GOD SAID

Sunrise, Edmonds WA September 2, 2013 Ruth Jewell
Sunrise, Edmonds WA
September 2, 2013
Ruth Jewell

I have been trying to make sense of the events of the last week. The deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, the Dallas Police targeted and killed, and the bombings in Iraq and Turkey. And, just today a new shooting in Michigan. My heart is filled with sadness and tears and I could only cry out to God “Where Are YOU.”

“God where were you . . .
when suicide bombers chose to end their lives and take the innocent with them?
Where were you when 29 men and woman
enjoying a night out were used as target practice?
Where are you when cops shoot people,
when people shoot people,
when cops are targeted,
When people die, the good and the bad?”

God where are you . . .
when we are filled with emptiness by shooting after shooting,
when bombings and assaults become common place?
Where are you when we turn the news on and
another child has died, another cop is killed,
another person of color, differing abilities, or characteristics is assaulted or killed?”

“Why Oh God do you not answer?”

God said “I am there . . .
Holding the bodies as they bleed,
I am there leading the survivors’ out of danger.
I am there, holding the victim’s family’s in my arms
I am there in the broken hearts of witnesses, law enforcement.”

“When the darkness is greatest
I will sit with you, and listen to your sorrows,
I will hold you in my arms when you are weary.”
All I can do is lead the dying home to my arms,
to comfort those left behind, if they let me.”

“When pain and grief grip you
I will be there to tell you everything will be alright.
When you scream into the night,
I will come and comfort you,
I will dry your tears, and wrap you in my embrace.”

“I will be there when you are weary and in pain,
I will be there to lift you up, and comfort you,
All you have to do is call”.

God said, “I cry when you do not hear my voice, and
I cannot stop you from harming each other,
that choice is yours alone.

“All I can do is encourage each of you to stand up for justice and mercy.
All I can do is hope your hearts will soften
and let the love I have for each of you awaken your love for each other.
All I can do is wait for you to choose the path of justice, mercy, love and peace
between your selves and all that is created.”

God says “I gave you the choice of right or wrong,
It is up to you to choose. I will not make that choice for you
nor will I force you to choose one path over another!”

“You asked for freedom, it is your responsibility to choose.
Choose to use that freedom wisely.”

Ruth Jewell ©, July 11, 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

It is Good?—Prayerful Tuesday

Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612
Garden of Eden, Jan Brueghel, 1612

“And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:10b

In the last weeks God’s creation has seemed anything but good.  Terrorist attacks, ambushing of police, and police shootings of unarmed young men continue to rent the very fabric of our society.  Yet God did not create an evil world, in fact God proclaims this world a good world where everyone, and I mean everyone, has what they need to live and be the person they are meant to be.  It is our choice’s, not God’s, that have created a world that is unsafe.

Spending time in silent contemplation with a focus on what we could have been, and still could be, seemed the only way for me to center myself and see the world as good.  So today I offer as our prayer of the week another Visio Divina using the above painting of the Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel.

Prayer Practice:

1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, the placement of the plants, animals and, people.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.

  1. Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges? What feelings about the world rise in you? Are there any images that you are particularly drawn too?
  2.  Respond to the image with prayer for the world. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
  3. Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.

Please do not let your belief, or non-belief, in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent fall from grace prevent you from seeing the good things in creation. Our world is in need of prayer right now.  All of our people, all of creation is crying and in pain.  Let your prayers go out into the world and let them lead you to be the person God has always wanted you to be.

Peace, Blessings

Ruth Jewell, ©January 13, 2015

 

All Means ALL

All means ALL
All means ALL

My thoughts over the last couple of months have been over whelmed by the violence, the bullying, the tragedy, and the anger that has played across my TV screen, computer, radio and newspaper in the last couple of months.  I have seen the quote by some famous person that reads “those who keep silent in the face of evil are giving their approval,” or the pictures’ displaying one perspective versus another and which one has the greatest validity.  I am left speechless and in pain.  Yes I have heard that even one small act of mercy changes someone and I have used those very words myself many times. Do what you can and ‘wait,’ wait for minds to change, or for hearts to open,  . . . wait for what.

