June 2023 Issue of Thema: Listening with Your Socks Blown Off
After the final worship in a retreat that I facilitated for a UCC women’s group, the women presented me with a special prayer blanket. It is blue and cream in color, soft velour, and edged with tied strands that represent their prayers. When I am in my cellar office, I lay it across my lap where it keeps me warm and reminds me of the love of these good women.
I am also reminded of the quilt designed by WVIS spiritual director intern, BA Miskowiec. Her social justice quilt “depicts a communion table and the waters of baptism….” It also expresses some of the social justice issues the Church is called to address. This quilt was consecrated as a spiritual, formational, and educational tool, and is part of the “Traveling Quilt Show” which you can book for your church at St. Marks UMC in Charleston who are taking reservations.
Other diverse messages, sermons, essays, poems, and reflections in this issue of Thema are also rich with meaningful experiences that point to the glory of God within our lives, experiences that amaze, daze, and set our hearts ablaze with awe, wonder, and delight.
Franciscan Sister Deborah Lockwood recollects how Helen Keller experienced Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by putting her hand on the speaker of the radio, enabling her to feel “an ocean of heavenly vibration.” Lockwood teaches, “As we listen and experience through sight, sound, touch, even taste and smell, the overflowing love of God…flows out of us and into our world. Not only our socks are blown off, but also those of all who walk with us in our journey of life.”
Reporter Christina Caron, reviews the newest book of British author, Katherine May, Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Age of Anxiety. “Might there be a way for all of us to move through life with curiosity and tenderness, sensitized to the subtle magic all around?” wonders May. Caron summarizes her sound advice that promotes such wellness:
- Commit to noticing the world around you.
- Ask yourself one simple question.
- Contemplate and reflect in your own way.
- Do it because it feels good.
Rev. Becca Messman, senior pastor of Burke Presbyterian Church in the Washington, D.C. area, writes eloquently about how her mother’s death motivated her: “My mother’s death was a train whistle in the night, beginning my voyage to a place I had never been. This trip was different from when I was a college kid – backpacking across Europe with a Eurail pass and a battered Let’s Go book – but the same spirit of “Why not?” was there. I found myself planting a gardenia, hiking a mountain, finding a beach, or sitting alone in a sanctuary.”
Jacob Kose, a Jewish environmental educator, farmer, and storyteller based in New York City, in his article, “Can We Eat the Lettuce Yet?” writes powerfully about what and how he teaches young students in his outdoor classroom through hands-on experiences that open young eyes to a world of wonder. His reverence for nature and Judaism teaches us all, religious or not, “…. the literal translations of the first two humans’ names: Eve, a loose if not phonetically estranged transliteration of חַוָה(Hava), translates as farm or garden. Adam, transliterated phonetically from אָדָם (Adam), comes from the word for land, ground, or Earth.”
A poem by Gerald G. Jampolsky, M.D. sweetly reminds us of how our journey from childhood belief grows into recognition that the rainbow and treasure are to be found within ourselves. He suggests we listen with delight to Hawaiian artist Israel Kamakawiwo’ole sing about our wonderful rainbow-filled world.
“The Hidden Wow! of an Unintentional Teacher,” written by Rev. Dr. Rindy Trouteaud, is a fresh approach to the familiar biblical story of the widow’s mite in Luke’s gospel. She imagines how Jesus must have seen his own mother’s weariness in the widow’s tired face: “He recalls the sound of his mother’s stomach rumbling as she divided the bread and scrapings of the stew pot into his bowl and the bowls of his sisters and brothers, and he winces when he notices the poor widow unconsciously clutching her stomach after dropping her last coin in the donation box.” These memories of an unnamed widow, an unintentional teacher, instruct, strengthen, and sustain him as he faces his darkest hours.
Spiritual Director Liz Deal’s poem, “Jesus’ Song of His Mother” where “Jesus praises his mother’s desire for truth, her integrity, and her loving generosity” becomes the contemplation for an imaginative prayer practice. Diehl asks, “What aspect of Mary’s character speaks hope to you today?”
Rev. Vince Amlin, co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, quotes 2 Chronicles 5:12-14 about musicians playing cymbals, harps and lyres, trumpets and singers praising God. Rev. Amlin, during the pandemic, heard a zoom sermon that had him and many others in tears, including the student preacher who was so overcome with emotion that she was unable to keep speaking. Everyone remained silent savoring the glory of God interrupting them like the cloud in the Temple.
Lutheran pastor Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, shares her sermon: “a spiritual pyramid scheme of forgiveness but like, in a good way.” You can read the sermon or hear her preach it online. At a silent retreat instead of feeling warm and connected to the divine, Rev. Bolz-Weber’s mind raced with recriminations and she felt a failure until she heard 11 words that she humbly attributes to God: “but what if you have already been forgiven of all that?”
I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from all of these diverse expressions, and I hope you will enjoy and learn from them too. Whenever I hear a Beethoven symphony, as Sister Deborah Lockwood points out, we are enabled to hear and feel God’s voice. A quilt can inspire others to justice and community. Nature teaches us through seeds and growth. Death and grief inspire us to take fresh steps. Scripture teaches us archetypal truths that resonate in our own lives. Even in times of powerlessness and suffering when we join our voices, we can survive a long way from home, because our home is within the heart of God filled with the “music” of resurrection and new life.
Rev. Christina St Clair was born and raised in London, England. She came to the United States when she was eighteen and is a U.S. citizen. Her passionate interest in spirituality led her from Eastern meditation to become a follower of Christ. She earned degrees in philosophy and pastoral ministry. She eventually pastored two Protestant churches (United Methodist and Presbyterian). She is a certified spiritual director from West Virginia Institute for Spirituality and practices Reiki distant healing which is like intercessory prayer.
Her latest historically accurate novel, Naomi and Ruth; Loyalty Among Women, is intended for women of all religious persuasions or none. www.loyaltyamongwomen.com