on abundance and the agency marketplace

Guest Post from Jess Kotnour

Preface: I want to note the Agency Marketplace is for approved non-profits to get food from. I have not gone to the Community Food Bank as an individual or family hoping to get food, so I cannot speak to if this sense of abundance that I experience can extend to that. 

Each Thursday at 9:30, I drive to the south side of Tucson and get food at the Agency Marketplace of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.  I use the word “get,” because I do not shop; there is no exchange of money.  

After making sure I am wearing closed-toed shoes, I grab a warehouse cart and get what I need for the next week for our work.  

When I first began here in Tucson, the deacon of my parish would go with me, explaining to me how it works. 

Some days, he tells me, there’s no meat. other days there are freezers full. 

Some days, he tells me, there are pallets of fresh tomatoes. Other days there are pallets of canned tomatoes. 

Although the deacon didn’t explicitly say it, there was an unspoken, but there is always enough. 

There may not always be enough of that one specific ingredient, but there is always enough.

There may not always be meat in the freezer, but there is always enough

There may not always be vegetable stock, but there is always enough.

There may not be enough this week, but there is always enough.

The deacon soon trusted me enough to go to the Marketplace solo.  

So each Thursday morning, I head to the Agency Marketplace by myself, yet I have never felt alone there.

The staff at the marketplace have quickly learned my name. 

There is one man who works there, who I call Randy because I have not actually learned his name, who reminds me of my goalkeeper coach growing up.  

Rarely when we talk to someone, do we use their name in the sentence, directly addressing them. 

Randy-not-Randy does this in the same way that my goalkeeper coach did. 

What’s good, Jess?

Lots of pork today, Jess.

There is a lightheadedness to him, to the entire marketplace.  

There is enough food for all here.

There is enough time to use a person’s name. 

There is always enough.

Some weeks, the agency marketplace is the place that is most similar to God’s kingdom to me, or at the very least the place that always causes me to pause and walk into abundance.  When I leave, I often want to call someone, to tell them about this abundance.  I want to tell them that the scarcity that capitalism and America sell us is a lie.  There is so much damn food, and we know this.  We know that we produce enough food to feed everyone on earth.  Lack of actual food is not the issue. 

When we enter into this lie of scarcity and lack, we take more than we need.  We hoard.  We save up.  When we take two servings of daily bread, someone goes without.  Not because there wasn’t enough bread, but because we took more than what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer.  

When we have enough, all have enough.  When all have enough, we have enough.  

As I drive back to the church, I often have the refrain I first heard at the Garden Church stuck in my head:

there is enough and some to share.

there is enough and some to share.

Jess Kotnour is an Episcopal Service Corps Member with Beloved in the Desert in Tucson, Arizona. They are in the discernment process for the priesthood in the Episcopal Church and are interested in food, faith, and how to make churches outside of what we consider church.

“This is God’s Table: Finding Church Beyond the Walls” available for pre-order!

“This is God’s Table: Finding Church Beyond the Walls” by Anna Woofenden, forward by Sara Miles

Can a barren city lot become a church? 

This is the story of an audacious journey. It’s the story of what happens when people garden, worship, and eat together—and invite anyone and everyone to join them. In This Is God’s Table, writer and pastor Anna Woofenden describes the way that the wealthy and the poor, the aged and the young, the housed and unhoused become a community in this once-empty lot. Together they plant and sustain a thriving urban farm, worship God, and share a weekly meal. Together they craft a shared life and a place of authenticity where all are welcome. Readers of Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sara Miles, and Diana Butler Bass will find here a kindred vision for a church without walls.     

As churches across the Western world wither, what would it take to find a raw, honest, gritty way of doing church—one rooted in place, nurtured by grace, and grounded in God’s expansive love? What would it take to carry the liturgy outside the gates? What if we were to discover that in feeding others, we are fed?

This is God’s table. Come and eat.

Coming April 21st, 2020… pre-order today!



One candle

in the dark of the darkest morning.

This evening two,

a double blessing, will be lit

and Shabbat prayers prayed.

