley

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated 47 years ago tomorrow evening. “Only light can do that. 

“Hate cannot drive out hate,” he said.  “Only love can do that.”

Light and love will rise on Sunday and, if we let it, resurrect the world from both the darkness and the hate.

But on this day 2,000 years ago, it hardly seemed possible.

Darkness seemed to have driven out all of the light. 

Hatred seemed to have swallowed love in its entirety.

Easter is all about the triumph of light over darkness.

The victory of love over hate.

Light that is inside us, Jesus teaches.

The love within us all, is what he said.

And for that, they nailed him to a cross.

Sometimes we have to resurrect that light and love within us on a daily basis. At other times, when the world’s gravity doesn’t feel so heavy to us, both seem to rise up on their own and never set.

Life is tidal.

There is a rise and fall.

High tide never lasts forever. Low tide, too, ebbs away into waves that splash first around our ankles and then invite us deeper.

Deeper into the light.

Deeper into the love.

Head over heels in light.

Heels over head in love.

Good Friday seemed destined to be an endless reminder that darkness and hate can drive their nails in forever.

What is about to happen, however, shows us that light and love can shine from our deepest, darkest wounds into the world, freeing someone locked in their own darkness right beside us.

Even, sometimes, freeing the very reflection we see in our own mirrors, illuminating the path from which we have stumbled into a crown of thorns on our own Good Friday.

Easter is not a one-man show.

No pantomime act.

And thank God for that.

By remaining true to his faith, his message, ministry and calling, despite the hammer blows that drove the nails deeper and deeper, Jesus set loose the spirit and power of God’s love and light in a way that turned the balance.

Darkness and hate became the hunted.

Not hunted, however, with weapons.

Or, in fact, yes, hunted with the very best of weapons.

Hunted only by light.

Hunted simply by love.

Hunted to turn darkness into light.

Hunted to transform hatred into love.

How terribly and temptingly easy it would have been for Jesus, on Good Friday or at any point in the days and hours and minutes leading up to his agonizing death, to deny the truth that God had filled him with up to the brim, filling him so full that there would be—and is—enough for everyone to drink from that endless well.

A holy communion of light and love.

Living with the light and living with the love is not meant to be a spectator sport, however.

We’re meant to get in the game ourselves.

God wants us to run with the light as far as we can.

To carry love to the utmost limit of our ability.

Into the world around us.

Down that block. Around a corner. To the other side of a table. Across the room.

And sometimes, to do that, we have to get down from our own crosses, first.

Get down and feel a ripple within us from a resurrection that is both 2,000 years old and constantly alive among us.

This day and the two that follow—72 hours that forever changed the world—remind us that we can.

The decision, and oftentimes it can seem we must make that decision on a daily basis, is ours.

The love and the light are waiting.

Even on Good Friday.

Perhaps especially on Good Friday.

The one Jesus endured. And our own.

God put the love and the light there inside each of us.

But they are not for us, alone, to keep only to ourselves.

We are meant to share them both with each other.

Utterly and completely.

Just as we are meant to accept, with reckless abandon, 

the complete and utter love that God feels for each of us.

When we do, there is no Good Friday on earth 

that can keep us nailed to the cross.

By Ken Woodley


“Darkness cannot drive out darkness,” said the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated 47 years ago tomorrow evening. “Only light can do that.

“Hate cannot drive out hate,” he said. “Only love can do that.”

Light and love will rise on Sunday and, if we let it, resurrect the world from both the darkness and the hate.

But on this day 2,000 years ago, it hardly seemed possible.
Darkness seemed to have driven out all of the light.
Hatred seemed to have swallowed love in its entirety.

Easter is all about the triumph of light over darkness.
The victory of love over hate.
Light that is inside us, Jesus teaches.
The love within us all, is what he said.

And for that, they nailed him to a cross.

Sometimes we have to resurrect that light and love within us on a daily basis. At other times, when the world’s gravity doesn’t feel so heavy to us, both seem to rise up on their own and never set.

Life is tidal.
There is a rise and fall.
High tide never lasts forever. Low tide, too, ebbs away into waves that splash first around our ankles and then invite us deeper.

Deeper into the light.
Deeper into the love.
Head over heels in light.
Heels over head in love.

Good Friday seemed destined to be an endless reminder that darkness and hate can drive their nails in forever.

