Forgiveness – Prayerful Tuesday

kneeling prayer sketch croped

Matthew 18:21-22: 21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

This week’s prayer practice comes from the lectionary readings.  In Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone and Jesus’ response is an astronomical number. So how many times should we forgive? An infinite number of times.

I have often wondered what brought up that topic for Peter.  Did he have someone he needed to forgive, did one of the other disciples do something that irritated him, or might one of his family been causing him trouble?  I know those are some of the reasons I often need to offer forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.

Hurting someone’s feelings is simply part of being human and living in relationships.  We are not always pleasant to be around anymore than anyone else is and so unless we forgive each other of those hurt feelings we would be carrying a terrible burden that would eventually eat away at our souls.

Several years ago a man entered an Amish school house and killed all of the children before he shot himself. It would have been understandable for the families of those children to be angry and want revenge on the shooters family, but that is not what happened.  Instead they surrounded the widow and her children in love and cared for her and her children in her grief the way they cared for their own grief.  A spokesperson for the Amish community said the best way to remember the lives of the children lost was to offer forgiveness and compassion to the shooters wife and child and if the shooter had survived they would have told him they forgave him. I have known Amish families and I wasn’t surprised by their actions but still it must have been very hard to offer that kind of loving forgiveness.  You see I have carried around some anger for a long time for something someone did to my mother and I need to let forgive the person.  It is time to simply release that anger and offer my forgiveness.  In his book Spiritual Gems of Islam[1] Imam Jamal Rahman offers a meditation practice that guides us in releasing our anger and offering forgiveness even when the person is no longer with us by reaching out to the soul of the person to be forgiven.  Briefly here are the steps to follow:

  1. Begin in a state of meditation or stillness, let yourself feel safe and loved When you are ready call to the soul the person you wish to address
  2. Give yourself permission to experience your feelings this person evokes in you. Notice in your body where those feelings are located.  Feel compassion and mercy for yourself and slowly embrace those feelings
  3. When you are ready allow the feelings of mercy and compassion as a bridge to the persons soul and tell why you are forgiving them.
  4. Offer a prayer in the presence of the person’s soul that expresses your needs in relation to the person. State your heartfelt desire in prayer. End the prayer with whatever is in your highest interest, is manifesting for you now.
  5. As you continue to meditate tell the person’s soul that they have been part of your life but that it is now time to let them go, with love and forgiveness. Jamal recommends a ritual of cutting cords to release your attachment to the person.
  6. Listen for the soul of the other person expressing gratitude for this work of healing. Offer to release the person’s soul and envision his/her soul being embraced by the Holy Spirit.
  7. As you end of your meditation, give yourself permission to be loved by the Spirit and slowly return to awareness.

The above is a brief introduction to the prayer practice but it follows all of the steps.  However, if you are interested in furthering your understanding of this beautiful Sufi meditation I strongly recommend reading Imam Rahman’s book.

Peace to you all, and May your heart open like a flower in forgiving love for the unlovable and the lovable alike.

Ruth Jewell, ©September 9, 2014

[1] Rahman, Imam Jamal, Spirituality of Islam,  Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT, 2013, pgs. 148-150.

Guns, Fear, and Paranoia

For the last several weeks I have been trying to make sense of the tragedy of Newtown Connecticut and all the rest of the massacres before and since Newtown. I am especially confused by America’s fascination with guns and I must admit I don’t understand.  Why do we need to have everyone armed?  I keep thinking people who carry handguns, or own automatic or semi-automatic weapons are feeding a deep seated inadequacy and guns allow them to feel powerful.  I wouldn’t call such people cowards but they obviously have fear issues that they blow way out of proportion to what the real world offers. And, if someone thinks 6 and 7 year olds are a threat to your life then you really need to see a professional and get counseling. 

The NRA tells us that more guns are the solution to our problem of gun violence, and I respectfully question their thinking and sanity.  How can more guns on the street prevent gun violence?  It didn’t in 1800’s and it won’t now.  Wasn’t it Wyatt Earp in Dodge City who banned guns in town and reduced the level of violence that the town was famous for?  How does the NRA support such a ridiculous statement? 

While I am primarily a vegetarian I accept the fact that some people still hunt for food, especially in Alaska.   But, I just don’t see the sport in killing a living animal. In the lower 48 is it really necessary to go out and kill an animal for food these days?  Can’t people get the same thrill of “hunting” using a camera to “bring home your trophies?  After all you’re in the same outdoor environment and it takes as much, or more, skill to get a good picture than it does to kill an animal.  

