Saturday, April 19, 2014


Holy Saturday

Let my prayer enter into your presence;
  incline your ear to my lamentation.  Psalm 88:2

The sun rises on grief. A disjointed dance
navigates between a world of loss and a
world that is oblivious.  Caverns of lament,
waiting to be negotiated, usurp familiar
landscapes. Mourning dawns with
its own beauty.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: Anne E. Kitch

Good Friday

A Sermon preached by The Rev. Canon Anne E. Kitch
Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, PA
April 18, 2014

It is finished.
Regardless of where you have been on your Lenten journey. Regardless of whether you are still adrift in the wilderness, or have shaken the desert dust off your feet and moved on. Regardless of what repentance, fasting, amendment of life you have left undone…it is finished.
We have come to the end. End of the road. End of the line. End of the story. Wherever you have been for the past forty days, or forty weeks, or forty years. Wherever you have been faithful and faithless. Wherever you have been prideful, deceitful, arrogant. Grateful, hopeful, compassionate…it is finished.

Whatever has been done is done. Whatever has been left undone is left undone.

This is the time, and this is the place, to gather up all the messy pieces of your life, your self, your soul.  To collect all the stones and insults and desperation, all the insights and dreams and accomplishments you have picked up along the way. To assemble all the hurts, the slights, the disappointments, the balms, kindnesses, and encouragements you have given or received and then let it all slip through your fingers and fall away like grains of sand into the emptiness.

Let everything escape your grasp. Empty your arms and hands and heart.  Pour it all out at the foot of the cross.  All of who you are, or were, or were meant to be. Let this be your final offering and concluding act.

Because when all is said and done, there is nothing left but to lay ourselves at the foot of the cross.  There is no place left to go, nothing left to do.

Even for Jesus.

Even for the one who loved well, fed the five thousand, gave sight to the blind, and brought Lazarus back to life…it is finished.

The stress, the jeering, the pain.  The public ministry and private conversation.  The teaching of crowds, the finding of the lost, the healing of the hurt.  The betrayal by Judas.  The denial of Peter. The shattered hope of Mary. It is finished.

Undone. Unraveled. Unmade. Beyond anxiety. Beyond consequence. Beyond resignation. Nothing left to grasp. Nothing to be done. All slips through unstrung fingers. 

Fall at the foot of the cross with empty hands. Empty heart. An empty husk. Then follow the sweet release of letting it all escape your grasp.  When we are completely spent, God can begin.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Good Friday

I am poured out like water;
all my bones are out of joint;
   my heart within my breast is melting wax.  Psalm 22:14

Undone. Unraveled. Unmade.

Beyond anxiety.
Beyond consequence.
Beyond resignation.

Nothing left to grasp.
Nothing to be done.
All slips through unstrung fingers.  

Empty hands. Empty heart. Empty husk.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: kesu87 / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A First Step

Maundy Thursday

Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning,
for I put my trust in you;
  show me the road that I must walk,
  for I lift up my soul to you. Psalm 143:8

I have been here before; I have never seen this day.

I know what day it is. Every year of my life I have entered into this sacred story, sometimes with more faithfulness and purpose than others, but never divorced from the mystery. The path through this holy time is familiar, and at the same time I have never walked it before.

The person I am today has never made a cup of morning tea, put on a favorite sweater, driven her daughter to school.

Never heard the story of betrayal and denial juxtaposed against a bright spring day, never had someone gently wipe the dust from her feet, never eaten the bread or drunk the wine poured out, never stood by in silence and watched the beauty stripped away, never begun a vigil that cannot be kept.

So I begin this day as I always do and as I have never done before, opening my heart to God’s loving-kindness and faithfully setting my feet upon a way that has yet to be revealed.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: chrisroll / 123RF Stock Photo

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Wednesday in Holy Week

I am shaken by the noise of the enemy,
   and by the pressure of the wicked.  Psalm 55:3

My daughter unwraps the cough drop and reads, 
“You’ve survived tougher.” 

