A Swarm of Angels

On Eagles Wings by Michael Joncas 1979
Sung by Josh Groban

Psalm 91:9-12
9 Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
the Most High your dwelling-place,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.

11 For God will command the angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

Date: Wednesday August 15, 2012
Time: about 4:30 pm
Place: the office of Dr. Michel X

Dr. X: well, the ultrasound of your left carotid artery shows it is 80 to 90 percent blocked and I really don’t know how you have missed having a massive stroke. I want you in surgery tomorrow, so I am scheduling you for 9 am at ES hospital.

For a week now I’ve been trying to articulate what the events of August 15th -17th have honestly meant to me and with the greatest of difficulties I am writing now. For the last week I have responded to the news of emergency surgery and questions about it with a joke or a laugh as if it was just an everyday occurrence. It wasn’t and I know that. What I do know is for the last 5 to 6 years I have complained of several physical symptoms to a series of medical specialists and none of them correlated the symptoms with a blocked artery in my neck. In the last 5 years I have traveled extensively, had several medical procedures done, including surgeries, actively exercised and I NEVER HAD A STROKE. So what I am trying to understand is why me. What or who kept me protected.

When Dr. X came in to tell me I could go home he said “the blockage was so bad the blood flow in your left eye was reversed, you are so lucky to be alive and not incapacitated by a stroke.” I don’t believe ‘luck’ had anything to do with. I believe someone(s) was watching over me.

The hymn “On Eagles Wing” written by Michael Joncas in 1979 is based on Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40:31 and that hymn and Psalm popped into my head on Thursday morning just before surgery. Ok so you might say, it’s not so unusual for a person well versed in theology to think about a favorite hymn or a comforting piece of scripture in times of stress and maybe your right. Life is often about where you put your trust and the path your thoughts take in times of crises. But I will tell you this that when I let go of my fear and give it to that invisible, but tangible presence, I not only feel protected, I am protected. The trust I place in the Holy Spirit is not the kind of trust that says I’m going to be a millionaire, a celebrity, or live a life of ease. Those are things I might want but not need. The trust I’m talking about is trusting that what I NEED will be there, not what I want. It is also recognizing that what I think I need isn’t always what God thinks I need and that again comes down to the difference between “I want” and “I need.”

God needs me to follow the path laid out by Jesus and that is to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly beside my God. That is my model for living. I must admit I don’t always follow that path. It seems I am always drifting off one side of the path or another and when I reach a fork in the road my ego is strong enough to take the wrong one. Such wanderings do make it difficult on the Holy Spirit in guiding me back to the path, the Great Divine is telling me all along the way back “if you had just gone the way I told you to this would have been a lot easier.” Problem is I’m not a good listener and I have a really poor memory. But, just as many people I do come home to the shelter of those comforting wings eventually, most often in times of trouble. Last week I came home real quick!

I don’t want you to think that simply giving into what I believe God wants will make my, or any, life easy because it won’t. In fact if I really follow the path laid out by Jesus, my life will have a heck of number of pitfalls, road blocks, crises, and just plain hard times. The thing of it is I probably won’t notice those hard times. I will see instead the joy of being a partner in God’s creation, the smiles on the faces of those who never had a friend before, and the satisfaction of knowing that something wrong has been made right. Its knowing life isn’t about me, it’s about being part of the plan, about feeling the presence and hearing a swarm of angel’s wings knowing I am just a small cog in a huge plan to bring everyone under the shelter of those wings.

I am grateful to be here to write this, I pray all of you will feel and hear your own angels as they guide you on your own path. May the grace of God go with you

Ruth Jewell, ©August 22, 2012

Morning Prayer


All surrounding Spirit,
just as we are, we come to praise your name.
We bring before you all that we are,
the good,
the not so good,
and the things we’d rather not talk about.
We come knowing you will forgive us,
showering us with your grace and love.
As children in the faith we come
with hurts to be healed
and as adult partners in creation we come
to offer our gifts for the growth of the Kingdom.
As children we long for your arms for comfort
and as adults we search for your face to be renewed in our efforts to grow stronger in our faith
and when we come in truth we are never disappointed in what we seek.
Our prayer is to be steady on the path that leads to truth,
forgiveness of others and for ourselves,
humbly laying at your feet
our love in the Spirit.


Ruth Jewell ©August 12, 2012

The One Body

Ephesians 4:1-16, 1 Corinthians 12

Last week I received an e-mail, not a strange event in and of itself, but this was a message written to one person who then passed it on to me and a number of others because the sender felt the content was both interesting and important. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever received an e-mail that has passed around from person to person? I would bet you have! Now just suppose all of the other e-mails sent out were lost and only my message survived. Anyone coming after me and reading my e-mail would think “ah, this is a letter to Ruth, and for that reason my name becomes attached to that e-mail forever. Well that is what most theologians believe happened to the Letter to the Ephesians. It is believed this was a circular letter sent out to many congregations but the only one to survive is the one directed to the congregation in Ephesus.