I am at a loss as to why anyone would own any weapon other than a single shot rifle.  Everything else is only good for killing another human being.  Unless, of course, you want shredded deer meat you aren’t going to use an automatic rifle to go deer hunting and I can’t imagine what such a weapon would do to bird. 

Unless you have to hunt to put food on your table then there is no excuse or reason to own a gun.  If you are a collector then all your specimens should be permanently disabled and securely locked up to prevent them from being used at any time. 

I am afraid that just like everyone else I don’t have answers other than to say this country needs massive group counseling for paranoia.  The world can be a scary place when you don’t know what tomorrow brings.   But in my experience tomorrow is never as bad as the “so called experts” say it will be and contrary to all rumors the world will not end if individuals do not own weapons used only for killing people. 

Gun violence isn’t about guns, it’s about people, individuals and groups, who see the worst in the future and can’t imagine a world that embraces life rather than death. I have great pity for such people for they live in a world I am totally unfamiliar with.  Such people are sick and should be treated as such, with compassion and sympathy and help for their fears that feed their paranoia.  So maybe that is my solution – group therapy for people who own guns.  I don’t think it would hurt and maybe it would help those who feel a false sense of fear feeding their personal inadequacy, which leads to paranoia, which leads to violence.  Maybe, just maybe, there would be fewer massacres such as Newtown, Portland, Colorado, Seattle, Tacoma, there are too many to name.  Sick people use guns to kill other people, I get that, but what I don’t get is why we don’t address the root cause and that is, unreasoning fear and paranoia in large numbers of people in this country.  We need to address that issue, and then guns won’t matter.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 14, 2013

It Was In Prayer

Prayer is the KeySermon preached at Queen Anne Christian Church, January 13, 2013

Acts 8:14-17    14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17Then Peter and John* laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:15-22     15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler,* who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

As I was reading the many different stories of Jesus’ baptism this past week I was reminded of my own baptism and the story surrounding it.  I was 10 years old when I attended the class that would prepare me, and my entire Sunday school class, for baptism.  While I had attended church all my young life, for me, this baptism was more about how cool it would be to suddenly become “Holy” and have all my sins forgiven. I mean my thoughts were, “Wow all of my sins were going to be forgiven, even the ones mom and dad didn’t know about, how cool was that.”  

I wasn’t disappointed when the sky didn’t open up and I didn’t hear a voice or see a dove, but I was disappointed that I didn’t “feel” any different. I didn’t feel as if I had been forgiven.  However, knowing, at the wise age of 10, that I should feel something I was afraid to say anything because everyone else seemed so darned happy.  It would be another 20 years before I felt I was beginning to understand what baptism meant and felt a tug to renew that commitment and asked to be re-baptized.  This time I knew that something was different; I just didn’t know what it was. It would take another 20 years of trying to live a good life, failing most times, but, sometimes coming close before I experienced what I call an intervention by the Holy Spirit and had a new enlightenment about what it meant to be part of a faith community. 

At the time this happened I was at a very difficult place in my life and my “ah-ha” moment was the most dramatic event to ever happen to me.  It changed how I viewed myself and everyone and everything around me in relation to how I envisioned my life with God, Spirit and Christ.   Now, events like that do not happen every day or for every person. But, I am grateful for what I experienced and feel blessed to have been given something I feel is special and I try to live into the promise given me that day. 

You are probably calculating in your mind “let see 10+20+20=50, she was fifty when baptism finally made sense!”  All I can say is I’m a really slow learner.  But yes, I didn’t I understand what it meant to be baptized until I was well into my adult years. Your own stories may say you understood before, during or right after you entered and exited the waters of baptism.  Every person is different and the Spirit picks the time it will act, we don’t tell the Holy Spirit.  Nor do we pick the moment when all of it comes together.  In my tradition of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Baptism is believer’s baptism by immersion, just as it was for Jesus.  That means we are supposed to know why we do it and for most part I think most of us do, for some of us it just takes a little longer. As Luke tells the story it didn’t come together even for Jesus until after he was baptized and in prayer.

