Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year A

Second Sunday after Epiphany

First Meetings

January 19, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, I was captivated by the first meeting of Jesus and Peter. It made me reflect on the importance of initial conditions in relationships. First meetings can contain within them futures beyond our imagining.


History & Culture

The Beauty of Difference


Story of a girl from Iran going to live in England who faces prejudice then finds a true friend.

Notice the causal chain–from Stephen’s genuine hospitality to Shirin’s happiness to their shared joy to the opening among all the children to hear about something new and different.

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History & Culture

The Unexpected Kaddish

Nechemia Schusterman

A touching story about a family coming together with a rabbi, despite different religious practices and perspectives, to perform a mitzvah on the occasion of a matriarch’s death.

Pay attention to the next to last paragraph, that begins, “We were of two worlds….”

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Science & Nature

Cutest Koala Compilation Ever

Symbio Wildlife Park,


Beautiful video of young koala bears and their caregivers at Symbio Wildlife Park outside of Sydney, Australia.

Consider looking up Symbio Wildlife Park after watching this video to learn more about their mission.

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What might be hidden inside our first meeting of another person?


The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother's womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. Isaiah 49:1b-2

Call must be seen. By someone. We can see it in ourselves; sometimes that is enough. Or, more often, another sees it in us. If it is not seen, it will not come to life in the world; it will remain dormant within us. Call can also be obfuscated. Others can hide our call from us by showing us distorted images of ourselves. Narratives about us can keep us from seeing the truth about ourselves. Narratives about whole peoples can crystalize and incite or justify violence.

In order to be activated, the beauty within us must be seen and honored more deeply than any narrative of hatred or suspicion. To see the true self is the beginning of call. To hide the essence of a person in a quiver, ready to be aimed, with single purpose, to the end intended for that life–this is the beauty of divine call.

In these days, those with power in our own land are strengthening a distorted narrative about people in Iran. Like Shirin, the girl in today's first history and culture lesson, others in Iran can become objects of our distrust or even ridicule. No matter the violence or tensions between our two nations, this approach to other human life never squares with the values Jesus taught. Our first meeting of the other always contains divine possibility. Therefore, the prejudices we bring to such meetings matter, on a cosmic scale.

And in the midst of rising violence against Jews in recent weeks, Schusterman’s story in our second history and culture lesson offers both a reminder of how meetings can be auspicious as well as a call to find a way to work with difference for the greater good.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). John 1:40-42

Jesus meets Peter for the first time. Peter, who will deny him. Peter whom Jesus calls to build his movement. Peter, who is the cornerstone of the Church. What do we see when we meet another, for the first time?

In these days, wildfires ravage Australia. In addition to the human lives at stake, more than a billion animals and counting have perished, some taking with them the existence of an entire species with their deaths. In today's science and nature lesson, we witness koalas and humans meeting. What happens each time we meet a living creature? Have we lost our understanding that, contained in every meeting, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is the seed of divine call?