#ThursdayTheology w/ @JennTafel “May I Have Your #Attention, Please”

Listen for wisdom.


This was the sermon I preached at Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing on 11/17/19. The material presented was on their congregation’s spiritual theme of “attention.” (You may need to turn up the volume.)
The opening poem is “Noticing” by Janisse Ray and the closing poem is “To Remember” by Rev. Scott Tayler. ~Rev. Jenn Tafel

person diving on body of water

Photo by anouar olh on Pexels.com

#SundaySermon @JennTafel “Wrestling with God and Receiving Justice”

Listen Here or Read Rev. Tafel’s sermon from 10/20/19

Wrestling With God and Receiving Justice

October 20, 2019

New Church of Montgomery

Good morning! It’s great to be back worshipping with you all today.


Something you may not know about me is that I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area through pre-school and most of my elementary school years. When I was in Kindergarten my mom’s mother came to live with us since my mom went to work full time and I wasn’t quite ready for taking on the world of elementary school by myself yet—especially getting myself to the school. I have a few memories of what this time in my life was like. I remember my Grandma making peanut butter and jelly toast for me and she taught me how to play Rummy…which was really more for her than me I think—my Grandma loved to play cards.My Grandma would help me get on and off the bus each day and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on in my world. It was a great way to start off my school career. 


The next year was a bit dicey since the bus service was not available to those of us who weren’t in Kindergarten. I don’t know what the determining factor was for the school for children between the ages of five and six—but apparently it was a big difference. I didn’t feel the shift—but okay. I think my parents took me through the way I’d be walking so I had some kind of idea of what I was in for. I remember walking with my sister and that was difficult for both of us as we could think of about a hundred other things we’d both rather be doing than having to walk next to each other on the sidewalk going to school. The good news is that we made several stops along the way and gathered a bunch of people to share the journey. I don’t think it was a mile from our house to school but it felt like walking to the moon—and back…and yes it was significantly awful in the winter. At some point along the way I became I latchkey kid. I knew the way quite well after that first year of walking. I knew how long it took to meet up with each group of friends. I knew where the honeysuckles were for a treat walking into school. I knew which yards I could steal flowers from for gifts for my teachers (except for my second grade teacher). I knew who the crossing guard students were and the whole process of crossing large streets together and how big the pack of kids were as we finally made it to the school. It was a journey every single day and there was a particular way to go about it and I knew what the consequences were if any piece of the puzzle was missing. I don’t think I knew how dangerous this whole process was while I was experiencing it but it was made clear to me several times that we needed to stick together. 


This process became what I knew like the back of my hand. Whenever I engaged in a new project, going on a trip, or heck just running errands—this became my way of operating. There was a process of getting from point A to point B and it was detailed and organized. I would get super frustrated when I was younger if I was told we were going somewhere and we did not stick to a plan. There was more to the story but the summary is that I don’t deal well with chaos—or perceived chaos. There is a balance to be achieved between going with the flow and not having a sense of what is going on or what is expected.


This brings us to the lessons from Scripture. Ourstory from the Old Testament features Jacob wrestling with a figure through the night (some say it’s an angel or God but no one knows for certain). This incident takes place the night before Jacob is set to do battle with his brother Esau and Esau’s army (Jacob was on the run because he took their father’s blessing by deceit). There are several facets to this story: sibling rivalry, mysterious or other-worldly encounters, the birth of a nation, and our ability to make sense of it all—or not. In our theology the concept of wrestling (as Jacob did with the figure) “denotes temptation as to truth preceding conjunction with good.” 


As I mulled this over and thought about how our theology boils down to its simplest form to the marriage of Divine Love (goodness) and Divine Wisdom (truth)—I wondered what temptationsexist before truth and goodness can be united. In this particular story the temptation is to operate from our natural or rational self as opposed to our spiritual nature. This is where our story from the Old Testament connects with our story from the New Testament. The unjust Judge in the story with the persistent widow is also an example of operating from the natural self and not the spiritual self. 