What is about to happen, however, shows us that light and love can shine from our deepest, darkest wounds into the world, freeing someone locked in their own darkness right beside us.

Even, sometimes, freeing the very reflection we see in our own mirrors, illuminating the path from which we have stumbled into a crown of thorns on our own Good Friday.

Easter is not a one-man show.
No pantomime act.
And thank God for that.

By remaining true to his faith, his message, ministry and calling, despite the hammer blows that drove the nails deeper and deeper, Jesus set loose the spirit and power of God’s love and light in a way that turned the balance.

Darkness and hate became the hunted.
Not hunted, however, with weapons.

Or, in fact, yes, hunted with the very best of weapons.

Hunted only by light.
Hunted simply by love.
Hunted to turn darkness into light.
Hunted to transform hatred into love.

How terribly and temptingly easy it would have been for Jesus, on Good Friday or at any point in the days and hours and minutes leading up to his agonizing death, to deny the truth that God had filled him with up to the brim, filling him so full that there would be—and is—enough for everyone to drink from that endless well.

A holy communion of light and love.

Living with the light and living with the love is not meant to be a spectator sport, however.
We’re meant to get in the game ourselves.

God wants us to run with the light as far as we can.
To carry love to the utmost limit of our ability.
Into the world around us.

Down that block. Around a corner. To the other side of a table. Across the room.
And sometimes, to do that, we have to get down from our own crosses, first.
Get down and feel a ripple within us from a resurrection that is both 2,000 years old and constantly alive among us.

This day and the two that follow—72 hours that forever changed the world—remind us that we can.

The decision, and oftentimes it can seem we must make that decision on a daily basis, is ours.

The love and the light are waiting.
Even on Good Friday.

Perhaps especially on Good Friday.

The one Jesus endured. And our own.

God put the love and the light there inside each of us.

But they are not for us, alone, to keep only to ourselves.

We are meant to share them both with each other.

Utterly and completely.

Just as we are meant to accept, with reckless abandon,
the complete and utter love that God feels for each of us.

When we do, there is no Good Friday on earth
that can keep us nailed to the cross.

Maundy Thursday

By Ken Woodley

Here we are, gathered in this upstairs room somewhere in the secret heart of Jerusalem on Maundy Thursday. 

The Garden of Gesthemane is not far away. Neither are those coming to arrest Jesus as he prays for some other way. Any other way. 

We can almost hear their footsteps. So can Jesus but he does not run away. Jesus does not leave us even though he knows what those footsteps mean, even though he knows where those footsteps are going to take him.

The darkness is coming. It is falling all around us, and yet Jesus does not abandon us to the darkness of the world.

Instead of running away to save his own life, Jesus gets up from the table. We watch as he takes off his outer robe and then ties a towel around himself, the footsteps growing closer in the closing darkness.

Jesus pours water in a basin. We see it there. And then Jesus begins to wash our feet.

We feel the touch of his hands upon the dusty soles of our own footsteps that brought us to this upstairs room to be with him tonight. But, more than that, we feel the touch of his heart upon the soul that is deep within us.

And footsteps that are not ours grow ever closer as the darkness of the night grows ever deeper.

When we are not looking, Judas will slip out through that door, down the steps and around the corner to make certain those footsteps find their way to the garden where Jesus is going to pray that the hammered nails and the crucifixion cross will not be necessary.

But just a word before Judas leaves. Just a word before we follow Jesus into the garden, directly into the path of the footsteps hammering their way with nailed certainty. 

Jesus has just one more thing to say to us in this upstairs room. One last word. And so it must be of utmost importance. The one thought Jesus wants to leave behind in our hearts, yeast for our souls, communion words for all those that will follow us, in later years, into this upstairs room with Jesus on Maundy Thursday.

“I give you a new commandment,” Jesus tells us, as Judas gets closer and closer to the door. “To love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Judas never understood and leaves for a rendezvous in the garden, a rendezvous with the footsteps in the darkness.

We can almost see Judas shaking his head in bitter disappointment. “Love,” he says. “No true messiah would leave us with nothing more than love.”

Oh, and how Judas was so very wrong.

The Holy Palms Of Sun Days

By Ken Woodley

What earthly good is it for humanity to wave the palms of a tree on Sunday if we ball our own palms up into fists on Monday?

