By Sheri Hostetler
Fourth Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
In the first sermon of our Lenten series, I told you the story of when I was 32, working at a soul-sucking job in a corporate publishing house but unable to imagine or make happen a different future for myself. And I told you of how things started to shift when I participated in this ritual that was a part of my friend Anita’s graduation celebration. We were at a labyrinth in the East Bay Hills and, as we stood in a circle, we were asked to get in touch with what our soul needed and — one by one — either step into the middle of the circle (so we were surrounded by people), stay in the circle (holding hands), or step out of the circle. When it came my turn, I startled myself by starting to cry and backing away from the group as far as I could. I told them that I loved them, but that I needed to be as far away from them as possible.
By Joanna Shenk
Third Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
The passage that we just heard is the longest recorded conversation we have between Jesus and another person in scripture. And it’s pretty interesting, right? Although it was culturally taboo for the two of them to be talking, the Samaritan woman had no lack of things to say. She wasn’t even afraid to challenge Jesus about his weird idea of living water.
At the same time, we see some frustrating themes that run through scripture: Jesus, the man, shows up with magical powers to help a poor, oppressed woman. Additionally, the woman is probably of questionable moral standing and Jesus is Mr. Sinless who stoops to her level and we praise him for being such a liberating guy. Obviously Jesus doesn’t have any needs either. The whole “drink of water” thing is just a ploy, right, to start the conversation? Jesus gets all the points and the woman gets to be grateful that this man chose to liberate her.
That’s the interpretation I’ve generally adhered to until writing this sermon. Clearly there are some liberating elements but it still perpetuates patriarchy even if it’s benevolent and the idea that some people are saviors and others need saving.
By Sheri Hostetler
Second Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Carl Jung — one of the founders of Western psychiatry — was giving a talk in London in which he recounted a conversation he had had years before with the chief of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Standing on the clay roof of fifth floor of the main building of the pueblo, at 7,000 feet in elevation, with the sun shining on their faces, Ochiway Bianco said: “We are a small tribe, and these Americans, they want to interfere with our religion. They should not do it, because we are the sons of the Father, the Sun. He who goes there” (pointing to the sun) — “that is our Father. We must help him daily to rise over the horizon and to walk over heaven. And we don’t do it for ourselves only; we do it for America; we do it for the whole world. And if these Americans interfere with our religion through their missions, they will see something. In ten years, Father Sun won’t rise anymore because we can’t help him.” (From Jung’s essay “The Symbolic Life.”
By Sheri Hostetler
First Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
I was 32 and deeply unhappy. I was working at a soul-sucking job as a medical writer and editor at a publishing house in San Francisco. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I had no idea what else to do. I had finished a seminary degree three years before and had been floundering ever since, trying to figure out some course of action that would lead me to the holy grail of career happiness. I tried this, I tried that, but I walked into a closed door every time. Nothing would open for me. By this time, I was quite depressed, frozen in my unhappiness and despairing that things could ever change.
And then my good friend, Anita Amstutz (whom some of you know) invited me to a celebration of her graduation from the Pacific School of Religion. About 12 women hiked to a labyrinth in the East Bay Hills, and what I thought of then as an older woman, who was about my present age today, started to lead a ritual, which began with us walking into the center of the labyrinth. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and it all seemed a bit woo-woo, a bit “California,” but I liked this older woman and I loved my friend Anita, so I told my cynical self to be quiet and go along.