Ancient Journeys

Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 

Matthew 2:13a Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you;

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The winter stretches across bare trees.

And in our book we close the chapter on creation
And turn to the Exodus, to the leaving,
To our new becoming.

The Mystery reveals itself in a different guise
Out of a burning
It says “I will be that I will be, this is my name,
I am everywhere, in all things, and I call you forward.
Now take off your shoes,
The ground you are standing on is holy.”

It is hard to hear and difficult to imagine
Something with us in the pain,
In the exposed rawness,
Something with us in the brokenness of life.

But the voice is persistent, it whispers, it shouts,
“I am all that is. Everywhere you are, there I am.

I am the oneness, the unity of all being
And we are in relationship.
And I call you forward.”

The very ground we stand upon is holy.
There is nothing outside the realm of God.
We live in relationship with everything.

This is our covenant—our agreement with the continual becoming:
To know that every moment is sacred.
To act with reverence for all.
And to listen for the whispered silence
That holds us and calls us forward
To be of use
Within the fragility of all life.*

*Picture and meditation by Rabbi Yael Levy, founder of “A Way In: Jewish Mindfulness Program,” January 22, 2016, Face Book Page

It seems since the beginning of time we are called to make journeys.  Adam and Eve journeyed from The Garden, Abram and Sarai leave for a place known only to God, and Joseph takes his small family of Mary and Jesus on the dangerous roads to Egypt.  We too make journeys.  In my life time I have journeyed across this country moving from Ohio, to Texas, to Washington, to California, and back to Washington. I have hopes that I won’t have to move again but I never know when God will call me to a new place.

There is one journey I have yet to make.  My father and mother have made it, I have had friends make it and my time will come I have no doubt in that. At some point in the future God will call me to make the last voyage in this life and cross to the next life.  Now that is a BIG journey.  No one has ever returned to tell us that it is safe journey without dangerous places.  In a way we will be making a journey similar to Abram’s and Sarai’s in that only God knows our destination.  And, we have no choice but to trust that God will find us a safe route.

Every living thing and creature in this universe will make the journey; fish or plant, dog or human, all of us will cross to a new life somewhere that only God can lead us.  Like the Hebrews in the desert we will have to look for the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night in order to find the right path.

Last week my beloved Chihuahua, Suzie, passed away.  She let go of this life and followed a new caretaker.  As I held her in my arms and felt her leave, I knew she was now in good hands.  I miss her but like family, friends, and other companions I know someday we will meet and cross the bridge together. Until I too am called, I will hold the memory of Suzie, family, friends, and companions in my heart, which grows to accommodate all the memories of those I love.

Suzie
Suzie

While I miss those who have gone ahead I am comforted by the peace that comes from knowing that I will join them someday and what a party we will have.

Peace and blessings to you all.  May your memories fill you with joy and give you comfort.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 24, 2016

 

The Work of Christmas Begins

A Poem by Howard Thurman

When the star in the sky is gone,
When the Kings and Princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins.
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry
To release the prisoner,
To teach the nations,
To bring Christ to all,
To make music in the heart.


Audio of Jim Strathdee singing I Am the Light of the World

Today, January 6th, is Epiphany, the day tradition tells us the Wise Men visited Jesus, Mary and Joseph. My mother used to call this day “little Christmas,” and she would prepare a special meal in the evening. I don’t remember gifts being exchanged but we did eat a lot, and usually finished up the Christmas cookies.  But, it was years later when the song I Am the Light of the World by Jim Strathdee, based on Howard Thurman’s poem, came out that I began to look at this day differently.

Today instead of just thinking about nameless astrologers coming from the east and giving unusual gifts to the Child I see this day as less a celebration and more of a new start to living as Jesus taught.  Thurman’s poem and Strathdee’s music remind us that Christmas isn’t just one day, 12 days, or the 34 days of Epiphany. (Yes, today only begins the season of Epiphany which will end on Ash Wednesday this year on February 10th when Lent begins.) We are called to carry the message of the love of compassion, justice and peace throughout the year.  The season of Epiphany offers us the opportunity to make caring for our fellow travelers on this planet, human or animal, a habit.  A habit that empowers the weak and the young, gives food to the hungry and compassion to our elderly, poor, lonely, homeless, and war torn neighbors in this place we call home.  Strathdee’s hymn is the theme song for our work in the world, the work of Christmas.

