Via Creativa: Island of Misfit Toys: Drunken Misfits

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (John 2:1-11, we find our guy partying down. He, his mother and the disciples have been invited to a wedding, and in this culture, a wedding isn’t a one day event, instead they can go on for days and days.

We join Jesus on the third day of this celebration and learn that the host has run out of wine. Now, there is much religious symbolism in this first recorded miracle that Jesus performs. First, this happens on the third day, which, if we remember our Easter story, the third day is kind of important – so John is foreshadowing the importance of the third day not just in Jesus’ life, but in the life of the church.

Also, this miracle is meant to show John’s readers that the wine Jesus’ produces are really the new teachings about God’s realm are there to refill the empty and hollow teachings of the Hebrew laws that Jesus saw as spiritually oppressive. So, this passage could be theologically unpacked for a long time.

But, let’s talk about wine, and paradise, and parking lots.

What Jesus offers the wedding goers in Cana, and even us today, is more than the fruit of the vine – he’s offering the fruit of life, delight, joy, paradise, if only we’ll open our eyes and see it and receive it. Jesus knows, however, that the world’s messages to us are strong and hard to overcome, even with sweet wine.

Instead of taking Jesus up on his offer to be drunk with delight, we so often pass it by, preferring the rancid water of the status quo, the safety of fitting in. The world tells us we can’t really have joy, we have to save the best for last, work hard for what we want and put off things that make us happy into some point in the future when we can “afford” it. Jesus says, no, we can have the best now and in the future, because joy is offered in each moment, the best wine is right now, in this present moment – we are invited to become joyful misfits in this joyless world, to be drunk on awe and happiness and bliss – right now, not in some point in the future.

In the movie, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, both Rudolph and Hermey the dentist elf understood that even in the midst of danger and sadness, paradise was all around them. They spent their time in the wilderness playing with the woodland creatures, finding beauty in an island of misfit toys, and in the end, even finding paradise in the very place that had forsaken them in the first place.

This is what Jesus is seeking to teach us – to change how we see the world. Instead of seeing the world as full of rules and conformity and going along to get along, we’re supposed to see the world as jam-packed with paradise and be drunk with delight. The red wine of the Holy flows in each moment, whether we’re in the cave the Abominable Snowman, or standing in a parking lot.

When Jewish people raise a glass to say a toast, they often say, “L’chaim,” which means “to life!” This is Jesus’ invitation to us in every moment, to raise our glass and shout “L’chaim, more wine!”

But, too often we don’t understand all the awe and wonder in our life until it’s gone. Only in retrospect do we see the amazing miracles that have taken place in our life, but we missed them in the moment. Jesus is inviting us to be here now, in paradise, where all the miracles take place, even amidst the day’s challenges and disappointments.

Life is a celebration, Jubilants, but often we get caught in the mundane – a stack of papers waiting in the inbox, chores at home, more tasks than time. Our wine of life runs dry all the time, and we forget how to refill those dry casks – by turning our attention to the Holy, to the awesomeness all around us in every moment. It’s the world’s misfits who understand though that each moment should be lived in paradise, where the red, red wine of joy never runs out. “L’chaim! – more wine!”

Breathe deeply.

Listen to this week’s podcast

Listen to past podcasts

Via Creativa – The Wise Misfits

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In his book, Strength to Love, Martin Luther King Jr. writes about the necessity of becoming a “transformed nonconformist” – someone who will gladly remain maladjusted to the bigotry and hatred that permeated the world during his time, and continues to pollute our own world.

King writes that he “never did intend to adjust to the evils of segregation and discrimination. I never did intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I never did intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. […] I call upon all [people] of good will to be maladjusted because it may well be that the salvation of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted.”

It is the maladjusted – the wise misfit – King says who will ultimately help us “emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daylight of freedom and justice.”

By being wise, maladjusted misfits, Jubilants, we light a light in this dark old world, as our reading from Isaiah 60:1-6 tells us:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,  and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,  and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,  and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

This passage, late in the book of Isaiah, comes from a tradition that theologians call “Third Isaiah.” The book is divided into three separate writings that were edited together. This “Third Isaiah” is believed to be written by a school of disciples of Isaiah, not actually Isaiah himself.

In this passage we find that those exiled to Babylon have returned home, only to be made outcasts among the outcasts.

Those who had not been exiled, but remained in Jerusalem, were not glad to see their old friends and neighbors return after those long years. These returning Hebrews had new ideas, new ways of seeing things. Years of being misfits in Babylon and had changed them, and the folks back home didn’t care to let them take part in their traditional reindeer games.

You see, these returning exiles learned a few things while in captivity. First, they learned that being so exclusive about who God loves and who God does not love, or who is chosen and who is not chosen, isn’t really a healthy way to live in the world. They realized that God had called them to live differently, to be more inclusive, more accepting, more loving. It is in this section of Third Isaiah that we find these new transformed nonconformists opening the temple to those who had been previously excluded like eunuchs and foreigners.

The hometown crowd didn’t see it that way. They had their status quo down and these new maladjusted nonconformists were trying to change their way of life.

