Via Transformativa: Awake, My Soul: Awaken to Abundance

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Hebrew scripture reading (Exodus 17:1-7), we find our ancient desert dwelling cousins doing what they did best … complaining. In fact, this passage is the fourth such episode of complaining while the Israelites were wandering the desert after fleeing captivity in Egypt.

They’ve got a pretty good reason to start complaining, though, because the place where they’re staying in this passage has no water. In our first world problems, having our water cut off is simply a minor inconvenience. We can run down to the store for bottled water to make our coffee or wash our hair.  For these Hebrew people wandering in the desert, running out of water was a matter of life or death. So, understandably, they complain and accuse Moses of taking them out into the wilderness to die.

Moses, as a practical matter, gives the people the physical water they need to survive, but they miss the larger lesson. What God is attempting to teach the Israelites in their desert wandering is the lesson we still need to learn today: Nothing outside of ourselves can really save us. Yes, we need water to survive, but outside of basic survival needs like water, food and shelter – everything we need to thrive in this world is already within us.

What the Holy is trying to teach them, and us, is something called the “law of circulation,” which states that you can only give what you have, you can only keep what you give and you can only sustain what you’re willing to receive.  Think of this law as breathing … when we breath, it’s not two breaths, one in and one out – instead it’s one breath, a continuous circle of in and out.

Giving and receiving is like this – a continuous circle where we take in what we’re given, transform it, and put it back out into the world. When we breathe in oxygen, we turn it into carbon dioxide which makes the plants grow.

The plants turn our waste into life giving oxygen. This is the law of circulation … we are all connected, and when we stop giving – even when we stop receiving – we break the cycle of life.

You can’t go around only breathing out – or giving – just as you can’t survive just breathing in – or receiving. We must continuously be doing both – giving and receiving. But, that law also turns on this idea – nothing outside of yourself can be the source of your security. Instead, we must turn inward, our very soul, to discover the life-giving water — that free floating air of abundance — that the Holy promises us.

But, we, like our ancient cousins, don’t get it. Instead, we complain and look to our leaders and others to get what we think we lack.  “Somebody bring me some water!” we shout as the stuff of life already flows in, through and around us, unnoticed, in every moment.

What God is trying to do for all of us who wander in this wilderness is move us from our fear and doubt into a new, fertile promised land where we can see and know abundance in each moment. Will we spend the journey complaining, or will we trust that even in times where we perceive there to be lack, there is water abundant in every rock and tree, there is abundance in every breath and every flower?

We can miss the promised land of abundance if we keep insisting that the world give us exactly what we want … because in the promised land we only get what we give … and when we understand the law of circulation … that’s when we’ll find that place that overflows with milk and honey.

 Breathe deeply. 

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Via Creativa: Lighten Up and Laugh

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

In our Hebrew scripture (Genesis 17:15-17, 18:11-15), we hear laughter from Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, and his aging wife Sarah.  What cracks them up is not God’s announcement that he would be the father of a great nation, but that it would start with his aging wife Sarah, who would give birth to a son.

You can imagine the incredulous thoughts that ran through both of their heads. “Children, at our age? God is pulling our leg.”

And, so naturally, they laughed at the thought.

Of course, we know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. Sarah did give birth to a son. She named him Isaac, which, oddly enough means “laughter.”

The scripture passage for today, though, ends with Sarah being confronted by God over her laughter. This passage has always been read as God scolding Sarah for laughing, since the passage says Sarah was afraid. But, I think God was teasing Sarah by saying, “Oh, yes, you did laugh.”

Her laugh may have been one of disbelief, but I think God appreciated her laughter, because, even if just for a moment, her laughter made her think about the possibility of bearing a child – and in that possibility, the seed of the dream was planted. In that moment of laughter, Sarah transcended her disbelief, and chuckled at the thought of an old woman holding a baby … a vision that came to pass.

This is what humor does for us, Jubilants. It opens us to new possibilities, to new dreams. God delights when we laugh at absurd thoughts like old women bearing children, because it gives us a glimpse of the infinite possibilities that lie before us.

What we can learn from Sarah’s laughter today is just what she learned – we should not be afraid to laugh at what seems impossible. Instead, we should collapse in a fit of giggles over the impossible, because the laughter opens us up for the seeds to be planted.

Think of people like Nelson Mandela. He was 75-years-old when became the president of South Africa in 1994.  If you had told the leaders of that country just ten years earlier that their former foe would be president, they would have laughed in disbelief.

It was their scornful laughter that helped to open the door for the possibility of Mandela assuming power.

Mahatma Gandhi was 61-years-old when walked 200 miles in his landmark campaign to free India from its British colonizers.  Ask anyone if they’d trust a 99-pound old man to lead them to liberation from one of the most powerful countries on earth, and you’d probably hear some disbelieving guffaws.

But, hilarious accomplishments are not reserved for great men like Mandela and Gandhi.  Anna Mary Robertson Moses began her painting career at the age of 76. We remember her today as Grandma Moses, who had no formal art training when she started, but now her paintings hang in galleries around the world.