In the example I shared above of what it’s like for me to go about my day or work on a project—I have had to do some serious unwinding of rigidity. I had the template of how to go to school imprinted young and hardwired from years of repetition. And so, it would seem I would be able to have a handle on life and what is thrown at me. And yet…I still struggle. As I wrestle with the theology and the point of existence—I work through the regeneration process time and again when faced with triggers and the curve balls thrown at me. What I am currently working on, is handing all aspects of my life over to Spirit. I mean, things go far better when I step aside and allow things to unfold but that is definitely not my default setting. An example, I was visiting with my Goddaughter last week and I was exhausted from working back to back overnights as Chaplain and it was pouring rain. I had to drive about a half hour north of Lansing to meet up with her at a local cider mill. I got to our meet up location way before she did and once she arrived we had a great time and got caught up with each other—and then I had to face the drive home still exhausted and still in the rain. I had flashes of which exit to take but it meant potentially more time on surface streets and so I ignored my gut instinct and the flashes that were coming to mind. Well, instead of dealing with more time on surface streets I had to deal with wasted time in a construction zone. Gee, was that my rational mind saying, “I got this!” only to be met with more frustration? What would’ve happened if I followed what I can only say wasSpirit communicating with me? I know this is how Spirit communicates with me and yet I dismissed it because I thought I knew better.


I would argue that this is the temptation that presents itself before truth can unite with goodness—the idea that “I know better!” based on life experience, our culture, family dynamics and advice, and whatever else stands as a barrier to God or Spirit’s operation in our daily routine which becomes the life we lead. So what do we do about it? As one who does not trust so easily I will say that it is an experiment in handing the reigns over to the Creator of the universe. My new life experience over the past couple years tells me that it works better when I show my gratitude, actively engage in the regeneration process daily or at least weekly, and witness to the positive changes that are unfolding around me. Again, this is not my default setting but it is quickly becoming so.


As one who has been standing with two paths before me I can say for certainty what life is like when I’ve been the one in charge trying to navigate what’s thrown at me, using faulty coping skills because that is what I’ve known (please hear I do not cast blame—this is rather a statement of awareness and observation), and doing my darndest to try and be proactive in ways that only trip me up constantly. As Robert Frost (yes a well known Swedenborgian) said—he took the road not taken and that it made all the difference. I am choosing a path unknown to me but boy is there more light and less chaos…and that is making a difference to me. It takes effort, courage, and persistence.


Coming back to the stories from Scripture—persistence is a key word or concept in both of them. Full disclosure: I gave the sermon title and theme to the folks here before I knew the direction this message would take—which happens more often than not but here we are. And as I am wont to do—I approach my projects and tasks with due diligence. The question I posed in the theme for this message (I know you all read the teaser on the church website!) had to do with wrestling with God and receiving justice…I mean I could’ve asked a larger question but not sure what that would be. I guess what I would ask is what does justice look like to you? Is it something you’re seeking in your daily life? Is it something you’re interested in pursuing on behalf of those who don’t have the ability to be heard…or even asked to the table? The persistence of the characters in both stories pursued their interests and ultimately interests beyond them…yes it seems like the answer was given to only them but Jacob fathered a nation and the widow’s persistence changed the mind of a city official which possibly had an impact on life beyond her story. When we actively engage our spiritual nature and the presence of God…truth and goodness unite and a legacy beyond us can unfold.


As I said, choosing a life unknown and unfamiliar and engaging God in all details takes effort, persistence, and courage. And when life throws curve balls and our circle tells us to get back in our comfort zone—we need encouragement. I look to folks like Brene Brown—a voice becoming well known in our culture—who is a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and courage. The title of her book “Daring Greatly” comes from the well-known (and especially now well-known) quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I will end with this quote that sticks with me quite often these days…



Guest Minister @JennTafel Today at 11!

Join us Today,  in welcoming back Guest Minister, Rev. Jenn Tafel.

10:30 Hospitality, 11:00 am Worship; @ The Glendale New Church 845 Congress Ave, Glendale, OH 45246

Rev. Jenn will examine:

Bible Verses:

OT:      Genesis 32: 22-31

NT:      Luke 18: 1-8

…and discuss how “often when we hear stories or have personal experience in wrestling with God it’s rare to hear that there was an immediate outcome…or one that could be defined at all.

This week’s message will focus on the stories of Jacob wrestling “with a figure through the night” and the persistent widow. Have you wrestled with God? Have you fought for justice? What inspires you to seek justice and answers?

Sermon Title: “Wrestling with God and Receiving Justice”


Chawne Kimber, “slow poetry 1: the one with apprehension,” 2017-18.


#WeekendPlans “Wrestling with God and Receiving Justice” @JennTafel

Join us Sunday, October 19, 2019, in welcoming back Guest Minister, Rev. Jenn Tafel.