“Look, it has inspirational sayings on the wrapper!” she exclaims. And indeed, the package advertises, “A pep talk in every drop.”  Clearly the company thought that the medicine in the cough drops was not enough, but needed to be bolstered by words of encouragement.

I could use some words of encouragement at this point in my journey through the wilderness. Because at this juncture, I am not sure if I am moving through it at all. I am not convinced I am any closer to being on the other side. Rather, I find myself more deeply entangled in the thorns. This path is tough. What if I have not survived tougher? What if the way ahead is even more difficult and heartbreaking?

Now the stakes are high. Now the enemy redoubles the effort for my attention and heart and soul. Now again I lift my ash-stained face in petition. Now, again, the Holy One stoops to me and hears my cry.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: melpomen / 123RF Stock Photo

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Tuesday in Holy Week

As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”
   your love, O Lord, upheld me.   Psalm 94:18

A hand reaches out and steadies me. With embarrassment, I look down to my feet. I would like to say that I tripped over a rock or my high heels. But in truth I am wearing flats and walking on clear level ground.

Sometimes I am simply not steady on my feet. I misstep in my relationships. I take in stride what deserves more consideration. I stumble into others. And all along the way, I also stumble into the sacred. Because regardless of how many times I have slipped, I continue to discover compassion and benevolence that have been there all along.

Even when I am not paying attention. Even when I fall headlong. Even when I refuse to admit or am unable to recognize my failing. Even still, God’s love is unabated. 

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: janniswerner / 123RF Stock Photo

Monday, April 14, 2014

Searing Love

Monday in Holy Week

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
   in your great compassion blot out my offenses.  Psalm 51:1

I jump back from the grease splatter a moment too late. At first I think I have escaped being soiled, but then I see the slow stain soaking into my shirt. With deliberation, I reach for a paper towel and carefully blot at the rust-red smear. The shirt is new, of course, and with resignation I suppose it is ruined. Moments later I am running it under hot water, still hopeful that disaster can be averted.

And am I, too, ruined?  What sin and sorrow have I soaked up in the wilderness? What offenses have gone unnoticed? Unrepented?

There is nothing to do but to spread my soul before the Holy One, to offer myself up, to open myself to the searing love of the path ahead, and expose my very being to mercy.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: picsfive / 123RF Stock Photo

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
   and why are you so disquieted within me?  
Put your trust in God,
   for I will yet give thanks to him,
   who is the help of my countenance, and my God.  Psalm 43:5-6

I begin my morning litany of thanks. Reviewing the day before, I look for the moments of God’s presence and grace and write them into my journal. Yet even as my pen moves over the page, I know that my heart is not in it.

The truth is I do not feel very thankful. Weary would be a better word. My heart is bruised by the trouble of the world.  But I practice my ritual of gratitude nonetheless. 

Then I remember. Two conversations, one from the morning, one in the afternoon. Two women who faced into anxiety and suffering and heartache, and breathed courage. Who recognized and took to heart hope and opportunity in the midst of distress. Who chose gratitude. And who with extraordinary grace invited me into their stories.

This is why I pray and practice. So that when the challenge comes, I remember to breathe. And respiring, I trust that even bruised and fettered, my heart is in God’s hands and I will yet give thanks.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014


Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent

I remember the time past;
I muse upon all you deeds;
   I consider the works of your hands.  Psalm 143:5

As I reach to replace the paper towel roll I pause. I used to keep the empty rolls. I would never toss them, but tuck them into a cupboard for safekeeping because they were great for art projects when my children were little and I never knew when one would come in handy. I smile as I also remember my husband’s sometime exasperation at this packrat behavior.

Now I reminisce about art projects and the growth of my children. About how we wanted to instill so much in their lives. Creativity. Joy of learning. Care for people and the world around them.

