It Is Time

I have reached my limit for lies, hate, and violence.  I have reached my limit for the whining of so-called “men with fragile masculinity” who can’t accept women having just as much right to succeed at work and leadership as they do. I have reached my limit for white men, and women, who think they are the only ones who have rights and privileges. I have also reached my limit for “so called evangelical Christians” who have hijacked my faith to feed their power, position, and greed.

I am disgusted with the so-called Christians who deny services to people who are LGBQ, they refuse to welcome the immigrant, or care for the hungry, homeless, or ill. They profess to be “Pro-Life” but don’t support child health care programs or food programs to keep children healthy, which has led to an infant mortality rate in the US that is 19th out of the 20 wealthiest countries. (CNN: Among 20 wealthy nations, US child mortality ranks worst, study finds, By Jacqueline Howard, January 8, 2018) All practices taught by Jesus of Nazareth.

Despite what they call themselves the evangelicals they have nothing in common with the carpenter from Nazareth.  And, it is time we stopped them from using the title of Christianity to promote laws removing safeguards for the most vulnerable in our country. It is time to stop people, like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnel, from using religion as an excuse to hord the wealth of our country as they seek to persecute the poor, immigrants, people of color and push middle income Americans into poverty.

It is time to take back the moral high ground from people who have no morals.  Lying, bigotry, hate, greed, and selfishness have no place in our country where there are enough resources to care for all. Providing for the welfare of our citizens is mandated in our constitution and in the scriptures of every major religion. To do otherwise is a crime against humanity, a crime against the Divine.

I have had it with the lies and false information coming out of the mouths of elected officials. I am tired of their denial of climate change, their love of firearms, and their refusal to accept firearm regulations. I am tired of destructive international polices and the relations with dictators that has put our country at risk. I am tired of people who manipulate our political and legal systems in order to fill their pockets with money they don’t need and satisfy the need for power.  I am tired of the theft of our electoral systems to consolidate power and money in the hands of the few. All of it done with the approval of evangelicals.  I am tired of . . .  all of it. 

As a Christian, a person who follows the teachings of Jesus, I can no longer stand by and not speak out.  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes:

“When societies grow affluent, when the burden of law-abidingness falls on the state and institutions, when people define right and wrong in terms of externalities – punishments and rewards – and in terms of what other people do and are seen to get away with . . . on immediate benefits not long-term sustainability, then society begins to erode from within and there is little anyone can do to halt it.” (The Great Partnership, Schocken Books, New York, 2011, pg 161)

Faith has traditionally held our society in a cohesive unit. Whether or not people attend or claim a religious background the basic rules of a civilized society that are learned and kept comes from religious practices. The ideas of right vs wrong, that might does not make right, that it is better for everyone when all people have what they need to survive and thrive are lessons learned and kept.

Our country once had the reputation for altruism. While we have never had or needed a state religion, we still helped those in need of shelter, food, health care, clothing, all without the expectation of return. Individuals and in concert with our elected bodies we helped people.  We provided a beacon of giving light in a world where there were men who wanted to extinguish that light. Compassion, mercy, and kindness were traits we valued in our society.  So, what happened to us? I have asked myself that question many times and I have no answers. I am sure the “experts” have one, but, I do not. What I do know is the only ones who can put a stop to the madness sweeping America, is us.

 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Speaking out is an obligation, a duty, of being a Christian, as are all members of Judeo/Christian/Islamic faith, when injustice occurs. Speaking through Prophets, God repeatedly extoled the Hebrew people to care for the widow, young, elderly, and the ill, and welcome the stranger. Through the prophet Micah, God tells the people of Judah:

Jesus also tells us

34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

Such lessons from our faith are being twisted by people we normally would trust, our own leaders, nation, state, and local. Instead of honoring the commands of God, and Jesus, they have assimilated the values of ancient Romans and Greeks who held self interest as the most valuable ideal. For today’s leaders the ideals of compassion, mercy, and justice only applies to them.  Their actions display anti‑Christian beliefs so why do allow them to demean our faith, our good name. 

It is time to call them out, for Christians to standup and speak out about their abuses. We have been way too silent, letting people like Paul Ryan claim to be a good Christian while working to dismantle all of the work of the last 50 years to support the welfare of Americans. Donald Trump proudly tells his thuggish supporters to beat up, and attack those who he doesn’t agree with, where in scripture do you find that?

Because of people like Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump who favor racist, bigoted, and violent speech there has been a loosening of violence across this country. More people are afraid of those who follow these people than they do ISIS! I am not saying to copy the actions of the followers of Trump or GOP, no, there are ways to resist them that are not violent or contrary to the teachings of scripture. 

  1. Do not endorse, by your silence, racist, bigoted, violent, or abusive religious statements.  Speak up and demand it to stop.
  2. Become involved in some way with the Poor Peoples Campaign, https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/.  This is a National Call for Moral Revival uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.  This is a non-violent group that provides many avenues and opportunities to challenge those who would destroy us.
  3. Identify Anti-Racist groups and organizations in your local area and work to change our communities
  4. Write, e-mail, or phone your congressmen, senators, state and local representatives that racial discrimination, bigotry, and violence must end.
  5. Write letters to the editors
  6. Do as I am right now writing a blog.
  7. Last but not the least (and this may be the most powerful) use social media to support anti-racism, anti-bigotry, anti-violence in speech and actions.

