Cosmic Kindergarten: Sharing

If you’ve ever been to Jubilee! Circle even once, or listened to our podcasts, then you know that we don’t spend a lot of time on the “traditional” interpretations of scripture. Instead, we’re more interested in seeing Jesus and his story in a new light – turning the stories upside down, inside out, and seeing what new insights we might glean from a different, less traditional, vantage point.

That all said, Jubilants were perhaps a bit shocked in our last Cosmic Kindergarten class when I told them that I fully believed that the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in this week’s Jesus story in Mark 6:30-44 was a bona fide miracle.

But, of course, not in the way the traditionalists would define “miracle.”

In this particular Cosmic Kindergarten class, our lesson for the day was on sharing. I told our Cosmic Kindergarteners that even though we’ve been taught that human beings are selfish by nature, I invited them to reconsider that. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re originally blessed with an inner sharer – an innate nature to give to others, even to those we don’t particularly like.

If this is true, then the story of the feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle of sharing. It was Jesus’ compassion for the crowd, and the generosity of the disciples sharing their meager 5 loaves of bread and two fishes that awakened the inner sharers in the crowd. The crowd put aside its beliefs that they were all selfish human beings, and relearned their innate sharing instinct.

This interpretation is not new, and it tends to piss off people who really want a mystical, supernatural miracle to take place in this setting. I understand. I get it. We want to believe that God will step in and fulfill our needs. We want to believe that it’s not up to us to feed the world, it’s not up to us to meet the needs of our neighbor. Instead, we often see this miracle story’s lesson as this: Stand back and rely on God to work the miracles. If we can do it ourselves, we reason, why would we even need God?

But, my question is this: Why is it any less a miracle for people to share with one another? I believe it’s a fairly impressive miracle that a group of 5,000 tired, sweaty, cranky and hungry people would be so overwhelmed with compassion for one another – so able to “suffer with” one another – that they shared their stashes of food with their neighbor. Given that we’ve convinced ourselves that human nature is callous and selfish, I think the sight of 5,000 people sharing food is far more miraculous than God just supernaturally multiplying loaves and fishes.

If you’ve watched the current presidential campaign for more than five minutes you’ve seen the spectacular selfishness of human beings on display. At one Republican candidate debate the crowd even shouted out to let people without healthcare die. They didn’t want to have to pay to help another person who may be sick. It would be a true, bona fide miracle to get people who hold these kinds of beliefs about their fellow human beings to share their food with a crowd of strangers instead of saying, “I brought enough for me. Too bad for you that you didn’t think ahead or earn enough to buy your own.”

One other reason why I believe this was a miracle of sharing is Jesus’ own words to his disciples. He told them: “You give them something to eat.”

This weren’t just empty words. Jesus was telling his disciples, and us, that we have the power to feed each other. We have the power to share, to come together, to work cooperatively in this world to bring about the New Jerusalem we’re seeking. This goes hand in hand with Jesus’ assertion that the realm of God is already here. It’s here when we set aside our own selfish feelings and learn how to share. The realm of God appears when we learn the true meaning of sharing – when we open ourselves to one another, when we become vulnerable to each other, and when we share even though we may run the risk of lacking what we need if we give what we have away to other people.

But, here’s where the real, mind-boggling, out of this world miracle occurs – the more we give, the more we get. The people gave what they had and they collected a bumper crop of left-overs. The giving kept on going. No one lacked for food. No one lacked for anything – the food, the compassion, the sharing, the miracles kept multiplying – because this crowd deeply learned the lesson of sharing. Love is only something if we give it away – when we hoard it, when we lock it away, when we keep it selfishly for ourselves, it dies. We lack for everything when we selfishly hoard our food, or our money, or our time, or our space.

Jubilants, how would it change the way you lived if you saw someone in need, and instead of ignoring their need, you helped them get what they need? How would it changed the way you lived if you realized that the only way any of us get fed in this world is by sharing – and not just by sharing food, but by sharing resources like clean air, clean water, or technology, or anything else we may want to keep just for ourselves?

Jubilants, how would it change the way you lived, if you truly understood Jesus when he said, “You give them something to eat.” We shy away from fulfilling that commandment because we think we have so little to give. The disciples felt this way. “We’ve only got five loaves and two fishes,” they complained.

What makes sharing a miracle, Jubilants, is not how much you have to share, but that you share whatever you have. When we share whatever we have, it is blessed, multiplied and yields baskets and baskets full of leftovers. No one goes hungry. Everyone gets their fill – and that, Jubilants, is the kind of miracle we can perform every single day.

Listen to last Sunday’s podcast in full here.

Visit our podcast page here.

Oh, Yeah!