10:30 Hospitality, 11:00 am Worship; @ The Glendale New Church 845 Congress Ave, Glendale, OH 45246

Rev. Jenn will examine:

Bible Verses:

OT:      Genesis 32: 22-31

NT:      Luke 18: 1-8

…and discuss how “often when we hear stories or have personal experience in wrestling with God it’s rare to hear that there was an immediate outcome…or one that could be defined at all.

This week’s message will focus on the stories of Jacob wrestling “with a figure through the night” and the persistent widow. Have you wrestled with God? Have you fought for justice? What inspires you to seek justice and answers?

Sermon Title: “Wrestling with God and Receiving Justice”

Quilts by Artist and Mathematician, Chawne Kimber; Mathematics Chair and Professor at Lafayette College @cauchycomplete


“I Can’t Breathe” and “I Am Still Not Free” Quilts by Chawne Kimber On Display at Lafayette University https://cauchycomplete.wordpress.com/




What Exactly Are You Saying?! #ThursdayThoughts

Rev. Jenn Tafel’s Sermon From June 9, 2019 at the New Church of Montgomery

What Exactly Are You Saying?!

Listen/Watch or Read


Good morning! I’m excited to be with you all for worship once again.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my call to ministry story. It was the “thing” to do in theological school. We compared these stories time and again. Each time someone shared their story, there were new elements to it. Now it’s not like a traditional “fish story” where the size of the fish grows or the depth of the water deepens each time or whatever. The new elements added come from a place (hopefully) of thoughtful reflection. We knew (or maybe everyone else did) that people would ask about this part of our journeys as ordained clergy—and so it was important to hone and craft the story for the years of storytelling to come. There were moments when I didn’t think anyone would be that interested; but, we are talking about the Creator of the universe working through humans in a particular fashion (allegedly)—so yes, as it turns out—people have been interested in my story. Now, with all that build up you would think I had a fantastic or jaw-dropping story. I mean, how else does the Creator of the universe work, right?! To be honest, I’ve had more significant dreams, meditation experiences, and shamanic journeys since theological school, but this is a story that came to mind when reflecting on the lessons from Scripture and Swedenborg’s exegesis.

I floundered after college. Well, I floundered in college and before college, too. I thought I wanted to be a teacher and that’s how I got back to school full time at the age of twenty-three. And then I realized I had no business being in a classroom with the youth of America. I graduated with a degree in Communications and Theater. Super marketable by the way (if you’re interested!). I moved to the Boston area and tried to find gainful employment and I ended up in the travel industry for a time. I lived with Bill and Louise Woofenden for part of my time there. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Bill taught at the seminary for years. I attended church at the Swedenborgian church in Elmwood while I lived in that area—so did Bill and Louise.

I participated in the Sunday School program and organized that year’s women’s retreat. Louise would ask me quite often when I was going to answer the call to ministry. I returned the question with a blank stare. The women at that retreat asked me the same question. I drove teens to a Memorial Day Retreat in 2001 and realized how much I enjoyed the experience as staff. I was emailing Jim Lawrence (Dean of our theological school) about information for articles I was writing for our national church magazine and other material. Jim is a known recruiter for the school and has been for some time. He would reply to my emails asking when I was going to answer the call to ministry. I attended our annual convention that year and at a mixer with ministers (because doesn’t everyone go to those?!)—I asked one of my (now colleagues), “Don’t I have to have a call to ministry or something?” He replied, “You also have to answer the call if it comes in.” I was dumbfounded. I thought that a call to ministry would be cosmic and all the details would be handled or some such thing. I did not anticipate hearing that I had a part to play in the process—I mean I fully grasp that now, but I was taken back by this concept because I somehow negated my participation.

I had lunch with Jim during the convention and it appeared that my fate was sealed. And then I had to break the news to my parents (cue dramatic organ music). I honestly think it was easier to come out as queer identified and bi than to tell them I was going into what is known as the family business.

After I shared this story in circles with classmates and professors—I was kind of jealous of other people’s stories. I heard folks share profound dreams and mountain top experiences as their call to ministry—life events that shook people to their cores. My story feels rather matter of fact and boring. Now, I do remember asking my step dad (also a minister) at dinner one night when I was nineteen what the process was for becoming a minister. I needed a bachelor’s degree to begin the educational component. Well, that wasn’t where I was at that point in my life so I didn’t pursue things then. I remember a time at one of our church camps when I was nine or ten and I looked around my environment wondering how it all came to be. I wondered why I was there and why any of us were here. It was beyond the buildings I was next to—I wanted to know the story behind what I was experiencing. I still have this sense of wonder about the universe and construct of reality—but that’s a story for another time. The point of me sharing this is that while my actual call to ministry (and the answering of it) seems bland to me—it is part of a much larger journey.