You know we have heard the stories of Jesus’ baptism so often we don’t actually ‘hear’ it when it is read.  It is actually only in Mark and Matthew where we have a retelling of John baptizing Jesus.  How many of you unconsciously substituted Mark’s or Matthew’s story in the above Luke scripture when you read it and missed the focus of Luke’s telling of the story? 

First of all Luke does tell us Jesus was baptized. He doesn’t actually say it was John the Baptist, although most likely it was. But in Verse 3:21, Luke’s story of Jesus’ baptism is almost an afterthought.  Jesus was baptized with all of those who came to the Jordan River.  He was baptized just like any other person seeking repentance and forgiveness.  Nothing special, it was an act of commitment and faith just like every person coming to John at the Jordan River.  What is highlighted is that sometime after the baptism when Jesus was in prayer the Spirit descends upon him “like a dove” and he hears God’s voice say “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  

Luke doesn’t focus much on the commitment, repentance and forgiveness of the act of baptism.  Instead his focus is on the baptism of the Spirit, just as John tells his audience in Verse 16; “… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  Jesus’ baptism is with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit decides when that will happen, and, for Luke prayer plays a huge role in when the Holy Spirit comes. 

In the first scripture reading from Acts we read that a Samaritan Community had been baptized but “the Spirit had not yet come upon … them,”  so Peter and John travel to Samaria pray for the Holy Spirit and lay “their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”  Jesus was in prayer, Peter and John prayed and the Holy Spirit came.    Does this mean that the Spirit will always come in response to prayer … ah … probably not? As I said the Spirit picks the moment when it gives enlightenment, not us.

But Luke’s focus on the act of prayer is the key to our spiritual doors; prayer has a special place in Luke’s Gospel.  The Evangelist tells us Jesus is constantly going away to be in prayer, he prays with his disciples, he prays for the sick, the lame, and the possessed.  Jesus prays in the garden and on the cross. Jesus’ entire life is a model of a life lived in prayer and the relationship with his Abba that prayer fostered.  For Luke the most important thing Jesus taught his disciples was prayer.  The way to talk to and build relationship with God is in prayer.

Luke continues his theme of prayer in his second book, the Acts of the Apostles. Following Jesus’ ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem and devoted their time to prayer.   They prayed when they replaced Judas with Matthias.  When the Holy Spirit descends on them they were all sitting together, my guess is they were praying, as that would have been their practice.  The first converts were taught by the Apostles to pray and when the community became too great to lead by themselves, they appointed Stephen and Philip to do community management, so they, the Apostles, could devote themselves to teaching, baptizing and prayer. 

I am not saying that Luke ranked baptism as second to prayer, for he doesn’t. Baptism is and will always be the first sacrament. For us Disciples baptism is one of only two sacraments we have, the other being the Lord’s Supper.  However, Luke is explaining to his community of Gentile converts that it takes the two together, baptism plus prayer, to fully understand the commitment made in Christ’s name.  He is also trying to explain to his community that the Holy Spirit does not always come in direct response to baptism.  Sometimes it comes before or after baptism, it is the Spirits choice.  Paul experiences Christ and the Spirit on the road to Damascus and is baptized after that dramatic event.  As Luke describes Paul and as Paul writes in his letters the act of prayer is an important part of being in a Christian Faith Community.  Baptism is the commitment to God and community often in response to prayer.  Baptism plus prayer is the key that opens the door of our heart, into that inner place of the Spirit and shows us the way to live a life that is Christ filled, God filled and Spirit filled. 

One isn’t more important than the other, in fact, we need both for the key to work, but some of us have locks where the Spirit connects with us first and then we are baptized, sometimes it’s the other way around and sometimes it’s all at the same moment.  It is a little like an analogy I picked up from my biologist research days using DNA, RNA and enzymes in comparing how they work in our bodies to how our spiritual DNA, RNA and enzymes might work in our spiritual bodies.

Our Spiritual DNA determines the shape of the RNA and how it will fit together with the enzymes in our bodies.  Each has to be a specific shape in order for both to fit together like a lock and key.  The enzyme only fits one way in each person and when it does the two together create something new and important to keep us living.  I don’t know which of the two, baptism or pray, is the RNA and which the enzyme. I do know that how they fit together in each of us is a specific characteristic for each individual.  Both parts are needed in order for the spiritual life to come awake. 

