Response #39 The Grave

Mysterious Theologian: Ben McKelahan


God of the Grave, truly you show no partiality.  Bundled in rags or arrayed in gowns, you welcome us.  Wet from the Tigris or dusty from Sonoran sands, you welcome us. Praising your name or cursing your call, you welcome us.  To those weary of the labor of life, you give peace.  To those desperate for more, you give peace. Teach me to wait for your welcome.  Teach me to wait for your peace.  Until the day I receive them, make me like you, ready to embrace all.  Amen.

Response #38 The Cross

Mysterious Theologian: Chase Foreman

Suffering and Dying God, finally I pray to you after hours at the foot of your cross thinking about you and me… me and you… me and sin… you and death… me and death… you and love… me and love… me and you and other people plus death and sin and love and you again and… blah blah blah… It has felt, for me, like looking through a magnifying glass, then a microscope, then a stronger microscope, ever deeper into the grain of the wood of the cross, then the cells of the wood, and then deeper into each cell where I find a monastery filled with little monks that look like me writing prayers and arguing about various things. I’m sure you were there too, trying to teach me something, but you know, I was busy talking to my selfs. In any case, thanks for listening. Thanks for coming with me. And thanks for leading me here, to where you need me to be tonight. It is time for me to pray for someone other than me. Lord let me pray. Crucify and kill the many voices of me and let me pray. It is not for my own sake that I pray, but for yours and for the sake of your children. So, lord let me pray.


Rebellious God, yours is a cross of suffering! And your final act is one of obedience! How can this be! This is not how you lived-out the love you were preaching about! What’s with this poisonous obedience! Where is it all coming from?! Have you forgotten yourself and who you are?!”

“Duh mom, I was in my father’s house, where’d you expect me to be…” “I’m sorry Jesus, what did you just say to me?!”

“Yeah, I’m healing this guy… Nope, doesn’t matter what words I use. Let me ask you this though… what’s gonna annoy you the most if I say it and then he is healed?… ‘Cuz that’s definitely what I’m gonna say.”

“Go ahead, throw some stones if you want… but first gentlemen, let’s not be hasty and haphazard about this. Let’s get organized… Okay, I got it… Whoever wants to get stoned next gets first toss!”

“Hey, who wants to go flip some tables in the temple?”

“Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?” “I’m not gonna tell you who I am…”

“Yep, no problem Rabbuni, I’ve got it right here, let me read it back to you… Okay, here’s what I have so far: lunch with prostitutes, a sit down with a demoniac, then healing various romans and lepers, followed by an argument with some pharisees, and finally dinner with a tax collector and various other rapscallions… did I miss anything?”

You lived a life of rebellious and revolutionary love. And yet, the lasting image of your love-driven life is one that is easily twisted by us into a message of obsequiousness! Tonight I pray that you will suck out the poison that we have let creep up and soak into the grain of your cross and release those who, through their good and loving natures have been subjected to the vile natures of others and have been deceived into the chains of obeisance, abuse, and humiliated servitude. Break the bonds of your oppressed and abused children tonight. Teach them suffering for not a moment longer!


Response #37 Foot-Sweat

Mysterious Theologian: Ben McKelahan

For this to make sense, you need to understand that, according to How Stuff Works, the source of foot odor comes from bacteria who eat sweat and then excrete the smell as a waste product.  Because we trap our feet in dark, damp, warm shoes, they, more than the rest of body, become the perfect breeding ground for that sweat-eating, smell-producing bacteria.

personal hygiene pictures

Oh Sacred Foot-Sweat, you have blessed our feet with your presence, that as we walk the Way we may remember the waters of baptism with which you promised us your love, and the waters of service in which you taught us to love one another. You seep from our soles, that we might follow you, even in the heat of the day.  And yet, we keep our feet trapped.  Whether because we have made the world you gave us unsafe, or because we are ashamed of the very toes you were glad to wash, we keep our feet hidden behind boots and shoes.  And there, locked in the darkness, you become bread for bacteria, which excrete a stench that cannot be denied. Move us to take off our shoes and stand barefoot on sacred ground for all the world to see. For if we say we have no stench, we deny ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we reveal our stink, and let our feet breathe, You, oh Foot-Sweat, will evaporate and cleanse us of all smelliness. Amen.

Challenge:  Chase, I challenge you with the most vile and hateful object I know of.  Two pieces of wood used to terrorize and execute the oppressed, which together are known as the cross.

Response #36 Dust Bunnies

Mysterious Theologian: Chase
see more on their blog!

