Shouting Stones – Prayerful Tuesday

Luke 19:40: He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Power of 10 Are We Alone in the Universe,
Updated May 3, 2011 by Securityscience

Several years ago someone sent me this video that imagines going out from a 1 meter distance by a power of 10 up to 1020 Km or 10 million light years, then coming back to earth to 1 meter starting point and doing a reverse trip into a leaf by a power of ten to 10-16 meters or 100 Atómeters (that’s 0.0000000000000001 meters).  What has always fascinated me we could have kept going forever if we are traveling away from earth, there is no limit that we know of to the distance we can travel.  However, 10-16 is the smallest we can get if we reverse the trip.  After this point all is mystery.  What lies beyond that limit of 10-16?

While this video imagines going into leave they could just have easily imagined entering an atom of a rock.  You see that place of mystery is found in all things, living or what we call non-living.  Whether rock or human both are made of atoms and that means that this place of mystery is found in rocks, humans, our pets, trees, and air.  What mystery does this place hold? What if our connection to all things created is found within this gigantic, tiny, place. What if, this is where the Divine can be found and how would that idea change the way you think about our planet, our universe.

When George Lucas created the story of Star Wars he consulted with the author Joseph Campbell about mythology and how it explains the unexplainable. From those conversations Lucas developed the concept of the “Force” surrounding and being within all things, not unlike this place of mystery in every atom. So might our search for the unexplainable be present within each of us?

Might it be that developing a relationship with the Creator requires us to look within ourselves, to listen to the inner “voice” that whispers to us at the edge of our consciousness. That is what the mystics tell us we should do.  What if we should recognize the presence of the Creator in more than each other? That we should respect all created things, even rocks because the Creator, or however you name or depict the Divine, will be found there.

This week’s meditation

After you watch this video look at your hand and contemplate how the molecules and atoms that make up your hand resemble the greater universe.  Then contemplate how the place of mystery compares to the limitlessness of space. Where might you find the greatest mystery of life?  Contemplate how we as humans are connected to more than each other. Then ask yourself “what can I do, no matter how small, to help reconnect each of us to the Divine?”

Ruth Jewell, ©December 29, 2015.

Advent, Week Four, Love – Prayerful Tuesday

And now faith, hope, and love abide,
these three; and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Fourth Week of Advent Love Photo by Ruth Jewell
Fourth Week of Advent Love
Photo by Ruth Jewell

FAITH, HOPE, LOVE

faith, hope, love
in faith an elderly Priest and his wife
waited for their first child
in faith a maiden utters the words
“Here Am I”

in love a child leaps in the womb
at the approach of the pregnant Mary
in love a bridegroom
takes a pregnant girl as his wife

in love Mary lays
her first born in a manger
in love the angels sang
and a star appeared

in hope the shepherds
came to the stable
in hope Magi followed a star
to kneel at the feet of a carpenters son

Faith, Hope, Love
all three were needed
for the greatest of miracles
but it was Love that conquered all

Ruth Jewell, December 21, 2015

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 You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.

Love – The Fourth Week of Advent
Light four candles and pray “an Advent Prayer.”

Meditation
Snowflakes, leaves, humans, plants, raindrops, stars, molecules, microscopic entities
all come in communities. The singular cannot in reality exist.
— Paula Gunn Allen

All this hurrying soon will be over. Only when we tarry do we touch the holy.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Questions
Morning: In anticipation of the day, call to mind the people you will meet.
Evening: As the day ends, where did you tarry, where did you glimpse the holy?

Prayer
Offer a prayer for those in need of Love; include yourself

Ruth Jewell ©December 22, 2015, Advent Meditations by Laurie Rudel, Pastor Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA

For Unto Us – Prayerful Tuesday

John 1:1-5  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

The Nativity, Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, (1617-1682)
The Nativity,
Bartolomé Estaban Murillo, (1617-1682)

 

This is one of my favorite paintings of the birth of Jesus.  There is just something about the expressions on Mary and Josephs faces as they look at the new small being in their life that draws me in.  I once saw the original in the Boston Museum of Art and this tiny painting on black slate captivated me as no others have.