Luke knows baptism is important; everyone who comes to Christ is baptized.  Everyone who is baptized will have their own experience of Spirit, often whether they recognize it as such or not. The Holy Spirit often speaks so quietly that only a quiet new awareness begins to guide us without our knowing why.  Prayer is the tool used by the Spirit to teach us the meaning of baptism and how to be in relationship with God, Christ and Holy Spirit. 

How we respond to baptism will be an individual act, how the Spirit guides us is the result of prayer.   We can’t have one without the other if we are to live into a Faith Filled Community of God.  Baptism is the recognition of our humanness, our humanity and our commitment to something greater than who we are.  Prayer is the part that leads to our understanding of what our humanity and commitment means.  The two together are the Key that unlocks the door to the Kingdom.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 13, 2013

Standing at the Door

The Open Hearts Door
The Open Hearts Door

Revelation 3:20- “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door; I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.”

For the last four months I have been on an inward journey.  I don’t know where this journey will lead me, although I am hoping it will help me come to some conclusions about ministry. Beginning in September I did mostly silent prayer or, depending on the day and moment, contemplative prayer.  I would sit for 30 minutes to an hour in silence up to three times a day.  I discovered that I was developing a very quiet place somewhere inside and all of the stress and disappointment of the last year were beginning to slip away. As I felt the need I started adding other practices, a bible study, a new interplay class, and a book study.

Through all of this I wrote in my Journal and added to my blog and one of the repeating themes is I am looking at scripture and readings from a very different perspective and the above scripture from Revelation is a good example.

I am fairly confident that all of you have seen the iconic picture of Jesus standing at a door knocking.  Have you looked closely there is no door handle; the door must be opened from the inside.  This passage from Revelation has been bugging me lately so I started taking it apart and trying to visualize it from a different angle.  The one perspective that seems to intrigue me is what if the door is the one into my heart and the person standing on the outside is me, not Jesus.  The door is ajar but I have to make the effort to push it open and walk in and in my meditations I seem to be standing at the entrance unable to move toward the door.  Sort of like the rodent in one of Rudyard Kipling books where it won’t go into the center of the room but always creeps around the edges.

The reason this perspective seems to be so important is 1) I have always believed part of the creator already resides within me, and for that matter within all of creation; 2) the place behind the door to my heart, or hearts door, represents for me my deepest level of spirituality.  It is the place that knows me best, the good and the bad, and offers forgiveness and grace even when I do not acknowledge it.    So, to me, it makes perfect sense that in the room behind the hearts door I will find G-d because G-d is the root, or grounding, of my very being and where I want to be.  But I am afraid to cross the threshold.

So what does it mean if I am the one outside of my hearts door?  First of all it means that
G-d/Jesus/Holy Spirit is waiting for me to acknowledge the Divine Presence and that that recognition means I am giving up some of the control of my life over to the true being within.  The acknowledging part is fairly easy, but, crossing the threshold and entering into full communion with the Divine is a lot harder.   There are risks to crossing into that sacred place, for one thing I would have to let go of my ego, and many of my desires, such asto always be at the top of everything.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit wants me to be second, third or even last at some task because it challenges me to look deeper at who I am and who I want to be. Because of my unwillingness to let go of my ego, I have spent most of my 65 years standing outside the chamber behind my hearts door and it has resulted in a life where hard lessons are learned and travels on rocky roads are my only choices. I had to hit rock bottom before I could accept that I could not live this life alone, I needed help; I needed love, grace, and forgiveness in order to become who I am.

Fourteen years ago I was at that rock bottom place and my path choices weren’t looking all that appealing.  I have always wondered why we have to be at the worst possible crossroad in order to recognize the grace and forgiveness of G-d, but it does and I am no exception.  Just like John of the Cross I was having my own “dark night of the soul.” It wasn’t until all light in my life had disappeared that I called out to G-d, crossed the threshold and entered into the arms of the Divine.

One result of my turning this scripture around so I stand at the door instead of Jesus is that I become the one to initiate contact with G-d.  G-d, Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes the force that waits for me to decide how, and when I will respond to their call.  I choose to cross the threshold or walk away.  Granted I have had a great deal of preparation for that moment in my life but a willingness to risk everything on an invisible (and to some non-existent) entity does not make the choice any easier.  Maybe that is why it takes those “dark nights” for us to make the choice to let our lives be lead by the Divine.  Unless we have only two choices, life or death, before us we won’t choose life.  We will continue to walk without the guidance of G‑d because that path seems easier to walk than the one G-d and there are so of those distractions to choose from.  But that is an illusion.