There is something for everyone to do to resist and challenge those who would see the end of the United States.  We must never become a dictatorship, we must repel the tyranny of the religious few who have desecrated the name of Jesus and of our Judeo/Christian/Islamic God. Only we can do this.  The fate of who governs this country, what we will believe is in our hands no one else’s.

Ruth Jewell, © February 14, 2019

I’m Saying NO MORE

NO MORE

    I have given the events of the last few weeks a great deal of thought. It has been a greatly disturbing to watch the witness of Dr. Ford and the lack of respect she has been given by those we have entrusted with power. Saying I am angry doesn’t actually describe what I am feeling. As a victim of sexual assault, I am not just angry, but furious at the dismissal of Dr. Ford’s testimony. The Senate committee has heard her and then pushed her aside because she is a woman challenging their power to do what they want. And, what they want has nothing to do with the good of our country.

Placing Brett Kavanagh on the Supreme Court would aid these greedy, power-hungry men in setting all of our civil, social, economic, environmental, and international advancements back 50 years. Our waters will again be fouled with toxic waste, our air will be unbreathable, women can forget about controlling their own bodies, and those who are not Lilly white or heterosexual will again become anathema to a Republican, Trumpian world.

We know the response toward Dr. Ford’s testimony of sexual assault by Kavanagh was appalling, it wasn’t received by the Senate committee with any kind of respect or belief. Yet, no one had doubted the testimony of men who came forward with their memories of being sexually assaulted by Catholic Priests 35 and 40 years early. (Yes I know they didn’t testify to the any congressional committee, but several of these men did make comments on the testimonies.) So why wasn’t Dr. Ford not believed? The first reason is she is a woman, an untrustworthy, unable to care for herself, no understanding of reason or logic, flighty, and a sexual siren, woman. This is what woman have been told for thousands of years. We have been shammed into believing we, women, are the cause of men’s violence. That our lot in God’s world is to lay down and accept the rule of our bodies to our “male lords.” We are to procreate, raise the young, cook food, keep a clean house, and satisfy our “man.” That is not only slavery, it is treating one-half of the population like domestic animals.

Sexual violence has nothing to do with lust, or sex, it is all about power, about being overpowered. Sexual violence is all about men who believe they have a right use the power of their penises to control and oppress women. Men, like Brett Kavanagh have used women for their personal satisfaction, used their gender to control what a woman does and how far she can go in life, blamed women for their failures, and used those failures to justify their violence towards women. As a victim of sexual violence, I am tired of being told it’s “my fault” I was assaulted, it’s “my fault” that my pay check is lower than a man’s in the same position, and it’s “my fault” that I am a second class citizens.

I am tired of weak, pathetic men apparently believing they have the right to demean women. Who use women to give them their needed power trips, and to make them feel powerful. And, that is the second reason Dr. Ford wasn’t believed she is challenging their power. By their protestations it is obvious they believed Dr. Ford, they just can’t admit it because they would then have to acknowledge their own abuses of power, and of women. Yes, they believe Dr. Ford but their own guilt, greed, and hunger to keep hold of their so-called power prevents them from admitting it.

They also dismiss her because she had the courage to come forward and testify to the truth. How dare a woman challenge them! They have seen how the #METOO movement has affected men in the news and entertainment industries and they have no doubt that the accusations will be arriving at their door as well (at least I hope so).

I am not saying that all men have abused the power they have just because they are male. However, having lived to 71 I have experienced enough to know how men in positions where they control, or influence others are abusive and oppress those who depend on them.

I have also known women who have abused their positions, that is why I know that sexual abuse and gender abuse, is not isolated to one gender and is not related to sex.. Some women who have made it to the top of their field feel they too have the right to be controlling and subject the people who work or live with them to same kind of abuse. Often, they have overcome abuse, pressure, and humiliation themselves to get to where they are. Sadly, some have used those very same tactics to make sure they succeed just as their male counterparts. In those case’s they have as much to lose as a man does if Dr. Ford and the #METOO movement are successful.

My question to those of us, who have so much to lose if the Senate succeeds in their efforts, what will we do about it?

Will we give up the fight and go back to accepting patriarchal rule. Or will we stand up and say no more. While this is not just a woman’s fight, it is women, of every color and culture, who stands to lose the most. Unless we continue to demand restitution for the violence done to our bodies, to our minds, and to our economic security we will not succeed. The male bosses, our male political representatives will not simply grant it to us. We women must defend each other against attacks that serve to demean and humiliate us. We cannot let Dr. Ford and others like her stand alone and be bullied by the bullies in congress or the White House. We have power, especially together we have great power, now is the time to use it. Every woman must vote for the candidate who will advance our cause of equality. Read about them, GOOGLE them, and find out what they have done in their past lives, what they really stand for today. I am not telling you to vote for one party or another, I am saying know who you are voting for. Vote because the lives of your children, especially your daughters and granddaughters, lives depend on how you act today, in November and in 2020.