Three on the Advent wreath,

hope, peace, and joy.

Christmas tree lights will sparkle,

and fireplaces blaze.

But this morning there is just

one candle

flickering in the still gray light.

7:47, sunrise, passes without some

blaze of glory.

No splendid rays of sunlit hope.


I look down at the page

and can see just a little bit better.

The greens and grays out the window are

a bit clearer.

The slick wet streets reflect the

grainy light.

The silhouette of damp bare trees

show the contrast

backlit by the subtle illumination,

where the leaves are no more.

–Anna Woofenden 2018

Teach Us To Pray Rev. Anna Woofenden 7/24/2016


Rev. Anna Woofenden

Listen to the Audio of this week’s sermon “Teach Us To Pray”

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Scripture: Genesis 18:20-32 and Luke 11:1-13
Prayer, regarded in itself, is speech with God, and some internal view at the time of the matters of the prayer, to which there answers something like an influx into the perception or thought of the mind, so that there is a certain opening of the person’s interiors toward God; but this with a difference according to the person’s state, and according to the essence of the subject of the prayer. If the person prays from love and faith, and for only heavenly and spiritual things, there then comes forth in the prayer something like a revelation (which is manifested in the affection of the person that prays) as to hope, consolation, or a certain inward joy. –Emanuel Swedenborg Secrets of Heaven #2535

Last week I was talking to a woman who was seriously questioning her faith. She began sharing some of her story with me, and giving me the background, and then she stopped and said, “Last year there was something in my life that I really really deeply wanted, and I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed for it. And it didn’t happen. And now, I just don’t know. If God is out there and supposed to care, why would God not answer my prayer?”

When I was a hospital chaplain, I spent a fair amount of time praying with people, and most of the time it was in intense situations—life and death for the individual or their families. I would usually start by asking, “What do you want us to pray for?” and the conversations would unfold. And most often, people would have a pretty specific ask. “Pray that my mom’s cancer will go away.” “Pray that I will not die from this tumor.” “Pray that my baby’s lung will heal.” All of these prayers made perfect sense. Of course. Of course these were the things to pray for. Of course this was what they desperately and fervently wanted, and what I wanted for them—but how to pray?

Teach us Lord, how to pray.

I stood in those hospital rooms, or sat in the ER waiting room, and I would have these moments playing the scenario out in my head—yes, I could pray for the cure of the loved one, and it could happen, but it also was just as likely that the patient would die, and then what? Then God doesn’t answer prayers and was this prayer not just setting people up to sever their relationship with God along with their heartbreak and loss?

I wrestled with how to pray with wholehearted belief in the power of a healing God and with hope, while praying with the deep knowledge that God needed to be big enough, close enough, loving enough, that even if the worst thing happened, that there was space in the prayer, in the theological constructs that we weave with our words of prayer, for God to still be there and for God to still be the force of love in the universe.

And so, I found myself praying for the words to pray, and then praying the grief and the worry, praying the assurance of God’s presence in the room, praying the sobs and praying the hopes. I found myself exploring prayers for healing vs. prayers for cures, as healing comes in so many forms, including the peace that comes along with trusting and walking with God through even the most impossible situations.

I found prayers becoming times to squeeze the hands of family gathered round the bedside of the patient on the ventilator, and let the tears flow, to breathe, to sigh deeply and to feel God’s presence there with us. Bringing God from a high place of decision-making in the sky, the force that can wave his finger and say, “heal” or “not”—immediately changing the course of events—to the God who’s presence of love and comfort are immediately there in the hospital room, as we walk the halls. This is the God who is with us in our grief and in our joy, the God who holds all of it, and encompasses the breadth of our lives.

Being with people in these rooms, they taught me to pray. Flowery lofty prayers don’t go very far in the linoleum floored hospital room, with the green heartbeat monitor going up and down by the bedside and the IV fluids dripping through the tubes. In those rooms, it was about as real life as you can get, and God was certainly present. Teaching us how to pray.