Let’s drop the palm leaves now and offer our own open palms to one another.

The promise of just that sort of resurrection moment calls out to us as we wait, like some kind of Lazarus, in the “tomb” of our fists.

Jesus is coming.  Jesus is on the way. The blooms of spring are real.

But are we going to believe in the garden and have the faith of a gardener?

Look into the distance and see dust rising from the road, punctuating his approach on foot.

Jesus doesn’t covet the hosannah palms of kingship. He’s reaching for the palms of our fragile humanity, instead. For our wrinkles and the no-two-alike whorls on our fingers.

His footsteps have a heartbeat of loving purpose that have nothing to do with him and everything to do with us.

We don’t have to strain to hear the voice of our own soul crying out. “Lord, the light you want me to shine is flickering into fists of darkness.”

There are moments in all of our lifetimes when we feel “entombed” by everything in the world that makes us ball up our palms into fists. A world that can produce the horrors being committed against the people of Ukraine.

I hear your soul crying out, too.

We look at each other.

You and me together in this “tomb” of fists.

Our eyes meet.

Our hearts know the answer.

Jesus is here now. And with Jesus it is never too late.

“Where have you laid them?” Jesus asks, wondering where he will find us, you and me together in this “tomb.”

Jesus is deeply moved. He weeps. The tears roll down his cheeks. 

Now he stands there, just outside our “tomb.” 

There are so many “tombs” scattered like cloud shadows fisting their way across the world and the exit often feels sealed by a heavy stone we cannot move.

But the voice of Jesus in our heart is never as far away as we think it is.

“Remove the stone,” we hear him say. 

If we act in faith, we don’t just see the stone of our “tomb” being removed—we feel it. The lifting of the weight that was so ponderous, the burden we could not bear, the mountain-high stone that held us prisoner in this grave of hopeless fists.

Jesus now calls to us. “Come out,” he cries.

We move into the light of his presence, the light of his love, and feel our own light rekindling as our fists begin unclenching. 

We are, in that moment, resurrected. You and me. Freed from this “tomb” and able to rise back into the fulness of our lives, hope renewed, our own light growing brighter in the world as our fists open into palms.

In the quiet of our souls we hear him speaking these words:

“Leave now.

“It’s time to go.”

Jesus is right.

We clasp his hand.

Palm to palm.

We journey onward.

Out from Earth’s tomb of fists and toward heaven’s promise of open palms.

Jesus will soon turn back toward Jerusalem and the destiny awaiting him, but not before making certain we understand:

The eternal kingdom of heaven is inside us now.

Right there in the palm of our hand.

In mine.

In yours.

In every palm in every corner of the world.

If we’d only just open them toward one another, and leave our fists behind, making every day a palm Sun Day to shine the fists of darkness away.

By Ken Woodley
What earthly good is it for humanity to wave the palms of a tree on Sunday if we ball our own palms up into fists on Monday?
Let’s drop the palm leaves now and offer our own open palms to one another.
The promise of just that sort of resurrection moment calls out to us as we wait, like some kind of Lazarus, in the “tomb” of our fists.
Jesus is coming. Jesus is on the way. The blooms of spring are real.
But are we going to believe in the garden and have the faith of a gardener?
Look into the distance and see dust rising from the road, punctuating his approach on foot.
Jesus doesn’t covet the hosannah palms of kingship. He’s reaching for the palms of our fragile humanity, instead. For our wrinkles and the no-two-alike whorls on our fingers.
His footsteps have a heartbeat of loving purpose that have nothing to do with him and everything to do with us.
We don’t have to strain to hear the voice of our own soul crying out. “Lord, the light you want me to shine is flickering into fists of darkness.”
There are moments in all of our lifetimes when we feel “entombed” by everything in the world that makes us ball up our palms into fists. A world that can produce the horrors being committed against the people of Ukraine.
I hear your soul crying out, too.
We look at each other.
You and me together in this “tomb” of fists.
Our eyes meet.
Our hearts know the answer.
Jesus is here now. And with Jesus it is never too late.
“Where have you laid them?” Jesus asks, wondering where he will find us, you and me together in this “tomb.”
Jesus is deeply moved. He weeps. The tears roll down his cheeks.
Now he stands there, just outside our “tomb.”
There are so many “tombs” scattered like cloud shadows fisting their way across the world and the exit often feels sealed by a heavy stone we cannot move.
But the voice of Jesus in our heart is never as far away as we think it is.
“Remove the stone,” we hear him say.
If we act in faith, we don’t just see the stone of our “tomb” being removed—we feel it. The lifting of the weight that was so ponderous, the burden we could not bear, the mountain-high stone that held us prisoner in this grave of hopeless fists.
Jesus now calls to us. “Come out,” he cries.
We move into the light of his presence, the light of his love, and feel our own light rekindling as our fists begin unclenching.
We are, in that moment, resurrected. You and me. Freed from this “tomb” and able to rise back into the fulness of our lives, hope renewed, our own light growing brighter in the world as our fists open into palms.
In the quiet of our souls we hear him speaking these words:
“Leave now.
“It’s time to go.”
Jesus is right.
We clasp his hand.
Palm to palm.
We journey onward.
Out from Earth’s tomb of fists and toward heaven’s promise of open palms.
Jesus will soon turn back toward Jerusalem and the destiny awaiting him, but not before making certain we understand:
The eternal kingdom of heaven is inside us now.
Right there in the palm of our hand.
In mine.
In yours.
In every palm in every corner of the world.
If we’d only just open them toward one another, and leave our fists behind, making every day a palm Sun Day to shine the fists of darkness away.









