It’s easy to imagine

her, her body shaped

around her pain

the way a tree grows

around a field stone, bends

to the givenness of the thing.

But beyond that,

what do we know?

Was she young, old, fat,

skinny, angry, resigned?

We know only that the blood,

the slow muddy endless river

of it, stained everything,

her touch, her breath, her gaze,

until her life became a drama

of evasion.

Then one day he happened

by on urgent


coming from a showdown

heading to a showdown,

between plundering hell and

robbing graves,

and she grew crazy

bold, grabbing hand

over fist every limb

in her way until she blazed

a trail straight to his feet

and balled tight

the hem of his robe

in her tainted fist.

It’s easy to imagine, years later,

Her dilemma: was it the power that came

out from him

she cherishes the most,

or the way he spoke her name

for the first time,


Mark Buchanan



It is not clear

whether we are rushing toward

or waiting for some bright

beginning, but everything

in us bends to it

with an ache deep as pleasure

but dark.

Whenever I break something

say bread or a bone or the bark

from split fir

I think about this

this day when all

things are made new, rejoined,


and the end bends clear around

to the beginning and


is as it is


Mark Buchanan

Nov. 2, 2007

Arms Wide Open

me and jesus

Recently I spoke three times at Ambrose University, where I teach, on the theme of hospitality. I used three texts –  John 4, where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, Luke 19, where Jesus meets a tax-collector named Zacchaeus, and Matthew 25, where Jesus divides all people on the basis of who ministers to him in the guise of anyone who is thirsty, hungry, naked, imprisoned.

Besides all three stories being about hospitality – welcoming those whom we instinctively want to turn away from – each story implicitly asks a question: how do we sustain such hospitality? How do we keep overcoming our own inertia and aversion and suspicion and weariness to care about people who, frankly, we don’t care about – who have no natural claim on our affections, and maybe have done things to forfeit our generosity? They’re not kin. They’re not friends. They’re not like us. Some have hurt us. Tax collectors have gotten rich on our backs. Samaritan women are home wreckers. Refugees – the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned? They might take away our jobs.

Why care?

The answer is hidden in plain sight: because this is exactly how Jesus welcomed you and me.

He sought me, loved me, welcomed me, forgave me, fed me, gave himself to me when I had done exactly nothing to earn it and precisely everything to forfeit it.

He did it, not just by being generous, but by taking my unworthiness on himself. Jesus says to people like Zacchaeus, like the woman at the well, like the prisoner, like me, “Blame me. Really, put all the blame on me. You can never, not if you had a thousand life times to live, make up for all the ways you fall short of the God’s glory. So give it to me. Hand it over, and I’ll take full responsibility for it. You can blame me.”

In my talks, I said the primary way Jesus showed us what God is like is by arms open wide. Arms spread wide is the classic gesture of welcome. But it’s also the necessary posture of crucifixion. It’s only because Jesus was willing to open his arms wide on the beams of the cross, taking all the blame on himself, that he can open his arms wide at the foot of the cross, welcoming all who are thirsty.

Why welcome those from whom I’d rather turn away?

Because he never turned away from me.