“Lord, teach us how to pray” the disciples ask Jesus and he does. He doesn’t give them a five-point plan or specific rules; instead he gives them a prayer, a piece of poetry to guide us for generations after in the movements of prayer…

From the “Our Father… to the “…forever and ever, amen.” This prayer shows us the character of God, the conversations with God, the way that prayer weaves heaven and earth together, humanity and our creator, us and God.

Emanuel Swedenborg, the theologian and Christian mystic this church is dedicated to said it this way: “Prayer, regarded in itself, is speech with God.” Prayer, is a conversation with our creator. Prayer, in itself, is a conversation. A back and forth. Speaking and listening, giving and receiving in an active relationship.

Lord, teach us to pray…

And Jesus says, “Pray to your Divine parent and pray collectively, “Our father…” Pray with conviction and trust in God’s provision, “give us this day our daily bread.” Pray with surrender, surrendering our idea that we can know the will of God without engaging in the conversation. Pray with humility, ask forgiveness, give forgiveness; pray with persistence, pray with hope, pray with trust, forever and ever, amen.

This prayer holds within it this interplay, this dance, this conversation between God and us. When asked, “Lord, teach us how to pray,” we’re given a conversation.

My Spiritual Director, Sister Julia, the 90-year-old nun I go and see for an hour once a month for guidance and prayer told me recently, “Anna, you need to get more chatty with God.” We’d been talking about a number of decisions I was trying to make, and the things that weigh heavy on the heart of a pastor—those things I lie awake at night and worry about. “Get more chatty with God. Tell God about these things, tell God your worries, ask God to help, tell God that you can’t do it on your own, chat with God.”

This immediate and intimate way of engaging with the expanse of the Divine is one that I see and appreciate with Sister Julia, and with the pillars of strength and faith I have witnessed in various people of faith. When there is a depth of faith and spiritual wisdom, there is a foundation, a breadth and encompassing web of prayer. People who have strong relationships with God have active and engaging conversations with their God. God is not some force so far away that we cannot engage it, but instead, God is intimately here and available to converse with and is interested in and can handle our prayers and our lives.

Like the bargaining between Abraham and God that we heard in our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, like the persistence in the prayer parable in our gospels, these stories of prayer offer us a blueprint—an opening—to the way we too can interact with our Creator.

It’s an invitation to honestly interact with this great God of the Universe, who wants to be in a conversation with us—there is nothing we can do or say that will change that. When we pray to a God, we are in conversation with a God who while we may not be able to even begin to comprehend Her expanse and wisdom, whose love is immediate and present. We pray to a God who is faithful to us, not always in the ways that we see or what in the moment, but always, always in the eternal view, in the overarching sweep of the story. God is there, Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, caring for us and listening and engaging when we pray.

So, it’s up to us, to keep praying. Praying consistently, praying regularly, getting “chatty with God.” Not just when we’re in trouble, or when we’re at church, but in a back-and-forth of relationship, in regular communication.

I forget so often. But then I am reminded. Sister Julia calls it “fidelity to prayer”—to be faithful, to keep turning back, picking it up again, because God is always still there.

I don’t always feel God’s presence, but I find a growing trust in the fidelity of God. That God is in this relationship for the long haul and isn’t going to disappear on us. When we reach out to the Divine, the Divine is present, not always altering the course of what is playing out in front of us, but always, always, with us in it.

And as we pray, we know that we are not alone. God is with us, and we pray in community together.

When I wake up in the middle of the night, or I’m in a place of deep worry, when I just don’t have the words to pray, these are the words I pray. “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

As I pray, sometimes I think about all the other people across the globe and throughout the millennia who have prayed this prayer, who are praying this prayer along with me. Woven throughout time and space, we are not alone as we pray in unison to and with our Divine Parent. We pray with the saints who have gone before us, and our neighbors on the streets; we pray with our sisters and brothers and siblings across the globe, in every language and place of life. When we pray, we pray for ourselves, but we also pray for and with each other, forgiving each other and asking for forgiveness from God. We believe in the daily bread and being called to share it with others, imploring in a collective voice that God’s way in heaven be done here on earth, and that all things being God’s, will infill God’s kingdom with power and glory, forever and ever, amen.