I must admit to a lot of darting out the door only to return with bowed head asking for forgiveness.  I am always amazed at the joy the Divine exhibits at the return of this wayward child. I know I am blessed by grace because I can fail G-ds expectations over and over again and return over and over again and I will be welcomed home just as the prodigal son was, with fatted calf and celebration.

See G-d wants us to be inside that sacred room and whenever we leave, the Divine keeps the fires burning for our return.  I like to think that hot chocolate and double chocolate chip cookies are waiting for me to communion with the ground of my being.  All I have to do is cross the threshold.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 29, 2012

This I Believe

  1. All of us have a God-given purpose
  2. The Holy Spirit, Christ, God will not abandon us, we, however can abandon God
  3. We are not a people on the edge of death, we are a people leaping into life
  4. If we have faith in who we are and who we will become in the name of the Divine, we will succeed
  5. As we re-member with God we learn who we are meant to be
  6. Change hurts
  7. Letting the Divine lead us is not easy because we have trouble ‘hearing’ Gods voice
  8. Learning to ‘listen’ for the voice of God is hard work, but practice makes perfect and each time we try our ‘hearing’ gets better
  9. Fear is the little killer that will keep us from hearing and following God
  10. Fear is always disguised as a ‘rational’ voice that tells us if we try anything new we will fail, it is too hard, no one will follow us
  11. Fear puts barriers between us and God
  12. Fear is the servant of our own Ego
  13. Ego wants only to rule, not serve
  14. Ego manipulates us and those around us
  15. Ego creates fear so it will be safe
  16. Ego must always win
  17. When Ego wins, God loses
  18. Miracles happen when we ask for them and when we believe they will happen
  19. Miracles aren’t just big-ticket items, they are the everyday occurrences where we see little step-by-step gains
  20. Hope  is born when we see little miracles
  21. Faith grows when we accept God is with us on our path
  22. God does not live somewhere ‘out there’, God lives within me, us, and within each and every living thing
  23. God answers prayers, maybe not the way we expect, but, if we listen we will hear the still small voice
  24. God is lonely sometimes
  25. The Divine wants us to call on Her
  26. The Divine wants us to use Her to succeed on our God-given path
  27. The labyrinth is only one tool many have used to call on and connect with God
  28.  There are many others tools that open us  to God
  29. The  Holy Spirit is moving within us and calling us onward to a new life
  30. Fear  disguised as ‘sound advice’ puts the Holy Spirit in chains
  31. I will not fear, I will free the Holy Spirit to live in my life
  32. I have  faith we will succeed because … I believe in miracles

Ruth Jewell, ©October 1, 2012

Meditation on Luke 24:36-48

A Sermon Offered to Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle, WA
April 22, 2012

Luke 24:36-48

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.48You are witnesses of these things.

Before I begin this meditation I’d like to ask you to take a journey with me back in time.  Back to that Sunday night, with scared Disciples and experience with them the presence of the risen Christ.

So, get comfortable and close your eyes, . . . take a deep,  slow, breath. Now . . . imagine you are one of the Disciples the evening of the resurrection. . . . The room is small and close, . . . the smell of smoke from the cooking fire and broiled fish fill the room. . . . Everyone in the room is excited, . . . fearful, . . . and joyful . . . but also bewildered at the day’s events.  Everyone is talking at once, . . . each voice getting louder than the next in an attempt to be heard. . . .  When suddenly a voice they know so well says . . . “Peace be with you” and there . . . stands Jesus. . . . Silence

How do feel?

What is going through you mind right now?

After all you all saw Jesus’ body laid in the tomb and on Friday and Saturday you thought your movement was at an end with Jesus’ death. Then this morning Mary and the other women have come and said Jesus is risen from the dead, and Cleopas and his friend have returned from Emmaus saying Jesus broke bread with them.   Now, here in this locked, small, smoky, room Jesus stands in front of you.

And Jesus isn’t just standing there he is walking among you, he’s showing his hands and feet and now he’s sitting down and asking for food to eat.  Jesus, the risen Christ, is eating with you!

Tell me you aren’t amazed, . . . that your eyes aren’t as big as saucers,

That your mouth isn’t on the floor,

That, you aren’t a little afraid of what is to come,

tell me that!  . . .