It reminds me a bit of poor Rudolph in Christmastown. You see, in the Christmas special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa and his crew had a way of doing things – traditions that they held dear. None of those traditions included a red-nosed reindeer or a dentist elf. When they discovered that these misfits were among them, they were shunned. Rudolph’s blinking nose and Hermey’s desire to tinker with teeth were “disordered” in their Christmastown world, and were not to be tolerated under any condition.

What Rudolph, and these returning Israelites offered to those who had adjusted themselves to the ways of the world around them was one thing – light. At first, Rudolph’s bright, shining nose was an oddity, then an irritation and a distraction – but in the end, it was the light that saved Christmas that year. It was only because of Rudolph, with his nose so bright, that he was able to lead Santa’s sleigh on that stormy Christmas Eve night.

It was only because of these maladjusted nonconformists that Israel would be able to find its way back to the Holy, into that right relationship with a wild, inclusive God that they were seeking all along.

It is the transformed nonconformist, we misfits who refuse to adjust ourselves to the injustices of this world, that can bring light into the darkness that envelops our world.

The wise misfit knows that we each contain a light that the world desperately needs. There is so much darkness in this world, because darkness is the status quo and many of our brothers and sisters sit in darkness because they have been told that this darkness – this world of injustice and greed and war – is all there is. So, in despair, they extinguish their own light, or seek to hide it so they can fit in with the world’s darkness.

The Holy calls us to celebrate our light. In Jubilee! we always say we have to keep the main thing, the main thing. The main thing, Jubilants, is our light – that light of the Holy that shines deep within each of us. It is the wise misfit, the transformed nonconformist, who embraces their own light and bravely shines it into the world, even if that light is mocked, misunderstood or others seek to extinguish it with criticism, hatred or rejection. We light a light anyway, even though the forces of darkness are great. We light a light today and every day so that the world can see and know that main thing – that light of love and peace.

“Then you shall see and be radiant;  your heart shall thrill and rejoice.”

Listen to this week’s podcast.

Listen to past podcasts.

Via Creativa: What if Dreams Really Do Come True?

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

Note: I had the great honor to deliver the meditation at Jubilee! in Asheville this past weekend. This is text and a link to that podcast. I will soon post the message from Beth DeHart from Jubilee! Circle. Stay tuned!

Today’s Hebrew scripture  reading (Isaiah 42:1-9) reminds me a little bit of another piece of sacred writing from the Holy book of Seuss – Dr. Seuss, that is:

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Oh! The places you’ll go!

Thus says the Holy,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread forth the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;”

Oh! The places you’ll go! Oh, the dreams you’ll realize with brains in your head, feet in your shoes, and the Holy within, taking you by the hand and keeping you on the path. The Holy, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and everything that comes from it, who gives breath and spirit to every single one of us – that’s your traveling companion. What are you afraid of?

How would it change the way you live, how would it change the way you dream, if you truly believed that God has called you?  How would it change the way you live, how would it change the way you dream, if you truly believed that the Holy takes you by the hand every single day?  How would it change the way you live, how would it change the way you dream, if you truly believed that the Holy keeps you – in every year, in every week, in every day, in every single moment?

“You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers, who soar to high heights. You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.

You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.”

Oh, the places you’ll go, Jubilants, with the Holy as your guide.  Breathe deeply.

Listen to the podcast.

Past podcasts.

Via Creativa – Epiphany Misfits

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

According to the Christian calendar, this Sunday (January 6) is something called “Epiphany,” which in Greek means “appearing” or “revealing.” This is the day we celebrate the revealing of God to the world through a tiny baby named Jesus – born in a stable, in Israel’s version of Gaston, South Carolina, surrounded by animals and two confused and perplexed parents. This is how God was made visible to the world – born among the lowly – not in the halls of power or prestige. Certainly, though, this wasn’t the first, nor the last time that God has broken into this world and revealed herself to us.

If you pay attention, you’ll see God breaking into this world in every moment – an epiphany per second, if you will. In the touch of a loved one’s hand, in the smile of a stranger, in a simple act of kindness, in puppy breath, in a blooming flower, and even in the aroma of a crushed flower. There is nothing in this world that is not a sacred in-breaking of God. Even in the depth of tragedy, there is a kindness. Even in the pit of evil, there is a glimpse of hope and redemption. Even in the deepest darkness, there are always traces of light.

Where we may see God most often, however, is in community – among a bunch of misfits who band together after feeling the sting of rejection from the world around them. It is here, among the wounded, the shamed, the outcast, that God regularly makes appearances. We’ve seen it here in this community in the shared laughter, the shared tears, the times that we have been there to celebrate with one another, to grieve with one another, and to hold each other through illness and other hardships. God appears in each moment – an epiphany per millisecond perhaps – glimpsed out of the corner of our eye.

In Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer it is on the Island of Misfit Toys, that place where those wounded and broken toys lived, where God makes her most vivid appearance. In the midst of the obvious suffering of these toys is a joy in community, and a hope that one day they will be accepted for who they are, and not seen as defective for who they are not.

Jubilants, I invite you to reflect on how you have seen God made visible here in our small community. Treasure those epiphany moments, and know that there will be many, many more to come. If you pay attention, I guarantee you’ll see the Holy move, all you’ll be able to say is: “Oh, Yeah.”

Listen to this week’s podcast

Listen to past podcasts.