Remembering the Table, Sermon 5/1/2016


May 1 2016
Rev. Anna Woofenden
The Garden Church, San Pedro CA
Scripture: Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29


“And the spirit carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord…and then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

These words and images are ones that we are familiar with—we invoke them every week as we begin worship and unpack the objects that remind us why we are here. They include our icon of the tree of life, and we remember how God is everywhere and moving in all things, and how God is right here with us, right here in our little plot of earth in the middle of the city where we are cultivating more love and healing, peace and justice, as we are feeding each other and being fed. We look to this image of the heavenly city, of this tree of life, and we are reminded why we gather, how we gather around this table—God’s table—where all are welcome to feed and be fed.

On this, our one year anniversary since placing this table and anointing it, it’s a beautiful gift of divine leading that the lectionary cycle gives us this text today, and in praying and studying and reflecting on it this week, something jumped out at me that I hadn’t really heard before. It’s that very first line, “And the spirit carried me away to a great high mountain, and showed me the holy city.” The spirit carried me away to a great high mountain, and from there showed me the city.

The spirit carries us up to the mountaintop, where we have the 5,000-foot view. The spirit carries us up above the details and daily nitty-gritty, to see the big picture, to see our community as a whole, to see the ups and downs of our life journeys in context. It’s that invitation to zoom out and see how our specific intentions and choices echo out into the larger movement of God.

And so I invite us to go to the mountaintop today, to zoom out, and look over this past year and how we have been collaborating with each other and with our creator.

A year ago we stood in this empty lot and believed in something. We believed in God’s promise of something, we had dreams—for ourselves, for our community, for our world. We saw things that were not as we want them to be. We saw boundaries that needed to be broken through. We saw people hungry. We felt a longing for community. We believed in this dream of growing food and connecting earth and people. And so we started showing up, and you all started showing up, and look around us now.

Think of the stories, the people, the connections, the meals, the tears, the laugher, and the joy.

And so here, on our one-year anniversary, we stand on the mountaintop and we remember what we have been called to dream and who we are called to be together. We remember this image, this dream of the holy city of Jerusalem settling upon the earth. The symbols used throughout that show us another way. Rivers, which have served throughout the biblical narrative as obstacles to be crossed, are no longer barriers. Temples to contain the divine are no more. The tree of life that stood in the Genesis garden is found to be growing on both sides of a single watercourse that flows from the throne of God. And the tree bears fruit all year long and has leaves that heal the nations. No one is to be left out. There is access for everyone without exception. God is everywhere. And all are welcome.

This is not the pristine Garden of Eden, that which is set apart, perfect, that is idealized, or only in the quiet of stained glass sanctuaries and specific religious rituals. It is the message that the Heavenly City is one where there is no temple, because God is everywhere, right here, in the middle of the city. God is the peace that is created within, the silence within noise, the force of reconnection within disconnection, etc.

God is Advocate, the Holy Spirit we heard about in our gospel, God is the parent, God incarnate in Jesus the Christ, showing us how the divine love is right here in action with us. It is this force of love—moving and blowing in the universe—that we gather around, that we are infused by, that calls us to transformation, to love.

And so, I would like to bring us back to our dedication. On May 1st, 2015. A few of you were there, and many of you have joined us since; all of us have been living it together. I’ve pulled up the liturgy that we used, right around this very table, and I invite us to participate in it. On this anniversary, to recommit ourselves to the work of this scared space and to God’s presence working amongst us.


Opening the Gates and Consecrating the Table

The Garden Church, San Pedro, CA
May 1st 2015

We’re gathered here to bless this church and to name it as a place where God is present and where people experience God’s embodied love as we feed and are fed.

We’ll bless through prayer and song, anointing and scattering of water. Between the prayers we’ll sing an alleluia.