For me, this is an illustration of the dynamic and subtle ways that God works through humanity and this is the connection to the lessons from Scripture. While incredibly distinct and different stories from Scripture—a common thread that I heard was God’s desire to speak to humankind and through humankind and this is where my call to ministry story fits into the equation for me. God speaks continuously through a variety of methods. As one of my mentors would say, “If you are not someone who reads Scripture or other books don’t you think God is still trying to reach you? There are movies, songs, conversations with others that can be the vehicle for God’s communication. The point is that we have to be open to the ways God is communicating.”

In the story of the Tower of Babel the citizens of the planet decided they wanted to reach God and the best way they could do that was by building a structure that would reach up to heaven. While Swedenborg has specific explanations of this story that unpack each verse of this story, the bottom line is that because they spoke one language it means that they were upholding one doctrine. Because they decided what was best—building a tower to reach God, their self-hood was leading the way rather than allowing for God to be the driving force. The result was that they no longer understood one another on many levels because their language was muddled. This confusion is a state of being that is necessary when breaking the hells apart from a heavenly state. What we once knew is distorted because a new way of operating needs to take hold. Rather than build a structure “up to heaven,” our spiritual growth requires that we look inward and break the structures that already exist as barriers to the leading of God in our lives.

The story of Pentecost is not one that I grew up hearing while raised in this tradition. I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you that the story holds significance for me as I have attended ordinations of friends and colleagues on this day or with the color red (the liturgical color of the day) in the sanctuary. As we celebrate this Christian holy day and pair it with the story of the Tower of Babel, listening to God would potentially be fear inducing. I mean, the disciples and friends are in a room not exactly settled and really uncertain about the future. It’s fifty days from Easter and then they have this other worldly experience occur. While accused of drinking—because that’s an easy thing to say that causes altered states of consciousness, it’s really a direct experience of God through the Holy Spirit. So we move from not being open to God because of barriers and self-hood leading the way to God saying, “Listen up folks!” The barriers of denial become apparent in this story. However, there were enough people in the crowd hearing a message from the Divine in their native language that could dispute the need to deny.

I return to the story of my call to ministry where it was pointed out that I needed to be a participant in how God was speaking to me and ultimately leading me. To be honest, I was afraid of how this decision was going to change my life. I knew that I would have to make sacrifices and twelve years later I am still actively changing course as needed in order to follow where God is leading me. I have moved around the country (and most recently across town), established and dissolved relationships, attended countless workshops on honing skills on all levels, and more. The desire to listen, hear, and act on how God is leading in my life is far from what would be considered easy by most folks. However, at this point in the game there is no going back to any iterations of who I once was.

So where do you find yourself in the stories? Are you able to hear God? Do you have a desire to hear where God is leading you? Are there barriers to you taking action?

Pentecost is in many ways a birth story—the birth of a movement. We all have the ability to bring forth life no matter our circumstances. May the fire of the Holy Spirit burst forth within each of you here today!                 Amen


Lessons from Scripture


Genesis 11: 1-9


1 Throughout the earth, people spoke the same language and used the same words. 2 Now, as they moved eastward, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They all said to one another, “Let us make bricks and bake them in the fire.” They used bricks as building stones, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top can reach to heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, to keep us from being scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower these mortals had built. 6 “They are a single people with a single language,” Yahweh said. “And this is but the beginning of their undertakings! Now there will be nothing too hard for them to do. 7 Come, let us go down and baffle their language so that they can no longer understand one another.” 8 So Yahweh scattered them over the face of the earth, and they had to stop building the city. 9 It was named Babel, because Yahweh made humans babble different languages throughout the world. It was from there that Yahweh scattered them over the whole earth.

Acts 2: 1-21


1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they all met in one room. 2 Suddenly they heard what sounded like a violent, rushing wind from heaven; the noise filled the entire house in which they were sitting. 3 Something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each one. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as she enabled them. 5 Now there were devout people living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, 6 and at this sound they all assembled. But they were bewildered to hear their native languages being spoken. 7 They were amazed and astonished: “Surely all of these people speaking are Galileans! 8 How does it happen that each of us hears these words in our native tongue?

