Via Positiva: Dance with Delight: Dinner and Dancing

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our reading from the Hebrew scriptures (1 Kings 19:4-8) this morning we find the prophet Elijah in a place that was pretty common for prophets – out in the wilderness.  Elijah was on the run for his life after defeating Queen Jezebel’s army of 450 priests in a fire contest. They couldn’t convince their God Baal to even produce a spark, while the God of Abraham had sent so much fire that consumed the offering, the altar and even dried up the water around the altar.

Now, Elijah probably thought he’d be winning some worldly accolades he may have been hungering for. After all, he had just shown the queen who the true prophet was, and it wasn’t any of her guys – who were now all dead, anyway, slaughtered by Elijah after their defeat.

But, it didn’t work out for him that way. Instead, the queen’s anger was kindled against him and he fled into the wilderness after she threatened to kill him in retaliation for her humiliation.

So, this is where we find our ancient Hebrew cousin – despondent, sitting under a broom tree in the desert, asking for God to just go ahead and smite him now because if a show of heavenly fire won’t give him the street cred he needs with the local rulers, then he’s really got nothing left.

Here, out in the wilderness, we find Elijah tired, depressed and hungry. He’s physically hungry, yes – but more than that, Elijah is spiritually hungry. He’s like any of us trying to find our place in the world. We try to impress those around us. Perhaps we can’t bring fire down from heaven, but we are forever dancing as fast as we can trying to show the world we’re worthy, trying to prove to the world that we’re good enough for the job, good enough for the relationship, good enough for the community, good enough to be accepted and loved.

All the excitement of the day – the fire show, the fleeing, the desperation – have worn out Elijah and he falls asleep. Don’t we do that, too? Sometimes our spiritual hunger gets so unbearable, that we just turn off – we become unconscious in this world. We try our best to stop thinking about that gnawing ache in the pit of our stomachs – that emptiness in our heart and spirit. We become numb. We go through the routine of the day and try not to dwell too long on our despair, on the emptiness that threatens to overtake us.

“Get up and eat.” That’s what God tells Elijah, and She tells us that still today. “Get up and eat.” Stop sleepwalking through your life and get your fill of that spiritual meat that awaits you in every moment of your life. Jubilants, the Holy invites us to dinner and dancing in every moment of our lives.

Spiritual food, that delicious sweet, succulent mystery of life, surrounds in every moment of our lives. But, we choose to go hungry, to sleepwalk through our lives, looking for things that won’t satisfy our hungry hearts.

The food that the Holy gives us doesn’t come from a farm, it doesn’t come from a chicken, it doesn’t come from a plant or even from the grease pits of McDonalds.  It comes from that connection with the divine and with one another. The most satisfying food in this world is that food of love, of relationship, of being there with and for one another.  We may eat potluck together and go out to lunch after celebration, but what really feeds us in each of those settings is not the food, but one another.  Without each other, the journey of this life would be too much for any of us.

Jubilants, get up and eat!  Breathe deeply.

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Via Positiva: Dance With Delight: Dance With Mortality

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (Luke 12:49-56), we find our prince of peace guy sounding a lot like someone ready to go to war. “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”

If you look around the religious world today, it would seem that Jesus got his wish. Here we are, a house pretty fairly well divided between literalists and liberals, between the rich churches and the poor churches, between the white churches, the black churches, the Hispanic churches, the gay and lesbian churches. You want some division, Jesus, you got it!

Why is Jesus, the man we often want to think of as being a cuddly friend to children and animals alike, suddenly rattling his saber and talking about bringing division and strife into the world?

Because Jesus, like Isaiah before him, knows that we, as human beings divide up over the wrong things. We especially do this in the church. We divide up into denominations and other factions over issues like baptism – do we sprinkle or dunk – and the dunkers cannot possibly commune with the sprinklers. Over communion – is the bread literally Christ’s body and the cup literally full of Christ’s blood – or not – and body and blood partakers can’t sit in the same building with those who just eat bread and drink grape juice.

When Jesus talks about bringing division – he’s not talking about these petty things we divide over – he’s talking about life and death issues. He comes to separate us from our own beliefs about mortality – about our own beliefs about what is important in this life.

Many people who have had a brush with death, or have been brought back to life after an accident, often report that their priorities in life shifted dramatically. Things that used to be important to them aren’t all that pressing anymore. Instead, that dramatic event has shown them that time is of the essence. This could be the last day that any of us walks this earth. Do you really want to spend it divided over whether or not you sprinkle or dunk, or really eat body and blood at communion or not?

Jesus says there are far more important things to get divided over and far more important things to cause division over. There is a group of protestors in North Carolina these days who understand this deeply.

Ever since the Republicans took over the legislature and the governor’s office there, they’ve been racing South Carolina to the bottom of the political heap. They’ve passed laws there that make life harder on the poor, harder on the unemployed, harder on school teachers, harder on those who provide health services like abortion for women.