Let us pray:

May the God of all creation, bless this space and its many parts, for the seeking of the peace of the city. This lot has been waiting for us, longing to be a life-giving element in our city and in the lives of the people who live here. It is our partner, our co-creator, our home for this season.

Almighty and everlasting God, grant us the grace of your presence in this sacred space, that you may be known as the inhabitant of this dwelling, and the defender of this community; we ask it in the name of the One God of heaven and earth, Amen.


Now let the mighty power of the Holy God accompany us as we bless this space. Banish from it every unclean spirit, cleanse it from every residue of evil, and make it a secure habitation for those who enter these gates, Amen.


As we open our gates, we ask you O Lord, to watch over our goings out and our comings in from this time forth, for evermore. May each who enters here feel Your love and the love of the Beloved Community. May this be a space of refuge and sanctuary, delight and abundance, honoring and peace.

At our center, we consecrate the table: the table that holds the symbols of our life together:

The Word of God, for the people of God.
The candle that is the light of Christ and the light in all people.
The water of life that nourishes and renews.

The bread and cup that feed us and reconcile us.
And the tree of life. Reminding us of why we are here…that our work here for garden and for spirit, be a piece of the heavenly way of being, right here in the dirt of earth.

We consecrate this table with the anointing of oil—the oil that runs over the head of those who are prophets and priests of God’s message in the world. We anoint our table with oil as it in itself, at the center of our worship space and of our life together as a community, bears God’s prophetic message to the world. All are welcome at this table. All people, in all expressions of humanity, are welcome at this table to feed and be fed. This is God’s table—all are welcome here.

And so we anoint and consecrate this as God’s Table. (Pour oil)

We honor those who have gone before, the ancestors and the communion of saints, those who make us who we are and who continue to be present as we plant their seeds.

(Placing of seeds and plants from Lara’s family seeds)

Emanating out from this table, we dedicate this as sacred space, God’s Church, a place that is a blessing for all who enter, and that we go out from these gates to be a blessing in the world.

And so, we bless this space with the sprinkling of water, the water of life, of renewal, the precious water that connects us all and makes all things new. And we use rosemary, for remembrance, as at this table we are called to remember Christ’s love. (Invite people to take rosemary branches and dip them in the water and share in the blessing)

We bless the gates at the North, to be a blessing of welcome to all who will enter. (Bless)

We bless the western wall, whose color from an artist’s eye, captures our own vision of precious water that nurtures the plants and the people. (Bless)

We bless the southern border, which allows our vision to not be boxed in, to keep us ever expanding in hope and purpose. (Bless)

We bless the eastern wall, (dino and all) where rises the morning sun, that is the bringer of life. (Bless)

We bless the sky above us, the rain and the sunshine, the expanse that connects us to all of life. (Bless)

We bless the earth beneath us, the earth that holds us and nurtures us and grants us life. (Bless)

Oh Holy God, provider of all good things, we know your presence to be here, right now, in our time. Bless the land we stand upon, dig into, grow from. Bless the food that will be grown, the tomatoes and spinach, the squash and thyme…bless the people who will be fed by nurturing, and sharing, and eating this sacred food. Bless the music, the teaching, the prayers and the relationships that will rise… Bless the laughter and the tears, bless the connection that comes as we work side-by-side, the hands that are held, the transformation of each of us as we live in love with each other. That all may be welcome to work, worship, eat. Feed and be Fed. Amen.

Thank you to Amy Gall Ritchie, Sara Miles, and Paul Fromberg for sharing words of prayer that are woven into this liturgy.

Practice Resurrection, Easter Sermon 3/29/2016


Easter Sunday 2016
Rev. Anna Woofenden
The Garden Church
Readings: John 20:1-18, Luke 24:1-12


Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

By Wendell Berry, (excerpts)

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Christ is risen, he has risen indeed!

Practice resurrection. Practice resurrection. These words from author, activist, and farmer Wendell Berry woke me up the other morning. They woke me up as I’ve been pondering and turning over and over in my mind, what to preach on Easter Sunday? Easter Sunday, this glorious celebration, this Sunday of all Sundays, this pinnacle of the Christian church calendar, the conclusion of the rich experiences of Holy Week. What is there to say on a morning like this? When signs of new life and joy and beauty and hope surround us, when it’s easy to see and believe in new life and re-birth and hope for new beginnings.