And care of their souls. This too is part of the pattern of our lives. God’s love reached for, sacred stories told year after year, faith rituals woven into our life at home. And underneath this all, the ancient pattern. God at work in our lives and in the world. A song, a dance, a story that lives before and during and after us, carrying us into and through the wilderness, preparing us always like soil into which seeds will be lovingly dropped, and watered, and encouraged to reach tendrils of new life to the sun.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time enough

Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent

But I still my soul and make it quiet,
like a child upon its mother’s breast;
   my soul is quieted within me.  Psalm 131:3

My daughter steps from the car grabbing loaded backpack, sports bag, and tote with a change of clothes. Left on the seat are the music books for later in the afternoon. “Have a great day, I’ll pick you up after practice,” I throw out the door after her.

“Thanks, see you at five!” And I catch the gift in her words. Practice ends early today. An entire half hour. Today is one of those days with no wiggle room; from the moment we were propelled out the door every upcoming minute is designated. It is a familiar dance, one at which we are accomplished, and there is no reason we will not move swiftly and smoothly from one obligation to the next.

But an entire half hour not pledged. I consider the possibilities this bit of time opens. And as I linger in my contemplation of the expansiveness of time, I experience the gift in even half a minute. Time enough to still myself. Time enough to breathe. Time enough to allow the quiet to settle around me and within me. Time enough to lean into the lap of God.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Image credit: inspirestock / 123RF Stock Photo

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

My eyes are open in the night watches,
   that I may meditate upon your promise.  Psalm 119: 148

I wake before the alarm sounds and stretch into the morning. Except it isn’t morning. I look at the clock and realize I have awoken hours before it is time to get up.  Why am I awake?

I take a brief inventory. I have not been woken by a vivid dream, or worries about the day. I am not unwell. I am simply awake. 

When I was a child, my mother taught me that waking in the middle of the night is a good time to pray. Somewhere along the way I learned a traditional Jesus prayer that I use in the dark of the night, casting it like a net to recapture calm and peace and sleep.

But in this moment, I am not anxious about the loss of sleep. Rather, I reach to God in prayer as the best way to make use of my wakefulness. This dark-of-the-night moment is a gift; my watchfulness affords me connection to the Holy One and the chance to weave the strands of hope and trust more securely into the fabric of my life.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: globalphoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Where the fault lies

Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips
   and from the deceitful tongue.  Psalm 120:2

My conversation with customer support begins quite pleasantly. I give my name, explain the problem, and the voice on the other end of the line exudes confidence. Then we get to the questions: What phone number is associated with this account? What email address? 

I cannot answer. It has been years since I opened the account, and as I offer one possible but incorrect response after another my frustration begins to mount. I know the account number, the login for the website, and my online password. But none of these will get me the help I need.

And all at once I am no longer calm or pleasant. It is only after the harsh and impatient words are out of my mouth that I remember to whom I am speaking. A person. A person who is doing his job.  An individual who has been nothing but courteous to me. Someone who must answer the phone all day long, knowing that on the other end of the line will be exasperated people wanting him is to fix a problem that is not of his making.

I take a deep breath and apologize for my rudeness. And as the problem is solved, I thank him. I wish him a good day and hope he has no more cranky customers. And then I offer a prayer of contrition to God for my own deceitful tongue and need to cast blame. Perhaps my penance could be to be to cast kindness and respect instead.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014

Safely held

Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Into your hands I commend my spirit,
   for you have redeemed me, 
   O Lord, O God of truth.   Psalm 31:5

I remove my earrings and place them in the velvet lined cloth pouch and zip it closed. I don’t remember where the pouch came from, but someone gave it to me. For years I have used it as the place I keep my pearl earrings. I do remember where the earrings came from. They were my grandmother’s and I always think of her when I wear them.

As I put the pouch away, I realize I act with almost ritual attention. The earrings are precious to me, and I treat them with care, respect, and even a kind of reverence.

There are days I would like to place my soul in a soft, velvet lined pouch for safekeeping. Days when my spirit feels fragile and in need of protection. Times when I yearn to be treated with extra care.

And I recognize the answer for this yearning. I can remember that I am precious, worth redeeming in God’s sight. I can place myself in God’s hands, which must be soft and safe and strong beyond compare.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: romanenko / 123RF Stock Photo

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thankful to be Thankful

Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;
   I will sing and make melody.  Psalm 108:1

I walk into the warm afternoon and stretch muscles that have been hunched over the computer keyboard for far too long. I lift my face to be caressed by the sun and in the next moment I reach my arms all the way to heaven and say aloud, “Thank you Jesus!”