We women are standing up and fighting back against years or abuse and male control and that is frightening for the male ego. We women are finally saying no to the way it’s “always been done” to the detriment of our lives. Men need to understand we aren’t going back. Both men and women of every color, education, culture, or religious belief, have equal opportunities to succeed in their lives. Those who do not want to work with us, get out of our way, your power is broken. Get used to it.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 3, 2018

Lectio Divina: August 3, 2018, Ordinary Time 1 Corinthians 13 (NRSV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrong doing but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Meditation:

This passage from 1 Corinthians is probably one of the most well-known writings of Paul, yet no one understands or follows the simple mandate, love each other. Love, everyone knows what it is, everyone wants it, and it is probably the most hoarded grace of all time. Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote:

“A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it –
A song’s not a song ’til you sing it –
Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay –
Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!”

Love isn’t something you say, it’s something you do, you must express love in some way for it to have any meaning. To give it away is to hold someone when they hurt, offer the essentials of survival to those in desperate need, or sit and listen when no one will, that is love.

It sounds so simple and it is so hard to do. We humans just can’t get the idea of love right. The author of 1st Peter said: “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (4:8) Or, if you love enough you will let the irritations of life go. Unfortunately letting go is the farthest from many of our minds or behavior. God loved the Hebrews and as a result forgave them their sins repeatedly, and then he sent prophet after prophet to remind them of that love. God sent Jesus to tell the gentiles (that’s you and me) divine love was there for the asking. Trouble is we don’t ask, and we don’t give, we hoard.

All too often our lives are filled with the endings of love and compassion what we need are the beginnings, the constant expression of love, our eyes are dimmed to the graciousness that surrounds us and all creation. Love comes in many forms and, sadly, the only way we observe it is when we are hit over the head with compassion, kindness, and mercy. Yes I know there are those who say the word love and believe it’s good enough or they believe love only applies to those who think like they do, but saying is not enough, loving only those who love you is not enough. You must put love into action and when love is freely given away to all, it multiplies hundreds, thousands of times over and over.

Today our government promotes hate, greed, and racism as part of the evangelical cult that’s taken over our politicians’ lives. Love has no place in their world view, they love only those who see the world in their own twisted way. We see the result of their twisted understanding of love every time a person of color is killed, a law officer is killed, hate groups such as Nazis are allowed, encouraged, to harass and hurt people different from them. We see the hording of love every time we see injustice and when we keep silent and do nothing we become part of that cult of hatred and hoarding.

If we are to be faithful to Paul’s words and the teachings of each prophet God has sent, then we must put ourselves between those who do not show or share love with those in need. When we do not act we are just as guilty of hording love, compassion, justice, mercy and peace. It is our responsibility, our ministry, our job to act and pass the grace of love on multiplying it into infinity.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 3, 2018

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Women’s March, January 21, 2017 Seattle WA, Photo by Ruth Jewell

Morning’s Lectio Divina

 

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Fire in Yosemite National Park, October 2017

It has been some time since I’ve posted something on my blog and the time away has been interesting, restful, and thoughtful. Over the last several months I have practiced three spiritual practices, Meditation, walking prayer, and Lectio Divina that have fed my soul and reawakened my imagination and inspiration, and yes, a little rebellion. Lectio Divina has been most important in raising my awareness of myself and the world around me and I have had a growing desire to share what I hear, feel, and see in scripture meditation. I claim no special expertise or knowledge only heartfelt understanding from my perspective a pericope. I pray that if you meditate on the same scriptures you will find your own insights and open doors.

Isaiah 5:1-7 (NRSV)

1 Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
righteousness, but heard a cry!

Meditation:

Reading 1: beloved; judge; righteousness;
Reading 2: break down; devoured; justice; bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry;

This pericope is about God’s justice for Judah for failing to be a people who embrace mercy, justice, peace, and compassion. I sit here and somehow feel we are in the same place now as the people of Judah in 800 BCE. I wouldn’t be surprised if God does something to today’s vineyard, actually I would find God’s action a relief from the horrendous tension.

There are many levels of interpretation to this scripture but on one level we can see how God’s plea to Judah as a plea to us today. After all this country is slipping into a pattern not that different from Judah, or Israel. We have political leaders claiming a faith in God and Christ yet fail to do justice, protect the innocent, or welcome the stranger. These men, and they are mostly men but also women, claim the Bible sanctions their actions of separating children from their parents, cutting health care to the young and the elderly, making health care to expensive for even the average citizen to have, and raising taxes to a level that will keep the poor poorer, and the wealthy wealthier. None of that is sanctioned by God or Christ.

In this passage Isaiah tells the people of Judah God’s justice will result in their destruction. I know God will eventually offer forgiveness (I’ve read ahead) but here Judah doesn’t know that. All they hear, if they are listening, is their little kingdom is going to be destroyed and God tells them why. God expected justice but saw only bloodshed, righteousness but heard only cries of despair and pain and for failing to be the fruit of God’s vineyard they will face destruction and despair.

The parallel between Judah and the United States is too close. There is little justice coming out of Washington D.C., but there is a great deal of turning away from doing good and right. There is no justifiable actions coming from the White House or Congress, only unethical, and morally bankrupt rhetoric from people who enjoy causing pain and suffering on others.

This government likes to call on the scripture to justify their actions. They take a short phrase out of context and wave it around like a sword. The truth is that scripture condemns them as apostates. They embrace the exact opposite of the teachings of God and Jesus. By their own words they have renounced a faith in God in favor of a faith in only themselves. They are their own god!

