Cookies for Caretakers

Calling All Bakers!

Hello friends!

It is a tumultuous time indeed. And due to the COVID-19 pandemic we will not be having our annual cookie walk. But if the thought of not being able to bake dozens and dozens of cookies makes you sad, don’t worry! My friend Margaret is a nurse at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. She shared with my group of friends how difficult this pandemic is right now for her and her colleagues. When I reached out to her supervisor Caprice to ask her if we can help, she said:

“It is so wonderful to think and actually act on recognizing the nurses and how they are choosing courage instead of comfort to care for COVID-19 patients. I have been so impressed with how these professionals are handling the call to action. I am not saying there is not fear, anger, depression/sadness, but they are coming to work and caring for patient not only physically but emotionally. They are also caring for each other and the trials they are each facing.”

– Caprice

Friends, these individuals are facing the reality of death in a way that many of us never will. And it isn’t often that call to action involves baked sweets, but we have an opportunity to help encourage those that are living out Christ’s message of healing through cookies, fudge, and thank you notes. My goal is to get over 1,000 cookies baked for the 500+ employees of UMMC. If we work together, I know we can make that happen. To make sure we do this safely, Caprice said these guidelines will help us make sure we don’t spread our germs into the hospital:

  • Bag 2-3 cookies together in a baggy – a snack sized baggy would be perfect!
  • Bag each cookie type with a list of ingredients – this will help keep things organized as well as make sure people with allergies don’t have a bad reaction. There only needs to be one list of ingredients per cookie type.
  • Wear a mask and gloves when bagging cookies – the oven would prevent any germs from making it into the cookies during baking, but after they come out the oven a mask and gloves would be an appreciated precaution.

If you need any supplies, baggies, or ideas for a thank you note; please reach out! Francine and I are willing to help you meet these guidelines! Just call us, send us a message, a smoke signal–whatever works! We will be collecting cookies at the church on December 14th and December 15th. I will be delivering them to the hospital on Wednesday, December 16th with enough to last two days. Thank you for taking the time to care for those in need around you, together we will make a huge difference this Advent season!

Blessings,
Pastor David Hodd

If you would like to stay connected for future service opportunities,
sign up for our weekly newsletter here!

And Who Is My Neighbor?

October 29th, 2020

Content Warning: This post talks about politics. If you don’t think Christianity and politics should mix, I invite you to look at our current politicians and how they weaponize religion to gain and maintain both power and wealth. I am not advocating one side over the other, just illuminating the polarizing facets of our current political climate and how Jesus calls us to a higher way of thinking, acting, and loving. That being said, go vote.

Grace and peace friends,

1,000 years ago the Christian church was essentially an imperial, monolithic entity. In the beginning, it had gone through trials, persecutions, and struggles once the apostles left Jerusalem and began to spread the word of God to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Then, in the year 313, the emperor of the Roman Empire Constantine met with another emperor of the Roman Empire named Licinius and created the Edict of Milan, which stopped the persecution of Christians. This was sparked by a revelations that God would help Constantine conquer his enemies and unify the Roman Empire. Constantine’s soldiers painted symbols that represented Christ on their shields as they went to battle creating the Byzantine Empire. The city of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) became the center of a kingdom, and a relationship began between this capital and the previous capital of Rome.

Fast forward several centuries and these two centers, Rome and Constantinople, became further and further apart in what they believed was the “church.” This tension came to a boil in the year 1054; when the patriarchs of Constantinople and Rome excommunicated one another, forbidding the followers of their side to participate in the eucharist with people of the other side. There is a deep sin that needs to be addressed when people who call themselves Christians refuse to be in Communion with one another.