I am thankful for the spring afternoon and for being out in the fresh air. I am thankful for work completed and for the pleasant anticipation of sharing my gifts with others in the upcoming days. I am thankful for the knowledge that it is God who sustains me and for the ability to see and recognize God’s handiwork in the world all about me. But most of all, I am thankful for feeling my heart stretch across time and trouble to fix on and be enfolded in God’s love.

I am thankful to be thankful. And because my heart is overflowing, I pull out my phone on an impulse and call across the country to one of the most joyful people I know—because this melody deserves to be sung by more than one voice.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mindful Eating

Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

For God satisfies the thirsty
   and fills the hungry with good things. Psalm 107:9

I bow my head for a moment of thanks and am met with the enticing aroma of the Pad Thai. What a delight.

Having skipped breakfast and knowing that dinner will probably be on the fly, I resolutely took myself to lunch. As I continue to enjoy the smell of the spices, I am reminded of a mindful eating practice I learned years ago and decide to engage my meal with purpose. I look at the array of color on my plate and choose my first bite, savoring the flavor and putting down my chopsticks before I take a second bite.

I slow my pace and just concentrate on eating, and when my mind begins to problem solve my afternoon, I bring it back with intention. To this bite, this moment, this thanksgiving.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014
Image credit: vadidak / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Taking out the Trash

Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

O God, you know my foolishness,
   and my faults are not hidden from you.  Psalm 69:6

I hear the rumble of the truck as it pulls up to my house early in the morning. I am caught up short; did anyone remember to set the trash out last night for collection?  Many mornings I have run out into the cold wearing slippers to drag the cans to the corner. And the truth is that on some mornings the good-hearted workers have come to the side of the house to collect the bins we failed to put out.

It is so convenient. Throw the trash, or anything I don’t want, or don’t want to deal with, into a container, set it on the curb, and know it will be taken away.

If only it were so easy to get rid of my faults. But perhaps it is not so foolish to make a weekly collection of my errors and transgressions, to gather them up, and set them out to be taken away. Not because I can become faultless, but so that I can make room in my heart for more of God. Who knows me so well and loves me nevertheless.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

I will strive to follow a blameless course;
oh, when will you come to me?
   I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house.   Psalm 101:2

I walk in the door greeted by the enticing aroma of dinner about to be served. With well-rehearsed choreography, the members of my household weave our way to the table as glasses are filled and food is placed and in the next moment we are sitting and holding hands and praying and settling in to the familiar comfort of family dinner. We smile and chatter having gathered from our disparate paths of the day knowing that we will soon disperse again to various evening activities.

But for this moment we are here, intentionally with one another. In one kind of accounting, it doesn’t take much time at all for us to be refreshed and fed, because in another sense we have been sitting at the dinner table together for years.

I recognize the sacred space. I know it as a place where I come, with all my faults in hand, to find acceptance and forgiveness, sometimes challenge, often joy. Neither my life nor the mealtimes are perfect. But God is good, continually opening a way before, behind, around me, so that I can choose to step into the light. 

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Confounded be all who worship carved images
and delight in false gods!  Psalm 97:7

The bag sits in my room, almost taunting me. I had gone into the store with a gift certificate, looking to buy one item of clothing that might delight me. But somehow, one item was not enough. I found myself enchanted by several articles and by the time I had succumbed to all the matching accessories, I came out of the store having spent more money than I had intended.

I can easily justify the purchases. What I regret is yielding to the lure of false promises that motivated my decisions. One would have been plenty.

Everyday I am tempted to put my trust in false gods, deceptive powers that burn brightly for a moment but eventually disappoint. The wiles of the enemy are subtle.

With deliberation I face into the Lenten desert again, seeking the clarity of the bright sun, windswept landscape, and the voice of the Holy One who sustains me with true abundance.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2014