I cannot call them Christian, or a follower of The God of Abraham, no, they have no faith recognized by those who believe God’s mandate of Justice, Mercy, Compassion and Peace. Isaiah warned Judah what would happen, they didn’t listen and I doubt todays version of Judah will listen either.

Ruth Jewell, ©July 21, 2018

January 20, 2017

Last evening I was thinking about history, in particular, the history of our country. In 1776 our founding fathers chose to protest and separate from an oppressive imperial government. They chose to fight what they saw as injustice and for the most part they won that battle. Yes, most were elitist, and some were slave holders, they were, to put it mildly, a product of their time. But for the most part they had a vision of a country where each person would have the right to an equal chance at “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I wonder what they would say about today’s inauguration, I believe they wouldn’t be very proud of us right now.

I know, I know, those writers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution didn’t have the foresight to include women, people of color, those with different beliefs, or the LGBQT community in their plans, but, the blueprint was there. And, in more than 200 years we have grown and matured as a nation, as a people, and now most of us see each person in our country as important, valuable, to the success of us all.

Throughout our history, we have struggled to open our understanding of who is an American. In the last 100 years, great strides have been made in insuring the poor, woman, people of color, those with differing gender identities, and those with differing beliefs have the same rights as rich white males. We opened the doors of our country and people from all over the world have enriched our society in every way possible. But now those advancements seem to be coming to an end.

This country elected someone who only sees value in rich white men. This man and his followers see the population of the U.S. as a means to an end, an end that fills their pockets. To accomplish their purpose, they duped other white men into believing they too can be ‘rich’ knowing that what they will do while in office will prevent anyone but themselves from succeeding. They have done it by demonizing the poor, people of color, women, those of differing beliefs, and those with differing gender identities in order to hide their true intent, to make themselves wealthy and more powerful. They don’t have the interest of the country at heart, the only thing they think about is how much power over others they have and how much money fills their coffers. Not a very nice picture of our current government.

Our Founding Fathers weren’t perfect, they owned slaves, they thought the poor should do more, they didn’t acknowledge women as citizens and they certainly didn’t accept anyone who identified with a different gender. Yet they managed to set aside most of their bias’s and conflicts to craft our government’s documents that had the flexibility to, in time, include those who had been excluded. Not perfect men but wise men.

So, are we returning to an ideology that pre-dates our Founding Father’s? I hope not, but, I fear so. In the last eight years, we have seen the rise of hate crimes instigated by the very people we elected into office. The gains we have made in racial and gender equality are threatened by elected officials who use the fear of being marginalized to demonize anyone who is different. Our so-called representatives have built on misconceptions and lies to produce a constituency across the nation that, while they are well off, thinks they are poor and being discriminated against. Most of these representatives have benefited from the social improvements created since World War II, but, apparently, they believe they are the only ones who deserve to be so honored.

In the next four years, we could lose this country to a society reminiscent of Nazi Germany and that scares me. But I also have hope. I have hope because so many people are speaking out, willing to put their hopes and dreams on the line by standing up and defying those that would roll back the achievements we have gained. Women are marching all over this country and all over this world to say we will not allow our hard-earned rights and privileges taken away. People are organizing to combat hate, racism, and violence. They are banding together to promote justice and mercy in the face of those who would take our health care, our education, our environment, our dreams.

My fear is that if we don’t see progress quickly then many will become discouraged and leave the fight. We cannot do waiver, success won’t be easy nor quick rather it will be very difficult. We will face insults and threats on our lives and lively hood, and that is scary. Each one of us has something we can do, whether it is getting out the vote, writing a letter, or marching in protest. There are small to big tasks, and all are important.

So, do not be afraid, you aren’t alone. Participate at whatever level you are most comfortable with, whether it is writing, financial support, all the way up to running for a government position at the Local, State, or Federal level. But do something, be part of the fight, be part of what we are to become.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 20, 2017

2017, A NEW YEAR?

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A new year has begun and I am not sure what it will bring. Usually I have a sense of new beginnings, or I have excited expectations and hope as I pick up from where I left off and start over again. Not this year though. There has been too much acrimony, too much hate, too many lies, too much racism, and too little justice, mercy, kindness, and peace for me to look forward to the coming year. Sad really, because it seems 2017 is already defeated before it is a week old. I am afraid 2017 will just be a year of more hateful speech, more injustice, more discrimination, and more violence.

There is no one person to blame, we all are responsible for the atmosphere of distrust and hate we see every day, in the news, from our politicians, from our neighbors. Let me make this clear, you and I are to blame from the people who fear the changes created in the last 30 years. We forgot that people might not understand, might not be willing to accept those changes. We assumed they would go along “when the discovered how much better they had it.” But they didn’t. No, they felt left out of the process, unasked, and left behind, and they felt their concerns and issues weren’t being addressed.

Yes, they could have become involved and worked with those of us who believed we were working to better the lives of everyone, and the environment. But somehow, they didn’t feel as if they could. Maybe they didn’t believe as we did, maybe they needed to be given more information, maybe they just needed more time to assimilate all the information being thrown at them. Whatever the reason some people became alienated and open to manipulation by those whose agenda is to turn back the clock to a time when only the few profited from the bounty of this country.