Dusty God, you tangle yourself up with us. You twist yourself between our skin cells and strands of hair. We have vacuumed you up and packed you tightly away in the Bible, but you are persistent and every baby born is a child of yours shedding stories of you with them. Help us to look closely at each other and ourselves without cleaning up so much. And when we look that closely reveal yourself there between the hairs and skin. Help us gather around the Bible, burst its tightly packed pages open on the floor. Let its holy stories mix and mingle with our own so that we may see you more fully in our dustiness and not just flail around in the refuse of our own frail and crumbling bodies of sin.


Response #35 Dog Breath

Mysterious Theologian: Ben McKelahan

Chase challenged me with dog breath, so here it goes, with a picture of my mom’s dog to go with it!

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Prayer to Holy Spirit in Dog Breath

Hail Dog, full of loyalty,

Blessed are you among pets, and blessed is the breath of your mouth,

for you despise nothing found on the floor,

Not crumbs that fall from my table,

Nor vomit that you puked yourself.

All finds a home in your mouth and fuels the bouquet of your breath.

And whether I have slept in and failed to give you your walk,

Or rolled on the floor laughing,

Or collapsed in tears,

Your tongue finds me with stinky kisses.

And in the stench of the mouth that loves me,

You remind me that the attention of your licks is given not just to me,

But also to the scraps that I did not want,

 And the trash my city did not bother to clean from the street.

Breath of the Living Dog,

Breathe on me now,

And at the hour of despair.


Challenge:  Chase, as I prepare for the various Holy Week events that are happening at my apartment, I move my furniture around.  When I do so, I find lots and lots of clumps of dust and hair.  So tell me, where is God in the dust bunnies that I chase?

Response #33 More Cow Pies!

Mysterious Theologian: Rev. Cassie Sauter


I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Minnesota. As a child, I spent the late afternoons of summer running through the pasture, going out to bring the cows home. God, it seems, can be revealed even in the most gross and unexpected places… like a cow pie.

God of the unexpected, You show up and surprise me again and again. When I look at the path set before me and see tall, scratchy, overwhelming thistles- I wonder if this is a way I can go. The path is narrow and uncomfortable and I’d really rather not, but I decide there’s no other choice (the cows need to come home and they’re at the end of this thistled path). So I walk, expecting a solitary journey and then you show up, squishing underfoot. You stop me in my tracks. It’s impossible to keep going as I had originally intended, once my foot comes in contact with you. And it isn’t just on those thistle guarded paths that your presence alters my course.

Whenever you meet me, things change. The squish & the slip, the mess & the smell, make it impossible to pretend this encounter didn’t happen I try to wipe you off and continue on, but the attempt is so very futile. Your very being gets entangled and enmeshed to the treads of my shoes, spreading out and finding even the smallest spaces to fill. Your smell lingers in my nostrils, days after our encounter. I ask my mom to smell my hair, can she smell your presence there? (if so, I’m going to need to try to wash it out- I shouldn’t go to school like that).

You linger in my nostrils and in the cracks of the soles of my shoes. You’re inescapable & surprising, messy & sometimes kind of overwhelming. I give thanks you’re woven into my memories and if I breathe slow and deep, I think I smell you, yet again (that or I need to wash my hair).


Response #32 Cow Pie

Mysterious Theologian: Nathan Strong


That’s not a mud pie or mud puddle. That comes right from back end of a bovine. Yes, this is a cow pie. As green vegetation enters into one end of the animal, this comes out the other. And it smells just as bad as it looks. Just one cow pie has an aroma and presence that will make you notice so you will want to go in the opposite direction. Yet, these cow pies are scattered throughout a pasture in which cattle roam and live out their days.

However, these stinky piles of manure become fertilizer or food for the plants that the animals once ate. Yes, God takes this stinking pile of remnants and makes it food for the life, growth and beauty of the world. From this fertilizer comes the food that helps feed the life within the whole world, not only the plants but also the animals that eat the plants including you and I. So then from all of this food, we give thanks to a God who from some of the stinkiest parts of our own lives, we bear witness to some of the beauty and joyful things within our own life.

As we stop and bear witness to the messy times in our own life, we will also bear witness to the moments in which God breaks into our lives and reminds us that we are cared for, we have hope and we have love. As we journey closer to Jerusalem and to Holy Week, we begin to be tired and only focus on the long journey, the piles of remnants that surround us, and we begin to long and hope for the arrival of the Messiah.