Now that doesn’t change the fact that what is written Ephesians is any less important, but it does mean every community Paul was writing to was having issues about what it meant to be unified as the body of Christ. It also means this letter has a lot to say to us as Christians in the 21st century about how we are called to be unified as One in the Body of Christ.

I have always loved the idea of being part of a body, a community, and all the metaphors derived from a body image. A number of years ago now I enjoyed a skit, written by one of my former pastors, about the rebellion of body parts. The outline of the skit was the foot became tired of taking orders from the head and quit listening to it, then the hand and the rest of the bodies parts decided that they too weren’t going to listen to the head. Well to make a long story short the body kept falling down, smacking itself about, couldn’t get anywhere and was starving because it couldn’t eat. It wasn’t until all the parts began to listen to the head that the body started going places. Places important, you know like the dinner table or reaching out and helping someone else to their place at the table. Of course we all laughed at such a silly sight and thought how clever our pastor was for writing this play. But the important message wasn’t about how silly the premise was rather it was the message we all need to have a coordinating force in our lives, a message provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 and right here in Ephesians 4:1-16.

In this scripture from Ephesians Paul is pleading, well actually begging us, to lead a worthy life holding each other in unity, with all the love and compassion, strength and gentleness we can create. What my pastor was trying to demonstrate is we can’t do that without Jesus at the head of this gangly entity we call the body of Christ. We as members of this Body are give gifts to use in building up the many parts that comprise our lives together as community, but we can’t use them without each other. Now I know I’m not an actual a foot, nor are any of you real hands of a strange kind of body. But, in a way we are those very parts and Paul identifies how those parts work, in Ephesians 4 and in 1 Corinthians 12.

You know we are fortunate to be have both of these scriptures because the two together call us to use the gifts given to us by the spirit to “equip the saints for their ministry,” live a life worthy of walking in the way of Christ, growing up in the spirit, and no longer being children, but rather mature members of the entire body of Christ. Wow that’s a big job and it would be difficult for any one person to do all of those tasks to keep the body growing. But no one person has to, or is supposed to do it all by themselves. That’s the beauty of being part of the community, the body of Christ, we work together. Paul is telling all of the churches, Ephesus included, and all who have come along since the first century that working together to bring about the Kingdom of God is way more fun and a lot easier than going it alone. If Paul had had a computer he would be sending e-mails like crazy.

Let me read to you a little from 1 Corinthians 12:

“14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body. . . .

26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers;”

Just as in Ephesians 4 Paul identifies the spirit given gifts to those who follow in the path of Jesus. And, each of those gifts together is important for the body to open up the Kingdom of God to the world. We may no longer be able to see the gifts of apostle or prophet among us but we do have evangelists, which we now call missionaries, and they still go out to those who haven’t heard the good news and through the example of their lives demonstrate what it means to be a Christian.

We still have pastors and teacher who work hard, here at home, to teach the gospel story, guide those whose faith are just forming, and try to keep our communities safe places to worship and praise God. I love William Barclay’s description of pastors and teachers found in commentary The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians; Pastors and Teachers . . .

“(are the) shepherd(s) of the flock of God … who bears God’s people on (their) heart(s), who feeds them with the truth, who seeks them when they stray away, and who defends them from all that would hurt their faith. And (that) duty is laid on every Christian that (they) should be … shepherd(s) to all (their) brethren.” (additions in parenthesis are mine)

That is our task, that is our call, does it mean we are all going to do it in the same way, no it doesn’t. Each of us has our own specific job to do amongst the whole body and if we don’t live into the gifts given to us, then whole body suffers. It also means that we together, the people of our local Churches, Regional Churches, the National Churches and the Global Churches must work together to be the Body of Christ in the world today and that includes uniting in spirit with the many other Christian Traditions. It also means welcoming all to our table people from all traditions just as Jesus did when he welcomed all to his table and to do it in joy and laughter, in pain and in sorrow.

In just over a month I will be starting a semester of study at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey Switzerland. The Ecumenical Institute is the educational arm of the World Council of Churches and I am honored to be chosen for this experience of a of a life time. John and I will be living in community and learning how to joyfully join in celebration and worship with individuals from Christian traditions from all over the world. So you see the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians has a special meaning for me. I am going to put what I’ve learned here in this culture into practice in a new culture.

But none of us has to move as far as John and I are going just to practice Paul’s words or the way of Christ. We do it in our neighborhoods, the communities around us by living and speaking what we believe. Paul says in verses 14-16

14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

It is up to us to show what we are made of, to be the body, to be the movement of wholeness, to do as Jesus would, in our everyday lives. That is all that is asked of us, it seems simple doesn’t it, but it isn’t and we can’t do it alone. We can do it only if we are united in the love of God, Christ, and Spirit; we can do anything when we work together as the one body of Christ.

Ruth Jewell ©August 9, 2012