‘In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.’
– Kahlil Gibran Jr.
Exploring the Ideas of Incarnation this Lent
Authentic March 29, 2020
Grace and peace friends,
I hope you are doing well during our Shelter In Place order. I was able to spend some of my week helping drop off supplies for others as they prepare for 2 weeks of being indoors. Amy was smart and created a dinner calendar, it reminds me of having a lunch schedule in high school!
This week’s aspect of incarnation that we are exploring is authenticity. I’ve always thought of authenticity as the real essence of a person. Someone can be a doctor, a father, a brother, a son, a grocery store clerk, a teach, or any number of things, but those titles do not get to the root of who they are as a person. Their authentic self is rooted deep in their soul. And when someone able to act authentically, they are showing their true character. I am finding my own true, authentic self during quarantine—I think Amy is too. There is something about being cooped up for days on end that makes a person’s true self show up. Whether that shows up in weird actions or irritable behavior, being at home with family for an extended period without the distractions of social identity tends to bring out a person’s essence.
Most of us have an idealized version of ourselves, an image of ourself that is in front of us, calling us to be better. We want to be smarter, kinder, more Christ-like. We spend our time and energy trying to be that way, and when we inevitably get stuck in traffic, or someone walks slowly in front of us, or we get awnry after two weeks in quarantine; then we slip up. We lash out, get mad, yell at anyone and everyone that gets in our way. We are human after all!
When those moments pop up in my life I’m reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s gospel:
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment. (Matthew 15:21-28)
In Mark’s version, Jesus actually compares the woman to a dog! I usually imagine Jesus is at his wits’ end when he runs into this woman. He has been traveling, teaching the disciples, debating with Pharisees and teacher; Jesus needs a break, he was only human after all!
And it was this authentic, human self that Jesus engaged this woman with. Jesus met people where they were at, not where he thought they should be. During this complex interaction, the Canaanite woman speaks her mind to Jesus despite the disciples urging and his remark. Then something authentic happens, Jesus hears her. People are rarely listened to, authentic engagement is rare. So when it happens, people notice.
I find this story comforting. It tells me that when I am chasing after my ideal self and fail, that it is okay. That whenever I am irritable, quick to judgment, or short-tempered that Jesus still hears me in those moments. That it is okay that my authentic, true self is imperfect. And even though I am imperfect, Christ still calls me toward perfection one step at a time. I pray that as we continue one this Lenten journey to the cross that we would be aware of the ways we are called to be authentic, the ways that Christ invites us to listen to the needs of those around us, and the acceptance of our own limits.
Pastor David Hodd
Intentional March 22, 2020
Grace and peace friends,
As we continue to navigate what church looks like in the world since COVID-19, these posts will serve as one way to reach out and connect with you all on our shared spiritual journeys. Our theme for the week leading up to the quarantine was Intentional. I can think of nothing more intentional than the acts our leaders in the church, government, and service industry have had to make these last two weeks. Every decision from shutting down schools, enacting social distancing, making restaurants take out only, rationing toilet paper, cancelling concerts to the individual sacrifices we have all made. Practicing social distancing, reaching out electronically to people, and the simple act of staying home. We have had to act with purpose, with intention towards the goal of health.
I am reminded of the healing of the blind man in John’s gospel:
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:1-7)
Several things jump out at me from this text. The first being Jesus was not very conscious of spreading his germs by mixing his saliva with dirt to put in a man’s eyes, but we’ll let him slide this time. Second, Jesus debunks the myth that this man or his parents have sinned to cause his blindness. This was a common understanding going back to Job’s plight, that when people are suffering it is a result from their sin. The man’s blindness is unfortunate, but God can use this situation to show the purpose of Jesus’ ministry.
Lastly, there is the connection between the light and work. There was a relationship between the ability to work and when the sun was up, especially in an agrarian society where most of the people worked on farms or shepherded animals. There was a safety in daylight that did not exist during the night. So when Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” he is telling his followers that it is time to work. And that the type of work Jesus was talking about was giving sight to the blind—to heal. And after being healed, this man is then sent to be in the community with others, to be a witness and to be intentional about sharing his Jesus story. To sum up: Jesus is the light of the world, we are called to do the works of God which Jesus shows is the intentional healing of those who are blinded.
The world’s eyes have been opened in these last few weeks. We’ve learned that grocery store clerks, delivery people, and healthcare workers are the lifeblood of our society. We’ve seen the distortions and unfair treatment of people in our healthcare system. We’ve become acutely aware of the things we touch, door knobs, light switches, our faces. We’ve seen people try to blame this illness on others, to shift responsibility, and try to exploit fear in a time of scarcity for personal gain. We are called to be a force of healing in this time. For every story I see of someone hoarding food, toilet paper, or hand sanitizer, I see other giving those supplies away freely.
We are not alone in this world. Christ is still shining. We need to be intentional now more than ever. About our own health, and about how we care for others. There is work to be done.
Pastor David Hodd