Dear God, as we long for the arrival of the Chosen One of God, the Messiah. We hope for the future blessing that you will bestow upon your people. We also stop and realize the ways in which you have already blessed us, in friends, family, good health and the love that we share with all who we encounter. Help us on our journey of faith and sharing the love that you have given to all. Amen.

Response #30 Sore Feet

Mysterious Theologian: Clare Josef-Maier, a diaconal minister and pastoral counselor at Lutheran Counseling Network in Seattle, WA.

This challenge comes from Ryan Josef-Maier to his wife (how well we know our partners): “Look at these travel-sore, wrinkled toes. Be glad you can’t smell them (the website I took this from assures us that they smelled awful). This foot, and another quite like it, has been stuffed in a sweaty sock and shoe for 13 hours, and in constant friction for that time, writhing against its fetid cocoon. Where, oh where is God in this foot?”

Sore Feet

Prayer to the God Revealed in Feet… Really Gross Feet

Dear God,

In Christ, You tended the (undoubtedly repulsive) feet of your disciples. I wish you had not done that, because now I have to avoid church on Maundy Thursday. (Especially when one is in ministry, people expect you to get excited about foot washing. Why? I am a servant to Your people in plenty of other ways – we needn’t get so literal when it comes to foot washing being the thing we all do now.)

But I wonder sometimes… if I claim You as the Ground of my being, how am I accordingly transformed?

If we are Your hands and feet in this world, surely you love your feet more than I love mine. Would You ever think of me the way I do of others’ feet? Or treat us, your hands, the way we abuse the labor of our own hands?

I seek You, revealed here in these most abused of feet. And I ask that You remind me of love. I claim you as my Ground, and you love feet (and the people whose feet they are, including me), so… it must be somewhere in me to love feet, too. Maybe not as well. But when I fail, you are there to remind me.

Sincerely, Clare

P.S. Really though. You could’ve baked your disciples cookies.

Response #29 Poorly Carved Meat

Mysterious Theologian: Ryan Josef-Maier
Dave Brauer-Rieke challenges, Ryan Josef-Maier, cook, a teacher, asker of impertinent questions and enjoyer of board games with the following:
A culinary artist puts his heart and soul into a special meal. The time, the vision, the seasonings, the presentation. Everything has to be just right. There is no one dish or course that communicates the full experience of a dinner well conceived and executed. The wine is carefully selected. The ambiance of the dining room set just so. Every scent, texture and image must merge into one, harmonious whole. And then, some total idiot doesn’t know how to carve the roast properly. Who are these people that can ruin a carefully constructed gift of grace with a simple sawing of a dull, ill kept and poorly applied carving knife? Why are they allowed to life?!
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The challenge, Ryan, is to find God in the worthless soul of such a creature. Where is God in the soul-less destruction of the culinary masterpiece shown below. You alone understand the horror of this image. Where is God in such a travesty?

Ryan’s Response
The prayer (to be recited silently):
“Lord of feasts and families, thank you for another Easter dinner with the ones I love, for another year of life, and for this.. meal, which I lovingly prepared, and which was served with — really — the best of intentions. I am grateful that Grandpa carved the roast as he has every year, as he has for as long as I can remember. And thank you that, as he sawed my perfectly cooked rib roast with the wrong side of the knife, and clawed at it with the carving fork like a buzzardy version of Captain Hook, a truth was revealed that I’ve never seen at the table before. Meat is muscle; it came from a living thing. Only seeing the uncut structure of the muscle fibers could show this so clearly. Thank you Lord, for this reminder. It keeps me humble.
That Grandpa is enfeebled by loneliness and mourning is clearly shown in his “work.” But at least tonight he’s not alone. Tonight, we prepare to enjoy $130 worth of dry-aged, grass-fed, sustainable beef I bought and prepared, which is now heaped on our plates in shreds too small to taste or hunks too large to chew. Because tonight, nobody had the heart to stop him from destroying it. And for that I am so grateful. As he huffed and grunted, and ill-used his tools, and cursed me for overcooking the roast, all of us knew not to say anything. Perhaps, for him, there was comfort in the sameness of the ritual. Incredibly, for me, there was indeed.  Amen.”

Ryan  challenges for Clare Josef-Maier, a diaconal minister and pastoral counselor at Lutheran Counseling Network in Seattle, WA. 

Sore Feet

Look at these travel-sore, wrinkled toes. Be glad you can’t smell them (the website I took this from assures us that they smelled awful). This foot, and another quite like it, has been stuffed in a sweaty sock and shoe for 13 hours, and in constant friction for that time, writhing against its fetid cocoon. Where, oh where is God in this foot?