Maybe the reason for the divide is that those of us who want to see us progress broke into interest groups who fought over what issue was most important when, in reality, all of it is. No one has ever bothered to look at the larger picture. To try developing a program that would have given equal emphasis to each issue. To bring together the disparate interest groups formulate a policy that would have benefited each area of interest. The modernization of each issue, environment, inclusivity, racism, woman’s rights, children’s right, poverty, immigration, all of them, each is dependent on the other.

What do we do now that we have a president whose only interest is his own personal gain, a congress dominated by old white men bent on preserving white privilege, and the hate and racism propagated during the last eight years by has let loose violence and terror in our communities. Well, to start we work together, all interest groups working together to keep what has been achieved from being lost. Our job now is to stand up when we see abuse or harassment and protect the victims, stopping hate speech when we hear it, and working to prevent injustice wherever we see it. None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to do and it isn’t easy to work up the courage to take a stand. But that is what we are called to do.

I am a person of faith, and 2016 sorely tested that faith. Yet I still believe in what I was taught that we are to act justly and to love kindness, mercy, and compassion. We as a people of many faiths and beliefs are called to care for the disinherited, the lost, the incarcerated, elderly, young, and the stranger. That doesn’t change even though it has become much more difficult at the moment. History moves in many ways and we repeat our mistakes over and over again. We have the possibility to achieve great heights or astounding lows. The choice is ours. Do we repeat history or do we show that we can change history.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 3, 2017

“And the Lord Grieved”

“And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth,
and it grieved him to his heart.”  – Genesis 6:6, NRSV)

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Fire Rainbow Taken Spring 2015

This past weekend I was asked by a Facebook friend to comment on the following meme from the Celtic Christian Tradition.

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” (www.facebook.com/CelticChristianTradition, April 30, 2016)

My friend is not a believer in Christianity but he and I have had many an interesting online discussion on faith and beliefs.  I have always found him to be an open minded and intelligent person and so I gladly responded to his request to comment.

“Well I don’t know if saying you believe in Jesus but don’t actually follow his teachings is a cause of atheism or not, but it certainly is the cause of so many to question the values of Christianity.  Just saying you believe in Jesus is like saying the ‘Sun rises in the East,’ it’s a statement. Being faithful to the teachings of Jesus however means you are loyal to those teachings and practice them, or at least do you your best to try, every day.  If you only use the words to carry a message of hate, domination and greed then you have become separated from God and are not longer the blessing you are meant to be.

There is Good in everything, human, animal, plant, all creation and it doesn’t matter how you see the Good.  It only matters that you do.  The Good is what keeps each of us rising up every morning, keeps us loving our neighbors regardless of who they are and keeps us part of the human family.  To deny the Good in anyone, any creature, any part of creation is to be cut off from what makes each of us human. I listen to the hatful rhetoric spouted each day in the news and I don’t see people of faith, I see lost souls, people cut off from what is good and right in our world, and that makes me very sad.

You know I call the Good God, but that is how I see the good in the world.  You see the Good in a different way, a way that gives you peace and a path to follow that is good in the world.  Others see the Good in other ways, but, no matter how we explain the Good to ourselves it is all the same Good. The name may be different but it is still what is Good and Right in the world. We all have the capacity to find and see the Good, whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Atheist.  The Good is still there in the world, universe, all creation and as long as some of us are able to find, see, and honor the Good in each other and creation gives me hope that we will have a world to live in.

I look for the Good in those that hat that is what my tradition tells me to do. But even if that wasn’t part of my tradition I would still look because to otherwise brings me down to the level of those who hat and I don’t want to go there.  If those of us who believed in what is Good were a little more vocal we would drown out the voices of hate and all would know there are still people in this world who believe in doing good rather than speaking hate.”

After I wrote this I recognized how sad it is that there are so many who cannot, or will not see what is Good and Right in this world.  Everything in creation was created good, there was nothing evil or bad about anything brought into being.  Genesis 1:31a reads “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Every morning I see just how good creation is when I feel the warmth of the rising sun and hear the morning songs of birds.  So in my eyes the God is still active in the world I live in. Every creature in all creation is meant to be a blessing to all of creation and to be otherwise is to separate from God and all that is good.  To live outside of the love and light of God hurts God as much as it hurts those living in hate and darkness.  When God’s beloved creatures did first did evil God’s heart was broken (Genesis 6:6).  When we who are human do evil and practice hate instead of love and pretend it is what God wants, when we are not the blessing we are meant to be God calls out to us in pain in sorrow, “not in my Name.”

Every day the news media is filled with the words and images of people professing to be people of faith whose actions do not reflect a faith of any tradition.  So many people who call themselves people of faith in one breath prove they are not in the next breath when they deny the teachings of love, compassion and justice by spouting words of hate and denying justice to those in need.  Yet we who try to be followers of God, or the Good in the world, are enabling these lost souls by not speaking out against the injustice or not standing with those in need.  So we are not innocent by any means.