However, I must admit that despite loving this painting, I don’t see the nativity as an actual historical event.  It has been a long time since I believed in the virgin birth. I am a scientist by training and I know that while ‘virgin’ births do happen in nature, it’s called parthenogenesis, they only occur in certain species of worms and small crustaceans called daphnids.   So this event was a no go for me not long after my first serious biology class. But the importance of the birth story is not in history, it is in the symbolism of new life breaking into the world in the form of God within the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  New life, not of a baby’s, rather a new life lived in a world where all achieve their God given potential. Living in the world as Jesus did, with limitless love and compassion, offering justice and mercy to those who are in need, and offering a peace that fills the soul. Well then again maybe it is like the birth of a baby, for we all experience new insights as new birth within us.

So why I may not believe Jesus was born in an actual stable I do believe he was been born in the stables, and dark corners of our minds, societies, and cultures.  Jesus is the one who birthed new life in those dark recesses of our hearts and minds.  Who lit up the alley ways where suffering, pain, and violence reside bringing the light of love to those who were the unlovable.  In prayer and action we, you and I, continue to carry that light.  We take it to prisons, hospitals, hospice rooms, to the homeless, to the hungry, to anyone in need of the light provided by “The Way.”  At least we are supposed to.

Today I ask you to use the above painting for your Prayerful Tuesday Meditation using Visio Divina.

Visio Divina

  1. Look at the painting slowly, taking a first glance and 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? What moves you in this painting? Does it draw you in or call to you in any particular way?
  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? Offer that 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.

May you be blessed with the birthing of new life within you.  Merry Christmas everyone.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 23, 2014

Dying to be Born – Prayerful Tuesday

Photo by NASA
Photo by NASA

 

This past week I have been meditating with a book by Jan Phillips[1] and one of the daily readings was on creativity and the Cosmos a chapter that touched me deeply as I read it.  Someone once asked her “what is dying to be born?” and I realized that I have been asking that question of myself and the universe for many years.  If I think about birth and death in the Cosmos then I have to remember that every time a star dies many more are born in its place.  Our Sun came from the death of one such star and we are the children of that star.  Every element in our body once resided inside the burning birth chamber of a star.  When our sun dies it will spread all of the elements we now carry out into the universe to be born again in another star and planet and maybe another life.  How’s that for immortality.

I have been pondering various forms of the question ‘what is dying to be born’ for a long time now.  It is a good question no matter how it is framed.  It is important to recognize that we are dying and being reborn each day, in every moment of each day.  Who I am now is the product of what died to give me life in this moment. In recent years I have given a great deal of my meditation time to what wants to be born in me and what has to be ejected before that happens.  I am slowly coming to understand some of what and who I am.  For the first time in 67 years I feel a sense of purpose that has come from my own efforts instead of letting outside forces change me.  Taking the time to be in prayer has helped form new paths that I would never have explored otherwise.  So today I present a quest for each of you, and if you choose to accept it you might, just might, discover your own new paths.

The quest I am presenting to you this day is to focus for 15 minutes each day on what within you is dying to be born.  To open your heart and mind to the universe and let the sounds of new born stars and newborn babies inspire you to new paths of exploration.  To bless you on your journey I offer the following prayer written by Jan Phillips calls on the connection we have with all creation:

Our Father, Holy Mother
Creator of the Cosmos, Source of Life
You are in my mind, in my garden,
in my cup of wine and loaf of bread.
Blessed be your names:
Mother, Allah, Goddess, Beloved, Father,
Radiant One, Yahweh, HaShem, Sophia
Your presence has come, your will is done
on earth as it is in the cosmos.

May we give each other strength, mercy,
tenderness, and joy
and forgive each other’s failures,
silence, pettiness, and forgetfulness
as we ask to be forgiven
by those we’ve hurt.

Lead us home
to ourselves, to You,
to clarity, to oneness
and deliver us from the darkness
of our ignorance and fear.