The scripture for Sunday came from Isaiah and begins with “Comfort, O Comfort my people” (40:1), but, I’m sorry I don’t feel that comfort.  I offer prayers, I read, and I listen.  I volunteer at the King County Juvenile Detention Center, here at church, and lead the occasional spiritual retreat and labyrinth walk, yet, except for Juvenile Detention CTR, I feel as if I am “preaching to the choir,” so to speak.  Where in all of these days of suffering, and confusion does the offering come that provides more than my comfort and brings a justly faithful, hopeful, loving comfort to those who do not share my skin color, or language, or culture, or gender, or abilities, or whatever makes them different from the so called “main stream” of the population.

This meditation was intended to be an inspirational moment.  But I am not feeling very inspirational, just too much has happened in the last couple of months.  So I ask your forgiveness for talking through some of my thoughts.  I live in a world that appears to be falling apart as I sit my comfortable, warm home.  I keep asking what will stop the building blocks our lives from tumbling into the abyss.

I am afraid we are headed into a storm of our own making that will destroy us.  We won’t need to be invaded, no; we are doing a grand job of destruction all by ourselves.   Voices of change and compassion, justice, mercy, and peace are drowned out by hateful speech by bullies in high places.  The actions and words of those high placed bullies give permission to those who fear the unknown to be violent and destructive at the ground roots level.  Hateful speech and actions becomes a cancer eating away at our will to fight against justice and mercy.

So I sit in my little home office, offering prayers, and volunteering when the opportunity arises.  I do my small acts that I pray are being added to other small acts, but I don’t know if any of it will be enough. Our denominations GLBQ organization used the slogan “All Means ALL” at our last national General Assembly.  They wanted to get the message across that everyone matters, despite gender identification, skin color, religion, or culture everyone is important.  There are very few slogans I actually believe in, but I believe in that one.  If I can do nothing other than let each and every person know how much they matter in my life, in the life of my Faith Community, and in the life of the greater community we are all part of then I have done the best I can.  That will have to be enough.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 8, 2014

Sweet Pea and the Narrow Path

DSCF0427 a

Matthew 14:25-33 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Nearly 40 years ago I went on a camping trip that included riding a horse 20 miles every day.  The horse I rode was a rather smallish black mare with a lot of quarter horse in her background.  She was gentle and quiet and when I learned she didn’t have a name I named her Sweet Pea.

One day we came to place where the trail all but disappeared and developed a tilt of maybe 30 to 40° as it extended across the lip of the canyon.  The distance to the bottom of canyon was maybe 100 to 150 ft down.  I needed to trust that my horse would safely carry me across the steep incline without falling to the bottom of the canyon.  I took a deep breath and started across and promptly halted Sweet Pea and froze about ¼ of the way on the path.  We were in very precarious position, on a steep incline and just inches from the edge of the canyon wall and a drop to the bottom would most likely have killed both of us.  I held Sweet Pea in place until she pulled the reins loose in my hand, turned her head as if to say trust me we can do this and she walked the rest of the way across.  As I look back over the years I have begun to learn this moment with Sweet Pea was a turning point for me. I now realize that it was here on a narrow trail in Mexico that I turned onto the path leading to this place in my life. For that first step to happen I had to let go of my fear and anxiety and trust someone else to take control of my life, it just happened to be that a small black horse was the one I put my trust in.

Peter too takes a step of trust when he steps out of the boat and starts to walk toward Jesus but something happened to him and he started to sink.  Yes Jesus saved him and before they get into the boat tells him he needs faith.  Ah, but what is faith and how does Peter or any of us get more of it? I can’t answer the “how” question because for each of us the way to faith will be different.  But I can explore with you what it means to have faith.

The modern definition of faith is not the definition that was understood in the days of Jesus and Peter.  Today we equate faith with religious belief; if you believe in specific religious doctrines you are said to have faith in it.  But, Marcus Borg in Speaking Christian, says in the 1st century faith was expressed by the Latin words fidelitas, faithfulness, and fiducia, trust.

To have faithfulness meant you were committed to, loyal to, held allegiance to, and were attentive to a relationship, Such as our relationship with God.  Faith as faithfulness does not just mean you are not going to follow other gods, but that you are committed and loyal to your relationship with God, and God known as Jesus, and that you attend to that relationship to keep it strong and healthy.

Faith as trust is more than a commitment; it is also a deep trust in God and Jesus.  That trust is so deep that you are willing to get out of your nice safe boat and walk on water, or, ride your horse across a dangerous trail.  The opposite of faith is not infidelity, but “mistrust”—that is anxiety, and that is what happened to Peter.  One moment Peter was striding above the waves, just as Jesus was, and then his fears build into anxiety and he began to mistrust Jesus, so he started sinking.  Jesus is not telling Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  No, what Jesus was really saying was “Peter, why didn’t you trust me to keep you on the surface of the water, why did you mistrust me?”