What do we do then?  We who stand for justice, mercy and compassion need to be the Isaiah’s, Micah’s, and Jeremiah’s of our day. Like the Apostles we need to be the ones who speak with love and compassion, letting those who speak hate that we know them for what they are, lost, wounded, souls and that we are sad for them and will stand with their victims.  None of that is easy, and we cannot expect to change everyone overnight, but, being who we are, blessings to the world, changes the world a little bit at a time.  Kindness and compassion never goes unrewarded and even in the darkest moment the single candle we light shines brighter than then darkness around it.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 2, 2016

Prayerful Decisions – Prayerful Tuesday

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1

 

Photo by Joe Beck, Unsplash
Photo by Joe Beck, Unsplash

Today is Super-Tuesday, a day when political parties in mostly southern states choose who they want to run as their Presidential Candidate.  So far in this election we have heard the traditional political rhetoric and a great deal of speech filled with anger, hate, bigotry, greed and plan nonsense. My choice of candidate is not important, no, rather what is important is that each of us look carefully at who is running and who has the American peoples best interest.  Not just white, male, and wealthy, but all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status, choice of faith, where they come from, color of their skin, age, or gender identification. All Americans regardless of whether or not they have U.S. citizenship or hopes to attain American citizenship all must be considered equal participants in our society.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” We cannot serve the people, the Divines own people, if we serve our own self interests. When we love power, money, and status more than we love the people of God, whoever they may be, pain and suffering will be, has been, the result.  We  who call ourselves followers of the Divine, with whatever faith tradition we  choose, must not let those whose primary interest is greed, hate, and power, and not the American people, or the people of the world be elected into a position where they could destroy the fabric of our nation and world.

So today, offer prayers for those voting, that they think carefully of their choices.  To refuse to let false, hateful and self-serving rhetoric sway them.  Rather pray that all people will stand together to push back the evil we are seeing displayed during this election year.

My prayer:  May the hand of every voter be guided by the desire for a country that holds sacred the lives and well being of all who live in American and beyond.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 1, 2016

Overwhelmed with Sadness – Prayerful Tuesday

Band-Aids don't work anymore, Huffington Post
Band-Aids don’t work anymore, Huffington Post

I have been trying to think about what to say about the Umpqua shootings but my heart is breaking and my mind won’t process this.  So I am asking you for your prayer this week to write letters to your legislators about gun legislation, talk to your neighbors about keeping safe, and get involved in your community and/or church youth programs.  Talk kids and get to know your own children and the children they play with. Keep the kids involved with family and community and help them find safe ways to release anger and frustration.  If you need a gun for hunting then talk to every member of the family about gun safety and keep your guns in a secure gun safe when you aren’t using them.  I know that isn’t much but if all of us become more aware and involved in the efforts to regulate guns in a responsible manner than maybe, just maybe we won’t be speechless anymore.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 6, 2015

You Are Invited . . .

Matthew 22:1-14 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The above text is about how we are invited into God’s grace. However, what we do with that grace is entirely up to us.  We can ignore it, accept it but only on our terms, or completely live into the gift of grace.  What we do will be our choice and that choice will determine how we live our lives.  The following is the text of the sermon I preached on August 23, 2015, at my home church, Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA.

On a warm June afternoon in 2000 I was sitting at the entrance to the primary hotel in Vallejo CA.  I was waiting for a bus to come and deliver John to me who was taking the bus from the Oakland airport. I could hardly contain myself, you see in just a few short weeks I would be retiring from my consulting job and moving back to Edmonds. John was coming to help me pack-up the apartment and drive with me back to WA.  We would be married in September.  This was the beginning of 6 months of celebration that has extended into nearly 15 years. I had accepted an invitation, I said yes. I knew that in that acceptance I would now be living a new life and one that would require me to make the choice to change from a life of taking care of only me to taking care of someone else. Now that’s a huge change for someone who was 53 and never married.  But it was a choice that I have been grateful for ever since.  As a result I was blessed with a new life that has had its challenges and its joys. That’s what happens when you chose to transform your life.  Life can be a bed of roses, but what you must remember is roses have thorns and you can be sure you will sometimes get stuck with one, or more, of those thorns.

The scripture from Matthew is not only about choosing between accepting and refusing an invitation to a wedding banquet given by a King, it is about choosing between accepting or refusing to live a transformed life of free grace in the way we were meant to live. And, to deciding to live a transformed life means accepting all of that life of grace.  It means we are to commit to live that life no matter what gets thrown at us or how many thorns we run into.  Living a transformed life of grace doesn’t mean there won’t be thorns, or potholes, or great sorrows on your path. It means we have the strength to walk through them.

Matthew’s version of this story, which is also found in the Gospel of Luke, is actually two parables about invitations. It’s a story about a king, who wants to invite people to celebrate the wedding of his son with a banquet.  Matthew adds two additional details to the story; the first is when some of the king’s friends’ killed his slaves and he attacks and wipes out the kingdoms of those who committed those atrocities.[1] It is accepted by most interpreters that this part of the parable, Verses 6 and 7, are an interpretation of Matthew’s who is reading back into this parable the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Matthew adds it because within his community he has people who are struggling with the loss of their ancestral home.  It is not believed to be part of the original parable from the time of Jesus, the oldest version of which is found in the Sayings of Q. Actually these verses are much more characteristic of an interpretation of God from the Hebrew Text rather than the life and teachings of Jesus.[2],[3] Matthew’s second addition are the last 4 verses, verses 11-14,  of the story where Jesus tells one more story of the banquet[4] and this addition is very important in the way Matthew wants us to understand and respond to the divine invitation to a new life.  Together these two parables are stories about the life choices we make and what we do with those choices.