9 We are Parthians, Medes and Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya around Cyrene, as well as visitors from Rome— 11 all Jews, or converts to Judaism—Cretans and Arabs, too; we hear them preaching, each in our own language, about the marvels of God!” 12 All were amazed and disturbed. They asked each other, “What does this mean?” 13 But others said mockingly, “They’ve drunk too much new wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd: “Women and men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! 15 These people are not drunk as you think—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16 No, it’s what Joel the prophet spoke of: 17 ‘In the days to come— it is our God who speaks— I will pour out my spirit on all humankind. Your daughters and sons will prophesy, your young people will see visions, and your elders will dream dreams. 18 Even on the most insignificant of my people, both women and men, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 And I will display wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire and billowing smoke. 20 The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon will become blood before the coming of the great and sublime day of our God. 21 And all who call upon the name of our God will be saved.’

Message from Swedenborg

“The fact of the matter is that the more self-love or a misplaced sense of independence worms its way into our worship, the more internal worship recedes, or becomes nonexistent. Inward devotion consists in an affection for what is good and an acknowledgment of truth, but the more egoism or self-dependence advances or enters, the more an affection for goodness and the acknowledgment of truth withdraw or leave. Holiness can never coexist with profanation, just as heaven cannot coexist with hell. The one needs to separate from the other; that is what conditions in God’s kingdom, and the way it is organized, require. This is the reason why inward worship does not exist in those whose worship is called “Babel.” Instead they worship something dead and even cadaverous that lies within. It is evident, then, what outward worship is like when something like this lies at its core.”

Secrets of Heaven 1326

Guest Minister, Rev @JennTafel Considers The #TowerOfBabel and #Pentecost, Sunday

Join us Sunday, June 9, 2019, for a sermon by our Guest Minister, Rev. Jenn Tafel.  Rev. Tafel will explore the stories of Pentecost and The Tower of Babel, from Scripture.

Hospitality begins at 10:30, Service at 11:00.

845 Congress Avenue, Glendale, OH 45246

Rev. Jenn Tafel is “a Certified Reiki Master and ordained Minister. (She is) an advocate and activist in the LGBTQ+ community and ally in several circles. (She is) interested in dismantling systems of oppression collectively and individually, and… here to build new paradigms based on love and wholeness—which requires reconciliation and forgiveness. (Rev. Jenn is) sharing what (she) learn(s) and practice(s) along my journey. ~https://www.groundedcoveliving.com/


photo by Maggie Panyko


Dismantling White Supremacy: “You’ve Had the Power All Along My Dear”

Reading this title could be a double entendre. “You’ve had the power all along, My Dear.”

Whites in this country have had the power all along. Ergo, it’s time to allow others to seize and embrace their own power.


You can also hear it this way: the power to change a culture which tolerates, allows and even encourages a society where white supremacists feel their message is one of value to the world, starts from within.

Either way, it’s time to start listening to our inner voice; the one that spurs us to good.

If you missed it, or if you’d love to hear it again, listen to last Sunday’s sermon from Guest Minister, Rev. Jenn Tafel, on seizing our personal power and being the one, among others, to bring about needed change.


Photo taken by @JennTafel at Niagara Falls

#WeekendPlans: A Day of Rainbows, Leprechauns, and Maybe a Party and Unicorn

Okay, now that I have your attention—the message for Sunday, March 17, 2019, actually centers on the deep well of wisdom we have within us and what it means to access that.

My sermon, “You’ve Always Had the Power All Along, My Dear” combines the central concept from the Wizard of Oz with the story from Gospel of the Wedding at Cana. ~ Guest Minister, Rev. Jenn Tafel

Join us, Sunday at 10:30 am, for hospitality; 11:00 am for Worship Service.

845 Congress Avenue, Glendale,OH 45246

#ThursdayThoughts “Life Cycles” @JennTafel

Life Cycles
November 18, 2018, Rev. Jenn Tafel

Good morning! What a blessing to be worshipping with you all again.

The Thanksgiving season and holiday call all sorts of images and more often than not it’s the cornucopia overflowing with items harvested. For me, it calls up what it takes to fill that horn-o-plenty. And for someone who doesn’t have a garden or do a lot of gardening—I sure do use the imagery quite a bit. And honestly—it’s a metaphor and image that works with so many folks across cultures and class differences (well, most of the time). Heck, there are plenty of parables and stories of gardening in the Bible for us to use—even if we don’t have current experience.