We say, “Christ has risen, he has risen indeed!” Our voices ring out, and maybe that’s the only message we need. In one way yes, it is the only message. But I long for a little more, or more texture and nuance to this proclamation. I long not for an isolated snapshot, just a moment of happiness in time, as genuine as it may be, and as essential as it is to notice and appreciate these moments. I long for something more than just one morning a year to celebrate new life and to remember that that which is dead can be renewed. I long for something that’s awakened with these words, “practice, practice resurrection.”

Because a practice, rather than an isolated snapshot, is something that is lasting—it’s transformative. Engaging a practice permeates what we do and how we act; it changes our engagement with the world around us. A practice is something that lives within a bigger cycle, a larger narrative, a life that is alive and aware of love and possibility.


I believe the same is true for these stories of Easter. They are more powerful when they are in the context of the larger narrative, when we take in the entire arch of the story. It’s tempting to think that Easter morning is the only story; it’s just all about the hope and new life of Christ rising. Yet, without the broader story, Easter is just a blip in on our calendar, a day of egg hunts and big hats (which are absolutely lovely!). But Easter within the context of the larger narrative, practicing resurrection in our lives, and engaging and noticing the way the Divine love is always working for good in the world, now that is one powerful story!

Because when we look at the arch of the stories leading up to and following Easter, we see hope, yes. But not hope tied up neatly in a fancy ribbon kind of way. No, in this larger story of Easter, we see a promise. A promise that God is always practicing resurrection and calling us to a life of the same. We see the promise as the seasons keep changing, we see the promise when that seed inside the husk pushes to burst forth into a plant, we see it when love comes after pain, and when that stone is removed from the tomb—the promise of resurrection, the promise that new beginnings are always possible.

The stories of Holy Week, the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection come as a whole, not to be parsed out into single claims or divisive moral or theological codes. The story of Jesus tells us the way of love. We see this throughout Jesus’ life, from his birth in a lowly manger on the outskirts of town, to the way he reached out across boundaries, healed and taught and ate with all sorts of people. His ministry—his life—was not one of power and control or trying to impress or be in line with the forces of the day; his life was about service and compassion. About being in and amongst the messy, reality of people’s lives, being in human skin and encountering the reality of humanity.


Even to the end. Jesus was relentless in his loving, and the stories of this Holy Week show that so starkly. From the love he showed as he mourned over the state of Jerusalem and then rode into the city on a donkey, with the crowds of peasants and disciples calling out to him and laying down palm branches to prepare a way. To the devotion he showed on that last supper, that Passover meal that he shared with his closest friends and companions, where he took bread, broke it, and said “this is my body given to you, do this in remembrance of me…” And then later after the dinner, he took a basin of water, bent down, as a servant would have, and washed his disciples feet setting an example, calling us to love one another as he loved.

And then, when that very next day, being abandoned, abused, and ultimately crucified and left to die on the cross, in the deepest moments of abandonment and while subject to the depths of human violence he voices love as he calls out, “forgive them, they know not what they do.” And breathes his last. But with Divine love, the last, the death is never the final word.

In this larger story of love, love always is born anew, love persists through struggle, love overcomes pain, love is resurrected, transformed into life, and that is what we celebrate this morning. This whole story is the story of Divine Love embodied, showing us how to practice resurrection.


Now practicing resurrection, following the story of love, doesn’t mean that we understand it all, or that we suddenly don’t worry or doubt or wonder. Practicing resurrection is not devoid of the hard parts, and doesn’t avoid the messy and vulnerable places. Just as we washed each other’s feet and hands on Thursday, and allowed ourselves to be present both to the vulnerability and the power of love, practicing resurrection means opening ourselves up to God’s constant movement of making all things new, whether we understand it or not.