I say all of this, because one thing always stuck with me from my church history courses—these two traditions of Christianity spoke different languages. In the Eastern Orthodox church they spoke and read Greek, which was the original language of the New Testament letters. And in the Catholic West, they spoke Latin. Their theologians, their political leaders, and their emperors were all steeped in the culture and traditions of their language. And the generations of speaking, reinforcing, and interpreting Scripture one way had put them in a place where if anyone interpreted Scripture differently, they were the enemy. Wars were fought over these theological differences. Men, women, and children have died because of trinitarian theology. I can’t imagine Christ finding joy in the spilled blood of bad theology. But this is what happens when the church is synonymous with the greed of political power. Neighbors are turned against one another. Neighbors begin to speak a different language. Neighbors begin to dig in their heels and reject each other. Neighbors spill blood in the name of a Christ who said, “Love the Lord your God with all of you heart, with all of your soul, with all of your strength, and with all of your mind. The second is this, love your neighbor as yourself.”

I went through all of that church history because it is important to understand where we stand. How we got here. Where we are located in this trajectory of the Christian church. How, in our current United States politics, we began to speak two languages. The languages Rome and Constantinople can be seen in how Republicans and Democrats speak to one another. We live in different countries; one where we can achieve dreams and goals with enough hard work and one where people are born and die in poverty without a chance to live the life every person deserves. I am writing this as a call to remember that we are all neighbors. And that Christ calls us to love.


“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)


The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most influential stories of my life. Within it lies the essence of what I believe about Christianity, about grace, about salvation, about the Christ in me and the Christ in you, and the way I am meant to move within this world full of things that cause me fear. A more modern reading might change some of the words. Instead of a man traveling, we could substitute a white supremacist. Instead of a Levite, we could put a pro-life candidate. Instead of priest, we could put a non-binary Unitarian Universalist pastor who believes in preserving life “from the womb to the tomb.” Or we could put in an atheist, or a farmer, or an essential worker, or someone on welfare and food stamps. The point is, it could be any one of us who walks by, who decides not to see someone as a neighbor because of the baggage that comes with loving outside of your comfort zone. Instead of the Samaritan, we could use an antifa socialist. And that person taking on the health and wellbeing of their ideological polar opposite. Someone whose existence is antithetical to their own. That is the love that Christ calls us to emulate for our neighbors. Loving outside of our comfort zone is hard. Loving outside of our comfort zone comes with risks. In order to love others, we need to give up some of the power that we hold. We need to let go of the tribes that hold our identity. We need to learn a new language.

246 years ago, John Wesley said, “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them: 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and: 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.” John Wesley lived as the American Revolution was beginning and happening. He lived when the enslavement of an entire continent was taking place. He lived in the open wounds of the world that are still bleeding today. We stand centuries later interpreting the scars, mixing the blood from these wounds with the blood of Christ. Finding salvation in politics. Finding salvation in candidates. Finding salvation in separation. Our spirits are sharp, ready to pierce each other’s hearts and add to the bloodshed. I am not asking you vote one way or the other. I am asking you to love. I am asking you to learn the language of the person you hate. I am asking you to go and do likewise. Let your definition of neighbor be: yes. Let everything and everyone be your neighbor. Hold their health, wealth, wellbeing, stability, housing, joy, depression, freedom, and right to live a life filled with love as your own. If we hold that understanding of Christianity, it does not matter what language we speak, because it will always be interpreted as the language of love.

Shalom,
Pastor David Hodd

Online Worship – September 13th, 2020

July 16th, 2020

Gethsemane UMC Online Worship – September 13th, 2020

Check out our online worship for Sunday, September 13th!