So here we have a story of a King, who traditionally is identified with God, and throws a wedding party for his son, Jesus. Those are the traditional interpretations of Matthew’s King and Son.  But I want to you think about a what if.  What if we look at this story from a different perspective? What if we turn it upside down? What if instead of the King being God the King is Jesus who’s throwing a wedding banquet for the Children of God who he invites to live a new life?  How will that perspective change the way we hear and see these parables?

Now even though the Matthew’s setting of the parable is Jesus defending himself before the religious authorities Matthew wasn’t referring to “the Jewish authorities” as the ones who refused to attend, or that the ones who came were only “Gentiles.” Rather, most interpreters now believe Matthew was addressing his own conflicted community who he wanted to live a transformed life.[5]  The Jewish Jesus followers of Matthew’s community were struggling with the loss of the temple and his Gentile Jesus followers were struggling with whether they should or should not become Jewish. All this would have made for many conflicts between the different factions and Matthew is trying to bridge the gap between them.  I too am not suggesting that there are specific groups being discussed in these parables. So depending on which version you like the best, think of the players in the 1st century as Matthew’s neighbors or in our very own community as our neighbors right now in the 21st century.

So here is how the story might sound if we told it as if Jesus was throwing this shindig? The guests Jesus first invites to his amazing banquet are those he expects will accept the invitation because they already understand, or he thinks they do, what it means to live the transformed life He is offering them.  Jesus wants them to come and celebrate with Him, to become part of the new life that only happens when we accept the Divine invitation.  An invitation of free grace to live the life we are meant to live in the presence of God, Jesus and Holy Spirit.  So he sends his disciples out to bring his guests to the party; the food is ready, wine is poured, the orchestra is tuning up for an all night event.  But his disciples come back and tell him all have refused, all are too busy with the details of life, the minutia of daily living.  So what does he do, after all he has a hall prepared, food on the table, wine chilling, and musicians waiting?  Well, Jesus did just what he told his disciples to do when he sent them out to preach and the invitations they gave were refused. He “dusted the dirt from His sandals” and turns his back on those who refused him and sends his disciples out again into the streets and to the city gates to bring in whomever they find to the party, the good and the bad, the worthy and the unworthy.  With the diligence of his disciples the hall is soon filled to overflowing.

Who were the people from the streets? Well if we think of who are the people of the streets in the 21st century you might first of all think of the homeless tent encampments, or the people living under a bridge, or the man or woman standing on the corner with a sign that says “Homeless vet, needs food and job.” And think of the shop keepers in the poorest parts of any town. It was people like these who were the ones who were welcomed into Jesus’ party. They were the nobodies of the town and here they were going to a big party given by the most important person in town. Can you imagine how they felt?  Can’t you just hear them as they walk to the mansion, “Jesus invited me, me, to his party,” “You too, I can’t believe it,” “I was invited too, and get this, the man said come as I am, how cool is that.”  Unlike Jesus’ first guests these guests weren’t concerned about who would be attending.  It didn’t matter to them that the person next to them was a drug addict, a thief, a prostitute, a shop keeper, or a prosperous business person. They didn’t care if Jesus was failing or succeeding in life. They were excited about being invited.  They understood the importance of being invited to this banquet, this table.  They wanted to have new lives.  Unlike those first invited they knew their old lives weren’t working for them and they were willing to change and live new lives, transformed lives of grace that had meaning.

As the guests enter the hall they see the banquet tables set up with every food imaginable, roast lamb, poached fish, pastries, bowls of fruit, cool drinks, and wine, good wine, not the cheap stuff.  In the corner an orchestra was playing, with real instruments not a wash tub and jug band. Everyone was celebrating, drinking, eating, and dancing to the wonderful music. That is, everyone except this one guy who had piled his plate up with everything it would hold and was eating it in the corner telling anyone who would listen, “well it’s about time this Jesus dude recognized just who makes this town what it is.”  “I deserved this invitation, but don’t expect me to go overboard for him; this is what we should have had all along. In fact I think I will just take everything I can. And I’m going to let this Jesus person know that I’m not going to do anything unless I really want to just because he invited me to this party.”

When Jesus comes in to join his guests he sees this guy in the corner and he says “Ah, excuse me, why aren’t you celebrating. This is a joyous occasion, you come expecting to be fed but you won’t celebrate your new life.  You come in and can’t see the joy of living a life of peace, and justice.  You blame me for your suffering but you did nothing to help those who suffered as well. I was there to help but you wouldn’t come out, is that my fault? You accepted my invitation to grace but only on your terms? It doesn’t sound to me like you understand what it means to come to one of my banquets; I don’t think you belong here, yet.  Show this guy out until he understands what it means to come celebrate a transformed life.”

Jesus knew people had options in their lives. The trouble was those options weren’t working for the majority of the people. True the religious authorities and the Roman authorities were doing ok, but if you look at the number of people who were killed in order for someone else to advance socially or politically their options weren’t working for them either.  So along comes Jesus with an alternative way of living a life that didn’t involve beating up, or tearing down someone else. But Jesus wasn’t offering a new idea.  For centuries the Prophets of Israel were telling the people the same thing. Moses says in Deuteronomy (30:19b) “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”  Every Prophet since Moses, including Jesus, has said the very same thing and the people listened and accepted life, for little while, then the ‘easier’ way of greed and self-centeredness takes precedence and the original message of grace goes by the way side.