I mean, the disciples certainly didn’t get it. At the tomb, they are perplexed, unbelieving, terrified. They just don’t get it. They look around in the tomb for Jesus’ body. They ask each other what had happened—they don’t see how the empty tomb is the promise of new life. Yet, even in their state of wonder, of disbelief, they actually encounter this promise of resurrection.

We don’t always get it. Maybe rarely do we notice where God is bringing new things out of the dead and dying places in our lives. We don’t pay attention to how something that a few months or years ago seemed like the end of all things, has actually given birth to something new. We, like the disciples, often only see what is right in front of us, the empty tomb. And it’s only in retrospect that we can turn and see where the new life has come. Whether we understand it or not, God keeps practicing resurrection.

New life is not something that comes independently of the death or the struggle, the rejection or the pain. New life comes as the stone is rolled away, after three days in the depths of the tomb. New life comes when that part of ourselves we constantly struggle with finally lets go and dies, allowing something new to grow. It requires time in the tomb. It requires that time when the seed is in the dark womb under the dirt, looking withered and dead, before the plant is born.

Just as these seeds I’m holding are withered and hardened, and then have to be placed in the ground. And just as they have to stay there a while in the dark, in the seclusion, before they break out and become plants that will then bear fruit and become food, so is our process of life, death, and resurrection. As God gently stirs those parts of us we think have died, the place in you that you fear will never be able to breathe again, where there is no hope.

God is practicing resurrection, as relationships are reconciled that we thought were lost, when families and communities are transformed into places of hope. God is practicing resurrection right here in the garden, certainly in our lives and in our community.

Take this space for example. A year ago, it was a barren lot, an empty space, an empty hole in the middle of the block. Save Dino of course.


Now, we have all cultivated it together, practiced resurrection together, and here we are in a place that’s a little more like heaven here on earth. It’s a place where new life and possibility and hope are found as we’re honest with each other and share the struggles and the hard places, where we pray to have the stones removed from the tombs in our lives. Where we’re growing our own food and eating it together, resisting disconnection and division as we come together with all kinds of people, around this table to feed and be fed.

We come around this table today, each with our own stories. And we each have various expectations of what Easter is about and what we need on this day of new beginnings, of new life.

My word for you, and I believe God’s word for all of us on this day is not just the hope of hope, but it’s the promise of new life, not only in some far off time and ethereal place, but the promise—the practice—of resurrection right here and right now.

Yes, things die. Things crumble. Things fall apart. In our lives, and in the world around us. Parts of ourselves that are no longer serving us have to die. Plants die. Seeds fall. There is the darkness under the earth, the time in the tomb. Because this is part of the story.

But the story is always, always larger than that. In the overarching narrative is God’s constant promise: the promise of the cycles, of the seasons, the promise of new life, drawing new life forth from that which is broken, abandoned, abused, discarded. Taking that which is dead and raising it again, showing us that love always, always, is being reborn among us.

Spring comes after winter.

Old wounds are forgiven and new relationships forged.

Flowers grow out of the cracks in the sidewalks.

People change their minds and see the light in each other.

Things that end give life to new beginnings.

Dreams we never thought were actually possible, begin to blossom.

The sun comes up each morning.

We can choose the way of love each day.

Resurrection is happening everywhere, all around us, all the time.

God is always urging and pressing to be received, to renew, to reconcile, to bring new life.

The stone is rolled away.

And it’s our job to pay attention. To pay attention to where God is making all things new in the world, to see God alive and working outside of the tomb, and to respond, as Mary did, when we are called.

On that very first Easter morning, Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. Her Lord had died and been taken away. “Why are you weeping?” Jesus said. Supposing him to be the gardener, she told him of her grief. Jesus then said to her “Mary!” and when she heard her name called, she exclaimed “Rabboni, teacher” and she recognized him and went out proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord.”

Friends, the loving expansive God of the universe is always reaching out to us, calling our name. Notice that he was not in the tomb, but outside of the tomb, calling us out of the darkness, the places of hopelessness, showing us the promises of new life, calling us to engage in the practice of resurrection.