Saving ‘Peace’ And ‘Love’

By Ken Woodley

Two of the most important and powerful words in the English language have been wounded. 

Left bleeding by the side of the road.

Beaten down by cynicism.

Overpowered by our unswerving belief in the power of their antonyms.

We have no doubt that hate and war can destroy the world.

But we have no similar faith that peace and love can save us.

They must be reclaimed in every language on Earth.

We must re-take their true power in this world and embrace their genuine potential within us. 

Cynicism too often erases our awareness of their presence in the world. If I were to tell you, to tell anyone, about the power of hate and the power of war or violence, nobody would chuckle and shake their head.

Not a soul would doubt me. 

Evidence of their destructive power surrounds us. It is in headlines dug like armed trenches around us all. 

Why, then, shake our heads and doubt the power of peace and love? It is, after all, a law of physics, woven into the very fabric of the universe and ourselves: 

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

For hate, therefore, there must be love. 

For war there must be peace. 

We must not regard “peace” and “love” as hippie-speak pie-in-the-sky. 

They are absolutely real. 

We doubt them at our own peril. 

Because only we can prevent their appearance, with power, in this world. 

We must, therefore, reclaim and launch their light into the darkness. 

And we can.

Anyone who has unclenched a physical or mental fist knows the truth of this.

So, let’s do so now.

Even if it’s just you and me letting go of whatever encourages us to clench, rather than open, our soul.

Yes, our doing so is just a drop in the world’s bucket.

But we’ve got to start somewhere if that bucket is ever going to overflow with peace and with love.

By Ken Woodley
Two of the most important and powerful words in the English language have been wounded.
Left bleeding by the side of the road.
Beaten down by cynicism.
Overpowered by our unswerving belief in the power of their antonyms.
We have no doubt that hate and war can destroy the world.
But we have no similar faith that peace and love can save us.
They must be reclaimed in every language on Earth.
We must re-take their true power in this world and embrace their genuine potential within us.
Cynicism too often erases our awareness of their presence in the world. If I were to tell you, to tell anyone, about about the power of hate and the power of war or violence, nobody would chuckle and shake their head.
Not a soul would doubt me.
Evidence of their destructive power surrounds us. It is in headlines dug like armed trenches around us all.
Why, then, shake our heads and doubt the power of peace and love? It is, after all, a law of physics, woven into the very fabric of the universe and ourselves:
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
For hate, therefore, there must be love.
For war there must be peace.
We must not regard “peace” and “love” as hippie-speak pie-in-the-sky.
They are absolutely real.
We doubt them at our own peril.
Because only we can prevent their appearance, with power, in this world.
We must, therefore, reclaim and launch their light into the darkness.
And we can.
Anyone who has unclenched a physical or mental fist knows the truth of this.
So, let’s do so now.
Even if it’s just you and me letting go of whatever encourages us to clench, rather than open, our soul.
Yes, our doing so is just a drop in the world’s bucket.
But we’ve got to start somewhere if that bucket is ever going to overflow with peace and with love.