Sermon:
Turning the Pot by Pastor David Hodd

Opening Hymn – I Want to Walk as a Child of Light (UMH 206)
Praise Hymn – It Is Well with My Soul (UMH 377)
Scripture – Mark 8:14-21
Sermon – Turn the Pot by Pastor David Hodd
Closing Hymn – We Will Glorify the King of Kings (TFWS 2087)

Rufus

August 6th, 2020

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9

Grace and peace friends,

Early in the spring, Amy went on an online shopping spree. She bought a birdfeeder, a bird bath, a humming bird feeder, one of those weird cagey ones that you put those weird bricks into, and a dish to put in jelly for bees. As the big 30 gets closer, things like how much rain we got, bird feeders, and gardens have become more and more appealing. So I was excited to see what kind of native Roseville birds would visit our modest wildlife buffet.
Well, spring came and went. Summer began, the flowers grew and bloomed. I put seeds in the ground for our garden. And most mornings I would wake up and as my coffee was brewing, I would look out my kitchen window at the vacant birdfeeder feeling like we were doing something wrong. The seed wasn’t good enough. We need the right kind of seed to attract the native birds. The position of the feeder was too close to the house. The wiring is too small, they can’t get in there. Or maybe, just maybe they’re afraid of the 6 foot tall, long-haired, freckled lunatic standing in the window glaring at a overflowing feeder. Numerous times I would ask Amy, “Should we move it?” “Should we buy different seed?” “Why aren’t the birds coming?” And every time Amy would respond with, “They just need time to get used to it. My mom said it took a year for birds to stop by theirs.” So I continued grumbling about it while doing nothing.

I had pretty much forgotten about it as it began blending in with the scenery of the house. Last week while on vacation, I made a list of things I want to accomplish around the house; Wash windows, clean the garage, get rid of some junk, that sort of thing. While I was out and about, lo and behold, birds! A ton of birds showed up out of nowhere! So I thought to myself, “Surely they are loving the birdfeeder and bird bath! When I checked, they were all just flying past it. In a flock of what seemed like 20 birds, not one seemed to care that my wife went on a shopping spree in March. I resigned myself to the fact that maybe we just weren’t bird people, and at least I wouldn’t have to add “refill birdfeeder” to my chore list.
So you could imagine my shock last Sunday, as we sat at our kitchen table to join a zoom baby shower, I saw a chickadee. Who I promptly named Rufus. Rufus has two friends who have been coming around every day to jump in and out of our feeder! I could already hear the “I told you so” from Amy, luckily she has the grace not to rub that sort of thing in. As I sat and watched these little birds fly around our flower garden enjoying a meal and a drink, I thought of the text from 1 Corinthians. That we can try in our own human ways to do everything in our power to make something happen, but in the end it seems God is the one to make life spring up, burst through, or fly down into our lives. That God cares for the little things, and that when God brings the little things like the flowers and the birds around, we are reminded that God cares for us as well. My friends, in the midst of the turmoil that is happening around us everyday, never forget God cares for us just like God cares for the birds and the flowers. Sometimes we just need to be patient.

Shalom,
Pastor David Hodd

To Save A Life

July 16th, 2020

“Jesus returned to the synagogue. A man with a withered hand was there. Wanting to bring charges against Jesus, they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Step up where people can see you.’ Then he said to them, ‘Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?’ But they said nothing. Looking around at them with anger, deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts, he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he did, and his hand was made healthy. At that, the Pharisees got together with the supporters of Herod to plan how to destroy Jesus.”
Mark 3:1-6

Grace and peace friends,

There is a Jewish law called pikuach nefesh, translated “saving a life.” In this principle of the Jewish faith, it is believed that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule—even the command not to work on the Sabbath. These two principles of pikuach nefesh (saving a life) and mitzvah lo ta’aseh (command to do no action) are the stars of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees at the synagogue that Sabbath day over two thousand years ago. Jesus saw the man with the withered hand, and saw a person whose life was destroyed by an illness; an illness that could be healed in that moment, so that this man’s life could begin in a new way. “Is it legal on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to kill?” Jesus asked the people who spent their lives studying the Law. That was the situation Jesus was in, an argument over the Law while an innocent person suffered needlessly. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? And when these experts in the Law choose the latter option, Jesus becomes indignant and begins to act. As I look at our country’s inability to act with compassion toward our neighbors by simply wearing a cloth mask, I too am deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts.