OK it is time to return and reflect, Slowly open your eyes and take a deep breath, your home now in the 21st century.

You know even 2000 years later this story has the power to shake me up, what about you?  I mean if I were one of the Disciples that Friday would have been the worst day of my life. Terrified, of what has happened I would have been in shock and grief.   Saturday morning reality would have begun to set in, I would be beginning to have some fear for my own skin and start asking the questions of “what do we do now, go home and pick up our lives where they left off, preferably before the Romans and temple authorities come after us?”   I’m mean they aren’t in this small locked room because of a crowd of loyal followers outside, they’re in this room hiding in fear of their lives.

So much has changed for this small band of faithful women and men.  One day they are shouting Hosanna and 6 days later they are grieving for the death of a friend, leader and hoped for Messiah.  That’s a lot to comprehend in such short time. It had barely sunk in that Jesus wasn’t there for them anymore and what kind of danger they were in, only to have this miracle happen!  Jesus is alive and Jesus is telling them they are to be the witnesses that spread the Good News, the Gospel!

Have any of you ever been on this crazy kind of merry-go-round life where everything is going just fine, even extraordinarily fine?  Then the world crashes around you and you have to get your life back on track somehow. So you begin to dig your way out only to have God give you another spin on your wild ride. Has that ever happened to you?  It has to me, that’s for sure. When I read this scripture last week I was reading through the glasses of what I thought my life would be, only to have it turned upside down.

Last October I was so excited about graduating this June and being finished with graduate school.  Looking forward to moving on to new things, spending some down time with my family and working with Laurie and Sandy on some great ideas for education and spiritual formation for Queen Anne and our region.  Wow I thought maybe all this will have some meaning after all.

What was I thinking? I had forgotten that none of what I do in this life is about me, it’s about God!  In November God let me know that I wasn’t in control of this show and to stop thinking I was.

My mother used to have this cute little picture over her bed of a little chipmunk holding a daisy with the caption “Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet,” and now I know what that means.  God is not finished with me yet, I still have work to do and things to learn so God told me, “don’t think you can rest on your laurels, . . . ain’t gonna happen.”

That’s what happened to the Disciple (not that I’m putting myself in the same class as those in the upper room), But they, too, thought everything was going just fine and they would rule the world. Then their world is turned upside down and they thought the end of their ride had come. But God comes along and gives them another spin.  Jesus has risen from the dead to offer new life to old ways of thinking and God says “don’t think you can rest on your laurels, ain’t gonna happen.”

In the three days before the resurrection, days of terror and grief the Disciples had given up, and understandably so.  Now just when they are barely getting their wits back Jesus returns and says “you have more work to do, more things to learn.”  He opens their minds to a new reality and finally they understand what Jesus had been trying telling them for all those years. Now they understood what the women had been talking about … ah … wait a minute . . .what did you say Jesus?  We’re to be witnesses for all of this, your teaching, resurrection, everything! We’re to spread the Good News of the Kingdom, that’s a big job.

And Jesus tells them that yes it’s a big job but He and Abba Father would not give it to them if they couldn’t handle it. And that is the good news for us, God doesn’t give anyone more than they can do, But, God does push us to our limits in order for us to reach our potential as spiritual beings.  All of us are being pushed to look at new ways of worship, thinking, being church, at being faithful to the teaching of Jesus.

Each of us (me included) are being pushed to rethink what it means to be follower, companion, and co-creator with God, and not of God.  If there is anything I’ve learned in seminary it is we aren’t to be passive followers just doing what we are told. Nor are we to put God on shelf and only bring God out on Sunday morning.  We are to work alongside God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, just as the Disciples did so long ago, in order to spread the Good News that Jesus taught.

It is not about us; it is about God, Jesus and Holy Spirit and we are to be witnesses, just like the 12, to all we have experienced as partners and friends of God, not servants.

I do not know where I am headed, I dare say you don’t either, nor do we as Faith Communities know, all we can do is go with Gods flow, which is all God is asking,

We can say no, we won’t go, we won’t work with you, but trust me God is incredibly persistent.  You most likely will come around one way or the other.  God cares too much for us, and for what we have to do, to give up on us.

So don’t be surprised on the day you think you have your life all wrapped up in a nice little bow that God shows up and returns you to the merry-go-round and gives it a mighty spin.

All I can say is just enjoy the ride.

Ruth Jewell, ©April 22, 2012