Remember these folks, and Sarah, too, the next time you laugh at something you think is impossible in your life. That laughter is just what you need to open yourself to the infinite possibilities the Holy offers us in every moment.

Breathe deeply.

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Via Creativa: Lighten Up on the Devil

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

Our Jesus story (Matthew 4:1-11 is one I’m always loathe to preach on, because, as traditional interpretations go, this is where we get the idea of Satan as some personified, embodied evil that walks around with a long tail and pointy horns. Personally, I don’t believe in a personified devil, which is not to say that I don’t believe evil exists, because it does – it just doesn’t walk around wearing a cape and holding a pitchfork.

After much study and contemplation before writing this meditation, I came to fall in love with this once hated passage, because now I realize, it wasn’t some literal Satan that Jesus struggles with as he faces temptation during his 40 days in the wilderness. Instead, he struggled with his shadow side – that darkness that we all have that tempts us to profit off our talents or show off our skills for the applause of the world.

This passage, instead of confirming some traditional image of a literal devil, really serves to remind us that what ultimately made Jesus divine was that he fully embraced his humanity – including that shadow side. In those moments, when you are struggling with your shadow and its temptations, it’s comforting to think of Jesus and know that he, too, in all his divinity, struggled to fully accept his humanity.

It’s even more instructive to us to see how he dealt with those temptations, because they were all very alluring and we can see that even today’s religious leaders are tempted by them.

In a world of overwhelming poverty and hunger, why not have the ability to create bread from stones? Think of all the people you can feed! In this world, where people are leaving the church in droves, diving from the top of temple and letting the angels save you before you hit the ground is the kind of show millions would throng to see.

In a world where politics has become infused with religion, why not seek a prominent political career to use your gifts to change the world?

To each of these, Jesus says no, because he realizes that, though tempting, all of those options glorify the ego, and Jesus made a ministry out of calling us away from our ego and into that place of unity, a season of love, where there is no “us” and “them.”

It’s interesting to note, however, that even though his shadow offered all those ego-based temptations, Jesus still accomplished everything the shadow tempted him with. Theologian Fred Craddock points out that in the course of his short ministry, Jesus did feed the hungry, he performed many signs and wonders that amazed the crowd, and his ministry did, and continues, to have an enormous political impact.

What is different is that Jesus faced his shadow head-on, struggled with it and instead of defeating or rejecting it, integrated its temptations and fulfilled all of the worthy goals of those temptations without glorifying himself as the source of those miracles. Instead, I believe Jesus knew a thing or two about that collective unconscious Jung rediscovered centuries later.

Jesus knew that when we act, without ego, for the good of not just ourselves, but for everyone, we, too can transcend our shadow self and perform miracles. If we lighten up on our demons, Jubilants, that personal healing can directly lead to the universal healing of this world, because every devil we meet is an angel in disguise.

Breathe deeply. 

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Via Creativa: Lighten Up: Be the Light

By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge

When I was a kid, probably around 10- or 11-years-old, I had a ritual I performed every Saturday afternoon. My mother would drop me off at the local movie theater for the regular double feature. It was always a double feature of the best spaghetti westerns ever made.

I would spend the next four hours or so enthralled with the world of the wild, wild, west as cowboys battled Indians or thieves, robbers, or other bad guys. I was so captured by the vision of white hats versus black hats that I never wanted to leave. If I could have lived in the movie theater and fully entered that world I would have. My mom probably wouldn’t have objected – getting a four hour break from me.

But, when I left the movie theater, I took that world with me. I wanted, with every fiber of my being, to be a member of the cavalry.  I wanted to wear the cowboy hat with the tassels on the front – the bibbed shirt – and those blue uniform pants with the bright yellow stripe running down the side.

My mother – proficient at sewing – did make me up a uniform of sorts. She used iron-on yellow ribbon to transform a pair of my blue pants into cavalry pants and even sewed me up one of those bibbed shirts.  I actually wore one of those shirts into my teen years, I loved it so much. I was transfixed by this world on the big screen and wanted to stay in that moment as long as possible.

In our Jesus story (Mark 9:2-10), Peter would understand my urge. He, too, wanted to stay on top of the mountain as Jesus’ clothes glistened white and the light-radiant cloud enveloped Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. He wanted to build booths on the mountain and never leave.

Peter probably wanted to build a church – a place to capture this holy moment and turn it into an institution – a place to where we can come and touch the holy. He didn’t understand what this transformation meant – that catching a glimpse of the divine doesn’t have to happen in a special building. It’s all around us, in the mundane, in the sublime, in the boring, in the beautiful, and yes, even in the ugly.

God’s light shines bright around us constantly, whether we see it or not. Instead we want to capture that spiritual high and stay there.  But, we can’t. Instead, Jesus transfiguration heralds a season of change for us. It’s a season that beckons us to let go of our past – to even let go of our future and water the seeds of change with trust in God’s direction for our lives. In this transfiguration we have seen Jesus in a new light.

When Jesus and his inner circle of three disciples come down from the mountain – they heal a boy possessed by a demon. They don’t stay in that moment of divine encounter – keeping the light to themselves. They bring the light down from the mountain and get to work – and so must we.

Breathe deeply.

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