Every Monday though – now dubbed “Moral Mondays” –  groups of people from around the state descend on the state capitol in Raleigh to protest. Hundreds of them have been arrested, simply for standing up for the rights of the poor, the outcast, the downtrodden and minorities.

This is the kind of division Jesus calls us to embody – to speak out – to put our bodies on the line for those who are oppressed, to defend the poor, the widow and the orphan. Here, on these moral Mondays, God does encounter justice and righteousness – and division.

The kind of division Jesus calls us to embody in this world is the division of hope. Where our actions, our willingness to embody that righteous and just kind of division, becomes a beacon of hope for others. When we live fearlessly, even in the face of our own suffering and mortality, Jubilants, we bring hope to the world – hope for more love, joy and laughter.  And hope for more peace and justice.

Breathe deeply.

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Via Positiva: Dance With Delight – The Dance of Life

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Jesus story (Luke 12:32-41), we hear fabulous news – it is the Holy’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. The world is ours, Jubilants. Ours to enjoy. We can dance in the rain, run in the mud – enjoy the creation that we have been given.

But, Jesus is clear – we can’t take this wonderful, messy life for granted. We must remain watchful – we must remain awake. Our more conservative brothers and sisters will take this passage to mean that we must be ready for Jesus’ eventual second coming – that Jesus is coming back to judge the quick and the dead, so we have to be watchful.

I think the message is much more simple – and much more demanding than that. If we’re just to be watchful for Jesus to come back in some grand way – on horseback ready to take vengeance on enemies – that doesn’t require too much of us. Except, perhaps to use that belief to judge and criticize others who may not believe exactly as we do.

Instead, this passage demands so much more from us. We must be alert for Jesus’ return in every single moment of our day. Jesus can return at any moment in the form of a homeless person, in the form of a check-out clerk in need of a smile or a kind word, in the form of a person beside you in traffic who needs to merge in front of you, in the form of a caterpillar inviting you to watch in rapt fascination as it makes its way across a leaf, or perhaps in the form of raindrops and mud that invites you to dance in this slippery mess we call life.

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit,” Jesus said. Always be ready to help anyone who needs it, to lift your light to brighten the day of anyone who remains in darkness. Whether it’s in the middle of the night or when dawn is breaking, never let your guard down – be ready to help.

What Jesus is telling us here is not to take any moment of our lives for granted. The past is gone, the future isn’t here yet. All any of us have is right now – this very moment. Jesus says you have a choice in what you can do in this moment – you can sleep, you can be bored, you think of lunch, you can ruminate over your past or make plans for your future.  Or, Jesus says, you can take every single moment available to you to come alive – to sing, to dance – whether it’s pouring rain, beating down sunshine or in the middle of the night.

The world is ours, Jubilants – it is God’s greatest pleasure to give it to us. The question then becomes – will you live fully into this precious life, or will you let the problems, anxieties and despair in the world distract you from the joy that surrounds you in every moment?

Breathe deeply.

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Via Positiva: Dance With Delight: The Dance of Wholeness

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

When you do the hokey pokey you start small, you put a foot in, then another, then you put in a hand, and then another. If you feel like sitting it out when that choice – that daily choice of whether or not to dance comes around – start small. Put your right arm in, take your right arm out, put your right arm in and shake it all about. Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around because, Jubilants, that is what it’s all about.

If you do the hokey pokey long enough you eventually put your whole body in, you put your whole body out, you put your whole body in and you shake it all about.

You do the hokey pokey and your turn yourself around – because putting our whole body into the worship and praise of our maker is what it is all about, every moment of the day.

But we don’t stop there. If we’re serious about dancing before our maker with delight we put more than our bodies into the dance. We put our whole minds in. We put our whole minds out. We put our whole minds in and we shake it all about.

We put our whole heart in. We put our whole heart out. We put our whole heart in and we shake it all about.

We put our whole love in. We put our whole love out. We put our whole love in and we shake it all about.

We put our whole joy in. We put our whole joy out. We put our whole joy in and shake it all about.

We put our all our fear in. We put all our fear out. We put all our fear in and we shake it all about.

We put our all our anger in. We put all our anger out. We put all our anger in and we shake it all about.

We put all our doubt in. We put all our doubt out. We put all our doubt in and we shake it all about it. We do the hokey poke and we turn ourselves around. That’s what it’s all about.

When we realize that our whole selves already live in God, in that unitive state with the Self, then we can let go of all the fears, all the worries, all the pain, all the suffering, all the joys, all the sorrows, all the hopes, all the dreams, all the love, all the hate, all the peace, all the wars, all the despair, all the tiredness – and lay it all down before God and dance – and laugh – because we know that God has taken them all into her loving, all-encompassing Self.

Jubilants, I invite you to laugh when you bump your head against the hard problems of life.  Savor both the bitter and the sweet fruit of this tree of life and when you get the choice to sit it out or dance – I hope you dance – because, Jubilants, that is what it’s all about.

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