Recently, I used the image/metaphor of gardening at a spiritual activism meeting when discussing the commitment and longevity needed for doing justice work. Like an artist, a gardener can see the big picture and possibly the finished product when looking at an empty field. There is planning, preparation, purchasing, and ultimately planting. It is an involved process—if a person wants to be successful. The same can be said for justice work—though modified a bit, of course. There is the big picture and in order to work toward that picture we have to be willing to invest the time and energy—knowing that the work will yield benefits beyond our lifetime.

The garden (or us) needs to be prepared or cultivated and this requires education. Education is imperative. It wasn’t until I attended junior college that I learned that there was a way to learn. Yes, it’s true. I was continually frustrated throughout my primary education. I thought that people knew a secret that was hidden only to me. Well, they did to some degree. I finally learned that textbooks are written a certain way and once you realize this small but important detail—the process of learning runs a heck of a lot smoother! Holy smokes! It was like a veil or fog had been lifted. How we are educating is just as important as the content of education. Education for our spiritual journey comes from our theology as well as lived experience. Hopefully it comes from more than one source and a variety of authors. If we are doing any work towards improving justice and equity it is crucial that we be trained and educated as allies. I am constantly attending workshops and seminars.

Working in a garden also requires the proper tools (isn’t it amazing how fast the work goes once you have the right tool for the job?!). Our spiritual journey and the advancement of cultural competency also require us to use the “right” tool for the job. Having a variety of spiritual practice techniques is key in our regeneration or spiritual growth process. Meditation works for some things where prayer requires a different focus. There is a difference between tilling a field or plot and watering the soil. Maybe that’s a statement of the obvious but I know I need reminding from time to time!

The Scripture lessons for today speak to life cycles and the spiritual journey. In our reading from 1Samuel we hear how Hannah is preparing herself for what will be a spiritual undertaking—though she doesn’t know at this stage in the game—spoiler alert! She is participating in the spiritual practice of the pilgrimage, prayer, and openness to God’s leading. She has been cultivating herself for some time without knowledge of how God will be working in her life. For me, it’s not blind faith but rather an act of devotion without thought of outcomes. The process of the devotion IS the act. Hannah is dedicated to serving God and knows that she is changed in the process. The life she’s built is such that the pilgrimage to the Tent of Meeting is a central piece of her spirituality—regardless if it was required of her. She and the Tent of Meeting had a relationship. It happens that God sees and hears this and gives her a son, Samuel, who was the religious figure responsible for consecrating the first kings of Israel.

We turn to the reading from Gospel where the disciples are impressed with the Temple and structure of it. “Look at the huge stones!” Jesus in his way of teaching informs them that once again the disciples are focused on the wrong thing. Man—that had to be tough! I remember early in my adventures in ministry and theological formation being focused on entirely the wrong things. Woof! I don’t have a specific example but I can remember the feeling. Just like the disciples I was walking along thinking I knew something only to be told, “Yeah—that’s wrong!” Are you kidding me?! What an ego crusher (maybe that was the point…maybe).
A take away from these stories is perhaps not to get hung up on the structures or the permanence of things. It isn’t the building. It isn’t the relationship. It isn’t the job. It isn’t the plant or vegetable. It isn’t the organization. Oh my gosh, Jenn Tafel—what are you saying?!!! I’m saying that perhaps it’s the work. It’s the process. Most importantly it’s the relationship with God and paying attention to this guidance. God works through organizations and structures but isn’t those things. God is present in relationships but isn’t the relationship. God isn’t the plant or the vegetable—God is present in the creation and nurturing of them.
We can’t get hung up on the permanence of anything if we are working in garden. At the end of a season—whoosh! All gone. For better or worse it is literally left on the field. All the cards are played. Then the planning goes into the next season. Will I keep growing corn there or is it time to put in beans? Do I need to expand the plot? What methods worked for keeping out disease, insects, and invaders? How was I able to respect the land and nurture Mother Earth in this process?

As I was wrestling with the material for today’s message, I came across a quote from Shams of Tabriz, #10 from the “40 Rules of Love.” It says, “The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.”