I will start off by saying that some people have had traumatic experiences in their lives, and cannot physically wear a facemask without triggering anxiety and fear caused by their trauma. So I understand the reasoning that some people are unable to wear a facemask. And there are resources and services available to those people where they can get their needs met without putting others at risk through grocery delivery to friends and family helping out. If you are in that boat and need help, let me know, I am happy to put on my own facemask and bring supplies to you. But for the overwhelming majority, the act of being slightly uncomfortable is too much to ask for them to do good and save a life. It is especially hard for me to watch people say things like, “They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.” Because if someone is invoking the name of God or Christ to not wear a facemask, I would ask them to read the story above and ask them which is better, to do good or to do evil?

The reality is, the pandemic did not need to hurt the United States this much. States have been making their beds since March and are now lying in them. From reopening too quickly, to not mandating facemasks, to outright banning the mandating of facemasks; this is the consequence of ignoring the data that says facemasks prevent the spread of illness. Here is a link to 70 academic papers that show evidence that wearing a mask reduces the spread of germs. If you find yourself feeling that your rights are infringed upon, or that a facemask is a political statement, or that if a business requires a facemask you won’t shop there; I am humbly, compassionately, and sincerely asking you to wake up. Wearing a facemask is not an infringement on anyone’s rights. Wearing a facemask is not a political statement. Businesses requiring facemasks is meant to protect human lives. The same way wearing a seatbelt, banning smoking, or stopping people from driving drunk saves lives. Other countries have embraced facemasks, contact tracing, and following the guidelines set by health experts and are able to safely reopen businesses, schools, and churches. Let us be part of the movement that helps our country do that as well.

Not only is wearing a facemask good for the overall health of our nation, but it also answers the call Christ gives us in Mark; to do good, to save life, and to heal the sick. So please, from someone who has shopped with foggy glasses, stay home when you can, practice physical distancing, and wear a facemask.

Shalom,
Pastor David Hodd
952-250-9986
gumcpastor@comcast.net

Pentecost

May 31st, 2020

Special Note:
Like many of you, I have been struggling to cope with the events we’ve seen in the last week. As I sat at my desk the last few days trying to type any sort of constructive sentence, the only thing that came to me was grief and heaviness. It is okay to not have the words when witnessing such blatant injustice. Take the time to process, and then articulate your feelings.

Grace and peace friends,

Early last week I was perusing the internet trying to pass time in quarantine. I stumbled upon a video of a white woman sitting in her car, shaking a surgical mask at the camera as if it was a used tissue. Tears streamed down her face as she listed the reasons why she should not have to wear a mask to go shopping. (1) It hurts her face. (2) It was uncomfortable. (3) It gives her a headache. (4) She cannot breathe. This woman was moved to tears because of the discomfort of a mask that would help protect the people around her from spreading a deadly disease. The top comment I saw was along the lines of, “she really won’t be able to breathe when she catches coronavirus.”

Not long after, I watched a video of a white police officer placing his knee on a black man’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds while investigating the possible use of a counterfeit $20 bill. George Floyd gasps for air, cries out for his mother, and pleads with the cops to let him breathe. “I can’t breathe, they are going to kill me,” says George, hoarsely. This is not the first time a black American cried these words out to an officer who killed them. If you’ve seen the video, you probably felt the shock and rage of a community who has suffered this violence for decades. A community that was segregated, impoverished, and built to live in systematic oppression. A community that immediately is demonized after they lash out in grief at a system that does not value their lives more than a building or a $20 bill.

The world that the woman who was upset about the mask lives in, and the world that George Floyd died in are two separate worlds.

I am sitting in my office on Pentecost Sunday as I write this. I’m thinking about how Jesus was a person of color in a marginalized community. And how he must have struggled for every breath as he was nailed upon the cross by a police state.

I’m thinking about Christ overturning tables in the temple. Vandalizing property and disrupting commerce because the money changers in the temple valued the profit they made off of impoverished people more than the people.