But what does it mean to choose life?  Well “When you say ‘Yes’ to life you say ‘Amen’ to all of life as a package deal. Thereafter the so-called problems you have with personal injustice do not arise. You renounce your concept of victimhood and the old impulse to complain about being unfairly treated.” A “commitment to life  . . . refuses to make any distinction between your outer life and your inner life, or between secular and sacred spheres of life, or between loving God, loving all of life, or loving one’s neighbor. Nor does it distinguish between your current life concerns or your eternal concerns. On the contrary, it simply calls for an unhesitating and unreserved ethical response to the call of life, the call of Jesus, God, and Holy Spirit – right where you are at this moment in time, at this point in your life,” to live a life where you defend justice for all and refuse to accept injustice for anyone as an expedient to living.[6] That is what Jesus taught, that’s grace. It’s not new information, its old stuff we haven’t listened to, at least not for long time.

That is what happened to our disgruntled guest.  He may have accepted the Divine invitation of free grace to attend the banquet, but his acceptance had no depth to it, it never went beyond saying I’m here, thanks for the food, see you later. He was glad to accept the invitation to grace but on his terms only. He never truly transformed his whole life.  He never saw that living in the presence of Jesus meant he had to let the inner life make its way to the outer side of who he was.  It meant he had to share the love, peace and abundance of grace with everyone he met, not hoard it. He came to the banquet not because he wanted to live a life transformed but because he wanted what he could get and then live as he always had.  That’s not change, it is not celebration and it’s not joy, and it is not committing to living a transformed life. It’s keeping the old life and saying it was good enough in the past it will be good enough now.

No matter how you tell today’s story it’s about Divine invitations, the acceptance of grace, and how you live once you’ve accepted God’s grace. When John asked me to marry him, I had a number of options.  Like the first invited guests I could have refused and that would have been that.  I don’t know where I would have been 15 years later but I am quite certain it wouldn’t have been here.  But I did say yes and again to that yes I had options as to how I was going to live within this new relationship.  One, I could continue to behave as I have always behaved.  Taking care of me, making sure I had what I wanted and what I needed.  Yes John would be there but our relationship would not have been very deep because I wouldn’t have let him into the deeper part of me, the part of me that would have built the relationship where both of us would have benefited.  These two options were not the ones I chose.  Instead I let John into my heart and said we are partners and what I do and what you do will affect and change who we both are.  We looked at the covenant of our marriage and said we do this together as one, not as two people living their own lives in one house.  When I accepted John’s invitation to marry, when I accepted that covenant, I had no clue as to what that might look like, but I knew I was going to have to change if I was going to make my life with John. And yes it hasn’t always been sunshine and flowers.  Sometimes we have had our thorny moments. But it was because we chose to live a life together as one that we had the strength to overcome all thorns and rocks in our path. While my wedding story wasn’t about God’s grace specifically, by accepting my invitation I discovered grace in a way I did not expect, and that is how it sometimes work.

Jesus invites us to a banquet of grace, he welcomes every single one of us to His table, and He doesn’t ask questions about our past or how many times we haven’t understood, He wants us to come and join Him. To laugh and sing and eat together, to tell jokes, and play games.  To dance to the music that life brings us, and cry together when life brings us sorrows. Jesus asks us to change who we are at our deepest level and live grace filled lives that don’t see differences between us, whether they are gender, racial, religious beliefs, cultural, social, or political.

We can change the world we live in, we can change the world by being the people we are meant to be, a people of grace, by being a people who refuse to accept evil, greed, and self-centeredness as the status quo.  We can change the world by refusing to accept that war is the only solution, or that homelessness and hunger is just part of life.  We can change the world by seeing each other as the Children of God, living the life God meant us to live.

The banquet meal is ready to be served: lamb roasted, wine poured out, table set with silver and flowers. . . .  Jesus goes to town, stands on the street corner, and invites everyone within the sound of his voice: Come, rich and poor alike, come the worthy and the unworthy, come with me, oh come, and celebrate the wedding of our spirits with me! I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread, carefully selected wines. Leave your lives of self-centeredness, loneliness, fear, poverty, greed, and come, celebrate with me! Come celebrate a life with meaning, a life of grace. Come change your lives, remember to live transformed, not only your inner selves, but also your outer selves.  Put on your cloak of joy and celebration and come, walk up the street to a life with meaning.”[7]

Moses said: “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

Ruth Jewell, ©August 28, 2015

[1] Hare, Douglas R.A.: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Matthew, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, pg 251-252
[2] Miller, Robert J; Editor, The Complete Gospels, Annotated Scholars Version, Polebridge Press, Sonoma, California, 1992, pg 98
[3] Hare, Douglas R.A.: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Matthew, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, pg 251-252
[4] Allen, Ronald J. & Clark M. Williamson; Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 2004, pg.76-78
[5] Hare, Douglas R.A.: Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Matthew, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1993, pg 251-253
[6] Cupitt, Don: Life, Life, Polebridge Press, Santa Rosa, CA, 2003, pg 6-7.
[7] Proverbs 9:1-6