Life-Cyles. Death. Birth. Re-birth. God is present through it all.
We come together today not only to worship but also to share in a meal. We are here for celebrating God who works through our lives and also to celebrate one another. If I’ve learned anything in my time on the planet, it’s that community building is just as worthwhile and challenging as working in a garden. How are you different from a year ago? I was lucky enough to be here a year ago and so I know how different I am as we come together today. What worked for your community? What didn’t? Do you need to rotate or shift anything for growth to occur?

The food we will be sharing also took a lot of work to prepare—what a blessing we will be sharing that together. We will be nourished by the food as well as the company. We can talk about our blessings and hopes with one another. How good it is to come together. What a horn-o-plenty we have here today. God IS good!

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 1: 4-20

4 When the time came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions to Peninnah and her children, 5 and a double portion to Hannah, for he loved Hannah, even though YHWH made her childless. 6 And because YHWH closed her womb, her rival constantly taunted her. As a result, she grew gravely depressed. 7 This went on for years. Every year they made the pilgrimage to YHWH’s Tent of Meeting, her rival taunted her to tears and she refused to eat. 8Elkanah, her husband would ask, “Hannah, why do you cry, and why do you refuse to eat? To grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” 9 Hannah rose after one such meal at Shiloh, and presented herself to God. at the time, the priest Eli was sitting on a chair by the door of YHWH’s Tent of Meeting. 10 Hannah, deeply distressed, wept greatly, 11vowing, “YHWH Omnipotent, look with pity on your handmaid. Don’t forsake me. Remember me. If you will give me a child, a male, I will dedicate him to you. For all the days of his life, he will neither drink wine nor liquor, and no razor will ever touch its head.” 12 As she kept praying to YHWH, Eli noticed her lips. 13 Hannah was praying silently—her lips moved but they made no sound. Seeing this, Eli decided she was drunk, 14 and said to her, “How long will you continue remain in this drunken state? Sober up!” 15 Hannah replied, “Oh no! It isn’t that! I am a woman with a broken heart! I have drunk neither wine nor liquor. But I have been pouring out my heart before YHWH. 16 Don’t judge me as a terrible person. I am simply pouring out my feelings of grief and misery.” 17 Eli said “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel grant you your wish.” 18 Hannah replied, “You are most kind.” Then she left. 19Early the next morning they arose early and worshiped before YHWH and then returned to Ramah, their home. When Elkanah made love to Hannah, YHWH remembered her. 20 She conceived, and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she had asked for him.

Mark 13: 1-8

1 As Jesus was leaving the Temple, one of the disciples commented in passing, “Look, Teacher! What huge stones these are! What wonderful buildings!” 2 Jesus replied, “See these great buildings? Not a single stone will be left on another. Everything will be torn down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will all this happen? What will be the sign that all this is about to take place?” 5 Jesus began by saying, “Be on your guard that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the One,’ and they will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of war, do not be alarmed. Things like this must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation and empire against empire; there will be earthquakes throughout the world and famines—yet this is only the beginning of the labor pains.

Message from Swedenborg

“God alone—the Lord—is love itself, because God is life itself. Both we on earth and angels are life-receivers. I will be offering many illustrations of this in works on divine providence and life. Here I would say only that the Lord, who is the God of the universe, is uncreated and infinite, while we and angels are created and finite. Since the Lord is uncreated and infinite, God is that essential reality that is called Jehovah and is life itself or life in itself. No one can be created directly from the Uncreated, the Infinite, from Reality itself and Life itself, because what is divine is one and undivided. We must be created out of things created and finite, things so formed that something divine can dwell within. Since we and angels are of this nature, we are life-receivers. ”
~Divine Love and Wisdom 4

#WeekendPlans Join in the #Feast #Cincinnati

Please bring yourselves (and a dish to share) for our annual Harvest Feast, being held this Sunday, November 18, 2018, at the Glendale New Church in Glendale, OH at 11 am. You are family to us.

We welcome back to our church, Rev. Jenn Tafel from Lansing, Michigan. We thank her for offering her thoughtful words prior to the feast.

The turkey part of the meal will be provided by the church. Other dishes on and off the usual menu are welcome. If you’re not sure what to bring, give us a call and we will let you know what is still needed. 513-515-4542

The church will be open at 10:00 am to arrange your goodies on the tables, and to mingle.

Please do join us! If you have never been to our church before, you will find a welcoming home. If you care to, please send us an email of your intention to come so that we may expect you!