Last night it was The Practice’s great privilege to welcome our courageous friend Jeremy Courtney, founder of The Preemptive Love Coalition, to share his story of resurrection in Iraq as part of our journey this Eastertide to have eyes to see the repercussions of Christ’s resurrection all around us in our lives and in the world.
Our opening song was woven throughout the night and was a perfect anthem of hope in light of Jeremy’s message:
Father of each citizen
Lover of each immigrant
God of everyone who has ever been an alien You’re Creator of us all
Animator of us all
Oh—You love your children, Love your children
Every daughter, every son
Oh—You love your children, All your children
Help us see You in each one
Through these words I was reminded that God is the father of every immigrant, alien and citizen in the world and it is so important to remember each life as an opportunity to glimpse the image of God here on earth.
After reading scriptures from the lectionary, praying for the world and passing the peace of Christ to one another, Jeremy stepped forward to share his story of resurrection. Aaron shared in his introduction that typically guest speakers who speak regularly on a global scale tend to have a set message that they share each time they are invited to speak – it was so special to hear that Jeremy had written a new message for our community in light of our series on resurrection. Jeremy was wrestling with the same framework that we have been working with over the past few weeks and had crafted a unique and vulnerable story of resurrection after reflecting on his life over the past few years. You can listen to Jeremy’s message through the Practice Podcast or here below:
Jeremy’s story was deeply beautiful and unsettling to me. It was so difficult to open my heart and engage in the overwhelming work of peacemaking that Jeremy and his family have been practicing in the middle east. Jeremy was raw and honest about the desert experiences they have had as they have sought out new life in such a war torn land. His family is no stranger to betrayal, paranoia, and longing. It is difficult, soulful work that has demanded a new perspective on life itself that I found so compelling. At one point Jeremy shared, “There’s a way to be so connected to life that we actually get in the way of resurrection.” It became apparent to me that Jeremy knew so much about resurrection because he has been so acquainted with sorrows, grief and death. It is only in the midst of very real danger, oppression and persecution, that a deep appreciation for life, and even more beautiful, life after death has been born.
The most compelling part of the evening for me came during our practice time, Jeremy shared three impactful photographs that modeled how God has given him eyes to see and have gratitude in the midst of conflict. The first image was painfully harrowing, a fragment of a skull that he and his partners came across as part of a mass grave – a true symbol of the literal death and war that marks the people of Iraq. The second image was of that same mass grave, but this time, bright yellow flowers were poking through, blooming into an image of new life out of the ashes of death – a symbol of hope. Finally, Jeremy showed an image of a field overflowing with these yellow flowers, how the entire space has been overcome by this new life. Jeremy explained that from these flowers, several Iraqi refugee women have partnered with his wife Jessica to create a livelihood through making beautiful organic soaps. In the face of pain, death and evil, life his spring forth in an unexpected way to extend an opportunity for business, livelihood and entrepreneurship amongst the widows, sisters and mothers torn asunder by middle eastern crisis.
It was a beautiful testimony of resurrection. Soap making in the midst of death is such a tactile expression of resurrection. (It is also my deep hope that every single one of you would check out the marvelous Sisterhood Soap endeavor, an opportunity of The Preemptive Love Coalition to give life back to refugees). A powerful question to consider is how can you be a soap maker in your own life? How can you partner in God’s work of resurrection using the resources God has put in front of you?
During our practice time we prayed to see gratitude, longing, and joining in with resurrection in our lives and in Iraq.
We then came to the table and took the most tangible step of resurrection available to us, by receiving the body and cup of Christ that bears witness to resurrection available to us that we take out into the world.
Our Kingdom Practices this week are simple:
- Consider becoming a soap sponsor with Preemptive Love Coalition. This is a tactile way to give the gift of new life and opportunity to refugees in Iraq, a space in which resurrection is so sorely needed.
- Consider the ways in which you can become a ‘soap maker’ in your own life. How can you join with God’s work of resurrection in your day to day life?
I hope you take Jeremy’s story with you into your life this week. I hope it haunts you, compels you, inspires you, and stretches you. We are all God’s children and we belong to each other – it is so easy to feel disconnected from our middle eastern brothers and sisters, but they need us, and I am convinced we need them to remind us of true resurrection.
Grace and Peace,
Jenna & The Practice Team