Every year we are given the opportunity to begin again as Jesus followers.  Every year we are reminded of who we are, and whose we are. Every year we are given another chance to live our lives in such a way as to bring change to the world.  Every year we are given the chance to accept the radical challenge of being the Christ figure for the people we see and interact with every day. It is a radical idea!  If each of our neighborhoods is changed, even a little, eventually we change the world and Jesus and God never asked us to be more than who we are, only to be the best that we can be.

To live with compassion, love justice and to travel in the company of the Divine is all we are asked to do. I don’t think that means a drastic change in our habits, rather it means we share what we have so that all have enough. Is that really so hard?

So I challenge myself, and you, to begin to change how we live in the world, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, standing up and letting your voice be heard when justice is violated and oh so many other little acts of compassion. Each of us can do something. We don’t have to do everything at once simply pick one to get started, let one act of love become a habit this year.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 6, 2016

Advent, Week One – Prayerful Tuesday

Deuteronomy 18:15-18 15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command.

Hope;  Photo by Ruth Jewell
Hope, the 1st Week of Advent;
Photo by Ruth Jewell

Advent is a time of preparation, longing, and anticipation.  While shopping, feasting, and celebrating have become part of the season they are not what Advent is about.  In fact Advent traditional was a time of fasting just as Lent is.  It is time to stop and reflect on what God has done and is about to do.  It is a time to get ready for the child that brings us the good news.  At my home Church Queen Anne Christian Church in Seattle we are taking this time to slow down and to be mindful of the graciousness of the creator. As faith community we want to buy less stuff and give more love, to slow our pace and live into the hope given by the gift of the Christ Child.   So during this season of Advent I am going to share the Advent meditations we are following at Queen Anne Christian Church.  May you find hope, peace, joy, and love as you prepare for the birth of love.

Meditations for a Mindful Advent
Queen Anne Christian Church
Seattle WA
2015

Slow down . . .  seek hope
Buy less . . . create peace
Eat less . . . embrace joy
Worry less . . . give love
Prepare your heart for new birth.

An Advent Prayer
God who causes stars to burn and energy to flow,
may Your presence be made known to us in new ways.
When we wonder where You are, shine Your light in new ways.
When we wonder why bad things happen, help us to find all of Your goodness.
When we feel hopeless, help us to become Your hope in the world.
You have created us out of stardust, and breathed into us life.
In You, all things are possible, and all things are created new.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, as we await the birth of the light of Christ
may we come to know You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.

Hope – The First Week of Advent

Light one candle 
Pray the “Advent Prayer” above.

Meditations 
At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.
— Christopher Reeve
Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated.
You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
— David Lloyd George
Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, what dream of hope calls to you?
Evening: As you look back on your day, where did you find hope?
Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of hope; include yourself.​

Ruth Jewell ©December 1, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

let there be light

Genesis 1:1-5: 1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Sunrise, Edmonds WA, July 5, 2013 Ruth Jewell
Sunrise, Edmonds WA, July 5, 2013
Ruth Jewell

Genesis 1:1-5 is one of my favorite scriptures and I have read, and reread it many times. I can imagine the pleasure God had at that first light because light always gives me pleasure.  To see the sun rise in the morning gives me great pleasure.  The sky goes from velvety black to a dark blue and the birds begin their morning song.  Then the first threads of sunlight break free of the horizon and begin to paint pinks, violets, and rose in the sky.  The color increase to oranges, and yellows until the Earth turns just ever so slightly and the first sliver of the bright sun is visible.  Now there is a grand chorus of bird song to add to the majesty of the morning. For me that is pure magic.

I grew up on a farm in Ohio and before dawn I went out to feed, cattle and horses. In the dark I would stop and watch for the incredible start to the day.  I simply love morning!  I love the return of light!  At those moments I can understand how ancient peoples came to worship the sun. To them it was magic; they didn’t know about the earth’s rotation, they weren’t even sure that the sun would return. For them the welcome sight of the light of day meant they had survived the time of dark and fear and now there was light and hope.

Light warms our home, Earth and produces the chlorophyll for plants to grow and provide the food for all of us animals, humans included. Light, warm light, life giving life.   The very air we breathe is dependent on light and the process of photosynthesis. Our very lives depend on the light that comes from our medium sized star we call the Sun. Without the warmth of the light our planet would be a cold and barren hunk of rock without life.  God breathed the breath of life over the waters and that breath was preceded by light.