So we pray and so we receive. Amen

— Jan Phillips, No Ordinary Time, pg. 63

Ruth Jewell, ©July 8, 2014

 

[1] Phillips, No Ordinary Time, Published by the LivingKindness Foundation, San Diego, CA, 2011

 

Let There Be Light – Prayerful Tuesday

Auchmithie Milky Way, B&B Photography, 14.05.04
Auchmithie, Scotland Milky Way, B&B Photography, 14.05.04

“And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to light upon the earth.”  Genesis 1:16-17 Walking at night has always been one of my favorite things to do.  I grew up in the country and I have seen the Milky Way spread across the sky with my own eyes.  This picture taken on a Beach in Scotland reminded me of how beautiful the Universe is.  It is because of stars we are alive. We are made of star dust and a star warms our earthen home.  We owe our very existence to the life giving power of stars.  Gaze into the picture, look deep into the mystery, do you see yourself, looking back.  When the skies are clear (I know that is difficult to find here in the Northwest) take walk outside.  Gaze at the star studded sky and dream.

  • As You gaze at the picture take a deep breath and let it out slowly, take a second breath and let it out slowly, let your shoulders relax and your gaze soften.
  • Look deeply at the picture and let the colors of the night sky enter your imagination. What feelings does this bring to the surface?  What memories or stories?  Imagine you are walking on a star studded night, what does that look like and feel like to you.
  • Respond to the image with a prayer for God’s entire universe.  Offer a prayer of intercession and thanksgiving for the abundance God has graces us with.
  • Continue to gaze at the picture, breathe deeply and rest quietly.  Let God pray in you in silence beyond words.

Ruth Jewell, ©May 20, 2014

a morning prayer

God said "Let  there be light" (ngc4921, NASA)
God said “Let there be light”
(ngc4921, NASA)

May we remember today that we are part of an unfolding story
That calls us to listen to God’s words with intent to action
May we live in the reality of God’s kingdom entering into our lives
May we rejoice in the wonder of God’s eternal presence
May all that we do deepen our awareness of God
May we see in every moment the spark of holiness
And recognize Christ in every encounter
May God’s word burst from the pages of our lives and …
become the life we live
AMEN

Ruth Jewell, ©March 22, 2014

 

Seeking God’s Face

Master of Vienna, Adoration (1410), FB Page The Celtic Christian Tradition
Master of Vienna, Adoration (1410), FB Page The Celtic Christian Tradition

Sermon – Epiphany Sunday
January 5, 2014
Queen Anne Christian Church Seattle, WA

Matthew 2:1-12 (Common English Bible [CEB])

Coming of the magi

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Greek derivation of Magi, (Strongs Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek Dictionary)

3097. magos mag’-os  (of foreign origin (7248); a Magian, i.e. Oriental scientist; by implication, a magician:–sorcerer, wise man, [interpreter of dreams, prophet].   (plural, could refer to a male or female wise person)

The story of the Magi is such a familiar story. We have heard this story so many times before and I am sure all of us are able to repeat it without difficulty, at least the surface story.   I was confronted with this simple story, which is anything but simple, when I chose to meditate on it for Epiphany Sunday’s Sermon. Sitting in silence, letting the words of Matthew settle into my subconscious I realized there is so much more to this tale than I first believed. There are also way too many questions to address in a single sermon.  If you ever wanted to experience an abundance of graces just read this story carefully.   I could go into the fact that the gender and number of the Magi is never mentioned in the scripture and that the Magi were gentiles; or the Magi don’t visit the stable, they come to the home of Joseph and Mary; and because the story of the killing of the Bethlehem’s children that follows the Magi’s visit lead scholars to believe Jesus could have been as old as 2. And, that’s just few of the questions I found in these 12 verses of Matthew Chapter 2.  What did intrigue me, and what I will discuss, was never addressed by all of the learned theologians I perused. What I wanted to know was the reason these learned gentiles come in search of a child, a child born to a carpenter and his wife.  And, what unknown gifts still hides in this story for me, and all of us, beyond the pretty tale of rich strangers visiting a destitute baby?

First of my questions was what did the Magi expect to find when they arrived in Jerusalem.  Since they came to the city of the kings of Judea they must have expected to find the child born there, and to parents with more than a lineage to David. My guess is they had expected to find a somewhat wealthy family, or at least fairly well off.  After all they were looking for a King and you normally don’t find one living in the home of working class people. They must also have been confused and terribly disappointed that no one knew what they were talking about. I mean, the birth of a King is big news isn’t. Doesn’t everyone celebrate the birth of a King? It isn’t until King Herod calls them for an audience do they learn that the prophets foretell the birth of “the anointed one,” “the Christ,” was to happen in Bethlehem.  I have no doubt they left somewhat confused. But, eventually they find the baby living in the home with his mother and father. They even bring gifts, and while Mary might have preferred diapers, the gifts they gave were costly and fit for a King.  (By the way Bethlehem and the gifts are never mentioned again, why? Another question to confound me.)