Candace Chellew-Hodge
Jubilee! Circle Minister

Declaring Our Independence

Unless kids have spent a lot of time in daycare when they’re young, kindergarten can often be the first time children are left in a strange place while their parents leave for the day. My mom was a stay-at-home mother and going to school was my first encounter with a world that didn’t have mom in it all day. It was terrifying – but at the same time, it was oddly liberating.

I was learning how to be independent – how to get along in the world without my mother hovering over me, making sure everything was okay. This is an important lesson for children, and one we want to learn. As we grow up we keep insisting that we can do it ourselves whether it’s putting toothpaste on the toothbrush, or picking out and putting on our own clothes.

Independence is something we want as human beings – but so often, we get stuck in dependence – and worse yet – co-dependence, where it feels like breaking free from someone or something is impossible. Our trouble starts whenever we invest our identity on anything outside of ourselves – whether it’s a job, a relationship, or a social or even a religious group. But, who can blame us? It’s those outside, concrete, things that give us the security we so deeply crave.

In this week’s readings from Ezekiel and the Jesus story, we learn that the path to real independence begins when we stand up and use our voices as prophets in this world. But, more than that, the heart of true independence is complete and utter dependence upon the Holy.

Declaring independence from outside influences means we must acknowledge that we have the Holy inside of each us, and that Holy Spirit, that animating spark, is all we need to guide us in this world. It is not becoming powerful in the world’s eyes that makes us do great things. It is only when we acknowledge our powerlessness that we can do great things.

You see, the reason that Ezekiel and Jesus could not do powerful things around the people who knew them so well is because all prophets, from then into today, are powerless without faith. The ancient Hebrews and those friends and family of Jesus in Nazareth, had no faith in them. They knew them as simple, ordinary folks with no special skills to speak of. Why would they have faith in them?

But, we can only do great things in this world when the people around us have faith that we can. You’ve experienced this before. You mom or dad says, “You can ride that bike without training wheels. I have faith in you!” And, bam! We ride on two wheels. Your spouse or friends say, “You can achieve that goal you’re aiming for. We have faith in you!” And, bam! You’re doing things you love to do but were scared to try when other people were dissing your dream.

Faith, Jubilants – this is the centerpiece of our independence. We cannot be independent unless we have complete dependence – complete faith – in the Holy’s ability to empower us to live into our authenticity.

To hear the full meditation on Independence, go to our podcast page!

Cosmic Kindergarten: Laughter

As children, we instinctively know that laughing is one of the best ways to pass the time. As kids, it doesn’t take much to make us laugh – a funny face, a fart joke, the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges. Just about anything will do to tickle our young funny bone. But, as we get older, we laugh less and less. The world tells us to get serious – to get down to business and be done with this childish thing called laughter.

But, the Holy calls us to remember that carefree time when the world was full laughter, and things to laugh about. To convince us to laugh again, the Very Serious People who do research, tell us it’s healthy – it’s good for us to laugh – it boosts our immune system and keeps our heart healthy. Since we want to stay healthy – and we don’t really want to exercise – we take their advice and start to laugh a little more.

The next time you laugh, notice what happens to your mind and your body. Do you feel the space open up around and within you? You might have been having a bad day up until this moment. If so, do you feel lighter, more open now than before?

That’s what humor does — it opens us up, creates space, not just in our body, but also in our heart and mind. Laughter is indeed the best medicine, as those Very Serious People remind us. But, Sogyal Rinpoche, in his book Tibetan Wisdom for Living and Dying defines the best benefit of humor as “creating or being able to create a space where there is none. If you’re able to create a space where there is seemingly no space it is called a sense of humor.”

Not all humor creates space, however. As we must learn in Cosmic Kindergarten, some humor sucks all the air out of the atmosphere. Mean-spirited, cynical humor — jokes made at the expense of another person or group of persons is decidedly unholy humor. This form of humor is meant to harm and to bully, not to point out the irony of life, or encourage us to see our sacred cows as T-bone steaks instead of untouchable beliefs.

Any joke that demeans another person or group of people is not holy humor. It does not create space, but constricts it, shutting people out. Humorist James Thurber observed that, “humor does not include sarcasm, invalid irony, sardonicism, innuendo, or any other form of cruelty.” Instead, as author Agnes Repplier said, “humor brings insight and tolerance.”

Holy humor is the art of laughing with others – of sharing the joy of life together, laughing at the absurdities of life, not at each other’s absurdities. As comic Yakov Smirnoff reminds us, “love and laughter can only happen when one person takes the time to think about what would cause the other person to feel good.”

I invite you this week to laugh, to open up the space around you, so that others may join you in holy laughter and say: “Oh, Yeah!”

Listen to the meditation about Holy Humor at Jubilee! Circle here.