By Sheri Hostetler
We are created in the image of God. Inside each of us is a radiant wholeness that seeks to be expressed in our human form. Thus, we have the mystery of the Incarnation. That mystery is not just that God became flesh in Jesus but that God — this radiant wholeness — seeks to become flesh in each of us. Jesus’ calling was to show us that it was possible to be whole within this human form, to show us the way.
And so he started like each of us do — a small, powerless being in a large and often overwhelming world. The bulwark against this world is our parents or guardians. They are the ones who, hopefully, protect us, feed us, comfort us when the inevitable overwhelm happens. Quickly, we learn that these people, these gods, expect certain behaviors of us. We are given smiles when we do the right thing, frowns and possibly “consequences” when we don’t. Soon, others enter the picture — teachers, peers — and they, too, have their expectations, as does the larger society. We learn what parts of us are desirable and what are not. The undesirable parts are stuffed into our shadow, that long, black bag we all carry behind us. They become the “not me.”
By Joanna Shenk
Sixth Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
This is a familiar story for our congregation. We act it out every year. There’s lots that could be said about it. What words, images or phrases come to mind for you when you think about the Palm Sunday procession story?
We could explore how it was an embodiment of political satire. Jesus entering one side of Jerusalem on a donkey (and a foal!) and Caesar entered on the other side with chariots and horses. We could talk about the fickleness of the crowd, shouting “hosanna” one day and “crucify him” the next. We could talk about the chaos that’s inevitable when a city is packed full of people for a festival celebration.
As you may guess though, I’d like to focus on something else today. I’d like to look at the context surrounding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his clarity about what he was facing and it’s implications for soul work.
By Addie Liechty
(cross-posted from https://addieswriting.wordpress.com/)
Fifth Sunday of Lent — “Soul Journey: Joyful is the Dark”
The language of the soul is not one of words. It is one that speaks in symbols. In Christianity our main symbol is the cross. Personally, I have never felt very connected to this symbol. I have distanced myself from it as it has become wedded to Christian hegemony causing much harm all over the world. In our country’s history the confederate flag “X” is a derivative of the cross, after all. In my own genealogical history, the cross was likely utilized when hunting down and killing many of my anabaptist ancestors. In my lifetime, the cross has been used as a symbol that alienates me from Christianity and even the Mennonites due to my queerness. I would venture to say that there is no one in this room that has not been harmed, in some way, by the cross. Aside from that, when I think of it, I see those bloody images of an agonizing Jesus and the whole of it just feels violent. So, for most of my recent life, I have buried this image and much preferred the symbology of angels and hearts. When I picture the archetype of a Bible thumping, queer hating pastor, he is holding a bible or a cross, not a heart (although, trading the cross for the heart in my imagination is rather amusing and it takes some of the power out of it)
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.