Because here’s the thing about this practice, here’s the thing about the way that God works, nature works: the stories of scripture remind us, you can’t tell just one part of the story—wherever you are here, today is not the end. If you are here today and you feel stuck or in bondage, if you have a dream that you barely dare to dream, if you’re here today basking in the beauty and joy, if today is a bright snapshot, all of this is part of your bigger story.


The hope comes in the whole of the narrative, that your life story matters—it matters to God and it matters to the world. Your willingness to keep showing up, to keep getting up, to walk through the dark places, to reach out to others, your ability to engage joy and beauty, to cultivate goodness and peace, your story matters, as we show up and notice and engage the love and life, we are practicing resurrection.

So, friends, (in the words of Wendell Berry)

Every day do something that won’t compute.

Love the Lord.
Love the world.

Laughter is immeasurable.

Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.

Practice resurrection.


My Time with The Garden Church – by Jessika Perez

This blogpost originally appeared at Common Cause Communities Hatchery LA site on 1/5/2016 and was written by Jessika Perez.

On Sunday, my family and I visited The Garden Church in San Pedro, California. Last May, they began transforming a vacant lot into a pop up, organic urban garden. Last semester, I had the opportunity to hear a little bit from Rev. Anna Woofenden about their vision and the journey the congregation has been on together when she came to share at the Hatchery. I was excited to connect with a local group that has recently launched and is passionate about re-imagining church. For them, this means viewing worship and service, church and community, physical and spiritual as interconnected rather than as opposites or separated from each other.

One of the things that was incredibly meaningful for me was that all (including my energetic 3 year old girls) were asked to participate. Allowing little ones to be part of watering and planting seeds is relatively low risk, as long as they’re supervised. My girls took their assigned tasks VERY seriously and absolutely loved it. However, allowing/asking them to be part of a service has slightly higher stakes. Not only were the people present incredibly open and warm, Rev. Anna also encouraged my girls to contribute during the service as they were able. They played (I use that term generously) instruments, helped to pass things out and were asked questions. Not to give the impression that we were transported to some eerily, perfect universe… there was definitely also a toy corner to help occupy the girls when needed. Part of their Sunday service is also sharing a meal. Their Sunday service intentionally includes work, worship and eating together.

What I loved about our time at the Garden Church was that fancy, super nerdy Christian words like the “incarnation” and “embodied spirituality” are not just talked about on their website and in the sermon. It’s practiced. That sounds cheesy, but when it’s actually experienced, it’s sort of disorienting (in an incredible way). When I first met Rev. Anna, she talked about all being welcome and encouraged to share their gifts. The first time we visited the Garden Church, my girls were included not just in the convenient parts like planting and watering, but in the entire service. It was a tiny and yet huge thing, sort of like a flower pushing stubbornly through a crack in the sidewalk. I’m so thankful for the time my family and I spent with them and for what I’ve been able to learn and experience already.

Celebrate Together!


Over the last year the Garden Church has…
·Launched in our public space and transformed an empty lot into a vibrant
urban garden and gathering space.
·Welcomed over 6,000 people through our gates.
·Grown and distributed pounds and pounds of fresh produce.
·Met weekly for worship as we work together, worship together, and eat together, re-imagining church.
·Collected a half-ton of compostable materials from vendors and the local
community, kept out of landfills and turned into soil.
·Partnered with numerous local faith groups and community organizations.
·Been featured in local and national press as well as in the book
Grounded by Diana Butler Bass.
·Fed over 700 people as we have eaten dinner together in community.
·Engaged hundreds of children in watering, planting, and harvesting while
being cherished and useful together in community.
·Been a voice and beacon for peace and justice, hope and healing in the world.
·Prayed and grown and changed together as we see how God is working to transform each of us and transform our community and world.

See glimpses of the community in action here

Your end-of-the-year gift is an integral part of us continuing, deepening, and expanding this work in 2016.

Give generously today!

Thank you for being part of cultivating more love, justice, peace and goodness in the world,
The Garden Church team