They were seeking a child, an infant King, someone who would turn the Roman world upside down and I can only imagine their surprise at finding the child in such humble circumstances. They brought gifts Herod would have drooled over, gold, frankincense, myrrh.  Wonderful gifts but not really practical for the family they found, well the gold was probably most welcome.  But frankincense and myrrh those aren’t baby gifts.  Frankincense and myrrh were used to perfume oils and ointments for the purification of worship spaces and the anointing of the dead.

Now I know what Matthew was implying by the gifts: Gold was the symbol of Jesus’ kingship, frankincense the symbol for the priestly role Jesus would be called to live, and myrrh a foretaste of what he would endure at the end of his life.   But I think these gentile scholars brought something else and it has been bequeathed to us today and our children. The Magi brought the gift of “seeking God’s face.”

God has always welcomed us and longed for our inquisitive search for the face of the Divine, and She encourages us to reach for her Holy arms.  One of David’s Psalms says it well:

30 I will praise God’s name with song;
I will magnify him with thanks
31     because that is more pleasing to the Lord than an ox,
more pleasing than a young bull with full horns and hooves.
32 Let the afflicted see it and be glad!
You who seek God—
let your hearts beat strong again
— Psalm 69:30-32 (CEB)

And in the Book of Acts Paul tells the Athenians “27 God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us.” (Acts 17:27)  No God is never far away, we are.  And, seeking the face of God is one of the joys of creation we should do more often.

The Magi were the first to seek God’s face in its incarnated form, the face of a child.  For Matthew the Magi represent the mission Jesus gives his disciples to reach out to all peoples but especially gentiles, and those born within the great humble mass of humanity, in all its lovely diversity; poor and rich, young and old, all genders, all races, and all people.

For me the Magi represent the longing to see God in the face of my beloved, my grandchildren, best friend, and all creation.  I too want to see the incarnated God, I too long to see the ever present being in the first light of dawn, and I do see it in the face of my beloved when he first opens eyes in the morning.  The Magi have passed this longing down to us and I am grateful for the gift and grateful to pass it on to the next generation.

The Magi’s gift of presence to a child in a humble home was passed on to us through Jesus’ presence in his life, death and resurrection.  Now it is our mission to be present to the incarnated child born to humble parents.   To recognize and honor the incarnation born in each of us, through our gifts to the world whatever they may be; caring for each other, the environment, our nation, and our world.  It is up to us to be the Magi of today and visit the child in a humble home, to offer the gold of our love, to purify our mistakes with the frankincense of compassion; and to anoint those who pass on to the next world with the myrrh of God’s blessings and praise.   In a Judean desert David writes:

God! My God! It’s you—
I search for you!
My whole beingthirsts for you!
My body desires you
in a dry and tired land,
no water anywhere.
Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary;
I’ve seen your power and glory.
My lips praise you
because your faithful love
is better than life itself!
So I will bless you as long as I’m alive;
I will lift up my hands in your name.
— Psalm 63:1-4 (CEB)

So too are we called to offer our praises to God, honor the child that lives today, in each one of us, and in all of creation.  Seek the face of God in all you meet, child, adult, male or female, and all of God’s marvelous creation.  Look in the eyes of your loved ones, your companion animals, see the face of God looking back.  Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©January 7, 2014

 

A Child

a child is born
a child like no other
a child born
to change the world

a child to turn the world
of Rome upside down
an “Anointed One”
to challenge greed and power

the stars in the sky celebrate
the scholar honors with kingly gifts
Herod and all Jerusalem with him
tremble

fear who sits on the shoulder of Rome
awakens
fear of a fall
fear of being nothing

the Magi bend their knees
hold a child in their arms
creaking old voices laugh
with a child whose laugh lights the sky

come to the home of Mary
visit the child of love
bring your gift of presence
bring your gift of self

Ruth Jewell, ©January 3, 2014