Now our planet, in its journey around our sun, is tilting it’s northern face once again away from that life giving, warming light and that means shorter days and longer, colder, dark filled nights.  Oh I know the darkness has its place.  It is a time of rest and renewal for plant and animal alike. And as a person who has lived with the land I know plants and animals need that time of rest, whether it is one short night or the long winter nights.  But I am a creature of the day and already I yearn for the warmth of the spring morning when the sun rises with the trumpet of bird song.

On December 21st I will rejoice and offer a prayer of gratitude as the earth once again tilts the northern hemisphere back to the sun.  Spring will come again, just as it has every other year.  I will watch with growing anticipation the shortening of the night and lengthening of the days. And when that warm spring morning comes the birds and I will be there to welcome the return of the light.

May the light of God and the Universe give you joy this day.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 24, 2015

Covenant – Prayerful Tuesday

Genesis 9:12-13  12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 

Joseph Anton Koch, 1803
Joseph Anton Koch, 1803

The Hebrew Scripture for Sunday was from Genesis 9, the covenant between God and the earth.  Following the Flood, God voluntarily disarms, self-limits, herself by making a promise between Noah’s descendents and all creation never to destroy the earth again.  It is promise made to all of creation not just humans. God’s promise means we are to be in relation with each other and all of creation. (If you are not familiar with God’s promise please read Genesis 9:8-17.) Above is the painting by Joseph Anton Koch of Noah’s Thanksgiving Offering, which we will be using for today’s Visio Divina.

  1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, places and things.  Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
  2. 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?
  3.  Respond to the image with prayer. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? In what way does God’s promise change, or not change how you visualize your relationship with the earth, each other, and God? Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
  4. 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.

Rainbows are symbols of hope, and renewal following a crisis.  May this day bring you your own personal rainbow.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 24, 2015

Hope

Sermon Given at Lake Washington Christian Church
February 22, 2015


rainbow-landskape

Genesis 9:12-17  12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Psalm 25:5-6 5Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 6Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

1 Peter 3:21  21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Mathew 1:15-15 14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Awhile back a friend asked me what was my favorite scripture and without hesitation I said Micah 6:8 “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?”  Then she asked the question … Why? I had to think about that for awhile.  I could have said that it was how my Father ended all of our dinner prayers and hearing it always brings back wonderful memories.  Or, I might have told her my Disciples tradition has based its mission and vision statement on it and those statements have opened the door to a witness in social justice and peace in the greater world.  But while each of those reasons are truth the real reason is this one verse from Hebrew scripture gives me Hope.

It is the hope of the rainbow that symbolizes the covenant between God, one-another and all creation.  It is the cry of the Psalmist who says “O, Lord, Teach me your paths, Lead me in your truth and teach me,” and the voice of the Gospel writer of Mark who writes “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.”

In our world today hope seems to be too little and too late.  We watch the news and it’s filled with killing, greed, anger, hate, and very little that would give us hope for a better world.  Killing, whether of the body or spirit, disrupts God’s purpose for our lives. To kill a human being  made in the divine image is to subvert our lives which were purposely created to be lived in mutuality, support and respect, to live in right relationship with each other, God, and creation.  Killing for greed, hate, and anger is to kill a little of ourselves and build a wall, brick by terrible brick, between us and God.

So what does the word “Hope” mean for us then? Those who define words say it is to expect with confidence.  For others it means to expect things will get better, not only to get us through the difficult times in our lives, but also for our world, we will have a place of peace and justice for all creation, not tomorrow, or sometime in the far future but NOW, today.  We in all of our faith communities across the globe are called to seek justice, offer kindness, and be examples of living in peace to the world, to be a living hope.

God promised the descendants of Noah, and all creation that God would no longer destroy the world.  As a covenantal symbol of God’s own self-limiting, God’s disarmament, God placed a rainbow in the sky. In Noah’s time bows were symbols of violence just as guns are for us today.  So God laid down his weapon of mass destruction and placed it in the sky and said ‘I will no longer destroy what I have created.’  I wonder what God would place in the sky today, a nuclear bomb maybe?

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t forgotten all of the killing done in the name of God in Scripture.  And, I must admit I have difficulty with the genocidal practices of Joshua when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.  But I also know that just because a practice is in the Bible doesn’t make it an acceptable practice for today.  And, that is the reason I so firmly believe in God’s promises of hope.