Isn’t that what we all do? Don’t we all mistrust God and Jesus to fulfill our needs?  And, don’t our plans all too often sink, just as Peter did?  I know it is true for me.  My first steps out of the safety of my boat into the abyss of trust were with Sweet Pea and I froze.  I wasn’t sure I could trust her to carry me across that narrow path to safety.  But something in her eyes told me all would be well and you know what, 40 years later I’m still here.  Since that horseback camping trip in Mexico I have had many moments when I let my mistrust of Jesus keep me from achieving goals I know I could have achieved if I had had faith, if I had trusted, in the one leading me and I know that there will be more of them in my future.

You see I am human and to mistrust God is part of a being human because I have a strong sense of my own independence which wants to rule the day.  And having independence isn’t bad, nor is saying “No” to God and Jesus.  The choice of following or not following must always be mine.  It is when my independent voice says “Yes” that my trust in God and Jesus is the strongest and deepest for then I know with certainty that I am not alone.  I know then that nothing will shake by commitment to, my faithfulness in, the One All Surrounding Presence.

Have any of you ever read John Ortberg’s book If You Want To Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat?  Well Ortberg is right, you do have to step out of the boat, or onto the narrow path, and trust that everything will be all right.  I often wonder if we, if I, can sustain my trust in God long enough to get out of the boat on that raging sea called life and walk across the water?  More often than not we will set ourselves up for failure by allowing our hearts to mistrust Jesus’ promise that He “is with us always.”

Life can be hard task master and the main reason we don’t succeed is often how we see failure and loss of trust.  Losing our trust, our faith does not have to shape who we, you and me, are; it is the way we respond to that loss that shapes us.  Jesus wasn’t ridiculing Peter when he asked why he failed. Rather he was asking a question of Peter, ‘why did you lose your trust.’  Peter may not have understood the question at the time but following the resurrection he did and he stepped out of his nice safe boat big time.  For Peter, learning to walk on water and being rescued by Jesus was his turning point, his moment that began his trip to his own cross.

We too don’t understand the questions Jesus asks us and I am no different.  Right now I am struggling with so many questions that I don’t know which ones I’m asking and which ones God is asking.  All I know is the answers are not forthcoming.

One of the first lessons in trust happens to be learning to wait on God to guide us in the right direction.  We have to wait for the power to be given to us to walk on water.  We have to wait for Jesus to calm the seas for us.  Only then will we make it across that treacherous path or across the water’s surface.  The problem is all of us are impatient; we want results now, not tomorrow, but yesterday.  We want to move forward in our lives and we don’t care how we do it.  One of my favorite phrases is “Give me patience Lord, but hurry” and for many years that fit me to a “T.”  Slowing down and opening my heart and mind, trusting that Jesus will come is extremely hard.  It is putting myself, in utter vulnerability, into Jesus’ hands. It is letting go of what I want and trusting and having faith that Jesus will bring me what I need.

The idea that any of us are self made individuals is a myth.  We all need others in order to survive and thrive in our world.  We have always needed the other, not just in today’s world where we are globally connected, but in all of time we have been in need of the other in our lives.  That other might be our brothers and sisters, it might be the food we hunt or grow but what and who ever it is we cannot survive alone. We have always needed to choose who to trust, who we would have faith in and be faithful to.  We look for what will guide us in ways that will allow us to flourish and let our children flourish. We look to pass on our understanding of the world in a way that teaches our children to trust in something other than themselves or those who only think like them.  We look to trust someone who will honor our independent yes as much as our independent no.  We want to have faith in someone who will show us how to walk on water and skip across dangerous paths.

Peter lost his trust and began to sink but Jesus was there to lift him up and into the safety of the boat.  I lost my trust for a moment but the Holy Spirit said trust in the guide I have given you and together Sweet Pea and I made it safely across.  It has always amazed me as to the number of different ways the Holy Spirit makes herself known to me.  Sometimes I simply have to go with the flow of energy and trust that what will be is what is supposed to happen. It is all about trust. That is what faith is all about.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 10, 2014
Sermon given at Queen Anne Christian Church
Seattle, WA