I’m thinking about the Holy Spirit which has been called the breath of God, which we celebrate today, on Pentecost Sunday. In an instant, the world was different. Suddenly God’s breath was with the disciples, and they were immediately called into the streets to preach about the unjust murder of a black man by the hands of the state, and how in that injustice there is salvation.

My emotions and mind struggle to keep up with the many new realities we face every week. The call to be a Christian does not feel as clear as it did for the disciples in the upper room experiencing Pentecost. If you watched the video of George Floyd and immediately thought, “How can I help? What can I do?” You are not alone. The urge to do something sits deep in my stomach. The call to be a white Christian in this moment is a call to the back of the line. Instead of pontificating from the pedestal of privilege into a community and world that I do not understand, Christ is calling me to support and elevate the voices of the people who have been marginalized their entire lives.

I pray you will join me in the effort of centering the conversation of change around those whom the change affects. That the reforms or dismantling of the Minneapolis Police Departments is led by the communities who live in Minneapolis. That the restoration and rebuilding of the system that has been burned down be built to serve those who have had their necks crushed by the system, unable to breath.

This summer I plan on leading several small groups around the conversation of anti-racism. If you are interested in joining or hosting a group centered around dismantling the world of systemic racism and white supremacy through Tori Williams Douglass’ White Homework and a study of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, go to gum.church/connect and send me an email. This is uncomfortable work, but it is work that needs to be done if we want to love our neighbors as Christ loves every person.

If you need to connect, process, vent, question, or need help understanding what is happening to our state, do not hesitate to reach out.

Shalom,
Pastor David Hodd
952-250-9986
gumcpastor@comcast.net


Helpful Resources:

Do Not Look Away by Rev. Dr. Ron Bell
The Theology of Riot by Jim Coppoc
New City Church Online Vigil by Rev. Sit, Rev. Brown, Mayyadda, Rox, Chavvon Shen, and Rev. Malachi
The Daily Social Distancing Show by Trevor Noah (Video)
Where to Donate by NYU Local


Cultivation

May 7th, 2020

Grace and peace friends,

My Garden Out Front

I find it impossible to work in my garden without thinking of Jesus’ parables. So much of Jesus’ words and so much of what made up Jesus’ world was agriculture. That is why so many of his parables begin with farmers, or gardeners, or sowers, or people going out to tend their fields. And it is also why Jesus’ parables spoke so deeply into the lives of the common person in Judah—because they were farmers! So as Amy and I were toiling in the soil pull out dead things and weeds, this parable came into mind:


“Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”


-Matthew 13:24-30


I didn’t plant the weeds (or the flowers!) in this garden! They were here when we moved in! It was easy to move in and start enjoying the flowers last June, but the weeds evoke different emotions: annoyance at the sight, irritation knowing it is a job I have to do later, annoyance when the root isn’t dug up all the way so I know this weed will come back in a few weeks.

Jesus hit the nail on the head when he compared God’s Kindom to a field full of wheat and weeds. People always say the church is like a family, well families are dysfunctional (no exceptions). We get to enjoy all the great things about family: celebrations, support, friendship, and love. But we also have to deal with the weeds, the problems that put a strain on relationships, that pop up again and again, just like weeds.

As I think of Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday (May 10th!!), I think about my own mother. How she must have watched her children grow up as a garden. The skills and talents blooming and producing goodness in their lives. Witnessing heartache and insecurities creeping their way into the garden causing them to questions their self-worth the same way she has questioned herself. Taking joy in the gardens of her grandchildren as she sees her daughter become a gardener too.

We are weeds and wheat. Jesus said the good and the bad grow together, we cannot expect them to be separate, we are all human. When the harvest comes God uses all of us, our wheat is used for nourishment and our weeds are used for warmth. We are weeds and wheat, God uses all of us.

Shalom,
Pastor David Hodd