You see God’s covenant of the rainbow means that we, you and I, all humans, are in a covenantal relationship with God, each other, and creation and that means that all life matters, my life, your life, white, black, yellow and brown life, furred and feathered life and (much to my discomfort) insect and spider life.  The Psalmist makes a claim of hope and trust in God and tells us that God’s protection flows from the mouths of those who have no hope or trust in systems of violence, injustice, and oppression. Not just overt physical acts of injustice but injustice and violence and oppression brought about by attitudes, social structures, and any other “isms” that threatens the peace and justice of God’s Kingdom.

God’s rainbow of hope spoken in the Good News of the Gospels goes beyond a “me-centered” interpretation of the world. God’s hope reaches out across our selfish desires to those who need hope, justice, and mercy. Where do you find God’s hope? It is placed where there is justice and peace and there you will find Kingdom of God. Jesus preached the Good News of hope. Hopeful news that leads not only to the salvation of those who accept the gift freely given, but is also the promise of something more, a new and different life for those who are the most victimized.  All faith communities are called to be participants in our own salvation by working for justice, now, in the context of our present world, thereby helping to bring the good news to those who need it, where ever and whenever it is needed.

We as believing members of our faith communities are to point the way to the kingdom breaking into our world right now. The kingdom of God isn’t a future event it is happening right now. Every time we offer a helping hand to someone who is hungry, or cold, or afraid the door to God’s Kingdom opens just a bit more.  Every time we stand up to those who would harm one of God’s children, the kingdom shines a bit brighter.  Every time we stand between victims of injustice and the perpetrators God let’s a little more light out of the door.   Every time we speak out when we see an injustice God smiles and sends another rainbow.

You know the Irish tell us that there is gold at the end of the rainbow, and I believe that is true.  Because I believe that God’s kingdom is that golden treasure and we are to seek it just as the man who sought out the pearl of great price.  What could be more beautiful than walking across the rainbow into the Golden Kingdom?

Yes, on the first Sunday in Lent, all of the Lectionary scriptures are about hope.  Whether you read Genesis, Psalm 25, 1 Peter, or Mark each of them has an element of hope for dark times, in a dark world.  Each one offers a ray of light to bring us out of darkness. The light calls us, bright and shinning, multicolored, and golden with hope and promise.  God first gave the rainbow as a promise that She would never forget any of her children.  The Psalmist tells us that God will always be there to sustain us.  And, Jesus, rekindled the hope in the hopeless that a better life was there for them.  Jesus reminds all of us that God will sustain us as we work to be the witness’ against injustice, violence and oppression.

God said, “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  How does Micah fit into this, well Micah reminds us which path we are to take, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  We are called to be living communities of hope, of God’s promise in every moment of our individual and communal lives.

AMEN

Ruth Jewell, ©February 23, 2015

“What If” – Prayerful Tuesday

Matthew 13:2b-9 “Listen! A sower went out to sow.4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”

Golden-Grain-Field-600x375

Every interpreter I have ever read tells us this scripture is about the ground. It’s about us being good or bad ground for the word of God.  So what if, just what if, we have it upside down.  I’m not saying we do, this is a “what if,” looking at the parable from the other side, from the Sower’s perspective.

Barbara Brown Taylor in her book The Seeds of Heaven, Sermons on the Gospel of Matthew (2004) asks what if this parable isn’t about us, not about our failures or success’.  But rather about an extravagant sower who flings his seeds everywhere and “wastes it with holy abandon?” If this isn’t about us as ground for the word of God then this parable has a completely new meaning.  Taylor says what if “the focus is not on us and our shortfalls but on the generosity of our maker, the prolific sower, who does not obsess about the conditions of fields, who is not stingy . . . but casts his seed everywhere, on good soil and bad.”  What if God, the prolific Sower, says I have a lot of seed and some will take hold right away, but who knows maybe, just maybe, some sown in not the best of places may still feed a soul. Suppose Jesus was saying we are to sow God’s word everywhere, don’t expect a harvest, or at least a big one, just speak the word, live the word, be the word, and see what happens.

So this week I challenge you to go and live the life of a prolific sower. Imitate the Great Sower, and be one of those who has ears and hears.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 3, 2015